Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Intensive Update #2

Life has been quite busy over the last month or so, even though I haven't really had any work at all. I've still got another post or so about my Wellington trip, and because I've wanted to get that finished I haven't had a chance to write about my GRADUATION (!), passing my NURSING REGISTRATION (!!), hiking the Kepler Track, or Christmas.

I was at my parents' house for over a week with no real internet access - they have dial up, but it barely copes with loading Gmail, and takes about 2 days to load a photo - so I was pretty much unable to keep up with the blog posts. Hopefully, I'll have a bit of time to catch up over the next couple of days, although I am packing up to move house, as well as finally getting some work. Life is ever hectic - but here is a photo of beautiful Lake Te Anau and Fiordland to bring some much needed tranquility...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wellington Trip, Part 5 - Southern Walkway (2)

So now I was halfway through the walk (at least map wise - not actually sure this map has anything close to resembling a scale). Here is the second half anyway:

This part of the map gets more complicated because there are several other walking paths which cross it. They are quite difficult to tell apart on the map, and even more difficult to tell apart in reality, because all the arrows are the same colour (obviously never heard of colour-coding in Wellington...) Hence, I managed to get myself lost 3 times from this point onwards.

The patch of grass just above the cyclist is where I eventually stopped for lunch. Lunch consisted of 2 muesli bars and 3 apricots. I should probably plan these things a little more...

Funny looking trees!

This was my second choice of path, the first turned out not to be a path at all. (First time I got lost, due to fork in the path not being signposted at all!)

The view from Mount Alfred.

At this point my track crisscrossed several others, and because they are all marked with the same colour arrows, I ended up walking along the wrong one. I should have been walking along the ridge line but I was further down in the forest. This meant when I finally worked out where I was, I had a helluva lot of uphill climbing to go. Not fun. I also found arrows pointing to a Lord of the Rings film location, which I followed too, but then those signs disappeared as well.

Finally I made it back onto the right path (in the photo above) and then of course promptly left it to go up to the summit of Mt Victoria. Mt Victoria is one of the most popular lookouts over Wellington and was one of the reasons I chose to do this walk. The views did not disappoint me, but the crowds of bus tourists did...

This is the Byrd Memorial, which honours the memory of Admiral Richard E Byrd, a polar aviation explorer. Due south of this piece of land lies Antarctica (and there is no other land in between).

I can't remember the significance of this rock, but it is at the summit of Mt Victoria.

Buses of tourists showed up while I was here, they all climbed dutifully up from the car park, took some photos and then drove off again. I felt so good for walking all this way to get here, even if I did look like a sweaty, filthy hobo by that point.

I started my walk from somewhere behind that distant headland. I think.

Back down Mt Vic and I was back on the track. I headed towards Charles Plimmer Park where I swiftly lost the track again (although I've no idea how!) and ended up much further down than I was meant to be. I ended up walking back up the main road to Mt Vic until I eventually found the track to lead me back downhill again....

Finally finished!! Only took me about 5 hours.... but that did include losing the track several times. I was really pleased I'd done it, and reached Oriental Parade. It was, however, another couple of km or so back to the hostel, so at this point I cheated and opted for the bus....

All in all, another great day in Wellington. I definitely recommend doing the walk the way I did it - as it is so much nicer to walk towards town, rather than getting out to Island Bay and then having to worry about getting home again.

There are heaps of free walks around the Wellington area - other ones I contemplated were the Northern Walkway and the City to Sea Walkway. Check out this site for more info on the walks around Wellington.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wellington Trip, Part 4 - Southern Walkway (1)

There are a lot of free walks around Wellington, and i-Site has handy little maps for many of them. As I was already pretty broke before I even came to Wellington, I was looking for something free to do. I read about the Southern Walkway and decided that it would be a good way to spend a day, whilst incorporating some other things I wanted to go to, such as the Mount Victoria lookout.

The Southern Walkway is an 11km walk through the Town Belt between Oriental Bay and Island Bay. It is supposed to take about 4-5hrs, which I thought was a bit generous, until I realised how many hills I would have to climb....

I decided to take the bus out to Island Bay and then walk back into Wellington, rather than the more traditional starting point at Oriental Bay. I guess I felt better about walking towards home base than away from it.

Here is the first part of the map:

It is a bit hard to see, but basically the first part of the walk goes along the coastal walk from Island Bay to Houghton Bay and then winds up the hill into the Town Belt. I took way too many photos on this walk, so I'm mostly going to document the walk in photos...

The start (or end) of the walk is Shorland Park - this Band Rotunda was built as a memorial to the 106 soldiers from the area who served in WW1. The following photos show my walk from Island Bay to Houghton Bay:

Then I veered away from the coast up the hill to start the climb up to Mount Albert.

At the top of Mt Albert is this telecommunications tower and some reservoir tanks. Not the prettiest of sights, but if you ignore them then there were some other great views. The walk took me along the ridge then downhill again towards Wellington Zoo.

I was planning on stopping off at the zoo for a break and for lunch, but the walkway actually just takes you around the baboon enclosure at the back, and then away across a playing field to Truby King Park. I didn't really feel like leaving the path to walk down another hill (which I would inevitably have to walk up again..)

Truby King Park is named after Sir Truby King, the founder of the Plunket Society back in 1907. The Nurse Geek in me stirred again, as my first practice placement in NZ was at Plunket, so I got very excited to see the Karitane hospital and factory he built here. Sir Truby King and his wife are also buried here.

The building above is the Plunket factory.

Then I headed through some woodland and zigzagged down to some streets (that's the funny bit at the very top of the map above).

Well, I've now walked the first part of the map. Now onto the second map and a second blog post....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wellington Trip, Part 3 - Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

After my busy day inside at Te Papa, I really needed to get out in the fresh air. I'd read about Karori a while ago and was intrigued by this predator-free sanctuary so close to Wellington City Centre.

Karori is a 225 hectare valley of regenerating lowland forest and wetlands (there is an old reservoir here) protected by an 8.6km long predator proof fence. It is home to many native birds and creatures that are rarely seen on mainland New Zealand, but have been reintroduced over the last 10 years of Karori's existence. The native wildlife that has been introduced includes:

  • North Island Weka

  • Little Spotted Kiwi

  • Brown Teal

  • Scaup

  • North Island Robin

  • Tomtit

  • Whitehead

  • Bellbird

  • North Island Saddleback

  • North Island Kaka

  • Kereru (NZ Pigeon)

  • Hihi (Stitchbird)

  • Tuatara

  • Maud Island Frog

  • Giant Weta
There are plenty of other birds that have been attracted to the area too, such as tui.

You have the option of wandering around the tracks on your own during the day, or joining a day or night tour. I decided to splash out and go on the night tour, in the hope of seeing some real live wild kiwi. I've seen kiwi before, but only in captivity.

I arrived for the tour at dusk along with half a dozen others and was promptly issued with a torch. I forgot to pack my binoculars for this trip, which was a bit of a blow, and all I had with me was my compact camera. I managed to get a few decent photos before it got too dark, but all the ones I took of birds were just too blurry to keep.

First we had to go through the bag checking procedures to make sure we weren't smuggling in any mice or possums (!) and then we were able to cross through the gates into the sanctuary. Our guide was a very chatty, knowledgeable guy whose name I can't remember, and he first showed us how the predator fence works.

It goes under the ground at an angle to stop burrowing animals, is high enough to prevent anything jumping over it and has a special slippery metal guard at the top to stop creatures from climbing over it. Apparently the only problem with it is that the weave is not quite small enough to stop baby mice getting through. Hence, mice are still a problem at Karori, but they will be replacing the fence at some point. There were lots of traps in the sanctuary as well, to catch anything that does somehow make it in.

We were taken around the reservoir and into the forest. We passed by the kaka feeders, and I was able to see loads of these parrots up close as they came to feed from the specially designed feeders. I'd never seen kaka before, so it was great to see them so close. At the reservoir I also spotted brown teal, scaup, shags and a kingfisher. There were also lots of tui and kereru around as we walked through the bush and the flax, but I do see plenty of them around Dunedin anyway, particularly in the Botanical Gardens.

Then the group of us headed into the forest in the hopes of finding some kiwi. We had to be very quiet and listen out for the calls and for rustling through the undergrowth. There were several moments when we stopped to listen as we could hear the kiwi calling nearby, but couldn't see them anywhere.

After trekking through half a dozen different kiwi territories we were almost at the end of the tour and still hadn't seen any kiwi. I had pretty much given up hope, the guide said the tours only saw kiwis about 1 in 4 nights. Then suddenly we heard a great crash through the trees! It was a kiwi, skidding down the hill towards us. We all stopped still, and watched it trampling around in the undergrowth. Then we spotted a second kiwi nearby. The group of us stood there with our red torches shining into the undergrowth for about 15 minutes watching the two kiwis. Probably looked a bit ridiculous!

The kiwi living at Karori Sanctuary are Little Spotted Kiwi, of which there are no other populations on mainland NZ. The biggest group of them live on Kapiti Island, I believe, a little way up the coast from Wellington.

On the way back we also spotted some tuatara, which we had not been able to find earlier. These tuatara are the only wild population on the mainland of NZ, so it was incredible to see them too.

I highly recommend visiting Karori Sanctuary. I'd love to go back in the day time and just wander around the place. In fact, if I ever live in Wellington, I'd definitely think about becoming a member so i could go there more often. It was a great night, well worth the money I paid. Seeing kiwi, kaka, tuatara and everything else was simply magical.