Wednesday 12 July 2017

Real Journeys Stewart Island cruise Day 1: Rock and roll

Waking to one degree and a thin but solid covering of white outside – sleety hail – I did wonder what I’d let myself in for, down here in the Deep South. In July. Foveaux Strait, between Bluff and Stewart Island, lived up to its reputation as a challenging hour, and the excited shrieks that met the whumping and rolling as we left the harbour soon died away. The staff were very solicitous and professional with sick bags, wet towels and tissues: the only smooth thing about the whole crossing.
Relief at arriving on the jetty at briefly sunny Oban was short-lived, though, as we were ushered right on to the Milford Wanderer, a no-nonsense vessel with two masts, a stack of well-used kayaks at the stern, and nothing in the way of spa pools, sun decks or quoits courts. In no time, we were away, introductions and lifeboat drill done, and were back on the waves, rolling and pitching along the rocky coast, catching glimpses of the snowy peaks behind. Meantime, some of the crew made themselves busy folding open a supply of sick bags, in a not-very-reassuring manner.
There was morning tea – porridge cake, very sustaining – and then, thankfully, a mooring at Port Adventure for lunch. It didn’t appear to live up to the name, being a secluded bay surrounded by bush, but Richard the nature guide/tour director gave us the history and the justification for it. I was actually more blown away by the lunch: home-made mushroom and cumin soup with good bread, then hot dogs, chicken and sundry salads. Just for lunch!
It didn’t matter – I only borrowed it. The three hours down the coast to Port Pegasus were too lively for determination and/or a Scopaderm patch applied too late to counter. But there was no shame: according to Richard, 90% of people get sea-sick, and the others are liars. He also recommended the one sure cure: "Stand under a tree". The huge swells breaking on the rocks were pretty (and) spectacular but I slept and missed most of them.
Everyone had recovered by dinner, which was a most deliciously moist and tender roast beef with a pepper crust, with real fruit jelly for pudding. The seating on the Wanderer is four-seater booths, and everyone seems friendly and ready to mix, so there was plenty of good conversation. Travel and Trump sums it up, really – as well as lots of praise for Real Journeys from their many repeat customers.

Afterwards, Bec from the DoC crew on board told us all about kakapo, our famous nocturnal flightless parrot. There are now 153 of them in existence, thanks to huge effort and great expense, but we won’t be hanging out to see one – none of the DoC people ever have. But there is a framed feather in the lounge.
And so to bed. The cabins are small, with slim single beds, one small porthole high up, and no unnecessary extras – this is an expedition ship, with no pretences to luxury. But it’s comfortable and I have everything I need – even a companion, for the first time ever on a famil. Sue from Brisbane. She claims not to be a snorer…

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