Thanks to the fire, everyone has a good night’s sleep, although the fire boiling the water doesn’t have enough time to heat it past lukewarm.
Our first stop is Te Anau, so Jugs can get some much needed work done and Lego can pick up a new bus. However, on the way out we also stop by the mirror lakes again. The weather is much better now, so we can really appreciate them, before we head off at 35km an hour once more.
It takes 3 hours to make the 2 hour trip to Te Anau, and when we arrive, we’re given an hour to get lunch, with Lego promising she’ll return with news or (hopefully) a new bus.
Sadly, that hour comes and goes, and Lego arrives in a car. Jugs is still in triage and they’re scrambling for a new bus. We’ve got another hour to spare in Te Anau – and once it’s over, Lego arrives…with a Ritchie’s bus.
There’s no Stray bus available, and so the driver of this one is doing them a favour. We’ll be taken over to Jugs to get our bags, and then be driven down to Invercargill in time for the Ferry on an express route. Hopefully, by the time we’re back from Stewart Island, Lego will have a new bus.
Considering that when we go to get our bags, Jugs is being looked over by 5 mechanics, we’re pretty sure it wont be him picking us up.
With no stops, we make it in time to check in for the Stewart Island ferry with a good hour to spare. Naturally, since we had to rush, the ferry ended up being boarded late, and we left 20 minutes overdue.
The crossing is pretty rough – the weather in the deep South has been pretty poor and that means vicious waves. For an hour long trip, my stomach does its best, but even with my sea sickness tablets, I’m a wreck. So happy to get on land.
Our hostel on the island is Stewart Island Backpackers, about a ten-minute walk away. It’s a nice enough building, tucked away from the main street and right next to the hill that has a Rugby field frequented by kiwi. It also has single beds instead of bunk beds, which everyone loves.
Sadly, due to the ferry leaving late, by the time we get checked in and head back into town, both the shop and tour building are shut, leaving us with the food we’ve brought and difficulties arranging anything for tomorrow. This I’d say is probably a poor part of the trip – although Stray only offer a one night stay at Stewart or Invercargill, you REALLY need 2 needs to appreciate it, so if you’re heading down this way make a point of booking additional nights.
On the topic of food, I technically had enough to get me through the night, but there was a very popular fish shop called the ‘Kai Kart’ just down the road from the hostel. I decided to give it a shot – found the ‘Stray’ offer was rather expensive so just got something off the regular menu, elephant fish and chips, which came with lemon pepper topping. This stuff took what was probably average fish and chips and shot it straight into some of the best fish I’ve ever had. Have to get some for future fish meals.
About an hour before sunset, we all head back to the harbour around 8:30, as the little penguins will be coming in to roost at sunset. It’s a relatively dull affair for the first half hour, with us desperately trying to shush people so they’ll actually come back, when we manage to catch sight of our first one. Everyone finally goes silent, and we watch the little guy hop onto the rocks and head home.
We catch sight of about 4, before certain people in the group decided having a laugh was more important that watching for penguins, and started acting off each other. Lots of loud conversation and laughter in other languages. When they’d start to settle down, one of them would set the other off again. No more penguins showed up, and I chose to leave a little early since they were never going to home with that chaos hovering over their nests.
Instead of heading back to the hostel, I headed up the hill and eyed up the rugby field the kiwi-spotter book at the hostel said regularly had kiwis. There was already a crowd at one end eyeing up the bush on the sides, and I tried my luck on one end before heading over to theirs in case they knew something I didn’t.
Sadly, it ended up being a hopeless endeavour. Once the sun was completely down, a family with two children (armed with flashlights no less) descended on the pitch and started running around the edge of the bush, lights going and yelling as they tried to flush them out. Before I arrived, a couple with a dog had been in the area, so clearly any kiwi that had been coming this way would now be heading in the opposite direction. I left, and warned anyone who had planned to head up of the chaos – and three of us decided we’d get up at 4:30 and see if we couldn’t spot any just before sunrise.