Showing posts with label Lyttelton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lyttelton. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Otamahua/Quail Island, 31st August 2019

...a return to Otamahua/Quail Island

Karen and I went over to Otamahua/Quail Island over the was a beautiful spring day with temperatures in the high tens so a perfect opportunity to sample the islands tracks.

Mt Herbert and Diamond Harbor from Pt. 86 on Quail Island

This is my third visit to the island in the past couple of years and once again it did not fail to impress: a warm sunny day, light winds and not to many people were the order of the day. We took a picnic lunch with us and enjoyed it while sitting at Swimmers Beach. An excellent trip with a shortish but interesting walk and a ferry ride make for a great short tramping trip.

On the Black Cat ferry to Otamahua/Quail Island..

You have to take a water taxi to Quail Island, the concession is run by Black Cat Cruises based at Lytellton. You can pre-book tickets for the ferry or buy tickets on the day...the cost is $30 per adult and $15 per teen over 15 years of age.

Lytellton Harbor....that is Mt Cavendish in the background

There are signs leading you from the No. 28 bus stops to the ferry terminal down on the docks. Look for the directional signs like the one on the side of the building in the photo below.

There are signs directing you to Black Cat Cruises on the docks at Lytellton

Up and over the bridge to the Lytellton docks

The Black Cat Cruise offices on the Lytellton docks..prefab Porta-Cabins

People waiting to board the Black Cat Ferry to Quail Island

Over the winter/spring the ferry to Quail Island only runs in the weekends, there is a scheduled ferry at 10.20 and 3.30. You must be at the departure point in Lytelton and on Quail Island or you are out of luck. Over the summer there are three scheduled trips per day, see the Black Cat website for details. 

There are a couple of plaques dedicated to Antarctic exploration next to the Black Cat Cruises office. Lytellton was the preferred departure port of the early 20th century Antarctic explorers. Captain's Scott, Shaklelton and the lesser known Colbeck all headed South from here..

Lytellton Docks: commemorative plaque to the Polar Explorers

Loading supplies onto Shackleton's Nimrod, Lytellton Harbor, 1908

Lytellton was also the departure point for the 1955 American Antarctic Program which set up both McMurdo Station and South Pole Base. In 1955 the US assembled a large ice breaker fleet for the purpose of transporting gear to Antarctica during the International Year of Geophysical Science.

Lytellton Docks: plaque for the US Antarctic program

The Icebreaker USS Glacier arrives at Lytellton in 1955

About the same time New Zealand was part of the Trans Antarctic Expedition which included crossing Antarctica and setting up Scott Base. Famously Sir Edmund Hillary disobeyed orders and crossed the continent on a Massey Ferguson tractor instead of waiting for the leader of the expedition Vivian Fuch's to arrive at South Pole Station.

The Massey Ferguson tractor Edmund Hillary drove across Antarctica in 1957-58

The ferry started to board at 10.20 for the short 10 minute trip to Otamahua/Quail Island, the boat was full as there was a 20+ person Scout group heading to Quail Island to stay in Otamahua Hut. The trip was nice and smooth as there was little to no wind and a small swell on the harbor.

Passengers start to board the Black Cat ferry to Otamahua

Interior of the Quail Island Ferry en route to Otamahua

The sail boat harbor at Lytellton from the Quail Island Ferry

We almost didn't make it to the we were passing the oil terminal a motor yacht cut right across the bows of the ferry..the skipper had to reverse engines to avoid a collision with the yacht. Very, very bad seamanship as the smaller vessel must always give way to the larger...the ferry skipper gave the yacht captain a steely eyed glare.....

The sailing vessel that just about collided with us en route to Quail Island

Otamahua from the Quail Island Ferry

Otamahua/Quail Island Ferry wharf from the ferry...low tide!

The tide was really low when we go to the low that the boat crew had to build a pile of life jackets so we could climb up to the dock.

Tramping on Otamahua/Quail Island

The track around Otamahua/Quail Island starts right from the end of the wharf, the track is approximately 5 kilometers long and it takes from 1.5-2.5 hours to walk raround the island. There are numerous points of interest on the island the best option is to walk in a counter clock wise direction around the island and end at Swimmers Beach where there are toilets and a picnic area.

Otamahua/Quail Island: Karen on the wharf

View of Otamahua/Quail Island from the wharf

Otamahua/Quail Island: the ferry departs

Group of scouts on the Otamahua/Quail Island wharf

There is a three sided shelter at the end of the dock so people waiting for the ferry can do so out of the is a nice wee building and would provide a safe haven on a rainy day. No toilets though...the closest ones are at Otamahua Hut or Swimmers Beach.

Otamahua/Quail Island: the ferry shelter

Paddle boarder passes Otamahua/Quail Island, Diamond Harbor in distance

The track around the island is very obvious but there track markers and the usual DOC map boards which show the points of interest and tracks on the island.

A track map on Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island: on the first section of the track to the hut

I had a stack of magazines to drop at the DOC hut so we went to Otamahua Hut first. From the dock it takes about 15 minutes to walk to the hut passing the old farm buildings and an old Lighthouse Keepers house en route. The tracks are old vehicle tracks so they are wide, made of gravel and mostly at a moderate gradient.

Otamahua/Quail Island: Hut to the right and Wakamaru Beach to left

Otamahua/Quail Island: track to Wakamaru and Skiers Beaches

Climbing up to the Otamahua Hut on Otamahua/Quail Island

Quail Island was a sheep farm (among other things) so there are a couple of old farm buildings with some interpretive panels and a selection of old farm implements. Also worth a look is the old shed built to house Captain Scott's ponies when they were en route to Antarctica in the early 1900's.

Otamahua/Quail Island: Old farm sheds, track to the DOC hut

The old Lighthouse Keepers Cottage is used by DOC workers and the folk from the Quail Island Restoration Trust. They are replanting the island in the native forest that covered it prior to European colonization. There are bunks inside the cottage for eight people, kitchen area, a table, wood stove, toilets and a water tank out the back...

Turn off to the old Lighthouse Keepers house, Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island: the old Lighthouse keepers house

From the Lighthouse Keepers Cottage it is another five minute walk to the new Otamahua Hut.

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

The Otamahua Hut was converted into a hut in late 2018, it is now available for booking and has been widely used by both groups and individuals since then. DOC have done a magnificent job on converting it into a hut and I am eager to go over and stay in the hut some time.

Otamahua/Quail Island: Otamahua Hut

Otamahua Hut: toilet block and rear of hut

Otamahua/Quail Island: Otamahua Hut veranda and scout contingent

Otamahua Hut: interior view of dining area

Otamahua Hut...opening plaque

The fit out of the hut is classic DOC back country hut, it has 12 bunks in two bunk rooms, several big tables, kitchen space, wood burner and a nicely located veranda. I can see many happy people spending time would make a fantastic first hut trip for children.

Otamahua Hut, Otamahua/Quail Island: the sinks, wood burner

Otamahua Hut: bunk room 1 (6 bunks)

Otamahua Hut: bunk room 2 (6 bunks)

They have installed one of the excellent DOC wood burners and there was a mountain of wood outside the hut from some of the big pines knocked over in a storm last year. DOC are gradually cutting down all the exotic trees on the island as the Restoration Trust aims to completely replant the island in natives.

Otamahua hut: one of the excellent DOC wood-burners

Otamahua hut: I love those bench support!

Otamahua Hut: plastic rodent proof boxes for food...can I have more please!!!!

There is a nature trail for children around the island, every so often you will find plaques attached to posts, buildings and even rocks. The kids find the information, fill in a form and enter on-line competitions with their answers. It is an excellent way of promoting the outdoors with younger people...something quite difficult in the age of cell phones, Instagram and online networks.

I should know...I have offered to take my kids to the island several times but with little success...

Otamahua/Quail Island: one of the markers for the nature trail

Otamahua Hut from the lawn in front, Quail Island

The view from the Otamahua Hut veranda.....Lytellton and the Port Hills

Otamahua Hut, Otamahua/Quail Island......from the circuit track

Otamahua Hut is a real beauty have a look at the on-line hut booking form if you would like to visit.

Tramping on Otamahua/Quail Island, continued...

Once past the hut we continued on our way along the coastal track, Quail Island is surrounded by water and there are some fine views of the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula from the track. Please take care if you bring children to the island as there are dangerous high cliffs right around the northern side and the pathway skirts quite close on a number of occasions.

Otamahua/Quail Island: walking on the coastal track around the island

Dangerous cliffs on the Lytellton side of the island, Otamahua/Quail Island

Lytelton Harbor head from Otamahua/Quail Island

Governor's Bay and the Sugar Loaf from Otamahua/Quail Island

When Europeans first arrived Quail Island was covered in thick bush and forest, the first landowner milled the largest of the trees and then set fire to the rest to clear the land. The fires burnt for three days and were visible 50 miles out to sea. The land was then over planted with grasses to provide fodder for a small herd of sheep.

The Quail Island Restoration Trust have been replanting the island since the early 1980's and it is starting to bear fruit...some of the trees are now 4+ meters tall and more and more of the island is returned to bush each year.

I would absolutely love to come back in 100 years because it will be spectacular...

Otamahua/Quail Island: interpretive panel explaining replanting program

Otamahua/Quail Island: one of the areas of regenerating forest

The highest place on Quail Island is Pt. 86 in the center of the island, we took one of the tracks off the coastal track and climbed up to see the sights. 86 meters is not that high but when you are on a island it gives excellent 360 degree views in all directions. It is worth visiting Otamahua/Quail Island  just for the view from the high point.

Otamahua/Quail Island: on the track to Pt. 86

The track to Pt. 86 on Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island: Pt. 86 track junction-east

Otamahua/Quail Island: a multitude of tracks

Otamahua/Quail Island: interpretive panel about trees on the Island

The track to Pt. 86 on Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island: Pt. 86 from an adjacent hill

Once on top you have great views in all directions...all the Port Hills are visible as is Lytellton, Diamond Harbor and toward the head of Lytelton Harbor & Gebbies Pass. You can see just how much effort has gone into replanting on the island...a good 30% of the land is now covered with native trees and scrub.

Otamahua/Quail Island is a lot larger than it seems...this is especially apparent from Pt. 86 as you can see all four corners of the island.

Otamahua/Quail Island: Pt.86 view to west, Sugar Loaf and Governor's Bay

Otamahua/Quail Island: Pt.86 view to North, Lytellton and Godley Head

Otamahua/Quail Island: Pt.86 view to east, Diamond Harbor and Mt Evans (703 asl)

Otamahua/Quail Island: Pt.86 view to south east, Mt Herbert, Orton Bradley Estate

The Otamahua Restoration Trust have regular planting days...we could see a group on a distant ridge planting from on Pt. 86. I was saying to Karen it might be interesting to volunteer and go over and help a couple of times a year. Investigations will be made.....

Much of the membership of these restoration groups are aging (late 60's-80's) and they are always looking for younger members (younger being a relative term....) because I'm a semi old codger at 51!!!

Volunteers planting trees on Otamahua/Quail Island

Someone has installed a new Maori carving on the top of Pt. 86 there are no information panels so I cannot tell you what, who or why it is there. It looks brand new so I expect a interpretive panel will appear in due course.

Otamahua/Quail Island: a new Maori artwork on Pt. 86

King Billy Island/Moepuku Point from Pt. 86 on Otamahua/Quail Island

Detail of plaque on Pt. 86 Otamahua/Quail Island

Jon on the crest of Pt. 86, Otamahua/Quail Island

The largest area of native planting is on the western side of the island, these areas were planted in the mid 1990's and are now thick dense bush. They have planted a variety of species on the island all of which existed in the original forest cover.

Native replanting on the western end of Otamahua/Quail Island

After a break for a snack and some water we decided to walk down the southern side of Pt. 86 directly to the ship graveyard located on that side of Otamahua/Quail Island. If you keep Manson's Point in front of you you will eventually pop out onto the main coastal track.

Go right when you arrive at the main track...

Otamahua/Quail Island: heading down to the ship wrecks 

We spotted a group of Quail on the side of Pt. 86...these are California Quail and not the native species that once lived here. The Quail were re introduced onto the island about a decade ago and they seem to be doing well.

I have seen adults and young chicks every time I have visited the island. There is an active trapping program on the island as there is a stout/rat/mouse problem...the island is too close to Lytelton Harbor to escape their ravages!!!

California Quail on Otamahua/Quail Island

Just before we hit the main coastal track we passed an area where new trees have been planted..they looked like Kahikatea to me and others looked like Matai & Totora. I do not know if they originally grew on the island but all these trees grow on Banks Peninsula.

Before planting they cut the grass so that it is not competing with the new saplings, the cut grass also acts as a weed mat.

Otamahua/Quail Island: grassland cleared for new native planting

Gorse covered slopes of Mt Herbert from Otamahua/Quail Island

We had to back track 300 meters to gain the seat above the ships graveyard, when you reach the track go right for 300 meters. We didn't go down to the ships as DOC are trying to discourage people from visiting as they are damaging the historic wrecks by climbing on them.

Even from the track you can see clear details of several old hulks which were beached here in the early 1900's after their useful days had ended. Eventually they will rot/corrode away and thus pass into the fog of history.

Otamahua/Quail Island: interpretive panel above the ship wrecking bay

The various hulks at the ship wrecking bay, Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island: ship boiler and hulks at the shipwrecking bay

Wrecked ship like prehistoric beast...Otamahua/Quail Island:

Map: Otamahua/Quail Island

After a short break we set off along the remainder of the track...along the way we passed the old stone quarry, Walkers Beach and the site of the old leper colony.

Otamahua/Quail Island: on the track to Walkers Bay, Skiers Beach etc.

Walkers Bay and Mt Herbert from Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island: on the way past Walkers Bay

As you can see there is a shallow isthmus between Otamahua/Quail Island and the mainland at Moepuku Point. Normally there is a permanent channel between the two but with the extreme low tide I could see a number of places where you could walk between them. One of the problems with pest control on the island is that pests can cross this isthmus to get onto Otamahua/Quail Island.

King Billy Island and Moepuku Peninsula from Otamahua/Quail Island

Looking up to Pt.86 from above Walkers Bay, Otamahua/Quail Island:

Rock from the quarry on Otamahua/Quail Island was used in Lytellton as well as in the seawalls and retaining walls you see about the island. There are a number of rough cut but not dressed stones next to the quarry that look like they were cut yesterday and are waiting for someone to come finish them.

Otamahua/Quail Island: The quarry above Walkers Beach

Interpretive panel about quarrying on Otamahua/Quail Island

The track passes by Walkers Beach, this was the site of a now defunct seashell into fertilizer industry. The shells build up over time and back in the 1930-1950's there was a successful family business here; the shells were collected, transported to Lytellton and then crushed for fertilizer. The shell banks are much depleted now but they would still be 1-2 meters high.

Walkers Beach from the Otamahua/Quail Island track

Just past the quarry you reach the site of the old leper colony. Leprosy was an aweful and highly contagious disease up to the 1950's...if you caught the disease there was no cure. Because of this there were a number of leper colonies around the world where sufferers were forced to live out their days in quarantine.

The Otamahua/Quail Island leper colony was never that large but several people died on the island and at least one of them is buried there. Ivon Skelton was the last leper on the island and was also the only known person buried here, a large scale search in the 1990's failed to find his grave. There is now a grave marker for him but his body has never been recovered.

Grave marker at the Leper Colony, Otamahua/Quail Island:

Otamahua/Quail Island: interpretive panel explains the old Leper colony

Some of the track was a bit muddy and with the steepness and slick nature of the soil we just about slipped over a number of times. Take care when walking on earthen paths on Otamahua/Quail Island as that Loess is like ice when wet.

Slippery section of track on Otamahua/Quail Island

Once past the leper colony we rounded the peninsula into Skier/Swimmers Beache, this is the location of the picnic areas on the island. On the way there you pass a replica of a leper cottage built by one of the local high schools back in the early 2000's.

There is also a very interesting stone wall built by convict labor when the island was used as a prison/quarantine station. 

Otamahua/Quail Island: first view of Skiers/Swimmers Beach

The replica leper cottage is up a short pathway signposted from the main track around the island.

Otamahua/Quail Island: approaching the leper cottage above Skiers Beach

Turn off to the Leper cottage, Otamahua/Quail Island:

Otamahua/Quail Island: detail of leper cottage

Interpretive panel about the Leper Cottage, Otamahua/Quail Island:

Otamahua/Quail Island: detail of leper cottage

Otamahua/Quail Island: detail of leper cottage

Otamahua/Quail Island: detail of leper cottage

Otamahua/Quail Island: detail of leper cottage

Otamahua/Quail Island: view from the leper cottage

Here is the stonewall that was built by convicts back in the 1880's, convict labor was used to build many of the structures in Lytellton and on the island. In the late 1800's prison was a hard place to sitting around, the prisoners were expected to work hard for the food and lodgings provided to them. Not an enviable life by any means.....

Otamahua/Quail Island: detail of convict built stone wall (Quail on the wall...)

Otamahua/Quail Island: detail of convict built stone wall

Otamahua/Quail Island:heading down to Skiers Beach 

The tide was exceptionally low on the day we visited normally the water would be about a meter higher than it is so this expanse of sand on Skiers Beach does not normally exist. Both Skiers and Swimmers beaches have grassed areas, tables and toilets although the toilet block at Skiers Beach is closed over the Winter months.

View of Leper Cottage from Skiers Beach

Skiers Beach-Swimmers Beach track, Otamahua/Quail Island

We rounded the spur separating Skiers and Swimmers Beaches we arrived at our penultimate destination as we were stopping for lunch at Swimmers Beach.

Picnic at Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

Karen and I had carried in a picnic lunch to eat at Swimmers Beach so we proceeded to hoe in as it was about 1.30 pm in the afternoon. It was really lovely sitting in the sun and watching the various goings on as people arrived, stopped or passed through the picnic area.

There are several picnic tables available as well as a large grassed area. Toilets are available but there is no potable water here.

Otamahua/Quail Island:Swimmers Beach

Picnic area at Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

Mt Herbert from Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

Several boats and sea kayaks came into the bay and a couple actually landed and set up on the grass. Quail Island would be an excellent place to sea kayak around and we also saw a number of paddle boarders over the course of the day.

Our tasty repast at Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

We got buzzed by a 15 strong jet ski gang who came haring around the corner of the island and proceeded to do stupid stunts in the nearby bay. It was noisy as hell and damn irritating as well as breaking the local boating rules (...with a 5 knots maximum speed in the area). 

Frickin idjiots....!!!!

Otamahua/Quail Island: approach of the jet ski gang.....

...closer view of the jet ski gang from Otamahua/Quail Island

Below is one of the boats which landed at Swimmers Beach, it was a family group who set up a picnic on the grass while the kids ran up and down the beach. Swimmers Beach would be an excellent location for a summer time family get together as the water is shallow in the bay and relatively safe for swimming in.

Otamahua/Quail Island:  a small boat approaches Swimmers Beach

....disembarking on Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island: 

An empty Swimmers Beach when we first arrived, Otamahua/Quail Island

The Indian women in the photo below was on the ferry with us...I immediately noticed her shoes which were toe less heels. This group walked all the way around the island (we saw them a couple of times) and I really do not think these are suitable footwear for walking in.

The track is easy but there are still rocks, mud, sharp plants and long grass on it. Sand shoes/trainers/running shoes are fine for walking around the island but anything else is either too much or too little.

...idiotically foolish footwear for walking.....Otamahua/Quail Island

The Scout group arrived later in the afternoon as they did a tikki tour around the island, the kids looked like they were having a ball. It is great that DOC have built the hut on the island....hopefully it will introduce Quail Island to a whole new generation of potential trampers, campers and outdoor people.

Assorted Scouts, parent helpers and hangers-on at Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

Old quarantine barracks at Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

Island map at Swimmers Island, Otamahua/Quail Island

View back along Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

The far eastern end of Swimmers Beach is less salubrious than the other parts...the beach is a lot rockier and the area is heavily shaded by large trees. There is a shed here where DOC park the vehicles they use on the island. 

Eastern end of Swimmers Beach, Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island:  the DOC garage at Swimmers Beach

There is evidence of soil erosion along the coastline...with climate change and rising sea levels the tides are starting to carve parts of the island away. 

Heading home on Otamahua/Quail Island

We sat at Swimmers Beach until around 2.30 and then started the walk around the last peninsula to the Otamahua ferry shelter near the wharf. The sun was starting to set so we were both pleased that we had brought warm clothing as it got a bit cold in the shade. 

Otamahua/Quail Island: soil erosion along the coast of Swimmers Beach

Otamahua/Quail Island: looking back towards Swimmers Beach

The climb up and over the last ridge to the Quail Island wharf is steep but short, its about a 10 minute walk from the beaches to the shelter. 

On the track to the wharf, Otamahua/Quail Island

Heading down to the wharf on Otamahua/Quail Island

Otamahua/Quail Island is the lava plug over the extinct Lytellton volcano, as such a lot of the island shows its volcanic origins with typical igneous rock forms. You can see these scattered the quarry, the rocky outcrops and around the coast. Fascinating if you are a geologist or know something about rocks and soil types. 

Exposed igneous rock on Otamahua/Quail Island

Volcanic dyke near the wharf, Otamahua/Quail Island

We sat in the Otamahua/Quail Island ferry shelter and had a cup of tea as we waited for the boat to arrive. It is a three sided shelter but the mature pine trees surrounding it provide a lot of protection from bad weather. There were couple of guys "smokin' the ganja" when we arrived...the odor of burnt rope hung heavy in the air. They packed up and moved elsewhere. That's cool..I dont care, I just dont like them smoking the shit around kids.

As it got closer to 3.30 pm people started arriving from different parts of the island it was surprising how many turned up as the island had seemed deserted. 

The wharf at Otamahua/Quail Island from the shelter

Exterior of Otamahua/Quail Island shelter

Front view of the Otamahua/Quail Island ferry shelter

Otamahua/Quail Island ferry shelter

Otamahua/Quail Island ferry shelter

Otamahua/Quail Island ferry shelter from the wharf

Sea kayak passes the Otamahua/Quail Island wharf

Half the Scout group was heading home and they irritated the parent helpers by chucking rocks, sticks and cones off the wharf. One of the fathers was trying to stop them but I thought why?

Kids, water and a ready supply of missiles have a powerful attraction that is not worth fighting. 

There were a lot of fish swimming around the wharf so I am going to investigate what the fishing regulations are as I think you could catch some goodly sized specimens. 

Otamahua/Quail Island wharf in the afternoon

A boat cruises past the Otamahua/Quail Island wharf

The journey back to Lytellton was also very really was a cracker of a day perfect weather for people to get out and enjoy nature. Here's hoping for many more lovely days just like this as spring and summer progress. 

View of Lytellton from the Otamahua/Quail Island wharf

Lytellton Heads as seen from the Otamahua/Quail Island ferry

Once again Otamahua/Quail Island did not disappoint, it was a stunning early spring day and another excellent trip. I thoroughly recommend a day trip or overnight stay on the will be happy that you took the time to visit.

Access: Water taxi from Lyttleton, the trip takes 15 minutes ($15 child, $30 adult), Black Cat Cruises are the operator, tickets can be brought on the ferry
Track Times:  5.5 km's or 2-3  hours from jetty to jetty
Hut Details: Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: 12 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets
Miscellaneous: The hut is on the DOC booking system, must be booked for overnight visit. Drinking water is available from the hut, take only what you need