We started real early, by 6.30am we were on our way by car to catch the train to the city. The kids ate breakfast excitedly and we were off. Two of our children’s families are home schooling and I was joining them on a trip to Tiritiri Matangi. In the brochure I read the name translated as ‘looking to the wind’…which made me regret a little my last minute decision to wear shorts. I wasn’t really cold. Just trou would’ve been better.
At the train station the old guy asked me if I had a gold card. You need to be 65 to get this which gives you discounts. “Well that’s a first,” I laughed with Simone as we boarded the train. Enough seats for us, but the train was filled pretty quickly with the early morning commuters. An hour later I was looking for coffee as we made our way to the ferry terminal and spotted Damen getting off the Waiheke ferry. A lovely little group we made, with Damen and his two little girls, Simone and her three little ones and Jess, Simone’s friend with her three little ones. The kids all got on well.
Getting off the ferry with Simone looking a little green I offered to take the big food bag. At the bottom of the rolling stairs I noticed a large trolley that people were putting their bags into, so I leaned over and lifted our bag in, but immediately a lady called out, “are you staying the night?” “Ahhh no”, I answered, wondering if that was a trick question. I didn’t think anyone stayed the night as Tiritiri was a sanctuary. “The trolley is just for people who are staying the night”, she smiled.
‘So get your bag outta there you fat lazy arse’, I imagined her adding. Haha! I grinned all the way down the wharfe and caught up with the others. There was a trailer down there and I gladly dumped ours on that. We’d be meeting up at lunch time but walking ‘bag free’ was a bonus I was glad of.
A young guy jumped up and with a lovely big smile, told us why this was such a special place and what the rules were, how expensive a helicopter return is, so don’t miss the ferry, how we must be vigilant to any rats, mice or rainbow skink particularly, that might jump out of our lunch bags…umm pretty sure you’ll know about that Matt if that happens. My scream will reverberate around the island, but I do get the importance of this, how all profits at the shop go back to the island and he thanked all the volunteers and sponsors, before we were given a volunteer guide to walk with us. Her name was Jane and she was just lovely. About my age she gently nudged us along when we were awestruck at the beauty, but also encouraged us to stop and enjoy other bits if we were rushing. The kids related to her well and obediently dropped back, when she reminded them no getting in front of her.
Reaching a dammed pond first she pointed out a Saddleback, with gorgeous leather tan coloured saddle and wattles, before the children spotted Kakariki so beautifully blended, dipping his head to sip and then wash, and a quail family…quickly disappearing up the bank. The kids were hooked. “You guys are good at bird spotting,” Jane commended them as we headed up the track.
A misty view of Rangitoto through the bush. Imagine ho frightening it would have been for those living here when that island erupted Jane said as we admired the view.
We walked on up ….”I’ve often spotted a little morepork here,” she said slowing, and there he was. Sleepy eyed and close to the track. He turned and surveyed us watching him, before turning his head away. Most of us found him really difficult to see, so well camouflaged. I think I’ll give up trying to find my one at home I hear from time to time. “Keep watching, she encouraged the children who were bouncing alongside her, and tell me if you see anything”.
Tui’s bounded up the branches chasing one another, so close we could almost have touched them. “We’ll soon be at the bathing trough Jane told the children. If we’re lucky we’ll be able to watch them bathing”. We all sat down and Jane told us stories as a little Hihi came in and got closer and closer. I thought to myself she will never be brave enough to get this close but sure enough, in she jumped and flicked and rolled, first this way and then the next, before standing on the side with her feathers all fluffed up to dry in the sun. A robin then jumped in to the side of us and just watched us. Tai squealed, “theres something!” A robin with long spindly legs and a fat little round body. Jane explained that they have to train on bits of vermicelli, and they couldn’t band the robins unless they could band vermicelli and not break the lengths, that’s how fragile their legs were.
We saw the Hihis nest made up of around seven hundred little sticks and twigs carefully balanced before a soft mound of grasses was carefully woven into the top, and there sat two tiny eggs precariously placed.
She pointed out the different trees and showed us the young pohutakawas that were planted and took so well they are going to have to take some out, and the difference between them and the Mahoe tree with its white almost polished trunks. “See the leaves, she said dipping down to pick one up. Its the only tree whose leaves skeleton like this.” “Really, I said, the only tree?”. I thought heaps of trees did this as we have heaps of these leaves around us, and realised its because we have a lot of Mahoe trees growing around us. Of course Patumahoe would be where you would find a lot of these trees you would think! “I have a Mahoe tree waiting to be planted, I told the girls. Maybe we can do that this weekend when we are all together.” Perfect activity.
“Here is what is sometimes called ‘bushmans friend’. Jane continued. It was well known to the gold diggers as it lathered up when rubbed with water and was often used as a soap”. Wow I must plant that. “Who knows this one?”, she asked. I’ve never known what the kawakawa looked like but Simone did and told us Annie uses it for teething for its numbing effect. “Yes Jane agreed. It has lots of medicinal uses. They say to use the leaves that are holey as the tree sends its resources to that leaf for repair so that leaf will be extra good for your health”. This is particularly funny cause I heard this about another plant just the other day and Lindy and I thought ‘REALLY?’ I grabbed a leaf and chewed on it. My teeth green, I hoped Jane wouldn’t ask me anything as I remembered the …”take nothing, leave nothing”, instruction from Matt earlier. Whoops….now my mouth was tingling. I also hoped they had got the right shrub. It numbed my mouth alright. That’s a good way to make a blabber mouth shut up! I will have to plant this too.
But there was no stopping the amazingness of this place, it just kept on coming. “Look”, Wheriko pointed into the trees. “Oh you are good, Jane enthused. A Kokako! Look carefully because they move in pairs. You should see another closeby”, and sure enough, there was its mate. We watched its beautiful blue and grey feathers shimmer before they moved off the path and deeper out of sight.
“Now feel this, she motioned reaching down to some fungi attached to a stump. It feels soft like the soft lobe of your ears”, and sure enough it did. “The Chinese love this, she said, they collect and dry it to eat”. “Oh yes, I remembered Gilbert having to collect it from the bush near us for Goong when the children were young!” I told them all. I had forgotten all about that.
“There’s a Bay here called Chimaman’s Bay, she continued seeing we had an interest. The story goes that a ships Master had a few too many drinks with dinner and set his apprentice to aim for the Tiritiri lighthouse while he napped. The young man headed for that alright and ploughed it right up onto the rocks. The ship was full of Chinese on their way down to the gold fields and as the ship broke up they sent for help. When another boat came to pick them up the Chinese were left in the Bay to fend for themselves for a time before they could be collected. Hmmm, probably the rest of the dumbarses had no clue how to fend for themselves, I told Monie later.
Both Tai and Tui had a little turn on my back. I’m glad I’m a strong Nana that can take a turn at these things and it was nice to feel their weight against me and their chubby arms around my neck. As a Mum you get so used to this you forget how special it is. Tho at one point I asked Damen if Tui was OK as she wasn’t leaning in, rather out. “She’s fine Mum, Damen said. She’s just enjoying being regal.”
Fantail common to us, flitted about following us and then suddenly just in front of us was Mahoua or whitehead. “In the North Island they are white heads but in the South Island they are yellow”, Jane said. We watched them ahead. This reminded me of a story I used to read to the children called ‘A nice walk in the jungle’. “I’m so sorry we didn’t get to see the Keruru” she said as we parted. “Oh that’s ok we laughed we see them and Tui all the time!” But as we turned the corner we had never seen Tui like this. Six or seven battled it out around the nectar bottles, wings outstretched and high when someone delightedly pointed out a Saddleback feeding its chick in the tree right beside our head.
An hour had passed, just like that, and we were soon at the place where tables and chairs were set up. We munched on our sandwiches which tasted so good, when suddenly three Takahe casually came out of the bush beside us. A chick and two adults. I got a quick snap before they returned. They were like something prehistoric, but hopefully they won’t become ‘historic’. They are thought to be the most endangered species right now Matt told us later with just 280 birds worldwide and seven of them here on Tiri. Wow, and we just saw three of the seven! I stopped Tai from chasing the Pukeko, but Matt said they had attacked the Takahe, so to go for it! Haha!
The kids are pointing which way was home.
After lunch we checked out the 150 year old lighthouse with signal house and I managed to find a pair of earrings I loved. Well you’ve got to support these things don’t you. I bought a book about birds with a DVD of their calls. I’m looking forward to deciphering the cacophony of birds while I spa. A great addition to Nanny’s library I thought, before making our way back down. We chose Hobbs Beach track to go back to the ferry and the kids were pretty tired, but still excited by everything. Down by the beach rocks we made our way along and found small boxes with wooden lids fitted into the rocks. This was intriguing we thought and couldn’t resist lifting a lid. To my surprise there were two gorgeous little blue penguins in their nest viewed though a perspex sheet. At first the kids thought they were plastic dummies, but as we watched carefully we saw them move. It was so special and the kids just loved it.
The old lighthouse keepers house, now the bunkhouse used for over nighter doing study with Rangitoto in the distance.
Down to the beach and throwing of sticks and stones began, skimming and how far, does it return? We watched, snacked and waited for everyone to come back and were soon settled back on the boat where Tai fell fast asleep. The kids completed work sheets, reliving every part of the trip so far. Back to the wharfe an hour and quarter later. Damen whisked Tui up and they ran to catch their five o’clock ferry. while we brisk walked to the train station and also caught the five o’clock train.
It was hilarious trip home as Wheriko sat next to an Irish girl about 25yrs old and chatted about everything we had done. Right from breakfast and leaving in the dark, to everything we saw on Tiritiri, and to getting on the train to come home, right through to her going to netball tonight! The lovely girl smiled and laughed and asked all the right questions, until she got off a little before our stop. She said Wheriko had definitely sold it to her and she would plan to go soon. So nice to hear them both chatting, seeing Wheriko’s confidence and the girl responding to her.
Netball was in the dark under lights and considering the massive day we had had, the kids were awesome. I bought chips and hotdogs and we hoed into them on the way home, dropping off the netball coach and before long we were all in bed and soon fast asleep dreaming of birds in trees on Tiritiri no doubt!