now i'm not sure which one stole the name from the other, but te anau is on the shores of... get ready for this, it's a real surprise... lake te anau...
despite the fact i arrived in the evening i was going to be able to hit one of the places on the list. i just point this out as museums tend to close around 5pm in new zealand, even in the peek season which means i have to arrive earlier in the day to pull off a visit.
as i was going to be based out of te anau i figured i'd spend my time checking it out, and than as sun set make my way "down town" for my assignment.
first thing i encountered was the standard town's statue of a dude (sometimes dudete). this one was of quintin mackinnon, a guy made famous by his discovering a real cool pass in the mountain range... based on how slow they move i'd want to figure out a way to pass mountains too!
now whether its name is somewhat unoriginal or not, it's a real lovely lake! if i have time i'm tempted to go swimming in it later (haven't done the theropod paddle in too long!)
don't believe me on the lake. just take in this photograph. now imagine in real life, and surrounding you on all sides... okay and before you get too involved in this imagination reconstruction maybe return to the real world. i don't want to be held responsible for people's morale plummeting to depression. we can't all be by a lake this pretty!
as i walked along the lake shore i found myself entering downtown te anau. now don't get me wrong, after exploring the place for a bit i can safely say te anau is one of my favourite places in new zealand, but its no bustling metropolis...
however in the middle of the rather low key town eh circle (though aren't they normally squares?) is a statue of a takahe. now i thought at first it was a pūkeko, or swamphen, which are somewhat common around new zealand (though i've only seen them afar so far sadly).
turns out the takahe is a big relative of the pūkeko. up until 1948 they were thought to have gone extinct. that is until a clever guy by the name of geoffrey orbell found traces of a surviving population across the lake. discovering this last remnant of the species still free from deer (who eat all the takahe's food... jerks!) major efforts were put into building a conservation preserve.
the program has been a success... thus far, and like all near threatened species now requires constant vigilance...
i hoped to see one, but thought the odds were low due to their being in such a remote area across the lake...
as i stood looking at the statue for a few minutes the environment around me changed quite quickly.
due to the fact te anau is in the southern alps mountain range of new zealand the sun sets a lot quicker than i'm used to... having big mountains in the way kinda explains it i guess.
point is before i knew it the sun had set. meaning the time of my next adventure was at hand.
also on the horizon a dark rain cloud rolled in meaning i was in for some unpleasant weather!
sure enough as i headed to the lake front in the dark it began to pour!
fortunately my destination was not too far away. it was the peer, and docked to it was the boat that was going to take me out to the famous te ana-au caves.
with the rain and the eerie lighting caused by the falling rain i felt like i was in a spy movie as i headed out to the boat. in some ways i guess i was in a real life museum spy mission, but thus far it hadn't been anywhere near as exciting or cool as a movie. i mean there weren't any bad guys were there (man i in hindsight i wish i hadn't jinxed myself by thinking this, but i jump ahead that comes up later in the post).
as the boat started across the lake we were given maps of the caves which didn't just show the parts we were going to see today, but also the rest of the HUGE underground cave complex.
also according to it we were going to be seeing "glow worms"... what were worms doing in a cave, and how were they glowing???
i sure hoped this wasn't one of those caves like in a godzilla movie were ancient and/or radioactive monsters were dwelling waiting to be unleashed...
the boat ride was taking a little while, and i was still in an exploring mood. so i wandered outside to the back of the boat. had it not been raining i could have even headed up to the roof of the boat. however given the down pour i was content to remain dry on the covered aft.
though you couldn't see much of the lake or mountains, te anau the town was a real pretty set of lights off in the distance.
as we sped off to our veiled in darkness destination the town faded from sight, and i wandered back into the boat cabin till we finally arrived at the opposite side of the lake.
once again the scene playing out around me could have been in a spy movie. rain falling dark forest surrounding us, with but a narrowly but bright lit path.
we were walked to an interpretive centre, and split into groups to tour the caves. i was in the first group to go. yeah me!
okay i have to say the caves are among the coolest places i've ever been as we entered on a very, again, movie looking metal gangplank pathway. around us was the majesty of the cave, and below us raged the stream that had carved and eroded these tunnels through the earth...
we stopped in the main cathedral of the place, and were told what these caves were.
the whole hill we were in was made of eocene limestone, complete with some shell fish fossils in the walls in a few spot!, that run off water from the steep hill outside eventually seeped into and eroded out the cave system.
the guide started talking about how this cave system was discovered by a dude inspired to search by maori legends. the local iwi, maori word for tribe, had known of the caves since ancient times, and had left clues of their whereabouts and nature in stories passed down by the generations.
so that must be why ms. rhonwyn wants me to bring her maori flax baskets here. she claimed in her rather vague letter that the baskets would do something when in the presence of mana. reading the maori culture book i picked up in invercargill i discovered what mana is!
well sort of. i only skimmed it, but it means something to do with presence and power.
this place sure had presence and power i'll tell you!
as if the cave itself wasn't enough the guide than led us to a part of the tunnel that was really full of water. here we got into a boat! sweet i thought. i'd never been on a boat ride in a tunnel before!
only one problem! we were heading into a pitch dark segment... i've seen horror movies (in addition to spy ones) this is invariably where monsters live, and in fact thrive eating on people dumb enough to venture into this part of a cave...
as i started to panic the guide told us we were about to see one of the true spectacles of new zealand. glowworms in a cave...
as we plunged into the darkness it took a second for our eyes to adjust. when they focused we were in a galaxy of tiny neon green lights...
they were very pretty, and for a minute i thought we'd left the cave and were looking at the night sky... only unlike real stars these ones were moving as we did... they were stuck to the roof of the cave!
i was real impressed, these were cool as!
so what were these glow worms though? well as we left the cave and returned to the interpretive centre i set out for the answer.
to start off with they are NOT worms at all... which made sense as worms live in the ground (though looking this up i've found i was kinda wrong on that assumption, but that's a whole other story)... these were larva.
that's right baby insects, who lived their lives hanging off rocks in a mucus hammock they spat out. in this hammock they were able to maneuver around without having to devote body parts and effort ensuring they were attached to the walls.
in their rear end a special membrane housed a chemical reaction that produced the bright green light we'd seen in the cave. the purpose of this light was to indeed mimic a star. with lots glowworms forced to live in the limited sites that are ideal for them (not just caves but anywhere with water and relatively low wind) the mass of glowworms look just like the night sky. any insects in the area instinctively would try to fly to this open area, and this is where the glowworms make their living.
they literally fish for insects. my kinda larva! with silk threads they set about their hammock they ensnare passing bugs who are attracted to their lights. once on the sticky threads special paralyzing venom subdue the insect as the glowworm eats the thread drawing the bug to them for supper time!for a demonstration let's say a curious... oh i don't know... traum-fly say the bright shiny end of the glow worm and decided to check it out... cause man it WAS nice and shiny... cut me er i mean the traum-fly some slack. he is a direct relative of magpies!
anyways as you can see the number of fishing lines these guys use makes my fish pole with its one line look rather sad indeed.
so why this big biological production? well once the glowworm has made itself a nice living off the bugs it grows up to it adult form.
now you're probably thinking a big nasty scary bug like i did people of the web wide world. man we couldn't have been more wrong!
they grow up into a fungus gnat, which looks kinda like a mosquito, but doesn't drink blood. in fact it doesn't eat anything!!!
the glowworm only has a few days as an adult to do nothing more than make more glowworms. yeah that's right. spend most of your childhood as the scourge of insects everywhere only to grow up to be a short lived pathetic grow up (often eaten by one of the kids... odd role reversal isn't it!).
so with all this learning, and an amazing place to see i was left with what i thought a minor problem. i still had all the baskets. even the awe of those caves didn't reveal to me what i was supposed to do to get rid of these things!
oh well i thought coming back to my spy movie tangent. it's not like i'm in any danger if the answer doesn't reveal itself quickly.
again i really shouldn't jinx myself like that...
Meanwhile Back In Invercargill...
for you see little did i know elsewhere things weren't quite as safe as i'd hoped.
i hadn't heeded one of ms. rhonwyn's key instructions:
Learn the quirks and specifics of the atua following you. Many of them have servants and totems in this realm that may compromise your secrecy. By knowing what these are in advance you can avoid an unnecessary encounters.
the real kicker is i didn't even know this had happened till it was too late. a time that was fast approaching me on my quest...
to be continued...