Friday, July 27, 2012

Rakiura Track part 2 - North Arm Hut to Port William turnoff

North Arm Hut was re-opened in mid-July after the hut was extended to make a larger cooking room and to separate the bunkrooms. Both huts on the Rakiura Track sleep 24 and the Great Walks booking system ensures a bunk for the night. The cost is $22 per adult per night, children/teens under 18 are free - pretty cheap for a family experience. Firewood is provided but trampers have to provide their own cooking gas, sleeping gear, food and torch/candles.

I left North Arm Hut at 8.40am in cloudy and dry conditions after overnight rain. The section between North Arm and the Port William turnoff is 100% bush but the composition of the bush keeps changing depending on altitude and aspect. I wandered through fabulous green rimu, then a few minutes later it was crown fern and ponga territory in shades of brown. Plenty of history too with a system of bullock tramways and the steam log haulers - it must have been a tough life for the people working there at the turn of the 20th century.

I arrived at the Port William turnoff at 2.15pm just as the rain started falling. My waterproof camera ran out of battery at the log haulers and my other camera wasn't waterproof so I don't have photos from the turnoff back to Lee Bay but it was covered in my January blog

Lovely ngahere

Lots of bridges through this section

Clear tannin-tinted streams

Easy walking
Second viewpoint - great views over Paterson Inlet

Rimu and ponga country

Bridge over a bullock tramway stretching from Fern Gully to
north of North Arm Hut
Steeper gullies for the last couple of kilometres

A good climb up to the log haulers - looking
back down the steps

McAllister hauler

Johnston hauler

Log hauler display panel

Port William turnoff

Rakiura Track part 1 - Fern Gully to North Arm

The Department of Conservation has nine 'Great Walks' showcasing the best that Aotearoa has to offer. The stunning alpine scenery of the Milford Track and the volcanic landscape of the Tongariro Northern Circuit are world renowned and are drawcards for many overseas visitors; so much so that the tracks are crowded both with trampers and air traffic. If you are wanting a quieter backcountry experience in stunning temperate rainforest then come to Stewart Island with its 36km Rakiura Track.

The Rakiura Track is generally walked over 3 days, staying at DOC huts at Port William and North Arm. Each day's tramping is a comfortable 12km and offers a mix of coastal views, historic sites and pristine bush. With shorter weeks at work, I thought it was nigh time I experienced this 'Great Walk' for myself.

See also:

I chose to do the Rakiura Track clockwise, staying one night at North Arm and bypassing Port William hut this time round. It doesn't matter which direction you go and, as it's a complete loop track, there's no need for transport to/from either end. Winter is an ideal time to walk the track; generally the weather is pretty settled with cooler temperatures for tramping - and the chance to see a kiwi is increased with the longer night length. Mud is a Stewart Island highlight - always check to see if kiwi have walked through recently; the majority of the track is benched gravel with an easy to moderate incline.

This blog covers my tramp from Oban to North Arm Hut; 5 hours of delightful walking in the bush, often with surprise views as another corner was turned. My new Sony waterproof camera was perfect for lightweight carrying and it got a lot of use until it ran out of battery by the log haulers (see Part 2!).

Fern Gully road end - the start of the Rakiura Track

Rakiura Track - the old road to Kaipipi
Grassy knoll at Kaipipi

Gallon's Sawmill historic site

Rakiura Track between Kaipipi and Sawdust Bay

Tramping in kiwi footprints!
Sawdust Bay

Rakiura Track between Sawdust Bay and North Arm - random
rocks appear from time to time

The newly-extended North Arm Hut; bunkrooms to the right,
kitchen and woodburner at far end

View from North Arm Hut

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Today is my 18 month anniversary of living on this beautiful island; my smile just gets bigger when I think how lucky I am to be living my dream.

I'm having to sit out on my deck to write this blog issue as the internet signal I got inside has disappeared after getting my double-glazing windows installed yesterday. Whilst I'm thrilled to keep the warmth inside, having to keep the door open so that I get an internet connection seems to defeat the purpose! I guess it's obvious that a weak signal would disappear with thicker glass but I hadn't given it any thought when I signed up for retro-fitted double-glazing. I've lost my mobile phone signal too but all should be rectified next week after I receive and install the Cellutronics yagi aerial on the roof. Fingers crossed!

It's getting cool and dusky here so will insert a few pics from today and venture back into the house.

Sunrise 19 July 2012

Deep Bay

Paterson Inlet looking east

Paterson Inlet looking west
Grandad Rimu towering over the ngahere

New supplejack shoot

Mussels, chiton and barnacles

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pub Quiz

Every Sunday at 6.30pm another slice of Stewart Island life is served - the world famous 'Stewart Island South Sea Hotel Pub Quiz'. Registrations start at 6pm and half an hour later teams are seated and waiting for Vicki the Quizmistress to blow her whistle signalling the start of this weekly ritual. There are 6 sets of 5 questions each, plus 10 pictorial questions - each team gets a black and white copy of these and a coloured version is hung up on the wall. Inbetween each question set Vicki gives a clue to a separate question and a member of each team goes up and whispers what they think the answer may be. If no team guesses correctly then another clue is given at the end of the next set. The more clues, the less points.

Quizmistress Vicki ruling the roost
The questions aren't easy! It pays to have six team members who are specialists in history, sport, geography, language, television and trivia - oh, and politics, anatomy, engineering and ecology would help too!

The pictorial questions - name the US talk show hosts
Our game sheet was a combined effort but despite good intentions we only got 28 out of 40.

Heaps of fun though and a great fundraiser teamed up with good food, a pint of beer and guaranteed laughs.

Kiwi feast

What an exciting week! Not only was I successful with applying for a DOC job, I also had a close encounter with a kiwi and have heard 6 kiwi calls in the last 5 days. Add some fresh kiwi prints in my mud puddles and you can see why I haven't stopped grinning :).

I heard two calls on Tuesday 10 July, a male at 2.49am, followed by a female calling at 5.05am and another female call at 3.32am this morning. It's amazing that I can curl up snug in my bed to listen to these wonderful birds - it sure beats sitting out in the cold!

Mud puddle prints
The close encounter occurred whilst I was walking down Back Road at 7.30am on Thursday morning. There was just enough light to walk without a torch and quite easy to pick up the shape of the kiwi as it ran away from me. I stood still and she didn't run far, maybe 5m away; then she started calling. Seconds later a male answered from up the road and a wee while after that, another male called from a different direction. I'm picking that they are all from the same family group, and, as it was around the same spot as the kiwi that was killed by a vehicle on Anzac Day, I'm guessing that he may be part of the family as well.

The kiwi sign that was nicked a year ago was replaced at the end of June so I'm hoping that it will remind drivers to slow down - we share this island, not own it.

Replaced kiwi sign at the intersection of the road to the airstrip (left)
and Main Road (to the right of the photo)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Corflute addict

The SIRCET (Stewart Island/Rakiura Community & Environment Trust) rat traps are covered with corflute covers of various colours. Occasionally a rat will chew small holes but it was a surprise to find one of the Deep Bay traps so trashed...

A rat with too much time on his hands - this end of the trap is
normally sealed by stapling or cable-tie

Looking down on trap

Close up of the nibbled corflute
This cover was replaced a week ago but within 6 days it's needing to be replaced as it's almost nibbled through again. We've put out peanut butter bait this time and hoping he'll come in the right end of the trap and get caught!

There's always something new to see on my rat trap lines; at the end of June I came across a dead ruru (morepork), very well camouflaged on the forest floor. I couldn't see any obvious signs of injury and the death was relatively recent so I took some pics and took the body back to DOC for their bird freezer.

Dead ruru

Underneath of wing

No wonder nothing gets away - the ruru's claws reminded me
of the grab bucket on a crane

Close up of ruru bill and nostril
SIRCET has purchased some of the A12 Goodnature possum traps and there's one at the start of my Deep Bay 2 trap line. The small CO2 gas cylinder resets the trap after it is set off, repeating up to 12 times before replacement is needed. The traps cost around $150 each and there's some impressive video footage on the website.

A12 Goodnature possum trap (white cover) above corflute rat trap

Big frosts and bigger frosts

There's been some big frosts this winter but the one on 1 July was the biggest yet. Minimum temperature was -2°C and this was the view when I drew the curtains in the morning:

There was thick ice on my mud puddles which stayed over the next 4-5 days despite the warm sunshine we had. Great for the blackcurrant trimmings that I planted a few days before! Any washing left outside is as stiff as a board the next morning too.

I've had a few 4-day weekends so easier to be more productive. I had some metal delivered so set about improving the paths to the house and garage. My previous solution was to put down cardboard which didn't take long to get soggy and slippery - the weka/possum/kiwi had fun ripping it to shreds as well. The path from the driveway to the deck was made up of pebbly sand which tracked into the house and didn't pack down well. Day 1's task was to skim it down a few centimetres and put it on the path to the garage.

Path from deck to garage

Path from deck to driveway
The next day (another big frost) I put down weedmat and covered it with the newly-delivered metal - not as easy as it sounds as the mound had frozen solid in the frost. Also frozen solid was the final few metres of the path which hadn't yet been dug out. I couldn't make any impression with the spade and finally left it to finish it off when it warmed up.

Newly-metalled paths

The frozen solid bit
Today was lovely and mild so a good chance to finish it off. Here's the final result:

So much neater!