Sunday, December 5, 2010

a dark night on a remote river bed

The epic major leg of the research road trip is just a few days off finishing and this weekend has been a bit of a high note. There hasnt been much going on in the way of research as that winds down to make way for simply getting to the other end of the island. Long days of travel and writing up notes are what's left.

I left friends in Hawea Flat to drive through the valley to visit more friends in Haast. While I had no specific case studies in the area, there was one particular notorious compliance case I did want to have a peep at. That was mortifying as expected so I got it over and done with quickly. On the way to Haast one drives through Mt Aspiring National Park. Mt Aspiring is a most gorgeous area with a thriving population of Mohua. I was lucky enough to spy a couple of them flitting contendedly through the trees.

In Haast there was trout fishing to be done by my hosts so I dawdled around Hapuka Estuary following the activities of a lone banded dotterel. A successful catch made for dinner and a quiet evening of talking and elderflower cordial at their bach. A recent 1080 drop in a nearby patch of forest meant an evening out hunting two bambis that just may have escaped the efforts of DOC.

The forest area was on the Haast River. A trip by 4WD over the gravel bed and a great kayak ride across the fast-moving river in pitch black was a great way to start an evening. less intriguing was being literally feasted upon by millions of mosquitoes. A head net (super cool looking contraptions they are too!), a beanie hat, gloves and every milimetre of skin otherwise covered meant nothing. They munched through the cloth regardless...I must have lost a pint of blood. I am o negative, a universal donor, and assumed that that meant all mosquitoes could attack me...sigh

Being a walking buffet was all forgotten however as a rustle was heard in the bushes on the riverbank. It scurried about frantically for a few minutes as I debated whether the noise indicated a small deer, and tilted my head to listen as hard as I could from my toetoe hiding spot. But it turned out to be a tubby possum lolling about in the undergrowth. It dragged itself garfield-style onto the riverbed and scuffled about in front of us before retreating up a tree and watching us.

Just then we heard from up the valley (and over the drone of hungry mozzies) a footfall. The spotlight flashed and two startled deer reared up and took off down the riverbed. My friend with his rifle (an ss .270 for anyone who cares) attempted a couple of shots which missed. The deer made a hasty retreat around the headland and a trek after them proved futile. But hey, its not about the killshot, it's about the game...right?

Luckily it's been the only adventure on my research expedition involving a rifle thus far!

Northbound now....upward through the mighty west coast!

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