I'm back from the island of Stewart, at the very bottom of New Zealand, with a new appreciation for journalists in war zones. How do they do it? How do they manage to keep their writing brains connected, post regular news stories and front video footage as havoc rains around them?
It hardly bears comparison, but I found my week in the peach coloured kitchen of the RSA Pavillion, as camp cook, broiled my cerebral connectors. Encrusted them in a thick layer of meat-dish-deep macaroni cheese. Made them sluggish.
Every morning, I enjoyed the island's heady birdsong as I walked to work, admiring the orange sunrises over Half Moon bay in the village of Oban.
I tried to write sentences in my head (as I often do, then promptly forget). But nothing would come. Loodle lardle oodle, said the tuis. So in the meantime, before I recount the dawn-breakers of the young backpacker couple in the room next to me, how-to-spot-an-islander and 100 ways with mince, I've made a picture-postcard-story.
Boat-on-sand. Not an island cocktail. But a big lump of wood that floats.
Cheeky Mollymawks like Blue Cod
Child labour island style
Baiting rat traps, Ackers Point
Long legged Stewart Island Robin, Ulva Island.
Boat sheds, Golden Bay
Half Moon Bay, fishing boats early morning.
Don't leave home till you've seen the country, I say.
On my second to last morning I had two hours to myself. I walked up the hill behind the village. By and by I found a bush track above Golden Bay. Fat Bellbirds sang in Kamahi. Four Kaka ate berries in a tall Miro. Tuis sat on branches of stately emerging Rimu. Tomtits hopped along beside me. Fantails squeaked. An abundance of birds and bush in a matter of half an hour. SIRCIT are doing an amazing job keeping pests to a minimum.
I raced back to my kitchen. Pancakes and bacon for 15 coming up. I felt revived. This island is a gem. But it on your bucket list.