Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mason Bay to Oban - April 2017

Tuesday morning was another gorgeous day; curls of fog lay in the valleys and after a hearty breakfast we packed and set out to walk to Freshwater Hut. A short walk from Mason Bay Hut is the Island Hill Homestead which was built in 1884 by the first run-holder, William Walker. The last leaseholder, the Te Aika Family, left in 1987 after 20 years of farming. A bit further on are the sheep yards and the historic woolshed - it still smells of wool grease and the last shearing tallies are still chalked up on the board.

Fog hanging around Big Sand Hill at Mason Bay

DOC's 20-bunk Mason Bay Trampers Hut

The Island Hill Woolshed
The track was in great condition; it's been muddy or very muddy on the other occasions I've walked it, so it was great to be walking on a surface the consistency of wet cake mix! Kev and I stopped often to take photos, to talk to the matata (fern birds) and admire the landscape.

Kev posing on the boardwalk over the Chocolate Swamp
After the swamp, the track runs alongside Scott Burn. Just after midday we heard a scuffle in the undergrowth; we froze on the spot and were rewarded with seeing two kiwi - one in hot pursuit of the other. They ran past us and veered back in to the undergrowth. We decided it was a good time to stop for lunch and we chatted about our morning's highlight.

Can you spot the two kiwi?
Just as we were packing up, I glanced between two trunks and could make out the shape of a kiwi; my eyesight's not the sharpest and I've made many a mistaken ID! I took a photo and zoomed up...

What the camera saw

Zoomed in to a sleeping kiwi - yay!
I reckon this kiwi was sleeping when the other kiwi wandered in to its territory. Once it had seen the visitor off, he/she circled back and went back to sleep again.

After we left Scott Burn we walked past a lily pond; from what I gather there used to be a summer house here and the lilies were planted by the leaseholder family. Opposite the pond is an abandoned motor bike, now in serious disrepair. Keeping an eye on both are toutouwai (Stewart Island robins).

Freshwater lily pond

Freshwater toutouwai
Just before Freshwater Hut is a gorgeous sphagnum bog; the colours are amazing and the thick gloop looks like primordial soup from the beginning of time. If you are interested in the plants between here and Mason Bay then check out this Theobrominated' blog. Another NZ Geographic article on the west coast of Stewart Island is a cracking read too.

Freshwater Landing was a welcome sight and we soon had the billy boiled and sat down to an afternoon tea of muesli bars and chocolate. We had thought of climbing up Rocky Mountain, a 3hr return trip from Freshwater Hut, but we opted instead for chatting to the other trampers in the hut that were on their final night of the North West Circuit tramp.

Heavy rain overnight gave us a good excuse to give the hut a good clean so we were right on hand to see a pair of kiwi just behind the hut around 9am. Our tramping friend, Leslie, was hiking back to Oban via Thomson Ridge and North Arm Hut but Kev and I took the easier option and caught the water-taxi back in choppy conditions, then a half hour walk back home. A great outing!

Kev and Leslie at Freshwater Hut

Rakiura Charters water-taxi at Freshwater Landing