The day out with our SLG friends certainly started off on an auspicious note this morning. Just look what we saw in the sky when we met for a coffee and a catch-up at Porirua before driving on to continue our adventure. A rainbow must mean good luck and safe travels, surely.
It was Calvin’s month to plan our SLG outing, and after our coffee, we drove into Wellington to Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary. Zealandia, formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, is a protected natural area in Wellington, where the biodiversity of 225 ha of forest is being restored. The most crucial aspect of the sanctuary is a pest-exclusion fence, designed to exclude fourteen species of non-native land mammals ranging from deer to mice, cats and possums, which encircles the 8.6 km perimeter of the Sanctuary. With the construction of the fence completed, all pests within the perimeter were then eradicated over a nine-month period. Endangered native birds have been re-introduced, and are flourishing and in the predator free environment.
But we were not here to walk the bush tracks and watch and listen to native birds going about their business amongst the trees. We were here to look through the magnificent Visitors Centre and view the exhibition. This building houses a functions/education space, an orientation/ticketing hall, a shop, an exhibition space, a cafe and support spaces for all of those functions. And being a group of OAPs, we all qualified for a reduction in our entry fee.
The exhibition space covered two floors, and was full of interesting displays. But the “piece de la resistance” would have to be the huge movie screen which told the story of New Zealand wildlife. Before people arrive in this country, birds ruled supreme. Then with the arrival of the Maori people about 1000 years ago, changes slowly happened to the birdlife and the countryside. In particular, the mighty moa was slowly killed off, and became extinct. But the biggest threat to habitat and birdlife was when the European settlers arrived in the 1800s. Huge swathes of native forests were cleared for farming. But even more deadly to the bird life was the introduction of pests, such as goats, deer, rats, mice, possums, rabbits and ferrets, all which found their new home a paradise, with out a single predator to keep the balance in check.
The displays were very interesting, and I pressed buttons to my heart’s content listening to each species bird call. Sadly, so many of our beautiful native birds are endangered these days, or have already become extinct. Such as the lovely Huia, with it’s beautiful long curved beak, and white tipped tail feathers, which were highly prized. Maori people of high rank wore huia feathers in their hair. The group of 12 feathers from a huia’s tail, usually still joined at the base, was called a mareko, and was worn by high chiefs going into battle. Huia feathers were highly prized and kept in a carved wooden chest called a waka huia, (treasure chest).
Another extinct bird which would have put fear into peoples heart was the Haast’s Eagle. With fearsome talons as sharp as tigers claws, and a mighty 2.5m wing span, these giant eagles could tackle a moa 10 times or even more its own weight. There is speculation that it could possibly prey on humans as well. No other eagle in the world has ever grown as big. But when the moa was hunted to extinction, the eagles lost their main food source and suffered the same fate.
After lunch in the Rata Cafe our next stop was to the Victorian styled Begonia glasshouse in the Wellington Botanic Gardens. Calvin is a very keen begonia grower himself, and always has a most amazing display of these in his home. But first we had to walk through the Lady Norwood rose garden.
Next door was the Tropical Waterlily House, home also to many varieties of orchids. Les, Robin and Calvin found the water lily pool particularly intriguing, I noticed. Wonder what is in there which took their fancy?
We said our goodbyes to our SLG friends and started the long drive home, getting away in time to beat the rush hour traffic. But what a slow trip it was. It’s not as if we weren’t warned, signs on SH1 announced that there had been an accident at Otaihanga and to expect delays. We crawled along in the slow line of traffic for miles and miles, singing along to the songs on the radio to help pass the time. At last we finally reached the accident site – it was swarming with men in high vis jackets as they tried to put things right. Oh dear – a truck had tipped over and was blocking one lane of the roundabout. Workmen were unpacking pallets of goods from the downed truck, and loading them on to another one waiting patiently. I managed to take a couple of photos as we drove past. The traffic speed soon picked up once we were past the accident.
We found out later on the news that the semi-trailer truck had been travelling north in the outside lane on the Otaihanga roundabout, about 1.30pm, when it tipped outward onto a footpath. It was loaded with 15 tonnes of McDonalds French fries. The driver escaped the cab virtually uninjured, but was shocked and unable to account for what had happened. The accident had caused delays for traffic heading north from Paraparaumu, (yes, we know!) and was expected to slow the evening peak traffic. Work to clear the highway would not begin till about 9pm, as a crane would have to be transported to the site, and would be positioned across four lanes of the highway to tip the truck upright, before it could be removed. Last year three trucks rolled at the same spot within three months of each other – so something certainly needs to be done about this part of the highway.