Sunday, December 10, 2006

Adventures in Kiwi Land - Worms that Glow

We got out of Otorohanga as fast as we could. On our way to Waitomo, we stopped in front of an Ostrich farm. Ostrichs are special birds to Kiwis, because they believe that a huge, Ostrich-like bird once roamed New Zealand millions of years ago.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the Glow Worm Caves. So, I have no pictures to show you (they would have been dark, anyway).

The tour guide first took us into a cathedral-sized room in the cave. He talked about the acoustics, which he claimed were "perfect." I've heard that before.

He asked everyone if someone wanted to sing a song in the "cathedral." I must admit, I felt compelled, but Jessi beat me to it. We sang "Silent Night" with a group of people from all around NZ, Australia, etc. Got a pretty gutsy wife, eh? You'd think that this would cause some uneasiness because of the whole "keep-your-religion-to-yourself" thing in the states. But Christmas and Christianity is different down here, or, I should say, NZ is just different.

Next, he showed us a cluster of glow worms. Apparently, glow worms' lives are filled with excitement. They live on the ceiling, let down a feeding line, and try to attract bugs. The feeding line is lit-up, which attracts the bugs. The light apparently comes from their excrement. Wonderful! Once the bugs get stuck to the feeding line, they pull it up and eat. (Hope you're not having dinner right now.)

At a point in their lives, they make a cocoon and eventually turn into a fly with no mouth! Then, they mate, lay eggs, and die of starvation. Doesn't that sound, delightfully, disgusting?

Well, after this explanation, we were ready to get on a boat (which was inside the cave, of course). The guide took us into a huge room that was lit with millions of these glow worms. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I don't really know how to describe what it looked like. Jaydn was eating it all up (he wasn't eating the worms).

The only picture I was able to take was this one, which isn't that bad.

Going from one extreme to the other, our next stop was at the Hamilton, New Zealand LDS Temple.

We hadn't planned on doing a temple session, so we just enjoyed the beautiful day and ate our lunch in front of the Temple. Even just sitting there--with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Christmas songs on the visitor's center speakers--was so peaceful. I could have stayed there all day.

"I love to see the Temple, I'm going there someday..." used to be Jaydn's favorite song.

We next drove into Matamata to see the home of "the Shire" on Lord of the Rings. We were pretty much vacationed out, and were not really disappointed when the gas station attendant in Matamata told us that the only way to see anything is to get with a tour guide ($40 / person). No thanks.

I had to get this picture, out of the car, of Jaydn eating a chocolate ice cream outside the gas station.

Jaydn makes eating chocolate ice cream an art.

It was apparent to us that our vacation was at an end. We made one last attempt to see volcanoes in Devonport, which is part of Auckland. But, again, Jaydn just wanted to play on the playground.

Jessi, however, was excited to eat at Pizza Hut (which, mind you, had almost 20 different kinds of specialty pizzas--why can't we do that in the states?). Jaydn had a Happy Meal, and, you guessed it, "Mambo No. 5."

We made one last trip to the grocery store, dropped off the rental car, and got a ride to our hotel for the night. We were running out of New Zealand dollars. Thank goodness, we had just enough to pay for our room.

We woke up early--at 4:30 am--to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. First, I paid our departure tax. They charge you $40 to leave New Zealand. Only problem was, I had just spent my New Zealand dollars. Luckily, I had enough US Dollars and Samoan Tala to pay it off.

Then we got in line to get our boarding passes. At the desk, the attendants asked if we had proof we were going on to Pago Pago, American Samoa. I told them that AS airlines don't give that to you, you have to check with them when you get to the airport. She told us "so sorry, if you don't have proof, you'll have to buy a return ticket to NZ if you want to leave." What!?

We scrambled to find proof. Who could we call? It was 5:30 am! On a Saturday! No one was awake! I was just about to make a phone call, when I remembered! They did give us proof! Man, I felt sheepish. I just hate airport stress!

We made it back to Samoa! Stepping onto the runway was amazing! We actually missed the heat!! It only took us about 20 minutes, though, before we were wishing we had some cool weather again!

We met the same kids in the airport during our layover, and received the same pleas for money. We only had 10 Tala, which we used on a large bottle of water. Must have budgeted well, because we came home with practically nothing!

And we're happy to be back. Although it was strange to call American Samoa home from New Zealand.

Well, that's our New Zealand trip in a nutshell. It is a beautiful place. On the trip, Jessi told me that if I ever have to work in New Zealand, she'll be happy to live there. Wo, slow down now! We're only on vacation! Or, as the Kiwi's called it, a "holiday." (Every time I heard someone ask me, "havin' a good holiday, mate?" I'd think, "what's the holiday?" It took me so long to realize they were referring to our vacation!! One of the hotel owners at Moana Lodge in Wellington told me that "vacation" is not a word used in New Zealand.)


Proud Mum said...

Sounds like a really great trip, thanks for sharing!