I reflected today that tonight (Thursday) is the first night which I don't have anything 'booked' since last Friday evening. I should be feeling more exhausted than I am, but I find that doing so much actually keeps me energised. I've found that being active after work helps me to unwind so much more than just sitting at home - the act of concentrating on something else, rather than letting my brain stew over the events of the day, helps it completely forget. Whilst I should be able to leave work at the door of the office, sadly, that gets harder and harder as things get busier.
So, going to orchestra and playing the Sailors' Hornpipe (it's very fiddly by the time the oboe joins in, because the nice slow interplay between the violin and flute at the start has disappeared when the clarinet begins and speeds things up!), or going to TKD and focusing on getting a flying turning kick right (I can do it when kicking with my left leg, but not at all with my right - the complete opposite of all of my other kicks, where the left is distinctly feebler than the right), or even going out to a sci-fi film evening with friends and watching a silly children's movie (this time it was "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief", actually a really good fun film - plenty of funny moments, with some great cameo acting, and didn't really feel like it was made for kids at all), really helps to turn off the day in the office and give me something else to think about. And that was all just this week!
We also managed to get out to Zealandia on Sunday. This is a fantastic wildlife reserve, created with the long term view in mind, and with the aim of restoring just a little bit of New Zealand to the way it was before man started destroying things. They may not be able to bring back the extinct species, but they are really doing their bit to keep ones on the endangered list alive. The whole area has been encircled with a predator proof fence, specifically designed to keep out introduced mammals. The plant life is closely monitored for noxious (introduced) weeds, things like brambles, gorse and budlea, which are not native to NZ, and which very quickly spread and took over from the plants already here. It turned 15 this year, and the people who have set it up and who work and volunteer there now know that they are not going to get to see the park in its intended glory. Nor will their children, but maybe their grandchildren will start to experience it as it should have been. That's not to say that they aren't already having successes - the Kaka (parrot) population of the park has grown from 17 to over 100, and they have been reported as far away as New Plymouth. The sharp rise in the number of Tui in the Wellington area has also been credited to the park.
They were holding a free open weekend for all 'locals' (i.e. people living, or saying they were living, in the Greater Wellington region); unfortunately, we weren't able to make the Saturday, as we had shopping to do, and then had friends over for food and board gaming (a great evening had, much wine drunk!). When we woke up on Sunday morning, the weather looked grey and manky, but not being ones to let a little bit of rain spoil our plans, we still headed out on a train and bus trip across Wellington. As we got closer and closer into town, the rain and the wind picked up - definitely not the nicest of weather to be exploring 30km of walking track...
By the time we actually got to Karori, it was lashing it down, and we were very glad that Zealandia has an indoor exhibition as well as the outside tracks. The exhibition itself was very interesting - they could have arranged the speakers for the various video displays more effectively, but overall it was good fun, and highly informative. Then we ventured out into the wet to see what we could see, and whether there were any birds who would be as foolish as the humans in walking around in the driving rain. The answer was a pretty resounding "No" - aside from a few Tui and a number of ducks, we did get to see a Bellbird feeding (the first time I've seen one, though I've heard a few before), and we ended up at the Kaka feeding posts just in time for their lunch. Though, we did very nearly miss them, as there were two sets of feeding posts, and they decided to dine at the other one, whilst we stood in the rain hopefully gazing at empty bird tables! Fortunately, we gave up just in time, and started heading back to the main centre, and caught the last couple eating.
The food is kept underneath a metal lid, and the birds have to stand on a "trigger" shelf in order to get the lid to open - the trigger is weighted for the Kaka, and is far enough away from the food that the smaller birds can't stand on the trigger and reach the food at the same time. This is to ensure that the Kaka get the majority of the food which is intended for them (particularly important at the moment as it is the breeding season). You can see the Kaka on the left in the second photo opening the lid. However, some of the more intelligent blackbirds have learnt that if they work together, they can eat - one stands on the trigger, and is just about heavy enough to open the lid, and the other nips in and gets the treats!
I also got to see a Tuatara, or rather, its tail. It was sheltering under the trees, and the volunteers were pointing it out for visitors - the spiny tail looked very much like a branch, and I'm pleased to have been able to pick it out. Next time I hope to see the whole reptile!
By this point, we were both pretty much soaked through, and so we headed back to the centre for coffee, cake, and a sit in front of the heaters before we ventured back out on the journey home.
Whilst it wasn't the nicest of days to visit, and we couldn't get up and see the weta cave - an old gold mine which apparently has plenty of these creepy crawlies for us to look at - it was an enjoyable experience (well, I enjoyed it - I think John didn't like getting wet as much as I did!), and we definitely want to go back when the weather is a bit warmer and sunnier.