Yes, the above is a really bad photo but it is the only proof I have of the fact that I have been blessed with the ultimate surprise: I HAVE JUST SEEN A KIWI!!!! I had just arrived on Stewart Island and my kiwi spotting trip was brought forward by a night (the guide had an extra place and encouraged me to consider heading out tonight as the weather forecast for tomorrow is rain and wind). So I legged it down to the Fish and Chips van, called Kai (Maori for “food) Kart, woolfed down my dinner and then rushed back to the ferry port to embark on my adventure.
We came across this little lady feeding on a beach at dusk /after dark, which we reached on a small fishing boat (and no, I did not get sea-sick neither on this trip nor on the earlier ferry crossing which was very choppy……in fact, I fell asleep!!!). Having been accompanied by an albatross, circling above our boat with incredible ease and grace despite his large size, and having spotted the heads of little blue penguins popping up and down, in and out of the water, during their fishing spree, we arrived at our destination and headed through the bushes at dusk like red Indians on the warpath, under strict instructions to walk single file, softly and not to talk. We did not see anything on the walk through the bush but sooner after hitting the sand, spotted this brown Stewart Island Kiwi and were able to follow and observe her for a long time.
Stewart Island kiwis are much larger than kiwis elsewhere in NZ; they have very large feet which reminded me of Hobbit’s feet, and the first part of it you usually see is its fury bottom, as its very long bills with its nostrils at the tip is usually digging around in the ground, catching warms and insects. It was just so incredible seeing this little lady….I gave up taking photos after a while; we could not use flash photography so as not to damage their little eyes and not scare them away and I just enjoyed watching her walking about the sand, seemingly not bothered by us. What a special, wonderful surprise it was–I would have been willing to stay there all night, the sound of the sea in the background, in that cold wind on the beach, watching this unique and rare creature.
On the way back, we had an unexpected adventure: a sea lion had moved to the start of the pathway which we needed to take to get back to the boat, and our guide was worried that he would proceed up the path and make it difficult for us to get back to the boat. So he ushered us up the track at high speed and later, as we were safely away from the seal, we saw another kiwi in the bushes, albeit briefly, as some nanas on the walk did not turn their torches off on time.
So here I am, very tired and facing only a short night as I have to get up very early to go on my guided trip to Ulva Island, a predator-free haven and so a bird-watcher’s paradise….I am wondering whether I will get into and out of my top bunk without breaking my neck in the pitch- black of the dorm which I am sharing with 6 others here at Bunkers Backpackers but am sure I will rise to the challenge.
I wonder what other special plants and creatures I will see tomorrow….I feel like I am being showered with wonderful surprises every day here, and my heart is so full of joy.