From Miranda, we headed South.
Within a very short space of time, we were following SH27 Southward along the Eastern flanks of the Hapuakohe Range. There were some nice views back across the Hauraki Plains in the light of the early morning. The hills of the Coromandel Peninsula are on the horizon.
We passed through Matamata and then via SH29 to Karapiro. From there, the road took us through the rolling back country of the South Waikato district to the Maungatautari Ecological Island. This place lays claim to being the worlds largest such park having 3,400 hectares enclosed with 47km of fence. completely enclosed within a predator-proof fence. The moment you pass through the gates you enter a different world. At the first clearing, there is a feeding station for the Kaka (Nestor meridionalis), the native parrot that dwells in lowland bush.
For our taste, the chatter of other park visitors was unwanted so we set out on the longest of the walkways within the enclosure and, as we expected, were soon alone in some of the most beautiful bush I have seen.
There was so much of it in so many different forms I tried out using panorama techniques on close scenes.
It was neither my intention nor my expectation to have another bird feature so soon, but I can scarcely help myself. At the peak of the track, we heard what sounded like hysterical laughter. It was the call of the Tieke or Saddleback (Philesturnus carunculatus). This bird is rare and endangered and what a joy it was to see not one but three frolicking in the wild, free to come and go.
I am convinced that the best bird shots cannot be had on your way to somewhere. You have to be able to spend time, to sit patiently, quietly and wait for the birds to resume their normal activities. Sadly we were on our way somewhere, and had to move one. Further down the trail, we encountered several other small birds, most notably the Toutouwai or North Island Robin. This little thing is either brave or stupid. It is smart enough to harvest insects disturbed by the passage of human feet, foolish enough to sit on the boots that move.
We had our lunch in the reserve and then resumed our journey. We had decided that doing Auckland to Wellington in one day is fine when you are young, but causes unnecessary discomfort as the years go by. Accordingly we came down the Western side of Lake Taupo and stopped for the night at Tokaanu, famous for trout fishing and its plentiful thermal hot springs. It was a fine warm evening and Mary and I were dining at a table outside our motel unit, when Mary spotted movement in the garden across the little car park. It was a stoat, so abandoning customary meal-time etiquette, I grabbed my camera and took several shots. The best and most distressing one was of the nasty little beast with a bird it had just killed.
The last leg of the journey happens tomorrow.