The North West Circuit , Stewart Island NZ

 

Quitting the hike on the North Island gave me some extra time to explore other parts of the country. So I went to Stewart Island, 30 km away from Bluff on the southern tip of New Zealand.
I arrived in Oban , the one and only  settlement with a population of about 400 people located in Halfmoon Bay. After a quick walk around town and I bought some last minute supplies at the small 4 square Supermarket I walked up to the Department of Conservation office to check the forecast and ask the locals about the current track conditions.
The North West Circuit is known as a rugged backcountry hike with trails consisting of knee deep mud, roots and sand. Experienced hikers would need 9-12 days to complete the 125 km loop  without the possibility to restock on food along the way. The weather can change very quickly but with an amazing hut system along the way, it is not a problem to hide from the weather.
The Madame in the DOC office asked if I have enough supplies for 12 days in that tiny pack I had with me. She also asked about other hikes I did to get to know of my hiking experiences. I mentioned that I just finished my hike across the South Island yesterday but she made the impression on me that the so called TE ARAROA was new to her. However I told her that my plan is to hike the circuit in 6 days and that I am capable of hiking 30 km a day no matter what terrain. I knew that there will be no bush whacking out there as long as I stick to the marked route.
I started from Oban in the late afternoon and made it to Bungaree Hut where other hikers and fishermen where staying already. Hunters at the huts love to feed hikers, they offered  fresh fish to everyone. Every hut on the circuit is in an really unique place. The downer on this is just you can not enjoy the scenery from the outside of the hut because the sandflies are just too furious out there.
Only at Big Hellfire Hut I noticed that the flies are not too bad so I could spend the evening in the sand dunes which are reaching high into the hills. If you like to spend more time on the STI I would recommend to plan an extra day at Mason Bay Hut. This one is the biggest on the Circuit located in the south west above Doughboy Bay. It is not far from the beach and offers a lot of day hiking possibilities like exploring the huge dune systems.  It is also possible to take a water taxi from Oban to Freshwater Hut and take an easy walk from there to Mason Bay.
If you wish to extend your hike you should consider linking the NWC with the SWC which connects at Mason Bay. This will add about 3 more days to the journey.
What I really liked about the NWC was its diversity. Thick rain forests, steep ups & downs, dunes, endless beaches, quick changing weather, wildlife mixed with amazing sunsets made this journey to something really remarkable.

How to get there:
I stayed at the Hostel in Invercargill and booked a ferry including a transfer shuttle from Invercargill to Bluff.
If you are tending to get seasick easily take a flight. The sea can be very rough even on a sunny day.

Supplies:
Get your supplies from the large Supermarkets in Invercargill, the 4 square in Oban is ok to resupply but more expensive.

Gear:
Leave your tent, air mattresses, etc.. at the hostel you don’t need it if you are planning on staying in the huts which I would recommend.
I carried 4 kg of gear on the NW Circuit.

Footwear:
I was fine with trail running shoes, just make sure you have them tied to your foot so you don’t loose them in the mud.It is a very wet hike, after the first day you will never have dry feet again.
Not even with hiking boots and gaiters. They will just add extra weight when they are wet.
Don’t fear the mud, just walk through it. You will have the possibility to wash of your feet and gear at the end of every day at the hut.I loved my flip flops for the hut stays. You don’t want to wear your soaked footwear while preparing your dinner.

Kiwi Spotting:
I never looked for them, they just came on the trail mostly in the mornings. I spotted about 5 Kiwis in 6 days.
There are people getting up in the middle of the night trying to see kiwis and never saw one.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Hallo Matthias

    ganz toller Bericht mit super Photos – wie immer! 😉
    Das Licht und die Sonnenuntergänge sind schon speziell schön – STI scheint so ein südliches Gegenstück zum North Coast Trail auf Vancouver Island zu sein.
    Auf manchen Bilder finde ich es etwas schade, dass der Fuji Astia (?) eine etwas trübe, farblose Stimmung widergibt – aber vielleicht war das an der Realität näher als die sonstige FUjiFarbenfröhlichkeit 😉

    19. Mai 2014 at 09:06

    • Matthias

      Danke WaSabi 🙂

      21. Mai 2014 at 10:06

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