New Zealand Road Trip 3: Haast, Bluff, and Stewart Island


To Stewart we took the ferry

We arrived and longed for the prairie

     From New Zealand to Nome

     There’s no place like home

We’ll fly with no help from a fairy.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to dance back from the verge of burnout, I’m having adventures and working in out-of-the-way places.  We’re touring after a month-long assignment an hour outside of quake-stricken Christchurch, in New Zealand’s South Island.

We drove south from Paparoa and Bruce Bay, along New Zealand’s southwest coast, down the loneliest stretch of highway either of us could remember.  So little traffic passed we saw no other cars for thirty minutes at a stretch.  Two sheep wandered outside their paddocks in evident safety.

Despite Southern Hemisphere’s  fast-pproaching  wnter, though we drove further south than Minneapolis lays north, the temperature stayed above freezing.  We filled the tank in Haast at the slowest pump I can remember, requiring a quarter-hour for six gallons (twenty-four liters) while I swatted at biting black flies.

Rains forests require rain which biting insects love; no surprise that flying blood suckers abound in the environment.  They’re just doing their job.

Further south we lunched in Queenstown, a mountain resort that reminded Bethany us of the tourist glitz in Keystone, Colorado, complete with a huge lake.

On south we went, further south than either of us had ever been before, and stopped in Kingston, the only guests at a motel that would have charmed if we hadn’t had to wrap ourselves in blankets to play Scrabble.  New Zealanders don’t think much of central heating; during the few cold months many heat with wood, a few with coal, but hostelry relies on space heaters. 

Further south yet, through Invercargill to Bluff, the southern tip of the South Island and famous for its oysters.  We walked from the Drunken Sailor car park further south, to the point, and looked across the water to Stewart Island.

The author inspects a sign post in the parking lot of the Drunken Sailor

We took the afternoon ferry there, landing at sunset.  The usually laid-back Kiwi attitude slows to the speed of the tides on Stewart Island and outside the tourist season they really relax.  One shop turned on its lights during the posted store hours of 1:00 to 3:00 but didn’t unlock its doors till 1:30.

Oban remains as the sole town on the island, with a year-round population of 600.  The rest of the island hosts the southernmost wild whitetail deer population in the world.  I briefly contemplated the irony and absurdity of leaving Iowa to hunt the same species that browses in my back yard.

Two hours before sunrise we awoke at the South Seas Hotel and walked out to Ackers Point in hopes of seeing little blue penguins, the smallest species.  Having made a mistaken detour into a sheep paddock in the darkness despite the use of the clip-on headlight I bought in Barrow, we arrived too late to see the raft depart.

We walked around town after breakfast, then went back to the hotel to sit in the midday sun, never more than halfway from the horizon.

“I’m ready to go back,” Bethany said.

“So am I,” I said, standing, closing my eyes and clicking my heels three times.  “There’s no place like home”.  I opened my eyes.  “We’re not in Kansas!”

“Nor in Iowa,” Bethany said.  “We still have to drive to Dunedin, fly to Christchurch to Wellington to Auckland to LA to Phoenix to Omaha and drive to Sioux City.”

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One Response to “New Zealand Road Trip 3: Haast, Bluff, and Stewart Island”

  1. David Sterling Says:

    BON VOYAGE!!!!!

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