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.
So this and the next 6 posts will be a daily resume of what we saw and did each day.
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”.
The pins and text to the right identify points we visited
Farmland on the road south
St Augustines Anglican Church, Te One
Iris is Warden of St Andres Anglican Church on Stewart Island, so this was a must do stop
Inside St Augustines Church
Lost at Sea
Several plaques on the wall remembered lives lost to the sea. As sad fact of life for Island communities
Tapestry & Timber Work
The interior of the church was beautiful timberwork, and a local tapestry
Much of the road out to the North West was through Peat swamps, and although there was plenty of farmlands the swamps seemed to dominate
Port Hutt is tucked into the western shores of Whangaroa Harbour
The rusting hulk is the remains of an ex Minesweeper, which was converted to cod fishing and worked around the Chathams in the late ’40’s and later sank at her moorings, where she still rests.
Port Hutt is home to part of the Chathams fishing fleet
Wrecked Fishing Vessel
We noticed this wrecked vessel at the head of Whangaroa Harbour. She looks as if she’s come off her mooring in a Southerly and ended up here
Waitangi West is a farm, and is tucked into a sheltering plantation of trees
The walk from the road to the Stone Cottage skirts along the lower slopes of Maunganui Bluffs
The Stone Cottage
Made from locally hewn volcanic rock, and plastered with lime made from burn Pipi Shells the Stone Cottage is home to Helen Bint, her 3 dogs, cat poultry and a small flock of goats.
It’s nestled between the foot of Maunganui Bluff and the sand dunes of Maunganui Beach
Helen has a lovely garden, well fenced to keep the goats out, and it was just delightful sitting in the sun and talking with her. She spent some of her early childhood here, but later the cottage fell into disrepair.I has since been rebuilt and strengthened.
Helen & Her Family
Hand made hinges
The Cottage is a living museum.
Helen has no electricity, and cooks on gas, and an old black solid fuel range. She showed us several old artifacts, including this door hinge, hand made from copper plate.
Helens small herd of milking goats
Our Last Days Exploration.
Today was our last day. The farming couple we were with for most of our time were leaving. They had come in from Wellington, and that flight is on a Monday, with ours to Christchurch on the Tuesday. So we said farewell to them at breakfast … but suggested that the Chathams habit of waving to passing vehicles when driving might just be a bit wasted down Lambton Quay.
We hired a 4 WD double cab and set out to visit the two sections of the Island we hadn’t seen. The fist was south along the coastal Waitangi Tuku road. Mostly farm land until we reached the end of the road at the Tuku O Tamatea River. On Google Earth the southern part of the Island appears to be all farmland with quite large areas of Chathams forest, rising up to Maungatere Hill which at 294 metres appears to be the highest hill on the Main Island.
So then back to Waitangi and the north and then northwest to Port Hutt, where we had lunch and then on to Waitangi West and back to the Stone Cottage. Built in the early 1870’s by German Missionaries it is now home to Helen Bint, who lived here as a child later shifting to the mainland, but returning several years ago. Even though we had a 4 wd vehicle we decided to walk across the fields… some 20 to 30 minutes. A wise precaution as often what looked like firm pasture turned out to be really soft and boggy, even though quite a marked slope which I would have thought would drain well. We spent a couple of hours with Helen, her 3 dogs, cat, and good flock of hens, She was very welcoming, and had expected us, as the visit had been arranged by the hotel, just a part of the excellent service they offer. But we were stunned to have our farmer friends appear around 1500. They had boarded the aircraft, taxied to the end of the runway, but the flight aborted as a warning light came on. This meant their flight would now take place on the Tuesday, and ours, instead of departing at 0900 would now depart late afternoon, so we would miss all our connections back to Stewart Island. So we made our thanks to Helen and headed back to the Hotel to try and sort out what we would do about getting home.
We were faced with either departing late afternoon, over nighting in Christchurch and try and rebook flights on the Wednesday back to Invercargill and Stewart Island. This would mean that we would miss seeing Anne, who had been house sitting for us, and was departing on the morning flight on Wednesday.
An alternative was to fly to Wellington on the re scheduled morning flight, then from Wellington to Christchurch and so back to Invercargill and Stewart Island. The flights worked, and there were 2 spare seats available, so that’s what we did, at an extra cost of just over $1000. But accommodation and new flights would have been close to that, so really a no-brainer.
The final post in this series will be about information that may be of use to anyone planning a visit to the Chathams