On foot on Chatham Is­land

Walking New Zealand - - New Zealand Walks -

But the re­turn walk of eight hours was too much for to­day. So we re­turned to Wai­tangi and drove north to a DOC re­serve at Henga.

This, and the Ran­gaika Re­serve, were gifted to the Crown about 40 years ago. Landown­ers re­alised that the indige­nous veg­e­ta­tion, and the birds de­pen­dent on it, was rapidly be­ing lost.

The Henga Re­serve en­com­passes a high dune sys­tem that was se­ri­ously un­der threat from wind ero­sion.

We parked by the road and fol­lowed a right-of-way along a fence line to for­est cov­ered hills. The track then en­tered the edge of the bush, fol­low­ing a fence line past kōpi trees, laden with yel­low fruit, to join a loop trail.

We turned left through for­est that gave us some idea of the veg­e­ta­tion once preva­lent across the is­land. Then, with views of a lake, the track loops to­wards the coast and crosses vast sand dunes be­fore a steep climb to the top of a high lime­stone bluff.

Here, we sur­veyed high surf rolling in to the curve of Pe­tre Bay, dis­tant vol­canic peaks to the north and a mas­sive red promon­tory to the south. Back from the ridge, large kōpi trees made tun­nels be­tween sculp­tured blocks of lime­stone. The loop com­pleted, we headed back to the car.

Day Five

The North Road was get­ting fa­mil­iar, but, en­cour­aged by a visit to the DOC of­fice in Te One, we were head­ing back north to visit the Nikau Bush Con­ser­va­tion Area.

Pur­chased by the Crown in 1981, it has been fenced off from live­stock and ex­ten­sively planted with trees spe­cial to the is­land. It is only a small bush rem- nant, but the track is ex­cel­lent with many in­ter­pre­tive signs that help un­der­stand the na­ture and sta­tus of the unique fauna and flora of the Chathams.

Only a lim­ited num­ber of plants made it across 800km of ocean from the main­land, and those that did, had four mil­lion years to evolve dif­fer­ent forms. The nikau palm has, how­ever, not changed. Nikau are scarce else­where on the is­land, but this mag­nif­i­cent grove holds its head high as the most south­ern in the world.

Day Six

This would have been a good day for a three hour walk at the end of the Tuku road at the south-west cor­ner of the is­land.

But it was not pos­si­ble to ar­range ac­cess for the Awa­to­tara Bush to Coast walk­ing track. This part of the is­land is the haunt of the parea, a pi­geon that is slightly dif­fer­ent, and larger, than the main­land ker­erū. We were told that th­ese could be seen be­side the end of the road. With some dis­be­lief, we set off, wind­ing through farm­land with ex­ten­sive views down to the sea surg­ing on the reefs.

And there were the birds, feed­ing on grass seeds just over the fence by the road. They are per­haps the largest pi­geons in the world, sur­viv­ing only be­cause of preda­tor con­trol in the nearby Tuku Na­ture Re­serve.

For parea and ev­ery­thing else on th­ese islands, this is life on the edge. You can ex­pect some­thing dif­fer­ent when you em­bark on a walk­ing hol­i­day here.

Above left: Basalt col­umns. Be­low left: Nikau palms and Mt Ko­rako.

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