Category: fauna

Adventure in Mo’orea

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So, Nigel and I have escaped for a real holiday. Overseas, together, just the two of us. I feel a song coming on! No, sorry, I won’t even go there!

Anyway, we’ve run away to paradise. Tahiti. I might write some other blogs to tell you about what we’ve been up to here, and our photos will all be on Flickr as usual.  But this evening’s blog is just to recount the adventure we had today.

Our plan for our time away is to be as active as possible. Two reasons – one, we just don’t like sitting around sort of holidays and two, we’re in training. I’m running the Abel Tasman trail event in two weeks time so just need to keep my legs moving and, in January we are both doing the Old Ghost Road.

We explored what guided walks were on offer so that we could learn about the local flora and fauna and history. We couldn’t find any that went on ‘real’ walks although we were given the number of a local ‘sage’ who we tried to contact but were unsuccessful.  Undaunted, we decided to go it alone.

Mark, our host at our accommodation, Mark’s Place, told us that a well visited view point called Les Trois Cocotiers (three coconut trees) was accessible by a less well-travelled route from just a few kms around the road from us at Vaianae. It is also possible from Les Trois Cocotiers to continue on to Le Belvedère which is where most people walk from.  Our plan was to try to get across to Le Belvedère and then return by the same route.

Mark dropped us off at the start of the metalled road just a few metres further on from the shop at Vaianae. He gave us some basic instructions as a starting point but told us to call in at a place called “La Maison de la Nature” and introduce ourselves and say that Mark had sent us. They would give is more detailed information about the route from there.

On the way we chatted to a local who confirmed what Mark had said; it would take us about an hour and a half to reach the col and then a further 90 mins to get to Le Belvedère. However,  unlike Mark he said the route was quite straightforward and well way-marked.

The first 30 minutes climbed gently up a metalled road past houses which varied from being simple dwellings, with gardens full of fruit trees, chooks and dogs to more lavish houses with well-manicured gardens. There are dogs everywhere here.  Even though they bark they tend to stay put even when there is no fence but I still find them alarming.

Man walking up metalled road palm tree to left, lush vegetation all around, cloudy sky but sunshine.

Our first challenge came when the road split. One way went over a bridge and then turned sharp left up the hill. At the bend was a white house. The other road turned left up the hill and it seemed to be the continuation of the road we had been following so we took it.  About 100m higher up there was this sign;

Hand drawn map of local roads showing where people should be to start a walk

It might have been more useful to put it at the junction!  So back down we went,  over the bridge and up the rougher road.  Ten minutes or so further on we came to a building.  By this time the road was more overgrown,  the trees much thicker. There was a sign but it only had a phone number on it.  It looked like the whole place was being renovated.  To the right we could see a large shelter with a sort of climbing wall.  We climbed the wooden stairs which kindly asked us to walk ‘doucement’ to a balcony where a pair of jandals sat on a mat. We called bonjour,  but got no answer and didn’t feel that we should walk in so we continued up the track.  However, it went past an upper entrance to the building where a man was working a saw of some description.  We introduced ourselves, said we were staying at Mark’s Place and that he had said to call in.

His instructions were as follows.  Continue up the path,  at the windmill turn right,  continue on until you get to a stream. There used to be a bridge but it’s broken so just follow the track across the stream then turn left.  Keep going to the col. At the col, head left for about 10 minutes to the viewpoint where you can see north and south.   It should take about 45 minutes. To carry on to Le Belvedère, go down at the col for about 20 minutes or so then the path traverses, meandering up and down through beautiful terrain.  Roughly an hour to an hour and a half. ..

Off we went. No sign of a windmill (We saw it on the way down) but a junction of sorts – the single track path through knee high grass was clearer to the right.  Then we spotted a sign post hidden under the tree.  Confirmation.

A windmill in bush area with a mountainn in the background

Old signposts with indistinct writing attached to a tree

Reminders that La Maison de la Nature used to be, and may well be again, a ‘Colonie de Vacances’ for children lay half buried in the grass and vegetation.  Rope swings, balance beams, stepping stones and other adventure challenges. We came to a waterfall at a stream with a broken crossing but not what we would call a bridge and there was no obvious way on.  From the way the description had been given, I didn’t think we should have got to the stream crossing yet anyway.  So we looked for another way on and found a grassy track heading up to the left. It wasn’t well-defined but it was definitely a track and there were more kids’ adventure type obstacles half buried.  Convinced we were on the right track we continued.  Until a fallen tree seemed to block the way.  Maybe not,  we thought, and went back down looking for another option.  But not finding anything we went back up again.  The fallen tree negotiated we refound the path. A little further on we started to descend gently on a grassy slope, back to a single track in knee high grass.  A junction gave us a choice of continuing down or turning sharp right.  A rope looped between wooden posts helped to convince us that this was the right way.

Now we came to another junction.  A wide grassy shelf headed up gently to the right, to the left, a narrower steeper path.  I went up it to recce. It seemed to continue on as a well defined path, but we weren’t sure it was heading in the right direction.  We tried the other way. After 20m or so, there was another wooden activity challenge but then the path seemed to head back down in a loop.

Man walking in forest, heavyvvegetation, lush and green

We decided to go left.  On we climbed.  The path was rugged, steep at times, very rooty with quite a lot of fallen vegetation and we had to keep our eyes peeled to stay on track but it was clearly a path. All the way up were had enjoyed the changing vegetation, the lush tropical plants – the sort that I once had as house plants in my bedroom as a teenager in the 70s. The colours are beautiful,  bright red hibiscus in the trees around us and also splashes of colour on the path where the blooms have fallen.

Mountain shrouded in cloud seen through forest

The path started to climb more steeply and through the trees we glimpsed the impressive tall rocky peaks, half shrouded in mist. We were still waiting for the path to turn right and eventually it did. After having spent the last half an hour on a ridge we descended into a bowl of trees. Quite different, dark but not foreboding.  We were still searching for the way on when we suddenly noticed the trees.  Tall, incredible buttress roots, gnarly and twisted into the most surreal shapes.  We marvelled at them,  realised these were the chestnut trees or Mapes that we had read about, and thought about sitting down and having lunch.

twisted buttress roots of chestnut tree in a forest

Man in the middle of a forest of tall trees, sunlight shining through the branches

We decided we couldn’t have far to go by everyone’s timings so thought we would press on.  Despite thinking that we needed to stay right, we weren’t happy that right took us down hill.  So we went left,  uphill thinking it would swing back round.  After bushwhacking our way through more fallen trees and rotting vegetation up an indistinct but definite path we came to a stream and small waterfall which we crossed.  We were clearly climbing higher,  the canopy was lighter,  we could see the sky.  Surely we would hit the col soon!  I battled my way up and got to a point where I could see down to the ocean on the west side of the island.  But just more forest behind me.  A path alongside a stream led us up to an impressive black wall of rock with a path to the left.

Black rock wall with hollowed out area at the base, and a stream bed running down towards the viewer, fallen trees across the valley with new growth growing upwards from horizontal trunks

By now we were well past 45 minutes.  This was not an easy route.  We seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. We must have gone wrong way back down at the ‘shelf’ when we chose to go left and not right.

We turned round.  On the way down we noticed slash marks on the trees. In NZ in the back country, hunters and bushmen mark the trees to help them back track.  We started to think that we must have come across the traverse route from Tuatapae which we had read about.  It didn’t take long to get back down to the Mape forest where we spent 15 minutes or so just checking that we hadn’t missed a way on.

Feeling quite weary now and very frustrated and annoyed that we had missed a turn off somewhere, we knew we should really eat to put some energy back in our bodies. We had been bashing through the bush for over an hour but were reluctant to stop until we knew where we were.  So, we retraced our steps. Back down to the ‘shelf’ in no time. As we had thought the first time,  it simply looped down to the waterfall. I crossed the stream and climbed up the other side.  An unlikely route as it was not easy. The stream that fed into the waterfall bounced over dark rocks and I scrambled over and through but could find no easy path.  I heard Nigel call me.

white fungi growing on a fallen tree

Just a few metres back down the track he had spotted some bits of wood.. broken structures of some kind which he assumed were more of the kids adventure stuff.  Looking the other way,  a track down to the stream was more obvious and Nigel then spotted more wooden debris.  The broken bridge

stream bed, foliage and broken wooden structure in the streambed that used to be a bridge

We were back on track! With renewed energy we set off up the much easier, open track.  Still quite gnarly,  lots of trees roots, the path zigzagged up the flank of the hill, the stream gurgling beneath us.

A few very rickety bridges were crossed very gingerly and a couple of fallen trees negotiated. But it was well signposted with Xterra race markers.

man wearing walking clothes - hat, shorts, tee-shirt waking gingerly across a rickety wooden bridge

35 minutes later we reached the col!  10 minutes after that we looked out north and south at the coast and along the ridges at the peaks shrouded in cloud.  Stunning! Worth the effort! And time for lunch.

signpost that reads "le col tetoatoa dit des 3 cocotiers alt 357m'

Man on top of a hill with more hills in the background.

A couple at the top of a mountain, clouds gathering atop a mountain in the background

Panorama of a view of mountains from the top of a hill

Man climbs the last few metres to the top of a hill. He is just emerging from the vegetation. Hill shrouded in cloud behind him

Down was uneventful.  And quick.  Despite stopping to take photos of the abundant, colourful and beautiful flowers on the way. We called into the Vaianae store for refreshment…a nice cool Hinano beer, and we trudged the last 3km back along the road.

Total kms: about 15km!

Total elevation: more than 500m!

Total time on feet: over 6 hours!

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Great Barrier Island by Gus

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For five weeks in June and July 2014 I went with 29 other boys and two teachers from school to Great Barrier Island  in the Hauraki Gulf.  We were there to learn some new skills, have fun, learn about the community who live there and be challenged.

I flew on to Great Barrier Island (GBI) on a tiny little plane, it looked and felt dodgy.  It was a noisy plane so we got given ear muffs.  Mr Hall,  Aaron and I landed at GBI “international” airport, and drove about 1h to Orama.  We arrived at night and put our bags in cabins and went to tea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went on two long uphill walks on Saturday and Sunday with just the teachers because the OPC staff were having a break from the girls trip.  Coopers Castle was a long, very steep walk with great views at the top.  We had to keep away from the edge because there was a big cliff with a huge drop but there was a great view over Okiwi.  It was hard to walk up because it was so steep and we had to scramble parts of it.  On Monday we had the power and water tour and it showed us that Orama gets their water from a stream and power from a generator because they don’t have mains electricity.

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Next Monday we went on our first expedition.  My group walked one and a half hours to a bay.  We found a big dead  mako shark on the beach. and mussel barrels that we kept throwing into the sea and they would float back into shore. We descoverd some good climbing rocks that we scrambled on. We also found some kina it looked like a hard spiky ball but you open it with 2 spoons and there is a mussle like fish inside which Teina ate. Mitchell also caught a rat with his bare hands and strangled it to death.

When we got back to Orama it started raining that night. It got really windy and rainy on Wednesday.  We practised how to belay then went white water rafting (aka brown water floating) down the so-called stream that became a river.  It wasn’t very fun and we got  cold,  wet and numb and then we had to carry the kayaks back to the trailer .

On Wednesday night at 11:59 pm we were awoken from our sleep and were evacuated to the Orama lounge because there was a big storm.  We had to get dressed quickly – luckily I had my waterproof trousers so I pulled them on over my fat pants, grabbed my sleeping bag and rain jacket and followed the adult with the torch – we had no idea where we were going because it was dark and wild.  It was tipping it down with rain, my cabin was shaking in the wind. it was kind of scary but not really, it was more exciting than scary.  In the morning  there was mud everywhere, tractors,  trees and a generator were washed out to sea.  We sat in Orama lounge all day because it was too dangerous to go outside because of all the debris around.teenage boys holding mops as if they were soldiers

The next day we helped Orama clean up. My group had the hardest task of cleaning the classroom and gym, which had knee deep mud and took 3 days to get out of the classroom. Then we ripped up the carpet and cleaned the walls. The tables and the couches had been washed from the classroom through the gym and into the foyer on the other side of the gym. I found my student book outside with mud all through it and soaking wet.

great barrier clean up

My group spent 4 days shoveling mud while group 3 went to Glenfern and got on TV, but luckily TV3  came to Orama for a little bit and we were on TV too. Glenfern is an island wildlife sanctuary that Scott and Emma look after, they are trying to regenerate the native populations of NZ  birds and skinks.  I found a Chevron Skink buried in the mud at Glenfern; they are very rare and so it was quite exciting finding one. 10502489_242198045974132_7513004355070039754_n

Shoveling mud was boring but seeing what we accomplished felt great. Orama lounge became our new hang out space which was way cooler than the old classroom. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another gym that we could use.

Sea kayaking was the most challenging activity and I didn’t really like it because we got wet and cold.  The day we did it, it was really windy, there were salty big waves and a big swell.  We had to turn back because it was too rough – the waves were 3m high they had big white caps and the wind was 50 knots gusting to 65 knots.

I loved coasteering, it was so much fun and I want to do it again.  It was epic getting pulled in and pushed out in the swell.  I jumped in off some rocks that were 9m high.  I did a swan dive off a 4m high rock – I was a bit sore after the swan dive but it was great fun.

10336627_236232233237380_5175793285606235730_nMy favourite was surf kayaking and I really want to do it again.  It was brilliant  catching the waves and getting tipped!  I got quite good at it and I came 3rd in competition but I got the highest score  of 7.5.  We had to different heats and do tricks but it was timed and I lost in the semi-final.

Sailing was fun but scary because we were in the middle of the ocean with big waves and it felt like we were going to flip.  I didn’t want to be the first to capsize but once we did, we realised that it was quite good fun and we did it lots!  The thing is once you flip you aren’t supposed to stay in the boat or the boat ends up completely upside down.  But my partner stayed in the boat and it completely tipped it so then we had to stand on top of the upside down boat to try to get it back the right way up!  It was hard but we did it.

Nature Watch NZ – The Praying Mantis

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We have continued to be fascinated by the Praying Mantis which seem to enjoy our hospitality. Lots of folk we have met dislike them with a vengeance and find them creepy and unnerving. I have to admit that the way they rock and watch can make you feel a little uncomfortable if you study them for long. They have big bulgy eyes on a little triangular head perched on a long neck which makes them look a bit like a bald, inscrutable ascetic monk. (I think its the praying bit that makes me think of a monk!) But they are also quite comical in the way they wobble along on their long legs. We have noted two distinctall good things must come to a end.... shapes of Mantid – one is quite long, straight and flat, the other has a more rounded body and seems to bend more in the middle. We have looked on some websites to try and find out what the difference is – is one male and one female? Are they different species? No definitive answer though. There are apparently two types of Praying Mantis in New Zealand – the New Zealand Praying Mantis and the South African Praying Mantis, but according to the sites we have looked at the only real difference is that the NZ one has a distinctive blue marking

getting a bit chewy now...

behind the front leg. Also the NZ one sits on top of leaves whereas the SA one

hangs beneath them. We haven’t spotted any with blue markings and since most of them we see are hanging from our ceiling or sitting on the table or the shelves we have no idea of their leaf preferences. They are supposed to eat aphids though so worth encouraging them. Anyway – the reason why I started writing tonight is to tell you the tale of our misplaced kindness to our friends the Praying Mantis and the dreadful repercussions that ensued.Look Mum - no head!

Earlier this evening one of the flat, long bodied variety flew on to my knee and so Nigel decided to put it outside, as he went out he spotted another PM of the fatter bodied variety on the window by the door so he kindly put them together. Since our curiosity had been aroused about the different shapes we looked at the websites and then went to look at our PMs to see if they had the blue markings on the fore legs. Imagine our horror when we found the long, flat bodied one in the jaws of the fatter bellied one! Too late for rescue we got the camera out and proceeded to document it’s demise! Attached are some of the photos – if anyone can shed any light onto the reasons for the different shapes please let us know! It may be, of course, that the flat bodied one is the male and the other the female, who is enjoying her post coital snackette!!

mmm - delicious!  What\'s for pudding?

Only the wings to go

The last vestiges

and she ate it all up!

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