One Robin

November 30, 2016

start-1It’s a tiny black and white bird that drops onto the track and peers up at us in some sort of weird avian challenge to our right to be on the track. He seems not at all perturbed by our size and proximity but soon flits off, joins another of his type and starts a chase through the fern and moss draped branches that close in this part of the track. We stop and watch them for a moment or two and before we know it the group has vanished into the bush. This is thick scrub and its capacity to swallow up fellow walkers and sound is not unlike the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea. We departed Rakiura Retreat at 0834 this morning amid birdsong  – tui’s chatting and chortling like possessed things. We reach the head of the track at 0937 at which point the bird chatter vanished altogether. It’s a strange thing but the bush is dark and silent. But welcoming and embracing as well. I had dropped Kathryn at the head of the track with all our packs at 0815 then returned the car and joined the others to walk back to the head of the track. That means we walk 5km to the start line without our packs. It’s a nice way to start. Read more

Two Kakas

November 29, 2016

arrive-1On last light , which at this latitude is about 9.30pm, two parrots arrive on the roof with a clunk. A few minutes later the older of the two shifts to an outstretched arm of one of our neighbours and chows down on a piece of apple. It’s a silver domed, bright eyed, ruby red bellied Kaka, with a wicked scythe of a beak and a raucous call. Soon one is on our arms eating dates from scones Barry brought along. The second, clearly a fledgling, is not so confident about the interaction with humans and fluffs its feathers, arches its neck and screeches its protest. Its parent, if it is such, pays no attention and gently and calmly works on the fruit it has so delicately taken from our fingers. Read more

Four Starlings

November 26, 2016


firs-1They sat sparkling on a powerline. Huddled together in the sun after a shower of rain had passed through. A fifth sat a little further off, like a barely tolerated younger sibling that could be oh-so annoying. Sitting above butter yellow gorse, against a green backdrop of fields that is so vivid we spent all afternoon commenting on how unreal and artificial it seemed. Starlings. Gorse. Verdant paddocks. Little things that remind me of how different this place is from what I now call home. The differences announced themselves at first light with audio cues. The constant blackbird and thrush chatter, and the calling of ewes to lambs and lost lambs bleating for ewes. All so familiar and yet equally so far removed by all those decades the sounds startle me even while they transport me to childhood times when they were a common backdrop. The whole day has been marked by those sorts of cues and reminders. Read more

Multiple Memories

November 25, 2016

ratbags-1Stewart Island Journal

November 11 . It’s a day in which to remember. To remember the fallen alright. Our glorious dead, though glorious only because of what they gave us. I wonder, if they ever are conscious of it, what their spirits make of that. A waste? A gift? Too much focus on glory and not enough on dirt? A death laced with glory and honour or salted with more sordid things? It’s a day to remember the living as well. And the opportunities gifted us over a lifetime that in retrospect has flashed past. Forty years ago this month (I have misplaced my diary of that time so don’t have specific dates. The diary was written in green ink – the only pen I could find I guess. Words as well as sketches. It would be good to unearth it) we walked Stewart Island. It was a formative walk in many respects and the memory remains vivid and full of colour and sound, voices and shouts, sand and moss under my feet. I can taste and feel the place, the intervening forty years notwithstanding. Read more