Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stewart Island Bays and Pub Tours

I decided to go to Stewart Island on a whim. Several people had suggested it, to which I said, "what's cool to do there?" I never really got a full answer, just that it was a cool place to go to. While in Bluff, I was very disappointed to here that I wouldn't find any Bluff oysters to speak of. Though the oystering season isn't over until the 31st of August, all the commercial fishermen have filled their quotas and so I could not find a one!

I hoped that Stewart Island would prove more fruitful and decided to transfer my goal in eating oysters to Stewart Island. After all, the fishermen from Bluff often fished in the same areas as those from Stewart Island.

So after a one-hour rollercoaster ride across the Foveaux Strait on a catamaran, I arrived on the anchor of New Zealand (will explain at a later date). It's a charming place. I went to my backpackers and settled in. It was very rainy so I didn't venture out much except to go to the one supermarket on the island and then the booking office where I wanted to ask about tours around the island and a trip to Ulva Island, a bird sanctuary a short boat ride away.

I asked the very nice people at the Stewart Island Experience office where I could find someone who would take me out oystering. I was duly pointed to the one and only pub/bar on the island, the South Sea Hotel. I was told to go there that night and ask around.
The South Sea Hotel -the southern most pub in New Zealand (I've now seen the northern most pub and the southern most pub in this country! see Kaitaia entry)

That evening I walked into the pub on my own and as I was getting myself a drink, I asked the bartender where I could find someone to go oystering with. She pointed me towards an inebriated man with silver-colored hair: Jack. I was immediately invited to join the group and we chatted, them asking me questions, me emboldened by their affability and asking whether an oystering expedition would be possible. I was answered with a vague "yes", which I took to be a good sign. I stayed several hours, talking to all sorts of people, getting the full effect of an island inhabited by 400 people who all meet at the pub at some point or another. A really close-knit community of people who love to laugh, drink and play. It was really a wonderful experience.

A sign put up in the bar about 20 years ago. I love it!

The next day I took the Bays and City Tour. I was the only one on the bus and the driver was a very nice man who stopped the bus whenever I wanted to take a picture. Here is what this beautiful island looks like.

Some cool sculptures made of wood
Baby seal

Crayfish pots

Lee Bay
Rimu Tree
They used to use this telephone (wind-up) to make urgent phone calls. Isn't it cute!

Below: Horseshoe Bay

It was a nice tour. I had a good time and the sky cleared up nicely enough for me to take some good pictures.

That night, I went back to the pub to get a more definitive affirmation on going oystering the next day. Jack was there again, everyone was inebriated but he remembered me and did agree to take me out the next day. I was to go to Ulva Island in the morning and would meet him at the dock in the afternoon to go oystering. Maria, one of the women at the backpackers decided to come along.

That night we met a group of guys from DOC (Department of Conservation) who were really cool. Andrew, a sort of newbie to the area (coming from the mainland) wanted us to try "paua guts", a local shot. Always up for new experience, I accepted.
Paua guts (made with Opal Nera and Baileys)

I'll explain about Paua soon. Much more to see and do in Stewart Island

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