I’m not sure of the rules elsewhere but here in New Zealand we’re allowed out of our homes for daily exercise as long as we stay within our social bubbles and our local area. So, for us, that means not driving across the city to the local beach or to my favourite Wellington walk. Which is a shame but needs must and at least we get to explore the mean streets of the city. Not that any street in Wellington could be described as mean, especially when they are practically deserted.
We’d been in this apartment only two weeks when we were locked down so local for us still means unexplored. We discovered this little pathway yesterday less than a five minute walk from the apartment. It leads up to a playing field at Victoria University (where we had to be aware of social distancing as someone was jogging around the perimeter).
Wellington is laced with little paths and alleys that link streets and parks. Many are stepped and too steep to cut a road through. Some date back to when settlers first arrived here. Some, like this one, lead through part of the town belt; others seem as though they are merely a path to a house until you note the sign above with a tiny walking figure and a street name. All are well used, a means of getting from A to B without going all the way around the alphabet. For the first months after moving to Karori I walked at least half a km out of the way, following a road, before I discovered a path that cut ten minutes off my journey into the city.
Compared to other countries we have few native birds, but most have little quirks that identify them. The bird on the left is a tui, about European magpie size, and Neil’s photo of one is below. It has a tuft of white feathers sticking out of its chest, causing early settlers to name it the parsonbird (the first time I saw one I thought it had injured itself) and an amazing sound, an array of calls, clicks and whistles. It’s impossible to mistake a tui for any other bird and, when you’re new to a country, walking in a dense forest, and you hear what sounds like a frog with a sore throat trying to wolf-whistle you, believe me, it’s enough to quicken your steps towards the car park. It’s fanatically territorial and if there are two around prepare to duck as they won’t bother to try and avoid you if they’re on the chase. No one can rock the tui-beak-in-the-forehead look.
The other is a fantail – do I need to tell you why? – the size of a sparrow. Its Maori name is piwakawaka, for the sound it makes. It’s a friendly little chap, chirruping away in the trees until you walk by when it will come and flit around you looking for any insects you might disturb and that it can snag for a tasty treat. It’s very cute and, that tail making it impossible to fly straight, the worst you can expect from it is a feather in the face.