‘It’s like going back in time,’ Hauturu has often been described to me. One imagines that the bush is prehistoric somehow, as if a dinosaur might step out round the next corner. I did find Hauturu indeed had a strong sense of the past, and was as we might imagine New Zealand to have been before people changed the landscape, introduced predators and reduced habitats. But when I got to Hauturu it was not a sense of the past that intrigued my mind and inspired my curiosity as much as a sense of the future, of what it can and will hold, of the possibilities, and how this will be made possible through the minds and physical commitment of not just environmentalists, conservationists and enthusiasts but also through the knowledge, perseverance and quest of science. ‘Yes, yes, all set, packed and ready for the quarantine check,’
I announce, while busily emptying my jacket pockets of bits of goodness knows what. How did I forget to check my own pockets? As organised as we think we are, it was amazing how there were still nooks and crannies for us all to find a bit of possible ‘no-no’ to clean out before we begin our adventure to the island.
Good boat trip over, a little rough, but good weather and exciting. ‘Nice boat! Thanks Dave!’ There was much fun and challenge landing in the rubber ducky; when they say ‘bring two pairs of shoes’, they really do mean two pairs of shoes! Second quarantine check and we’re here. Marks, set, go!
The most experienced of our party was off to the bunkroom to select his bed in a mighty rush. I thought, I’d better follow suit, he must know something I don’t. Turns out the bunkrooms are great, and there are no worries about which bunk to take. Maybe it was because he had the best cake and wanted to get started on it as soon as possible!
There are two classic occurrences for me when I am away from home: getting lost and getting injured. By the time we had started the first group activity or job – really, it was too much fun to be called a job – I had banged my head on an overhanging pohutukawa branch and had wandered off to see the ranger’s children’s hut and raft (the most amazing hand-built collection of recycled objects I have ever seen). I lost my group in the bush and was now all alone, calling, ‘Anyone? Anyone at all?’ How far could they have gone? We’re on an island!
I loved the ‘job’, creating homes for lizards and geckos using black rubber butynol sheets and black corrugated squares placed in double layers with sticks in between to allow the geckos to crawl inside. The butynol sheets were tacked around tree trunks, so the geckos can crawl up underneath where it’s nice and warm. The shelters were spread out in as straight a line as possible from the first marker point, and mapped on a GPS so they could be found easily later for checking.
I took my camera, and came back with fabulous shots of rocks and boulders. There were shots of birds too, but mostly of boulders; they were much better at posing. The shore is an amazing wild expanse of rocks and driftwood. The flora creeps its way right up to the shore in naturalised areas of grasses, flaxes and muehlenbeckia (on whose berries the kereru feed in huge numbers). A landscaper could not have done better. The ranger Richard and his wife Leigh, an experienced ornithologist, were amazing, so giving of their time, energy and knowledge. Even though the island on its own is intoxicating, having these two passionate, experienced environmentalists share their amazing knowledge and expertise highlighted the intricate secrets and wisdom of the island, its ongoing projects, research, discoveries and future possibilities.
There was something for everyone during our weekend excursion, from a challenging walk up the Valley Track to valley walks for the quiet day trekker. We had night adventures discovering the incredible giant weta hanging out on the pongas and hunting for the elusive kiwi. We watched kokako climbing in the hedge next to the ranger’s house and then swooping down to the lawn to waddle about eating daisy heads. We enjoyed feasts ofhomemade baking, a festive shared dinner, and someone even thought to bring the coffee plunger. Well-done team!
Leaving the island was as adventurous and fun as the arrival, with groups relayed out to the boat in the rubber ducky. It seemed we were the last bus leaving as everybody jumped aboard to head for the mainland except for Leigh and her two lovely children, who stood on the shore to wave us good-bye, no doubt thinking, ‘Fabulous, the island to ourselves at last!’
Thanks so much to Lyn Wade for organising our fantastic experience. I know everybody in our group was touched in their own way by the magic of Hauturu, its history, its journey and the stories it has to tell.