So today we are doing the Coast to Coast hike across Stewart Island.
This morning on Stewart Island the sky is absolutely amazing and after a long night looking for kiwi birds with no luck we are grabbing a quick breakfast and hitting the track as soon as we can. We are making our way all across the island to catch a water taxi and we have a very tight schedule.
We we just arrived in front of a very historical landmark of New Zealand. This little shed behind me is New Zealand’s southernmost wool shed. That’s significant somehow. Alright, so Stewart Island is not really known for its amazing historical features but located at a latitude at 46 and 47 degrees it is one of the most accessible sub-antarctic islands in the whole world and features landscapes like i’ve never seen before.
I mean, look at it, the first section of our track is over sand dunes covered in lowland vegetation with flax and windswept bush it’s absolutely amazing.
This landscape is unlike any other landscape that we’ve been through so far in New Zealand before it’s just so wild it feels like we are the only ones around here for miles and miles. But enough about the landscape let’s talk a little bit about the plan today for this hike.
We’re doing a small section today of the Southern Circuit Track which is usually about a 4 to 6 days hike but we’re just doing the section between Mason Bay Hut and Freshwater Hut which is otherwise known as the Coast to Coast. Then from Freshwater Hut we’re then gonna be taking a water taxi back to golden Bay which is near Oban the water taxi ride will be about 45 minutes and then it’s just a 15 minute walk from Golden Bay to Oban and that’s our full day hiking on Stewart Island. But here’s the catch. The water taxi is only able to pick us up at 2.45pm, that’s during high tide, because the inlet that it picks us up from is usually just bare sand in low tide so we are on a tight time pressure today.
As the track is getting a little rougher we keep progressing through the amazing landscape and in no time we are starting to make our way through very dense manuka forest. Manuka is the endemic tree of New Zealand and most famously known for producing amazing honey. But sadly, it’s kind of a low hanging tree and will provide us absolutely no cover against the elements.
Alright so the rain was not supposed to be hitting us until 1pm but’s what time is it? It is 9.32 right now and we start feeling it. So we think this is gonna be a run to the finish. And we think that we’re not going to make it.
Stewart Island has heaps of awesome walking track. In fact, there is only 28km worth of roads on Stewart Island and over 200km worth of walking track. It’s epic. One of those walking track is the world famous Rakiura Track which is one of the 10 New Zealand Great Walk and it’s a super well maintained track but today we are on the Southern Circuit and we’re doing the Coast to Coast part and it’s a little bit more of a rougher track and we are walking on a lot of boardwalks because very often this entire track is flooded and this presents a pretty big risk for unaware hikers.
Do not proceed beyond this point if the water is above the orange marker. I think we’ll be ok.
As soon as we enter the forest there is no open landscape anymore. we could easily lose our baring. I am trying to figure out where we are using landmarks and the only landmarks on the whole track are three footbridges but I don’t really know what constitutes a footbridges we had some really tiny footbridge that we just passed and if that’s the case we are only an hour until we are supposed to arrive. But if that’s not the case, no idea where we are.
We start following the stream through the lush manuka forest but by this point of the hike we are starting to feel the strain of our backpacks. Usually when we’re doing multi-day hikes we only just pack our clothes food and water but because we’re doing a lot of filming today we also have the weight of our cameras in our backpacks as well which makes every step so much harder.
On top of that because of the recent rain the track is getting rougher. We hit some sections of knee deep mud so we only have one option which is to make our way around the muddy sections following some faint tracks that other people have made through the forest but to be fair these are the types of tracks that Robin and I really love. It makes so much more adventurous and this exactly what New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year is all about.
I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who actually weighs this much. Every movement is a struggle.
Stewart Island is also known to be a kiwi bird paradise with the southern brown kiwi well known for foraging also during the day. I’ve found some footprints. I definitely think that’s a kiwi bird. They have big feet.
This could be my only chance to see kiwi birds in the wild. Oh he’s here. Give me your camera I can see it. Quick. Oh my God I am so excited right now we did not get to see a kiwi bird in the wild last night and there is a massive southern brown kiwi bird standing right in front of me. Stewart Island is really well known for being an island with heaps of kiwi birds over 25,000 of them are living on the island and there is one of them right before my eyes. The footage is really not that great because I could not get too close to it from fear to get it to run away from me but oh my God I am so pumped I did not expect to see one around the end of our hike.
And with the excitement of just seeing a kiwi bird we power through till the end of the track. Yay we found the hut. That’s the hut right here that’s the pier right here there is a bridge behind there. It’s a one person at a time bridge. So we’re gonna go first and check if it’s safe for Laura. Holy shoot it’s slippery. Oh my God.
Needless to say that that river crossing is wobbly as. It is a thrill ride in itself. And we are making our way to the hut which is literally at the end of the swing bridge and there we’re meeting another backpacker which is German and which is also waiting for the water taxi before we get disturbed by a visitor.
As as well as kiwi birds on Stewart Island there are also white tailed deer but this one does get spooked by the noise of the water taxi which has just arrived here at freshwater Bay we hop into the water taxi and away we go.
We’re so happy that we actually made it here on time for high tide so that we can make our way back to Oban. Believe it or not we only beat the water taxi by about 10 minutes so without any communication method we would have had to stay int he Freshwater Hut overnight but nevertheless we’re here on the Water Taxi now making our way down the Freshwater River.
A cruise through the Rakiura National Park is an awesome reward for such a long hike today. We get out onto the ocean where things get a little bit rougher the rain is starting to pour down now and I feel like I’m being rocked to sleep inside the boat.
We really had a pretty long couple of days and we are slowly losing Laura. Here head is bobbing left and right as we are going in the waves and I’m pretty sure she’s gonna be full asleep as soon as we arrive on the harbour.
Yep, that’s right we definitely lost Laura right here she is full asleep so I’m waking her up and we’re making our way back toward Oban to the Stewart Island Backpackers for a well deserved night of rest. Tomorrow we have our last day on Stewart Island, some more wildlife and then our way back to mainland.
What’s going on? What do you mean? Well.. These effing wrappers. Oh sorry, well some idiots have left wrappers behind along the track and that ticks me off so I’m collecting them one by one and I’m putting them in the rubbish when we get back to Oban and while doing so I grunt like a mother because I think they are holes. So that’s pretty much it.