10 October 2018

Kapiti Island



Ka tito au
Ka tito au
Ka tito au ki a Kupe 
Te tangata
Nana i topetope tu wenua
Tu ke Kapiti 
- Te Rauparaha (1847), composed during his imprisonment aboard HMS Calliope



Private boat ramps on Waiorua Bay, Kapiti Island.  Photo: RGH


Driving to and from Wellington along the Kapiti Coast, when looking seaward the horizon is dominated by a large island. Kapiti Island sits just far enough offshore to appear perpetually verdant, mysterious, and unoccupied. Always looking for new places to explore, Kari discovered that it is an ecological reserve and is accessible for day trips and overnight stays. The island boasts an abundance of native plants and endemic birds, including the elusive Little Spotted Kiwi. It is one of the few places in New Zealand where one has a good chance of spotting a Kiwi (bird) in its native habitat. During our previous year here, Kari wanted to venture across Rau O Te Rangi channel and visit the island, but it was only after returning here permanently a few months ago that we were finally able to do so.

The island covers almost 20 sq km (8 sq mi), only a tiny portion of which is accessible for tramping. Almost the entirety is closed to the casual visitor and is set aside as a wildlife sanctuary. There is a limit to the number of visitors each day (100 to Rangatira, 60 to the North end). Interestingly, 13 hectares (32 acres) is privately owned by members of the Ngati Toa, Te Āti Awa, and Ngāti Raukawa Confederation. Many of them are whanau descended from an extraordinary woman, Utauta Webber, who refused to give up her land despite relentless government pressure to do so. One hundred twenty-one years after the Kapiti Island Reserve Act was established, whanau continue to live and work on Kapiti.


Paraparaumu to Kapiti Island.  Photos: RGH


John Barrett and Amo Barrett, Utauta Webber's grandchildren, established Kapiti Island Nature Tours by renovating the family bach and offering a unique homestay to visitors. Manaaki Barrett, John’s son and our host/guide for the weekend, grew up visiting the island and is now slowly assuming more responsibility for the daily operations of the business. It is truly a whanau affair, structured so that as many whanau as possible can be sustainably employed and maintain ties to their ancestral lands. Maori was not initially a written language and their history was kept alive through oral story-telling. We were captivated by Manaaki’s ability to narrate the history of his whanau and iwi, and deftly weave it into their story today.


  
Kapiti Island Nature Tours.  Photos: RGH & KAH


Utauta’s great grandfather, Te Rangihiroa, accompanied Te Rauparaha when Ngati Toa first seized the island in the 1820s. They successfully defended their occupation in the Battle of Waiorua (1824) when multiple iwi allied against them and tried to push them off. For Ngati Toa, Kapiti Island became a fortress and base from which to trade and launch marauding attacks. Ngati Toa developed trading relationships with whalers and fishermen from Europe and the Americas, encouraging them to live amongst them and accept Maori custom. Some married Maori women and were adopted into the tribe. As their cultures clashed, strife occasionally devolved into violence. In his book Kapiti, Chris Maclean describes Kapiti in the 1830s as “a wild frontier, a meeting point of two cultures without the restraints of law or government.” By the 1830s, the British had begun to establish a more consistent presence in the region, first sending HMS Zebra in 1833, then HMS Rattlesnack in 1838. The Treaty of Waitangi (1840) established British sovereignty in New Zealand and coincided with the decline of whaling in and around Kapiti. Whaling gave way to farming as a way of life, which only hastened the loss of native species.




  
  
Tramping through the nature reserve.  Photos: RGH & KAH



Tuteremoana summit and Western cliffs overlook.  Photos: KAH


Like much of the world, New Zealand has suffered the scourge of introduced species. Prior to the capture of Kapiti Island by Ngati Toa, the human impact would have been limited to subsistence living, supported by the abundant marine life and bird species, bouyed by limited cultivation of kumara. After their occupation, the population swelled to over 1000 people and new areas were cleared for food crops. The easiest way to clear land was by burning. Occasionally, controlled burns became wildfires that swept the island. New Zealand plants and birds evolved in relative isolation, free from predators and grazing mammals. Cattle, goats, sheep, and possum were introduced by European visitors to the island, and pests such as stoats and rats established substantial colonies. The introduction of these species proved devastating. When the island became a reserve in 1897, native plants and bird populations were finally able to begin a slow regeneration.


  
Hihi & Kakariki.  Photos: KAH

Takahe.  Photo: KAH

Kereru.   Photo: KAH

  
Kaka.   Photos: RGH


By 1917, a campaign to clear the island of grazing mammals and predatory pests had begun, but  limited farming continued on the island into the 1950s. It would take almost 80 years before the last rat, and last mammalian pest, would be cleared from the island and endemic species could flourish. Visiting the island today, it is the abundance and variety of native birds that are most impressive. Supported by the regeneration of native plant species, some have rebounded from in-place populations, while others have had to be re-introduced. This concerted effort to restore native bird species, with Kapiti Island acting as a “life raft”, has been so successful that some are transplanted from the island to bolster or re-establish populations elsewhere in New Zealand.


Sunrise over Waiorua Bay.   Photo: RGH

Manuka & view of Northern shore from Western cliffs.  Photos: KAH


Kapiti Island is one of the few areas where you might chance to see a Kiwi bird in the wild. "Might chance" is a bit of a misnomer ... we set out late at night with Wayne, one of the year-round residents, in search of these hard-to-find birds. Kapiti Island is far enough from the mainland that there is little light pollution, and it was a cloudy, nearly moonless night. More than once, I bumped into the person in front of me when they stopped abruptly. Using a light shrouded with red cellophane, Wayne crawled around on his belly looking into the dense underbrush. There were 13 of us split into two groups, and ours was the only one to actually spy a Little Spotted Kiwi in the bush. Admittedly, it was a bit anti-climactic, but it was pretty awesome none-the-less.


One of New Zealand's many great small breweries.


The next morning, the skies were clear and the sun was shining. We opted to take the afternoon boat back across Rau O Te Rangi channel, giving us a chance for a morning tramp to the top of the Western cliffs. After lunch, we set out on a guided tour of the Northern shoreline and bird nesting area. We thought we would be a little late getting to the boat landing, but were there in plenty of time to sit for a spell. Once across to the mainland, we stopped to slake our thirst and eat our fill of pizza at the Tuatara Brewery, then it was on to home.




Rats ...


02 October 2018

Five Guys



Long ago I was brought into this life
A little lamb, a little lamb
Fearless was my middle name
But somewhere there I lost my way
Everyone walks the same
Expecting me to step
The narrow path they’ve laid
- Buck/Mills/Stipe (R.E.M.) Walk Unafraid



No matter where in the world you are, the South is just different ... and needs a little extra time.


I finally completed a Great Walk. Unfortunately, it was without Kari or Little H. Kari has a walk of four days on the Tora Coastal Track coming up, but it isn't one of the Great Walks, and after our four day tramp on the Queen Charlotte Track (Link: The Long Walk), Little H has no desire to ever walk so far again. Technically, we did complete one of the Great Walks as a family (Link: The Land That Time Forgot), but it is a river trip and traveled by canoe or kayak, so we didn't actually walk it.

New Zealand has a number of amazing tracks for hiking, and many of them take several days to complete, but only 10 of them have been designated as "Great Walks". They are easily accessible, well-maintained, and well marked trail systems that range from 32 km to 82 km in length and can take up to 6 days to traverse (the Whanganui Journey is 145 km of river paddling). Along the way, much of New Zealand's most spectacular views and culturally important areas are revealed. Accommodations are generally combination of campgrounds and Dept of Conservation maintained huts. Some of the tracks cross private land where there are lodges or private homes in which to stay. DoC huts can be as simple as four walls, a roof, a wood-burning stove for heat, and a wall of bunks on which to sleep, or they can be quite elaborate set-ups with small semi-private rooms and gas ranges on which to cook. They all feature some kind of water source, but that often consists of a cistern or other water source that needs to be filtered or boiled. We were fortunate to have filtered water at each of our huts (still, we filtered it again ourselves).

Mine was not a hiking/camping family, so my first forays into the wild started in my late teens once I had a car. We were young, naïve, and strong. We didn't have the money for light-weight camping gear, water filters, etc; so, we carried everything we needed (including drinking water) on our backs. I only weighed about 150lbs back then and I suspect my pack weighed just as much. While I learned how to survive in the back country, some of the biggest lessons I learned had more to do with what one needs and what one can do without. As we got older and wiser, and could afford updated equipment, our packs got lighter and the walks more enjoyable. It has been many years since I walked long distances, and many more since I did it with any significant weight on my back. Camping with my family has focused more on convenience than survival. That convenience came with a price. This time, the price I paid for convenience, and for forgetting lessons learned long ago, was a pack that can only be described by the Kiwi term "heavy as".



Day 1 - Wainui Bay to Whariwharangi Bay

Distance 5.24 km
Time 1:20
Max Elevation 190 m
Elevation Gain/Loss 342 m




Our first day on the trail was a short one. The night before, we took a ferry from Wellington across the Cook Straight to Picton. We spent the night in Picton at a bach called the "Cow Shed", awoke for a lazy breakfast, then drove 3 hours to Marahau where we picked up a 1.5 hour shuttle ride to our trailhead.


Empty late night ferry.

Lounging in the Cow Shed.

 
 
All smiles at the trailhead.

Whariwharangi Bay Hut was originally built as a homestead in 1896 and was restored in 1980.


The short hike was a great way to get our legs under us and start the trail. Erik had done all the planning for the trip and had assured us that we had reached our max elevation ... the next four days should be a true coastal walk. I ate a little pack weight, and after a rousing round of BS (the card game) we were in bed for an early morning start.



Day 2 - Whariwharangi Bay to Awaroa Inlet

Distance 16.87 km
Time 4:57
Max Elevation 142 m
Elevation Gain/Loss 1153 m


As would be the theme for the rest of our walk, "an early morning start" is a relative term, especially when traveling with two teen-aged boys. We drank coffee, had a hearty breakfast, and were the last group on the trail to start the day. That wouldn't usually be a problem, but we had to get to Awaroa Inlet by about noon. The inlet requires an estuary crossing that is only accessible for about an hour on either side of low tide. If we missed low tide, we would be crossing the inlet on foot while the estuary filled with water.


Erik was true to his word. Max elevation was only 142m ... he didn't tell us about the 1153m we would actually cover.


We left the hut and immediately started climbing. While it is true that we didn't get as high as the prior day (142m vs 190m), this day would prove quite difficult. We still weren't used to the trail, we hadn't yet eaten down much pack weight, and the trail had a lot more elevation change than anticipated. We would immediately climb a headland and descend to a sandy beach, then walk to the end of the beach to do it all again. Walking with full pack weight along a sandy beach can be ... tedious. The scenery, though, was amazing.


 
 
Still smiling. Boy-1 has a bit of a wild look in his eye ... or maybe he is just hungry.

 
 
The terrain for Day 2 was very different from Day 1, and variable along the way. We arrive at the shoreline about 30 minutes before low tide, stopped for a rest and a snack, then crossed Awaroa Inlet by wading through a knee-deep, ice cold river.


We still had fresh legs and clearly hadn't had enough walking, so we explored the bay a little and trudged off into the way-back to find an old tanning industry steam engine. It was pretty amazing to watch the tide roll in and cover our back trail.


Exploring Awaroa Inlet.



Day 3 - Awaroa Inlet to Bark Bay

Distance 15.86 km
Time 4:32
Max Elevation 141 m
Elevation Gain/Loss 1085 m


Day 3 would see us last out of the hut again, and it would prove to be the longest day of the trip so far, though not the longest distance. We took a bit of a break part way through the day, and it gave the wizened veterans an opportunity to impart a little trail wisdom to our young charges. After a couple of hours on the trail, we came upon a side trek to the Awaroa Lodge where coffee, fried food, and beer awaited us. The boys insisted that this was "cheating". Our take was that we were merely taking advantage of resources available on the trail (the very essence of back-country tramping). Our view won out, and when all was said and done, I don't recall hearing them complain too much about it.


 
Profiles split into two parts ... one before and one after beer a lovely break.

 
 
Boy-2 still smiling ... Boy-1 starting to look a little crazy-eyed.

 
A well deserved break ... good coffee, beer, fish & chips, and a whole lot more BS.

 
We continued to have good trail Karma, even after "cheating" just a little.


The end of Day 3 also involved an estuary crossing ... this one neither as cold, nor as deep. Never content to call it a day, we went for a swim and explored the trails a little before eating and turning in for the night. One of the luxuries I had allowed myself on the trail was apples and peanut butter. It was getting heavy, so I made sure to eat extra helpings this night. Ryan also made a discovery helping Boy-1 organize his gear. Prior to setting out, he allowed Boy-1 to do his own shopping and packing ... a valuable lesson in planning and organization. He discovered that Boy-1 had little food, no rain gear, and no warm clothes. No wonder he had been lapping up our extra helpings and practically sprinting ahead along the trail. Not that I would ever want anyone to suffer, but the weather was so good to us that he never felt the consequences of his poor decisions.


 
   
Teen-age boy "pack vomit" ... a nightly occurrence.



Day 4 - Bark Bay to Anchorage Bay

Distance 18.93 km
Time 6:37
Max Elevation 136 m
Elevation Gain/Loss 1121 m





Day 4 would prove to be a long and difficult one, but it was marked by two amazing side treks. Cascade Falls was a steep 30 min tramp along an overgrown and narrow track. We stashed our packs in the underbrush and hiked it light. Unfortunately, this did not stop Ryan from turning his ankle. Nor did it stop me from losing my sunglasses. Recorded distances and times are artificially inflated ... I made a round-trip run up the trail and back to retrieve them. The second side trail was to Cleopatra's Falls where I rode a natural water slide into a deep pool. It was also time for a little grizzled trail wisdom ... in life, as in on the trail, it is the side trips that have the most risk and the most reward. On this our penultimate day, and on the final day 5, we started to see other people on the trail ... it was damned near a Kiwi traffic jam!


 
 



Day 5 - Anchorage Bay to Marahau

Distance 12.71 km
Time 3:16
Max Elevation 137 m
Elevation Gain/Loss 718 m




Day 5 was a "short" 12.7 km hike out. It would be our last stinky day on the trail ... and boy, did we stink! We kept passing lovely people on the track. They were carrying light packs, wearing light footwear, their hair was properly coiffed, and they smelled nice in passing. I don't want to imagine what they have written to describe us as we passed on the very narrow trails.


 


We were off the trail before noon and immediately checked into our bach for the night. After a round of showers and a change of clothes, it was off to town for a proper burger and to stock up on beer, whisky, and provisions for the evening.




It was an awesome trek along one of New Zealand's beautiful coastlines. We are on a shoulder season here ... tracks are open but many of the services are not. We had plenty of room to spread out in the huts and on the trails. Fortunately for Boy-1, and for all of us, the weather was perfect. A little chilly to start the mornings, but t-shirt and shorts weather through the day. I won't say the water was "refreshing", in fact it was downright freezing, but that didn't stop us from taking a daily dip. I can't thank Ryan enough for inviting me, and Erik for making it all happen.




"Wow! That's a lot of lies"
- The Master of Cards