Hugh Stewart from the Forest & Bird Rangitikei Branch had kindly agreed to show us around some of the reserves the branch is looking after. Unfortunately, Hugh had to step out as he developed mobility problems the day before the trip while working in one of the reserves.
After a short discussion in the morning, at the meeting point, our group of 15 decided to explore the reserves without a guide. Dr Jill Rapson had supplied us with an interesting field guide document for the reserves, giving us a good overview of the history, geology and flora of the area in advance.
It was a beautiful summer day. We arrived at Pryce´s Rahui just after 10am, starting our walk following the red route. The track was well marked, looked after and some board walks covered swampy areas. As we passed through some kanuka forest, we started identifying some of the trees and shrubs with our combined knowledge. Soon we found ourselves surrounded by more and more mature kahikatea, mixed with matai, some totara and healthy undergrowth of titoki, kawakawa and lots of others. Particularly fascinated we were by what appeared to be a huge vine growing right up a tall kahikatea. However, the name plate identified the plant as puka, an epiphytic Griselinia species - which meant that the “vine” was actually a very long air root. We heard and saw some kereru, fantails, a kingfisher and others. A magnificent bush remnant for sure!
Only as we entered the open areas with flax, cabbage trees and native vines, we started to see some weeds: blackberry, old man´s beard, nightshades and other pioneers. Back at the car park, the group continued to Hunterville for a lunch break in the park before heading to Sutherlands Mangahoe Reserve. It took a bit of navigation and joined effort to find it but we were successful in the end!
The yellow loop track here turned out to be slightly more challenging, and was also quite narrow. The bush featured some big kahikatea, silver fern and other tree species, with supplejack vines hanging off them. This, together with the sound of cicadas and bellbirds up in the canopy, made for a tropical scenery. From our track, sidling above the forest valley, it felt almost like being in a cathedral held up by kahikatea giants. Further on, the kahikatea were much younger and grew very close - almost like bamboo! A very unusual case. We eventually crossed the valley floor, climbed up the opposite side and made our way back to the road and back home.
(Text by Jorinna)