I came across a lot of animals today, but the most exciting were those I couldn't see at all. Travelling from Waiheke Island to the Coromandel Peninsula is easily done, far more so than if you live on the mainland: all you have to do it drive to the jetty at distant Orapiu, on the south-east corner of the island, and catch the ferry which will deliver you to Coromandel in about an hour.
First, though, there's a stop at Rotoroa Island, where they are setting up a conservation park. That's where the contents of these five wooden crates came from: a partnership with Auckland Zoo to help increase kiwi numbers. Eggs had been taken from the wild at Te Mata, on Coromandel, hatched on Rotoroa, and the birds raised for over a year until they'd grown big enough to fight off a stoat. Today they were being returned to where they had come from, to the immense satisfaction and excitement of the zoo and conservancy staff, accompanying them, the two DoC dogs in their vests, the OneNews cameraman and reporter, and all the people on the ferry, up to and including the captain. It was a big deal. And then we got to Coromandel, they went their way and we went ours, wishing Barry Brown and his four lady friends the very best of luck.
Coromandel town, even on a sunny autumn Saturday is a laid-back sort of place with a Wild West feel to its main street and not much going on. Except on the rugby field, that is - and even there, with a reasonable audience around the sidelines, it wasn't what you would call electric. Maybe that's a fault of the standard of play (don't ask me, I wouldn't know) - certainly, there was a lot of chat and socialising going on, little kids playing, people sprawled on the grass looking elsewhere. Relaxed.
Things were much buzzier where I was headed, a paddock just outside town where horse trucks and trailers were lining up, tents and a marquee being erected, bikes being fitted together, and a vet was conducting checks of all the horses entered in the Tour de Coromandel trek, which begins tomorrow. And I'm on it!