Zealandia

Today was another lovely, fine, almost cloudless, almost windless, day.

We had our porridge and fruit for breakfast and then got ready to go out.

Today we were planning on going to Zealandia. This is another place that we’d been to last time that we wanted to revisit. To revise, it’s a mainland island sanctuary. It was formerly the city’s water reservoir, until it was decided that having millions of litres of water contained above a major settlement in a fault line wasn’t a good idea. As the bush had already started to regenerate, it was an ideal spot to fence off, eradicate all the pest animals and plants, and re-introduce rare native species.

I actually thought that today’s blog would be all photos and little text.

Ah… Wrong.

There’s a free shuttle (we gave a $5 donation) to Zealandia and its departure points are outside the i-SITE information centre and outside Te Papa. We got to Te Papa on time, but couldn’t see where the bus left from. So we decided to make the five-minute dash to the i-SITE and catch it there.

As we got close we knew we were going to be cutting it fine, so I raced on ahead. I was about 20 seconds too late as we saw the mini-bus go sailing past us.

Bother. We’ve missed the bus. We’ll have to wait an hour.

Brian, the driver, later said that he’d picked three people up at Te Papa. He’d seen them before they saw him – and his mini-bus was rather obvious with Zealandia written along the sides.

But this little mishap did mean that I finally got a chance to photograph what we’d seen at the i-SITE… 🙂

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We also went hunting for a mailing tube or something similar for the poster that Weta Workshop had given me.

Do you know how hard it is to find these things? We found an Office Max, who I deal with through work. They had them, but in packs of four and I only want one. The sales rep. suggested the Post Office, but didn’t really know where it was because he’s not a local.

We asked Kathmandu where the PO was and he directed us to it.

I couldn’t see any on display, so I had to wait in the queue to ask.

No. The Post Office (sorry, NZ Post) no longer carry mailing tube. The last she’d seen was at Warehouse Stationary in Victoria Street. (The Warehouse didn’t have any. I’d checked.)

We decided that we’d better head back to the i-SITE.

This time we were early enough to chat to some people and tell them how great the Weta Workshop experience was (especially Thunderbirds are Go), since that was the shuttle they were waiting for. One guy said the taxi company quoted him $35 to get from his hotel to the Weta Cave. It was cheaper for him to buy the tour/bus combo. We said the regular public transport bus only cost $5 and you got to see something of the city.

At first we were the only ones on the bus, but then we were joined by a lady from San Francisco. It was a good smooth trip out and our first stop when we got to Zealandia was for the loo and get our gear sorted out.

I went to put my sunglasses on. These aren’t mine. And D.C. doesn’t have Ray-bans either.

But I had to wait until D.C. came back before I could check if she knew where both our sunglasses were. She didn’t, so I dashed out to check if mine were still in the bus.

They weren’t.

I went back inside and D.C. told me she’d found mine and hers. I took the imposters back out and gave them to Brian, in case someone claimed them.

We found out later that someone had. They were most relieved to get them back.

By the time we’d done all this it was time to buy our tickets. The lady who sold them said we were just in time for the 11:15 guided tour. So we dashed up the hill to the “pontoon” where we met the San Franciscan lady. A few minutes later our guide, Julia, appeared. She was bright and friendly and started telling us about Zealandia/Karori’s history and occasionally pointing out the song of a Stitchbird, or a Saddleback.

Then she complained that she was getting hot. I didn’t think much of this as the backs of my legs were getting hot too. Then she apologised and said that all of a sudden she wasn’t feeling very well. She leant against the fence and I asked if she had any water with her. The San Franciscan lady got it for her out of her bag and she had a drink, but didn’t feel any better. We asked if she wanted us to get someone, but she said she’d be okay in a minute, and that she had a radio that she could use for help.

Julia appeared to be getting worse, so I said I’d run down to the ticketing office and get help. By this point I wasn’t sure that she was in a fit state to use the radio. So, thinking that she might get better, but it would be terrible if she didn’t and we’d wasted time, I dumped my camera bag and my camera and started running.

I know I’m a fast walker, but I’m not a runner, so I slowed down to my usual speed after a few corners. It wasn’t a long way, but it seemed it because I was in a hurry. They have predator-proof gates in the fence – the type where you can’t open the exit one before you’ve opened the entry – and of course that took longer than I wanted.

I barrelled into the ticketing office, apologised to the people being served, and panted out to the seller (a man this time) that the guide Julia (thank heavens I’d made a point of reading her name badge), wasn’t very well, was at the pontoon, and I didn’t think she was in a fit state to call on the radio. The ticket seller got on his radio and requested assistance. I couldn’t understand what the response was.

I found out later that the San Franciscan lady knew how to operate the radio (they needed to know at the school she was at) and D.C. had taken it from Julia and the lady had used it. So I hadn’t needed to get hot and bothered.

By the time I got back a couple of guys were there. There was a shortened, much narrower, version of the fence there and they laid it on the ground so Julia could sit on it. Then the ticket seller turned up carrying a defibrillator (and trying to hide it from Julia.) Then another Zealandia guy turned up pushing a Wellington City Council supplied, free for use, mobility scooter. He, Richard, reckoned it was quicker to push than to ride. He was probably right.

By this point Julia was feeling much better, and I think was feeling a little foolish and not in need of the ambulance that was on the way. We all insisted that she at least let them look her over.

We found out later that she had been checked by the ambulance, been declared okay and that it was probably just a virus, and had been taken home by her son.

But we’d lost our guide. The other guy who’d originally turned up was a guide too. Except that he hadn’t learnt anything yet and this was going to be his first orientation session. He got a totally different lesson.

But Richard said he was willing to take us. He was good. He pointed out a New Zealand Falcon in the sky. They are a lot rarer than the common harrier.

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He told us about the Takahe and how the pair Zealandia have were on an island until they were too old to breed. Then they were removed, (“to the old folks’ home”, D.C. said) so another viable pair could take their place. There are only 300 Takahe left, so each new life is precious.

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He showed us the feeding Kaka, and the Bellbirds.Sometimes out of the same feeder.

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Kaka: “These are our special feeders”

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Bellbird: “We can use them too!”

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Kaka: “You can’t use this. I’m the only one heavy enough to open it.”

I managed to spot a Saddleback (which no one else had seen), but it was too quick for my camera. Richard said that he could see that it was one that he’d banded this morning.

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He found a solitary Tuatara. It was too cold for any of the others. Tuatara are a type of reptile that are the last of an order that was around at the time of the dinosaurs.

He got some millet out of a bucket and tied them to a hinged branch and then raised it up. Straight away the Kakariki – green parakeets – were in to feed.

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Our tour finished at that point and the San Franciscan lady went on to the upper dam and D.C. and I decided that as it was after 1.00pm we were hungry. On the way down we discovered a very sorry looking bumble bee in the middle of the path, so we moved it to a safe sunny spot.

For lunch we had vegetable fritters for both of us and I had hot lemon, honey and ginger (with plenty of each) and D.C. had Kawakawa tea – and the rest of my ginger when I’d finished my drink. Kawakawa’s good for stomach upsets, as is ginger. She was burping for the rest of the afternoon.

Weta

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We then had a look around the Sir Peter Jackson assisted educational display. This had a human operated Moa that raised and lowered its head, a large screen video of how man, and animals brought by man, destroyed this country and its original inhabitants. And we checked out all the other displays.

One interesting snippet was that New Zealand has 80,000 endemic species – that is species that only exist here. England only has two. Just shows what millions of years of separation can do.

We hadn’t seen half of what we wanted to, so we headed back up the hill for the last ¾ hour. We hadn’t reached the pontoon, when we realised it was spitting. So we turned and went back and had a look at the valve house, the lower dam, and in the souvenir shop.

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We were back on the bus ready to leave at 5:05pm as we were supposed to. Brian left before the 5.00pm news.

Walking back to the hotel we took a detour to try to find the Warehouse Stationery, but ended up in the wrong street. So we came back to the hotel, downloaded my (disappointing) photos, and then went and had our last dinner in the Bay Plaza Hotel.

Walking back to it we talked about the way that Wellington is in many of its buildings an Art Deco City. The Fire Brigade next to our hotel is a well maintained example. We wondered if they were allowed to stay because they were built after the Hawkes Bay earthquake and would have been made to withstand earthquakes.

We also commented on how the Bay Plaza Hotel stands out like an ugly sore thumb. It’s great inside though.

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Eleven floors and we’re on the seventh. No wonder we get blasted by the wind.

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