Thursday, November 29, 2007

You Can Drive a Bus and Give a Commentary

Our very first organized tour was amazing, and probably set an example that will be hard to follow, in large part because of our bus driver Max. To understand the genius of Max, you may need to be familiar with ex-DC United Coach and now color commentator for the spanish soccer league, Ray Hudson.

To give a taste of the Hudson flair for the overdramatic, the following is an example from a Barcellona match we watched recently, where a player made a run for goal, but didn't score:

Ray: Put that boy in handcuffs and a set of shackles...put that boy in a safe...put that safe on a ship...sail that ship into the middle of the ocean...then sink that ship...and the boy would still get out!!!

Keep in mind that the match was still in progress and that the other commentator was trying to talk about what was happening on the field.

OK, now on to our bus driver, Max. To give some more context, Max is a middle-aged guy who grew up on the South Island and became interested in the environment as a young boy of eight, running through the bush at night with a knife and his trusty dog, hunting possums and pigs. As an introduction to an eco-tour focused on the birdlife and geology of Fiordland, we were already impressed.

At our first stop at the Te Anu Birdlife Sanctuary, I couldn't help but crib some notes, and so now present,

'Max's Guild to Birdlife in New Zealand':
Takahe: An endangered flightless bird with a distinctive red beak. When hand-raised, they use a special glove that looks like a takahe, otherwise they found the birds will fall in love with the human hand that feeds them. They can become quite mental.
Kea: NZ's naughtiest bird. World's only alpine parrot and the only bird that can store fat. Smart as dophins. They'll take apart a car in minutes, probably because they're interested in the mechanics. They probably like jazz, too. If you got mad at a kea and wanted to strangle it, you couldn't, they're protected by law...And they know it.
Kaka: Related to the kea, but less naughty. They can still be a bit cheeky.
Tui--NZ's cheekiest bird. They an imitate the call of all 3,000 bird species in NZ. You'll recognize them from the beer label (NZ's 'Milwaukee's Best' is called Tui).

Other interesting facts we learned from Max:
-Shania Twain just purchased one of the largest sheep operations on NZ. She also has a crush on Max.
-On multi-tasking: "Women always say men can't multi-task. Peter Jackson can direct 3 different films in 3 locations at the same time, you can drive a bus and give a commentary, you can iron the clothes and watch the baby."

So not only did we see some amazing sights and learn a bit, we got treated to the incredible storytelling of Max. Thanks!

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