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Be an Epiphyte

not a Parasite

Return journey

As we slowly made our way back home, we returned to Auckland where the effects of the fires in Australia could be seen in orange skies all about this distant land. Also, dark dust rained down high in the Southern Alps where it coated the white snow and ice with a dark and heat absorbing dust. This is how far reaching the impact of the fires in Australia have been. Alas, I am sure the impact of these fires will be much, much more serious as the full extent of their damage is revealed.

We love this city; it truly is a big little city. It has just enough hustle and bustle to make it interesting without depressing you. It has just enough traffic to seem busy and yet only mildly annoying. And just enough people to be acceptable to a misanthrope like myself.


After resting and eating amazing plant-based foods in Auckland we left the city and drove southeast around the bottom of the expansive Firth of Thames. Here we turned north and drove-on to the lovely Coromandel Forest Park. A short and stunning hike through the lush green jungle landed us at the base of a massive Kauri tree or Agathis Australis. These trees are gigantic and yet very fragile. Because of a virulent fungus accidently introduced by migrating peoples over time, they have become endangered. Much effort is made by the New Zealanders to stop this fungus, but I fear this is a futile battle.

Be an epiphyte not a parasite

Our slow return home had us travel once again southeast from Auckland, but this time we stopped short of the vast Firth of Thames and landed at the Hunua Ranges Regional Park.

Hunua that New Zealand is so beautiful and magnificent, not me'a. Well I did know, but I cannot resist the pun.

But why “be an epiphyte not a parasite”? This was the poignant slogan Julia came up with after we met two researchers from Auckland University the next day on our second hike. They were researching the number of epiphytes that cohabit with the flora in New Zealand. They were specifically verifying from the ground how closely their drone-based observations corelated to their ground-based observations.

An epiphyte is an organism that grows on the surface of a plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around it. Epiphytes take part in nutrient cycles and add to both the diversity and biomass of the ecosystem in which they occur.

Whereas, a parasite lives on or in another organism. The parasite causes the host harm and is adapted structurally to this way of life.

Julia's new slogan seems so apt given our current climate crisis. Humanity seems to be acting like a parasite. We consume everything without reason until the environment, our host collapses.

Island of birds

Today we sailed north from Auckland over glassy smooth seas to Tiritiri Matangi Island, or the island of birds. This place is named correctly as it is teaming with all manner of feathered creatures. However, it is also a typical human story of destruction. The island was originally colonized by native New Zealanders who lived there more or less as epiphytes. Eventually humans from England arrived and began our normal parasitic reign. We removed the original humans, burnt the rain forest down, built a lighthouse, and farmed ruminants. These actions of course destroyed the original humans, fauna, and flora of what was once a complex and beautiful ecosystem.

Today the New Zealanders have removed most of the people and all the livestock. They have replanted the island, as best they could with native flora, which has caused the place to become a haven for birds. Alas, their efforts have not restored the island's former ecosystem. This is apparent when one visits the two remaining bits of original pristine forest left here today. It is clear even to the untrained eye the stark difference between the old-growth forest and the new.

Biking the city

Electric bikes are fun. We discovered this in Australia and reconfirmed our discovery in Auckland. You can adjust the amount of effort you'd like to commit to, and the bike will do the rest. The upshot of this lithium-ion magic is that you are endowed with bike riding superpowers that increase your range and endurance. Because of our newly acquired powers we were able to cycle around the city, up steep hills, and enjoy Auckland from many perspectives.

Goodbye New Zealand and good luck to you.

The end

Well our trip to the Antipodes has come to an end. We visited with family and friends. We healed old divisions and created new ones. We absorbed the beauty of two of the most wonderful countries in the world and filled our lives with new experiences. I guess it was worth the carbon we added to the atmosphere, but I'm not sure of that.

In the news this morning a newly released report was highlighted. The headline read: “Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates”. The report points out that we have experienced the highest ocean temperatures in an increasing series of ocean temperatures over the last ten years. As the oceans absorb around 90% of world-wide heat energy these increases in ocean temperatures are a good verification that the stable climate of the Holocene (the last 10,000-year geological period) is over. What lies before us is uncertain, but what is clear is that it will be different. I hope you and your families will be able to enjoy a life of peace and harmony. Try with all your might to be an epiphyte and not a parasite.


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