Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Rain forest

I climbed up a misty mountain through rain forest vegetation today. It brought back in amazing technicolour, and scent and sound the classes I took many many years ago. Walking on a man made path through incredibly dense vegetation you wonder at both the methods used to create the pathway, but also the almost moral decisions which would have to be taken to clinically hack through swathes of vegetation to create a sanitised pathway for us, the public to access this amazing environment. What plants would have been in the way, what decisions would have been taken as to the route, was it based purely on gradient, angle, need to connect A to B or would the creators have looked at the plants and decided which could stay and which could go?

Nonetheless, the forest is nothing like I've ever seen before. You try to peer in through the trees at what's behind, but it's just a tangle of plant life, rich, green, luxurious plant life which twists and turns. Plants grow on plants; every tree fern sustains the life of a myriad mosses and other ferns at every ring of their trunks. Vines crawl between plants, older wood rests on newer trees and everything is pushing everything else for light and growth and height.

It's just like in the books. As you hear it start to rain, and reach for your hood, you realise you are not getting wet, and remember about the canopy structure, the trees which reach the highest, the ones underneath them competing for the valuable and abundant resources of light and water, and the layer below doing the same. So much so that the rain water hardly reaches the forest floor. I take my hood down, realising I'm not getting wet.

Yet later on, by chance, I find my hand flat against my stomach, investigating the weird sensation of flapping material. I am wearing a lightweight, snug fitting base layer merino (bright pink for those interested), and yet somehow it feels like it's flapping. My hand explores, and I realise it is properly wringing wet. You could squeeze this out. The weight of the water content has weighted the material so it's slightly hanging in places. Funnily, my torso doesn't feel cold, clammy or wet. I hadn't even noticed. I explore further. The entire T-shirt is sodden, as is my hair. I have never experienced humidity like this. Truly amazing.

Like the rest of the world, so it seems to me (and I have not researched this), New Zealand came to the conclusion we need to protect and preserve our natural habitats post Victorian era.  I feel New Zealand took a pretty robust line on things, not exactly hard line but certainly no negotiation.  Along the way they didn't shirk at putting entire villages out of work as the main saw mill businesses could no longer carry out their trade as their only source of wood became illegal to harvest.  Interesting but somehow necessary.  These days it seems to be a country entirely bought in to the importance of holding onto this version of their past, whether it's related to biodiversity, research or simply people's enjoyment and appreciation.  Can't make up my mind here whether this version of wrapping in cotton wool is entirely great, but it certainly stops the place being covered in houses which take over the thing which brought people here in the first place.

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