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Sunday, 14 May 2006

The Locals Wear Gumboots

This is a photo I took when we were on Stewart Island three weeks ago now. It shows the native New Zealand bush most of the island is covered with.

Stewart Island is at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand (looking at a map of New Zealand, the South Island is the one that looks like a frock and Stewart Island the shape of a sleeping cat.)

This is my third visit to Stewart Island, and each time I've arrived, I've sensed what it really means to 'set foot'. As soon as they feel the ground beneath them, my feet start tingling.

I love its silence and scent. Water and trees. I love the play of calm, white pearly light on the ocean.

Walking round Halfmoon Bay, the bay with the town of Oban and where the ferries dock, we saw overhead, a flock of kakriki (a native parrot with bright emerald-green feathers and red faces.) We could hear their rough, loud caws as they flew to a roost in some trees. We dropped into a small cafe for a coffee and got talking to the American owner. She makes paua shell necklaces and bracelets, which were all pinned up on the wall. She said she can't keep up with the orders - especially in the summer when visitor numbers are higher.

The island is full of bays and forest walks. It was ABM's first visit, and we had one full day only to enjoy a small part of all there is to explore there. But we thoroughly enjoyed our day walking around and savouring the sights and sounds of forest and ocean views. We are rather smitten by the place.

To live there would be to live in a place that feels protected by the sea and trees. It has the intimate feeling of an island; that comforting, included feeling of of being restricted to one small space. But not too small. There are very large areas of bush emptied of any buildings or signs of humans, where one could get away from it all well and truly. It is a hilly island and most of it is coverd by native forest. As well, here are very many, idyllic little bays to discover and explore.

The island has a low-key, positive, communal feel to it. Locals wear gumboots to the one grocery store, and drive there in pick-up trucks with happily grinning dogs on the back. I'd go and live there in a flash.

One of the other people in the group we were with told me later she'd woken up at dawn and could hear kiwis. She described their call as determined - not pretty at all, but with an insistent, strident urgency. (Maybe that's a warning - living on an island might do that to you after a while.)

Stewart Island is special to me too because people I have descended from lived there. A bay is named after them and one of the islands the ferry passes on its way, is also named after an ancestor. This gives me a sense of coming home when I go to Stewart Island. I feel the place is already in my blood. It is a kind of homecoming. I will be back.


Catherine said...

Sometimes I yearn to live in a place like Stewart Island (or maybe Great Barrier - it's warmer up there). But then I think "yes, but what about libraries"? OK, I could live there if I was rich enough to have a helicopter to fly me to the city whenever.
I do love living in Christchurch, it's a very green city. After all, no city in New Zealand is really very "concrete jungle" - like.

chiefbiscuit said...

Thanks catherine - That's right, we are lucky in New Zealand to never be far from nature.

liz elayne said...

to live in a place protected by the sea and the trees. yes, this sounds like just the sort of place i could live for the rest of my days...

Camille said...

I grew up in a place called Half Moon Bay. Oh, how I love the coast! Thanks for the lovely descriptions!

chiefbiscuit said...

Hi Liz Elayne - Yes it's a great place ... sad news though this weekend there has been a boat tragedy there with a grandfather and two chidren drowned ... So tragic ...

Hi Camille - Thanks for your note. The coast is beautiful - but sometimes as you can see by above note - can be a dangerous place you just can't take for granted. I'm feeling sad for that family.

Belle said...

Hi Chief B,

We have islands similar to yours and they are wonderful. I ponder living in such a place, also, when I visit. These places fill us with the awe of being in such a wonderfully beautiful, unspoiled part of the world.

Glad you could go back to your roots and enjoy.


Pam in Tucson said...

What a lovely place. I miss being near the ocean and love to read about it. So glad you enjoyed your time there.

Lynn said...

I am jealous because you have kiwis. And because you have such a lovely place to escape to.

chiefbiscuit said...

Hi Belle - Thanks. Islands are special aren't they? You must tell us about the islands around you sometime - I'd love to hear about them! :)

Hi Pam - Yes it was a fantastic time there. The ocean is amazing. I love deserts too though!

Hi Lynn - Judging by your latest pics you have lovely escape-places too!

Bogart said...

What I would give to be there. I have only seen the ocean a handful of times in my life and that was usually Galveston Island. Not a beautiful place. This sounds wonderful.

chiefbiscuit said...

One day bogart you'll have to visit us! I read a book about a huge storm in Galveston that happened in the 19th century. And then there's the Glen Campbell song!


'how this all harbours light'