Day three we were excited to go out and explore once more! The previous two days we passed a place called Mr. Bun Cafe a couple times and decided to try it out. A perfect decision for a choice (NZ for awesome) breakfast: coffees, French Toast, and Eggs Benedict! Enough calories to fuel our three hour walk up, down, and around Zealandia. Lucky for us we picked up a pamphlet in the hostel lobby which pointed us to the free shuttle there!
We walked through the welcome center, (got our bags checked to make sure we weren’t sneaking anything bad in) and in to the preserve. It was truly breathtaking. Everything for as far as I could see was nature undisturbed and completely lush and green. I couldn’t hear cars or anything that reminded me we were only 15 minutes from downtown Wellington… just birds, birds everywhere.
Along the paved and unpaved trails throughout, there are plaques explaining the flora and fauna. There are also feeders which attract many types of birds close enough for humans to enjoy but far enough away that they are being bothered. Here are a few of the beautiful birds we saw, thanks to my camera zoom. Left top is a Kea, bottom center is a Eurasian Blackbird, right three are Tui birds. The Kea and Tui are endemic to New Zealand and not commonly seen in cities, the Eurasian Blackbirds are an introduced species that are pretty much everywhere.
There are a few birds we sadly did not get to see, but were mentioned along the trails: the Takahē, Kiwi, Kakapo, and Morepork (Southern Boobook). Sirocco, a Kakapo, is a featured guest who you can only see by paying an extra fee and staying til after dark. We were told the other birds didn’t usually come out until dusk and we were there from about 11 to 2. Still, Chris made sure no Takahēs were following us out.
There are also interactive stations which introduce you to New Zealand bugs. Here is a real tree with holes drilled in to it for bugs to hide in, you open up a hatch and can peer through the plastic to see what’s inside. If you’re lucky you get to see something creepy like these!
Another neat thing to visit there is the Morning Star Gold Mine which was a real working mine during the Karori Valley Gold Rush 1869-1873. It laid abandoned for 125 until the sanctuary fixed the main drive tunnel for visitors to walk through. The dark, damp place is a perfect home for bugs which the volunteer at the entrance tells you to look out for. It is a horizontal drive tunnel about 30 feet which dead ends at a vertical shaft you can peer up in to. You have to wear a hardhat to get inside and it’s about 5 and a half feet tall, perfect fit for me! About 10 feet in it’s completely pitch black, but they installed red floodlights so you can at least see where you are walking. It was quite scary actually because I thought the walls would be covered with bugs (like those seen above) but thankfully not today. We were on the lookout and spotted a cave Weta though!
The last special attraction is the Tuatara burrows, heavily fenced along the walkway for protection. The Turatara looks like a lizard but is in fact “part of a distinct lineage, order Rhynchocephalia. Two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago.” (Wiki) They were extinct on the mainland until the sanctuary took them in in 2005. In 2008 a nest was found, the first reported case of Tuatara successfully breeding on the mainland outside of a captive facility. They mark each Tuatara with colored beads to keep track of them. Isn’t he cute?
When we were finished exploring we headed back to the welcome center and got some lunch at the nice cafe, then browsed their gift shop. Included is something I think Grandma and Grandpa would enjoy, a Birds of New Zealand singing clock! (We passed a newspaper on the way out, top says: More Roadkill, Wallabies expected to get run over again -A nice preview of our night at Westpac Stadium enjoying the All Blacks vs. Wallabies!)
ALL BLACKS VS. WALLABIES RUGBY GAME
A twenty minute scenic, harbor view walk from the hostel is the Westpac Stadium. As we enjoyed our walk there, we came upon a full on drum corps leading the way to the game. So many people were following, waving giant All Blacks flags and holding up posters making a lot of noise, it was a good sight to see. We made our way and only saw a handfull of Wallabies fans who stood out in their bright yellow and green. My favorite was a guy in a green morphsuit with a Wallabies flag as a cape. We got to the stadium about forty five minutes before the game so we wouldn’t miss a thing, especially the HAKA! Got some great pictures of the stadium during that time! This is the view from our seats.
To open the game, the whole stadium sang the New Zealand national anthem which I had never heard before. It gave me chills listening to everyone at the same time sing a verse in Maori, so beautiful! Then was the awesome and intimidating Haka, the traditional ancestral war dance to scare the enemy (video below). Then the game began! It was so exciting being in that environment with so many people that were passionate about the game and most likely drunk. A lot of laughing and yelling and people excusing themselves through the narrow aisle to go to the bathroom and get snacks. Good times.
It started raining in the middle of the game, just enough for the grass to get slippery and all the fans to get out their ponchos. Luckily we were under the seats a level above us which was a nice shelter. The final score was All Blacks 27, Wallabies 16! Woohoo!
We headed back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep before our departure early the next morning. Here are some awesome pictures from our bus ride back to Hamilton. We went from the beach, to rolling hills, to desert, to mountains, and back to hills all in 8 hours! And I saw a rainbow end to end!