Z for Zealandia
Hi everybody. Jess here again. Now that the house hunt is over (we move Saturday!), I’ve got more time on my hands to explore. Scott and I keep a running list of places we’d like to visit, many of which are weekend trips. But I can’t very well just sit around waiting for the weekend!
I thought it would be a fun to explore Wellington by alphabet. Move from one letter to the next, the hope being to stumble into a cafe, park or class I might otherwise miss. For an added twist, I’ve started with the letter Z – or as kiwis pronounce it – zed.
In the neighborhood of Karori, a 30 minute uphill walk from our place, there is a huge eco-sanctuary called Zealandia. It’s an urban restoration project that strives to preserve endangered species. According to its website, New Zealand has been an island for about 85 million years, and many of the plants and animals have evolved in isolation, without the threat of land mammals, save for bats. As a result, these species are highly vulnerable to the predators humans have introduced over the past few hundred years.
Zealandia’s vision is to restore the area’s natural environment. Nearly a square mile of forest protected by this predator-proof fence, which keeps the possums, cats, rabbits and mice left wanting.
After handing over the $17 entry fee, and shaking out my purse to prove I wasn’t smuggling a bobcat or something, I stepped into Zealandia and immediately felt like I was in Jurassic Park being stalked by a T-Rex.
Zealandia is comprised of many miles (er, kilometers) of trails (er, tracks) through native vegetation, with many steep tracks that reward ambitious explorers with killer views of Wellington. I set off with a map but decided to meander instead.
The first interesting animal I came upon was the Wellington green geckos, which I learned cannot blink and thus must lick their eyes with their tongues to keep clean.
For the next 3 hours I strolled about, listening to chirping birds, reading about native animals, and avoiding the heinous Weta!!!
Many of the tracks were bird-filled tunnels.
Zealandia isn’t a zoo, so I had to keep my eyes peeled. A few of my best sightings were the Kaka – a large parrot – and the Tautara – an actual living DINOSAUR! Fun fact: the Tautara exists only in Zealandia.
All that exploring can make a girl hungry – good thing my veggie burger was the size of a dinosaur! The Phoenix blackcurrant soda is my new fav, though a special treat at $4.50 a bottle.
I’m not much of a birder, but I left Zealandia feeling relaxed and impressed with the conservation efforts. And happy for my downhill walk home.
Next up, the letter Y!