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“Bonus Round” – Stewart Island

or … MAGIC…

It is just impossible to say goodbye so soon. It is just impossible to stop hiking so suddenly.

Eef, P-J and Patrick had planned to go to Stewart Island a while back. Staying in Invercargill after the end of the Trail, I am still undecided. I am flat broke and tired, but on the other hand, this might be my best chance ever to go to Stewart Island. After all, I have been living in New Zealand for a few years now and I have never been so close to it, and I’m fit and well prepared for hiking in its notorious rough terrain. Plus, I’m with a bunch of enthousiastic hikers and pretty awesome people. And on the matter on being broke, well, I might as well be broke in style.

Despite a pretty dismal weather forecast, we book our tickets to cross the Foveaux Strait and, all the sudden, our lives make sense again. There’s another resupply to do, other track descriptions to read, other maps to study, huts to sleep in, trails to walk: there’s an Island to discover.

We spend ten days tramping on the Northwest Circuit. Ten AMAZING days.

We stay in nine huts along the way. All very nice, comfortable huts located in beautiful spots and with names that seem to come directly from the wildest tales. In order, there is Bungaree Hut, Christmas Village hut, Yankee River Hut, Long Harry Hut, East Ruggedy Hut, Big Hellfire Hut, Mason Bay Hut, Freshwater Landing Hut and North Arm Hut.

Weatherwise, we are prepared for the worse, the forecast giving us two days of fine weather supposedly followed by torrential rain. But during these ten days, we get only one day of rain, the others being just overcast or perfectly sunny. I still can’t believe our luck!

Stewart Island is an absolute gem. No words would be able to describe here what we have lived. All the hardship of trudging through thick mud is being immensely rewarded by pristine bush, rich birdlife, rugged islands, sand dunes, wild ocean with huge waves crashing on remote beaches, and the occasional elusive kiwi bird seen in the bush or heard in the distance…

Many times we just stand there, staring at the scenery, thinking we must be on another planet …

Here are the best pictures of this last adventure. I hope they speak for themselves and convey rightfully the Magic of the place …

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