27 April 2006

Kiwi Listening - Adventures in Mossworld

Hey, so my blogs are now about *cough* 3 months behind.. well I have been busy.. However while I was in the bush I was keeping track in my notebook. Yeah not my powerbook, I got a boan-fida old fashioned used-to-be-a-tree notebook. Pen, paper, bad spellings that don't correct themselves, doodling in the margins.. remember all that? So I am gonna try and catch up with myself.. so here's ya first moss-packed instalment:

Kiwi Listening - Adventures in Mossworld
Photos to accompany this can be found here.

A group of twelve of us head out of Christchurch through the now familiar Lewis pass which connects to the upper west coast, where Happy Valley is. On the stereo is a strange series of screeches & trills, and the ardent listeners quickly cast their vote.. "Male"..."no, no that was Female, I'm sure of it!"'. Its late, we've been driving alongside a wide river deep in the mountains for some time and eventually park up and camp for the night. We're half way through the pass, surrounded by the huge mountains. In the dark by the new moon starlight I can see the shapes of two hulking mountains to the left, and know somewhere between their peaks is the way ahead, on foot. Up between these dark shapes is the Nina Valley.

Only a few minutes back we'd passed the site of some unmarked hot pools so after we are pitched up Karen & I head back down the road to the unremarkable lay-by and head down a riverside track to the hot springs. Half an hour later we are totally floppy, heated through and submerged from the cool mountain night air. How stylish, realxing in a natural sulphur pool shovelled out of the rocks and shale, exchanging gossip about ourselves and specualtions on our chch crew. Above on both sides tower the dark shapes of the mountains framing some of the brightest stars I have ever seen silhouetted against the overhanging Ponga treeferns and cabbage trees. Its totally unreal. Not for the first time and certainly not the last time this year I think 'Wow, this it truly one of the most amazing moments of my life'. Ten seconds later I'm screaming..

..I've just plunged myself into the freezing waters of the Lewis river. What a rush!

So what's Kiwi Listening? It's a survey on Kiwi populations. Kiwi are nocturnal, notoriously shy and well camouflaged. However their call is loud and distinctive. On this survey we go out in pairs and sit between dusk and midnight and listen out for Kiwi calls, them mark their direction, number and gender plus locality and weather conditions. I've never ventured off for some many days before with a tent, sleeping gear, stove, billy, outdoor clothes and and food. Completely self sufficient for a week in the bush on my own two legs. Cripes my pack was heavy!

The Nina Valley is Mossworld! I could rewrite this blog with 'moss' as every third word and still not get across how ubermossy it is. Its knee deep in places.. On good nights some of us slept out under the stars on the soft bouncy moss, it was that spongy.

The first night it chucked it down, but me and my co-listener stuck to our spot on top of a knoll and I sat there under mega-drips from the trees above getting colder and wetter. I didn't even want to put my hood up as it would affect my hearing. There was nothing to be heard in the forest, not a bird, not even possums. So cold! I think I spent the entire last hour pretending I was staking out some evildoers headquarters or a lookout for a welcoming party for some dodgy shipment of something, so I wouldn't quit... The next day I found out we were the only listening pair that didn't give up and finish listening from inside their tents. Bah!

The rest of the week was a glorious adventure through moss and mud, crossing rivers, exploring side valleys up to the tops, stopping to jump into icy, icy rivers before splitting of into pairs at night to listen in a new spot. Check out the pics!

Sadly we heard nearly nothing. There was a possible hearing on the first night. On the last night I got so comfortable in my listening spot in the moss that after midnight I just curled up and went to sleep, then later suddenly awoke. My listening partner appeared.. "did you hear it? did you" "eh?" and thus was the first of many nights to come where I found I had trained myself to wake up to the sound of Kiwi.

We had a great adventure in the Nina Valley. After a couple more clumsy miss-haps and R-I-C-Eing Bonnie suggested I should be wrapped in moss... I also gained quite a reputation as the loony brit that threw herself into the icy water when ever I got the chance. But it was hot! The hike out was very, very hot. I could hardly take it, every stream I soaked my sun-hat so it would drip all over me as I walked. When we reached the icy Nina river again I collapsed into it and lay on my back under the water with my nose poking out and gulped down the water that flowed passed for at least 15 minutes. Not sure how I didn't get hypothermia.

Most of the group then headed back to Cristchurch, but a few of us headed on west, hitching through the rest of the pass to the coast and onto the start of the occupation of Happy Valley....

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