We’ve added Wellington to the list of places we will come back to, one day. There’s more to see and do here than we had time for. And, even today, someone told us about another great place that we were previously unaware of. We knew we wouldn’t see everything and go everywhere that we thought about, but we do appreciate how lucky we are to have the opportunity to do this much.
As Liesel and I discussed the other day, on one level, this is a ‘holiday’ but because it’s such along time away from home, it’s become our ‘normal’ lifestyle. So should we still call it a holiday? Or what? Philosophy aside, today was pretty exciting.
We got up at 6 o’clock, which I’d forgotten was a genuine time of day. Farewell, Wellington, hello, Paraparaumu, the first port of call today.
Our unique Kapiti Island Eco experience seemed doomed. The island was clearly visible a few days ago when we drove south but today, we couldn’t see it through the mist and drizzle. We checked in, we disinfected our shoes (glad to be wearing trainers rather than sandals), we boarded the boat and waited. Glen Cooper, ‘Coops’, gave us a good introduction before the tractor towed the boat to the beach and we launched for a 40-minute ride to the island. The mist didn’t shift so it with a little relief that we saw and announced “land, ahoy”.
Kapiti Island is 10 km long and 2 km wide. The summit is over 500 m, well within the cloud. More info about the island was provided by the guide, Dave. The island has been a nature reserve for a long time but it’s only since the 1960s that they’ve been looking after it properly. The Department of Conservation are doing a terrific job, here.There are now no predators on the island. The goats, rats, stoats, weasels have all been eradicated. If one should turn up, on driftwood from the mainland, the chances are it won’t last long because of the traps all over the place. But at least the native ground-dwelling, flightless birds stand a better chance of survival here, now.
Dave took Liesel and me for a guided walk, pointing out the various vegetation and some of the birds. Again, we heard more birds then we saw, but at least we were able to give some of them names.
Dave showed us a couple of holes by the path. By this time, we’d walked quite a long way up the hill. Those holes, he said, were dug by blue penguins. The penguins we saw in Oamaru looked knackered after swimming in the sea all day, and their houses were close to the beach. These ones on Kapiti, with their little legs, hop hundreds of feet up into the trees. Amazing stuff.
After the guided walk, we continued up Wilkinson’s Track. We knew we wouldn’t reach the top today, we wouldn’t see anything there anyway. But about halfway up is a picnic area and a hihi feeding post.
After we’d had our lunch, I walked a little further along the path, but after a couple more turns, I realised I was inside the cloud. I re-joined Liesel to find she’d made friends with a kaka. It sat on her shoulder for a moment, and returned a little later. We weren’t going to feed the birds, as requested, but the kaka really knew the sound of rustling plastic bags.
On the way back down, Liesel was in front of me and saw something run across the path in front of her. It ran into the bush, down a slope and we both saw it running alongside a log. It was dark and damp down there and although our first thought was, it’s a weka, it was moving totally differently. Shuffling and snuffling along. But no, kiwis are nocturnal, surely?
Well, yes they are, but two guides confirmed that when it’s this damp, they’ll be out looking for worms, and will stay in darker areas. The kiwi population on the island is growing too, so they’ll be on the move looking to expand their territory.
It’s a rubbish photo, the camera focussed on the nearest leaf rather then the bird of interest, but it really is a kiwi, confirmed by two rangers! This was ridiculously exciting for us, and for the guides: kiwis are very rarely seen on the daytime tours. Go, us!
On the other hand, my camera missed the hihi (stitchbird), tui, tieke (saddleback), toutouwai (North Island robin), kereru (wood pigeon), kotare (kingfisher). Unless, of course, you want pictures of their bottoms or just blurry and flying out of shot!
Apparently, there is only one pair of takahe on the island and we weren’t lucky enough to see them. Only one pair? Well, since they were thought extinct before 1947, that’s not too bad, really.
Back down on the beach, I watched a weka being blown about by the wind. Not in a cruel way, but his feathers were revealed in their full glory.
A short while later, I was sitting on a bench, looking through many photos of trees and bushes where birds had been sitting just a few microseconds before I pressed the button, when a weka came up for a chat. It may have been the same one, who knows?
The boat coming to pick us up was late. We couldn’t see the mainland at all, and indeed, the cloud seemed to have come even further down the hill on the island.
What a great day, though. And the 4-hour drive north afterwards could so easily have been an anticlimax. But, no, it wasn’t…welcome to Mordor!
The drizzle eased off, the clouds lifted, the Sun came out, the sky turned blue, we enjoyed seeing the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park again. Yes: on the list. We’ll be back.
Apologies to the other Capital of Trout, Gore: their big trout got away. But I caught a couple of big ones today.
Our new Airbnb is at Acacia Bay, near Taupo, and close to the Great Lake Taupo. It was much warmer in the evening than it had been all day, and indeed much warmer than when we last stayed close to this lake.
I went out during the night to enjoy the dark, southern sky. The Milky Way, the Southern Cross, the Magellanic Clouds, Orion. Black sky, bright objects, but I had to go behind the house to avoid the solar-powered night lights that appeared to have no ‘off’ switch.