Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Archive for 13 February 2010

Part 7: The rest of the rest

by on 13 February 2010, under Julekalender, New Zealand, USA

Well, let’s get this over with. There is not that much left to talk about, but you will get a couple of photos.

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After the eventful visit to Queenstown we continued to Christchurch, the “capital” of the South Island. On our way there we passed some beautiful blue lakes.

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While Caroline suddenly thought it was “too expensive” to do the proper bungy jump when we were standing on the platform in Queenstown she had no trouble doing this “bungy jump” in Christchurch.

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While Skott, Søren and Caroline tried to find somewhere to surf, Kristian and I met up with one of Kristian’s friends who lives in Christchurch. He gave us a guided tour of the outskirts of Christchurch. What you see above is a view of the city.

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We had been driving around with three surf boards on our entire trip. Still, the three surfers had not been doing much surfing on our trip. After Christchurch we continued to Kaikoura which is supposed to be the closest thing you come to a surfer’s paradise on the South Island. We had therefore planned to spend three days there so the poor surfers could finally get to do some surfing. Unfortunately there were no waves whatsoever so they had to come up with some other ways to have fun, illustrated by the above photo.

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Kaikoura is also well known for its spectacular bird and sea life. People come from a far to swim with dolphins, see albatrosses and watch whales. Caroline and I went on a whale watching trip where we got to see a couple of sperm whales. Unfortunately we never got a chance of getting the famous “tale shot” so we did get a small refund after the trip.

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Sunset in Kaikoura.

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We lived in a very nice hostel which had both a jacuzzi, swimming pool and a sauna. Here we met Matias, Samantha and their friend Lars. Matias and Samantha are two Danes we had met while studying in Auckland and it was a bit odd to just run into them like that. They joined us for our celebration of our last night on the South Island by camping with us near a beach a bit from Kaikoura.

Here it would have been nice with a photo which we unfortunately never took. However, it still appears pretty clear in my mind, even though I wasn’t even there. We had to get up way too early the next day in order to catch the ferry back to the North Island. Before we left, however, Søren had to be dropped off in Kaikoura since he was going to stay at the South Island. Caroline took care of that and she left Søren at a hostel, all alone and with all the rubbish we had managed to produce on our little camping trip, all his lugage, his surfboard and with “many, many hangovers” as he phrased it. To complete the picture it started raining as soon as Caroline dropped him off. We also had to say goodbye to Caroline that day. We left her in Wellington after having gone on the ferry from Picton.

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We took the ferry back to North Island in daylight so we could enjoy the fine view.

We (which now means Kristian, Skott and I) drove to Taupo to spend the night. We had planned to skydive the next day. Unfortunately it was too cloudy and windy. After having waited for a couple of hours for the weather to get better, we had to give up and continue towards Auckland which at this point felt a bit like returning “home”.

In Auckland we spent a couple of days saying goodbye to the last couple of people. The last night we had a barbeque and went to a big Christmas show (Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park) in The Domain. I have mentioned it before, but it still seems extremely weird to try to celebrate Christmas when the sun is beaming down. I associate Christmas with extreme darkness most of the day, and a coldness you just wish would go away immediately. Christmas is indeed a happy time.

Luckily I did manage to get into the proper Christmas mood after four days in Christmas decorated New York. It had all the stressed people you could dream about, a piercing and annoying coldness plus overcrowded streets and shops. Exactly my idea of Christmas. It was a big contrast after having spent some weeks traveling around in the beautiful, sunny, green and scarcely populated South Island of New Zealand… I have a feeling you might be able to guess which I preferred the most. New York was still as impressive as the last time I visited it 2.5 years ago, though, which the photos below are supposed to illustrate.

Some places people were queueing up to get to look at the Christmas decorations in the shop windows
A lot of the shopwindows were of course decorated for Christmas. Some places they had set up specific queues for people who wanted to get a glimpse of the windows.

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We got to see a Broadway-show, Chicago. Here Skott is excited about the show being about to start… this is just before we were told in a strict tone to put away the camera and not use it again while inside the theater.

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Of course we had to go by the Statue of Liberty.

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We had a “tourist day” where we visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Bodies – The Exhibition, American Museum of Natural History (where the above photo is from), Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop and ended at high up in The Empire State Building.

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The view from The Empire State Building was excellent, just as it had been two and a half years ago.

Just to end this blog post in a weird way (which isn’t actually that odd for this blog) I want to give some advice about buying burgers in the US (well, it might be more of a warning). See, the burgers sold in the US apparently don’t have to contain any of the ingredients which usually make that particular kind of food interesting. A burger can, according to the Americans, just consist of a boring white bun and some beef without anything else. No salad, tomato, cucumber, avocado, bacon, egg or whatever people normally try to put in their burgers. Luckily, you do get to add ketchup to your burger if you wish to and it is usually apparent if the burger comes with cheese or not (usually indicated by the small word “cheese” in front of the word “burger” in the menu). And this bun with some beef they had the nerve to charge $12 for.

Actually, I would be able to continue complaining about stuff in the US. For example I don’t get how you can have a system where you can’t trust the price tags on things since they always add taxes afterwards. Or the mandatory tips which would be included automatically in the salary if you lived in a normal, civilized country… I think, however, that I have complained about this stuff before, back when I studied at Caltech in California and also wrote a blog. Therefore, I will stop complaining about the States (for now) – this blog is supposed to be about my experiences in New Zealand, and therefore also my complaints about that country. Luckily there will be a lot more room for that the next half year since I will be returning to the other end of the world, this time to write my thesis.

So… stay tuned!

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Part… 6?: The rest

by on 5 February 2010, under Julekalender, New Zealand, Hiking

Well, now I have decided to finish my story about the rest of my trip in New Zealand. Hopefully it will be done mostly through photos. At least I am going to try to use a shorter form of communication than what has so far been the standard on this blog. This way people will be able to proceed normally with their lives instead of having to wait for the conclusion on this exciting “Julekalender” I a confused evening in New York accidentally named this nonsense.

I should probably start with: “Kepler Track is a 3-4 days walk which goes over…” since this was what I teased in the end of my previous post. In the meantime, however, I have completely forgotten what sentence I was in the midst of formulating so instead I will start another place and tell you that Kepler Track is another one of those famous Great Walks, the meaning of which the loyal reader of my blog at this point will be fully informed about. As the teaser indicated it is a 3-4 day walk which we (Kristian, Skott and I) decided to perform in three. As promised the trip will below be described through photos (with captions – I have always been taught that you should never use a picture unless you also include a text which describes what the picture represents).

Day 1:

Ready for three days of hiking with an exceptionally performed haka. One again the loyal reader of my blog will be able to recollect that I already previously have described this New Zealand phenomenon (hint: You do remember the tale of Rotorua, and especially the night spend entertained by a Maori tribe, right?). The blog reader who has only just started reading my blog because that is the newest trend and “everybody else does it, so it must be the cool and right thing to do” (just like Facebook) I will leave confused – until he or she follows the hyperlink Wikipedia I have conveniently provided on the word “haka”, or until he/she goes back to my previous post about Rotorua. Of course there is a great chance that this newest of my blog readers will already have left the site at this point of his/her own volition.

This photo describes the first day pretty well: We mostly walked in something that reminded me of a normal forest. The only difference was that the path just kept going steeply upwards.

I was extremely happy when we finally reached a clearing where we got a view of the city we had left a few hours earlier and which now lay far beneath us. I became even more happy when I realized that we had managed to walk the scheduled distance in a bit more than half of the time the signs claimed it would take. The view over the mountains was spectacular.

Day 2:

Another day, another haka – this time at the top of Mount Luxmore.

The whole second day was just amazing. We walked on the mountain rims (I don’t know if that’s the words but hopefully you get what I mean) most of the day and had a terrific view as the photo above hopefully mangages to illustrate.

Skott and me on tour in the mountains (with Kristian left with the duty of photographer a bit behind us).

DSC_01102 Once again we met the Kea bird (uhh, another reference to one of my previous blog posts!). We tried for a while to get it to fly but it just kept jumping a few steps backwards. At one point it cleverly chose to move to the path that we were supposed to cross, basically blocking our way. Such a nice bird.

DSC_01150 ”If you start and end the day with a haka, everything should probably be fine”… is a saying I’m quite sure no one have ever used but it was still a proverb we chose to follow. Here we are close to the campsite on the second day after having descended from the mountains. It is a water fall you see behind us (once again proving the importance of captions – there is no way you would be able to tell what that thing in the background was without me telling you).

DSC_01155 While we the first night stayed in a hut in the mountains we chose to sleep in a tent on the second day. Here we once again encountered my new arch nemesis, the sandfly, which had turned out in strength (is that really how you say that? Anyways, there were lots of them). They were there solely to bother us and they did a pretty good job of it. In the photo above, Kristian is trying to flee into our tent which unfortunately didn’t protect us much since the sandflies were small enough to get through the mosquito nets. Smoke from a fire didn’t scare them away either. It was an afternoon were we had to eat walking and spent the rest of the day hiding in our sleeping backs in the tent even though it was pretty warm outside. If we just had had the foresight to invest in some insect repellant.

Day 3:

This was what we saw when we woke up the third day. It might not look like much but anyone who have ever encountered sandflies will be terrified by the thought of having slept in a tent filled with these creatures.

DSC_01164 Most of the third day was just woods.

DSC_01174 The last day we basically had to walk the same distance as we did the whole Abel Tasman trip (the one that took us eight hours the first day and four the second). We therefore set out with a decent pace which meant that we after three hours had walked a distance that would normally take six. Sadly, it isn’t as impressive as it might sound. Every year a bunch of crazy people participate in The Kepler Challenge which basically is a competition to complete the four day Kepler track as fast as possible. The record, set in 2005 by Phil Costley is 4h37m41s which just baffles me. One guy (Malcolm Law), in 2009 managed to do The Kepler Challenge as the last part of the 7-in-7 Challenge – completing seven of New Zealand’s Great Walks in seven days. That’s about 9 marathons. Naturally he was the first person to do so.

DSC_01192 Some kilometers from the end we were able to take a bus back to the town. Kristian and I chose to do so (I had some pretty severe blisters going on) while Skott managed to finish in a proper way. Here we are at the crucial point where we have to decide if we want to take a bus back.

And that, my friends, is the great story of the Kepler Track walk but luckily we are not finished at all with the story about my trip to the South Island. Søren met us back in Te Anau – he seemed to be more tired than us who had been hiking for three days straight. He had been drinking in Queenstown. He had come back to Te Anau to pick us up. Meeting Søren again also meant that we had to switch back to speaking English after having discovered that we were actually able to understand each other even when speaking Norwegian and Danish. Some might claim it was “about time” to discover this after having been hanging out with Norwegians for almost half a year. But as soon as Søren, with his thick Copenhagen accent was with us again we had to switch back to the safe English language since Kristian (understandably) couldn’t understand what Søren was saying.

The day after we went back north to a small cosy town called Wanaka, approximately two hours from Queenstown. Here we spent a couple of days relaxing, among other things by going skeet shooting and going to a “puzzling world” complete with a 3D maze and amazing optical illusions.

A maze in two stories which actually wasn’t that easy to navigate through in the beginning. In the end we did get the hang of it, though.

One of the rooms in Wanaka Puzzling World had a leaning floor which could cause some confusion as the photo above might indicate.

They also had a so-called Ames Room, a technique which was used in the Lord of the Rings to get the hobbits to look small compared to e.g. Gandalf:

DSC_0134 Unfortunately you have to create your own fun and the people in the background of this photo clearly wants to ruin that fun.

After having played a couple of days in Wanaka we went back to Queenstown where it was time to try some of the things the town is known for. In Queenstown Caroline joined our party once again and we all went on river rafting. I have once before tried to river raft. That was in Tennessee about to and a half years ago. Back then I was told it was a Level 4 river which seemed pretty wild at the time. The one we were on in Queenstown was also supposed to be Level 4 but it was definitely not as crazy as I remember the one from Tennessee. It was still fun, though, but the drive there might have been more extreme. It was a drive on a very narrow gravel road sloping up a giant rock. It is supposed to be the 15th most dangerous road in the world and it was easy to see why. Unfortunately I have no pictures to show for it.

The day after things became even more interesting. It was about time for a bungee jump. And not a small 40 meter jump from a bridge as two of my brothers (Tom and Benjamin) has performed. I’m sure the one my sister did was not much bigger either. No, if you have to do a bungee jump you might as well do it properly and Queenstown gives you that opportunity with the 134 m Nevis Highwire Bungy jump – the third biggest in the world, only topped by one in South Africa and one in Hong Kong. I’m going to let the video speak for itself:

The whole day of the jump I felt pretty relaxed (I’m sure it’s because I didn’t have any idea what I was about to do) and that feeling actually didn’t change much until approximately halfway through the eight seconds of falling where I suddenly realized how stupid a thing it was to do. It was an incredible experience, though.

And with this rush of adrenalin I will leave you waiting for more – the title of this post might have been a bit misleading but you’ll have to wait for “Part 7: The rest of the rest” in order to be able to leave the blog forever, fully satisfied. Of course, if you do that you will miss the upcoming photo post “Signs, fun and games” to which the reviewers write “A thrill ride of emotional outbursts which at some points might get a bit too close to old clichés. However, the developers still manage to make it seem both new and relevant. The hectic scenes filmed with a never-before-seen elegance and parts of the awesome 3D sequences makes Avatar look like a quick sketch made by a three-year-old. The well-written dialog adds a whole new dimension to the media which leads to adrenalin rushes you would not believe achievable. Add to that an innovative AND intuitive control scheme which never fails and you have the perfect blog post worthy of numerous Academy awards – Comic-Con will be going crazy.” It might also have been a fever dream I had… Regardless the blog post will arrive at some point.


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