Angry Bird

Many people probably think about this when you see Angry Bird(s):

But, I am referring to a real bird instead.

Early morning on Monday, Steff and I packed up and headed out from Gisborne, with Napier being our destination. I had found a couple interesting hikes to make stops at along the way. The drive itself was around 2.5 hours, so we had plenty of time.

After about 45 minutes, we arrived at our first stop, the Mangaone Caves. Well, the hills near the caves, we had a 30 minute uphill hike to get to the entrance. But, for once, it was a gorgeous day for me while I travelled!

The wonderful scenery was lulling us into a false sense of security.

Shortly after this picture was taken, Steff and I were following the marked posts towards the caves, crossing the tops of rolling green hills. At that point, we were dive-bombed by a medium sized bird (Australian Magpie I believe). After the bird peeled away, it retreated to a nearby post and watched us for a few seconds. Then, it took flight and came straight at us again. Putting up our arms, the evil bird wheeled about and went back to it’s perch. However, the approach and retreat continued for 10 minutes, and when we took our eyes off the bird for even a short period of time, it would come VERY close to hitting us as it swooped down with any opportunity. Finally, we reached the entrance to the caves, and the bird simply stood on a nearby post and watched.

Once in the shelter of trees, we could relax and read the caving sign without harassment.

The Mangaone caves are limestone caverns, and free to explore. They aren’t very large, but enough to spend 15 minutes in or so exploring. In true Kiwi fashion, the entrance was well built and easy to access. Flashlight/head lamp at the ready, we went downwards.

The descent wasn’t very far, but in true caves fashion, it got dark, cold and damp quickly.

A neat little place to explore, there were two side caverns that we accessed with ladders. Nothing really picture worthy, just fun to be climbing around in caves for a short bit. The cave dead-ends, so we retraced our steps and went back to the light.

After getting back out to the open hillside, we looked around for the angry bird. No bird was sighted, so we started making our way back to the car. Not 2 minutes after leaving the safety of the tree line, the bird swooped down at us from behind, getting Steff with it’s wing (she was fine, just a brush with a wing). After that, we moved quickly and kept a close eye once again on the bird, which made several more attempts at us. The bird must have had a nest somewhat near the cave entrance – it is spring time here so eggs are out and about, but this was the first time either of us had been so relentlessly pursued and harassed by a single bird.

Eventually, we were free of the bird’s angry gaze, and continued our hike back down to the car. As many of these hills are used for sheep grazing, you do once in a while happen upon souvenirs…

Yes, Steff’s a bit of a character (she didn’t keep the skull). After getting back to the car, a further 45 minutes of driving got us to our next stop – the Mahia Peninsula. The hike was about about a 120 minute loop track, starting with a fairly steep ascent up to a lookout:

From here, I could even spot some snow-capped mountains far, far away. Still ski-season here in New Zealand!

After the 15 minutes of climbing up, the rest of the hike was a descent into the valley and surrounding forest. It quickly felt like a jungle.

We had to make many small stream crossings. There were freshwater prawns and eels in the water, apparently, but couldn’t see any myself. The water was crystal clear in spots – I really wanted to drink some, but with the amount of farming nearby I didn’t want to chance it.

There was even a picnic area about an hour into the hike, with the stream nearby. Nice spot, I rather enjoyed my granola bar and rest before continuing on.

After the grassy area, the track returned to the forest and began the climb back up to the trail start. Along the way Steff found this really interesting tree/fern cross-section:

Steff explained to me the internal structure and technical names for things (she’s got a degree in Biology), but it was quickly lost upon my biology-adverse brain. It sounded neat at the time!

After the hike, we made one last stop in Mahia, on one of their black sand beaches.

After that, we continued on to Napier. The weather started changing for the worse as we continued south, and Steff had a bus to catch – she continued on to the next city, Hastings, while I stayed here in Napier. With a final beer, pizza and cheers, we bid each other adieu and went our separate ways. A very enjoyable travel companion, it was fun having someone to share the remote east cape expanses with! Steff’s continuing on to Wellington and the south Island in rapid fashion, so we may meet up down there once again, though it depends on when exactly I get down there myself. As for when that might be…not for a while still. I’m here in Napier until the 28th of September, and after that…well, I’m getting an itch for some adventure activities. For that, I’m going to have to swing back to the center of the North Island for a bit. But that’s still over a week away and as of yet, undecided.

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