Friday, January 31, 2014

Austrian visitors pretend to be Hobbits

Friday, January 31, 2014
oldbearnews editor
Everyone is still buzzing from yesterdays excursion! How could we possibly top that???  Fear not - the journey into middle earth is not yet over. Running - well - ok driving along the highway of excitement with the occasional pitstop.  First up - - the underwhelming Te Anau Wildlife Centre.  Efforts are being made to increase the population of the native Takehe - a bird previously thought extinct. The Wildlife Centre is open from dawn until dusk and entry is by a gold coin donation. The aviaries and pens that house the birds are set in beautiful grounds with views of the lake. Free flying birds enjoy the trees planted there and the ducks like the water edge below the boardwalk by the lake.  ok - so much for the advertizing ---->  http://www.te-anau-wildlife-centre/
It is a pretty open and often underused centre - although many school children go and visit and one should not underestimate the work done to INCREASE the population of the Takehe. The Takahē was once thought to be extinct, but in the 1948 it hit world headlines when an Invercargill doctor, Geoffrey Orbell, rediscovered the bird high in the tussock grasslands of the remote Murchison Mountains, Fiordland. Even today, despite years of conservation effort, the takahē remains critically endangered. That’s due to man-kinds stupid ideas to introduce pests like the rabbit / weasel / stoats / rats to name a few - and our flightless birds have never encountered natural predators before- so it is not in their genes to fight.
The nice thing about the centre is that it also attracts a good number of Tui and while hard to spot - you can hear them sing - along with the Bellbird!!
From there it was on to the beginning of the Kepler Track and someone had to have a pitstop - well - this is what we call a longdrop - but you may know this as a 'plumps-klo'. I should have warned the fella - there will be one or two flies - very large flies - that may decide to seek the light . . . . . .    Nah - better to let him find out for himself . .    :D     some Hitchcock-erian moments later - we were ready! 
From there is was back to the sound of click, click along the way.  Basically we walked in on the Track for about an hour or so to the Brod Bay, located almost opposite the Te Anau town itself. It is a natural rainforest with a lot of Beech and occasional Rimu tree's and with a tonne of ferns. I would need to research that fact, yet I am sure we have over - yes over 150 different species of ferns in NZ.  Sadly the famous silver fern is mostly in the North Island. Brod bay is a popular spot for boaties to come to and have a picnic - and on this day this was no exception with three being there dropping of what looked like a family gathering.   Along the way - impressions of the track - I leave you now to scroll and ponder NZ best beauty spot in silence - no cricket sound - no boatie sound and if you be so kind and turn of your radio/ coffeemaker - that would be grand!

Yes - ok - back into reality - Samson he is not - (thankfully) and it did kind of remind me of the story line of the two twin towers guarding mordor. ahhhh - banish the thought.  It is also a very uncomfortable look for a rest - having trudged in for 45 minutes.  Or did he seriously think he was guarding some secret entrance to some secret underground fern world?? No fear Laddie - the trees will keep on standing with or without your help - probably for another several hundred years!!
Our Koru - The koru (Māori for "loop") is a spiral shape based on the shape of a new unfurling silver fern frond and symbolizing new life, growth, strength and peace. and not often found just like that - in its prime state - and very difficult to take as a photo - but in this case . . . . . . .
Some of our more unwelcome visitors.  One wonders HOW they got to NZ in the first place - they are not native to our shores
Just testing the water - is it warm enough to get my feet wet? Is it deep enough to jump - urm - bungy jump into - well yes further out into the lake - urm - the sea bed drops away to some 150 meters plus.  Once is enough perhaps?
For some strange reason a group photo was called for. Was that due to the fact he knew we were going underground into the cave of a certain dragon - no wait - urm - well - ok worm - or just because I can?? Either way - after some three attempts . . .
Voila - the final product.  Darn - I could have sworn I saw a hobbit running behind the picture - hmmmm  let me go and check . . . ..    for foot prints
Yet another Koru = not as grand as the previous one . . .
Occasionally the ferns shed their leaves - naturally - it is a hard job keeping it very green and so in this case there were several branches that had done it's job and were surplus to requirements - so they die back - making room for yet another Koru - who will become a great leafy thing - then make room for yet another  - ah you get the picture.  I took  this as it was unusual to see so many in one spot.  Must photoshop this - the colours were more brown - almost golden . . . .
Ah yes the fern garden - as far as the eye can see.  To put it into human terms - the leaves grow up to your hips or waist - so it becomes a sea of green moving leaves. 

David Attenborough in training - classic pose! I was expecting a lecture from the famous man - hearing of the fantastic moss found only in this place - with surrounding animal life and the wonders of modern photography highlighting . . .   hmmmm   ok  ok  lets just stick with the pose for now!!   His "selling" of the nature program will need some polish but hey - everyone has to start somewhere . . . .
Although I think that NZ sells itself pretty well.

Decided to do a 360 wheelie and show what you see.  It is not David Attenborough - and yes I was indeed standing on a slippery tree trunk - so had fun trying NOT to fall of and make a fool of myself - but we got there.  Pity that the nearby motorboat spoiled the sound of silence . . . .

Looking down the length of the lake. Somewhere in the distant is the start of the Milford Sound Track and the Homer tunnel and the Sound itself . . . .
Looking back from Te Anau to Brod Bay - across the lake.  It was a reasonably sandy beach . . .   no wonder it is a favourite place to hang out.
Hey man - look at me - I was fishing - and look what I found!!!!!
Later in the afternoon - having extracted ourselves from the ferns and the beauty that is the beginning of the Kepler Track - we hitched a ride on a boat, and while waiting to - urm - leave we saw these to Asian boys who played a interesting game of chicken - it goes like this: - you play paper, scissors, rock and who ever looses goes 2 steps deeper into the water.  Well one was better in playing the game then the other - so one chap was getting in deep - then the game came to a sudden stop - they realized that they still had their cellphones still in the pockets - which needed to be dropped back their girlfriends on shore (who where totally dis-interested in this semi macho game) and started again - with the predictable result - more things to be rescued from pockets and re-starting the game, with still the same guy getting deeper and deeper into the water - sadly the boat had to leave - I was quite contend watching this little side show of games-man ship!!!  Hmmm wonder if I can get my scouts to play this game??? We soon got compensated by a de-tour of the lake trip to see some nice NZ scenery and see the trees and water  and  -contemplated our caving experience soon to be tested.
We would be experience a mysterious underground world of rushing water before drifting in silent darkness beneath the luminous shimmer of thousands of glowworms.  Our trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves began with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau on one of the purpose-built scenic cruise vessels (we hitched a ride on) . At the entry to the caves at Cavern House, are the informative displays and you can learn, if you so wish, learn about this geological wonder before we joined our guide underground. On the tour of the caves, our friendly guide pointed out the highlights and shared her knowledge of the caves and its history. This underground world is astonishingly beautiful. By geological standards the caves are very young (12,000 years) and are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall and I do mean roaring. 
Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar of the water, we caught yet another small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand. In the subterranean darkness, they produce a glittering display that is nothing short of extraordinary. Well it was meant to be silent, except for one little boy from urm - not our shores - who could not be controlled by his parents and was allowed to spoil the experience for everyone else by giving a running cometary. Which part of total silence required now, did his parents not understand???? I ask you - total frustration here . . . .
The following images have been borrowed from the net - as you are not allowed to take ANY pictures inside - to do so would ruin your night vision and the Glow-worms would get a freight and actually turn off their - urm - light bulbs.
The ceiling however looked just like the night sky on a good day - or like you spot in Tekapo - full of individual stars . . ..

The entrance where you have to duck. Cousin Doris wondering HOW her Mum managed here . . . .  you almost practically waddling in here

The glow worms - fishing for food
The boat -a  special photo made - normally this is in total and I do mean total darkness - well apart from the glow-bugs glowing . . .
The cave system. We go in only so far.  Whatever possessed someone to go in there with primitive lighting and things back in the 1940's is beyond me.
Not our milky-way - but a worm colony - all busy fishing for food . . . .

Soon it was time to get out and see the daylight again - here is our boat again taking us back to Te Anau. Te Anau is a shortened form of “Te Ana-au” which means “the cave of the swirling water current" - meaning that local Maori already knew about the caves long before European re-discovered the caves.

The trip back was rather special with the sun coming out just like that and the resulting dusk and clouds and water and mountains combining into a stunning backdrop. Not surprisingly the two lads must have long given up on their game of chicken.  I suspect either they got too cold - or more likely - their Girlfriends gave one look and - yup we are outta here. Still not half bad to come back to - is it?

Hmmmm what can I say - the creator being back on deck today - tossing some random clouds and sun together for us to enjoy!!!

Dinner and bed - its been a long and beautiful day - but tomorrow we have to be up early as we are catching a guided bus tour into Milford Sound!!

Night Golumn - hmm David - ok ok - urm - 'little Bro'  :)

 bear print

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