Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Life of a Tree Hugger

This past Sunday morning, I boarded a 9:00am ferry that departed from Auckland for the island of Motutapu. Located only 40 minutes from the city, Motutapu (in Maori, meaning "sacred island") has a history dating back to the Jurassic period and is one of the oldest islands in the Hauraki Gulf. The beautiful island is home to rolling hills and farmland, scenic walking tracks, World War II gun emplacements and countless views of the gulf.

But I was not on my way to the island for a scenic tour or a day's worth of tramping (hiking). Weeks before my trip, while searching online for a service learning opportunity that would fulfill part of my overseas program requirements, I stumbled upon the Motutapu Restoration Trust website. Immediately intrigued by, admittedly, the website's slogan "breathing new life into an ancient land form," I investigating the trust's purpose a bit more, and found a link dedicated to volunteer opportunities. After a quick scan of the different activities volunteers and trust members could become involved with, I was hooked. From nursery care, to beach clean up, "weed busting," and...you guessed it, tree planting, the trust commits its 1-3 monthly visits to restoring and protecting the flora and fauna of the island.
So, I signed up! And soon, after having the bottom of my boots brushed as a precaution of bio-security and securely fixing my walking shelter/bird dropping protector/sun ray reducer/sweat absorber (hat) on my head, I stepped onto Motutapu's Home Bay wharf, and began my day of service in the community.

The day began with a 20 minute walk to the island's nursery, where various trust leaders informed us of the island's history, habitat, and procedures. After the brief introduction, we began our journey to the tree planting site. Our minute 20 accent towards the summit of the island brought us to an area of Motutapu in which we would be working. The site greeted us with 50+ spades, bins of mismatched and well loved gardening gloves, and 1500 trees. From there, we were given quick "do" and "do not" directions for those (like myself) who had never planted in volcanic soil, and then sent on our way. As I walked towards the spades, Laura, a fellow stag volunteer, introduced herself, and recommend that we work together. Thank. Goodness. So we got our spade, our gloves, and our trees, and started to dig.

As a group, we completed our goal of planting 1500 trees, and were rewarded with a guided walk of the island and concluding "sausage sizzle" (yes, it was as good as it sounds). As we took the long way back to the nursery we were guided past New Zealand's largest military site (PLEASE see picture below for further explanation of what this country considered large during WWII...), the outdoor education camp where students spend days worth of learning during their first term, and down a path surrounded by trees that volunteers, like ourselves, planted only 15 years earlier.
Tea, coffee, and biscuits greeted us at the bottom of the tramping path. As we waited for the sausages to be taken off the grill, volunteers sat inside a nearby historic home or along the water's edge watching the ways from the gulf move towards us. During our last minutes on the island, the group discussed our accomplishments and the wonderful progress that the island would make in result of our efforts.

As the evening ferry departed from Motutapu's wharf, I felt truly satisfied; I can now say I have contributed to advancement and success of New Zealand.

What to look forward to next:
Queen's Birthday weekend! Overnight trip to Rotorua (yes, Dad, this means I will be rolling down the hill via hamsterball!)

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