Friday, 11 March 2016

For the Birds

The biennial New Zealand Festival is in full swing. Last night I attended For the Birds, an outdoor nature and light exhibition at Otari-Wilton's Bush.

I seem to have dreadful weather karma for these events. Two years ago, I forfeited my Power Plant tickets as a freakishly strong storm lashed the city. (It was bad, even by Wellington's standards!) The event organisers still insisted they were going ahead but I doubt many would have actually attended or enjoyed it in such adverse conditions. Waking up yesterday morning to gale force winds and rain, I wondered how I'd manage to once again book tickets for a stormy day. Turns out that it really didn't matter as Otari is very sheltered. Apart from the entrance and exit, the bush was warm and calm.

It's hard to describe what to expect at an event like this. LED lighting guides you around a 2 km interactive walk through the bush. Birdsong created by cuckoo clock mechanisms, penny whistles and recorded loops serenade you as you make your way along the path and acclimatise your eyes. (Put your torches, phones and camera flashes away!) Native birds tell their extinction stories as talking huia, laughing owl and Haast's eagle eggs. Fireflies dance along the creek and mechanical cranes hover above while mechanical robots light up their flight path as they fly overhead before leading the way through a delightful white lit tunnel. There were more installations towards the second half, perhaps serving as a distraction for the steadily ascending path back to the bus.

It took about an hour to walk around the exhibition at a reasonable pace and spend some time at each installation. I imagine there would be fewer kids at the later sessions. We saw a couple of families trying to push baby buggies around; the path really isn't suited for this so follow the instructions and leave buggies behind. You'll need sturdy walking shoes and be prepared for some slopes; we realised all too soon while walking down a gently inclining path that we'd eventually have to walk up again - and that part of the trail (including steps) was much steeper.

There is no parking available around Otari-Wilton's Bush so take the organiser's advice and park in Ian Galloway Park (about 1.3 km away) and hop on the free transfer bus to and from the venue. Get there well before your session starts as the queue for the safety briefing moves very slowly. We had tickets for the 8.30 session and queued from 8 pm to finally set out around 8.45. Others around us had an even longer wait so plan for a later night than you may have expected.

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