Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Last Frontier

In the French Village of Akaroa, New Zealand on Dec. 2, 2015:
In contrast with the picture below, I finally got a haircut.
From the Fjordlands of New Zealand, I wanted to see the last frontier of New Zealand - Stewart Island. Stewart Island is the furthest south you could get in New Zealand, and I've never been. There's nothing between Stewart Island and Antartica, except ocean. You're only three hours away from Antartica by flight from there.

Stewart Island has all the wild birds that the rest of mainland New Zealand doesn't have because it's mainly undeveloped and introduced animals such as rats and stoats don't exist. So, the birds can exist.

Did you know - that in New Zealand - there are only two native mammals: they're both bats? Everything else, such as dogs, cats, mice, possums, and stoats have been introduced.

I had to hitchhike out of Te Anua to Invercargill to go to Stewart Island. In total, it took four and a half hours, about two hours of drive time, and two hours of wait time. I've never waited so long to be picked up, but nobody was leaving to the city down south called Invercargill.

The first person who picked me up was a furniture maker that was a Kiwi. The second person who picked me up was an Irish carpenter and fisherman. The third person, who I waited an hour for, was a swim coach. I felt tired from trying to convince people on the road to pick me up and take me to Invercargill.

In Invercargill, there was a motorbike championship called the Burt Monroe challenge. Burt Monroe is a Kiwi Hero for setting the world record for the fastest motorcycle of a 1000 cc engine. You can watch the movie sometime called The World's Fastest Indian - starring Anthony Hopkins.

The town was full of bikers. And I bumped into one of the bikers coincidentally. He was a former manager of my former employer. We chitchatted, had tea, had coffee, and ate biscuits. He was in town because of the Burt Monroe challenge.

After being in Invercargill, I flew to Stewart Island in a tiny airplane that could hold only ten people. I was so lucky because the pilot let me fly in the cockpit with him.

Me, flying in the cockpit with the pilot
After landing on Stewart Island, I took a speed boat to a place called Freshwater Creek. You have to go in high tide. Because at low tide, the ocean water doesn't reach the freshwater river. Then the speedboat gets you across the river and drops you off in a swamp.

Walking through the swamp is dirty businesses. I've never been through a swamp before. But it looked like pictures out of the Florida Everglades. And you walk through mud and water and it's just really wet. Nonetheless, it was beautiful to see the sharp blades of long grass grow. It was also nice seeing all the small birds come up to me and watch me.

The Swamps of Stewart Island, New Zealand
At the end of the trail, you reach a hut at Mason's Bay, where a farm used to be. There, I met two hunting families. I befriended one of them, who I gave eggs for his breakfast bacon.

Mason's Bay is reputed to have the most kiwis anywhere in New Zealand. A kiwi is a native bird, that's like a mini turkey, except with a long beak.

At midnight, we went to spot Kiwis in Mason's Bay. Twice, I saw them. I was quite surprised by how big they were. They looked like miniature turkeys.

The next day, I had to return back to Freshwater Creek to get my speedboat back to the main town on Stewart Island. While waiting for my next speedboat, I met the hunter who I gave eggs too.

He was kind and repaid me. He gave me a piece of meat from the deer he had just shot. I was grateful.

Kaka - the endangered New Zealand Alpine Parrot
Then, I took my speedboat back to the mainland. At my hostel, I saw the other only alpine parrot, called a Kaka. It's endangered; so, I was lucky to get its photo.

On my last day of Stewart Island, I needed to catch my flight from the small city of Invercargill to Christchurch. A fog came in. The flights off Stewart Island were cancelled.

After two hours; however, flights reopened. I was able to catch my flight from Stewart Island to Invercargill.

My next post is about being in Christchurch with Shen - my former coworker and friend.

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