Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Zealand - February 21 - Worms, Water, and American Top 40

From New Zealand
Glow worms!

No photography permitted in the glow worm caves. Seems glow worms are insecure beasts who get there feelings hurt and stop glowing if a bigger glow, like a camera flash, goes off in the area. I'll try to give you a bit of a feeling for the whole thing.

First, a very pleasant boat trip across part of Lake Te Anau, The Largest Lake in the South Island.

Second, the passengers are divided into groups of about 10 or 12 persons and groups are singly led to the cave. Here, clinging to a hand rail I lead the way with one small flashlight though TOTAL DARKNESS. Seems the lights aren't working. Yet. Soon they are back on and we walk more confidently through the cave looking at "cave stuff" including some pretty amazing rushing water. Then, we reach the little row boat where we line up, seated, back to back, down the center of the boat. Once again all lights are extinguished. Our guide drags the little boat through the glow worm cave into nooks and crannies where the blackness above us is interrupted by shimmering points of lights like stars in a cloudless night sky. In one cul de sac he pauses, spins the boat, and then...nothing. We float under these sticky, glowing fishing lines for one minute, two minutes, three minutes... and my mind is filled with what seems to me to be the only rational thought appropriate at this time. "What if he's been killed? and we are left alone in this total darkness to feel our way out??????????? What if there's a glow worm mutant with strands so sticky and toxic that its preferred prey is no longer moth, but human? Have we been brought to its lair and abandoned? Was our guide the first victim?"

Another minute and the boat once again is gliding - retracing our path to the dimly lit dock.

We return to the visitor's center and wait for the remaining groups to complete the glow worm tour. In the visitor's center there is coffee or tea or cocoa and an employee gives a little spiel about glow worms (don't touch their glowing threads - the toxin will numb your finger. It's a little late for this information, in my opinion.) and about the once (believed to be) extinct Takahe. We glance at the posters on the wall and wander out to the beach.
From New Zealand

By the time we return to Te Anau it is after 6 PM and our goal is to make Invercargill where we have a reservation for the night. Still, we stop once again to see the takahe who is looking, as I've already told you, a bit more alive than yesterday.
From New Zealand

From New Zealand

Another beautiful evening to drive. We drive along Lake Manapouri (NZ's *second* deepest lake) and pass within 32 km of Lake Hauroko (NZ's *deepest* lake). At McCracken's Rest we turn off and enjoy the sunset at the most southwestern point on the Southern Scenic Route.
From New Zealand
From New Zealand

It is about this time that the radio gets very intersting - Not only were there advertisements for a company that specializes in "Home Kill" (when the killing simply must be done at home but nobody has the time. "Our mobile slaughtering service is for the general public, hunters and farmers") but it was time for Casey Kasem's American Top 40 from the 1970s! We listened to "If I can't have you", "Flashlight", "The Goodbye Girl", and "Dust in the Wind" and played name that year (1977). It was such a thrill! We've reached that age where we prefer listening to music we 'know' rather than what's new on the chart. But, the "classic" radio we hear in Australia has a limited playlist. I don't know if it reflects the radio playing in Brisbane back "in the day" or the tastes of "our generation" of Brisbanites now. (I'm guessing that whatever the reason someone begins the explanation with "I'm not prejudiced but...") It was fun - like running into old friends you haven't seen (heard) for years and years and years (high school!) A song would be "debuting" on the chart and we'd know - "Oh, you'll go far! People will be listening 30 years from now!" or "Gee, I know you're excited about this. Enjoy your brush with fame. Invest that money now."

We arrived in Invercargill, found our hostel, parked just as "our song" played. Heatwave's "Always and Forever".

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