In a nice change of pace for the New Year, Blogger is being a dick. Here’s hoping this wasn’t typed futilely in Word and that I managed to effectively copy+paste my first musings for 2014. This laptop is a dated wee number that I’m going to need to upgrade soon, methinks. Isn’t it amazing that just when you think, ‘Self, your spending is out of control, this will be the year to knuckle down and rationalise your purchases,’ there is almost immediately a big ticket item to replace? Wants, needs, first world, I know.
The end of 2013 wasn’t too bad, thanks for asking. And yours?
Kiwi readers: you MUST visit Stewart Island. You too, international traveller types. Unless either of you types hate birds, the bush or SI natives at the only pub wearing gumboots and/or you desperately need internet access and shopping, in which case it’s not for you. The island is so remote and untouched it feels like stepping back in time. We kept reminiscing about things we’d read about pre-/colonial New Zealand; on the island, they could all almost apply. The best example I can think of is colonists reporting (prior to the major land clearances) that the dawn chorus was almost deafening. We experienced near constant and varied birdsong. We saw kaka, Stewart Island robin, weka, saddleback, bellbirds – so many native birds. So very, very lucky we are.
The bulk of Rakiura/Steward Island is national park. While the areas around Halfmoon Bay (the only real settlement, the island’s permanent population is around 500) were pretty heavily logged up until the late 30s, the bush is returning and it is just glorious. Cold; yes, but we had a few days of brilliant sunshine too. I think the best experience was the day we took a charter to the Ulva Island bird sanctuary in the morning for a few hours tramping with the wildlife. That afternoon, the charter picked us up for a tour of the whaling base on the Paterson Inlet, followed by fishing near the Muttonbird Islands. We hauled in about 10 blue cod in the space of 10 minutes, harangued only by albatross, mawkishly threatening to swallow the bait or our catch. We stopped then, as that was plenty to feed us – two meals, as it turned out – and there was some excellent wildlife watching. We watched seals fighting, cubs playing, blue penguins swimming. We heard the call of the Hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin, which we later spotted in the Catlins at the fossilised forest in Curio Bay.)
You may recall that I have said no one should play boardgames with me ever. Turns out that may also extend to cards. Poor old Mum, Dad, K and P probably had enough of the gloating or sulking (depending on the hand) by the end of the week. I think a week was sufficient time in such close quarters with one another; it wasn’t just my poor sportsmanship wearing on the nerves, I think. The other wee issue with the island is that getting there is balls, basically. I nearly biffed my cookies in the swell on the way over – the ferry is a wee cat and it’s somewhat sickmaking and scary when the swell is higher than the boat. The return trip was calm and we sailed through a group of feeding titi; just wonderful.
In any case, Stewart Island was absolutely magical. There was no internet, no phone. We walked about three hours a day and slept for 10 hours a night. We ate and drank tastey treats. Just the holiday I needed.
P and I promptly ruined it by heading to the beach to get raucous for New Year’s Eve with a bunch of about 25 friends. After some isolation, catching up with old friends was just fantastic. The weather was outstanding and I laughed and laughed and laughed (heading to bed about 1am; we discovered two girlfriends half-asleep on the bed reserved for P and I. P launched onto the bed, announced his safe word was ‘dolphin’ and cuddle tackled the lot of us. Hilarious, and not nearly as open-marriage as it sounds, I promise.)
It is lovely to be home, though. We’ve been back for a couple of days now, floating round the house, half-heartedly attempting the occasional chore. Just now, an extension lead out the window is allowing me to type on this dinosaur seated at the outdoor table under the umbrella. P’s on a chair on the deck looking back through the window at the cricket. There is a hot breeze, pinking my cheeks and creeping around the exposed skin between my t-shirt and the top of my denim shorts. Auckland can be pretty magic too.