Saturday, February 18, 2012

The land of many round-a-bouts.

New Zealand history lesson: When the country originally formed there were no mammals on it at all, only birds and insects. The plant life was unique in that bees did not pollinate it (as there was none), but instead moths and birds... and so there were no brightly colored flowers, only red for the birds and white for the moths. When the British came they introduced rabbits into the country for sport, and with no predators their numbers skyrocketed. So they then thought it might be a good idea to introduce stoat (a small weasel) to kill the rabbits, but in turn the stoats killed the native ground dwelling birds. Today half of New Zealand’s plants are invasive, exotic species… and their native bird numbers are dwindling.

So today we volunteered at an up and coming bird sanctuary to reintroduce natural plants and thus attract the birds. We planted Swamp Flax as well as pulling out plants that shouldn’t be there. It was really rewarding and interesting to learn about the country’s unique ecosystem. We were also able to see a kiwi fruit orchard that surprisingly looks a lot like a vineyard. The entire orchard was surrounded by 50ft tall hedges… very Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire-esque.

This evening we went to a traditional Maori dinner and got to learn about their culture, play games and eat great food that was cooked in the ground, somewhat similar to a luau. 

Easily the highlight of the evening… on the way back from the dinner our bus driver got us all singing “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” and then proceeded to drive around the round-a-bout about 10 times. HAHA. It was awesome. 

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