Saturday 15 July 2017

Real Journeys Stewart Island Day 4: Playing

A beautiful day, is what it brought. As the moon sank, the sun rose into a clear sky, outshining Venus: well, what else would you expect when you spent the night in Glory Cove? It wasn’t such a great day for the beached sperm whale around the point, but on the other hand, the sea birds were pleased, so there you go.
We cruised happily along in the Milford Wanderer on a calm sea back towards Port Adventure, many of us crowded onto the bridge, the conversation ranging from (inevitably) plastic in the sea to how to cook a muttonbird (captain’s tip: boil it forever, then grill it). Fortified by morning tea (scones with jam) we headed ashore to visit a pristine beach and re-visit our youth. Truly: we played. There was no real plan, not much of a history lecture, a minimal conservation lesson: mainly first of all a red sand beach called Red Sand Cove and then, through the bush to the other side of the neck, a white sand beach called – Salty Beach. Ha! Fooled you. It was gorgeous, squeaky and scattered with washed-up strands of bladderweed that popped most satisfyingly when trodden on.
There were kiwi prints in the sand, and those of deer, and feral cats; paua shells polished by the sea and sand; and there was the sea, blue-tinged and transparent, lapping onto the sand in a convincingly tropical manner – though since it was only about 10 degrees, that’s where the resemblance ended.
Time passed as we mooched and fossicked and beachcombed or just lapsed into what Richard aptly called “screensaver mode”. Then we ambled back to the ship for another of Stefan’s irresistibly delicious lunches, before repeating the process at another beach. You could hardly get less demanding or more relaxed, and it was just lovely. There was even actual play here: beach cricket with a driftwood bat and a carved bull kelp ball – which is quite remarkably bouncy, you know.
We learned about sea lions vomiting digestive pebbles, saw a possum dead in a trap, picked up a bit of plastic – sadly, it’s everywhere on this planet, there’s no escaping it – followed more kiwi trails along the beach and then returned to the ship for a closer look at the whale which was definitely beached as, bro*, and a bit niffy with it. And that was the day – full of sunshine, long shadows, fresh air, clear water, good food, relaxation and not much else. What else would you want, actually?
*Don't get that reference? Then - with respect - you're not a Kiwi. One of the joys of this cruise is that it's only Kiwis who know about it. It's like advanced-level New Zealand travel, that common-or-garden (ie foreign) tourists don't discover. And - sorry - all the better for that. We have to keep some stuff to ourselves, you know.

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