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Chatham Islands Holiday

Some 500 miles to the east of New Zealand lie the Chatham Islands. Iris & I have always wanted to visit and this year we’ve managed to spend a week there.

Planning and our travel from Stewart Island to the Chathams

We had initially wanted to go out 2 years ago, but personal circumstances intervened and so this was the year. Initially we wanted to fly to Invercargill with Stewart Island Flights , and then Air New Zealand to Christchurch where we would then transfer to Air Chathams for the appox 2 hour flight, and then another short flight by Cessna to Pitt Island. But we realised that there was virtually no wriggle room between landing at Invercargill and Air New Zealand check in, so decided that we had to take the ferry across, and then the bus up to Invercargill. This which would, we thought, get us to the airport with lots of time. BUT unknown to us Real Journeys (bless them) had changed the bus timetable and we would not have arrived at Invercargill until 1015, just 5 minutes before boarding, and so our holiday would have finished before it started. But the fortunes smiled upon us and with the kind assistance of Pedro & Fluff … two Stewart Islanders who happened to be driving up, we were able to make it easily, and so on to Christchurch with Air NZ. But there we found that due to mechanical issues our flight to the Chatham’s would not depart until late afternoon, some 4 hours late, and so we would not be able to fly onwards to Pitt Island and Flower Pot Lodge , which was the original plan. But the Pitt Island plane was un-serviceable any way.

We arrived at the Island well after dark (Chatham Island time is 45 minutes before NZ) and thence to the Hotel Chathams. Realising that we would not arrive for our 3 nights on Pitt, our hosts Bernie and Brent had organised alternative accommodation for us at the Hotel, where we had initially planned on staying for our final 4 nights. This service was just typical of what we found. Our hosts, well aware that weather and events beyond anyone’s hand can disrupt the best laid plans of mice and man  “just made it happen”.



Wake up

We woke to another beautiful day



Our Transport for the day

A 5 seater “Polaris” low, powerful and darned near go anywhere. Which we needed at times.
Back in the day it was either “Shanks Pony” or the equine variety. We didn’t see many horses but Waitangi has a race course, and race day is a big event.

Across Farmland

Farm Land looking east towards Hakepa, which we climbed yesterday

Our first stop was Waihere, the highest “Mountain” on Pitt, or indeed the Chathams @ 241 metres high. After travelling south down the road to Glory we turned off over farm land. 
Brent, Our host and Guide has access across private farm land to most (all??) of Pitt


We drove to within a few metres of the top of Waihere, much easier then yesterday. There’s a VHF radio repeater on the top.
This services all the fishing vessels, and I would guess all the houses. A great security for homes and people otherwise quite isolated.  All of Brents vehicles had a VHF radio … 

Waihere pano

Panorama looking north over Waihere Bay, with Tarawhenua Point beyond

Pitt Island Sheep

From there we drove west towards the coast, passing a flock of Pitt Island Sheep


Sheep on Cliffs

Game Flock
This flock is retained as a hunting resource, and are a popular hunt for mainland hunters. Their surefooted ability  on the cliffs  reminded me of nothing so much as Chamois or Thar, 

Fish Boat

Fishing Vessel working gear
Looking down from the western cliffs we spotted a fishing vessel working gear… probably lobster pots

looking west

Looking west towards Big and Little Mangere


looking south

No doubt as to which is the prevailing wind.
This remnant forest was once very dense, but once stock allows the wind into it it’s days are really numbered


heading south

From Waihere we headed south, and into Waipaua Reserve
This forest has been fenced off. Plant protective flax and other species to stop the wind getting under the canopy and this forest will recover



It looks good going but !!
We walked over this part. What looks like rough but firm grass is in fact very boggy.


volcanic cones

Granite Volcanic Cones are just part of the landscape


Looking out over Waipaua Reserve
Nikau Palms add a Jurassic Park feel to the landscape


Nikau 2




Odd rock outcrops



Morning Snack

Mid Morning Snack. 



Black Sands

Out to the Coast
Black Volcanic Sand



Red Hut

The Old Shepherds Cottage at Glory Bay
Named for the Brig Glory, which wrecked here in 1827
This was erected by the Hunt family in the 1860’s as a home for a shepherd, They had been having problems with whalers coming ashore for a change in diet




Red Hut Inside

The Old Shepherds Cottage at Glory Bay
Lunch stop. Looking at the construction I would suspect the William Jacobs, who built it, was as much a shipwright as a carpenter. 





Getting Stores ashore in the past was often a fraught business, and surfboats such as this were invaluable




Old Tractors

Derelict Tractors
The rocky point to the right was where small fishing vessels were hauled out over a concrete pad poured over the native rock.. We saw signs that the sea would wash right over the point, and I can only imagine the issues with working out of a place like this.





Chatham Island Oystercatcher
Looking much like the South Island Pied Oystercatcher, it is actually a separate species.




On Stewart Island skuas are mainly found close to seal colonies, as they feed on both the afterbirth during pupping season, and also on any seal carcasses.
But here I saw many skuas around the sheep flocks. And more or less for the same reasons … afterbirth, and dead lambs. I don’t know iy they will target lambs or ewes in difficulties, but they certainly do scavenge any carcasses




As Far South As we Got
Looking west towards Cannister Cove Scenic Reserve



Looking south 


South East Island

South East Island
Looking East


Looking North

Looking North past Glory Bay, Hakepa on the Horizon



Paua Hunters
And they were there, shoulder to shoulder and well as stacked up on each other


Chatham Island Shags

Chatham Island Shags


Chatham Island Shags

Chatham Island Shags



Most pasture land had spur winged plovers


Waipaua Creek

Waipaua Creek, the largest on Pitt Island
A popular camping site for local families



Waipaua Creek, Moriori Middens
Brent took us down towards the coast, This are he explained had a significant number of middens, and in fact virtually everywhere we looked there was signs of past habitation


Middens 2

Waipaua Creek, Moriori Middens
Pointing out charcoal layers from old cooking fires. There were rock flakes from tool manufacture scattered everywhere


Adzes, Needles, sharks tooth necklaces.

As well as the evidence we saw, Back at Flower Pot Lodge Brent showed us his collection of artifacts



Pitt Island Jail
Every community seems to need a jail, and the Pitt Island version is a room carved into the cliff at Flower Pot Bay



Waiting for our fishing boat ride back to Owenga on the Chathams
I wandered down to watch a fish boat being dragged out after the days work



Waiting for our fishing boat ride back to Owenga on the Chathams
I wandered down to watch a fish boat being dragged out after the days work


Transport to and From Pitt

We were initially booked to fly from Chatham Island to Pitt. Air Chatham has a Cessna for this service, but it was U/S while we were there, so we used a chartered Fishing Boat, which was taking Pitt Islanders home, and also bringing the days catch back to the fish factory at Owenga.

‘But for freight, fuel building materials, stock, and whatever else needs moved the Island owns a landing craft style motorised twin jet barge. It lives on a purpose built cradle and slip at Flower Pot. 

Our Fifth Days Exploration.

Our last day on Pitt. But Brent had a full days exploration set up for us, and after breakfast we climbed aboard his Polaris. This little 5 seater 4 wheel drive  ATV is touted as a “go anywhere”, and it did.  What was even more astounding was that we eventually discovered (when we got stuck) that in fact the 4 wd wasn’t actually working. Our first stop was on Waihere, which at 241 metres is just 10 metres higher than Hakepa which we had climbed the day before. But this time we drove over farm land up to within a few metres of the top. Which has a radio repeater station which serves the local VHF channels. From there we down above the cliffs on the west coast  and watched some Pitt Island Sheep doing a very fair imitation of That or Chamois as the retreated into some really bluffy country. This flock are quite wild, and are maintained as a remnant flock, with numbers controlled by trophy hunters. 

From there we headed south and east over farmland initially, and then into Waipaua Scenic Reserve, Fredrick and Mary Hunt Memorial Conservation Area. This, and the one we visited yesterday were set up by Island families and are managed by DoC. Waipaua Reserve has a small flock of Pitt Island sheep within the reserve. This was a requirement by the Hunt Family, as a way of preserving the Pitt Island flock. Numbers are controlled by hunting. Brent explained how the effects of grazing  and the climate had forced the forest cover into retreat but that protection from grazing, plus some fringe wind protection with flax planting allows the forest to recover. And certainly driving down the tracks was real “Africa Queen” stuff. Literally forcing the vehicle through the dense forest. We had a morning snack in a delightful dell and then pushed on out to the east coast road.  Got stuck twice, but the vehicles winch extracted us the first time, and the second a local family in their 4wd came to the rescue.  We had met them on the boat coming over to Pitt, and they were out and about with the children back from mainland school.  From there we went south on the road down to Glory Bay and the old shepherds hut. This was built by the Hunt family in the 1860’s, and was home to a shepherd who was effectively the security for the flock, as whalers had been in the habit of coming ashore for a change in diet. We wandered down to the shore and I was intrigued by the carcasses of two tractors. Brent told me that the local farmers actually used to fish out of Glory Cove back in the crayfish boom days and they had poured a concrete “pad” over the rocks, and dragged their boats out of the water, over this pad. We had lunch in the shepherds hut, and then back north, stopping at one place where the other couple with us (farmers) gathered a feed of paua. Next stop was Waipaua Creek, the largest on Pitt, and a popular camping spot for local families. In pre-European this area was home to significant numbers of Moriori  and Brent showed us signs of their habitation and tool making.  Then back to Flowere Pot Bay Lodge, pack up and aboard a fishing boat back to Owenga and then the short drive over to Waitangi and the Hotel





Our sixth days exploration will be posted as soon as I can