Begin the foot travel: Oban to Maori Beach
So my whole plan was to bike from Christchurch to Stewart Island, then hike the Rakiura Track (a Great Walk trail), then ride my bike back to Christchurch. That was as far as my logistics were planned. It turns out that Stewart Island is a holiday hot spot, literally and figuratively. Starting tonight, most lodging is booked through the 5th of January. This was all completely unknown to me. So I am improvising. I left the hostel this morning planning to grab a map at the DOC (Dept of Conservation) Visitor Center, then hit the trail. While at the DOC it was brought to my attention that all tent camping and hut use require permits on Stewart Island. The Rakiura sites specifically need booked and the rest need permits for a first come basis. Good thing I didn’t skip the map. Or maybe bad thing, as now my trip is more complicated. The Rakiura is even more popular than Oban. Besides Maori Beach campsite having spots for tonight and tomorrow, all Rakiura campsites and hut spots are booked through the 9th of January. So I talked over options with one of the ranger people, he told me what areas would be poor with the incoming weather, and I decided an out and back trip on the North West Circuit Track heading off from the Rakiura would be the tramp for me. For my first night I chose the closer of the two neighboring campsites because the guy said it was nicer. By then I had already killed most of my morning, too, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to shorten the day.
After getting everything squared away, I set out at 11:30AM. The Rakiura is recommended as a three day “tramp,” with the segment I hiked today being the shortest. With this in mind, I made sure to add every possible side route. Instead of walking 5 km of paved road to Lee Bay, I took the Horseshoe Point coastal trail, doubling the road distance. It was stunning. Dead Man Beach is by far the best looking beach I have seen in a long time. I then took a long lunch at Horseshoe Bay, pondering my future ambition to gain sailing experience so I can sail around the Caribbean. Then I took Garden Mound track to Little River Track, the hilled trail alternative to the flat coast road. After about 10 miles of hiking, I was already at Maori Beach by 3PM. I set up my tent and put on my suit. It was still pretty chilly from misting rain all day, so I walked the beach end to end. Then I went to explore the historical site where an old Maori sawmill once was. A few parts remain in place today, including the horizontal tube boiler and twin cylinder steam engine. Pretty neat. After all that excitement it was 4PM and I felt like I should have been hiking still. Were the weather warm and sunny I would just add beach time in, but I am not really interested in laying by the beach wrapped in all the clothes I am carrying.
Toward evening the sun finally came out. I sat out watching the bay for a couple hours while eating supper and rubbing out my legs. I am not the only person at camp tonight. There is a couple with their teenage son. They stayed at their tent the whole time, so I know almost nothing nothing about them. A few people have come through also, either heading through to the neighboring camp or heading back to town.