Day 13 on Anchor Island. 5th January 2010. Leaving :-(

I’m not myself today. Working for the Kakapo Recovery Programme and living on Anchor Island has gotten under my skin and I’m sad to be leaving. Steve braved torrential morning rain to change Hauturu’s hoppers, and took a shortcut back through the track I got lost on. Tim was busy cleaning hut from top to bottom. I tried to be useful but found the best way to do this was by keeping out of the way, reading and occasionally making the odd round of tea for everyone. Jonathon came in his helicopter and dropped off Chris and his partner, the next set of Anchorians taking over from us. Chris’ partner reminded me of me when I first arrived just 13 days ago, wide-eyed and excited and not tired and exhausted at all yet! It was really nice to see and I hope she will love her time here as much as I have. Then Jonathon collected deer hunter Allan and his tracker dog Nog from Resolution Island (they were coming over to help try and locate mystery missing female kakapo, Hauturu). Didn’t have to introduce myself.  “Are you Laura?”, he asked. I guess they also got to know me through our use of the same radio channel to communicate with our fellow islanders. Nice, brief exchange of pleasantries before we went off on our way. Weather had cleared for a calm ride in helicopter over the sounds, calmer than what it was flying over. Back to civilisation on dry land and we dropped off the hut rubbish and recycling at the largest DOC office in the country in Te Anau (Fiordland is the largest national park in NZ).

Checked into LakeView Holiday Park where I was staying the night, settled in, did some shopping. Weird having to pay money for things again like food and not being able to just walk into the well-stocked pantry and take something. Also weird walking on flat pavements again! Met up with Christine, her partner, Sanjay (DOC workers), and Steve and Tim for drinks at Redcliff Cafe, had 3 beers and was tipsy! Hugged Steve and Tim goodbye. It’s been an awesome 2 weeks. Didn’t go straight back to Holiday Park, sat by Lake Te Anau reflecting on the past 2 weeks. Felt a bit melancholy and wistful. Boots are damp and really starting to smell. Bus at 7am tomorrow to Invercargill. Was supposed to fly to Codfish tomorrow but weather has forced the flight to be delayed by one day, so a free day in Invercargill tomorrow. Will visit tuatara at the Southland Museum, take boots back to Kathmandu, and RELAX!

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Day 12 on Anchor Island. 4th January 2010. Last day on Anchor. Visited Luncheon Cove – Site of 1st European House in New Zealand.

Did the feedout run for JEM for the last time and scribed while Tim climbed trees to count seeds and fruiting tips on yellow silver pine (to get indication of seeding rates – prediction of kakapo breeding for future years). Steve changed Rooster’s hopper and joined u in counting seeds. Rooster turned up while Steve was changing his hopper. Jealous! Haven’t seen him for a few days now, but that’s a good thing. Noticed that finally Kathmandu boots have split after almost 2 weeks of merciless tramping on Anchor Island – they’re only 2 weeks old! Plan to take them back to the Invercargill shop when I get there on the 6th. Fly off island tomorrow (5th) around 1pm-ish, weather-dependent. Too rainy/windy and we might have to spend an extra day in the hut on Anchor. Stay in backpackers in Te Anau for the night, then early bus at 7am the next day to Invercargill, where I am supposed board a light plane at 10.30am to Codfish but weather not looking too good. Might have to stay in backpackers in Invercargill overnight. Finished reading ‘Fiordland Explored’ by John Hall-Jones. Also today in bush Tim and I stopped at Luncheon Cove – site of 1st European house in NZ, where the first sealers lived and the first ship-building took place. Quite a poignant moment, and was really hard to imagine the little cove overgrown with dense native bush as the original hub of life in New Zealand. Now there’s nothing left of the 1st European house, except the space where it once stood. It a great contrast to New Zealand civilisation as it is known now. Visiting this historic site that not many people get to see has really added a new dimension to my exchange year in New Zealand – I love learning about the cultures and practices gone by of this amazing land.

Day 11 on Anchor Island. 3rd January 2010. Feedout-free day.

No feedout of jobs to do today, weather was bad anyway so it was a welcome day in the hut . We drank lots of tea and and had an 80’s and 90’s music day, Steve on computer doing admin, Tim and I on seed count duty (important for estimating likelihood of a successful breeding season amongst the kakapo from year to year, which depends on abundance of certain types of vegetation). Made tuna pasta bake with vegetables for dinner then went for a stroll just 5/10 minutes from the hut to a ‘secret’ rock beach where the boat is kept, tasted some seaweed (Neptune’s Necklace and other types of seaweed after watching a short documentary, Sea Vegetables, produced by the University of Otago’s Science Communication department, the night before). Blew the cobwebs away after spending all day indoors, stretched legs, came back, showered, grated some carrots so Steve could make carrot cake, and watched When We Were Kings, a documentary film about Muhammed Ali and the Rumble in the Jungle.

Day 10 on Anchor Island. 2nd January 2010. Oscar’s transmitter changed and climbed summit.

Tim did Hauturu’s hoppers today while Steve and I went to catch Oscar to change his radio transmitter. All kakapo wear transmitters like a backpack (they’re light and don’t interfere with natural behavior at all as they become covered by feathers as they bed in). He gave us a bit of a chase but he stopped when he came to a cliff edge and put up quite a bit of resistence during his health check too and grumbled lots. Quite appropriate that he was named after Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street! On weighing him, we found that he had put on 60g to become a healthy 2.08kg. In the dash over and under branches to catch Oscar, the GPS fell out of my pocket so we had to search the route we ran with a fine tooth comb as they are quite expensive pieces of equipment. Luckily Steve found it after a half hour search.

I decided to climb to the summit on the way back to the hut. It wasn’t the nicest weather to begin with but just as I was nearing the top the sun appeared. The summit of Anchor Island immediately became one of my favourite places in the world. Will let the photos speak for themselves. Great views of Resolution Island, the Many Islands and the mainland. Was back at the hut 6.2opm, after having set off at 3.20pm – 3 hours, including getting back to the hut via Rollercoaster and Luncheon. Not a bad effort considering how unfit I was when I first came to the island! Steve said I should be proud of myself, and I was!

Day 9 on Anchor Island. 1st January 2010. Happy New Year!

Hungover, but feedout waits for no man. Met the boys who were heading into the bush to collect seed stockings from Providence and Henry’s. I’m sure I was sweating brandy. Home just in time, heavens opened to a stormy night, nice healthy curry by Steve to purge the excesses of the previous night. Very early night and no Rooster.

Day 8 on Anchor Island. 31st December 2009. Hogmanay!

Rainy morning so lots of hut jobs, mostly cleaning for me while the boys tinkered with stuff, fixed things and did computer jobs. Rain stopped in the afternoon so the boys went to change Elwin’s transmitter on Western Loop. I did a quick feedout run for Sass and Rooster on Blowhard after I’d prepared mushroom soup and veggie lasagne for our last meal of 2009 (Edmond’s cookbook is amazing, recipes are foolproof). Met boys on my way out and on their way home, came back to find Tim had made a delicious looking colourful carrot and beetroot salad. I had also tried to make Russian fudge in the morning but by late afternoon it still hadn’t set. It tasted good enough to provide several days worth of sugary softness, but didn’t cut it for Hogmanay, and thank god it didn;t because Tim made the most amazing variation of cranachan with boysenberries, full cream and oatmeal – a very Scottish dessert. I mentioned that it would have been nice to listen to some Scottish music as I was remembering how Hogmanay is celebrated in Scotland, and Tim remembered he had 1 Scottish song on his iPod, so we listened to Frankie Miller’s ‘Caledonia’  to round off our feast. By this time the alcohol was already freely flowing and Tim and I were feeling immensely patriotic and forced Steve into pretending just for a few minutes that he too was a proud Scot! After dinner we enjoyed a beautiful Riesling by Peregrine. I enlightened Steve with a Still Game Hogmanay Special then we got the playing cards out around 8pm, aware that New Year was still a long 4 hours away…! So we played lots of card games including Up and Down the River, Uno and Japanese Snap (which seemed to go on forever, but our competitive streaks emerged and as no-one was willing to concede defeat easily, it was almost midnight when we next looked at the clock). We did have card game interludes however, during which time Steve took the candles from the Emergency Box and stuck them into a couple of empty beer bottles on the table to create a bit more of an ‘ambience’ and we played a game of Roxanne. Roxanne is where each person starts with a full bottle of beer. The song ‘Roxanne’ by The Police is played. You choose the phrase ‘Roxanne’ or ‘Put on your red light’ before the music starts, and each time you hear the word/phrase you’ve chosen during the song, you must take a drink of beer. It’s a difficult game to play without laughing and spilling beer! This is the point when I became rather wasted. Having drunk all, the beer, whisky and wine, we took the last of the Brandy out to the bench, but thought that since we had no neighbours to consider, that it would be nice to listen to music on the bench (approx. 50ft away from the hut on edge of the rocks that meet the ocean). We blasted the car stereo, our only source of music. Outside, the weather was terrible, but we were determined to see in the New Year sitting out in the wind and rain, and just so we didn’t miss it, we went to the bench 10 minutes before midnight. We couldn’t hear any music so we made our own. Tim and Steve did some bad rapping about hut life and then we created our own version of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’ which went something like ‘Country Red, Take me home, To the hut, I belong, Rollercoaster, Anchor Island, South West Fiordland, New Zealand’. Then it was 12.00am! We wished Happy New Year to each other and to our compatriots, the deer hunters on Resolution Island by shouting across the ocean to them, which I’m sure fell on deaf ears! Before calling it a night, Steve and I took the opportunity to have our first dip in the sea of 2010, even though it was freezing cold! We returned to the warmth of the hut to discover the speaker covers had been blown off the speakers by the volume of the music we had hoped to try but forgot to listen to from the bench, and that the car stereo didn’t work anymore. No visit from Rooster tonight. Maybe he had maybe alternative arrangments with his kakapo friends, what with it being Hogmanay and all. Most memorable New Year of my life!

Time passes too quickly… the end of semester 1

It’s already mid January and I haven’t said anything about what happened since Thanksgiving. The truth is that the last three weeks in December were not to exciting.. or maybe they were, just not in a good sense… I had 5 finals and still plenty of assignment to hand in (you never get the break from homeworks here). Luckily, exams went quite well, I didn’t even have to worry too long waiting for the results as these were available in like one week! Anyway, this was the busiest time during my stay here.

But eventually, hectic days were over and I could enjoy me free time again.  i decided to visit my family in NYC again. A few of my friend from uni joined me so we did some sightseeing together and also travelled to Boston, the ‘walking city’. Boston looked a bit dead as all students were gone. But still, it’s a gorgeous place, and it’s a nice rest from NYC:). We visited all the famous places:  universities – Harvard and MIT, The Old State House, Quincy Market, etc.  Everything was really great, but my favourite part was ‘A Harry Potter exhibition’ in Museum of Science. :D’

Anyway, the east coast is too cold for me so I decided to escape to San Francisco for a week. And this is so far my favourite place in this country! It made me sad that I’m not doing my exchange in California (although I really like UIUC).

The winter break passed much to quickly. I can’t believe it was the whole month – felt like a week at most:( I just hope that this semester will be a bit easier (I’m being really naïve here) and I’ll be able to continue my travels. After all I’m not only a student here, I’m a tourist as well.

I’ll write later this week about the biginning of the 2nd semester. Right now I’m a bit confused with all the classes, and I keep changing my mind about them every 5 minutes. although you have to register for all the courses in late November there are still 2 weeks now when you can change. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated, bye!!!