Twelve of us set off together from Lee Bay at around 9.30am. We were impressed with
the bush (so much Rata), the beaches (long, white and sandy), the track (apart from the steps), the birds
(including the dive bombing oystercatchers protecting their chicks on Maori Beach), the history (abandoned
boilers from the steam driven sawmill abandoned in the 1930's) and the clear blue skies reflected in
the glimpses of the ocean as we followed the coast.
We arrived together at Port William/Potirepo
after a 3.5-hour tramp and had a relaxing lunch and siesta overlooking the beach. Later our tastefully
herbed carbonara meal revived us - Murray reflected on ‘the journey’ we were on, both in the sense of
tramping and of living out the circumstances of our lives. In Hebrews 13:20-21 Paul encourages us to
make our journey one the pleases God. In the long summer evening most of us explored around the seaweed
strewn rocky corner of the bay (did you know that Stewart Island/Rakiura has more varieties of seaweed
than anywhere else in New Zealand? Paterson Inlet/Whaka a Te Wera is home to 70% of them, including 56
brown, 31 green and 174 red kelp species.) The warden's talk was interesting and informative.
The day dawned misty and still. Soon after our 8.30am start, the leading trampers were fortunate
enough to spot a kiwi cross their path and retreat behind a large tree. As the sun broke through the
clouds and the track became steeper there were further rest stops at the junction, the historic steam
hauler, the next kiwi spotting, the halfway-point and our lunch-stop. Having managed the two uphill sections
without problems we arrived at North Arm Hut early afternoon. After a welcome cup of tea (still lamenting
the lack of coffee in our beverages bag!) those who didn't have a refreshing swimming enjoyed the opportunity
to cool off, listen to the tuis, read, talk or sleep on the beachfront.
After dinner (superbly
blended backcountry meals) the first rain set in as the warden gave us an extensive talk about the history,
park work and ecology of the island.
Paul saw a white-tailed deer early on
Thursday morning before he and Murray headed off at 7.00am to be ready for rescheduled flights from Oban
back to Invercargill. The remaining ten tramped out together, following the track past bays on the Paterson
Inlet/Whaka a Te Wera, historic timber mill and housing sites and tidal mudflats surrounded by rata and
rimu forest as it slowly merged into the road access from Oban. The forecast rain held off and everyone
arrived back ready for a welcome coffee and a final rest day to explore Oban, play golf or relax.