Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Archive for 24 December 2009

Part 4: Abel Tasman, Pancake Rocks and Greymouth

by on 24 December 2009, under Julekalender, New Zealand, Hiking

To try to make the text a bit more manageable for those who are in a hurry in these nice Christmas times I have introduced a footnote system – just look for the asterisks. Of course it would be nice if I remember to continue using this system in my later posts but I can guarantee nothing. For those who are in an extreme hurry are here some more alternatives:
1. Only look at the photos and maybe the belonging captions.
2. Read Skott’s version of the trip (often way shorter).
3. Don’t read blogs at all.

Marahau is placed by Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s smallest national park covering an area of 225.3 square kilometers. The reason we had gone there was due to rumors about it being a fairly pretty area and I can indeed confirm these rumors now. You can enjoy the nature in Abel Tasman in different ways: Since the national park contains a fairly long stretch of coast it is very popular to sail around in kayaks. However, we chose to go on a small hike instead on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks*.

Luckily it was no problem for us to book room at a camp site on Abel Tasman Coastal Track and we could therefore start out on a hike which ended up taking seven hours (25 km). As the name of the track indicates the route took us along the coast which meant a nice view over the beautiful azure water most of the time. At some points the route did bend away from the coast which changed the landscape to a dense rain forest, similar to something taken directly from Jurassic Park. We had to cross specific points at certain times in order to avoid the high tide. The water levels could change with up to six meters at some points so we had to get to the tidal crossings at a proper time before high tide.

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Ready for seven hours of hiking.

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Our first tidal crossing. The bridge may give an idea about how high the water can be at high tide.

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A small example of our view most of the day – notice the many kayaks.

In general there are no dangerous animals in New Zealand. However, the country is infested with sandflies**. The camp ground in Abel Tasman was my first encounter with these beasts (but certainly not my last). Luckily I escaped with only a couple of bites on my feet – others in the group were not as lucky.

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This is unfortunately the best photo I have (so far on the trip) to illustrate what sandflies are capable of. You can see a couple of bites on Skott’s feet although I must admit that it doesn’t seem like much at this picture. What the photo further shows is what happens when Søren gets a camera in his hands – lots of photos of random stuff.

We did not plan on walking all of Abel Tasman Coast Track’s 51 km – it is described like a 3-5 day’s walk. Instead we had planned to tramp for two days, 35 km in total. The reason we had to go 25 the first day and only 10 the second was another tidal crossing. From where we stayed the first night we had a two hour walk to a part which needed to be crossed before 9 am unless we wanted to wait until late afternoon before the crossing was accessible again. Therefore we got up early and started walking in order to get there in time. When we arrived at the critical point it was a bit anti climatic since there was no water nearby at all. However, half an hour later it would have been impossible to pass. Our fairly short walk on this second day was rewarded by a couple of hours relaxation on the beach before we were picked up by a water taxi which brought us back to Marahau. On this trip back we saw a few sea lions playing around in the sun.

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Tidal crossing.

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Sea lion enjoying the sun on a rock.

Afterwards we went back to Nelson where we stayed in a funny hostel called The Palace***. We spent the night here and continued south the next day (now we have gotten to Saturday of the first week in the story which spans almost four weeks in total). We went along the west coast, a very sparsely populated area of New Zealand which was easily seen on the amount of cars we met on the road. We stopped shortly in Punakaiki where we took a quick look at The Pancake Rocks (see below) before we continued to the “big city”**** of the west coast, Greymouth.

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Skott shows what makes the Pancake Rocks so special – the taste! A lot of people mistakenly think it is due to their shape…

We spent a couple of days in Greymouth. After the first night, Borghild, kristian and I went horseback riding in Punakaiki while the other three went surfing. While the horseback riding was fine the surf trip was apparently more action packed. Not due to crazy waves or anything else like that but due to two visits to the hospital. At first Søren damaged a sinew (I think it is called) in one of his fingers while trying to correct his bathing shorts under his wetsuit. When he returned from the hospital (with some sort of splint on his finger which had to stay there for six weeks) he could pick up Skott who, after a couple of minutes of surfing, had managed to cut up his foot with his surfboard’s fins. Caroline was the only one who got to do a bit of surfing that day.

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Kristian, Borghild og me on the horses which we were let around on by a Swedish and a German girl (random info once again).

The second day we went kayaking, once again in Punakaiki. It was more fun than I had expected, especially because the river was a bit more aggressive than I thought in the beginning.

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The kayak rental place had some amazing 80-90’s cloth that we simply couldn’t resist putting on. In the confusion caused by my extreme enthusiasm I managed to throw away my watch which I miraculously managed to get back a couple of weeks later (now I at least have one loose thread to pick up on in a later post).

That’s it for this post (unless you haven’t read the footnotes yet and wish to do so. You should have done so as the references to them appeared in the text – maybe I should have mentioned that in the beginning but that is how I usually read footnotes so I didn’t think it would need an explanation). Notice how I have not spent four (fairly long) posts to almost get to the same point as Skott described in a single blog post about a month ago. But you have (among other things) seen a photo of a ninja in Wellington – Skott hasn’t been able to deliver anything like that on his blog!

For those who just can’t get enough are here the mentioned footnotes:
*About The Great Walks:
The Great Walks are routes through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful areas. As a lot of natural areas in New Zealand they are maintained by New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC), who also runs the huts and camp grounds on the walks which often take 3-5 days to complete. If you are interested in a close encounter with New Zealand’s gorgeous nature these are the walks you should go on. Unfortunately they are so popular in the summer periods and the space in the huts and on the camp grounds so limited that you often need to book far in advance to be able to spend several days on the tracks. More than a month before our trip, Skott and I had talked about doing the Milford Track, which literally has gotten the nickname “The Finest Walk in the World”. All huts on the walk was booked far in advance, though, so it wasn’t possible for us to do that trip. Some may recall that I wrote about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which I walked a while ago. That was actually my first encounter with one of The Great Walks since this one day trip is a subset of the four day Great Walk, Tongariro Northern Circuit.

**About sandflies:
Sandflies are small devils which made me miss the cute small Danish mosquitos which seem like the most lovable pets in comparison. Sandflies are the most annoying insects I have ever met: They attack in giant mobs, you can see and feel the after-effects of their bites for several weeks, more sandflies are attracted if you start scratching the bites and then they seem to especially enjoy Scandinavian blood for some reason. The Maori people believed that the sandflies were introduced in New Zealand by an angry god who was tired of looking at the lazy people stand around, enjoying the beautiful nature surrounding them. Sandflies behave in a peculiar way: If keep moving they won’t touch you but as soon as you stand still they attack you, 1000’s at a tie. They are therefore a very effective method to keep people moving.

***About hostels in New Zealand:
During our travels in New Zealand we did encounter a couple of peculiar hostels. A lot of them were “special” due to their shape, furniture, decoration and staff. The palace was for example a giant villa with enormous rooms and bath rooms which were shaped and decorated in typical Hundertwasser style (you do remember the famous public toilets, right?), changed into a hostel which was even fairly cheap to live in. Later on I might put up a post with photos from a couple of the hostels we visited during our travels.

****About calling Greymouth a “big city”:
“Big city” is here in quotes since an area with a population of about 14k wouldn’t be called that in many countries. Still, it is the sparsely populated west coast’s biggest city. In the middle of the 1800’s gold was found on NZ’s west coast which of course attracted a lot of people to the area. When the gold reserves had been emptied out most left again (a decision which was probably made easier by the awful weather – there is a reason the area is nicknamed “Wetland”). Greymouth is now one of the few proper cities left in the area. Less than 1% of NZ’s population lives on the West coast which covers an area of about 9% of the total area of New Zealand according to my Lonely Planet book. Don’t say that you do not learn anything from reading my blog!

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Part 3: Departure, Wellington and Picton

by on 21 December 2009, under Julekalender, New Zealand, Hiking

OK, from now on it will hopefully get better (fun fact: In the Danish text I write that I promise it will be better, but I’m actually not sure if I can guarantee that, I’m just too lazy to change the Danish text). It will (hopefully) get better since I will have photos to accompany my next many posts. Not only does it make the site much nicer to look at, it also means that I won’t have to tire people with too much nonsense (and I won’t have to write it) since a picture does say more than a 1000 words – everybody wins!

When I in the beginning of July went to New Zealand it was after a very short summer vacation which only lasted about two weeks. Therefore it was a well deserved vacation that took it’s beginning Saturday November 14 after the last exam was over. And it was a summer vacation that was delayed by half a year even though it felt weird at a time where the cold and dark winter was beginning to slowly infest innocent little Denmark (the winter has fully arrived by now, I can assure you). In New Zealand, however, it was of course summer (as far as I’m informed that is still the case) which fitted me perfectly since the vacation was going to be spend on traveling around in beautiful New Zealand.

Monday, after the goodbye parties in the weekend and the packing of all my stuff, I was ready to go road tripping. Of course it was a bit weird to have to say goodbye to so many people I had met during the last five months in New Zealand. Especially because I know there are a lot of them I will never see again. However, I was prepared for that to happen even before I left for New Zealand. It took some time to pack the car; not surprising since we were five people who had to stuff almost all of our possessions from the last five months into a single car. At the same time it was stated that some of us would actually like it if all five people could fit in the car at the same time. The observant reader will at this point notice that the group consisted of six people with two cars (as mentioned in the former post). However, Caroline had already traveled south a couple of days before. We were supposed to meet her in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital from where we were supposed to go with the ferry the following day. To sum up: Five people, a lot of luggage, one car, illustrated through photos:

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This photo is taken during the packing process. Not everything has been put into the car at this point.

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Skott is playing a special kind of Tetris where the rows unfortunately don’t disappear when they are completed.

Additionally, we had to put two surfboards (Skott’s and Søren’s) on top of the car.

In the end, we somehow got everything to fit. After a final visit at Burger Fuel, a New Zealand burger franchise which serves burgers with fairly fresh ingredients, we could start the trip towards Wellington, approximately 650 km or 9 hours of driving. We arrived late in the evening/night in Wellington where we met Caroline who had reserved beds for us at an expensive hostel. Of course we didn’t get to do more that day.

We were supposed to head for the South Island with the ferry Tuesday evening. Before that we had time to go around and enjoy the capital of New Zealand. It was a very pleasant experience; the city seemed far nicer and welcoming than Auckland. It was probably due to the smaller streets, better city planning and nicer architecture. For some reason I started to think of Wellington as New Zealand’s pendant to San Francisco, maybe because of the sun, the hilly streets and the famous cable car which we rode to a botanical garden which unfortunately wasn’t that impressive.

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You meet some interesting people in Wellington. Here: A ninja.

We also got to visit the parliament which is split up into several buildings. One of these buildings is named The Beehive due to it’s distinctive look. By going through some security checkpoints we got to get into the parliament to see the politicians discuss; rather boring but that was probably because I had no idea what they were discussing. Still, it was interesting to get to see where New Zealand is controlled from.

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Søren presents: The Beehive.

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Borghild presents: The central parliament building.

They had already begun to decorate for Christmas, a problem I will probably visit again later on: It seems very wrong to celebrate Christmas when the weather is so good and completely absurd to see decorated Christmas trees in bright sunshine.

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For me, this is a photo of contrasts.

In the evening we got on the ferry heading to Picton. If we had been a bit smarter we would probably not have sailed with the ferry while it was dark since it is supposedly one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world. Luckily we also needed to take the ferry back later on so we got to experience it in daylight as well.

I am not used to travel in this way, but we had left from Auckland without any big plans about what we were going to see and where we were heading. Of course we had a general idea of “must see” stuff but nothing specific. After having spend the night in Picton we found out that we wanted to do a small hike, and so we did. We went along the water to a lookout spot where it is possible to see the ferry go through Queen Charlotte Sound. This is the sound that makes the ferry ride so beautiful. The hike was a small one, approximately four hours – an appetiser for what we could expect the next day, but of course we didn’t know that at that point.

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The view of the sound.

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When we came back from the hike we met a man with a homemade boat. We had seen the boat the day before on the ferry where it was strapped on top of a car and had been wondering what it was. He also showed us his homemade surfboard – pretty impressive.

In the evening we went to Nelson where we had some wonderful Indian curry. In the end we headed to Marahau to camp.

This post ends with a photo of the nice tents we had available and me looking like a possum caught in the light from the headlamps of a car. I will probably mention possums again later on.

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Caroline, Kristian og Søren had brought their very professional tents which could probably withstand the biggest snow storm. Especially Søren’s tent colored like something you would buy in a Danish toystore (Fætter BR) received a lot of nice comments.

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Part 2: Random background information

by on 21 December 2009, under New Zealand

Background info 1:
New Zealand is basically divided in two big islands (there are some smaller islands scattered around but let us just ignore those for a moment). They are cleverly named The North Island and The South Island – you will only be granted one guess as to how they are placed. Auckland, where my studies have taken place, is based on the northern part of The North Island. With this city as a base I had succeeded in seeing great parts of the North Island during the semester (which this blog has hopefully given a small indication of), especially during my two week break in the middle of the semester. Therefore it had long been the plan to spend most of my last days in New Zealand at the South Island which most people say is the most beautiful part of NZ – and I concur.

Background info 2:
The next couple of posts I will probably name a couple of people several times. Instead of having to introduce these people randomly scattered around I will instead give a random introduction of them here. They are the five people I traveled with, a nice mix of Danes and Norwegians:

Skott (DK), 25: My study buddy from back home who has been mentioned several times at this blog already. Other people may know him by his first name, Jonas, but we soon realized that a lot of problems can come from having two Jonases from Denmark, studying the exact same thing, taking all the same courses, both living in Parnell just walking around pretending this is a normal thing. Unfortunate associations with e.g. The Jonas Brothers was put forward several times which I don’t think is a good thing, although I must admit that I have never heard their music as far as I know. Back in Denmark we are Skott and Ahmt; in New Zealand we were Skott and Jonas.

Søren (DK), 25: Also known as Shawn, Shaun, Sun, Son or whatever foreign people said when fighting with the weird Scandinavian vowel “ø” (no, it’s not the number zero). Søren was the very first person Skott and I met when we arrived in Auckland – he had arrived with the same plane as us and took the same shuttle to the city as we did. We have kept in touch ever since which proved to be a good idea since Søren is one of the most entertaining persons I can imagine spending time with. Studies sociology, has traveled a lot and is always ready with some absurd story from his own life.

Borghild (NO), 23: One of my flatmates from PSV. I met her in the beginning of the semester at a quiz night arranged by the university (part of the introduction week) where she told me that she had applied for student accommodation. The next day she moved into the same flat as I lived in. During the semester I have successfully introduced her to the great TV shows Firefly og The Big Bang Theory (“random introduction to people” means me stating random facts). Studies computer science.

Kristian (NO), 28: The oldest in the group. I met him through Borghild. Kind of like Skott and me they had arrived together from the same university and they also knew each other beforehand – no-one ever tried to call them The Jonas Brothers, though. He also lived in PSV, just as Skott, Borghild and I did. The only one from the group who stuck with Skott and me the whole way.

Caroline (NO), 21: The other car owner in the group. I also met Caroline in the beginning of the semester, the very first day of the introduction week where you ran into a lot of the new international students. As with all the others in the group, Caroline was one of the people I had kept in touch with since the beginning of the semester. Before she got to New Zealand she had been surfing in other parts of the world. Therefore she had (earlier in the semester) been tasked with teaching Skott, Søren and Kristian this noble art form. Studies electro engineering mixed with some business as far as I have been able to understand.

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The group (later named The Jonas Family) from left to right: Søren, Borghild, mig, Skott, Kristian, Caroline.

That has got to be enough background information. Finally the story about our travels can begin – in the next post, that is.

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Part 1: Conclusion on studies

by on 20 December 2009, under Julekalender, New Zealand, UoA

I did not only go to New Zealand for the sole purpose of experiencing the country. I also went there to study. I will use the first part of the “julekalender” to wrap up my studies in New Zealand so we can move on to something more interesting afterwards. Therefore this post will be fairly short.

I think I did mention that my exams had gone OK and my grades seem to confirm that. As far as I know (once again wonderful Wikipedia has been an immense help) you can pass a course with nine different grades (the letters A, B, and C with +/- variations) and fail it with either two or six different grades: D and E – I’m not sure whether or not they use +’s and -’s for the failing grades. It seems like a lot to have six different ways to fail but I must admit that I have never really thought much about the grades in that end of the scale.

I ended receiving three A’s and one A+. I got the A+ in my only undergraduate course which corresponds pretty well with the fact that I’m regarded as a post graduate student in New Zealand since I’m on my fifth year of my studies. I think I’m supposed to be pretty happy about those grades, especially since I don’t feel like the workload during the semester has been very large (no books to read for any of the courses and not that many assignments to hand in). Only in the last weeks of the semester did I have to focus intensely on the studies.

Now that I am writing about my studies I want to mention that my bachelor thesis which I wrote two fellow students (Johan Musaeus Brrun and Martin Lundberg-Jensen) in the (Danish) spring of 2008 has been awarded the best bachelor thesis in 2009 of the big consultancy company McKinsey & Company. We couldn’t participate in the 2008 competition since we didn’t defend the thesis until late August 2008 which meant the thesis was considered as finished in the school year 08/09. Only theses students themselves had chosen to submit to the competition were considered but I still think it is a pretty nice award to receive. Besides the honor we also received 15,000 DKK (about 4000 NZD) to split between us. Unfortunately it was only Martin who could be present at the award ceremony since both Johan and I was studying abroad (Johan in Sydney, Australia, and I in Auckland, New Zealand, as some of you may have noticed at this point).

I promise that this will be the last I write about my studies for a while (unless people protest and demand more about that particular subject). Next post will be about my travels in New Zealand (finally!).

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The return of the blog!

by on 17 December 2009, under Julekalender, New Zealand

As I promised in my last blog post I have held a long break from writing anything on this great blog. Now, I can’t keep that promise anymore. I have been traveling around New Zealand for almost a month (finishing with a couple of days in New York) and there is a lot to tell about. Of course I don’t want anyone to miss out so the next week will be filled with exciting new and frequent blog posts if I can pull myself together to actually write them.

There might be several reasons why you read this blog in English:
1. You might not have found out yet that you can change the language of the blog on the right hand side which would make me kind of sad since the function of those two flags should be pretty self-explanatory.
2. You might have found out that my English versions of my blog posts contain even more nonsense (such as this whole paragraph – you would have no idea it existed if you read the Danish version) and for some reason you tend to prefer that.
3. You prefer my English formulations.
4. You simply don’t understand Danish (which I feel is the least valid reason for reading my blog in English. Personally I have been able to understand and speak Danish since I was very young, so why shouldn’t you?).

Anyway, if you belong to the (very limited) group of people who read my blog in English due to Reason 4, you might not know what a julekalender (Christmas calendar) is. Which means I will have to explain it to you, even though Wikipedia does a pretty good job. It is a Scandinavian invention (apparently the Swedes were first with the idea in 1960, followed by the Danes in 1962). It is basically a TV show split into 24 episodes (kind of like 24 with Jack Bauer, just not as action packed, and usually with a bit more Christmas mood and more child friendly) aired from the 1st of December till the 24th where we celebrate Christmas in the evening here in Scandinavia. It is actually a pretty good tradition and it makes sense it is Scandinavian since we really don’t have anything else to do than to watch TV when we come to December – it is way too dark and cold to go outside.

Now you can add:
5. You get amazing lessons about Denmark/Scandinavia.
to the list of reasons to read my blog in English.

But now you know what a julekalender is, and you accept that it doesn’t have to be a TV show but can also be a written 24-part story, we can return to my blog post as I was translating it from Danish:
My blog can now be seen as a kind of julekalender, even though it won’t be in 24 parts, there is no guarantee that the finale will come on the 24th (which basically was my complete definition of a julekalender, but you must learn to live with it), there will be considerably less interested people following it and way less uncertainty about the final outcome than usual. Still, it is a story in multiple parts written and told during several days in December so it has a bit to do with a julekalender.

At the moment I am sitting at a hostel in New York and I am just about ready to return to Denmark. I am leaving tomorrow and I hope that my parents will be able to get through the climate chaos (not only due to the Climate Meeting ending and Obama having to leave the country from the airport but also since it apparently snowed in Denmark which I am not too fond of) so they can pick me up at the airport.

But I should stop here – if I don’t I will fuck up the chronology of my blog, and we can’t have a julekalender which starts with the end (no matter how anti climatic that end might be). Talking about anti climatic endings: At this point I was considering giving you some teaser for what you can expect in the upcoming blog posts but I won’t.

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