Kakapos are the largest parrots in the world. They are flightless and nocturnal. There are only 125 left in existence, all now protected and in reserves. Their survival is miraculous really because they are such ridiculous creatures. Their favourite food is the fruit of the rimu. This is a very tall tree, up to 30m, so they climb laboriously up the trunk, eat their fill, then throw themselves down to the ground again, mostly managing to survive. During the mating season, the male clears a runway of twigs and debris, then digs a bowl into which he places himself, making a booming noise with his breast for 8 hours a night for about 3 months, hoping to attract the female.
|The viewing tower within the Maungatautari Reserve|
It’s this unusual behaviour that made Sirocco world famous in the following video clip taken from a Stephen Fry TV program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T1vfsHYiKY . Since then the NZ Prime Minister has made Sirocco a conservation Ambassador, and he now spends his time travelling around NZ raising funds for the cause.
Next morning we have a terrific breakfast, then go off to see the reserve in bright sunshine. The entrance is manned by a lovely old couple who give us a bit of its history and send us off in the right direction. Such a contrast between this clear bright day and the cool green half- light of the bush. The reserve is essentially a mountain, a large part of which has been fenced off and made pest free. There are many very large old trees so the canopy is very high above you, even the tree ferns and nikau palms are tall. The bush is still and quiet but for the trickle of streams and the birdsong which breaks out intermittently close by. The birds here seem even more relaxed about human beings than usual in NZ, and many of them come very close indeed, as if they’re attracted by our soft low speech. We see kakas, many beautiful stitch birds, NZ robins, tomtits, and bellbirds. There’s a rather lovely wooden viewing tower but it doesn’t take you quite high enough to be able to see over the tree tops.
Meanwhile we take a walk around the town and harbour’s edge, and suss out the best place to eat (not that there’s a lot of choice). We pop into the local store to buy breakfast for tomorrow as neither of the cafes open till late. The shop is in a sad state and has the most miserable shop keeper imaginable, what a difference a decent store would make to the place, and a smile come to that. At 6.30 we’re heading to Ocean Beach. We walk up high over a giant sand dune and down onto the black sand beach. We find a sheltered hollow and watch the show with our backs to the dunes. There are a couple of other people around; a Maori Mum sat up on top of the dunes with 2 girls who are wave- jumping way down at the shoreline, and a loner sat above us, the unmistakable smell of dope drifting down around us.
Mike builds us a fire to keep warm back at the bach and we go out to the Blue Chook for dinner. The food turns out to be exceptional: delicious fresh John Dory with chips and salad. Very friendly atmosphere and great service, as we sit eating dinner and watching the All Blacks beat Australia.
|A gentle grey morning on Ocean Beach with Mount Karoi in the distance, which we climbed while staying in Raglan,|