Saturday, January 14, 2012

December 9th: Stewart Island to Arrowtown

It's amazing the difference some sleep can make. After breakfast Mark hitched a ride to pick up the car, then we checked out of the hotel. We had tickets for the 3:30 ferry so we decided to spend the morning at Ulva Island, a bird sanctuary. We headed over to Golden Bay to hop on a water taxi for the short ride.

Surprisingly, the dock was swamped! A cruise ship was just offshore and dozens of people were being ferried over in small boats for the day. After a few minutes, Ken, our ride, showed up and we hopped on his little boat. We zipped past the other boats and were making good time when all of a sudden he pulled the motor back to idle. Just as I was starting to think 'don't tell me the boat's dead, too' he turned to us and said "do you see it?"

'It' was a little blue penguin swimming directly in front of us!

After the penguin swam by, Ken powered back up and we made the quick trip to Ulva Island. We arranged a pick up time with him and set off to explore the paths through the trees.

After a few minutes we heard some fluttering and honking and looked up to see a whole flock of parakeets watching.

One of several beaches on the island.

A kea...New Zealand's troublemaker parrot. There were quite a few of these flying around, ripping the bark off the trees.

More beach kiwis!

We managed to hike almost every path on the island before it was time to meet Ken back at the dock. Another quick boat ride later, we were back on Stewart Island. The island was crawling with cruise ship passengers, but we managed to grab a table at one of the restaurants for some lunch.

I'm not sure if it was the sleep deprivation, the seafood chowder, or the fact that it was only noon and I already had a beer in my hand that made this one of the most satisfying meals of the trip.

We wandered along the beach while we waited for the ferry. Something was hiding in the grass but I couldn't tell what it was. I looked a little closer and found...

...another beach kiwi! This must have been the mommy beach kiwi on her nest; she started making noises as I got closer so I gave her some space. A little girl that walked by a few minutes later wasn't so smart and the beach kiwi started to come after her. Serves the stupid kid right - if the bird is obviously irritated that you're so close, why would you keep standing there?!

Eventually it was time to get on the ferry and head back to the South Island. We grabbed our bags, hopped in the car, and hit the road as soon as we got back. We had about three hours of driving ahead of us to get to Arrowtown, where we'd be staying for the next few days.

You could see this smoke for miles; the entire hillside was on fire!

Devil's Staircase Lookout. It was insanely windy here (but hey, no sandflies!). We got to Arrowtown around 8pm, dropped our stuff off at the hostel, then walked into town to find dinner. It was one of the best meals I've ever had: vegetarian curry served on potato gnocchi and a glass of wine. Yum!

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