Part two of the trip. 26 days, over 1.000 km traveled.
I started in Wellington, visiting Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. Second best wildlife experience I have ever had, only behind the Great Barrier Reef. So many wonderful birds here, and in the rest of new Zealand. These guys, the Tui, are common everywhere. But I never tire of them. The lasting impressions of Karori will have to remain mental images: seeing the Saddleback and Stitchbird (Hihi) a few feet from each other, at the same time, for the first time. I won't get over it; and I knew at that point I had to be over 1.200 species.
My next stop was Nelson Lakes. The rain the first day was not an omen. It cleared beautifully. In spite of not being used to carrying a full pack all day, I thoroughly enjoyed my time. In spite of the failed route find. The first of the two images above is where I was on New Year's Eve. Waking up to that scene can be summed in one word: wow (I couldn't see it well the night before because of low cloud cover). And above, the area around Angelus Lakes reminded me why all this hiking is worth it.
From Nelson to Stewart Island, I had stops on the way. Yeah, the glaciers were cool. And the scenery in Queenstown was incredible. But during that entire 8 day stretch or so, with all the low clouds, the fog, the rain, and the crowds. The one thing that I always loved was seeing the South Island Robin during my day walks in the forest. By sheer personality, it will stick in my mind.
And on Stewart Island? This is what I will remember:
Water and mud. And the sheer joy of it all. It all comes down to proper gear. You stay dry, you stay happy. And happy I was. I encountered wonderful people. Saw fantastic scenery. Relaxed. Enjoyed the solitude. And smiled. A lot.
On Ulva Island, I found a large, flightless, cheeky bird. The Weka. Not as colorful as some, but when they poke at your feet looking for bugs or whatever, you forget that. And realize not all animals have an innate fear of man.
Which brings us to the final impression. The Hoiho, of course.
As I said in a previous post. Wow. I knew I was a long way from home when saw this guy walking out of the ocean. That experience, for as much as I have seen in New York, California, Florida, Arizona, Texas, Maine, Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Australia, is unmatched. I have been struck dumb from seeing a bird very few times. This was one of those times.