I wanted to just focus on one volunteer activity that has been incredibly eye-opening for me while helping out on Rotoroa island. That activity is picking up litter which has arrived on the beaches.
Casual visitors to any tourist location are often blissfully unaware of the work that goes on to keeping them looking pristine. That little piece of paradise requires a lot of work to maintain it. I have been amazed for all of the wrong reasons about what sorts of items appear on beaches.
There are those items which, of course, are deliberately left by people (not everyone follows the request to take rubbish home with them), and some which may have accidentally ended up in our seas and then on the island, but I have found the following things on a regular basis:
- Plastic bags
- Plastic clothes pegs
- Plastic bottles and bottle tops
- Fishing line and floats
- Bits of balloons (often including ribbon attached)
I even found a hat once! Sadly, I also found a dead penguin after a big storm.
My message is simple, first consider if you really need to buy and use such objects (surely we are past needing huge volumes of plastic bags now?). If you do need them, consider whether you can use biodegradable versions or re-use those items before you get rid of them. Finally, if you have to throw them away, first check if you can recycle before you dispose of the item in the safest place possible – and thus give the wildlife in our seas a chance to avoid the huge number of contaminants that arrive there every single day.
Humanity is an abomination where preservation of our earth is concerned. If we all take small steps, we can one day hopefully give future generations something to be truly proud of before it is too late.
If you’ve never been to New Zealand, I would like you wish you luck pronouncing the name of this Forest which sits around 20 minutes south of Tauranga on the North Island. If you will permit me, I will try to give you what I see as a phonetic summary – Oh-Tar-Nay-Why-Noo-Koo.
It is a Department of Conservation site which is home to a kiwi conservation programme and there are native birds enjoying the predator-controlled forest too. I wanted to tell you about this because of the magnificent views you are treated to if you are willing to do the Summit Track at around 90 minutes return (moderate difficulty – including a beetle hitchhiker). You are treated to a magnificent (and enormous) view stretching as far as White Island (the marine volcano which is 50km offshore to the North) and Whakatane to the East. It is stunning. My photos don’t quite do it justice but it proves that to be treated to the wonders of nature, you often have to put in a bit of an effort yourself first.
There is also a lovely B&B just down the road in Oropi called Rolling Hills Country Stay, just in case you are tempted.
A few months back I was able to head over to the east of the North Island and visit Gisborne and its surrounds for the first time. Great to get out and explore a bit again! This area has a very low population density and it is a delight to get away from everyone else and relax. Gisborne was a really pleasant surprise, I expected a remote, run down backwater to be honest but it is a compact city with a beach in the city centre and accessible rivers and is in a stunning area of beauty.
In 1769, this was the place where Captain Cook first set foot on Aotearoa (or New Zealand as it became). Unfortunately, as they came into conflict with local Maori, they left the area without any supplies and labelled the landing site as Poverty Bay as it did not give them anything they wanted. Sad but true…according to my Rough Guide anyway!
It would of course be wrong to say that Cook discovered NZ because that remarkable feat was achieved by Polynesian navigators a long time before, but we Brits still liked to claim everything as our own in that era (these days we enjoy past glories in the main!).
Anyway, here are some photos of the East Cape area, from Wairoa and the Mahia Peninsula to the South, Gisborne in the middle (which has three rivers converging in its centre, including NZ’s shortest), and Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay to the North. Tolaga Bay possesses the longest concrete jetty in the Southern Hemisphere at 660m long – an interesting relic of a bygone era now perhaps but still lovely to walk along.
A few months ago I posted about Kaikoura on the South Island of New Zealand in a post about my favourite place on earth. It is a truly beautiful place that speaks to me on some primal level that is hard to put into words.
Yesterday just after midnight a huge 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit that area and has cut off the town. Some people have died and buildings have unsurprisingly collapsed. The main highway on the south island is blocked due to land slips in various locations. At present the New Zealand Navy are heading there to hopefully helicopter supplies in and people out (especially tourists) while other services look to re-open road access. It is great that the Australians have pledged their official support. Thankfully it is in a largely rural area and people were in bed when it happened otherwise the impact could have been worse.
I can only hope that those people and also wildlife affected fare OK in the aftermath and that the damage is not so severe that it rips the heart and soul from the town. Nearby Christchurch is still trying to recover from a major quake in 2011 and one can only hope that the timeline is not so long here.
My thoughts are with the town.
It’s too late to apologise…it’s too late!
Nestled in the Eastern edge of Taranaki province (with great views of the astounding Mount Taranaki), on the beautiful and remote Forgotten World Highway, is the republic of Whangamomona.
This is a small place, which achieved some notoriety in 1989 when, as council boundaries were redrawn, residents were unhappy with leaving Taranaki and so declared themselves a republic in protest. Every two years they have a day to celebrate this landmark and elect a new president. No doubt it brings much-needed tourism income into this remote area too.
The centre of the village is the Whangamomona Hotel which is a fine pub to visit on your way through. Hope you enjoy these pics of the town, and also some sights of the Forgotten World Highway.
Just off the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island lies Kapiti Island.
Like so many off-shore islands in the country, Kapiti is also a haven for native flora and fauna due to the removal of mammalian pests like stoats and possums, and the re-introduction of native plant species.
You can take day trips on a 20 minute ferry journey from the mainland, or stay overnight with a Maori family who still privately own a part of the island. This was a wonderful experience to camp out (complete with private outdoor toilet) with the sound of kiwis and penguins waking you up! Such a peaceful and beautiful place!
There are the mischievous Kaka (native parrots), friendly North Island Robin, bold Weka, fat Kereru (wood pigeon), tuneful Bellbird, Tui, very rare Brown Teal, Morepork (nocturnal owl – named for its call)…and more besides (there are over 1,200 kiwi living here and Little Blue Penguins and Kokako)!
Part of the overnight stay involves going walking in the dark in search of wild Little Spotted Kiwi…and they remained little spotted as we did not see any due to the full moon and their talent for staying hidden…but what an experience it was! Great times, great place, great hosts!
If you are ever in the area, it is well worth a visit! Get away from it all!
On the West coast of the very top of the North Island lies 90 Mile Beach.
Much like your average fisherman telling you the size of his catch, this name is an exaggeration as apparently the beach is only 90 Kilometres in length. ONLY!
It is of interest partly due to its length (of course), for the fact that there are enormous sand dunes that you can board down up near Cape Reinga, the fact that it is in essence a highway up and down the coast (be careful of the tides if you choose to do this…and check your car insurance too).
This place is renowned for car accidents. It is a strange thing to have to look both ways before walking down the beach (and where you park your car!)…and you sure need to be careful where you sunbathe else you might end up with tyre marks on you!