I guess quite a few of you have never heard of a Danish band called “Sort Sol” (it’s translated into “Black Sun”). I got to know some of their songs quite well a few years back…. This is a story about a trip to my favourite island in New Zealand, Stewart Island.
All I think about is how much the leaves on the tree are rustling in the wind. I am after all about to sail straight into The Roaring Forties.
I’m in Invercargill in New Zealand and I’m on my way to Stewart Island. This little piece of land is the last inhabited outpost before the South Pole. It’s located south of the south island in New Zealand and is actually the third biggest island in New Zealand but for some reason it’s often completely overlooked.
It’s an untouched jewel with a very local twist and it’s an absolute must-do if you’re into nature! Stewart Island must be what the whole of NZ was like before mass tourism invaded the country.
The main attraction is the 3-day walk; Rakiura Track and then of course the chance of seeing the flightless kiwi in the wild. There used to be a whaling station here and if you go to Paterson Inlet you can still see huge propellers and boilers laying around on the beach. It feels like the whalers just left yesterday but in fact the last whaler left in 1931.
85% of the island is national park and the 300(ish) people living here permanently all live in the small town called Oban. The rest is green wilderness flanked by long, empty, white beaches – and clear, blue (cold!) water.
Oban is cute. And very much a small community. On an island! Do visit Church Hill Restaurant and try the mutton bird. It’s the weirdest thing. It looks like a chicken but tastes like …. something in between a sheep and anchovies…
Getting to Stewart Island
There are two ways of getting to and from Stewart Island; you can either catch the ferry from Bluff (close to Invercargill) or you can fly there from Invercargill. The ferry takes about 1 hour – and remember; Stewart Island lies in the heart of The Roaring Forties…
Outside the wind picks up and I get ready to board the ferry. I’m greeted by two huge men. Bald headed, tattooed, big overarms. I think to myself; they’re there for safety reasons and to help the captain tethering the boat.
We leave the harbour and the minute we hit open water the sea explodes. I look out of the window and all I see is either sky OR sea – never anything that looks like a horizon. We are in for a roller coaster ride!
It doesn’t take long before the first passengers have to give up and they run outside to “feed the sharks” and the two hard-looking islanders turn into perfect, caring nurses. They help people outside, bring bags and pat foreheads with cold cloths.
I start to feel nauseous however as a child I used to go sailing with my father and I’ve never been seasick. I tell myself that this is not going to be the first time!
Somehow I manage to “interlock” myself between two chairs so that I move WITH the boat without thinking about it and I turn up the music on my phone so load that all I hear is “Sort Sol”. Then I slowly “rock my way” across to Stewart Island.
On solid ground I ask one of the tattooed guys how he would rate this crossing on a scale from 1-10. He says 7 where 10 is not-crossing at all…. To this day I still haven’t worked out whether they were just trying to be nice….
Do I need to say that I flew back?
BUT; crossing the roaring forties IS worth it! The crisp air, the unspoilt beauty, the islanders who greet you – it’s worth it!