Home > NZ, Travel > Wild Kiwi walk

Wild Kiwi walk


24 Sep 2006. 5.30pm. Yet another cold spring Sunday evening. I have just reached the Garden City back from my French connection trip to Akaroa and a Banks Peninsula Harbour wildlife cruise. Here most touristy establishments close early in the evening in tune with nature, leaving you options of the pub or early sleep or simple book tasting, for the night. But Christchurch has a Kiwi reserve, called Willowbank open till 10pm. Also, it is meant to be seen in the night as the Kiwi and other animals there are mostly nocturnal. I tell myself that I need to see it that night, as I don’t plan to return to the largest city in South Island.


The trouble starts then. The Best Attractions Bus, that drops you right at the gates, has left for its last trip. NZ boasts itself of being one of the safest and friendliest countries in the world. It is time for me to test it. The reserve is about 5-6km (I guess) away from the Cathedral Square, the centre of the city for all purposes. The YHA folks do not know about public buses serving it. I grab a map of its location and wait at the Airport shuttle. The Airport shuttle driver tells me to catch Bus 12 and leaves me at the stop for that bus. How helpful of him! The next 12 shall arrive after 45 minutes, the display says. Thanks to GPS, most bus-stops here enable you to see when the buses shall come. I look at my map and see that Bus 11 will also leave me close to that place. Bus 11 shall arrive in the next 15 minutes, so I shall be early to the reserve and have more time to see and get back.


6.30pm. 11 finally arrives. In my eagerness to make sure the bus stops there (after seeing one other speeding by without stopping – the driver has to see you to stop), I get onto the middle of the road. But there are more passengers waiting. I get onto the bus and check if I will get close to Willowbank. He says I might. Most people would not know how long it would take to walk, but they all know the drive time. A 5 minute drive means a 20 to 30 minute walk. The ride costs me $2.50. He gives me a friendly warning about standing in the middle of the road, Damn me! He does not know for sure about the location of the reserve. I am the only guy left in the bus at the last stop. It is fully dark now.


7.05pm. The driver gets down with me on Styx Mill Road at the last stop and walks me to a very dark park. He gives me directions to cross the park and hopefully reach Hussey Road where the reserve is located at number 60. But he recommends that it is too dark for me to do anything, though he insists that it is very very safe. Safe is a relative term, isn’t it? The bus would return in 15 min. He says it would be good for me to go back with him on the bus and he even offers me a free ride back. But I am too fixed on my objective, thank him for the kind offer and start walking. I am the only soul in the park. I walk by a lake side, the only lights from up above. Between the two roads, it is dark all along with only the birds for company. I drag myself fast for about 15 minutes when I come to a split in the walkway. It is too dark for me to read it properly. I choose a “Contemplation Point” instead of another walkway and walk there only to realise that it is a dead end.


7.20pm. I retrace my steps and take the other turn. I now cross the Styx River and walk on the other side. In 5 minutes, I see the Hussey road. I walk through the grass and reach the road, relieved to finally get out of the dark gardens. The night is not definitely my friend. I take a smart guess and turn right, seeing more lights that side. I see a house numbering in the 100. Now I have to decide if I need to go the other way. But again I go by my hunches walking ahead and hoping I will find the reserve on the opposite side of this house. I keep walking for 15 minutes when I see a lot of new houses. To my disappointment, I reach another road. My hunches and smart guesses have failed me. The effect of the day trip is maximal by this time and I am too tired now. The excitement and thrill of the late night adventure have disappeared. I should have listened to the bus driver!


7.35pm. There is no one to ask directions too. Half the road is well-lighted and so I walk back to the point where I crossed from. I try to ask for a lift, but no one just stops. It is a dark night and I am standing in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to get back to the bus stop where I got down at. It would be scarier as the night gets darker. I keep walking for 15 minutes when I finally reach my destination. I am so happy at getting there. Yes. By hindsight, it looks easy. I walk the other way and reach the reserve.


7.50pm. Before I book a tour, I enquire about return transport options. I hope that some one gives me a lift back to town. The shuttle would cost me $15, they say. After paying $2.50 for the bus and almost losing my way, I don’t want to pay that. I would have to walk back to get the last bus. Being a Sunday, the last bus is at 9.49pm. The lady is very helpful and shows me the public transport options. The guided wildlife tour should return at 9.15pm, giving me half an hour. I can make it, I reckon. The next guided tour is at 8.30pm. That is enough time to get back my composure. I am now excited about seeing the kiwi and the tuatara among many others.


8.30pm. The night wildlife tour starts a little late. Every minute will affect me and so I pray we finish early. We see the kea, a mountain parrot to start with. It is beautiful. We see mountain pigs next. I am so glad to see the tuatara, one survivor of the dinosaur age. NZ, having been isolated for a long time, makes you fall in love with wildlife. Kiwis go blind at the camera flashes and so we are not allowed to take photos. The kiwis are very playful and it is very good to see them active, though in a night house. Time seems to tick fast. We see possums, ferrets, swans but I am not able to listen to the guide’s detailed commentary. My mind reminds (!) me of my time limit. The tour would have been worthy of spending more time, but I have to rush. I don’t wait for the last specimen of the tour as it is already 9.20.


9.25pm. I check back with the lady at the counter for clear directions to the bus terminus, so I do not get lost again. I am relieved and sad (talk about contrasting emotions) that it would be the same dark Hussey road I escaped from. I resign myself to fate when another tour operator shuttle driver Ian offers me a drop at Cathedral Square. Thank God for small mercies. And I was preparing myself to run (for my life) the stretch because I estimate at least 20 minutes to walk and all my guesses have failed miserably today. And if I missed the bus, I think of having to walk all the way to Cathedral Square, about 6km away at 10pm in the night and have a real night tour of Christchurch. I am saved of all the trouble because of this sweet friendly Kiwi called Ian.

9.50pm. I am in Cathedral Square, close to my YHA, with all the excitement of the wild walk and the Kiwi thrills. In 5 minutes, I am back to the hostel. NZ passes the safe test in flying colours. In the comforts of my room, my only disappointment is that I missed to see the last fish (?) at the reserve, the elusive eel!

Categories: NZ, Travel
  1. sk
    6 October 2006 at 3:07 am

    OMG!! Scary! Walking alone in the night in an alien land. Glad to made it safely and god bless the good souls.

  2. 6 October 2006 at 9:02 pm

    Truly. I knew I took a chance all through. It definitely was the scariest night/day in NZ. But what use is travel when everything is known? Small thrills some day will help me do big adventures, I hope. I can also vouch for the good nature and the helping tendencies of locals here. Right from the airbus shuttle driver to the local bus driver and my good samaritan Ian, I had the best of help. I have had similar experiences in Delhi and Goa, where I managed with the help of good souls. They too make for good stories now. At 10.45pm on the outskirts of Delhi (Badharpur Border), about 20 km from my hotel and all alone as always…, another of my scary ventures.

  3. A
    7 October 2006 at 4:47 am

    I concur with Saranya – OMG! That’s so scary. I was imagining the scene in my head as I read your story and the first thought that struck me was that you are crazy :-)!

    Its nice when complete strangers help you out when its least expected. For all the dire predictions about the end of the human race, I think such incidents give so much hope :-)!

  4. 11 October 2006 at 9:17 am

    A, i know you’d agree with sk. most tamil gals are so scared of real thrills 🙂 that’s a BIG statement, i guess.

    i guess, i’m so used to helping myself on the good nature of people everywhere. and kiwis are definitely as friendly as indoreans, bangaloreans and of course, fellow thoothukudi folks. 😉 madras sadly is missing in my list. the world revolves on trust and goodness.

  1. 9 October 2006 at 5:02 pm

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