Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mason Bay - April 2017 (part 1)

My long break from blogging means I have lots of stories from the past. Do I put them up or write them off? Hmm, perhaps a compromise and I hope you don't mind a bit of time travel!

Another highlight from this year also involved Mason Bay so let's go back a couple of months and spend a bit longer on the West Coast of Rakiura. In April my brother, Kev, visited Stewart Island for the first time. He was in the 'area' after tramping the Routeburn and Greenstone/Caples Tracks and thought he'd pop down to see where I lived. It was lovely to share this special island with him, and with 10 full days up our sleeves it was a no-brainer to do the Coast to Coast. Tides and day-length dictate the plane drop-off (lands on Mason Bay at low tide) and the water-taxi pickup (high tide); in-between are two DOC back-country huts (Mason Bay and Freshwater) and 15km of almost flat and generally muddy, tramping track.

It's always a gamble with weather but we struck it perfectly with fine and calm conditions over at Mason Bay. The plane landed at Duck Creek (called after putangitangi, the Paradise duck) late afternoon, giving us enough time to wander up to the DOC hut (about a 20 min walk), unpack our gear and head out to the sand dunes to watch the sun set into the sea. Later on that evening we slow-walked in the moonlight up to the Homestead and saw two kiwi - magic!!

Watching the sun go down from the Mason Bay sand dunes

Worrying to see more cat prints in the dunes than kiwi prints

Sand cosprosma berries - aren't they pretty

We had two nights at Mason Bay Hut and on our second day we walked down to the Gutter at the southern end of the beach. It's about an 8km beach walk; just perfect with the sound of the breakers and watching the dotterels with their distinctive walk. The following description is from Olga Sansom's 1970 book 'The Stewart Islanders'...
"These birds don't seem too concerned about intruders on their beach. They hurry along at a quick walk just ahead of you, stop to allow you to catch up, then put on the pace again"

The Ernest Islands in the distance - photo taken from Duck Creek

The Ernest Islands - getting closer

Down at The Gutter

Looking north along the sweep of Mason Bay

On the way down the beach we crossed several streams - Martins Creek, Double Creek, Wreck Creek, Cavalier Creek, and Home Creek (also known as Leask Creek). Finally we reached the Gutter and a cluster of high outcrops called the Ernest Islands. We climbed up the hill behind the lagoon to have lunch with a stunning view.

Kev overlooking the lagoon and Ernest Islands
I could have spent all afternoon exploring down here; it's very different to the east coast, is steeped in history and deserves its own post - watch this space!

Trying out 'microscope mode' on my Olympus TG4 camera

A fly with damaged wings

Tētēaweka - Olearia angustifolia

Celmisia rigida - thick leathery leaves on top

Underside of the leaf is soft and furry to absorb moisture

A thin bony disc identified on NatureWatch as part of a vertebra of a
long-finned pilot whale Globicephala melas