Two years ago, when Sirocco the kakapo was greeting his fans at a Waikato bird sanctuary, I was fortunate enough to meet him in the flesh. I took the public tour, and was invited to hold the personable parrot in my arms, an experience that made quite an impression on me.
So when I heard the big bird was returning to the mountain where he'd stolen my heart, I simply had to go back. Had our fleeting encounter meant as much to him as it had to me?
Some readers may think I've taken anthropomorphism a step too far, but Sirocco is a bird-world rock star. He has more Twitter followers than you can shake a stick at (last count 10,600) and his swagger would give Mick Jagger's a run for its money. One little girl summed it up perfectly when she declared him so handsome, a bird princess would surely want to marry him. Although Sirocco isn't so fond of his own kind, having been reared by humans, but I wasn't about to burst the kid's romantic bubble.
If you don't believe the hype, go see Sirocco for yourself because, for the next six weeks, he's receiving visitors at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.
Forty minutes from Cambridge and 30 minutes from Te Awamutu, this 3400ha ecological sanctuary is wrapped in 47km of pest-proof fence.
Now that almost all mammalian pests have been eradicated, bar the odd mouse, the bird and plant life on that extinct volcanic cone is flourishing.
My much-anticipated second date with Sirocco began at the sanctuary's cosy visitor centre one misty Saturday evening. Our tour group, herded into three vans, was driven through the impressive gates and into the darkness. The vehicles laboured up the steep incline in their lowest gears before releasing us outside a tin hut in the middle of the forest where we were given an endearing lesson in history and conservation before being invited into Sirocco's parlour.