Our group was fairly typical of the diocese as a whole. We were predominantly women and mostly of a certain age. Some had never been to Stewart Island before, most had never been to Ruapuke and some had never slept on a marae. Some had done all of these things, and some had connections with the marae and with the strong, dignified watching women . So we gathered, prayed, ate, placed the mattresses in convenient spots and got ready for the night when we were told that Sir Tipene O'Reagan was also on the marae and wanted to meet us. He gave us an impromptu though erudite, eloquent and immensely entertaining local history.
The morning was gray and still. We found our ship, a large diesel powered catamaran at the Bluff wharf and boarded. The nervousness of the poorer sailors amongst us was allayed by swallowing various patented anti seasickness concoctions, and by the fact that today was the day when Foveaux Strait decided, against all precedent, to do an impersonation of a billiard table. Flat. Stable. Gray as slate. Our big launch glided out into it, picked up speed and zizzed over the top with hardly a tremor. We all arrived at Ruapuke, 40 minutes later with breakfast intact.
We had only a couple of hours on Stewart Island, but it was long enough to stroll up to the recently restored St. Andrews Anglican Church and meet some of the local people. Airdrey Leask, the priest talked about the local Christian presence and we planted a tree in the gardens. We were treated to an afternoon tea for which the phrase groaning board had been invented and too soon, we were heading back for Bluff and the drive to Dunedin.
This first section of the pilgrimage which will, over the next couple of years, take us right round our diocese went faultlessly. The careful and intelligent preparation b the organising committee and the hospitality of the local people made it work, but the whole day had a sense about it of God's blessing. The weather was perfect. We had the unexpected company of some wonderful people. Nothing went wrong. For me, and I expect for all who went it was one of those days I will remember for the rest of my life. I look forward to the next leg at the end of April, when we commemorate our gold rush history with a trip from Milton to Arrowtown via Gabriel's Gully.
An album of some of my photos from the trip may be found here.