We are spending two nights in our sardine can of a campsite near Queenstown. Francine was interested to see Arrowtown, another old gold mining town which is only about 20kms away. In fact, it used to be where the Top 10
sardine packing factory campsite used to be before the current location took over. Arriving relatively early we found a parking space big enough for Busby and wandered in search of coffee. Joy, we found a real Italian café selling cannoli to go with our coffee. The cannoli were divine. As with most gold mining areas, the town looked bit wild west, except for the cars, of course.
At Arrowtown there were walks along the river, a river which was once again lined with lupins though not the broad swathes of the approach to Milford Sound. I hadn’t realized prior to New Zealand that lupins had such a cloying, rather sickly smell but then, I hadn’t ever been in such close proximity to so many before. Frankly, I was beginning to tire of lupins.
We walked along one side of the wooded banks of the river and, as we did so, the lupins began to fade out. We thought that this woodland looked rather British. Birds were plentiful. Astonishing though it is, they made me think.
Entering New Zealand, one passes through or into what I think is termed a Biological Control Zone. It seems a great idea; we could do with some more biological control over things entering the UK and parts of Europe given some of our more recent biological problems. However, where New Zealand is concerned it does seem rather like shutting the stable door after the proverbial horse has disappeared over the distant, picturesque hills. Prior to our visit, we knew that possums have been causing devastation to the native wildlife. What we unaware of was that the imported animal causing doing most damage and most concern is actually the stoat. I now know that the kill traps we had seen on several of our woodland walks were targeting stoats. I thought the entrance hole looked a bit bijou for a possum but now I understand. Rats are also a big issue.
Back to the birds. What do you think is the most numerous bird in New Zealand? Answer: the European Blackbird. That shocked me. Blackbirds are seen hoping everywhere and are heard singing their little hearts out all over the place. Other familiar European feathered friends that have been introduced and taken over include the House Sparrow, Song Thrush, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock (a.k.a. Hedge Sparrow), Yellowhammer, Skylark. We have seen a handful of smaller native birds – one Tomtit and a few of Silvereyes – but they are heavily outnumbered by the imports.
I’m sure worse could be introduced – anthrax or the red weevil that is destroying Spain’s palm trees – but New Zealand’s native ecosystem was completely f***ed up about 150 years ago. That horse is long gone.
We got a new power cable from Maui before sticking our nose into Queenstown, then rapidly sticking it back out again – far too many people.