Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Wish I Were a Glowworm

'I wish I were a glowworm, because a glowworm is never glum. How could you be unhappy when the sun shines out of your bum?' This was what the campsite host gave us in terms of advice when we asked about the glow worms that we heard inhabited the area. The directions went something like: 'You go into the deep dark forest, make a right, left, left right, over the hills and far away till you can't see you hand in front of your face, and there, you will find the glowworms. At least this is about what Jonathan remembered of the directions as we shuffled into the dense black forest later that evening. There was a boardwalk, truth be told, lit by faded glow in the dark stickers. Stickers, it turns out, don't give off much light. Just when we thought we were the subject of a cruel joke, we came around a corner (I think) and we saw them. The ground was illuminated with tiny white/blue LED looking Christmas lights. It was quite a show. It's amazing how nature can produce such unnatural looking colours. Lucky us!
The next night, one significantly colder and definitely windier, we found ourselves back outside, at Mother Nature's whim, this time, waiting 'patiently' for the Blue Penguins to return from thier day of feeding at sea. While we waited we had the pleasure of watching the Albatross soar above the Albatross Centre next door. These massive birds have a nearly 4 metre wing span and need a lot of wind to get them off the ground. Luckily (for them) it was a super windy evening. It was quite a spectacular sideshow for us as well.
The main Blue Penguin event took a bit of waiting. But they had to return, they had babies in nests all around us! Two volunteers from the Department of Conservation were nice enough to meet us down at the beach just before 9pm with big neon jackets, nametags, red light flashlights and a wealth of information. Just before the penguins arrived in 'rafts' (groups) we learned that Blue Penguins, or Baby Blues are no bigger than a ruler at 20-25cm. Their 8 week old chicks, which were pointed out to us as they got braver in the fading light and came out of their burrows, were about the same size as the parents as they were yet to loose their big fluffy baby blue down coasts in exchange for the waterproof ones their parents sported. The chicks called for the food and the parents, returning to shore called back reassuringly. Parents spend from before sunrise to sunset 15-17kms out in the ocean feeding. They return home to their chicks, who have been waiting in their burrows all day, and feed them. The chicks stay at home for only 12 weeks and then are fully independent and leave. Probably sounds like the ideal situation for many human parents. It was incredible. The volunteers pointed out the penguins as they came up onto the beach, chatted a bit and then made their up the steps made specifically for them. We stood still and the penguins waddled practically across our feet and passed us to burrows (old rabbit holes.) The rabbits were none to happy about this. The only reason these penguins survive is the predator controls set up around the area. NZ is infested with many introduced spieces, such as ferrets, possums and rats who would have easily eaten all the chicks whose burrows are so easily accessible. Even with the predator control the chicks only have a 30% chance of survival.

Penguin week, as we refer to it as, continued the next night. We stopped to see the Moreaki boulders. In themselves the boulders are quite a sight. At the ocean's edge, at low tide, perfectly spherical, perfectly smooth, very large boulders sit unexplained as the only rocks on an otherwise completely sandy beach. Some are cracked or have craters in the middle. There are pieces of what was obviously other boulders strewn about like someone had come by with a massive sledge hammer and smashed a few up so we could see the insides.
Anyways, we were insearch of a nice place to make dinner and saw sign for a lighthouse. We remembered somthing fellow Spaceship-ers had told us long long ago in the Norht Island about being able to see something from the Moreaki Lighthouse. We couldn't remember the details, so we turned down the side road to jog our memories. There was a 'Penguin Crossing' sign in the car park and a steep path down towards the ocean. We walked down the little path and found a tiny wooden shed. It was a penguin hide! Yellow eyed penguins are very cautious, we learned. If they see someone or something on the beach where their burrows are that they don't know they won't return home. This means the chicks will die because they won't get any food and the penguins will die because they need rest after hunting all day. So,the lighthouse owners and Conservation groups built this shed, complete with binoculars so humans could enjoy the penguins without disturbing them. There were two British girls already there, so we chatted with them, protected from the wind and cold while we awaited the penguins. Again. Waiting, Waiting. Jeez. Didn't these guys know we were here? Their chicks certainly wanted them to return. They were quite vocal about their opinion in the matter. Our patience was rewarded a short while later as the yellow-eyed penguins started to return to shore. They are double the size of the Blue Penguins. Black and white with a thick yellow band all the way around their heads and over their eyes. They were so entertaining as they road the waves into the shoal, hopped up, waddled around, called to each other and hopped some more. The free binoculars really came in handy! We probably only saw about 6 or 7 of them, but seeing any wild penguins is more than I hoped for. Although I don't want to bore you with our 2 other penguin sightings, we also stumbled upon a Fijordland Crested Penguin on a beach on the West Coast as well as more Yellow-Eyed Penguins at Bushey Beach in Oamaru.
New Zealand is winding down, which is a little sad, so we needed a pick-me-up. Conveniently for us, NZ's Cadbury Factory is in Dunedin, and so were we. Not like I have been planning, and looking forward to this day from the instant I saw the Factory advertised way back in Auckland or anything. And, you know, I don't mind chocolate. Plus, it was a little overcast, and we couldn't see the penguins until the evening, so really, we needed something to kill the afternoon.
The entire block the Cadbury Factory encompasses smells like melting chocolate. It would be a lie to say I didn't literally skip down the street to the entrance. How do people live here and why aren't they all fat?! Move over Niagara Kraft Factory. Sure your Shreddie making infuses downtown with the smell of sweet baking, but you have nothing on melting chocolate! Earlier we had told the man who pointed us towards to glowworms that we were planning on going to the Cadbury Factory. I might have gone into a little detail about all the chocolate I planned on consuming. He looked at me and said 'Well you know what they say about a balanced diet?' I crossed my arms and waited for a lecture on the food pyramid. 'A balanced diet is a chocolate bar in each hand' he finished. It was with my health as motivation, really, as we walked through the purple and gold entrance into a display of about 5 million Crunchie Bars.
Its costs us $18 each for a Factory Tour. Yikes. I promised to eat nothing but plain bread and water for the remainder of our trip if we could only go in and see (and smell..and taste). Plus, the ad says we will get 'free samples' so really we are getting a deal. Saving money, no doubt. Jenny, our Tour Guide starts us off with a chocolate bar (Marshmallow Fish coasted in chocolate) and a movie about Cadbury's origins. I like Jenny. She quiz's us afterwards on what we learned. Quick, correct answers are rewarded with mini chocoalte bars. There are only five of us on the tour. We catch onto this game lightning fast and the remainder of the tour we are like enemy contestants on a game show with a buzzer. We listen carefully to every word Jenny says (I take notes) and then scream out the answers to her questions like we are going for a million dollars and not a 20cent mini chocolates (that they sell for exactly that price in the store downstairs). Ted would have said I "bearing down" on the questions. Good thing my husband is so smart. If it were a contest, he would have smoked that American guy and those two girls from Northern Ireland. Good work, honey! And as for his bulging goodie bag... you know what they say.. 'What's his is mine, and what's mine.' I think thats the whole saying. Just 'What's his is mine.' We saw chocolate chips and Easter eggs being made, 12 kg bars of chocolate (perfect size), a shocking liquid chocolate fountain and lots of other things that I remember tasting more than seeing. It was an afternoon in heavan. $18 well spent. The only thing I was left wondering was: can we do it again?

NZ Cadbury Fact: The population of NZ is 4 million. The Cadbury Factory, over a period of 6 months makes 45million large hallow Easter Eggs. That works out to more than 10 Easter eggs per person in NZ ALL consumed within the Easter week!! This is my kind of country.

ps. Again, just wanted to put the call out to anyone who reads this and has any contacts, volunteer or not, anywhere that we are headed on this trip to send them our way, please. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Cute little penquins.... chocolate heaven. ...amazing adventures!

Looking forward to our call from Australia!

love MOM

Anonymous said...

OMG, when I saw that picture of Jon, I thought, Jon doesn't stike me as someone who would buy plaid lol



Laura said...

I don't mean to be rude, but it's Dec 1. that means you haven't posted in 13 days.

..................... ummmm.... do i need to spell this out more clearly?

karly said...

i totally agree wit laura... and it is now 14days!!!! i miss you guys soo much!

Anonymous said...

16 and counting.....:)
Your "fave" aunt !!!