To hell and back on a ferry…

I think it’s fair to say that boats have not been my friend on this trip and, despite our last blog post detailing the wonderful experiences we have encountered so far, the mishaps and misadventures should not go unmentioned.

It all started one week into our travels on an innocent whale watching tour. I won’t go into tremendous detail but, with a combination of high winds, massive waves and an unruly driver, I found myself flung from my seat and, long story short, the day ended with five hours spent in a Sydney A&E department and a fractured rib on my part.

My boat nightmare, however, did not end there. Our ‘Deep South’ trip in the last few days saw our entire travel group sign their lives away mid ferry-crossing in genuine fear that we would not reach our destination before meeting the perils of the Pacific Ocean. Let me paint you a picture: we wake up early to board the bus, greeted by grey skies, dark clouds and strong winds. After some long, tedious hours on the bus, we arrive in Invercargill. No description will encompass the dire bleakness of this town so just take my word for it. We reach the ferry terminal in incredibly high winds and sheets of rain, unsure of whether or not we would even be able to cross. Just to be clear, we had been promised a beautiful, natural environment on the other side with amazing bird life and the chance to see kiwis in their natural environment. We had no reason to be jaded at this point and so we were willing to risk the ‘bumpy’ ferry to Stewart Island. Man, if I could turn back time.

Admittedly, the incident with the whale watching has made me particularly nervous of any potentially rough sea crossing so I was a bit of a mess from the start. What I mean is, I spent the entire hour journey staring intently at the feathered pattern on my rucksack, maniacally repeating the mantra ‘you are ok, your bum is still on the seat, you will not fall again’ over and over, whilst simultaneously (and very irrationally) wishing the boat would capsize just to escape being on it any longer. Due to the fact I did not look up from my bag for the entire hour, I was oblivious to the drama that was unfolding around me. In every direction, people were being sick, waves were crashing over the entire height of the boat (‘ferry’ was not an accurate description of the fishing boat-type vessel we found ourselves on) and George, sat one seat away from me, relaxed towards the end of the journey only when she had inwardly made peace with the fact that she was going to die before reaching our destination. When we eventually did reach the other side, every face I could see was white, some with a genuine tinge of green.

So, whilst we had made it to our destination alive, what greeted us was not the tranquil, natural beauty we had been promised. In short, Stewart Island was the sleepiest, most dull place we have visited (George suggested using the word ‘shithole’ here – I was trying to be a little more descriptive but, ultimately, she is exactly right) and damn-well not worth the hell we had entailed to get there!

The following day we had the ordeal of the return journey which to say we were all dreading would be a great understatement. Again, we dealt with the massive waves and the filling of many sick bags but, truthfully, this trip was not as bad. We were all just relieved to be back on the mainland and have all solemnly vowed never to return to Stewart Island.

So, as I said, my track record with boats on this trip has not been great – I decided against the white-water rafting this afternoon, at least until my rib has healed! (George, on the other hand, has braved the waves!) I am slowly beginning to overcome this newly-developed fear though. I am pushing myself to go on journeys which can be guaranteed not to be rough – yesterday, I went on a speedboat to see some icebergs and I survived! Unfortunately, with New Zealand being made up of islands, we have not escaped the perils of sea voyage yet but we can only hope that the worst has passed. Wish us luck!


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