Kosci Kosci Kosci, Oi Oi Oi

Crossing that bridge to the unknown.

To say that the past two years didn’t take its toll, would be a lie. I thought I was reasonably okay with everything that surrounded the COVID-19 pandemic, but on hindsight, I did feel down and uninterested in most things. Especially with regards to running, training, events, and everything running related, but also going groceries shopping or even just out for coffee. The constant reminder via masks, the tracer app, QR codes, and the resistance-inducing smell of sanitiser, was all a bit overwhelming and distressing, and it was almost as if social distancing became attractive and comfortable – not needing to interact with others. It was promoted everywhere – keep your distance, stay two metres away from others, and so on completely the opposite of normal human behaviour, wants and needs.

During the very first month-long lockdown, Gerry and I trained heaps – 465.5km in one month to be precise. I loved everything about it, apart from the fact that the virus was new and unknown, and just a little bit scary. I loved that we could run, and still get lots done around the house. It was also the first time ever we ran more than a hundred kilometres in 24 hours outside of an event. 

At the time I thought we were well set up for an ultra in the near future, but for some reason we just about stopped short the moment everything went online and all events were cancelled. I can’t explain why or what exactly happened, but before I knew it we hadn’t run for months, and we were back to square one. It always amazes me how quickly that happens, and how being sedentary creeps up on you so easily. Laziness seems to be the default mode.

The fact that events were cancelled left, right and centre, didn’t help. With the lure and prospect of an upcoming event off the table, keeping going didn’t feel important enough. I know it is and one should never stop moving – move it or lose it – but it always helps if there’s an event on the horizon.

Finally, after two years of not feeling interested in events in the least bit, I found one that got me a little bit excited: the inaugural Ultra-trail Kosciuszko by UTMB, in Australia. It is a sister event of the UTA and TUM. There are four distances to chose from (27k, 50k, 100k, and 100 miles), allowing 450 participants in each distance. 

Since we did our first marathon and ultra in South Africa, and our first 100k in New Zealand, I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that our first 100 mile event should be in Australia – a tri-nations of our running endeavours if you will. The event seems to be not super technical and might be the perfect introduction to a 100 miler. Only problem is, we’re almost starting from nothing and have to be ready by the end of the year. 

To kick things off, we decided to do a 15k for 15 days base-building stint, finishing our last 15k at a slow trot. Almost every outing was a run-1-walk-1 kilometre to help build a base without breaking ourselves by trying to run everything. Occasionally we walked the whole 15k, as often these outings took place after work and partially in the dark, and sometimes one just don’t feel up to running anything. There will be lots of walking involved in a 100 mile event (for a normal person), so training the walking muscles is a no brainer. Having to do this after work meant that we also already started using headlamps – another good thing to get used to.

On the eve of our last base-builder, we hauled out some big sheets of paper and coloured pens and started drawing up a training plan. Even though we plan to build up to reasonable weekly mileage, we will still be walking about half. Time on feet is after all what we need. Unfortunately, time is the one thing we battle with on a full-time job for Gerry, including 30 weeks of night and weekend classes for the year. To juggle everything around to get enough training, especially during the winter months, will be the biggest challenge.

On the up side, I haven’t been this excited about an event in a very long time. Now just to keep to our schedule, and not get sick or injured. Of course maintenance will have to come into play also – foam rolling, stretching and strengthening. 

The prospect of being signed up for a 100 mile event is very exciting, but at the same time I am scared senseless. A hundred miles is a very long way, and staying awake for 35-40 hours will be super challenging, let along trying to move for all that time. But scary challenges are always a good thing – something that will get one out the door and doing the homework.

The big question now is, what is further, a 100 miles or 161 kilometres?

The intrepid trapper: Week 21

After 21 weeks of exploring and seeing, up close, a part of the country I never would have otherwise, my adventures came to an end at the Southern Ruahine Kiwi Habitat Restoration Project.

Life is a funny old thing, and the only certain thing is that everything is uncertain. It is nonetheless sad for me and a very difficult decision to have made to leave. Due to a number of reasons – none of which had anything to do with working outside, in sometimes challenging weather, cleaning rotten critters out of traps, and often being knee deep in mud or cow poo – I made the call to move on.

We went for a run on the beach on a beautiful sunny day which was good, and topped it off by scoffing down some fish & chips which was perhaps not the healthiest but very good. You win some, you lose some.

Ultreia et suseia

The intrepid trapper: Week eight – 28 Feb – 1 March

28 February – Knights Track service

After not much sleep, and a too early start on a Monday morning, Gerry and I got up to meet Nina in Feilding for a trip to the Limestone Carpark and up the mountain. We were due to check the traps on that line.

The weather forecast looked okay, even though predictions for some windy and cool weather were on the cards. And perhaps even a few spits of rain.

Knights Track involves two stream crossings. I took an extra pair or running shoes again for the first couple of kilometres, after which I swopped into my hiking shoes. Fortunately, the stream levels were down enough that we could rock-hop across, so the extra shoes were redundant.

The steepness of the hill has unfortunately not magically changed. It’s still goes straight up. We were cruising along nicely, huffing and puffing up the mountain, with nothing exciting to report, when I got the distinct smell of ham. We were reasonably high up the mountain, but still in the bush. For a short stretch the flavour accompanied us, making my mouth water.

When we finally made it out of the tree line and not far from the top, we stopped for a few minutes to catch our breath and have a snack.

Unfortunately, there were no pests in any of the traps. We did replace the mouldy bait as well as where the bait was missing, with dehydrated rabbit. Just as an experiment, I replaced the bait in one trap with the core of an apple I was eating. Would be interesting to see if it lures any pests into the trap. On a previously occasion I noticed that the bait looked like it melted in the trap. I thought might be the heat above the treeline, or the humidity. But on closer inspection, I saw that it was the work of maggots processing the bait to look like it was ‘melting’ away.

Mist was rolling in over the ridge, but we had near perfect conditions again. While walking up and down the mountain, my mind kept drifting to Squadrun head honcho Kerry Suter, who had a very serious MTB accident the past Saturday, when he broke his neck. The thought that he will likely be paralysed and not be able to walk again, is too much to fathom. He is a good athlete, a coach, an active individual. It is heartbreaking to imagine the outcome, the trauma and a forever changed life and future he and Ali will have to work through and deal with.

In an instant, life as we know it, can be something of the past. I am grateful to be able to still walk up the mountain, and will try to never become blase or take it for granted.

1 March – Cone Creek

Can’t believe how time flies, but it’s been a month since we set out the traps in Cone Creek. Since it is on Jim’s property, Ian arranged that we pick him up in Apiti at 9am.

I met with Ian in Ashhurst, and together we drove to Feilding to pick up Nina. The season is starting to change, and it is only starting to get light at 6:30am. The night temperatures have also dropped somewhat and I had to put on a few layers when we left home. Fortunately there was no wind, and as soon as the sun was out, the day warmed up. In the shade I still felt cold and was glad I kept my polyprop top with me.

We parked the ute and started walking the line not far from Jim’s private hut. The first section is through the forest and down into the valley to follow the stream. As usual, we criss-crossed through the water going upstream while stopping and checking a trap every 100 metres.

The dehydrated rabbit was again either missing or mouldy in most traps. They do seem to do the job, as we caught a few pests.

In one of the traps, I cleared out what looked like it could have been a black possum. Initially I thought it might be a cat, but the verdict between us four was that it was a possum. It was so decomposed, that it only came out in drips and drabs, making the cleanup quite challenging. Bits of possum were stuck to the bottom of the box, underneath and on top of the trap mechanism, in the mesh where it negotiated the small hole to get to the trap, and it was generally speaking a gigantic mess of rotten possum, maggots and dreck to get out of everything. As I was covered in rotten animal, I couldn’t take my phone out for photos, but Nina and Ian took some.

Not too long after, we reached the far end of the line and turned around to return the way we came.  This trapline remains a mystery to me, and I know it will take me three times as long to find my way up and down the creek. With slips, fallen trees, side streams, and little waterfalls, you have to know your way to be on the right side of the stream for each section. Due to all of this, we cross the stream all the time to find the best path. Fortunately Jim knows this valley like the back of his hand, and despite often not walking the exact same route, he always finds the exact spots where we need to cross the stream, or clamber in or out.

Back out of the valley, we had our respective quick lunches and a cup of tea, courtesy of Jim, at the hut. From there Nina and I walked down the fence line to check the traps, while Jim and Ian drove up ahead to service a couple of possum traps and check the traps lower down the farm.

All up, we killed eight hedgehogs and one each of a rat, a stoat, and a possum.

On the way back to Apiti, we checked seven of the nine traps at Sixtus lodge (a school group was busy at the buildings and we didn’t want to intrude) that are also now part of our project. It’s been a couple of months since they were last checked, so things were a bit rusty (one trap didn’t work at all), and none of them had bait anymore. Some of the pests were quite decomposed, but we got rid of one hedgehog, two rats, and something unidentifiable.

A good day, and a good few less pests to worry about.

On my third work day for the week, Nina had a sick child to look after, so plans were made to work on the Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it this time, so will have to use some of my time in lieu.

The intrepid trapper: Week seven – 20-24 February

Day 21 – Mid-Pohangina trapline service

And just like that it was time to service the Mid-Pohangina trapline again. I will admit that this is not my favourite. Apart from the fact that a 4WD is needed to get around the farm, the first couple of kilometres involve puttering through a muddy, pooped, swampy paddock, before jumping a fence and making our way up the Pohangina River. This river will of course be problematic when it rains, and will no doubt be super cold in winter. Furthermore, the track is not maintained and runs along the edge of steep drop-offs or slips. Deer running down the mountain exacerbate the slippery areas and erode the track. Some areas are quite overgrown and I still have a niggle in my neck from our previous trip when I walked straight into an overhanging tree stump.

Nina and I met early in Palmy, drove to Ashhurst where we met up with Ian for the drive to Kim’s farm. The temperature dropped the previous night, and was still cool in the morning. It was also rather windy at our place, and by the time we reached the farm, the sun was out (apart from a thick bank of cloud on the mountain), the wind was still reasonably fresh, but the temperature was okay.

Ian came along to show us the locations of the traps on the farm side (true left) of the river, as well as doing some track clearing. On our previous trip, we searched for them, but couldn’t find any. The area is between the river and a bluff/ridge, but little creeks, trees, ongaonga and lots of windblown trees, stumps and branches are scattered everywhere and tall grass, flax and toitoi make it hard to see where one is going. Add to that rocks and trenches and uneven ground, and it makes for slow, arduous progress. We nearly stepped on a wasp’s nest while trying to make our way through the dense growth.

Once we finished bundu bashing to find the first four traps, we had to cross the river. It looked okay from the top, but of course it is a different story standing right next to it. We cross at one of the wider spots, which is usually more shallow and therefore safer. Still it was a bit over my knees in spots and each time I lifted my foot, the pull of the water would pull my foot downstream. It was still fairly okay, but just to be safe and to ease my nerves, I held onto Nina.

The traps on the flat area on the true right of the river again had the most action. On each side of the river we killed a hedgehog, and on the true right we also killed our first weasel, which was quite exciting. Crossing the Piripiri River I could rock hop. Not that it mattered, as I had wet feet already.

We made our way up the mountain and into the valley on the narrow track with too many dodgy spots for my nerves. The traps were baited with dehydrated dried rabbit the previous time, and again in more than 50% of the traps, the bait were either missing (eaten by mice?), or it was completely mouldy. I am of course a total amateur at this, but to me it would seem that the dehydrated rabbit might be a waste of money. The climate is probably too humid, and/or the rabbit is not dry/dehydrated enough?

We rebaited all the traps with eggs which Ian brought along. Carrying 36 eggs on difficult terrain with some river crossings is risky business, so I took rabbit bait along, just incase one of us arsed over and broke all the eggs.

The muddy patches and little stream crossings were more muddy and some areas that had been dry on some of our previous trips, were now also muddy. We heard deer again higher up, roughly in the same spot as where I heard it last time.

The trip back turned into a bit of a race. It was pedal to the metal and in places I had to break into a few steps of jogging to keep up.

After crossing the rivers, and back in the flats on the true left again, we tried to follow the track Ian showed us, and marked it to some extent with pink tape, but I’m quite sure I might not find the way again next time.

Disappointing that we are not getting more pests up the mountain, apart from the odd rat. Maybe the pests haven’t discovered the traps yet, there’s not enough food for them, or there might be some other explanation we do not yet know about.

Day 22 – Jock’s farm trapline service

Another big day for us, covering at least 12kms with 750 elevation – similar to Mid-Pohangina (11km, 625 elevation).

It’s been three weeks since our previous service, so we headed out to Jock’s to check the traps on his farm. Since we cannot expect the farmer to take us around on his quad bike every time we service that line, we opted to walk to see how long it takes. We managed to do it in 4.5 hours, but that was going at quite a clip. And in good weather; warm, no wind or rain, just a calm, sunny day.

We met with Jock before we set off, and also dropped off 20 traps in his shed that will be deployed in the bush behind his hut at a later stage. Some work needs to be done in this area first, as it’s all overgrown.

After a short little downhill to cross two streams, the track goes uphill for the most part until we reached the hut after 4k. Being that high up the mountain, and being wet from sweating, it was quite cold. We stopped for a quick bite to eat, and some much needed water.

Going back down the mountain, the wind was less and it quickly became very hot again. We rebaited all the traps with eggs, as some of the dehydrated rabbit was missing or mouldy again. One trap was knocked down the bluff and had to be retrieved, but the one we hid in the ongaonga to stop the cattle from knocking it into the wetland, stayed put. It is a bit challenging to service though, and unfortunately (fortunately!) it also contained a dead hedgehog, making the whole process of servicing it even more tricky.

We numbered all the traps to respond to the numbers on TrapNZ, and between traps 24 and 25 we saw two deer only a few metres away, dashing off further into the bush when they saw us. The final stretch through a paddock, we had to walk part a few heifers. Initially they approach us, but then proceeded to carefully watch us until we disappeared over a small rim.

All up, we caught five hedgehogs and one rat.

Day 23 – Travers’ pine forest trapline service, DOC Pohangina Base trapline service, trap checking and building

The trapline on Travers’ farm was new to me. It was in a beautiful pine forest with streams and ridges. The farmer already had some traps in the forest from various other sources and projects. Ian set up a few more traps with the farmer a few weeks ago, and the whole trapline is now part of our project in terms of servicing and recording data.

Ian brought his dog with and near the Te Ano Whiro Stream (after checking the first five traps) we saw three deer which of course set the dog on a chase. Two went to the right and another one dashed upstream with the dog short on its heels. Earlier we could hear the deer ‘bark’, which sounded like they were on the other side of the stream up on the ridge. It may have been the two others we saw earlier, or maybe just an echo.

We also saw a pair of falcons perched on a tree in the middle of the stream. They are not big birds, and Ian mentioned that stoats sometimes go in the nest and attack the young, other times the falcons would catch the stoats. Payback, baby.

On our way up to the highest point on the trapline, we passed a wallow hole which might be used during the roar by deer to ‘cool down’. I’ve never heard the animals during the roar, but apparently it is earth shattering when you are close-by.

The weather was good, calm in the forest and just a light wind on the ridge facing Mid-Pohangina way. It would seem that the wind always blows in this valley.

All up, we only caught two hedgehogs on this trapline. Trap #16 has the nails to hold the bait (often an egg) on the wrong (entrance) side. Not sure how that slipped through quality control! Haha.

Afterwards we drove to the DOC Pohangina Base to service the line there ahead of our project launch which was also happening at the base the following day. These are all double traps. The second one killed both a rat and a stoat, but there was nothing in any of the other traps, which is always a bit disappointing.

Ian was cutting and clearing the track as we went, to make access slightly better for guests who wish to see a trapline in action.

Following that we went to Ian’s for a hot drink, a quick bite to eat, and some trap checking and building for the remainder of the working day.

Day 24 – Launch of the Southern Ruahine Kiwi Habitat Restoration Project

After work the past few days, I was still busy making wee kawakawa balm samples as gifts for all the delegates at the launch. The leaves have been seeping in grapeseed oil (cold extraction) for nearly a week before it was gentle heated to 70 degrees Celsius to extract the final goodness. I then strained the oil and added the beeswax.

On top if that, I also offered to make some gluten free cake to accompany the cake Nina made for the event. That ended up to be the only thing I could eat, and I believe there were at least one other person who also had a gluten allergy. It remains to be a very unfortunate allergy to have, as most people don’t recognise it as a problem, and hence don’t take it seriously. With celiac disease, the food should ideally not even be on the same table.

We arrived a bit before 3pm to help if help was needed, and I quickly showed Gerry the first bit of the trapline. Afterwards, we pitched the event banners, and the guests, board members, and other team mates arrived.

It was great to meet some colleagues and board members whom I’ve only ever heard the names of. Drinks were served and guests were mingling, when the official proceedings got underway at 4:30. Selwyn was the compere, Rani talked about the team and their work on the eastern side, Ian talked about our team and work on the western side, and a representative from DOC said the few words. Finally Stewart and Arapera handled the cutting of the cake, after which food and more drinks were served.

Guests who were keen, were taken into the bush to the first trap, and Ian talked everyone through the ins and outs of trapping. Media representatives were there to cover the event, and a write-up from Stuff can be read here.

Around 6pm the proceedings officially came to an end. Pack up and cleanup followed and by about 7pm when we were all out of there.

Everything went smoothly and well, I think, but unfortunately not many farmers attended. They are instrumental to the success of the project, and it would have been a good opportunity to acknowledge and thank them.

The intrepid trapper: Week six – 14-17 February

After a couple of very warm, muggy weather days, ex-tropical Cyclone Dovi moved in over the country early on the Saturday morning. It created havoc everywhere; trees down, power lines down, and a neighbour’s huge pine tree cracked in half and fell down a slope. Fortunately, no trees were down at our place this time, despite other neighbours also mentioning tree damage.

Unfortunately, two of our guinea fowl girls’ babies popped out a day (and the other a few days) before the cyclone hit. It rained non-stop, the wind was blowing a gale and the temperature dropped considerably. Timing could not have been worse. Despite the dads helping out by also sitting on the chicks, they couldn’t manage. Both mums and dads were drenched and finally the babies started trailing off and were left for dead. During the course of the day, and in terrible conditions, I was frantically searching for the half-dead babies all over our property, in tall grass, under trees, etc, to try and save them. Trying to find these tiniest of babies on a couple acre property is no easy feat. By nine at night Gerry picked up the last five and with the help of warm water bottles and a heater, all twelve came back to life. Sadly, three of them died a couple of days later.

Day 17 – Jim’s and the Deerford Loop

Very early on Valentine’s Day, Nina and I were off to collect the monitoring cards from Jim’s property. We stopped at his house in Apiti to fetch the keys to the gates taking us on private land. Arriving at the first gate, it was still drizzling and everything was wet. After the second gate, Nina cleared some windfall out of the way in order not to scratch the ute. We quickly collected the five monitoring cards, some of which were along the farm road, and the others on a private track. Four of the five cards had a decent amount of footprints, and the fifth card had insect prints only. Afterwards, we went back to Jim’s to return the keys, and showed them the outcome.

Then we were off to Deerford Track to insert monitoring cards to ascertain what sort of pests are roaming in the area. It was still overcast and quite cold. I had four top layers on, as well as a rainjacket and rain pants. As always, we had a stream-crossing early on. With all the rain, it was deeper than usual (calve high), and very cold. My feet were freezing, which was a reminder that I need to figure out a plan for winter. We’re still in summer and I’m already cold in the forest in wet conditions.

The previous time we tried to locate the monitoring tunnels, we couldn’t find them. But this time we were more lucky and found the first four relatively easily. The last one (which was the first one coming from the top, which we couldn’t find the previous time) was again a bit of a search. Lots of windfall made it even more tricky to negotiate the terrain off the track. We decided to create waypoints to make it easier for next time.

After placing the last monitoring card, we went around Deerford Loop to check all the traps, but found no dead pests. Some traps were set off due to windfall – large branches landing on the traps, others were without bait (critters and mice probably got to it before anything else could). We reset and rebaited everything that needed attention with dehydrated rabbit before returning to the car. The drizzle became a bit more persistent, and by the time we took off our wet rain clothes, shoes and socks in the carpark, it was raining.

Day 18: Team meeting/workshop

We drove to Ian’s for a team meeting and catch-up with the Dannevirke team. Ahead of their arrival, we counted out half (200) of the nuts and bolts to go with Rani, including trap mechanisms, for the traps they’re building on that side of the mountain.

Erana replaced Shawn on the team, and it was the first time I met her, and a chance to have the whole new team together. Rani talked about their side of things, progress, dealings with land owners, etc, and Ian explained what we’ve been up to.

Afterwards, Ian went through the TrapNZ site, showed some of the functionality; how to add traps, edit trap placement and info, the traplines, stats about animals being killed, etc. We discussed options for traplines, what an area might really be like when you get there, even though it sometimes looks fine on Google maps. Discussions ensued about the traps that are performing really well, the different projects in the Ruahine Forest Park (Northern Ruahine, Southern Ruahine, Manaaki, and Whio whio), and all things related to trapping.

Afterwards, we gathered around an outside table to have a first go at identifying the different footprints on the monitoring cards we’ve collected so far. I downloaded the PDF file with samples of the footprints of mustelids and other pests, including critters from the gotchatraps website. The animals that’s most prevalent in the traps by far, are hedgehogs, so it was no surprise that we found mostly hedgehog footprints. There were also rats, mice, possums, and stoats, and lots of critters. One card only had critter prints. We compared notes and mostly agreed on the prints we identified, but where there were disagreements, we rechecked and had a discussion about it to try and get to a conclusion. In one or two cases it was really too difficult to know what we were looking at, and it would be good to get an expert in to talk us through it.

While still outside, we did a five-minute bird count, and identified seven birds from either the sounds they make or from spotting them in a tree. Apparently afternoons/middays are not the best time of the day to do bird counts, but it was still a good opportunity.

We all moved to Ian’s garage where he keeps frozen samples of mustelids (which I unfortunately forgot to take a photo of): a ferret, stoats and weasels. The ferret was quite smelly, despite being frozen, but had quite an interesting fur.

From there we walked down a ridge on Ian’s property to look at different types of traps, from smaller versions for rats and mice, to self-resetting ones for stoats and weasels, to catch traps for cats. In two of the traps there were dead mice. At the far end, away from any buildings and in the forest, we did another five-minute birdcount, and again counted at least six different birds. Some of them, like tui, mimic other birds, making it hard to know which is which.

Afterwards, we took a group photo, before we went our separate ways at the end of the day.

Day 19: Carrying traps up Shorts Track

Not sure how it came about, but as we were leaving the previous afternoon, a quick decision was made for Nina and I to carry more traps up the mountain. We are less than ten traps away from the top, and I was under the impression that the top ones would be dropped at the top to be carried down, rather than us killing ourselves to get it all the way up there from the bottom. Understandably, we need to identify quantities and traplines, and have enough traps ready and everything consolidated to be dropped off by helicopter in one go instead of paying for multiple trips.  This has unfortunately not been finalised yet, so in order to not twiddle our thumbs, we keep hauling traps up the mountain.

Late the previous night, I collected the pack-frames from Anthony (from the Manaaki project) who kindly let us use his.

Early in the morning, we met in Feilding for the trip out to Limestone Carpark. Although it wasn’t very cold, I had a thermal top on for the first couple of kilometres. The track is a familiar site by now, and after the first few hundred metres, we reach the first stream-crossing. Going up Knights Track, meant we have another crossing a kilometre or so down the track. To not spent the entire day with soaking wet feet again, I took a pair of trail running shoes for the first couple of kilometres until we crossed the second stream. These I hid in a bush, while putting on semi-dry boots and socks. The boots did the same stream-crossing on Monday, so wasn’t completely dry yet.

And then the relentless hill carried on up the mountain for the next four kilometres. With each trap weighing just shy of 6kg, of which we each carried two, plus a backpack containing emergency gear, warm clothing, raincoats, first-aid, food, snacks, water, bait, spanners, tongs etc to service the traps with, I reckon all up I carried 16-17kg up the mountain. Normally on tramps I try not to go over 10kg for my size, weight, age, etc, which already makes the tramp less enjoyable than when carrying a lighter weight. Needless to say, this was hard work.

We made good progress on the constant uphill, and after about 4km of slogging up the mountain, my shoulders and shoulder blades started to be really uncomfortable and sore. Another kilometre and a half, and we’d dropped off our four traps (#9, 8, 7, 6 from the top down – 1 is on top of the mountain) and were at the highest point for the day at 1300m.

While catching our breath (my heart was racing like mad, and I guess the altitude might also have played a small part), we had a bite to eat and a sip of water. There’s no access to water on the mountain and everything has to be carried up.

On the way down, we checked and serviced all the traps, and only one contained a hedgehog that looked like it was going to explode. We used dehydrated rabbit as bait, and one thing I noticed is that a lot of it gets eaten by, presumably, mice. Which is a terrible waste at almost 50c per piece, me thinks.

On the upside, Nina chatted to a chicken farmer about a possible sponsorship, and they are keen to get on board, which is fantastic. Details need to be ironed out still, but we should be sorted with eggs as bait for a while for a lot of the traps in future.

We passed Teddy Bear slip again, and I tried to see from the top if it is possible to get an idea of what it looks like, but by the looks of it we were standing on its ear. A massive chunk of land slipped and when viewed from Jock’s farm on the other side of the valley, it apparently looks like a teddy bear. Will definitely see if I can spot it when next we’re out that way.

Nearly back down the mountain, I changed back into my wet shoes for the last two kilometres and two stream-crossings. Less than a kilometre from the car, and on a reasonable well-groomed track, I stepped onto a tree root or something, and ended up on the side of my foot with my ankle bent at a 90 degree angle to try and stay upright, which of course didn’t happen and I landed on my arse. I had visions again of my friend breaking her leg on a track 2k from the car, and what an ordeal it was getting her down the mountain and to hospital. Fortunately (in other respects unfortunately), I have ‘floppy joints’ making it possible to bend joints quite far before breaking them, I guess. However five days later, the ligament (?) on the side of my leg was still quite sore.

On the trip back home, we discussed the next day’s work. The monitoring cards we installed on Monday had to be fetched from Deerford (they usually only stay for three days). I wasn’t meant to work (I only work three days a week, normaly Mondays to Wednesdays), but offered to go with Nina, as she cannot go in the mountains by herself, and Ian had a meeting. It is a health and safety precaution, as anything can happen at anytime, and being out in the bush by oneself is never a very good idea.

Nina offered to carry more traps up the mountain, but with a somewhat crook ankle and sore shoulders, I wasn’t up to it. Instead I would check and service the traps as we go, on the way up.

After fetching Gerry from work, we took the packs-frames back to Anthony, as they needed it again. This is something we really need to buy for ourselves, as we cannot keep borrowing from others. It is, on top of everything else, a terrible waste of time fetching and returning borrowed stuff. The time and money on fuel spent on that, could have bought us a couple already.

Day 20: Carry more traps up Shorts and service the trapline

We met bright and early again in Feilding, and drove to where Ian was waiting with traps and old tramping backpacks. Nina took the one backpack, and two traps.

The trip to where we work, is usually about an hour’s drive. The weather was really good, sunny (even though we drove through fog) and warmer than the previous days. When she tried to strap the traps onto the outside of the backpack (it couldn’t fit inside either), only one could fit. One is better than none, and we were on our way. I took the soaking wet shoes again for the stream-crossing, after which I changed into my semi-dry boots for the slog up the mountain on Shorts Track.

These two tracks follow on from the Deerford loop, and both goes to the ridge at the top of the mountain. Knights track is on the left (North) and Shorts is on the right (South). Whereas Knights track sort-of eases into the steep climb, Shorts Track gets right too it. Both are super steep, making the going slow, especially carrying a heavy weight.

With all the traps from the bottom up already in place, the only ones remaining are the ones above the tree line. I was huffing and puffing up the mountain again. With both of us being runners, we are servicing traplines rather quickly, so can cover more ground and get more traps checked, in more difficult terrain.

At 1300m altitude again, we set the new trap, caught our breath, had a snack and a drink of water before starting on the way down again.

En route we collected the five monitoring cards on Deerford of which one had no prints, and another where something (hedgehog?) went into the tunnel, seemingly not happy with dried rabbit, as it was all still there, and went out again on the same side. Bizarre. It’s a narrow tunnel and makes sense for something to walk through. Must be a clever animal who knows that if it goes for dried rabbit, it will die. Haha.

At the stream, I swopped back into my wet shoes for the last kilometre, before swopping back into dry shoes for the drive back home. There seems to be a lot of changing gear going on with these trips. I guess that’s how it is if you work in nature; sunny, cold, rain, rivers, etc.

After picking Gerry up from work, we went to the Summerhill trails to collect kawakawa for balm I’m making for our project launch.  I’m using the cold extraction method, so the leaves will have to stay in the oil for at least a week. Nina is making a cake, decorated with kiwis, which I can’t wait to see, and I will throw in some gluten free, chocolate cake on the side, just to cover our bases. Looking forward to the event next Thursday.