SOUTHLAND

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The short flight was im­pres­sive, not a cloud in the sky, Foveaux Strait glis­ten­ing and the Blue Cod down there beg­ging me to come and catch them.

A three-point land­ing at Oban Air­port and a shut­tle down to the town de­pot was set­ting me up for an­other mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence.

Rak­iura the Maori word for Ste­wart Is­land means “Glow­ing Skies” Rak­iura re­mains the most in­tact – the least logged, burnt and built upon of New Zealand´s three main is­lands. Glow­ing Skies are an un­der­state­ment. The Southern Aurora is of­ten vis­i­ble from Ste­wart Is­land if your lucky to time it.

I was up­lifted at the air­line de­pot by Phil Dove part­ner of An­nett Eiselt who own Ob­ser­va­tion Rock Lodge. A short drive with a lo­cal point­ing out points of in­ter­est and mak­ing me feel very wel­come.

Set high above the town­ship, I know I walked it a few times and of­ten me­an­dered off into the na­tive bush to catch a glimpse of the abun­dant birdlife.

Ob­ser­va­tion Rock is a per­sonal, first class accommodation prop­erty that is per­fectly lo­cated, as the name sug­gests with na­tive birds and veg­e­ta­tion which de­fies the big city lodges and accommodation prop­er­ties. An­nett’s culi­nary skills are be­yond five stars with break­fasts and din­ner op­tions to die for. The most is made of lo­cal seafood and veg­eta­bles which is de­liv­ered in the din­ing room that over­looks Preser­va­tion In­let.

The next morn­ing it was down to the jetty to hook up with An­drew Leask and his orig­i­nal fish­ing boat Rawhiti. Fish­ing for Blue Cod off the Rawhiti is in­cred­i­ble. The Leask fam­ily are also an “orig­i­nal” Ste­wart Is­land fam­ily and An­drews knowl­edge of where to find the “Bluies” is vast.

Af­ter a safety brief­ing we were off into the daz­zling colou­ful sky to the spot we were told should fur­nish us with a catch. And it sure did. It was only min­utes af­ter the lines were dropped that the happy trav­ellers were pulling up the sweet fish. An­drew dressed and fil­leted some of the catch for lunch which he cooked on­board for us all to en­joy. The Molly Mawks were for­ever pre­sent al­ways look­ing for birds are amaz­ing, a mem­ber of the al­ba­tross fam­ily, they are huge and quite ag­gres­sive to­ward each other when scrap­ping over the morsels. The poor gulls have lit­tle chance when these big guys are around.

Not only did we en­joy the cod on­board but were given some to take back to the lodge which were pre­pared by An­nett that evening as part of a de­li­cious five course din­ner.

The next evening we dined at the lo­cal pub and en­joyed cray­fish and lo­cal oys­ters. The Bluff oys­ter is ar­guably one of the worlds most tasty and sat­is­fy­ing shell­fish how­ever a lo­cal Ste­wart is­land com­pany has been farm­ing them in Big Glory Bay so that they can be en­joyed all year round. The ocean dredg­ing sea­son is re­stricted to quota and is only fished from.

The next day it was a re­lax­ing spell in the gar­dens at Ob­ser­va­tion Rock and en­joy­ing some of the na­tive birds that abound. Some are so friendly they will ap­proach and in some cases sit on ones hand es­pe­cially if there is a bread­crumb or two as en­cour­age­ment.

Later in the day I was taken to

Phil’s launch­ing bay for a full on sea-kayak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in Pater­son In­let. Phil is an ex­pe­ri­enced out­door man with a back­ground of river raft­ing and out­door life in some of New Zealand’s most pris­tine ar­eas. Both Phil and his Wife are se­ri­ous con­ser­va­tion­ists and take a lot of care in pro­tect­ing the pris­tine sur­round­ings that they both feel so priv­i­leged to live in.

Dou­ble seat or sin­gle seat kayaks are avail­able and the cruise around the In­let is amaz­ing. Phil knew where the Sea Li­ons and Seals are lurking. The names of all the na­tive and sea birds. His lo­cal knowl­edge is ex­ten­sive and his at­ten­tion to the pad­dlers com­fort and safety is his forte.

We did not have the time to visit Ulva Is­land how­ever I have been on this amaz­ing pro­tected Is­land be­fore where the pest free en­vi­ron­ment has given the na­tive birds a home that has rid them of fear.

A won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence as­sisted by lo­cals and the weather. The an­chor of New Zealand should be on your sched­ule if na­ture and fine fare spin your wheels.

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