Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Zealand & Australia 2: Auckland Tour

The next day we were picked up from our hotel at 8:10 am by Anthonie Tonnon, a delightful chap, who is a tour guide by day and the lead singer of his rock band, Tono and the Finance Company, by night.

Sadly, I never quite managed to get a photo of Anthonie.  I don't think he was consciously avoiding me, but he did manage to turn his head away several times just as I snapped the shutter on my camera, leaving me with only a blur or an unrecognizable profile.  Anthonie didn't stay in one place for very long.

Anthonie took five of us on a tour of of rain forests, waterfalls, beaches and trails, all within an hours drive of Auckland. He brought along a nicely stocked chilly bin full of cold water and juice for us during the day.

I loved how the English language has morphed away from England's mother tongue here.  And done so in a delightfully different way than we have in the US.  His chilly bin is what we here in the US typically call an ice chest.

Notice the bird silhouetted in the tree here.  I can't remember what it is but it made a nice picture.  We ran into the little fellow on our hike back from the waterfall.

Anthonie gave us a history of the island, saying that New Zealand had been underwater for some years rising out of the sea.  As a result, the only wild life capable of reaching the newly emerged islands had to swim or fly.

When the first people came here, there were no four legged indigenous mammals.  With no natural predators, different species of birds adapted to living on the ground and lost their ability to fly.

The first indigenous people from Polynesia who settled here first brought rats with them.  White men who arrived several hundred years later brought possums, foxes, deer, rabbits, feral cats, dogs, and other animals familiar to them.

They did this in an attempt to replicate the type of wildlife they had back home in Europe.  The effects of all these natural predators on New Zealand's ecosystem was predictably disastrous.

Efforts to preserve what's left of New Zealand's indigenous wildlife are ongoing.  However, the job is daunting.  Over 70 million possums now make their happy home in New Zealand.  That's just possums.

This particular coastline is the remnant of a huge volcanic crater nearly 40 miles in diameter.  If one looks closely here, one can see the slight curve of the shoreline.  The other half of the crater has sunk below the ocean's surface off to the right.

There were some bright spots in the environmental carnage.  A large rain forest to the south and east of Auckland was preserved because it served as the watershed for Auckland's water supply.  These huge 1000 year old kauri trees are all that's left of the old growth timber on New Zealand's north island.

We spent an hour or more hiking through this forest.  It is one of the few forests where they have managed to eradicate most of the four legged predators and have begun to introduce some of the last remaining indigenous wild life back into the area. 

An army of volunteers maintains a constant effort to rid this still protected forest of four legged predators.

We came across this totem, carved by a Maori tribesman, at the end of our hike.  This image, like most of the other images taken on this trip, was taken on the run.  The carved totem sort of blends into the background.

Some fill in flash would have been nice but I include it here so that you can get an idea of just how large the log from which it was carved had to be.  All carvings like this are done from tree logs that have fallen of their own accord.

Next time, we board our ship.

Continue on to Post 3: We board our cruise ship by clicking here.


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