How often can you say your tramping buddy is a Southland Historian and author and he’s 83 years of age? Michael’s 83 year old tramping buddy still walks the tracks of New Zealand’s beautiful Stewart Island paradise, a place he’s written so many books about. Tomorrow, once again, Michael will meet up with John Hall-Jones to walk parts of Stewart Island – (it’s that little Island at the bottom of the South Island that many New Zealanders have never visited – incredible, I know). It’s all about the untouched purity, the abundance of native birds and the absence of noise pollution (unless you’re with a chatterbox like me). I’ve been here and believe me it’s totally unspoilt. You gotta love the locals, real ‘characters’ with a deep sense of history and of course gossip (which in my opinion, is the spice of life).
If you don’t have time for more than a couple of nights, take the 20-min flight with with Stewart Island Air to Masons Bay (western side of Stewart Island). Don’t be surprised if you’re sharing the 9-seater plane with a dog – it’ll belong to one of the Department of Conservation Rangers and they’re seasoned travellers. From Masons Bay, walk to Freshwater Hut (4-5 hrs), through the famous ‘Chocolate Swamp’ (boardwalk most of the way). Do this either as a day trip or overnight staying at Masons Bay or Freshwater Hut. From Freshwater Hut, a water taxi will take you to back to civilisation in Halfmoon Bay (village). Now folks, this is where timing is everything! Check the tides!! The plane is only able to land at low tide in Masons Bay and the water taxi can only pick you up at high tide. Confused? Don’t stress, the locals know all this stuff and it will be sorted. Another thing: for overnight walks, you must check into Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre and complete an Intentions Form. Authentic experience – Enjoy!