Sunday 29 November 2020

Return to Rotoroa

Talk about island-hopping. From Waiheke to Tiritiri Matangi on Thursday, then back to Waiheke, and off again to Rotoroa yesterday. I was last there three weeks ago, to witness the release of a kiwi chick into the island's safe and pest-free environment, to grow big and strong enough to return to the wild on the mainland. I came again to get the more usual visitor experience: of escaping the city rat-race - well, Waiheke in my case - for the peace and laid-back relaxation of the island. Except it's not. Peaceful, that is.

Since the Salvation Army addiction treatment centre closed down, and the lease was acquired by the island's Trust, masses of work has been done by eager volunteers, and, after just ten years since the revegetation of the island (which had been cleared for farming) the bush is back and burgeoning. And with it, the birds - which are SO NOISY! There are oystercatchers on the beaches, putting on broken-wing dramas to draw you (me) away from their nests, squawking piteously. There are pukeko darting about everywhere on the open grassy areas, hooting away, plus weka, ditto. Tui are a constant, running through their huge repertoire of calls from above; fantails twitter, kereru coo, takahe squeak - and also boom, oddly. It goes on and on, even at night, when kiwi are added to the roll call.

Of course that's not a complaint, and I loved it all. Having done the guided tour last time with ranger Milly Lucas, this time I just wandered, looking for birds and frogs, and having a very relaxing time. The ferry was busy today with people taking advantage of the discounted fare to take part in Experiencing Marine Reserves, which hosts snorkelling events, everything provided, and free. The volunteer hosts were all full of enthusiasm, and it was well done, but the downside of the Hauraki Gulf is that it's so thoroughly fished that even the reserves aren't exactly teeming yet. While I was waiting for the ferry on the jetty at Orapiu, a chatty man was delighted to catch two very respectable snapper in just fifteen minutes.

The EMR event was at Ladies Bay, a long, sandy beach where the women being, er, hosted by the Sallies could swim - round the headland was, of course, Mens Bay, which was a bit more boisterous. The water looked lovely but I knew from recent experience on Waiheke that it wouldn't be warm. It was good to be able to borrow a wetsuit, even though it's always such a demoralising experience, getting into one - and out again. Such a struggle. Plus, it turns out that no-one can take off a front-zip wetsuit without assistance: getting it off your shoulders is impossible.

My home for the night, Oranga, was one of the four rentable houses on the island - spanking clean, remarkably well-equipped, private and very comfortable. I would happily live there, as would many others, judging by the comments in the Visitor's Book. Paradise, oasis, sanctuary, magical... one person was on their 6th stay there; and some came regularly for Christmas, which seems a lovely idea to me.

This morning I was very smug about tracking down the pair of takahe with their chick, exactly where I calculated they would be. That pleasure was diluted, though, by finding a dead penguin on a beach, sadly. Then I spent ages vainly trying to photograph a whitehead - they are so fast, they just dematerialise the instant you (I) click the shutter. Fun, though. 

Finally, it was time to head to the wharf to catch the ferry back to Waiheke, after a properly lovely time. It was only slightly marred, while we waited to board, by an OWM volunteer chatting with Milly, who was being amusing about her husband. "But you married him," he said. "And gave him a male heir." When I asked what difference it made that the child was a boy, he was satisfactorily nonplussed, I'm happy to report.

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