Daily Archives: April 12, 2015

Cash for Cappuccinos

Keeping toasty in my new possum fur socks

More stories of the NZ possum problem/industry.

My fascination with the New Zealand possums . What I thought was a joke when I wrote in an earlier blog about possum hunters is not. Possums are serious business here. As a matter of fact, today I learned that the NZ government spends $1.5 million per week …PER WEEK…trying to solve the possum problem. Possums have no know predators and like to eat the juicy green leaves of many of the indigenous trees. Naturally, having met possum hunters, I was curious about who bought the fur and then what it is used for.

In the past couple of days, I’ve gotten my answer. In Fox Glacier and Hari Hari – names of two towns we’ve recently cycled through – I read signs like this: “Possum Fur Buyer – Good Prices paid for Fur- Inquire Within”. These signs are in front of the local market/cafe/helicopter ride company/bus station. These signs are in prominent tourist locations which makes me wonder if just anybody like retired cycle tourists or backpackers or fly fishermen can bring in a possum fur for some extra cash.

I’ve seen lots of entrails of animals which I assume to be from a possum lying on the side of the road, but the fur is missing. These piles of guts make me wonder if the driver who caused the “road kill” immediately jumped out of his car, brandished his hunting knife and skinned the beast right then and there, knowing he would make some cash for a cappuccino at the next town. As a matter of fact, Eric and I have even joked that we could skin some of the dead possum on the side of the road to help with expenses.

Then, with all the possum fur being bought, I was wondering what it’s used for. Today, in Hari Hari, at a cute store called “Crafts” I learned the answer. Possum fur is soft, light weight, and quite warm. Mixed with Merino wool and a little silk, possum “items” are a real functional and pricey souvenir for all those tourists shopping for NZ Made. There are scarves, gloves, hats, sweaters, and socks. And, today, thanks to the heavy, eight-hour downpour and the strong southerly winds bringing an Antarctic blast of cold air, I decided join the ranks of tourists who buy an item made with possum. I’m currently warming my toes with my new 40% possum, 50%merino, and 10% silk socks. According to the KORU label, these socks provide “extreme warmth, comfort and natural antibacterial (this really sold me) properties.” I’ll let you know how they work out.

Glow Worm Encounter

We recently camped in Fox Glacier. When I say “camped” I really mean we slept in a rustic cabin and walked to the community bathroom and kitchen facilities. We use these “cabins” in stead of our tent when we expect rain. The campers in the cabin next to ours were also cycle tourists. Being cycle tourists we are all friends and we all like to drink beer so Eric automatically invited them to our cabin for a beer later that evening.

I like these impromptu get-togethers because I learn a lot. Often I benefit from everyone else reading the guide books and learn all the things we should see and do without having actually read anything. Happy hour with our new German cycling friends was no exception.

Cycling Friends: Have you seen the glow worms?
Me (What are glow worms?!) No. We haven’t. Are they neat?
CF: We don’t know. We’re going tonight. Maybe well see you there.
Me: Maybe.

Our cycling friends left the comfort of the Adirondack-style chairs in front of our cabin to meet a friend for dinner. I walked to the community kitchen to cook ours, an assortment of the only items I had found left at the tiny grocery store – beef sausages, mashed potatoes and broccoli. Because I’d already drunk a large beer, I poured the majority of the second into the tiny saucepan to flavor and plump up the sausages.

We savored our sausages with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and were relaxing in the mellow after-dinner feeling of food and alcohol when I remembered the glow worm conversation.

Me: Let’s walk to the glow worm dell!
Eric: (eyelids at half-mast) Do we have to?
Me: Yes, come on. It’ll be fun.

We started the ten minute walk through town to the glow worm path. Within 30 seconds of leaving our campsite it became so dark we could barely see our feet in front of us. (NZ prides itself on no light pollution keeping its dark skies for stargazing and planetariums.)

Me: Should we go back and get our flashlight?
Eric: Nah.
Me: We’ll, I’ve got my cell phone (remembering the battery is under 30%)if we need a little light.

Soon we arrived at the trail head located just off the main highway into Fox Glacier. We walked through the entrance gates and into almost total darkness. We stopped for a few minutes to let our pupils adjust for night vision. We heard some happy voices nearby with “oohh” and “aaah” and “here’s some” so we knew we were in the right place.

Eric: I can’t see anything. Let’s go back.
Me: Relax. Give your eyes some time to adjust.

I shuffled further into the dark abyss using my feet to feel the way and my ears to hear to children’s voices just ahead.

Eric: Stop! Where are you?
Me: Here. Hold my hand.
Eric: I feel like an old man shuffling along.
Me: That’s part of the fun.

Together we shuffled a few more feet around a bend in the path. By now my eyes were adjusting and I could make out the top of the very tall, large pine trees if I looked skyward. The setting was magical and spooky
A few more shuffles and we came among the most beautiful, twinkling white lights dotting the wall of mud,ferns and foliage to our left. There were several lights sprinkled in the trees and ferns on our right. I felt like I was Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Eric: I don’t like this. Let’s go back.
Me: Relax. This is fun.

By now we’d passed the other tourists heading out of the dell. We continued to shuffle into more darkness. I could hear a small steam beside us. I could feel larger rocks marking the edge of the path. I could see twinkling lights all around. It was cool.

By now Eric had both hands gripping my shoulder blades and was shuffling behind me like we’re playing choo choo train.

The deeper into the dell we walked, the darker and spookier it got. I imagined ourselves getting lost. “Cycle Tourists Found Lost in the Glow Worm Dell. Didn’t Bring Flashlight” I did pull out my cell phone a handful of times to check that we were on a path hoping that the low battery would be sufficient to guide us to safety.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering what a glow worm is. I was, too. So, I googled it. I learned a glow worm is a soft-bodied beetle with luminescent organs in the abdomen, especially the larvalike wingless female, which emits light to attract the flying male.

Well, I may not emit a luminescent light but my good night vision did keep Eric gripping my shoulders during the walk.