|I know what you're thinking. I might have shaved my beard off and gotten a haircut. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. You can't tell because I have not posted any pictures on the site yet. You'll have to wait. The suspense is killing you isn't it? Well, ok, not all the rest of you - but my Dad for sure! He's wanted the beard gone for years; not even sure what he thinks about the hair... Well, ok, I know what he thinks, but the conversation is too long and leads nowhere anyway. Besides if I were going to do it, I would wait until I can get a Tibetan monk or someone like that to shave me bald - an experience I could remember forever!
So, a funny thing happened on the way to Te Anau. "I just flew in from Queenstown, and boy are my arms tired! That "funny think happened line" always reminds me of that retarded joke! Don't know why.
It was supposed to be just a boring little drive South, but we came across a field that was just LOADED with sheep. They were everywhere. I mean everywhere. Both sides of the road. So we pulled over to take a couple of shots (digital, not military). Anyway, from around the corner comes this ATV with a rough lookin' dude with four dogs on the back. I checked, and the dogs were not wearing their seat belts, in spite of strict NZ laws. I was going to mention it, but... Anyway, the dude was the owner and he says to us, "Hey mite - skep the fince and heed across the paddick - they'z doing sime shearin' in thire". Huh??? I knew I understood the country English, but the registration process in my brain is just a little slower. I said, "Yeah right, you sure it's ok"? "Yeah, mite", he said encouraging us to get climbing.
So off we went across the paddock, in our flip flops, dodging (unsuccessfully) the various organic landmines along the way until we could here a disturbing drone coming from the through the shed doors. It was a little like what I think Moses must have seen that day he went sea splitting, although I didn't have a staff and I didn't have to raise my arms or anything fancy like that. The sheep just sort of looked at us, made noise and then parted to form a nice little walkway for us.
Anyway, we turned inside and for someone who hasn't seen this before, it was pretty funny. The first thing I thought of was the Price is Right. Yup, The Price is Right. For those of you who have never been in a wool shed, this is what it's like:
There are a series of doors up on a platform. Each door is numbered. Just like the Price is Right. There is a guy standing on the lower floor who controls all the prizes. We'll call him Bob. In the case of this game, there is only one prize (wool), and the prize(s) all get stuffed into a big baling machine controlled by Bob. Now, each contestant is pulled from the "audience" by a guy standing in front of each of the doors. There are multiple contestants simultaneously. They don't yell out any names like they do in the Price is Right though, because every contestant has the same name; namely "Sheep", and that would get really confusing if they said "Sheep, come on down" and they all crashed the stage together.... Anyway, Sheep is dragged onto the stage from behind the door and promptly flipped onto his/her back for a 2 minute (or less) prize removal massage! They seem to enjoy it, almost smiling. Yeah! As the attendant removes the prize (all contestants lose on this version of the game unfortunately), Janice and the other girls with brooms and various other implements collect the prize(s) and whisk them off eloquently over to Bob who stuffs them into the baler. Sometimes they do interesting things with their hands that serve to accentuate the prize, and contribute to the advertising value of said prize for any audience that happens by (like us) ;). Once the prize removal is done, Sheep is flipped back over and sent down a chute right beside the door from where he came. No fanfare. No parting gift! And unfortunately, no show case showdown. No spin the wheel. Cool, Eh?
Anyway, it was another one of those great, FREE, experiences. All the best things are free. It looks really funny at the end though, because you've got one paddock full of guys with shaving cuts, and the other one full of Bob Marleys. But hey, that's sheep shearing - it was cool to see it in action because it only happens once a year. For the economists out there, the rancher told us the price of wool had dropped about $1.40 per kilo over the last year to about $3.40 a kilo, and it costs about $3.00 a head to sheer a sheep. I'm not sure on how much you get off a sheep, but it doesn't look like much more that a kilo and a half, so you can see the economics are tight. There are some starving sheppards out there, I'm sure. Nevertheless, the country still has over 35 million sheep, and only 4.5 million people. Oh, by the way, the fresh wool felt amazing!
We're staying in a combo campground/hostel/cabin place on the lake in Te Anau. Got a set of bunk beds tonight, but back into the double tomorrow. I'll update you after the Milford thing. Cheers!