As promised, today’s entry is about doing non-poker things. This is mostly a picture blog entry.

Two weeks ago I had a friend come down from Auckland with his kid. I don't normally have anything to do with kids, so it was all new ground for me. We went out and did lots of things, every day for four days. It was quite intense. I even ate all sorts of food that'd normally make me put on weight and still lost a kilo, haha. I imagine upcoming Easter weekend won't be so kind.

One of the most memorable things from that weekend was the Wellington Zoo.

Here're some tiny monkeys. They were adorable and ate some broccoli for a snack.

Here's a meerkat standing guard:

And a giraffe with some guinea fowls hanging out by his feet:

We also went to the Marine Education Centre. It's a great idea, focused on conservation and education, but was quite smelly and cramped. A few months ago some punk kid poisoned some of the aquariums, killing a lot of the inhabitants, so it's quite sad; they're hoping to rebuild soon on a new site. The view outside was lovely though, looking out onto the ocean:

We also went to the Game Masters. It's an exhibition at the local museum, Te Papa, focused entirely on computer games. It's quite interactive and has a lot of old school arcade cabinets, all the way up to the latest and greatest. Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo, Grim Fandango, Mario Brothers, Sega racing car and motorcycle, Fruit Ninja, virtual air hockey set on a flat screen TV, you name it, they had it, every game was playable. There was also a huge area with Xbox Kinect set up on a dancing game and separate booths for SingStar and Guitar Hero. It was very fun.

Then last weekend, I went to the Kapiti Island with another friend. It's a small island set aside now as a nature reserve, and available for tours, and even overnight stays. There are no pests on the island, so the native life is free to thrive. There is also a complete ban of any fire or cigarettes, and they check your bag for mice or other pests before you get on the boat.

Can you see the island on the horizon? This is where we were heading:

It was quite a long drive from where we live to the Paraparaumu Beach, where the boat was leaving from. So we first fuelled up at the Golden Arches:

They're having "Tastes of the United States" promotion at the moment, so I had a McGriddle, bacon and egg on sweet hotcake basically. Was a bit weird but I do love New Zealand Maccas, it's so delicious. I always thought it'd be the same everywhere in the world, but I tried a hamburger at Las Vegas Airport McDonald's and couldn't even tell that the patty was made from meat! I've been told it's the difference between beef mince and ground beef; though I'd always thought they were the same thing. Go figure.

When we arrived to the beach to wait for our boat, we found this massive skeleton. Fish, I guess. I hope, anyway.

Then we witnessed how the boat gets into the water. At this point, I'd realised I'd never been on a smaller boat before, because it gets driven into the sea by a massive tractor!

Check out this beast, can you see the tiny tiny man running behind it?

Massive boat motor, I was starting to feel some trepidation about going on this thing as I don't swim:

The boat was going very fast, but I never anticipated how bumpy it'd be. It was like slamming into hard rocks. I noticed some birds were racing us, and attempted to take this video (select 480p):

All worry was for nothing though, as we arrived safe and sound. They do these trips multiple times a day. Here's a shot of some people getting off the boat, some others were from Canada (Hi to CanuckMonkey and 85FastLane, wave)

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As we landed on the island, we were greeted by this very cool teepee made out of drift wood. I don't think it was held together by anything other than magic, but it looked very solid. 

We got given an introductory talk and straight away were introduced to some of the wild life. Here's my friend holding a skink. They were very wily, trying to get into everyone's sleeves, but extremely cute.

And a kaka came to listen to our tour guide:

We got an hour-long guided tour around some of the flatter parts of the island. Here's a picture of a kiwi burrow. There were about 2500 kiwi on the island, but they were all asleep as they're nocturnal. 

There was a bit of a lake too, but you don't want to swim in it as Maori tribe battles were fought near it and apparently it's full of human bones!

At the end of the tour, we were at the Northern point of the island, looking out to the mainland.

Then we were left to explore on our own until lunch time. 

We spotted a weka trying to get food out of a tree. These are native flightless birds. 

And a native robin. They are not afraid of people and come very close to explore.

Then we went up one of the hills to get a better view. We couldn't get very far because we were there for only half a day, and these tracks were two hours one way. Still, it was gorgeous even 50 m above the sea level. 

These are all native forests, mostly manuka, and apparently what New Zealand used to be like. See how it's completely unaffected by the drought that is currently causing issues for all the farmers.

On the way back down, we spotted another weka crossing the road! (480p).

Heading back to the lodge:

At the lodge, we got freshly baked scones and hot drinks and some very cheeky guests:

Apparently kaka here are so comfortable that they won't hesitate to steal a scone out of your hands or even your mouth. We shooed them away whenever they tried to get inside the building though.

Then, as a special treat, we got to see takahe. There are only about 200 of these birds left in the world. Kapiti Island has five. Whenever they breed, new birds are transported to other areas of the country in attempts to re-establish the population. 

They're very prehistoric looking, something like a small moa or a dodo? Or maybe just an awkward chicken.

Here's a video (480p).

And just like that, the half a day was up, and it was time to head back home. It was most enjoyable. If you guys are ever visiting the Land of the Long White Cloud, I highly recommend Kapiti Island.