A wonderful Wednesday in Rakiura

Rakiura is one of the Maori names for Stewart Island, which sits right at the bottom of the South Island. The original Maori name, Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, reminds us that it is also the anchor stone of the great canoe (the South Island), from which the legendary superhero, Maui, caught the big fish that is now the North Island of New Zealand. The name Rakiura can be interpreted as “glowing skies”, a reference to the amazing sunsets and also perhaps to the Aurora Australis, which can often be viewed from this wild place. Rakiura is primarily a National Park. It is one of the places where human impact has been minimised, where kaka (bush parrots) sometimes greet you when you arrive at your accommodation and where you can still view kiwi in the wild.

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I spent a wonderful day on Rakiura last week, with friends visiting from the US. We spent the afternoon walking the tracks and beaches of Ulva Island, a small, pest-free island (no rodents, stoats, weasels or possums) in Patterson’s inlet, where the robins came to investigate the insects disturbed by our feet.

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That evening we dined on fat Stewart Island oysters and fresh blue cod,

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before heading off in a small boat for Ocean Beach with Philip and Greg of Bravo Adventures, through a blazing sunset studded with wheeling Buller’s Mollymawks.

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Once through the short bush walk and onto the beach, we stood on a smooth crescent of pale sand, with the Tasman waves cracking down beside us, half a moon to light our footsteps and the million billion stars of the milky way above our heads. Under the stars of the Southern Cross we saw four Stewart Island brown kiwi, foraging for sand-hoppers (amphipods), up to their faces in sand and seemingly oblivious to the six dumb-struck tourists watching them.  What a night!

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The following morning I bid this paradise farewell in a perfect dawn, as the fishing boats left for another day in fertile waters, and headed back to work.

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