Wednesday Walkers Stewart Island Trip – March 2012

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

March 24th. 2012
The flight from Invercargill to Masons Bay where we landed on the beach was super and the weather good. After a short walk into Masons Bay hut and laying claim to bottom bunks we decided to walk inland a Kilometre to the old homestead then climb Sand Hill, a dominant hill at the edge of extensive dunes. The track was easy to start with up through sandy tracks but petered out about two thirds of the way up so we bashed our way through scratchy Dracaphillum and flax to reach the pole marking the top. The views over the sand dunes to the sea and islands beyond were great and inland the scrub was sculptured by the wind.

In hope of an easier descent we decided to go down the sandy slopes on the seaward side of the hill. Just as we started down, a vicious hail storm hit with the wind driving it, stinging our bare legs. By the time we reached the dunes the storm had passed and we made our way along the sandy edge of the bush and tracked to the hut to warm up and have lunch.

In the afternoon we explored the dunes with their beautiful tufts of orange sedges and a few deer prints on the sands.  Joans’s Skipbo game made for a fun evening.

March 25th 2012
By 9.15 a.m. We were rested, fed and watered so ready to go and explore Masons Bay beach. As we headed out to the sea the wind was fierce, picking up the sand and hurling it into the grasses of the dunes. Although punching into the gale wasn’t  the easiest there was plenty to see and photograph as we walked the 10 kms to the gutter at the southern end. A pod of whales had been stranded and were almost decayed to skeletal remains. Lots of fishing debris strew the tide line. The dune grasses rippled and flattened away from the gale. Skiffs of rain had us hunching to minimise the blast. Shelter from the island at the gutter was a welcome place to rest and have lunch, then the sun came through long enough for good photos of the cliffs and wild seas beyond.

The tide was beginning to swish water part way through the gutter and the seagulls were making the most of feed at the waters edge.

On the return trek up the beach we appreciated the tail wind. When the big gusts hit I spread my arms like sales to help me on my way.

After 20 kms of hard walking the hut and a warming fire were very welcome.

March 26th 2012
When we set out on the four hour trek to Freshwater Landing the weather hadn’t improved but we had a tail wind. I enjoyed walking through the wind sculptured scrub to the serenades of Tui and Bellbird. Mud puddles were a constant challenge to negotiate and board-walks made for easy crossings of the sedge swamps. I was lucky to see a Kiwi picking its was through a manuka patch. Around 12 noon some of us stopped in a dryish spot for lunch and were entertained by a Bell Bird preening itself.

After another 20 minutes walk the landing came into view. We crossed the swing bridge and it was great to dump packs and enjoyed the shelter of Freshwater Hut

About 4.30 the sound of a motor signalled our water taxi’s arrival. The Pilot looked like a retired fisherman dressed in his trackies and gumboots. He said there was a three metre swell out in the bay. When he called into base the lady’s voice didn’t sound too encouraging. “Rather you than me out there in the bay today!”

Freshwater Creek level was up a couple of feet and the wash from our boat swished into the flaxes and sedges as we motored towards the sea. Our skipper handled the huge waves of the bay with the skill of a lifetime at sea and we enjoyed the exhilarating ride.

From Oban wharf a driver kindly met us and delivered our packs the short distance up to the delightful Thule View Cottage.

Sunshine made the last two days of bush walks and a trip to Ulva Island a delightful top-off to our Stewart  Island adventure.  A big THANK YOU to Ross for organising yet another great trip.

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