On foot on Chatham Island
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.
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.
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.