Most of the people I have met over my lifetime have either been brought up in the city or in the country so it has always been a point of difference to say I was brought up on an Island. That point of difference has followed me though almost everything I have done, never wanting to follow the crowd, always looking at things from a different perspective and not fitting into the categories of city or country boy.
Stewart Island is a special place for many reasons. For me it was my first home. I spent my childhood either in the bush, on the beach or in the sea. Our house was within 100 mtrs of a large beach called Butterfields beach in Halfmoon Bay. Apart from a few batches we were pretty much the only full time residence living on the beach. In the school holidays it became quite busy with batch owners and their family’s taking over “our” beach.
It was a one mile walk to and from school every day or to the shops. The Ferry came from Bluff twice a week with fresh milk and bread and tourists were called, “Loopies” by the locals. In the busy summer season the ferry came three times a week and it was a regular activity to watch it come in and see who and what came off it.
There was also an air service that came at various times of the day. When the weather was right the Widgeon would land in Halfmoon Bay flying down the gully behind our house and low over the roof before touching down out in the middle of the bay. The float plane was often used in emergencies to take sick and or injured people to hospital in Invercargill.
In my early years I would be lucky if I went to the mainland once a year. It was a very special and exciting trip to go to the city either by ferry or the float plane. My first big adventure off the island was in 1974 when the local school organised a trip to Christchurch for the Commonwealth Games. Reality set in when we had to leave the island at the age of 13 to go to high school in Invercargill.
From that age on we only went back to the island for long weekend and school holidays.
When you have spent so much time in such a special place from such a young age you have a lifelong attachment to it. We didn’t know how lucky we were with the freedom to roam for miles, fish, swim and explore. I often arrived back home with blue cod, flounders, pipi’s, mussels, paua or whitebait to help feed the family. Dad provided vegetables from the garden and crayfish after coming back from working on the local fishing boats around the coast. To us at the time it was just life, that’s how we lived.
Today, although many of the people have changed the island itself is still the same. I don’t get to visit it very often. One of the reasons it is such a special place is that it is not easy to get too. Fouvox Strait between Bluff and Stewart Island has a reputation of encouraging those who decide to take the journey to share their latest meal with the famous bluff oysters. The waters around Stewart Island have also taken many lives and left many families with lost loved ones.
I will visit the Island when I can and will always have fond memories of the many and varied adventures we had growing up. For me it will always be my true home.
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