2/20/10: Waitomo, New Zealand to Hamilton, New Zealand, to Auckland, New Zealand
The five animals we will cover in today’s post are: cows, kiwis, glowworms, moa and Tom Jones. Let us begin.
I have heard that there are more sheep than people on the island of New Zealand. No one mentioned cows. But from what we’ve seen so far, there are about 50 sheep and ten bazillion cows here. I’m not sure where all these alleged “sheep” are hiding (on the South Island? disguised as cows?), but that’s a subject for another post. This section is about cows. While we drove through the countryside, I counted the number of cows (three) that I saw lying on their sides with their feet sticking out to use as tangible evidence that cows do, in fact, lie on their sides, and can, in fact, get up from that aforementioned position. Later in the day, I was sadly disabused of this notion that cows can right themselves after being pushed onto their sides. This made me very worried. About the cows.
Z: Oh no! So those three cows are all going to die?
K: Well, you weren’t even sure that the second two were even really lying on their sides.
Z: Yeah, hopefully I was mistaken about those two. But we both saw the first one! He was definitely on his side; we saw his legs sticking out!
K: Yeah, he’s going to die.
Z: (is horrified) Oh my god, we should go back and help him up!
K: Help him up?! Have you SEEN US lately?
The beloved kiwi. Kiwis (New Zealanders) love their kiwis so much they even refer to themselves as Kiwis. I suppose it’s a better nickname than Hobbits, anyway. Or Sheep. Or Cheapest Skydivers in the World. But back to kiwis. Kiwis (the people) love their kiwis (the birds), so New Zealand is filled with kiwi hatcheries/tourist attractions, where you are “guaranteed to see a kiwi!” Well, I should certainly hope that one would be guaranteed to see a kiwi at a kiwi hatchery! Anyhow, we didn’t have time to visit a hatchery on the North Island, but it turns out that it didn’t matter, because today we saw a kiwi crossing the highway. (Insert your own “why did the kiwi cross the road?” joke here.) Following is a transcript of the conversation, edited for your benefit.
Z: Watch out!
Kevin swerves to avoid a small round animal walking slowly across the road.
Z: Wait – that was a kiwi!
Z: Ohmygosh! We just saw a kiwi trying to cross the road!
Z: We should go back and help it!
Z: Aren’t they endangered? Or protected or something?
K: Really? You mean it’s not common to see a kiwi? I thought they were everywhere.
Z: I think they’re protected. Or endangered. That’s why they have all these hatcheries and the Kiwi Experience and things like that.
K: So it’s really uncommon to see a kiwi?
Z: I think so.
K: Cool! We saw a kiwi!
Z: Are you sure it was a kiwi?
K: Well, it definitely looked like those stuffed kiwis we’ve been seeing everywhere.
Z: Yeah, I think it was. At first I thought it was a rat or a mole or something, but a rodent would scurry, and that thing definitely was not scurrying.
K: No, it was definitely not scurrying – more like moseying… Hey, cool, we saw a kiwi! I wish we could have gotten a better look…
Z: I can’t believe that’s all you can say in this situation! That poor thing is going to get run over! We have to go back and save it! We have to go back!
K: Nah, it’ll be ok. It was almost across and no one was coming behind us.
I married Kevin for his sensitivity.
Today we went with Spellbound Tours to visit a cave with glowworms, where we learned that glowworms aren’t really worms, they’re actually maggots – but who would want to see glowmaggots? Exactly – no one. The glowworm cave we visited was a 20 minute drive from Waitomo, population 41, and it was spectacular. It was like looking into a sky full of little blue stars. Very, very cool.
Sorry about the blurry picture. Those tiny threads hanging from the ceiling are the glowworms’ silk threads, which catch their prey – tiny flying insects. Each glowworm builds a hammock about the length of a straw with 50 or so silk threads hanging from it. The glowworms themselves are actually quite ugly – in fact, they look just like maggots, but luckily you can’t see them if your helmet light is off, just their lights.
On our glowworm tour, our guide showed us the remains of a moa, a large, now-extinct, flightless bird that used to inhabit New Zealand.
Our guide then told us that scientists have found NO evidence that moa EVER had wings. I can’t believe this. This is impossible. Kiwis and ostriches have wings, they’re just useless ones. Even snakes used to have legs at one point. I think moa must have some vestigial traces of wings. This situation is almost as worrisome as the cow thing.
I don’t know who Tom Jones is, but I hate him. We left Waitomo after our glowworm tour and drove to the town of Hamilton, where we had planned on staying the night. Unfortunately, the place we had planned on staying at was completely booked. No problem, we would just go to Auckland one day ahead of schedule and stay at a motel near the airport so we could catch our flight to Queenstown the next day. Well, it turns out that Tom Jones fans had completely booked up every single hostel, motel and hotel room in the Auckland airport area, forcing us to spend the night – where else – but at the Auckland airport. Tom Jones – what a greedy pig that guy is!
Picture of the Day: We got kicked out of the domestic terminal at midnight and had to walk in the dark to the international terminal. If New Zealand weren’t so darn awesome, I’d be mad at it.