Our group of ten set off from Oban at 9.15am to make the 15 minute walk over the hill
to Golden Bay, where we caught a water taxi to Freshwater Hut. The 45 minute ride took us along the Patterson
Inlet which was as calm as a millpond. After a brief stop at North Arm to pick up passengers, we had
an exciting ride up Freshwater River, twisting and turning as the water taxi negotiated tight bends in
the river. Arriving at 10.45am we left our packs on the jetty as we crossed over Freshwater River by
a swing bridge, one person at a time, to Freshwater Hut. After lunch in the hut, we crossed back over
the bridge and set off for Masonís Bay.
The pleasant, flat track took us about 4 hours, starting
with a sandy track with a few boggy patches that were easy to walk around, and providing wide open views.
After crossing a bridge, with the old bridge lying alongside, there were poles with an orange line on
them, with a sign saying not to go any further if there was water above the orange line. Thanks to the
recent dry weather we were well in the clear. For some time the straight, grassy track ran by the side
of the river with Manuka trees shading us. About 50% of the track was under the cover of Manuka. A long
boardwalk took us over the Chocolate Swamp. Before the boardwalk had been built trampers had to wade
through the swamp up to their knees, leaving them with brown legs for up to two weeks! The track opened
up as we crossed through sand dunes, and up to the Island Hill Homestead, which was a farm house until
1986 when the last farmers left the area. The historic building is now used as DOC accommodation. We
met the DOC warden, Dale, who was staying at the Homestead with his wife and four children, as we walked
down the 15 minute track to Masonís Bay Hut.
Dale reappeared at the Hut after dinner to tell
us the three Must-Do things to do while at Masonís Bay; Climb Big Sandhill for the views and sunset,
Go Kiwi spotting after dark or early morning, and to land on Masonís Bay beach in a plane. We completed
two of these things! Straight away we all headed up Big Sandhill behind the hut, an amazing walk amongst
granite rocks, quartz and sand. While we enjoyed wide 360degree views, it was too cloudy for a sunset.
Making our way down again in the growing dark, we detoured up the path to the Homestead to spot kiwis.
Red torchlight is recommended, however we were careful not to directly shine our white light on the kiwi
we spotted foraging among leaves on the side of the track. At one stage he darted across the track to
the other side and then back again, allowing us a good look at him. Meanwhile Warren was up at the Homestead
watching a "resident" kiwi on the Homestead lawn for about an hour.
two nights at Masonís Bay allowed us a day to explore. We began the day with the 20 minute walk to the
beach. We wandered down the south end of the beach, inspecting large chunks of driftwood and kelp that
had been washed up. The sand was littered with bird footprints and we identified kiwi prints with holes
all around where kiwisí beaks had prodded the sand for sand hoppers. After lunch at the hut, we headed
back up the path to the Homestead where the warden showed us inside the house and talked about the history
of farming in the area. We continued on down the path to look inside the old woodshed and read the information
boards there. Ian led devotions after dinner about Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is where your life turns
out much as you had planned, whereas Plan B you face difficulties and disappointments but they can lead
to a much deeper relationship with God. A few people went kiwi spotting again that night with no success.
On our third day we departed at 7.45 arriving back at Freshwater Landing at 11.45.
We ate lunch on the jetty while Christine gave a devotional on the koru, which represents new beginnings.
God has broken time into seasons, months and years, which gives us opportunities for new starts and to
begin new things, applicable as this was the last day of 2017. We arrived back in Oban about 2pm. Climbing
Big Sandhill and seeing a kiwi in the wild were definite highlights!