The New Zealand Diaries:of rainy days and bush walks (15/01/16)

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At the end of what has been a very wet and rainy day, I have finally been able to venture out in semi-dry weather to explore the Horseshoe Point Track here on Stewart Island, a short walk which loops around some of the bays close to Oban and the main port at Halfmoon Bay, through beautiful rain forest. Just ahead of me, two seagulls are swimming in the water peacefully, oblivious to my battle with the sand-flies which really are indecent, rude and invasive creatures. Despite being fully covered up and having sprayed myself in insct repellent, they still see fit to settle on my trouser legs and jacket sleeves, trying to find a spot of non-deet covered skin for their daily protein infusion. I shall defy them for as long as I can. It is probably completely daft but I am still entertaining the vain hope of seeing another kiwi,  plus I just needed a bit of private space to hear myself think and reflect. It really is lovely having some company in the youth hostel, and the tour yesterday with our little group of people was also wonderful, but now I need time to digest. If I see more birds, that is a plus but not essential.
Today‘s little walk has allowed me to see more of the wonderful birds and plants I have discovered in the last few days. I saw some more of that pretty”umbrella moss”,several oyester catchers, a comorant and a Tui, as well as several of those large colourful pigeons. I think I can hear a kaka making its distinctive noises in the trees, and spotted some more pretty ferns with their distinctive coils that have become such a symbol of new life and new beginnings for the Maori and beyond. I have not mentioned this before, but the ferns have had such meaning for me throughout my trip due to this trip, for so many reasons, and my heart rejoices as a result  each time I see a particularly pretty one.  I have also seen more of those sturdy round glossy leaves (what oh what was that tree called?) which early settlers here and on Ulva Island used as postcards 😀, and  have  spotted more of those tree trunks which display a particularly interesting phenomenon which Furhana pointed out to us yesterday: there is an insect which burrows itself into the bark of the tree to suck out all sap from inside. What you can see of the insect is something which looks like a thread,  with little droplets hanging off ir which have a very sweet taste. If you did not know it was an insect you would think it was some form of fluff hanging from the bark of the tree. How varied and creative the ways in which different creatures on this planet fend for themselves!
I was going to do this walk in the morning but decided against it when I got to Oban’s Department of Conservation (DOC) centre and saw the lovely exhibition area they had set up there. There was also a comfortable sofa there and as the rain really was pouring down at that point, I settled on it and watched a DVD on Ulva Island birds before exploring the little local museum. It has some interesting items depicting the lives of of the early settlers, pictures of looking whaling and timber days back in the early days, fishing equipment, a small number of Maori articles and-my very favourite in this museum- a whole cabinet of shells and other creatures from the sea: multi-coloured Pawa shells, the former homes of tiny and larger snails, a small and much bigger sea horse, and the most giant crab I have ever seen. If you encountered that on the beach and it nibbled your toes, it would really hurt.
Speaking of museums, I also stumbled across a real hidden gem the other day en route from Te Anau to Invercagill and Bluff (where the ferry port from which the small boats to Stewart Island depart). It was in a place called Gore -a tiny little collection, donations only, no entrance fee. It was mentioned in my guidebook as containing some Maori artefacts and some works by New Zealand artists. The latter was true and I did like Rita Angus’ paintings as well as some of the beautiful black and white photography in the temporary exhibition. However, the unexpected highlight of this tiny gallery were numerous beautiful wooden statues, carvings and head-dresses from countries like the Democractic Republic of Congo, Mali, Burkina Faso and African countries. They had been bought by a man called John Money ( he must have had some of that!) in the United States and brought here before he donated them to the museum. Beautifully preserved and very impressive.  My favourite was a head-dress with two little antilopes on top……wonderful.  Not the kind of thing you would expect to find in a small town like Gore in the South of New Zealand’s South Island.
It is still quiet here on the beach and although my backside is beginning to get a but damp, I do not want to leave here. So I may use this time now to think back of my trip to Milford Sound and the Te Anau glow worm caves and to digest those magnificent experierences in a separate blog. While I did not have time to write it all up at the time, those two wonderful experiences must not be omitted from the New Zealand diaries. Two oyster catchers have laned and are making a right old racket but seem to be bullying each other rather than showing concern about my presence, so I will try to seize the moment. Alas, more deet is needed-I am in the midst of a new horroe movie called “The return of the sand-fly” 😀…..
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