Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Taranaki, Wagamama’s and Eurovision

by on 18 June 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

Interesting fact: The following post the very first this semester receiving the tag “Me complaining”. That specific tag was one of the most heavily used last semester. In comparison “Ankles” has been used three times this semester and “Anti climatic endings” four times. Thank you, Wagamama’s for ruining a good run. You can see all the different tags I have used on the blog on the right, including old favorites such as “Public toilets”.

Wooh! It is time to actually (almost) catch up with the present on this blog after having been several weeks behind. Yay! And so much enthusiasm as well! Three exclamation marks in just two lines – and here is another one: !

This semester I have really wanted to go on some hikes but due to several different circumstances (waiting for other people to have the time and the car to be willing to drive) it didn’t happen until a couple of weeks ago. The trip went to Taranaki which had also been the plan a couple of weeks earlier. We were seven people who went in two groups: Skott, Tor and I (the Scandinavians) in one group and Ilana, Jeremy, Mickey and Max (Americans + a Frenchman) in the other. We, in the first group, left fairly early in the morning (especially considering it was a Saturday) while the other group followed some hours later since Max had to teach some tennis lessons before he could go. We were going on a two days’ hike where the first day was fairly short (about 4 hours according to Department of Conservation) while the next day was supposed to be much longer (7-10 hours). The plan was for the two groups to meet in the hut after the first day’s short hike. The first group had to buy and bring the food for the rest to minimize the risk that the second group had to walk too far in the dark.

Mount Tarankai/Egmont is fairly easy to locate on a map due of its very iconic cone shape, as I also mentioned in my last blog post. Unfortunately it was too late in the season to actually climb all the way to the top of the mountain without having to use ice axes and cramp-ons. It would be possible to rent them but you would have to prove that you actually knew how to use the equipment – such an unreasonable requirement. The hike we went on was therefore not straight up the mountain – we did have it in background for most of the hike, providing a pleasant scenery. I had been a bit nervous that the hike might be a bit boring with just an even-leveled path since we weren’t going up the mountain. Luckily I had no reason for such fears. It was actually a quite interesting hike; some places it was hard to see that it was actually a proper path since rocks were lying everywhere. When we realized that the other group was so delayed that they would have to do the entire first day’s hike in the dark, I called them and warned them not to do it. It didn’t really seem like a very good idea to climb around on those rocks in the dark with a scary chasm at one of the sides. We had enough trouble just crossing in daylight. They didn’t really seem to listen to me, though.

As is tradition: Haka before the hike
It has become a tradition to start our hikes with a haka

Tramping on the edge
A small example of some of the rock slides we had to cross the first day.

Norwegian, scouting for the path
Tor, scouting for the path.

We arrived at the hut exactly as it got dark which was pretty lucky since none of us had brought flashlights. We spent a good deal of time trying to light a fire which proved to be quite difficult since none of us had thought about bringing matches or a lighter either (I guess we weren’t really well-prepared). However, since we were three engineers we figured that we should be able to create fire somehow. Immediately Skott started trying the well-known “wood-against-wood-makes-fire” trick. Since the hut was lit by light bulbs powered by solar collectors we also considered the possibility of short-circuiting one of them, giving rise to a useful spark. We spent some time considering different options until I in the end chose to take the lighter hanging on the notice board and suggesting we could maybe use that.

4) Stab the piece of wood
Skott, trying to create fire.

When it was about 9pm we figured it was time to go to bed. At this point we had realized that the others had probably chosen to listen to my warnings and skipped the hike. They arrived at 10pm after having spent five hours on the same trip we spent two and a half to do.

The second day was very nice with a view of the mountain most of the day. About halfway through the hike, which ended up taking about eight hours, the nature of the path changed dramatically. While the first part had consisted of either stairs or level ground, the second half offered almost vertical drops which made for some quite interesting climbs. There were also a couple of rivers we had to cross by walking around on slippery rocks. During the last half hour I managed to throw away my lens cap for my camera and twist my ankle (as I had predicted I would do in the beginning of the day – I love my ankles) – these were two separate occurrences. Just as we were done with the hike it started to rain. It kept raining for the six hours it took to drive back to Auckland. Such a nice end.

Traditional pre-hike haka. Max (and partly Ilana) didn't get the idea
We tried to introduce the other group for the idea about starting the day with a haka. Max (and to some degree Ilana) obviously didn’t manage to grasp the concept.

Mount Taranaki and a group of posers
Mount Taranaki with Max, Skott and Tor posing in front of it.

... and still climbing down
As I mentioned, some places the path just went straight down. Luckily, ladders were placed at the worst parts

Some places the track was hidden pretty well. This sign says "Track", quite helpful
The path was sometimes quite hard to find. The sparse markings with signs did however help us find our way.

The suspension bridge where I threw away my lenscap - and minutes after twisted my ankle. Yup, I am a genius
The suspension bridge where I chose to throw my lens cap away.

The following Monday I went to Wagamama’s for the first time for the dinner which is held for the PSV residents once every semester. It was a very chaotic and messy dinner. We were split up at three long tables and the dishes arrived in an order which appeared to be fairly random to me. A lot of people got their main before the starter and long before a lot of other people at the table had received any food at all. We quickly found out that you just had to eat whatever you were served when it was served since you had no idea when anything else would arrive for either you or the others sitting around you, staring hungrily and jealously at your food. I think our table got the desserts before those sitting at the last table got their starters. The serving of the dessert was also disappointing. Many (including me) had ordered cheesecake which the waiter didn’t have any problems with. When the others around me started getting their desserts and I could see I wasn’t about to have any, I asked the waiter where my cheesecake was. Apparently they never had it. One of the alternatives, a chocolate cake with ice cream, they only had five pieces of. Not too organized when you know a big group is coming. The food was fine, though.

Tuesday I went (alone) to the cinema to see Kick-Ass which I am really happy I did. It is an amazing movie about a relatively geeky guy who wonders why nobody has tried to become a superhero in real life. After this realization he naturally decides to try it out himself. The movie develops into something completely different by the end – almost as if it is three different movies of different genres, each extremely entertaining. The end of the movie contains action sequences which reminded me of some of Tarantino’s amazing movies which is probably one of the strongest recommendations I can give.

Thursday I had been invited for dinner at Jocelyn’s, one of the two Frenchmen who I went to Samoa with. crêpes were served and wine was drunk in a truly French manner. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday I got up at 7 to watch the Eurovision with Tor. Unfortunately we missed about 10 songs in the middle of the show because the stream died. We did get to see the random stuntman running onto the stage during Spain’s performance (I thought he was part of the show until the hosts pointed out that Spain of course would get to sing again since their song had been ruined), Moldova’s amazing attempt to one-up last years winner by not only having a fiddle, but a glowing one (with a lot of other craziness added). We also got to see Germany’s winning song and Denmark’s performance. I was very happy when Denmark received top points from the first two countries after which Lena from Germany started getting all the points which in the end resulted in her winning. Tor was happy that Norway managed to (only just) beat Moldova and I was amused about the fact that the UK, which is secured a spot in the final each year since they put so much money into the Eurovision, ended dead last with only 10 points (Denmark had 12 points after the very first of 39 countries had given their votes). Tor and I agreed that we were content with Lena winning, though, since that resulted in a memorable interview with an extremely nervous 19 year old girl who didn’t look comfortable on the stage at all. It didn’t help that she had to be interviewed in English which was obviously not her language of preference. Classic moments such as a very cautious “Hiiiii” as answer to a number of questions she did not understand or “I… I don’t think I am strong enough… to carry this… the whole time” about the trophy she had just been handed immediately appear in my head. The same does the image of the poor German girl who tries to hide by wrapping her head in the German flag when the whole situation becomes too much for her and at last her surprised expression when she realize she has to sing again (“Do I have to sing… NOW?”). Luckily the stream continued for a bit after her song was over: They just let her stay on the stage without anyone helping her. She had no idea what to do or say and in the end she had to switch to German in order to at least manage to mumble something remotely coherent until they unfortunately turned off the stream.

Later that day Ilana, Max and I went on a small trip to Rangitoto Island, a small volcanic island close to Auckland. It was a nice little walk up and down the volcano. We had a very nice view of Auckland from the top. The weather was perfect with the sun shining from a cloudless sky. I am still amazed that it is possible to have such beautiful weather, now that we have officially entered winter here in New Zealand. I don’t get where the annoying, bitter cold, the persistent darkness and the horrible snow, that completely ruins your chances of going anywhere without getting your feet wet, have gone. It is definitely not winter, as I know it, and I am quite happy about that.

DSC_1896
View from Rangitoto. Auckland is the city in the world with most boats per capita.

As I also mentioned last time I have been quite bad at writing blog posts this semester (thereby not implying I was doing a good job of it last semester either). Hopefully I will manage to write at least a couple more before I leave New Zealand. However, it has started to dawn upon me that I will have to leave soon. Students all around me are busy with exams which is usually a sign that the semester is about to end. At the same time a lot of people have started talking about leaving resulting in the mandatory invitations for goodbye parties. Indeed, some people have already left which of course is very sad. Unfortunately that is how it always goes with these studies abroad, as I have now started to get so accustomed to.

Coming up: A post about what it is I spend my normal weekdays on down here!

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