Saturday, June 20, 2009

Getting away from it all

Last week Gaye, Gareth and I went across to Mahoe Hut for two nights.

We had two missions – to clear the fern away from the solar panels that power the birdcaller on the track to Smith’s Bluff and to search for and destroy an infestation of mature weeds that had been spotted from the helicopter when the GNS scientists were here recently.

Solar panels for the Smith's Bluff birdcaller

The birdcaller is one of three that have been installed to try to lure some of the seabirds back from the smaller outlying islands. They had pretty much abandoned this place as a nesting location after the rats and feral cats kept wiping out their young, but now that we are free of predators they need to be encouraged back here. Gareth kindly demonstrated the caller for us while we were there – it makes a noise that is uncannily similar to the sound of his sneeze.

Our second mission was to drop down off the main ridge through three old Mysore Thorn sites to try to find a clump of mature Brazilian Buttercups on another ridge across a ravine.

Mysore thorn - mature and seedling stage

Mysore was originally brought here to keep the wild goats out of the gardens and it’s shocking stuff as the pic shows: bristling with needles. Luckily our predecessors have dealt to most of the mature stuff with the big spikes, but the little fellers keep making a comeback as our tally of 131 seedlings shows.

The search and destroy mission went perfectly as per Gareth’s plan. Thank goodness for GPS – we had to bash our way down a near-vertical face, clinging to scrubby bracken, and then ascend the one opposite. It could easily have gone wrong as there were steep bluffs both above and below us, but the GPS told us exactly when to leave the spur and cross onto the slip face that had allowed the weeds to flourish. We walked straight into the weeds plot.

Mature Buttercups are increasingly a rarity on the island as DOC’s cleansing project takes hold. We are much more likely to encounter puny little seedlings than the 4m plants that had settled in comfortably at this sunny little spot, and were seeding prolifically. Some days we cover many kilometres and don’t encounter a weed at all.

This trip was a full day out and my tired body was grateful to get back to the hut and curl up with a book and a hot mug of milo.

As with all of Raoul’s little spots, Mahoe hut has its own flavour.

Mahoe Hut

The piles are a bit loose, so it feels a bit like an earthquake is happening each time someone ventures across the floor. Sometimes there ARE earthquakes, like the one we read about in the hut book that tipped the entire contents of the pantry on to the floor.

The three hut books span back in time to the Forest Service and professional goat and cat hunter days. My favourite weather girl Karen Olsen has an entry in one of them (Gaye sniffed rather unkindly that it records the fact that she couldn’t find her way down to Sunshine Cove from Mahoe Hut).

Pohutukawas -under

Many of the earlier entries moan about getting lost and the #@&* windfalls that have already become so familiar to us.

Pohutukawas -over

One poor soul had to abandon his pack and rifle to crawl up to the hut as he was exhausted and his legs were cramping badly.

Anyway, with mission accomplished we returned to base via Moumoukai, the highest point on the island.

Looking across Blue and Green Lakes to Nugent and Napier Islands

We were rewarded with spectacular views across the crater lakes to the offshore islands out to the north of Raoul and meandered back to hot showers at base.

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