The Manawahe Kokako Trust is made up of a bunch of ordinary people, housewives, teachers, doctors, administrators, nurses, tradesmen, and even a dentist. Middle aged and older, they have been giving up their spare time for 20 years to try and save a small population of kokako. They trudge up and down bush covered ridges to clear traps, fill bait stations, monitor nests and put out and collect tracking cards.
I have just put my cards out. There are 9 tunnels (there should be 10 but the dog ate one) that start just below our house and end at the top of the ridge to the west of our driveway. Actually, I do it backwards, starting at number 10 and finishing at 1 because it’s easier, apparently. The track covers about a kilometre in a straight line on the map.
If you have ever been on one of the great walks, you will know what a good track is like. Well, our tracks are not like that, at all. They were put in by athletic 20 year olds with no thought for the 50 plusses that were going to have to work them. And they didn’t actually cut tracks. They put up markers on a GPS’d line. They followed that line religiously too, up banks, on the edge of cliffs, through swamps and over ridges.
Because I only do a rat monitor twice a year, I spend a lot of time trying to work out which way to go. The undergrowth has done a good job of covering the track since last time and we’ve knocked off the pests that were keeping them clear. And when you attach markers to trees there are always problems. The trees fall down or spit the nails out or even absorb the markers. Now, I go out with a woman’s peculiar lack of direction, a post menopause memory and a wet winter’s level of unfitness, there are trees down, the ferns are in full spring flush and do you go left or right here and, bugger, that’s right, it’s straight up.
So 8 tunnels later, at the very top of the ridge, your feet hurt because you haven’t cut your toenails in a while and your legs look like you’ve been dragged through the blackberry backwards and you’re in a sweat and your nose is running and you lost your tissue somewhere back down the hill and you edge around the roots of yet another windfall giant and see the corner of tunnel number 1 sticking out from under the horizontal trunk. Really? You’ve slipped and slid and tripped your way up here for that? What is the point?
Then to completely ruin your day, while you’re sitting there with the wettest winter in years seeping through your pants and you’re wondering whether you’ve got the energy left to pull the tunnel out, a stray breeze dumps a tree load of dew or water or something on your head. Only, when you scowl up at the heavens, it wasn’t a breeze at all but a pair of kokako that have probably come to see what all the fuss is about. They are looking down at you looking up at them. You can’t help but smile. After all, they are the point.