Te Anau NZ and Takahe, Sunday 11/27/16
Well, the short flight to Invercargill went smoothly, but as you see by the photo below taken from our coach, the city turned sopping wet very quickly. The majority of passengers sitting near to the front agreed that, for a brief time, blobs of sleet were hitting the coach's huge front windshield. Jacket weather. We wouldn't be staying at Invercargill, anyway -- tonight's destination was the small town of Te Anau (approx 1,900 people), roughly 95 miles (153 km) away.
The ride to Te Anau was about two hours, and the foul weather quit soon enough to reveal some awfully pretty, verdant scenery. Distant mountains are snow covered, but I can't remember which range they are.
No offence to anyone, I hope, but we've been in lots of different bathrooms on this trip as we hop from place to place, and we have seen (what we might consider) some crazy signs. We spotted this one at a potty stop between here and there.
As soon as we were out of Invercargill and "in the country," we saw SHEEP, and more SHEEP, and also lots of dairy cows grazing on this green, green grass. The animals stay out all year long, no being cooped up on cement floors in barns during the winter months on these rich lands. Picture postcard!
The lush countryside is beautiful.
When we arrived in Te Anau and before checking into our hotel, we went straight to the Dept of Conservation's Wildlife Centre to see the incredibly rare Takahe bird, which is one of Te Anau's biggest draws. There are only about 200 left in the wild, living high up in the Murchison Mountains, opposite Te Anau on the other side of Lake Te Anau, in Fiordland National Park. We were told we'd have a very good chance of seeing one in this bird park. (It's officially known as the Wildlife Centre, but the only creatures in it are endemic birds.) And they were correct. Above, you see a Takahe, which (to me) looks like a goofy, colorful, exotic chicken. I took its picture thru a wire fence, framing my lens between the chicken wire!
With her two chicks, a lady Mallard followed our group, even getting under our feet!
This handsome fella, tho I'm not at all sure of its gender, is a New Zealand kākā, (Nestor meridionalis), also known as a South Island forest parrot. Due to habitat loss and predators, these guys are vulnerable. Early settlers introduced mammals like rats, possums and stoats, among other predators, which are responsible for the loss of an estimated 26 million native birds and their eggs each year in New Zealand. That is a sad statistic. We heard the same thing from every driver: There are so darned many possums in NZ, that if they see a possum on the road, they aim for 'em. (NZ possums look a lot different than North American possums.) Kākā exist only in small pockets on the two islands.
Our hotel, the Kingsgate, is across the road from beautiful Lake Te Anau, which is NZ's second largest lake. Don't we have a beautiful view? It'll be cold in the morning!
And looking down the street, is our spectacular view.
This is a quick overnight stopover ... tomorrow, after an early morning breakfast, our coach will whisk us away to Queenstown for a few nights. The reason we're in Te Anau tonight? We'll have a head start on tomorrow's adventure -- can't wait! We cruise on Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea. Hoy! See ya mañana!