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Kiwis Everywhere

I rushed into the empty room disappointed and frustrated when I heard a voice behind me, “Can I help you?”

I spun around and saw a man walking my way, “Probably not, I think we missed the ferry.”

Lou and I had done so good making everything on time and even though we had started out at 5am to drive from Napier to Kapiti Island we had made a couple of wrong turns and were about 15 minutes late to catch the 9am ferry over to Kapiti and the next ferry left at 3pm. I was super bummed. Kapiti Island is a nature reserve where they only allow 10 or 15 people to spend the night.

“What’s your name?”

“Martin Green.”

“Well you’re in luck bub, we had enough people to run two ferry’s this morning but I need you to get you stuff together quickly and do a bio check.”

I knew what my definition of a bio check was but something told me he had something different in mind. “What’s a bio check?”

“I need you to reach down in your bags and make sure you aren’t transporting any mice or rats over to the island.”

Hmmm that’s a first, I’ve never been asked to check for rats in my bags before. So I oblige the man and reach down into my backpack looking for rats and mice, luckily no rats or mice this time and hopefully never. The park service has gone to great efforts to eradicate all the furry creatures from Kapiti that were artificially introduced by man throughout history and had preyed on birds like the Weka and the famous Kiwi that do not fly. Even though the Kiwi is the national bird and the nickname that identifies the people of this nation, 90% of New Zealanders have never seen a Kiwi in the wild. Kapiti Island is a reserve that is famous for a whole host of almost extinct bird species. We jumped on small boat with benches well up on the shore as a tractor pulled us out to the water and our new adventure started. We landed on a gravel beach and they threw down a ramp that put us out on the island.

 

Bruce, the park ranger, gave us a briefing and a short history about the island and a few minutes later we were trekking again. This hike would be over six miles and straight up again. My legs had not recovered from Tongariro, we had a choice between the easy route or the difficult route, unfortunately I let Lou make the decision. Here we go up the difficult route.

Kapiti reminded me of the Costa Rican rainforest, lots of ferns and moss covered trees with an abundance of birds. Two hours later we are perched on the top of Kapiti looked across the sea towards Australia. Cliff’s that dropped hundreds of feet down to a crashing ocean.

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The Bellbird, also known for it's song.

The Bellbird, also known for it’s song.

The Weka, one of the endangered ground dewelling birds.

The Weka, one of the endangered ground dewelling birds.

The Tui bird spends the day eating a fruit that gets it a bit tipsy so like most people when they have had too much to drink the Tui like to sing. Tui is also the name of a popular beer in NZ.

The Tui bird spends the day eating a fruit that gets it a bit tipsy so like most people when they have had too much to drink the Tui like to sing. Tui is also the name of a popular beer in NZ.

We had been in such a rush we didn’t have time to buy water so in the minutes before the ferry picked us up I repurposed a couple of coke bottles with water. Most people came prepared with picnic lunches but we were lucky we made the ferry and had none. Bruce our new friend had given us a couple of small biscuits (cookies) so we sat looking over the beautiful vista, ocean crashing against the rocks below eating biscuits and drinking water.

 

We turned around and there was Bruce, he almost beat us to the top. He offered his banana but we declined, it is the spirit of Kiwis that we have seen all over the country. The trip down the mountain went quicker and easier than the hike up but that’s the way life works isn’t it, hard work is repaid with the reward of taking life a little easier.

We headed to our lodging with a bunch of Kiwis. I always like it when I see locals headed to the same destination that I am going. We landed on the north shore of Kapiti and John, the owner of the lodge, explained that his family had owned about 30 acres on the island for many years and there were only four permanent residents on the island.

Kapiti Island is beautiful and before the day would end Lou had me hiking again, this time about three miles back to the top of the north end of the island. I knew this would be my last hike of the day because it would be dark soon and Umi won’t hike in the dark, thank goodness.

As we arrived back it the lodge the Kiwis were in full fledge party mode, between four couples there must have been six empty bottles of wine and the sun wasn’t down yet. They invited us to join their party and within minutes we were all good friends.

I struck up a conversation with Kerry, as we dove deeper in conversation found out that she was the past mayor of Wellington. Kerry and her husband Rex were delightful people and we really enjoyed the whole group, they welcomed us into their relaxing evening.  It wasn’t long before a group of Kaka birds joined party.

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Eventually the conversation between Kerry and me got deeper and more personal as she disclosed it was a difficult day for her, it was her son Andrew’s birthday. Two years earlier Andrew had died after a horse riding accident, she is still reeling from her loss. Later we found out that she had two girls and had lost another child at birth. It was like a page right out of Lou and my history, same losses the same blessing of two beautiful girls. Lou and I became fast friends with Kerry and her husband Rex, we belonged to the same fraternity.  I hope that 11 years after losing Dustin, Lou and I were able to shed some perspective on their loss. I wish Kerry and Rex all the love and luck in their journey of grief, hope and life after loss.

After dinner, we had a briefing on our search for the elusive Kiwi, this time I’m talking about the real Kiwi, the national bird that only comes out at night and is a rare sight, funny that we were going to search for Kiwis with Kiwis who had never seen a Kiwi.

We headed out with a special red light careful not to scare away any Kiwis we found. Kiwi’s mate in pairs and you only find one pair in two acres when they are plentiful, we are searching for a bird that is almost extinct but this is Kapiti Island. We did not have to go far, about 50 yards behind our cabin heard the distinctive call of the Kiwi and we found one within a few minutes.

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The group got a couple of photos and quickly retired for bed. Not me, now I am Kiwi hunter and I am searching Kapiti in the dark for my second Kiwi sighting. I could hear them calling all around me but it’s tough to find a ground bird in the dark. After a couple of trips and chasing down the Kiwi call I did get my second viewing of the most difficult bird to find in the land of Kiwis.

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