Reaching new heights in the Takitumu Conservation Area
Today’s article was written by Donna Gast, who is visiting from the Netherlands and doing some volunteer work with Te Ipukarea Society before starting university.
A little over a week ago I arrived in the beautiful Rarotonga, all the way from the Netherlands (Holland). I am here for three months, and while here I am doing some volunteering at te Ipukarea society. The culture shock has been huge so far, in the best way possible.
Last weekend I got to experience the natural differences as well. I was taken to the Takitumu Conservation Area to put out new rat poison baits so the birds can have a peaceful and successful breeding season. Since the Netherlands has one of the flattest landscapes this earth knows it was quite an experience to go hiking in the hills. The highest point in the Netherlands is only 322m, so less than half the height of the highest point in Rarotonga.
At the start of the hike, my heartbeat was racing and I had to get used to the heights, and the new surface under my feet which was definitely not flat at all. Rocks slipping away under my feet and looking for trees to pull myself up to is something I am not at all used to. Fortunately, I found out soon enough that it is wise to check that the roots of the tree are properly grounded first, as you sometimes easily pull them out of the ground. It is not pleasant to have entrusted all your weight to such a tree, and then having to hold the tree instead of the tree holding you. Not to worry, there are plenty of other trees and plants you can grab onto quickly enough without falling down the hill.
As I got used to hiking I got to enjoy the lovely views and I found myself becoming a friend of nature. At one-third of the hike, however, a new challenge was already waiting for me. The sole of one of my borrowed hiking boots fell off. I then had to continue on a good boot on one foot, only a sleeve and socks on the other foot. Luckily, the boots were too big and I was wearing three pairs of thick socks that still gave me some protection. Of course, we also had a steadfast goal, the renewal of fifty rat baits. Although I did not see a rat myself it surprised me to see that rats are picky eaters, some of the poisonous baits they abandoned because it did not appeal to them. I had always thought rats are omnivores, but apparently on Rarotonga they are a bit more fussy. When we reached the top, my eyes were blessed with stunning views, a landscape full of greenery and a beautiful blue ocean.
Walking down hill initially seemed like the easier part of the hike, but to my surprise, I found that to be the more difficult part. There is less overview and it is more slippery. My hiking companion also said that this is her least favourite part, because her toes touch the front of her boot which is painful after some time. All I could think at that moment was, it must be nice, to have shoes where your toes touch the front. The top and side of my one broken boot were now loose too, and the bottom of my other shoe was now starting to give up as well.
The further down we got, the more birds I heard, which was a pleasant environment. It is wonderful to be surrounded by nature and the sound of birds. Especially since the aim is to have as many birds breeding as possible. Fantastic success has been achieved in the last 30+ years In 1989 there were only twenty-nine Kakerori birds left and they were in danger of becoming extinct. Now through the amazing work being done, there are estimated to be more than a thousand Kakerori in the Takitumu conservation area and Atiu (where they have been transferred to establish a security population).
I am truly amazed by the fantastic work that has been done over the past three decades, and I am proud to say that I myself have gotten the chance to be a very small part of it. Lastly, I am also grateful that I survived the hike without coming back with a broken ankle. I would recommend this exciting experience to anybody.