September 18, 2015 at 11:25 pm
Finally a break in the weather. Up until lunchtime we had fish swimming past the living room windows of our Neils Beach domicile. But within half an hour or so it all disappeared and made room for blue skies. And sunshine, actual real sunshine! Miracles do happen!
In the morning Ursula and Junishi drove down to Queenstown to pick up Klemens Pütz from the airport. Jun will be heading back to Dunedin. Klemens will take care of the Jackson Head tawaki tracking when we head over to Milford Sound in about two weeks.
Hotte and I borrowed a ute from Geoff Robson, the owner of Greenstone Helicopters who has been supporting the Tawaki Project since its beginning. We headed out to Jackson Head after lunch. Over the course of three hours we did a nest check run at Popi’s Plaza and the Hilltop area. No more nest failures to report, which is great! The sun did its thing to make the bush bashing actually an enjoyable past-time.
Ursula and Klemens only returned to Neils Beach around 10pm so that we had to scrap the idea of deploying more loggers tonight. However, with Klemens we have a true penguin tracking pioneer in our team so that we can work in two groups and get twice the amount of penguins fitted with loggers in the next few days.
September 17, 2015 at 7:51 pm
We’re swamped down in Neils Beach. A heavy rainfall warning is in place for Westland with 130mm expected to fall until tonight. Not good news for us – and probably not good news for the penguins either.
Around midday a gap in the clouds opened up and the sun even peeped through it for a moment. But when it counted – in the evening – the rain returned with full force and reached almost biblical proportions.
Deploying data loggers in these conditions is really difficult. The adhesive side of the tape we use to attach the devices to the penguins will inevitably get wet and won’t stick that well. Once the tape is stuck to the devices it can withstand weeks in ocean water. But use damp tape during deployment and you have a recipe for disaster.
On top of that a tsunami warning after the earthquake in Chile, rough seas and swollen creeks made it simply impossible to reach the tawaki colonies of Jackson Head.
September 16, 2015 at 11:28 pm
We called off today’s nest searches for obvious reasons. We will still try to get the first set of data loggers deployed on willing tawaki tonight. With breeding further advanced than we’d hoped, we haven’t got any time to waste.
The weather wasn’t on our side this morning with heavy rainfall throughout most of the day. Nevertheless, we used a break in the weather to head out to Jackson Head after dinner tonight. Armed with three GPS logger/TDR packs we made our way along the coast to a site we call “Popi’s Plaza” (named after Popi Garcia-Borboroglu, president of the Global Penguin Society, who’s discovered it).
It’s densely vegetated with kiekie and bush lawyer, two plants that drive humans crazy because it’s so easy to get entangled in the former and ripped to shreds by the thorns of the latter. Once you have struggled through the nasty stuff, you’ll reach broadleaf forest where some tawaki breed in small caves and crevisses in a steep bank.
Although we had only found six nests here the day before, three of these were quite suitable for our tracking study. We managed to deploy devices on the female penguins at the first two nests, but unfortunately found that our third potential logger nest had not survived the day of heavy rain. Seeing a mother guarding her lifeless chick put a spotlight on the reality of El Niño this year.
Last year, two of 30 nests we monitored failed. This year we haven’t even looked at more then 20 nests and four are gone already. So although nest numbers initially were comparable to last year, we’re losing nests at a higher rate.
September 15, 2015 at 6:15 pm
First full day in the Jackson Head bush. As can be expected at the West Coast it turned out to be rather wet. And of course our timing walking in was impeccable at almost high tide, making clambering along the rocks a fun thing to do.
Once we reached the tawaki breeding sites we checked most of last season’s nests and observed quite a few changes. A bit of nest site shuffling seems to have occurred. Some nest sites remain empty this season, while new nests have been established in spots that had no users last year. Especially the apartment building, the site where most of the documentary filming happened last year, looked rather empty with a mere 4 nests where we had 9 last year.
Speaking of the apartment building. It was quite nice to see our old friend again, the male tawaki from the balcony nest. Last year he turned out to be a rather inquisitive chap ready to defend his chicks if somebody poked their nose to closely into the nest. Because of the nice natural lighting in the nest, he also became the star of the documentary.
But overall nest numbers appear down compared with last year. The El Niño effect, perhaps? Also breeding seems more advanced when compared to last season. All nests we looked at had chicks in them, a few of them have already failed. In fact, in one nest I noticed a rather large chick by itself indicating that some birds have already gone into the post-guard stage.
Oh, and I spotted a penguin with quite a bit of its left flipper missing. We’ll call him Jamie Lannister. Just goes to show how tough these birds are and can indeed survive grueling injuries without human intervention.
After four hours of bush bashing we made it back to our base at Neils Beach. All pretty tired. The many weeks of desk work certainly take their toll. We hope to deploy the first dive loggers today. If only the weather improves a bit (no rain please).
September 14, 2015 at 10:05 am
We’re settling in at Neils Beach. We arrived at the house we’re renting for fieldwork after a 7-hours drive from Milford Sound. A clear starry sky emphasized the darkness that engulfed Neils Beach – no street lamps here. Just the rolling of the sea in the air.
This morning the sun was out which isn’t quite that usual at the West Coast. It offered us a cool view from the veranda of our ‘field station’.
Today we gotta do another trip back to Queenstown to pick up Ursula & Jun before we finally get dirty at Jackson Head tomorrow.
September 13, 2015 at 1:39 pm
Season 2 of the Tawaki Project is finally underway. After purchasing field supplies in Dunedin last night, we headed over to Milford Sound last night.
First thing this morning we headed down to the tourist wharf to meet up with Andrea Faris of Southern Discoveries. Those guys really go out of their way to help us pull off our field work in Milford Sound. They will help us with all the logistics involved in Milford Sound. So we should not have problems getting to Harrison Cove whenever we need.
Southern Discoveries operate the underwater observatory in Harrison Cove which not only allows people to take a look at what’s going on under the surface of Milford Sound. It will also serve as our research base for the first two weeks in October.
So everything looks really good except for the fact that we had no idea how many tawaki are actually breeding in Harrison Cove. And of course, this being Fiordland, there was a bit of a question mark behind the fact whether we could actually do our tracking work in the rugged and densely overgrown terrain.
A wee recce trip was in order before we arrive in full force in October. We met Andrea just before 9am and hopped on board of one of the Southern Discoveries vessels and headed over to Harrison cove, a 15 minutes ride from the wharf.
The observatory is pretty cool. It’s a pretty large floating structure that not only features the submarine viewing facilities but also sports a sea kayaking shed with an automatic launch. Andrea pointed out that we could always use sea kayaks to go independently over to the penguin colony.
“Of course, we can always give you a ride in one of our boats”, Andrea said.
Did I mention that Southern Discoveries a bloody marvelous? So if you ever go to visit Milford Sound and you wonder which company to go on a cruise with…
Hotte and I jumped into an aluminum dinghy and Andrea shuttled us over to the far end of the cove where we hopped onto the shingly beach. While we checked our radio communication with Andrea the first tawaki dropped by to say hello to us. The bird emerged from the crystal clear water and preened on the rocks not far from where we stood. Certainly a good start to our recce.
We geared up and dived head first into the dense bush. Lichens dangling from low branches, mosses growing on windfall and lots of green surrounded us. And before long we heard tawaki calling from somewhere to the right of us. Hotte and I fanned out (as much as a two person team can fan out) following obvious penguin tracks.
Not more than 50 metres in we came across the first nest. Sheltered underneath a fallen tree trunk a male tawaki the bird was incubating two eggs. It did not stir when I peeked into its nest, although I’m sure he wasn’t too comfortable with my presence either. I retreated quickly.
Getting a GPS position of the nest proved to be a lot harder than I would have imagined. Because of the steep fiord walls rising steeply to 1000 metres on either side of the fiord, the GPS did not have that much sky to look for satellites. That might also be a problem for our GPS loggers. Good thing though, once latched on to some sats the accuracy was in the 10m range which is not at all bad considering the dense vegetation.
Over the course of the next 1½ hours Hotte and I found 10 nest and installed four time lapse cameras to record nest attendance patterns. Half of the nests had birds still incubating eggs, the others sitting on very small chicks. Hatching is underway. Which is a bit of a worry.
The Fiordland tawaki are believed to lay eggs about a week or two later than the birds from the West Coast. That might mean that we have to hurry up once we’re Jackson Head, at least if we want to get data from birds during the chick guard stage.
We made our way back to the shore. There are likely more nests in the Harrison Cove bush which we’ll find once I’m back with Ursula and the fabulous Dave Houston in October. Hotte will hold the fort with Klemens Pütz taking over the scientific lead at Jackson Head then. So we will work simultaneously at two sites. A first for all of us, I believe.
Hotte and I will be heading from Milford Sound to Neils Beach today – an epic journey indeed. Tomorrow I’ll head back to Queenstown to pick up Ursula from the airport as well as albatross expert Junishi Sugishita who will help us out in the first few days before Klemens arrives next Friday.
Busy times ahead of us.
November 17, 2014 at 7:38 pm
Our last day. As per usual, the film crew headed off to Jackson Head in the middle of the night. I took it easy and left town around 9am.
I first paid a visit to Geoff Robson of Greenstone Helicopters at Neil’s Beach. Geoff is a great supporter of our project both in terms of sharing his expertise on the region and funding much of our field work. We had a pretty good chat that gives me quite a bit to think about.
He reckons that Gorge River, some 50 km South of Jackson Head, might be a better site for our work. Less treacherous terrain and a DOC hut situated close to the tawaki breeding sites. On top of that there is the Long family living at Gorge River and they not only know tawaki inside out (they have been living with the birds as neighbours for decades now), the whole family has been involved with tawaki monitoring in the past. Robin Long just completed a comprehensive survey of the coast line around Gorge River and produced one of the most thorough survey reports on tawaki I managed to get my hand on. It would surely be awesome to get Robin and her family involved in our project somehow.
After half an hour I continued on to Jackson Head and walked out to our study site one final time this breeding season. My main task today was to pick-up all our trail cams, remove the tent hide and help the film crew to carry out all of their gear.
Today was not only our last day out here. It was also the last day for one of the chicks that we have been filming for nearly three months now to fledge. Last night, Ida-san mentioned that if it doesn’t happen today, Hongo-san and Sam would have to stay another few days until they finally could get the footage to finish the story.
When I approached the base I noticed Sam nervously jumping up and down on the rocks looking out towards the far side of the beach. Either he was trying to dodge a horde of sandflies or something happened out if sight.
Five minutes later I was at his side. He smiled from ear to ear.
Below us, Hongo-san was balancing his camera tripod precariously on a rock while peering through the view finder. Haruki-san sat in the grass above us also filming.
“Thomas! It happened! Chick left today! And we got it all the way!”
What a finish! The penguins left it literally to the last minute. Of course it was unclear whether the chick they were filming was actually the one from the balcony nest which received most of the film crew’s attention, but, hey, artistic liberty!
“Ida-san is upstairs”, Sam said. “He wants to film with much-dee-copta.”
Multicopter-flying time. I looked up, overcast but not much wind. That should work.
Sam and I headed up to the apartment block via the creek route so as to not disturb the filming on the beach. Up there, Ida-san was unpacking the drone and checking all functions.
First he wanted to get aerial footage of the apartment block. Which meant he had to fly the multicopter through the forest. I was amazed how accurately he managed to do that.
Only the vegetation closer to the cave made it difficult. In the end, Ida-san gave up, grabbed the device and held it high up over his head while walking around the rocks, guiding the camera mounted in its gimbal from cave to cave. Pretty cool make-shift steadicam.
After half an hour, Ida-san took the drone down to the rocks protruding from the vegetation above the base. With one hand he held the device, with the other he operated the remote control. The rotors started to whizz, Ida-san let go, and the drone rose slowly into the air.
The filming of the aerial footage was quite cool, actually. Because Ida-san let the multicopter fly at considerable speed along the coast until it was nothing but a dot on the horizon. Pretty good range, I thought. But one tiny glitch and the thing is a goner. No wonder Ida-san brought two units with him.
I let the crew finish up their filming and did one last camera run. Camera after camera ended up in my backpack, some of them artistically modified by the penguins using guano as principal working material. This is going to be a fun scrubbing session once I’m back in Dunedin.
The further up the hill I got, the fewer penguins there seemed to be. One last check of the surroundings of nest JH06 made me accept the inevitable – we would not get our logger back. The devices probably already rests at the bottom of the ocean as I write this. The penguin is certainly going to be a lot happier about this than I am.
I returned to the apartment block at 4pm. All the gear, cables, tripods, tend hides, the director’s tent, tarpaulins and plastic boxes were gone. Only the worn out path leading from the rope to the director’s tent and up to the platform in front of the apartment block bore witness to the hard work the film crew had done here in the past weeks. Now all of them were searching the ground for bits of plastic and trash.
“All good?” I asked Ida-san.
“Yes. All good. We can go to Dunedin” he replied.
The filming as well as the Tawaki Project’s first season are officially a wrap!
November 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm
I wanted to get a reasonably early start out at Jackson Head today. I was really keen to have a lookout for fledging chicks on the shore for a few hours, just to see if I would be able to observe a similar “family outing” that Sam had observed yesterday.
I got to the Head just after 9am, some 7 hours after the film crew had left the Hotel. When I approached the study site, I could see Haruki-san with his camera perched on one of the rocks below the base. He was pointing his lens up towards the creek and I could only assume that another fledgling was in the process of making his way to the water for his big splash.
And indeed, there the bird was. It looked positively unsure where to go and what to do. And unlike the fledgling yesterday which seemed to have been guided out to the sea by some adult tawaki that may or may not have been its parents, this one was all by itself.
The young penguin scratched his bottom. Then it flapped its wing. It turned around, looked up the hill, turned once more, looking down at the sea… and decided to scratch its bottom some more.
Once more I found Sam slouched down in his folding chair between the rocks at the Base, trying to catch up on some sleep. He was wearing his mosquito net hat to keep the Sandflies at bay. As an Australian resident I would have expected a cork hat, these hats with wine corks dangling from the brim, but then again he’s Sam, not Bruce…
I made my way up to the apartment building and found Ida-san snoring inside the director’s tent while Hongo-san patiently waited behind his camera without any sign of fatigue. After a quick peek at the happenings in the cave of the apartment building (one adult tawaki and six mostly moulted chicks being bored stiff) I meant to head over to my observation tent for a few hours of waiting. But instead Ida-san stirred and crawled out of his tent, his eyes red and bleary.
“Thomas-san. This afternoon I would like to use multi-copter. Is that okay?”
A while ago, when we were still having beers at night, Ida-san had talked about his adventures with flying drones to get aerial footage. The crew has two of the quad-copters with them, each equipped with GoPros mounted with gimbals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimbal) to the base. When I asked why two units, Ida-san casually replied “Oh. In case we lose one.”
“When we were filming bower birds in Papua New Guinea a few months ago, I lost one. I flew it over the trees and then it just disappeared. Never found it.”
So, there’s an expensive multi-copter with an even more expensive gimbal and a GoPro lying around the Papuan jungle somewhere. I’ll keep my eyes peeled next time I’m up there (if ever).
Ida-san indicated that he would like to work with the drone around lunch time. Apart from the fact that it was my responsibility to oversee such activities I was far too curious not to witness that attempt. But first, I was to meet with Paul Elwell-Sutton from the West Coast Penguin Trust around 1 pm to pick up the trust’s trail cameras. But I was sure Paul would be curious to observe this novel style of film making.
Ida-san and I agreed to give it a go around 2 pm.
Now I am spending some time in the tent hide. So far two tawaki went past me; none had an extra package on its back.
Paul, Sam (whom we met down at the beach) and I made it to the apartment block just after 2 pm. Down on the beach not a lot was happening. In fact, we had sneaked past Haruki-san who lay spread-eagled on a rock having a bit of a nap in the shade of his camera tripod. At the apartment block itself, also nothing happened. Although I have to admit I was amazed to find Hongo-san sitting patiently in exactly the same position I had left him more than two hours ago.
Ida-san wanted to go up the hill and find a bit of a clearing. The wind had picked up and he wanted to give his drone-flying skills a bit of a refresher. So we climbed up to Hilltop which by now seems pretty deserted. Hardly any signs of chicks or breeding adults; they must all moved on down the hill in anticipation of fledging.
Doesn’t look good for our logger recovery.
The drone flight attempts turned out to be pretty average. Ids-san seldom managed to keep the drone up in the air for more than a few seconds before a wind gush pushed it into the vegetation which sent it crashing down to the ground. Remarkably robust these drones!
Ida-san gave up after ten minutes remarking: “Too windy. Tomorrow.”
Considering it’s our last day tomorrow we better hope it’s not as windy.
Paul headed back to town, Ida-san & Sam joined the rest of the team to call it a day. And I resumed the watch in the tent hide.
It’s getting darker outside as I am writing this. Outside a lonely tawaki is sitting in the kiekie not quite sure what to make of the tent hide flapping in the breeze. It’s one of three more logger-less penguins I have seen this afternoon. I think I’ll head back to town once this fella has decided to move on.
November 15, 2014 at 8:08 pm
I know I keep repeating myself, but I hate when the weather forecast is right. For today they forecasted torrential rainfall. And in the afternoon we got it. Big time.
I arrived at Jackson Head around lunchtime and met Sam at our base on the rocks just beyond the penguin highway up to the Apartment Block. He was excited about something and he told me what it was.
The first chick had fledged at 10.30am this morning; and Sam was the only one to witness it. But not only that, what he witnessed was bloody interesting too. Because he saw the chick leave the shore together with a pair of adults, a male and a female. Moreover the male and the female seemed to be encouraging the chick to take the dip.
“Looked like mother and father”, Sam said as he got out his little Canon camera. He had taken photos as well as videos of the scene. And when I saw what he had recorded I could not deny the fact that he might as well be right.
The male would sometime peck the chick, but in a rather gentle, non-aggressive way like haven’t seen it before. And all the time the three birds stayed together. Then the chick took a false step and toppled of the rock. The female craned her neck looking down to the chick as if she was concerned like I have seen it before in Snares penguins when an egg or chick rolled out of the nest bowl. The chick eventually got back onto the rock and was washed off by a wave. It swam at the surface towards the horizon. The male and female jumped in after it and eventually joined the chick maybe fifty metres from the shore. According to Sam, they then swam out together, always at the surface until they disappeared far out at sea.
“Do you think they teach chick to forage?” Sam asked me.
“If it was indeed mum and dad, why not?” was my reply. The thought was pretty damn cool.
In penguins parental care generally ends with fledging. The chicks have to take the big dip alone. Except for Gentoo penguins, where it has been observed that the parents join their offspring on the first big outing.
And to be honest, in a way it makes sense for the parents to try everything they can to help their chick get along in the ocean. Like all crested penguins Tawaki only raise one chick per season. So it’s the one shot they have per year. Since crested penguins tend to start breeding at around five or so years, they might be able to produce nine, ten chicks in their lifetime. And not all of them will survive to become breeders. So every push, every tip parents can give their young will improve its chance of survival – and the perpetuation of the parent’s genes in future generations.
We really should have a look at this phenomenon next year.
I headed up to the Apartment block where really nothing was happening. The cave was crammed full of penguins. Six chicks ranging from fluffy downy ones to big ones fully moulted into their fancy blue and white feather suit were in there. On top of that I counted six adult Tawaki. All seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
What I also noticed was that they did not seem to care much about my presence when I peeked into the cave. A few weeks ago penguins would have started to clamber up the rocks to get to the far end of the cave, away from the horrible creature that was shining a light at them. Today they just looked at me not moving. I guess the constant presence of a camera man in the past two months helped them to get used to our presence. In fact, one of the chicks could not contain its curiosity and inched closer to me and my camera.
The film crew packed up just after lunch and headed back to Haast, red-eyed and positively looking like Zombies. The early morning hours of filming certainly take their toll. I on the other hand had slept until seven and was ready to assume my post in the tent hide.
By 4pm a rain had set in that made yesterday’s rainfall indeed look like drizzle. It was like Jackson Head was put under a waterfall. Of course, the bruised and battered tent hide was not rally built for this kind of weather so that after a short while through hundreds of tiny holes in the canvas it started to rain inside the tent. Paired with the fact that it was cold I was in for a very miserable afternoon.
At around 3pm a lonely Tawaki made its way up the path. When she spotted the tent she stopped in her tracks and started to inspect the strange object just next to the route she intended to follow.
After about 10 minutes of looking she suddenly fell asleep, right there and then. With eyes closed she stood in front of my tent occasionally scratching herself behind an ear with her foot, shaking her body sending water drops flying in all directions or flapping her wings briefly.
After an hour she woke up, shook her head, eyed the tent and was on her way.
By now I had to make a decision: weather it out and stay until 10pm or pack up and leave now. Because it was only two hours until high tide. I surrendered to the weather, packed my stuff and left.
It felt like a defeat even though I think it was a sensible thing to do. Several hours in this weather, wet, cold and without anything else to do but sit and wait was a recipe for hypothermia. But of course tonight could be the night that the logger bird finally shows up. Or not.
At the end of the day it was the right decision. Because for what could be the final time, I had dinner with the Japanese film crew at the hotel bar. Two more days and we’re out of here, off to Dunedin.
November 14, 2014 at 11:37 pm
Boy, it’s cold today. I am sitting in my tent hide – this time with a small camping chair and not one but two Vapor repellent doodaddies that magnificently keep the sandflies away. But it is cold.
They have forecasted a change in the weather which will bring rain towards the evening and will develop into heavy rain all day tomorrow. I hope they are wrong about this.
Ida-san has changed his strategy. His team now operates in shifts, with Haruki-san, Ida-san and Sam covering the morning shift from 2am to 11am while Hongo-san and I will keep watch – each at his own spot – from 11am until 11pm.
What Ida-san and his team are hoping to film is the actual process of fledging. Half of the chicks at the apartment block have shed their down and look like fully functional penguins now. Granted, their plumage has a blue-grey hue to it, their crests are little more than a faint line of pale, yellow feathers over their eyes and their bills are black. But they seem to match their parents in size and built. So theoretically they could go.
Unfortunately, they don’t seem to feel the inkling to do so just yet. Which adds to Ida-san’s worries as he needs, to use his own words (translated by Sam), “fledging, otherwise no story”. However, they’ve been quite lucky so far, and I am sure that it will work out for them in the end. Who knows, the chicks might fledge any minute.
So while Hongo-san waits for the chicks of the apartment block to make their move. I sit and wait for the logger bird from JH06. And I am worried too.
Not so much that the birds might not return (or rather continue to elude me); that’s a possibility I have accepted three weeks ago. No, what I am worried about is what happens if I actually see the bird going past my tent. Because sitting in here and waiting is one thing. But getting out quickly to capture the penguin before she has disappeared under a kiekie thicket is a whole different thing. Yesterday, for example when trying to get into the tent I nearly skewered my left thigh on a rotten piece of wood that sticks out of the slope at just the right angle. And getting into the tent is the easy bit.
I actually tried it out earlier. It takes me a whopping 15 seconds to open the zipper of the tent flap, wriggle my way out of the tangle of canvas and strings, avoid the piece of wood (no, I could not break it off, I tried, believe me) and get out onto the penguin path. I probably have to use the stealthy approach of slowly and quietly opening the zipper, carefully exiting the tent and then sneaking after the unsuspecting Tawaki.
Will that work? I honestly don’t know. I guess, no, I hope we will see.
6.30pm: Another six and a half hours gone without anything in particular happening. Three penguins have gone up the hill, none with anything attached to its back.
About an hour ago I spotted two Tawaki a bit downhill from my tent hide climbing onto the trunk of a large tree that arches at a precarious angle from the slope. While it is probably the first tree to fall in the event of an earthquake it is also privileged to be climbed by Tawaki.
Sitting perched on the tree for a while, the two reminded me of my time on the Snares where non-breeding penguins would also scale leaning trees, some of them three or more metres above the ground. Better still, in the 1970s John Warham actually found a Tawaki nest in a tree 10 metres in the air. And here at Jackson Head no less. Maybe we’re looking in the wrong places when we search for Tawaki nests? (As if Stewart Island hadn’t answered this question already…)
Well, another 3 and a half hours to go.
Traffic certainly picked up when it started to get dark in the forest. Had there been just the odd penguins for most of the day, now the counter started ticking up to a grand total of 14 penguins. None of which carried a GPS logger.
Just before 10pm Hongo-san had enough. I had enough as well. And since it started to rain we decided to pack up and leave an hour early (we were supposed to stay until 11pm). By the time I teamed up with Hongo-san just below the Apartment block, the rain reached a strength that “I-don’t-mind-the-rain-but-I-hate-bloody-drizzle” Morgan would have approved of.
By the time we were down on the rocks and started this evening’s boulder hopping exercise, it “rained strings” as they say in Germany. Only thath here they strings lashed at us horizontally.
And to make matters worse, the batteries of my head torch died on me. No problem, I though and got out the spare batteries. These were flat also. Nevermind, I thought, and I rummaged through my bum bag to get the spare head torch out. Of course, Murphy’s Law had to have a go at me, because the batteries in my spare torch were also spent. So in the dying light of two head torches I had to find my way across the rocks (Hongo-san only had AA batteries when I needed AAA. Thanks, Murphy.)
That I made it back to the car and hotel without any broken limbs is a minor miracle.