Trip Start Mar 06, 2013
Trip End Apr 04, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , Wellington,
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday arrived with rain 'chucking down' as described by the news. Not sure what that means but it was raining in earnest. It was clear the decision to delay the start of the Air Safari was a sound one.

We spent the morning reading through the materials from registration and catching up on procedure details. By 11 we ventured out in search of the long black, aka coffee, and a rain coat for Jon. For entertainment we headed out to the nature center north of Masterton, home of the white kiwi. We arrived in time for a brief wander and then to join the crowds for the eel feeding. A few soggy tourists and two classes of elementary school students attended today's event. The eels were quite impressive. Four to six feet long and the circumference of a hefty arm or skinny leg, the eels are fed by a large spoon to the delight of the viewers. Apparently the rain had brought up the creek level significantly and therefore brought out an extra dozen or so eels. While viewing the eels one inattentive child was attacked by the resident Kaka (parrot). Perhaps a small finger wrapped around a railing looks close enough to a worm to be fair game. I'm not sure that boy will be a nature lover.

We checked out the kiwi house. This is an enclosure where they've shifted the bird's day/night schedule to make the nocturnal kiwis active during the day when the tourists are paying for entry. It is an excellent marketing strategy to have a white kiwi. Much easier for the tourists to spot in the gloom of the kiwi house. The normal-colored kiwi was quite hard to see, but the white one was a real standout.

More natural and in many ways more splendid was the rain soaked walkways through the park. Lovely as it was in Abel Tasman, the soaked forest looked more appropriate and heightened the contrast between dark, wet wood and vibrant green leaves and moss.

We had to dash away to make our Safari breifing at 3:00. We could see that the visibility was improving and the ceiling had slowly gone up. A few more teams had arrived and were checking in. The race staff were introduced and general procedures discussed. Everything seems congenial and focused on everyone having fun while being safe.

We were bussed back to the hotel for an hour's rest and then returned to the airfield for the opening dinner. Some of the teams were sporting their costumes, one was having a wardrobe malfunction. The young fellow's pants were so tight that the zipper blew out leaving him unfortunately exposed. In true pilot fashion he bore this with good humor having no other option until the bus would return us to the hotel at 10.

Dinner was accompanied by the expected speeches and introductions. Everyone seemed to have a good time. After dessert we received our first packets with the identification challenges for the competition leg: Masterton to Hokitika. This was a list of 14 questions based on things we should see if we followed the expected course plus 4 photos of things that would need to be recognized en route.

We returned to the hotel room and immediately used Google Earth to try to answer all the questions. Reality may differ, but hey, it's a start!

The weather is expected to be good for tomorrow, possibly very good on the South Island. If so we hope to fly Milford Sound as part of our second leg: Hokitika to Wanaka.
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