In my last post, W1702 – Unexpected Auckland, I described the unexpected bonus day we got to spend in Auckland, New Zealand, when I my girlfriend Carol and I spent much of the day exploring the city centre on foot.
The next day, which was the first scheduled day there, we had booked on a shore tour to Tiritiri Matangi Island. This island lies in the Hauraki Gulf, 3.4 km east of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in the North Island of New Zealand, and 30 km north east of Auckland. The 2.2 sq km island is an open nature reserve managed by the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Incorporated, under the supervision of the Department of Conservation and is noted for its bird life, including takahē, North Island kōkako and kiwi. The island’s name, meaning “tossed by the wind” in Māori, is commonly shortened to Tiritiri. Māori mythology considers the island to be a float of an ancestral fishing net.
The weather forecast for the day was not good, with rain expected all day, but neither of us realised just how wet a day it would be, or just how soaked we would become.
Leaving our ship, it was a short walk around the quayside to reach the launch that would take us on the 75 minute voyage out to the island. On the way to the island we made a short stop on the mainland to pick up a party of school children who were also visiting the island for the day. It was so wet when we disembarked on the island that they offered out white plastic ponchos, perhaps with hindsight Carol and I should have taken them too, although being open at the sides we didn’t think they would provide better protection than the light coats that we were wearing already.
We were then divided up into small groups, and taken for a walk around the island on one of two routes by a number of volunteer guides. Our guide explained how for many, many years the island had been intensively farmed having been cleared of almost all it’s trees. Around thirty years ago it was decided to cancel the farmer’s leases, and try to revert the island back to it’s natural state with a large program of tree planting and bird reintroductions.
This has been very successful, and now many rare indigenous bird species are breeding well on the island, to the extent that some young birds born on the island are now being used for reintroductions elsewhere. The island is run as a nature reserve, with the number of visitors strictly limited. The money generated from the visitors is used to help finance the island’s upkeep.
Our guide was very knowledgeable, and explained in great detail about the plants we saw, and the birds we saw or more often just heard as we walked around. With the torrential rain, and dense undergrowth it was very difficult to see, yet alone photograph the birds – usually if anything all we saw was a bundle of feathers deep amongst a tangle of branches. It was lovely to hear all the birdsong though.
This noticeboard shows many of the birds we saw or heard, including the New Zealand Pigeon, North Island Robin, Tui, North Island Saddleback, North Island Kōkako, Fantail and Bellbird:
Although we were disappointed and increasingly fed up with the heavy rain and just how soaked to the skin we were getting, our guide was delighted to see the rain, as apparently they had not had rain on the island for three months, and were on the point of having to close the island to the general public. Eventually we reached two rocks which our guide said the Mãori used to rub before making a wish – we all tried this, but still the heavy rain continued to torrent down!
Further on as we climbed higher on the island our guide said that we should have good views, but we couldn’t see much for the mist and heavy rain:
Finally we reached a large wooden hut, where we were given packed lunches to eat. Steam began to rise as we all sat there in our sodden clothes, eating what was a very good selection of food:
In theory we then had a couple of hours free time to explore the island by ourselves, but we all elected to remain in the dry of the hut rather than go back out into the torrential rain. Carol and I did venture out to the veranda where we could watch some very wet Tui birds feeding on sugar water at a feeding station close to the hut:
It was at this point that my main bridge camera decided that enough was enough with all this soaking, and started to malfunction – so I hastily turned it off and switched to my pocket sized emergency camera. I was enormously relieved that after many hours drying out in my warm and dry cabin, my bridge camera came back to life and is now it’s old self – phew!
Regular readers might remember that in my post W1702 – Funchal Fun I described how on our first walk together I had teased Carol about standing close to some large waves crashing against the shore to get perspective on their height, and she had speculated that it was because I just wanted to see and photograph her all wet. Well just a few weeks on here I was photographing a very wet Carol:
Despite how particularly cold and wet Carol was feeling, I was impressed how cheerful she remained throughout the day. A very kind young bird enthusiast, flushed with the success of seeing and photographing a particularly rare bird despite the awful conditions, took pity on her and offered her a large plastic poncho to wear for the walk back down the hillside to the jetty where we would re-board the launch to take us back to the mainland. More snug under the poncho, and having removed her particularly sodden cardigan, her body-warmth thankfully returned.
Returning to Auckland harbour and our waiting ship, we were so glad to get back to our cabins and enjoy a long soak under a nice hot and warming shower.
We were both sure that the island would have made a lovely destination on a bright sunny day, but in the wet, wet, wet conditions we faced it was sadly more of an ordeal than ideal.
That evening Fred. Olsen arranged a celebration meal for ‘gold’ passengers who were making the full voyage around the world – this will be the subject of my next post.
Postscript: I am astonished to find that this is my 100th post on this blog – when I started the blog a little over a year ago I never thought I would reach this landmark, especially so soon.