Published: January 23rd 2011January 17th 2011
Friday 14th – Monday 17th January 2011
We spent Friday morning in Wanganui, walking along the river and taking the elevator up Durie Hill. The elevator is NZ's only earthbound elevator (only 1 of 2 in the world?), reached by a tunnel 205m into the hill. The elevator then takes you 66m up to the top of the hill. We also took the elevator back down again as we didn't fancy bumping the buggy down all 191 steps, or have the time to walk back down the roads. It was a clunky old thing, juddering to a stop top and bottom. We climbed to the top of the elevator building for some great views across Wanganui, up and down the river, across town and as far at Mt Ruapehu in the distance.
After a quick re-stock in the supermarket, we headed off to our first couch surf of this trip, a lady called Beverley who ran a mobile petting zoo just outside Levin near Waikawa Beach. Zippity Zoo
Though a little young and small to really enjoy a petting zoo, Samara is so inquisitive and soaks up everything around her, that we thought a stay with some
animals would be great. She is used to our dogs and met a cat at Jens in Ohakune, but what would she be like with larger animals? Much of what Beverley has at her mobile petting zoo, Zippity Zoo, isn't really all that much bigger than Julius, our newfie / setter cross – she has loads of ducks & ducklings, chooks & chicks, goats, sheep, pigs, donkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs, a dog and some cats. The house was packed with couch surfers too, a family of three from near Napier and a guy from Prague. Initially Samara showed more interest in the people than the animals, but over the couple of days we spent there, she did get to meet many of Beverley's tame creatures. Typically though, you could stand with her in front of a goat but if the wind rustling in the trees was more interesting, the goat didn't get a look in, even when it licked her foot! Russell Crowe the rooster was fascinating though, and he let Samara ruffle his feathers – lucky she didn't grab hold and try and put them in her mouth! Mama duck rushing around with her tribe of ducklings chasing
her was also fascinating to watch. Samara also got to “hold” a rabbit, Gorgeous George, and pet a guinea pig.
We walked a while along Waikawa Beach, a wonderfully long stretch of greyish sand with mountains of driftwood. We would have liked a little longer there but it was so hot and there was no shade. Zealandia
From Beverley's we headed south to Wellington. We hoped to go gliding out of Paraparaumu but it was too windy and all flights were cancelled. We'll have another try later in the trip. We arrived in Wellington earlier than planned so had time to visit the Museum of City & Sea and take a ride up the cable car. The museum is free and well worth a visit, telling of the history of the city and some of the many ship wrecks in the harbour and Cook Strait. The cable car saved us more walking than the Durie Hill elevator did in Wanganui, but again gave us stunning views over the city and harbour. We had a quick look round the Cable Car Museum at the top too (again free and worth a look if you are interested in mechanical
things) and a brief wander round some of the botanical gardens. There is a human sun dial where you have to stand on the correct time of year and hold your hands above your head – where the shadow of your hands falls is the time. It was pretty accurate!
We don't recommend the hostel we camped at. It was the only one advertising camping and a reasonable size off road car park, but a camp ground outside the city would be better. The hostel was run down, a sprawling maze of passageways, stairways and deck “gangways” outside. The rooms appeared pokey and the bathrooms in need of updating. One thing though, it was central and the water was hot!
The following day, Monday, we went critter hunting in Zealandia (formally the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary), a “world-first” urban sanctuary, 225 hectares or about 1 square mile of regenerating lowland forest and wetland. They have a 500 year vision to restore this area to its pre-human state, thats about how long it will take the trees to regrow to their former glory, their magnificent size before being cut and burned. There is meant to be over 30 species of
native birds and reptiles, not that we saw them all, it is a wilderness not a zoo after all.
There are over 30km of walking tracks through the sanctuary, but with Samara in her buggy, we could only do some of them. Luckily with a “4WD” Mountain Buggy we could go along several of the “not suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs” tracks and explore further.
Zealandia is well laid out for wandering round with a chance to see most things, and in some places doesn't come across as very wild at all! We were very impressed with the exhibition and the sanctuary. It was amazing seeing some tuataras and kaka, saddlebacks, NI Robins etc., in a place so near the city. Saddlebacks are supposedly extinct on the mainland since 1910 but are thriving here. We last saw them on Tiritiri Matangi Island, and saw several here.
The kaka were really neat. We saw three flying around earlier in the day, then three more at the kaka feeding stations. They have bottles of sugar water and parrot supplement milk as well as trays of pellets where the bird has to stand on a bar to release the lid
to get the pellets out. A lady was refilling the bottles and trays while we were there so the kaka were hopping and flying around impatiently waiting and the ever-present mallards waddling around hoping for an easy meal.
The tuatara were the highlight though. I've been wanting to see one for ages, and we found four here. When they were introduced to the sanctuary, some were released in a research area that had mice-proof fencing and some were released in the open part. Contrary to their expectations, the ones in the open reserve are faring better than the slightly more captive ones. The fenced area is pretty huge, so its not lack of space. We found one reasonable sized one ourselves then a 'ranger' pointed out a small one we would never have found, then we got as far as the board where recent sightings are listed and so saw a couple more. Cute little critters!! The larger ones all have tags on their necks with a series of coloured beads on identifying them. The smallest one hadn't been tagged yet as it was too small / young. Critter Count
Kereru (Wood pigeon)
lots of mallards
North Island Robins
(Wellington Green Gecko – in a “cage”)
Black, Pied & Little Shags
Stitchbirds Heading South
We managed to get on an earlier ferry from Wellington to Picton. We cheekily drove down the check in line, avoiding the terminal, and told the lady in the booth that we had a ticket for the later ferry. At first she said we would have to wait as the ferry was full, then she said she'll call someone and ask, then she was giving us a boarding pass for the earlier ferry. Sweet, we get into Picton at the time we were meant to be leaving Wellington!
There are more photos below