Post-exam boots made for walking

A hop, skip, ferry trip and long walk away. Photo by Real Journeys.
A hop, skip, ferry trip and long walk away. Photo by Real Journeys.
The post-exam, pre-leaving period provided an opportunity to compile and complete a last-minute list of Dunedin activities; the plan was to while away the time making the most of improving weather and study-free days.

The list began with a bang - a trip to Stewart Island (henceforth nicknamed Stewie). Technically a non-Dunedin destination, but something which we felt should be done during our time at Otago, nonetheless.

At $140 for return travel on the ferry, it's not difficult to understand why this underrated isle of paradise isn't a popular student holiday destination.

However, within the first 10 minutes of the (almost-cancelled-due-to-the-weather) journey, I realised the hefty ticket price was far from the worst aspect of the Foveaux crossing. I also understood why my mother almost had a conniption when she thought we were private boating across the strait.

Let's just say I arrived prepared to fall in love, for I feared I'd never again be able to drag myself on to a boat and back to the mainland.

Upon arrival, with faces as green as the scenery, we trooped through the rain towards the backpackers.

Unpacked, napped. I dreamt of the holiday I had desired; sun and books on sandy beaches.

Fortunately, the take-two impression of Stewart Island was far superior. The sun didn't come out for a day or two, but that didn't stop us from walking. Walking, walking, walking.

What better way to see the island?

What better way to see soil?

To see stones, steps, clay, bark, leaves, dirt, dirt, and dirt.

On the occasions when I looked up without tripping over my own feet, the views were worth a thousand stubbed toes ... Clear green water lapped and licked the rocky coast like the tongue of some giant magic sea dragon. One could easily image its tail flicking up a storm further from the coast.

We saw birds of almost every native kind - from melodious tuis and bellbirds to cheeky robins, tomtits and wekas, and stunning woodpigeons and parakeets. Their constant and noisy presence provided a glimpse of what this country used to be.

And the people?

Well ... what people?

It's fair to say they were few and far between, but the locals were of the friendliest type you'll ever meet.

The restaurant on the hill provided the best service and even a ride home in the rain, the policeman gave us a tour of the township, and everyone we met along the way was ready with a smile and a helpful word.

One member of our party calculated a total of 17 walking hours (more hours than were spent sleeping, that's for sure). My book was barely read, but that didn't matter because the list received one big tick next to "Stewart Island".

Next?

The Chinese Garden.

Obviously, this required a trip back to the mainland; a slightly less traumatic journey - all part of the adventure, certainly - but how much are flights?

Worth considering, without doubt.

 - Katie Kenny has just completed English studies at the University of Otago.