Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy Movember!

My Auntie Maureen came to visit me for a month in November. She is my mom's older sister and she lives in Oklahoma. She has recently retired so took the opportunity to visit her favourite niece on the other side of the planet. Smart move.

We have had an early summer. The month of November is always a bit of a crap shoot... you just never know what to expect. But this year boasted lots of sunshine and fantastic temperatures (not too hot, not too cool).

I live in such a great spot, it's easy to spend an entire month just cruising around down at the beach, walks around the Mount and exploring the shops in town. That's mostly what Mo did. She was content to just wander. We have a good bus system - they're called "Hopper" buses. You buy a hopper pass for the day and you can hop on and off as much as you'd like. It's a great way to get around (although I have yet to use them).

Unfortunately I am not independently wealthy so I had to work while Mo was here but luckily (or not) November wasn't overly busy so I had lots of free time to enjoy being a tourist again. I love being a tourist. It's one of my favourite things to do.

Rotorua is high on the tourist list. It's a short 45 minute drive from my place and it has lots of neat stuff to look at - the biggest draw of course being the natural geothermal activity. I took Mo down to a place called "Craters of the Moon" which used to be one of the only free geothermal walks. Not surprisingly, they have started charging a $5 entry fee. If someone can make money out of something as natural as the earth, they'll do it. I like Craters of the Moon because it's still a very basic walking trail (it's not overly touristy) and it's constantly changing. The land is very unstable in this area with new steam holes appearing daily. You have to stick to the path... otherwise you might stumble into a boiling hot mud pit like this.

Another day we took a drive out to Waitomo to see the popular Waitomo Caves and the glowworms that inhabit the caves. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of these glowworms (too difficult to photograph) so you'll just have to come and have a look for yourself. It's a spectacle not to be missed. Imagine taking a boat trip in complete darkness and silence, the only sound is the water lapping the sides of the boat, and above your head is the most incredible light show you've ever seen. The glowworm is actually not a worm at all, but the larva of a fly. After hatching, the baby flies excrete sticky threads to make a "hammock" and "fishing lines". One each of the 70 lines (1-50cm long) is a drop of shiny stuff - the worm's waste product, lit up by the light of the bioluminescent larva itself. Withe the brightness of one-billionth of a watt, it is one of the most efficient wayf of producing light. After months of trolling with poo, the glowworm undergoes metamorphosis and becomes and adult fly.

Evolution was so busy figuring out how to make the glowworm's stool shine, however, that it forgot to help the worm develop a digestive tract. After only a day or two of adult life - flying, mating, and laying eggs - the fly dies of starvation (or from being oversexed). Tragic really. Being a worm would be the highlight of their life. So when you gaze up in awe of the dimly blueish stars of the cave's ceiling, you remember that the speck of light is a maggot fishing for its lunch with a glob of excrement. Ain't nature grand?

We also walked along paths through these fascinating caves and learned all about the beautiful stalagmite and stalagtites and other various cave formations and fossils.

On our way home we stopped in to catch up with Poppy Dick and Jocelyn who live in Omokoroa. I haven't seen them since last year when we met them on our camping trip down to Mokau. It was lovely to see them again.

Auntie Mo had a great trip. I wish I had more time to take her to more places but she was pretty happy with the things she got to see and do. She took a day trip to Matamata where they filmed parts of the Lord Of The Rings and where you can do tours of Hobbiton. She also spent a weekend down in Rotorua where there is a multitude of stuff to see and do. Natalya and Chantelle live there now so we all met up with Auntie Mo at a nature park called Rainbow Springs. There are a lot of native birds, plants and reptiles as well as a Kiwi enclosure which allows you to view Kiwi birds in natural surroundings foraging for grubs. Kiwis are nocturnal birds so you never see them in the wild. They are such fascinating little creatures.

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