Thursday, August 07, 2003

I Saw a Kiwi!!!

Up about 8:30, showered, breakfast, packed everything into the car, checked out and headed south on SH2 for Wellington. Before I left, I called Bargain Car Rentals to see if they happen to have a car available in Picton for me, then I wouldn't have to take the car across on the ferry. They didn't have any in Picton. Oh well. She gave me the name of a ferry company that's cheaper than the regular ferry service between the islands. I can ship the car for $110, which can be quite a bit cheaper.

Left about 10:00, drove and stopped at Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre about 12:45. $8 to get in, they have aviaries and reserves for some of the rarest and endangered birds in NZ, and have breeding programs in place. Also have some reptiles and have some eels in the stream that runs through the park. Walked through the reserve, saw some rare birds, but couldn't find other rare birds in amongst the think trees and bush in the large cages. Then went to see the daily eel feeding at 1:30, then went through Kiwi House, where they have two kiwi birds in a time-slipped habitat. Kiwi's are flightless, nocturnal birds, so they alter light conditions in the building to make their night our day, so we can see them out feeding. WOW!!! I always thought kiwi were little birds, they're not, they're HUGE! They're big, bigger than a large housecat! I was totally shocked, because Lonely Planet says they are small as well. Anyway, the kiwi is NZ national bird and is endangered. It has declined by about 90% in the last 70 years or something like that, mainly through introduced mammals that hunt them (NZ has no native mammals!), and the kiwi has no defences against them at all. AFter walking through the reserve, had lunch at the cafe at the centre, and left about 2:00.

Continued south (south west, actually), and saw a sign for Waiohine Gorge, so decided to check it out. It's a DOC recreational area above a deep gorge with a river (Waiohine River?) running through it. Spent perhaps an hour getting there and back.

SH2 follows a spectacular mountain range the whole way down from Napier, so to my right I had a great mountain view the whole way. About an hour from Wellington, the highway crosses the mountain range, culminating at Rimutaka Summit, at an elevation of 555 metres, and awesome views on both sides.

Got to Wellington about 5:00, right during rush hour. Crazy! Pulled off a downtown side street, parked, and got my bearings and decided to stay at World Wide Backpackers. Spent what seemed like hours trying to navigate 1-way streets, traffic jams, and finally made it the hostel, but now couldn't find a place to park. Drove around for another 10 hours, trying to find a place to park, finally finding something 10 minutes walk away. Got to the hostel, and it was full.....

I decided then that I didn't want to deal with Wellington traffic, and to stay at a place called Moana Lodge, about 20 minutes north of Wellington, in Plimmerton. Let's Go gave it a thumbs up, and the kiwi chick at the hostel in Napier highly recommended it too. I called them, and they were full, but the guy said I could sleep on the couch in the common room if I wanted, for the night. I wasn't about to drive 20 minutes to sleep on a couch. I then called Maple Lodge, in a residential area, about 10 minutes walk from downtown, and they had room, so spent another 10 hours navigating my way through rush hour, 1-way streets, forced turns (when I don't want to turn!) and finally made it. They have off street parking as well, which is good. Got settled in, had supper (jam and peanut butter sandwiches), then read. To bed about 11:15, I was the last one up, and had to turn off all the lights.

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