Sunday, May 10, 2009

First Impressions

The island is very lush and green. The kermadec pohutukawa seems to be the dominant tree here but there are heaps of nikaus too. The hibiscus up behind the house is just coming into flower again, so the place has a definite tropical feel to it. Living clothes seem to be standard shorts and teeshirt, and occasionally only shorts. It’s pleasantly warm. Darkness arrives very quickly and you need to be ready for the night soon after 5pm. Our generators run from 6am to 10pm but already we are adjusting to getting up and moving at first light. Ten seems like a late night and we are going to have to watch some movies to stay awake for generator switch-off when our duty week rolls around shortly.

I had my first surf in the kayak as soon as it came in from the Resolution, with the water a very bearable 23 degrees. The waves are rolling around from the southwest at the moment so there is a lovely peeling wave right out in front of the homestead; you just need to negotiate the 100 foot high cliffs via the narrow path down to the beach. I have decided to leave the boat tucked safely under a bush at the waterline.

Our first journey on the road up from Fishing Rock where we landed was in one of the little 4WD vehicles and Dave the driver had to keep braking because of the tuis and parakeets which refused to move out of the way. Birds are certainly prolific and Pukekos (“pooks”) rule the roost around the homestead. They stroll confidently around the lawns, their big feet placed precisely in front of them. Every now and then there is a squawking fit as one transgresses some invisible boundary and is attacked by another bird with wings flapping and beak ready to strike. Many have been named by the previous volunteers or the permanent crew, and some like ‘Lone Wolf’ are tame enough to take food out of your hand. They are kind of endearing but it doesn’t pay to get too anthropomorphic when you hear that they kill other birds without compunction. The kakarikis here have made a dramatic recovery in numbers since the elimination of rats and cats. They swoop past in pairs as we walk around exploring, burbling away to each other as they go.

Gaye here- my turn now. I have started digging over the bottom vegetable garden. It now has a 10 foot perimeter fence to keep the pooks out. However as I write, Neil informs me that they have already managed to break in! Plan B is a net cover across the top. They are growing basil, eggplants, chillis and peppers really well here. Some things like lettuce just seem to bolt up to seed and the spuds rot in the ground, evidently. The vege garden is riddled with oxalis so it’s quite a mission to keep it clear. I hope to finish digging the bottom garden over today and have it planted out this afternoon, before we start work proper with the “official” weeding.

All the excitement has left me feeling pretty hyped and I hadn’t had a decent sleep since arriving, so yesterday I went out with Neil and John (fellow vollie) for a run along a four wheel drive track towards Boat Cove at the eastern end of the island. Absolutely stunning bush. In places there were masses of dense nikaus which were growing only one feet apart. Every now and then we passed under huge pohutukawas which had fallen across the track, making arch ways. These trees had obviously re-rooted themselves and started to grow again.

We partied hard last night, our first introduction to the famous Raoul Island fancy dress parties. We were given costume titles which had been drawn out of a hat. Neil was “My Favourite Weed” and I was a terrorist.

Fitting in with the locals

I finally slept well after all that!

I have had my first “go” in the kitchen. It is well set up, but a challenge working out just how much food you need to feed a group of 26 people. Last night we had pizzas made by Neil and Toby- four very large ones. Bas and I made an industrial quantity of coleslaw. Amazing how much food a group of hard working blokes will eat

Our numbers begin to drop today as the four previous volunteers head home, along with some botanists who have also been here for a few days. This afternoon we have an induction into the workings of the goods lift, as we load the gear for the others heading home on the boat.

I am really loving the temperature, birds and bush. I think time will fly.

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