Things we learned:
Hedgehogs are adorable little creatures. Everybody knows that.
They walk funny and they breath really heavy when they sniff around in your garden.
They curl up real nicely when they are afraid. Isn’t that what we all want to do… In spite of the pointy needles they look so cuddly.
They are really cute…
Not so much in New Zealand. Here they are seen as fierce predators. A plague that is hunted down by the government. An introduced enemy of the number one New Zealand symbol: the Kiwi.
Hedgehogs really kill Kiwis (not the full-grown ones of course, it is the eggs or the very young ones they are after). Hard to believe with the middle-European image we have of the little animal that it is a pest here in New Zealand. But along with other introduced animals such as cats and possums, they are the main reason for Kiwis to be on the endangered list.
Stuff we saw:
Stuff we did:
Christy was brave enough to do the first driving in our brand new rental car. We crossed the city going north. As usual we didn’t really plan where to go. We ended up in Kaihu in Northland. We found a fantastic campsite and rented a cabin for two days. It was cold at night and Christy’s birthday was coming up.
We got a couple of things from the hardware store (camping chairs, a cooler, etc.) and got some food. So now everything was set up for our travel.
We enjoyed the drive. What a landscape. Green hills, with wild forests and grasslands with cattle and sheep. The forests are quite something here: very thick, you couldn’t walk through the wild growing vegetation. In between the huge kauri trees: giants of immense size. There is a whole little world of little plants living on these mighty branches of the trees. In between the leaves of all the big and small trees the fern trees add a palm tree optic to the green jungle.
As the kauri trees are heavily endangered there are very strict shoe-cleaning procedures enforced in order to limit the spread of a fungus which attacks the trees’ roots and kills these giants of the forest.
We had a birthday drive to the Kai-iwi Lakes. The area is very hilly partly green grassland and partly covered in thick forest. A little hike offered a fantastic view on two of the lakes with the open sea in the background. The lakes are of such dark blue and turquoise and the surrounding hills offer such an intense green that the contrasts are stunning.
In New Zealand they have a very radical tactic for gaining wood from the forest. Unlike central Europe where single trees are being taken out of the forest, they take down entire forests and leave a devastating area of destruction behind. Brown hillsides with branches and single trunks chaotically scattered on entire mountain. It looks terrible and remind me of pictures I have seen on WWI pictures in Verdun in northern France.
On the way back we had our first encounter with the mighty kauri trees. Some short hikes through the forest surprised with a lot of birds and a very thick vegetation. It was walking through the fantasy of a Hollywood production. It looked unreal, and we came to understand how a The Lord of the Ringsstarts to look very natural to this wonderland of plants covering this country.
The day ended with a highlight of this vacation, we can say that even though it has just started: we saw a kiwi bird. They are really shy, most New Zealanders haven’t seen one in the wild. We took a guided tour and the guide was fantastic: in his broad Kiwi-English he explained what our tactic would be (red lamp, no talking, listen for sneezing noise when Kiwi is getting the dirt out of its nostrils or a sound like “a fat guy walking on cornflakes.” The kiwis are not exactly quiet when they stumble through the forest.
After following the guide for one hour we finally found one: very close. Very cute. Christy was in heaven.
Christy got a little book about the different birds in New Zealand and we started to look out for them.