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February 8 2024, Stewart Island NWC Track Day 1, Oban to Bungaree Hut:
Orange and I officially decided to go to Stewart Island! We resupplied on food, then he drove us down to Bluff where we would be purchasing a last minute ticket to get on the ferry. But first, we met up with Lenses and she did one last dance for me and I for her. It was funny how many times we hugged her goodbye but then she would continue to walk with us towards the ferry, continuously waving goodbye across the street. I went to the bathroom and she was waiting outside until I got out. It wasn’t until we disappeared into the distance that she waved us her last farewell.
Then, we bought a ticket and they handed us a plastic card that read: Stewart Island Experience. We boarded the boat and I was so excited for the start of another grand adventure! A few of my friends who had visited Stewart Island said it was well worth it. They had mentioned that the ferry ride would be awesome, a little bit bumpy, but nothing crazy.
We met a couple of other freshly finished TA hikers on board so we greeted them. Then, we started leaving the dock, and at first I was having a kick ass time, enjoying maneuvering through the ocean on such a sunny day. However, within a couple of minutes, I was growing nervous seeing how gnarly the waves were becoming. I was even more in shock of how people were holding their composure around what appeared to be tsunami sized waves to me. They were the kine of waves I had seen in my nightmares right before I was taken by them.
I tried to stay calm as the captain said the current was a lot better than he expected. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like on a bad day. Astounded by the resiliency of the boat and the passengers, I held onto the bars that were connected to the seat in front of me and tried to have fun. I joined various people who were standing up, holding onto the bars for balance as though we were on a water roller coaster and riding with the waves.
All of a sudden, the smile disappeared off my face as a strong wave of nausea came over me. I had a hard time accepting what I was feeling because I used to pride myself as someone who never got sea sick. Shortly after, people all throughout the ferry began grabbing bags and throwing up at different intervals. I felt I was seconds away from vomiting, myself.
Orange had me remove my jacket to cool down. I grabbed the bag just in case. A worker came to place a cold, wet towel over my neck as if he could see my time was coming. I grabbed hold of Orange Man’s hand and placed it on my lap. My body began to shake and my eyes grew teary.
“I’m terrified of throwing up,” I said.
“I know ya are,” he said, pulling me close for comfort.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because you told me.”
He often remembered small things about me that I told him ages ago.
Just as I was about to purge, the ferry began slowing down. Thank God, I thought to myself. It was for the better because I did not know how to throw up quietly. When I purged, it often sounded like I was releasing demons.
“‘Stewart Island experience, ay,’” Orange joked.
As we exited the boat, someone said, “Coming into Stewart Island you either choose to have an hour of misery on the ferry or a 20 minute flight of sheer terror.”
“I would rather take the flight,” I said.
I felt safe being in the air.
We sat outside of the store to let my body settle before we started our trek. Orange took apart a croissant as he normally did, eating it by flaky layers and eventually I joined, too.
Time to begin. We walked the road for about an hour then connected to the Rakiura track and finally to the NWC track. The trail already felt as if we were trekking through prehistoric times. Shortly being in the wilderness, we caught a glimpse of two kākāriki birds playing just above us. Orange became ecstatic, especially since he hadn’t seen one before.
“That’s so special and so rare!” he exclaimed.
I loved that he got excited over such things, too.
The trek was so well maintained the first few miles. I was tempted to stay at the first hut, however Orange said we needed a booking for it so we pushed on to the next one. We took a sharp left turn into the woods, going off the main trail and onto a single foot track that had a more rural type feel. The second we took that turn, the trail became ten times harder. Immediately, we were met with mud, roots, overgrown grasses and blowdowns. I was about to ask Orange if he was sure it was the right way, but I decided to be patient and follow him through. Just like the TA, the more we questioned if it was the trail, the more likely it was.
Near the end of the day, we ran into an Eastern European man who looked absolutely beat. He had plastic bags covering his shoes as he actively attempted to avoid the mud by going through the dense woods. It was as if he was moving through a war zone.
He looked at Orange with defeat in his eyes and in a strong accent said, “Total extreme,” then, “good luck”.
It really wasn’t extreme at all, it was pretty chill in comparison to what we were used to.
We asked him for a rough estimate on how far the next hut was, to which he said, “Two hours, depending on vat terrain you go through, but you should know it iz mud all ze way to ze hut.”
Orange and I were pretty speedy, walking directly through the mud and getting all sorts of messy. It had taken us about two hours from the last hut we came from, but it was a good thing the guy didn’t ask how far it was to the next hut for him. If he was trying to avoid the mud like that, he would most likely get there the following day.
We stepped onto the beach 10 minutes after crossing paths with that dude and arrived to the hut 10 minutes after that on a nice, easy walk along the sand. The hut was perched on a hill just above the edge of the shoreline looking over the ocean. We walked inside to find the place smoked out. A few girls attempted to make a fire and struggled to get it going properly. Another girl came in shortly after us, saying she had no luck catching any fish after having tried for at least a couple of hours.
Orange looked at me and under his breath said, “I could catch some fish and start a fire for them.”
I did find it cute when women tried to reverse the roles and do things that men were naturals at.
I felt really grateful to be around Orange and sharing intimate space again. Laughter, sitting close to each other and talking stories felt natural once more. I felt I could look into his eyes without fear of being seen. We went on the porch to eat some dry sandwiches, feeling happy with the simplicity and enjoying the view of a vibrant rainbow fading its light out. Shortly after, I fell asleep listening to the rhythmic lullaby of the ocean’s waves.