Well, I saved this post for last, because I held out hope the entire time we were in Kiwiland that I would see a real live, actual kiwi in the wild. I gave it my best shot, but I will have to leave this in the list of things I will do the next time I visit New Zealand.
So, what is a Kiwi?
Well, this is a Kiwi:
People who live in New Zealand (or Kiwiland) are referred to as Kiwis.
This is a Kiwi, too:
Did you realize kiwis grow on a vine? They have green kiwis, gold kiwis, and apparently, they are working on growing a red kiwi!
But this is really a Kiwi:
Kiwis are New Zealand’s national bird. In Maori, the name for a Kiwi literally translates to “Weka with a Walking Stick Beak.” And that is a great name because Kiwis look a lot like Wekas, only they have a long, curved beak they use to sniff the ground and find all manner of bugs, worms, and fallen fruit in the forrest.
Kiwis are a nocturnal bird, so they are hard to see in the wild. There are brown, white, spotted and probably other varieties of Kiwis. The Brown Kiwi is the largest. The female birds are bigger than the males, and with their feathers are about the size of a small soccer ball. The males are much smaller, maybe a tennis ball with a beak. The Kiwi egg is the largest egg in the world in proportion to the bird’s body size. It would be like a human giving birth to a 40 lb baby! Once the egg has been laid, the male bird takes over egg-sitting. He sits on the egg so long that by the time the egg hatches, he has lost a third of his body weight. Very dedicated Kiwi-papa.
Kiwis lack perceptible wings, but don’t let that fool you. They can give you a really fierce kick when they want to. They are territorial, and the birders who manage the Kiwis in captivity have to wear chain mail pants to keep the bird from kicking their legs.
The Kiwis are in trouble, though. Cars, logging, farming and several introduced pests like escaped domestic cats, domestic dogs, possums, stoats, ferrets, weasles, and rats threaten the Kiwi. The logging and farming divides their forests with large machinery. Cars run over them at night. And the introduced species either eat Kiwi eggs or kill full grown kiwis. On the outer islands of New Zealand, they are doing better, but on mainland they need a lot of human help to overcome the challenges humans brought into New Zealand via shipping and the like.
We met our first Kiwi all the way back in Waitomo, one of our first stops along the path. Her name was Tasman, and she was a fierce and energetic Kiwi. We bought an Adventure Kiwi to support the Kiwi aviary and named her Tasman in honor of the real Tasman. Osmond is happy to have a new friend. Every time we would camp out in New Zealand forrest, she would scratch in response to real Kiwi friends calling out.
While visiting Tasman the real Kiwi, we met a handful of other amazing New Zealand birds that we would later see and hear out in our travels. Ducks, an owl the Kiwis call a Morepork, a falcon, the colorful New Zealand pigeons that like to do dances for Andrew, Kingfishers, green headed parrots, cute little fluffy sparrows, and fan tails who can hunt and fly so fast they can catch mosquitos mid air.
So, now that you know what a Kiwi is, we will wrap up this leg of our trip by answering some questions we have received from blog readers.
What is our favorite....?
Favorite Hikes: Mount Cook area, and the sand dune hike at Farewell Spit
Favorite Bike Rides: Deans Bank Trail in Wanaka, Lake Taupo Trails, Dun Mountain Trail (out and back), Old Ghost Road (Epic!), Makara peak mountain bike trail park.
Favorite Food: Green lipped mussels (especially cooked by Phil or the Mussell Pot), Bluff Oysters, Whittakers Chocolate, meat pies, white wines, summer pit fruit, kiwi fruit, arugula and herb salads (or “rocket” as the Kiwis call it), and fresh fruit ice cream.
Favorite Cities: Wellington, Oamaru
Favorite Bird Song: The Tui. A bird, and also the mascot for one of New Zealand's more common beers.
Favorite Beaches: All the beaches are beautiful, but the thing we loved the most is the variety of perfect, soft sand.
Sound of the glaciers falling off Mount Cook
Finding the Yellow Eyed Penguins
Drinking whiskey over a cube of iceberg ice after a hike in Mount Cook
Everything Glow Worm
Meeting Tasman the Kiwi
Giant Sand Dunes - Te Paki for Sand Surfing and Farewell Spit for hiking
Cape Rainga and all the beaches on the way to and from
Drinking beers in Wilson’s Bar in Reefton with the locals, and drinking in old town bars generally
Eating the “Crayfish” given to us from our friend Fecky
Kayaking the Milford Sound on a sunny day
Relaxing in a Rotorua Hot Spring
Hopping from winery to craft brewery to taste and buy our camping wine/beer stash
Buying New Zealand Greenstone carved from a stone from the same river we camped next to the previous night
Holding a huge gold nugget and learning about Gold Fossicking in Hokitika
Exploring the impact of the recent earthquake in Kaikoura
Brewing beer with our friends in Devonport
Meeting a fuzzy baby goat named Tinkerbell
Watching a shepherd herd 3000 Marino Sheep
Visiting roadside food stands with all the veggies and fruit we’ve missed for the last year.
What do we want to do the next time we are there?
Be better prepared for caving. Lots of caves to explore!
Go Scuba Diving in Fiordlands National Park and Poor Knights Island
Go to the Maritime museum in Auckland
See Stewart Island
Hike the Tongariro Crossing in good weather
Ride the Redwood Mountain Bike park in Rotorua
See Spring wildflowers
See the sheep in spring when they are all babies
See a wild Kiwi
What is the Strangest Thing About New Zealand
The restroom experience(s). Andrew never lets me write anything about toilets. And with good reason, toilets are gross. But, over the course of three months in New Zealand, I can’t help but make mention. Every time you use the restroom here, it is a unique experience. Parent facilities with a normal sized toilet for parents and a teeny tiny toilet for kids. Signs instructing foreigners how to use them. And, the Pierce Brosnan Experience.
Say what? Yes, the Pierce Brosnan Experience.
Throughout the more ritzy tourist areas of New Zealand, you can use a public washroom complete with the Pierce Brosnan Experience. You stand outside the restroom, wait until a green light says a room is free. Press the button and the door automatically slides open. Imagine the sound of a door sliding open on the Starship Enterprise. You press the “lock” button on the inside and “Shoop”. “Your use time is ten minutes. A warning tone will sound with one minute left. Thank you.” Says a soothing voice a la Pierce Brosnan. Then, music starts to play; a jazzy version of What a Wonderful World. There are sinks that auto wash AND auto dry your hands, all built into the same sink machinery. Hold your hands together to activate the faucet, hold your hands apart to activate the air dryers. When you press “Unlock” again, the restroom auto cleans itself.
Amazing. I never got a video or even a picture, because Andrew told me I was weird.
With a love of lavatories like this, it only makes sense that a renoun Austrian artist and architect would come out of retirement one last time to build a restroom in New Zealand as his last work of art. The Hundertwasser Toilets. An attraction in and of itself, several locals told us we needed to see this attraction for ourselves whenever we would ask “what shouldn’t we miss.” “Oh, you can’t miss the Hundertwasser Toilets. They are amazing.”
So, for your last vision of New Zealand, I leave you with nothing other the Hundertwasser Toilets.