Somes Island overnight camp
Party: Just me!
04-05 November 2017
After trying (not very hard) and failing (with no great disappointment) to get a couple of families together for an overnight camp on Somes Island, I instead wound up booking just for myself for the night of the city Fireworks display.
Mark and Spike dropped me off at the ferry wharf with a few minutes to spare, and a family of 4 who were staying at one of the houses and I were soon disgorged on the wharf at Somes with our bags full of food, gear, and potential pests for inspection in the Rat House.
The walk up the hill soon had me plenty warm, despite the overcast and somewhat cool weather, and arriving at the camping area I discovered 5 other tents already set up – obviously those I was sharing the site with had already arrived. Picking a spot a little away from the others that was reasonably flat, I soon had my tent up, despite the seam sealing tape disintegrating, and the inner making at least one attempt at flying away.
It turned out that everyone else staying on the island for the night was part of a large group – the other 11 spots in the campground were taken up with a family++ group, and a social group had the 18 spaces in the two houses. I was the only person who had gone to the island alone. But I was far from lonely – in fact, both groups adopted me at different times, welcoming me into their groups in different ways!
By this time it was pretty much dinner time. I went for a short walk down to the lookout I was planning to shoot from to ensure it would work, then past the lighthouse, the mini DoC Hut, and back up over the gun emplacements first, then joined the family and friends group in the kitchen for dinner. Turns out I could have gotten away with not taking any food except snacks with the amount they had spare.
After hanging out there for a while, reading and chatting, it was time to get changed into warm clothes and head to the various lookouts we were all watching the fireworks from. The family group split, with some going to the smaller south-end lookout, and others watching from the top of the hill at the gun emplacements. I was joined at the larger lookout by the group from the houses, who were amazed that I was camping on the island on my own.
After the fireworks display had ended, a couple of the adults invited me to join them in a meander around the track on the west side of the island to see if we could spot any tuatara. With nothing else happening, and my hoped-for long exposure photography written off by the increasingly ferocious wind, I opted to join them, and am so intensely glad I did! While on our wander around the edge of the island, we found a single tuatara, and 5 Little Blue penguins – the first time I have seen them on the island (despite 3 previous overnight visits), and even better, they actively walked straight past us on the track – because they happened to be going somewhere behind us.
What an amazing experience. I have a handful of grainy photos, and one where I accidentally used the flash on my cellphone (new work phone, didn’t realise it had flash, the other doesn’t!). We were all buzzing.
After a quick cup of tea back in the campground kitchen, it was time to get changed for bed. I was very glad to have bought my thermal sleeping bag liner with me, as it was not very warm in the tent. In fact, it was the first time I have slept in a thermal in my sleeping bag for a very long time!
That said, “sleep” would not be a good description of the following 7 hours. Sometime around midnight there was a short burst of rain, not that you could tell in the morning, and not enough to test the now non-existent seam-sealing of my little tent. All night there was wind. And masses of it. You could hear it coming, as it set off the trees further north on the island before hitting the tent, rattling everything and on occasion, fluttering the floor to boot.
A restful night was not had, I think I finally had a sleep of more than 30 minutes at a time from about 4am! Then suddenly the sun was up and shining in my tent. I had wanted to be up for sunrise, but obviously that didn’t happen.
A wander around the island to plan some future photography trips, a cruisy breakfast where I could have had cold steaks with bacon if I had wanted, packed up my tent and it was time to head down to the wharf to wait for the first boat home.