Monday, March 31, 2007 10:26 PM
part 3

The cruise along Doubtful Sound lasted for hours, and we saw penguins and seals on the rocks. It rained the whole time, which resulted in the creation of dozens of waterfalls, which was nice. At one point, the captain turned off the engines and let us listen to the complete silence. That was very relaxing. Then he took us beyond the islands, on to the Tasman sea. The sea was extremely rough - the swell was nearly two metres tall. We came back again very quickly.

There's a house built on pylons in the shallow water beside the beach of one particular island. It was built after a loophole was found in the building codes, which disallowed building on the island itself, but at the time, the water was not considered to be part of the island. The law has since been amended. The house is now used by fishermen when the weather is bad, or the boats require refuelling. It receives television broadcasts now, so by amazing coincidence, when the Bledisloe Cup is on, all of the fishing boats need to be refuelled at the same time, and that takes all day to achieve.

We got back from the cruise just in time to catch a tour of the glow-worm caves. That was really great - the glow-worms live in the complete darkness of the caves, and use a light that they produce themselves to attract prey. The worms are also very territorial - the tour guide showed us a video of a young glow-worm that got too close to another glow-worm. The second glow-worm ate the first glow-worm. The glow was bright enough that the first glow-worm was visible inside the second glow-worm.

The glow-worm tour is done by boat that moves through the glow-worm caves. The only light is that produced by the glow-worms themselves, so one loses the sense of direction immediately. The boat moves very slowly through the cave, so slowly in fact that since I was concentrating completely on looking at the glow-worms, I didn't notice that the boat reached the end of the cave, turned around, and came back.

After we got back from the glow-worm caves, we stayed in a Japanese Bed and Breakfast place. That place offered a Japanese breakfast, which we thought would be nice, but it actually wasn't really on offer. It needed to be ordered at the time of the reservation, and then it depended on the availability of the ingredients and the mood of the cook on the day. We won't be recommending them to anyone.

The next day was a 170 kilometres drive to Queenstown, apparently the extreme sports capital of the world. Our only interest there was the Kiwi Birdlife Park, where they have live kiwis. It was raining when we got there, but the kiwi sanctuary is indoors so it didn't matter. Since kiwis are nocturnal, the room is almost completely dark, and since kiwis are brown, it was very hard to see them. The handlers have managed to invert the kiwis' circadian rhythm, to cater for tourists. They managed it by turning on the lights during our night so the birds will sleep when no tourists are around; and switching off the lights during our day so the birds will be active when the tourists are around.

When we arrived, a kiwi was running backwards and forwards behind some plants at the back of the enclosure, so we waited patiently in case it would come closer. It didn't, but just as we were about to leave, we happened to look down, and right in front of us was another kiwi. It was a surprise, but a nice one. They have really long beaks, and the birds themselves are much larger than we expected. It's really just a blob with a beak, since the wings are stubby and hidden under the feathers.

We walked around for a while, looking at other things, but many of the birds were missing for some reason, so went back inside the main building to watch the "Maori cultural display". The display was several Maori women and men (including the guy who sold us the tickets) in costume (really not much more than a loincloth, quite a lot less than he was wearing when we first saw him) playing traditional Maori instruments - plus that well-known Maori instrument, the acoustic guitar. They sang, they danced, they performed a Haka. It was great. We have pictures of them demonstrating the "battle" look - wide eyes, tongue sticking out, puffed up chest. They were really scary. So were the guys.

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