By James Cook
In Maori mythology when Maui, the legendary Polynesian hero, came to Aoterara his canoe was the South Island. When he fished the North Island out of the sea he anchored his canoe. Stewart Island or Rakiura is that anchor. The third largest of New Zealands islands it is largely undeveloped with most of the four hundred people who reside there living in the small town of Oban. This makes Stewart Island extremely popular with hunters, birdwatchers and trampers. Who flock here year round to get back to nature.
We went there for the 3 day Rakiura great walk.
The sky was overcast and dark as we set out from Oban. We had chosen to do the great walk in reverse as the huts had been booked up going the right way. From what we had heard of the track we thought it would be relatively easy. The lady working at the DOC had told us it was not to muddy and most of the track was covered in boardwalk to make it easier anyway. This was not the case. The track was very muddy and, although there was boardwalk, most of it had been ripped up for some reason and piled up at the side of the track. By the time we reached the hut our boots were caked in mud and everything seemed to be damp. This prompted Jade to declare it “This was the worst day of my life!”
The second day was much the same with the ever muddy track winding up and down hills through the deep forest. The view never really changed, it was energy sapping and, after some rain, became down right miserable.
The bad day was countered by a good night though. We played cards with the other hikers in the hut (they were going in the other direction and we refrained from telling them about the conditions so as to not put them off). Reading the visitor book we also learnt that there had been lots of sightings of Kiwi around the area. So as dusk fell and armed with flashlights we set out to try and find them. I guess it was just not our night though, as they remained elusive.
We set off on the final day heading back to Oban. It was terrific. The sun was shining and the walk was very gentle. The track took us along beaches and offered up great views from clifftops. We even saw kiwi tracks! The best part of the day though was the complete lack of mud. It made everything so much easier. If you are thinking of doing a hike on Stewart Island my advice would be to not do the 3 day hike. Instead only do the first day and just stay for 2 or 3 days at Port William hut or (perhaps better) Maori Beach campsite. This way you have a nice days walking, a day relaxing at the beach and then a nice relaxing stroll back. You may even, if your lucky, be able to catch a glimpse of that ever elusive kiwi!