|The ferry ride over was only an hour, but what an hour it was. Despite being somewhat of a sunny day, there were almost 9 foot swells which made for a fairly rough ride. The free tea and coffee took a bit of the edge off, but I woulnd up wearing mine as you could well imagine.
We arrived into Oban on the Island around midday, and I immediately found the Dept. of Conservation Office and set off on the Track. The Rakiura Track, like the Milford Track I walkes earlier is one of New Zealand's "Great Walks," but unlike the Milford Track, it was far less crowded.
While it was also far less scenic than the Milford, Stewart Island's detachment from the mainland means it has been less ravaged by introduced species. As a result, the forests echoes with birdsong and Tui's, Tomtits, Bell Birds, and Fan tails fill the trees along the trail. This is also one of the best places to see New Zealand's signature Kiwi Bird, but my nightime expeditions to find one were unsuccessful.
Along the trail I met a woinderful couple from Auckland, Glenn and Mike who were hiking around the South Island for 6 weeks to celebrate Mike's 70th Birthday. My first night in the Port William hut was filled with Mike's tales of tramping around New Zealand and travelling overseas back in the 60's. He had actually walked the Milford Track in reverse back before it was open to unguided walkers. Just wonderful people!
The second night I ran into Matt from Fort Collins Colorado. Matt had recently graduated from Colorado University and was among other things hoping to become a travel writer. He'd spent a month in Tasmania and was at the end of a month on the South Island.
He and I finished the Track together and popped in to call on "Lord" before catchin g the ferry back to the mainland. It turns out in addition to being a surveyor, Lindsey Lord is Oban's version of Fred Sanford. We'd found his house up next to the Police Station, but had to squeeze our way through a maze of old cars and other junk to get to the door. There was just clutter everywhere you looked...on the porch, in the house, around the house... We knocked at the door several times, but alas there was no answer. Either he hadn't come back from his project in Bluff, or he was buried under some stack of junk that had toppled over. I hoped it wasn't the latter.
So Matt and I headed for the dock and caught the ferry back to the mainland.