Matiu / Somes Island

Taking advantage of a sunny day, I finally made it out to Matui/Somes Island – which is the island that sits in the middle of Wellington Harbor. It was one of my Wellington must dos, and I had not made it out, and with my time winding down, knew this might be the last nice day for it, so I paused my writing flow, packed a picnic and set out to catch the ferry to the island.

You can learn more about the island here:

The island has a fascinating history, as it has served as a quarantine station, military outpost, interment camp and now wildlife refuge. The island gives the opportunity to discover nature by traveling along various tracks, and I ended up walking on each track on the island and extending my stay there because it was such a lovely day, and I was enjoying my tramp so much.

When you arrive on the island your first stop is the quarantine station, where you check your bag and shoes for bio-security risks. Once cleared, you are able to start exploring.

As I walked, I was immediatly greeting with stunning views of the harbor, Eastborne and Petone.

My first stop was the cemetery monument.

Between 1918 and 1920, Somes Island was used as a human quarantine station during the influenza pandemic, and many died on the island.

I trekked along from the Monument along Cable Bay to the lookout over Shag Rock. Birds, flowers, skinks and Tuataras were plentiful. I felt like I had the island to myself, as everyone else had headed to the visitors center first.

From the overlook I headed to the lighthouse, stopping to check out the Weta Hotel.

Those are some gargantuan insects!

Then I enjoyed the lighthouse, before beginning my trek to the Southern Lookout – I am pretty certain I took a million pictures – it was so pretty!

Here at the southern lookout, I realized that I was not going to have time to see everything I wanted unless I booked the later ferry back, so I called the company to secure my seat on the later boat, giving me more time to enjoy this peaceful oasis.

My next stop was the old WW2 gun emplacements, so I went up the “steep track”. Along the way I got the opportunity to observe the amazing fantail, which may be one of my favorite NZ birds.

Then, at the gate, I made an interesting observation about the weathering of the gate.

I wonder how many times those pieces of wood have been slammed together?

At the top, I explored the gun casings, and just genuinely enjoyed the views, pulling out my lunch for a stop at the picnic table.

I headed back down to the visitor area, where I explored the animal quarantine station, which felt an awful lot like animal prison – which, I guess, it was, in a way.

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After that it was down to the visitor center, where I learned about the other uses of the island, particularly its use as an internment camp during WW2 and the attempted escapes.

Next, I wandered back to the wharf, and with time to spare, checked out the old degaussing station, and listened to the stories of Meg Pilcher, (a fascinating lady!)then to the North Wharf before leaving the island and heading home.

I am so glad I had this beautiful weather to enjoy this amazing sanctuary!

A day in Picton – a tramp to Bob’s Bay, Ships Cove, Dolphins and delivering mail by boat.

I got up the morning to a beautiful sunshiny day. I got dressed and headed next door to the famousĀ Picton Village Bakkerij (filled with Dutch treats), which I just knew I had to visit in honor of my friend Simone. I grabbed a coffee, a breakfast pie, a vegetable cheese bread for lunch and a dessert treat before heading on my way. I had no plan for the morning, and only had to be back to the harbor to catch my Mail Cruise by 1:15.

I decided I would follow one of the shorter “tramping” trails and venture out to Bob’s Bay. It proved to be a great choice!

I started by walking across the harbor and across the harbor bridge, then set out along the opposite side of the harbor for the start of the trail. I was amazed by some of the boats in the harbor – there were “boats” with boats on them – actually yachts with smaller yachts in some cases.

Once at the trail, I was faced with a choice, the high route of the low route. Both were said to take about 30 minutes, but the low route came with a disclaimer about not being good for kids due to bluffs and cliffs – which translated to me as great views, so I went with the lower. It was beautiful, but they were not kidding about being right by the cliffs – I would not want to be walking with a child on that path – thus the warnings – I even made a stop to grab a trusty hiking stick for myself, just in case. . Still – the views made it clear that I made the right choice – while I enjoy tramping through the bush – the sea views on this trail were amazing.

The trail was quick, and not terribly difficult, and I made it to Bob’s Bay, where I was rewarded with a beach to myself for quite sometime – I sat, enjoyed my picnic lunch and just enjoyed watching the various boats, ferries, kayaks and other vessels pass by as the waves lapped on the shore.

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Once my alarm went off to go back for my next activity, I headed back on the trail, and crossed back over the bridge to check in for my next adventure, a ride on the Mail Boat through Queen Charlotte Sound. At this point the clouds had taken over a bit, and the sky was spitting rain, but hey – whats a little bit of rain on the sea, right?

We departed on time, and our guide was a stitch – he had funny stories about the area, about his mail delivery experiences, and the local history. I started at the top of the boat for the view, but as we were heading out into the coves rather fast, got chilly and went downstairs for a bit, returning to the top at key points to see birds, dolphins and great scenery. Check out these Hector’s Dolphins we saw:

 

Hector’s Dolphins are small (only about 1 meter) and found only in New Zealand – they are also highly endangered.

Once the mail delivery started, it was less fast and windy, so I spent more time up at the top, just savoring the view of this beautiful part of the world.

For some perspective, and so you can see the lay of the land, here is a screen shot of the area we cruised through.

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About 1/2 way through the cruise, we journeyed to Ship’s Cove, most famous for being a landing area and refuge for one Captain Cook. We were able to get off the boat here, and learn a little about the history of this area before continuing on our journey.

We delivered more mail, then headed back to Picton.

At this point it was quite wet and chilly, so I decided that I would go grab dinner before going back to the hostel, and what better to warm me up that some Irish Stew at the pub – while it was March 18th for me – it was still (sort-of) March 17th in the states, so I just celebrated a bit late here.

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Tomorrow is Sunday, and I get to journey to Nelson for my exciting week of school visits. I have a few hours before my bus departs in the afternoon, so who knows what fun I will find before I head out.