Thursday, 9 February 2012

Little River, New Zealand - The birds

Here’s a funny wee story. In December 2010 when “the bicycle diaries” and my world cycle adventure were in their infancy, I was riding north through Argentina and made a stop in El Bolson. There I met an English couple, Hugh and Pauline, who were also cycling through South America and we spent the afternoon chatting over ice-cream. Well a week ago in Hokitika would you believe that our paths crossed again as Hugh and Pauline made their way south down the west coast on their bicycle tour of New Zealand. As Harry Hill would say … What are the chances?

Since cycling out of Hokitika I’ve also crossed paths with two interesting New Zealand birds. My first encounter was with a weka, a large, brown bird that stomps about in the undergrowth as if it owns the place. I was camping at Goldsborough, a post gold rush ghost town, and cooking my supper in a little shelter. I heard the rustle of plastic bags from the vicinity of my tent and when I went over there I was just in time to catch a weka making off into the bush with my new, unopened bag of breakfast cereal! I had to admire the bird’s boldness and gave it some cereal anyway. But New Zealand’s most mischievous bird is the kea, an alpine parrot with gorgeous, rich green plumage across its back and a stunning blaze of red under the wings that it shows off as it flies through New Zealand’s high forests and rocky peaks. I had camped in Arthur’s Pass Village, high up in the Southern Alps, but had been warned not to leave my tent or bicycle unattended as the keas, in their search for food and fulfilment of a rubber fettish, regularly destroy both with their long, sharp beaks. I locked my bicycle safely inside the cooking shelter and all evening kept a close eye on my tent. I was just drifting off to sleep, feeling smug that I had foiled the pesky parrots, when the streetlight projected onto the side wall of my tent, like something from an Alfred Hitchcock film, the shadow of a kea stalking my pitch! I was out of my tent faster than you can say “pretty Polly” to scare it away!

I had cycled to Arthur’s Pass Village on my third and last crossing of the Southern Alps via the long and very steep Arthur’s Pass. Another couple of days of tough riding through rugged mountain landscapes took me over Porter’s Pass and down a fast descent onto the flat Canterbury Plains. I’ve now cycled out onto the Banks Peninsula which is the remnants of an ancient volcano, split apart and flooded by the sea. I’m spending my last few days in New Zealand in a little slice of heaven at a lovely little place called Little River! No avian problems here – just the tuis and bellbirds making beautiful birdsong.


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