Pouring with rain, raincoat down to my knees, walking through a blanket of fog…One year on and this place is still just as beautiful as the day I left. There is something mystical about this place that makes me want to stay here forever. Maybe it’s the trees or maybe it’s just nature, maybe its Takaka or the Cobb or maybe it’s just being in the bush and away from the chaotic life of city living. Whatever it is I always find myself longing to go back once I’ve left.
This is my second visit to Cobb Valley in Takaka (about an hour or so out of Nelson). On my first visit I was a volunteer with DOC caging endangered native Mistletoe plants to protect them from possum and dear. I have returned this time with my mother to show her the beauty of the Cobb and check the progress of the work we did a year ago. Steve my DOC leader and friend has been kind enough to offer his time to take us up the Cobb.
Our journey begins and along the way Steve and I explain why we cage these plants and what is so special about them**. The road up to Cobb Ridge is very narrow and with the heavy rain the road was not in the best condition, making the ride to the top a very slow one thankfully Steve was driving and not us. The last time I visited it was mid February and conditions were somewhat dryer, this time its December and well… its pouring!! And… New Zealand being typical New Zealand the day before it was perfect sunny weather with not a cloud in the sky… blah blah blah we all know that story.
However; those who know me best will know that I love the rain and nothing was going to dampen my spirits. After all we were going to visit my little baby #7845 which I discovered last year. (At only about 3-5cm in length and only a few metres up the tree likelihood was that a dear probably discovered it for Brunch… but always the optimist, I will not lose faith and I was forever hopeful no matter how often Steve tried to tell me otherwise). The rain was plummeting down now and we slowly ascend the narrow road. The drive to the Cobb looked somewhat different this time around with mystical waterfalls appearing everywhere. The river was flooded and although I couldn’t really tell the difference Steve certainly could and it brought a smile to my face to know he was also seeing something for the first time.
We finally reached the top and jumped out of the truck (Steve as usual with no footwear, gotta love him). What would usually be an amazing view of the reservoir was a sea of thick white fog. I realised now that Mum was not going to see the beautiful scenery that I had seen the year before. Not to worry though, I have an excellent memory for such things and a vivid imagination… complete with Unicorns and rays of sunshine!
Stepping in puddles of mud (perhaps a little cautiously at first) we head off in search of the first cage. Myself just a tad over excited taking the lead and racing off like a little child in search of chocolate eggs in an Easter egg hunt…Finally we reach the first cage, I remember it well and jokingly explain to Mum how quickly we became professional cagers (the first cage was a bit of a learning curb as no one on our team, including DOC had any idea on how to go about constructing one of these cages (the main guy who was meant to come with us had been called away and was delayed)).
Further down the track we saw many more cages and happy to report no further damage had been made to most of the Mistletoe we caged last year and that there were significant signs of growth. Each year the Mistletoe will decide ‘am I going to grow this year or will I flower?’ If it decides to grow the new growth will have red stalks, so even for novices like mum and I, we can clearly identify the remarkable efforts the Mistletoe have made over the past year.
My little Mistletoe was conveniently located about half way down the track and slightly off into the bush. So seeing one cage in the pouring rain was obviously not enough. Up rocky pathways that had turned into streams of raging water we clambered on in hunt for the infamous Mistletoe. Steve pulls out the coordinates and we know we are close. I could not wait to see how my little Mistletoe was doing… last year we decided it was too small to cage so it’s been out there for a year fending for its self.
Hopes held high I search for the right tree. Steve spots the tag first and checks the records to make sure it’s the right one as the tree we appear to be looking at has no Mistletoe… then we spot it… one leaf, clinging to the tree… IT’S ALIVE… just… but it is still alive! Haha, I could not believe it! I was so happy to see it was still there! I don’t care that it’s just a leaf, it’s my leaf! The crazy thing is that this little plant with just one leaf is more than likely to be older than us. Steve informed us there is no telling exactly how old as we know so little about these plants but my guess is at least 50yrs old more likely its over 100. Anyway, feeling slightly sorry for the wee Mistletoe, we find a bit of left over netting and place it over the tiny leaf.
Having seen what we came for we start to walk back. And Murphy’s Law… the rain cleared and the sun started to show face. Mum finally got a glimpse of what the view looked like. Tired and soaked to the bone we make our way back to Takaka for a nice warm shower and a nap.
**Mistletoe are parasitic plants so rely on another source to live, the one we are working with, the Red Mistletoe or Peraxilla tetrapetala only grows on one type of Beech Tree and also relies on birds to eat the seed and poop them out onto a particular sized branch on the tree. Very fussy, I know. The main bird that likes to eat the seeds is the NZ native Bellbird… so if the Mistletoe dies out the Bellbird will also suffer.