A Travellerspoint blog

putting down roots in aotearoa

rain 12 °C

last sunday, sarah and i volunteered to plant trees on motutapu, a relatively old island connected to the relatively young island of rangitoto (the volcanic one we'd visited weeks before). motutapu used to be a thickly forested island, but the maori deserted it when rangitoto started to appear out of the ocean about 600 years ago, and (more recently) the europeans burnt down the forest to make farmland. only a few ancient trees survived.

now there is a major reforestation project on the island. they hold the current guinness record for most trees planted in one session -- i forget the exact figure, but it's over 5,000, planted by 200-some volunteers. our group, about a quarter of the size, dampened by hours of rain, managed only about 1,200 -- pretty decent, still, i'd have to say.

one group (sarah and me included) went planting in the morning, when the rain was heaviest. we braved it for a couple of hours, taking turns digging and planting the tiny seedlings and a sapling or two. one thing about kiwis, they're used to being shat on by weather with how variable it always is here. so they were staunchly cheerful in the face of the steady wet and cold, and jollily cautioned everyone not to get hypothermia (they were being serious, of course).

we headed down to the shed for lunch, looking a bit like this:


...and while the afternoon group went out to plant, we got a treat: in better conditions we'd all have planted all day, but because of the rain we got to dry off a bit and then keep warm with a hike. i didn't bring my camera, but soon regretted it. we got to see what the fruits of our efforts will look like not long from now. a grove planted five years ago boasted trees taller than me; a grove planted ten or fifteen years past was really beginning to look like a forest.

where we emerged, a road divided the replanted chunk from an unplanted one, and we saw the stark contrast, the empty and sterile farmland dotted by mournful and curious cattle, and the thick, drooping leaves of trees and ferns, birdsong, life renewing itself.

they use seeds from within a 100-meter radius only, and this summer are carrying out a massive pest destruction project to rid the island of its feral cats and stoats and porcupines and so on, so that they can introduce native birds when it's clean.

we were fucking cold and wet by the time the ferry came to take us home. but the end-of-the-day sizzle was hot, the company good, and libby, gael's friend, gave us some fudge cake. and we left some trees for new zealand to remember us by.

Posted by ctamler 23:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ecotourism

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