About Us

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We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boat Sabbatical Part 2: Stewart Island

Most people think of New Zealand only having two islands, north and south, but there’s a third major island and it turns out it’s our favourite!!!  After a short visit to Australia to catch up with family we headed back to the trails in NZ for some more hiking.  Not only was Stewart Island to be our last tramp before returning to Narama, but we loved it so much, that it deserves its own blog entry.  Our plan was to hike the Northwest Circuit, which is meant to be a grueling 100+km of serious, deep mud and then head north for one more tramp.  But we loved Stewart Island so much that we spent an extra week exploring around the small town, visiting Ulva Island, which is pest-free and therefore has loads of birdlife and even catching a Rugby game on Waitangi Day (NZ’s national day). 

12 days of food; our packs were very heavy at the start of our tramp

Learning the field marks of the elusive Kiwi
 Apparently we picked a really good year to attempt this hike as the unusually dry weather meant that the mud was reasonable, and not “thigh-deep” as we were warned about.  The coast line was very dramatic with a few long sandy beaches and lots of rugged rocky headlands.  And the wildlife was special!  We had a very rough ferry crossing from Bluff on the “mainland” but the wind meant that we could spot more albatrosses gliding past.  One of the other things that makes this island so special is that the Brown Kiwi, which is normally nocturnal, will feed throughout the day, making this the best place in NZ to spot them.  For a national icon, we think the kiwi is one funny bird, but we were still thrilled to see them rooting around on the forest floor. 

Mud: even in a good year there will be some on Stewart Island

Always check the depth with a stick before stepping in!

I’ll include a species list later, but for anyone interested in wildife in NZ, then I couldn’t recommend Stewart Island enough.  We were actually a bit sad to finish our hike here even after 12 days and a chance to wash the mud off!
The Kiwi and the Aussie!

Watching Albatross from shore: a rare opportunity elsewhere

Boat Sabbatical Part 1: Hiking the North and South Island of New Zealand

Hiking up the Poulter River, Aurthur's Pass NP

In an effort to rid ourselves of “Boat Body” we bought our first car!  That sounds like an oxymoron but it’s an easier way to get between trailheads and campsites than hitching.  The plan was to tour New Zealand doing as many hikes (tramps) as possible along the way.  NZ parks are amazingly well endowed with hiking trails and its hut system is fantastic.  The huts are dotted literally everywhere (there’s over 1000) – a legacy of post war deer culling efforts, grazers, tramping and other outdoor pursuit clubs.  Hunters still remain a large user of huts off the main trails, but everyone seems to coexist ok on the surface.  We certainly give kudos to DOC (Dept of Conservation) who maintain the majority of the huts and campsites throughout the country.  For the use of the huts we bought a $92, 6 month pass which paid for itself over 4 times, while in between hikes the DOC campsites are free or a few dollars each.  So if your happy to camp and freshen up in the rivers, then these facilities certainly make travel affordable.  The huts range from basic 2-bunk Biv’s in the alpine to 30+ bunks with wood/coal stoves and gas cookers.  All come with mattresses.  So our tent has been replaced by a tarp for emergency use and even the thermarest has been left behind on occasion.

Our favourite campsite: above Speargrass Tarns, Nelson Lakes NP

Heidi has nearly turned into a hobbit though Stephen is far from Gandalf, though he thinks a cane may be necessary soon!  We are impressed with the greater number of female trail users – maybe even out numbering the guys – way to go Kiwi girls!

Sketching the skyline at Travers Saddle, Nelson Lakes NP

One of the older and more character huts, Tararua Forest Park

A summary of the walks that we did, for those who want to look up the locations, etc.

  1. Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway          4 days  53km
  2. Whirinaki Forest Park                         3 days  36km
  3. Kaimanawa Forest Park (Umukarikari Ridge) 2 days 35km
  4. Mt Egmont NP (Taranaki)                  5 days 47km
  5. Tararua Forest Park                             6 days 70km
  6. Kahurangi NP (Mt Arthur                 3 days 31km
  7. Nelson Lakes NP Travers-Sabine Circuit  8 days  100km
  8. Paparoa NP  Croesus Track                3 days 34km
  9. Arthur’s Pass NP                                5 days 73m
  10. Stewart Island (Rakiura NP) NW Circuit  12 days 142km
Our total distance hiked was 650km after adding several day hikes as well as these longer tramps.
    Trails were well marked!

    A few NZ Icons we’ve become aquainted with:

    • Whittaker’s Chocolate – a 250g bar of 72% cocoa was consumed on average every 4 days of tramping
    • Tramping – this verb means hiking or bushwalking in Canada and Australia respectively
    • One-lane bridges – sure they exist in other countries, but here in NZ even the busy Hwy’s have some
    • Orange triangle trail markers – it is feasible that they may even out number sheep here!
    • Typical NZ tramping attire: shorts and gaiters (no matter what the weather!) – we think this has developed due to the local love of fording rivers
    • Sandflies – similar to Canadian Blackflies and Scottish Midges (in a contest the NZ Sandflies would win!)

    Minchin Saddle, Arthur's Pass NP

    Fording Townsend Creek, Arthur's Pass NP