It's a two and a half hour drive from my place to Invercargill and a short wait at Invercargill's very modern and surprisingly large airport before we board the flight for Stewart Island. We fly in a Britten Norman Islander, a two engine, robust, no nonsense, ten seater, plane known affectionately as the Landrover of the skies. I cram into the very back seat for the 20 minute flight and peer out at the surging, frothy surface of Foveaux Strait beneath me. Flying at about 1000 ft there is more of a sensation of height and of speed than in any jetliner travelling at ten times the height and eight times the velocity. There is a bit of a southerly but the flight it comparatively smooth. The ridiculously young pilot dots it down on the runway on top of a bush clad hill and we creakingly unfold ourselves onto the ground.
****There are ten people in church on Sunday morning and it's bitterly cold while we are setting up the service. We sing and pray and break bread and then have a pretty lavish morning tea. I chat to a ten year old who tells me he and his family have just flown in the Islander to the other side of the island. The pilot buzzes the beach where he intends to land to make sure there are no sea lions on it, and then uses the firm sand at low tide as a runway. He comes back to pick them up a few days later after they have had their fill of fishing and walking and sitting around in the very comfy old homestead which serves as a DOC hut. When he was out deer hunting with his dad, a kiwi ran over his foot. It's the nearest he's been to one. He's never got closer than about two metres before, although one did come onto the porch while they were there. Such privilege. The lucky kid.
****I line up for the ANZAC dawn parade. It's even colder than yesterday. My job is to pray, and a soldier reads out an address about how the day is no longer about remembering war heroes, and more about celebrating the values on which our community is founded. The last post is played and we go to the RSA for tea and sandwiches and scones. I don't really understand what is going on with ANZAC day anymore, except that I think it's in the process of becoming some sort of folk religious celebration of origins.
****By Monday afternoon the wind has really picked up. We go down to the little office in town to catch the shuttle to the airport, but the planes aren't running. Barry from Stewart Island Flights swaps our plane tickets for ferry tickets and we go to the wharf, but the boats are stuck also. There's nothing for it but to head back to Peter and Iris Tait's place and remake the bed. This is no great hardship. The Taits run Sails Ashore, a very upmarket little lodge. There are large windows looking out to Halfmoon Bay, and there is underfloor heating in the beautifully tiled en suite and everything is space and light and polished rimu. Noah Skypes. Why are you stuck on an Island Amma and Pappa? he asks, and is answered a half dozen times. It's a privilege Noah. We are so lucky.
This morning the wind has dropped enough for the tough little planes to fly. We are back in Invercargill by 10.30 and drive home chatting and listening to music. We have been away 4 days. It feels like a month.