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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

15 April - Matiu/Somes Island

15 April 2014

While I remember:- yesterday we were waiting to get the lift from the first floor (halfway up Plimmer’s Steps) when it opened and released its occupants. We waited as the people vacated the lift…

And we waited as more people vacated it…

And more…

And still more…!

It was like a conjuring trick. Especially as none of these people seemed especially svelte.

Anyway, now to today.

Ann Shelton rang up this morning and suggested that today (being potentially the last day with good weather until about Tuesday next week) we should take the catamaran across to Matiu/Somes Island. This being one of the places that we wanted to visit, we were quite happy to follow her suggestion.

We went to a Wishbone and bought a couple of sandwiches and a nut slice for lunch. They have good food and it’s what’s served on the trains and you can buy it at airports.

As it’s the same ferry that goes to Day’s Bay and is the one that we would have taken if we had visited Diana instead of her coming into town to visit us, we had already ascertained where we had to catch it. What we hadn’t ascertained was where you buy the tickets. The sign said that you bought them over there è in the Meridian building. The problem was that there was no sign to say which building WAS the Meridian building. Fortunately there was a big sign outside saying “Ferry Tickets”.  I bought mine, which was $23, while D.C. got to the island for nothing on her SuperGold card and only had to pay $11 for the return journey. The lady behind the desk asked if we’d return on the 12.25 or 3.25 boat. I said that we’d better make it the 3.25 and hope that it didn’t rain.

I made the journey in the wind on the top deck, where I was able to get photos of the city receding into the distance and Somes (I’ll call it that because I can spell and pronounce it) Island drawing closer. The water wasn’t as calm as yesterday, when it was close to a mill pond, but it didn’t have as much chop as say… Crossing the Rangitoto Channel.
Tugs and Railway Station

The hub of central government  - the Beehive

Once we were off the boat we had to go into the Whare Koire or rat house to check our bags for vermin and to receive a briefing from an Eastbourne Ranger – who was basically an assistant to the “true” rangers…. Who are probably called field workers or something anyway. A bit like Posties being called Postal Delivery Officers, or road works being called “Pavement Rehabilitation”…

I’m not kidding.

The first things we got photos of as we staggered up the track to the visitors’ centre was fungi… Lots and lots of different types of fungi. Different sizes, different colours, different styles. They were fascinating.

Then we had a look around the centre, watched over by the wind turbine. We saw three different types of “alternative” energy being used over there. There was the wind turbine, the solar panels on the roof, and a dynamo powered commentary provider.
Somes Island was "originally" a quarantine station for animals and humans. The Visitor Centre is the old hospital

Decent sized cabbage trees

But first, after a stop to get the lay of the land, we followed one of the paths to the lighthouse at one end of the island. It wasn’t a difficult track, but it still took us some time to get there. 

We’d only gone about 100m along the track when I saw something, actually several somethings, scurry down a hole. We watched and waited and a HUGE (at least compared to Rangitoto’s) skink came out. This wasn’t the skinny little noodle-sized ones that we get at Rangi. This one must have been as long as my hand and a thick as my finger. As we watched a couple of smaller, Rangitoto-sized joined it in the sun.

So of course after seeing that, and others at the side of the track, we took ages to get anywhere as we tried to spot more.

Another thing that held us up was a butterfly that settled onto a bush in front of us. We tried to get a photo, but it did the usual animal thing of going all coy and camera shy and flew away. It settled briefly on the hood of D.C.’s jacket, and as I was just about to tell her this it lifted off and landed on my shoulder. So she got some photos of a beautiful butterfly with a pink background.

The weather forecast for today, according to the radio, was for it to be overcast today with showers this evening. Wellington’s high was to be the same as Auckland’s low. What it actually was, was sunny and hot! I stripped my jacket off and tied it to my backpack with the bicycle cable (aka chain) that I keep in my bag for tethering to unmovable objects when in Auckland (or England). D.C. hadn’t brought her backpack, so she wore her jacket all day.

Other things we saw were other butterflies, 

red-crowned parakeets, 
more skinks, 
and Weta in Weta Hotels. 
We didn’t get to see any of the giant Weta, geckos (wrong season), or Tuatara.

At one point we found a whole lot of feathers – some appearing to be long green tail feathers, others multi-coloured flight feathers, and some grey, downy feathers. There was no sign of the owner and the ranger said a parakeet may have either gone one on one against a harrier and lost, slammed into a cliff and was scavenged by gulls, or else just died of old age. I would have kept one of the green feathers except that you’re not allowed to remove anything from the island. Take nothing but photographs (will 551 do?) Leave nothing but footprints.

We did the full circuit of the island in good time (except for the gun emplacements, which we’re not interested in) and then went down to by the wharf where the tale of ship degaussing was told.

Now… Let’s see if I’ve got this right. Back in WWII the German Navy let magnetic mines loose around New Zealand. Ships would come in around Somes Island to be degaussed, that is have their level of magnetism adjusted so that the magnetic mines wouldn’t be attracted to the ships’ hulls. This was done by metal coil having been wrapped around the hull and then something else done that I can’t remember. We learnt about this process, and what it was like living on Somes Island during the war, through a commentary provided by a lady who had been “85 in the shade” when she made the recording about a decade ago. She’d decided that she’d like to be part of the Navy when she was 17 and a bit and went in for an interview. She said that she knew Morse code and semaphore and when asked by the lady who was interviewing her how she’d learnt it, replied that she’d learnt it in Girl Guides. She subsequently discovered that the interviewer was the Chief Commissioner of the New Zealand Girl Guides, which probably went in her favour.

I can remember attempting to learn semaphore (I can still do up to about E), but never Morse – and that’s no longer an official code.

To listen to the commentary you had to power up the dynamo and a man’s voice would say keep turning the wheel until she started speaking and then when you heard her tell her tales you could stop until the next segment (or it ran out of power).
We called this Pohutukawa the Orangutan tree, because it looked shaggy like a male Orangutan.
As we still had an hour to go we went back up the track and took more fungi photos.

The trip home was with a class of teenagers (about 60 according to the ranger, but I’m sure he was exaggerating). They were a bit noisy on the island, but didn’t cause any problems on the boat.

Once back on dry land we returned to the hotel to recover (read and download photos and recharge our batteries – both electronic and human.)

Mr Plimmer and Fritz

Travelodge in the background

Just after 7.00pm we went down to the foyer to await Ann and Duncan who took us out to dinner at a Southern Indian/Malay restaurant.

Wellington has a very odd layout of one-way streets. Not a problem when you’re walking, but when you’re in a car and it’s dark…

Duncan indicated and nearly turned the wrong way into a one-way street, only managing to correct in time when Ann pointed out his error. After an interesting S-bend dance in the middle of the road… in front of a cop car… he got back into the right lane. The policeman gave him a long, hard stare… But didn’t follow.

The restaurant was very popular and very busy… And very noisy. We’ll probably have to have the same conversations again when we go to stay with Ann and Duncan on Friday. I tried a Malaysian chicken dish (I’ll try and look it up before I upload – Murtabak) and D.C. had the vegetarian version. It was very nice, even if the curry entrée I tried had a bit of an afterburner effect!

Then we came home to recover after eating too much. 

Other photos from today:

The claw - Flax seed heads


More fungi

Crusin' on the Interislander

Fascinating wood

Somes Island wharf

The bay where the degaussing was operated from

Buoy gull - Or is it a girl?

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