Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Bad teaser

Home yet again

by on 25 July 2010, under New Zealand, USA

So I realize it has been a while since I last wrote a blog post. Unfortunately, I fear it will still be a little while longer before I actually manage to write the next proper blog post. I had planned to put at least one more up before I left New Zealand. This is what I managed to write the day before I left:

“I’ve soon been writing this blog for about a year. I still have no idea how many people actually read it. I have even less of an idea of how many people read and enjoy it. I think the style might have changed a bit from my first to my last post – I think I might have become better at mixing the boring text with exiting photos of me and the people I have been hiking with doing the haka. I don’t really know. I haven’t yet gone back and read what I wrote earlier. However, I guess it might be nice to have the possibility later on to go back to my blog and read what I actually experienced in New Zealand. I would assume it has been a good time – but I guess I will have no idea until I read the blog again.

I always wanted to be able to write short blog messages. I think people are “

Yup, I actually stopped in the middle of a sentence. Now you (and more importantly I) will never know what I think people are. Such a shame!

Anyway… the reason I’m writing this post is to assure you that I’m not entirely done with my blog, even though I have now left New Zealand and returned to Denmark. At least I still have some photos to put up and present (although most of them can already be seen on Facebook or Flickr). Right now I’m working on finishing my project, though. Since it usually takes me a while to sit down and write an actual blog post, that will have to wait. I can give a very short summary of what has happened since my last post, and then I might later return with some photos to show for it:

- Birthday celebrations (including my own Birthday, a bit surprising as I was born in October).
- Leaving NZ, going to the US.
- Buying an iPad (and how it nearly cost me my camera).
- My sister’s wedding (hooray!).
- Me, running around as a french fry (yup, that’s what that sentence is meant to say).
- Mixed randomness about America (and mostly the food habits) such as my amazement of Blue Cow Frozen Yogurt and my continued appreciation of the fact that The Cheesecake Factory exists.
- The final part of my project.

Aren’t you excited now? This post has certainly earned the tag Bad teaser.

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Back in NZ

by on 17 March 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

Now that I have finished writing the post I can see it is one of the more boring ones I have produced so far. It is almost completely void of exciting stories or my awesome humorous comments with a few (important) exceptions. If you are in a hurry just jump down to around the picture of a hole in the wall (or just search for “This is interesting”). It might not sound that interesting but trust me, it will be the most interesting thing in this post (which probably says more about the content of this post than about anything else). But here is the post as it was originally written:

After having been home in Denmark for the two coldest months of the year (fantastic planing by me, I really deserver praise for that) – actually the coldest January month in 23 years or something like that – I decided to go back to summer in New Zealand. But you already know all about that since my entire blog post last time was about my trip there through Boise. No, the reason people must have returned to this blog once again must be to hear about my first weeks in this “the land on the other side of the Earth” as the Danish name for the country ought to be if I had any say in it. At least it is way more descriptive than “Ny Sjælland”, the Danish translation of “New Zealand” which basically is the name of the Danish island where our capital Copenhagen is placed – it is very flat and nothing like New Zealand at all.

I arrived in New Zealand the 23rd at 11 o’clock, exactly as planned. Contrary to my arrival in the US I had no troubles at the border even though I, honest as I always am, told them that I was going to enter on a visitor’s visa but planned to apply for a student visa when I had found a place to live: “No problem, welcome back, and have a nice stay”. A very good example on the nice attitude most Kiwis have to visitors and life down here.

Skott picked me up in the airport in a shiny Subaru Legacy ‘91 which is still in perfect condition even after our trip to The South Island a couple of months before. We dropped our stuff off at a backpackers close to the university and relaxed for a couple of hours. Afterwards we went to a quiz night for international students at the university bar, Shadows. I have never really understood jetlag; I have been told that it is supposed to be hard to arrive in the morning at a new place after having traveled through several time zones and that it can take some people days to get over. As I see it you just have to keep awake until a decent hour in the evening before you go to bed. That can’t really be that hard, unless of course you have just been through weeklong torture sessions with someone actively keeping you awake every single second of the day. I assume only a small part of the people complaining about jetlag has been through that. Personally I have never had any real problems with jetlag during my visits to USA or New Zealand, just so you know (and I know you are extremely curious to know about that).

I had planned to spend the rest of the week trying to find a place to live, something that proved to be a bit harder than I had initially expected. It actually only took me about a week to find something but it did feel like much longer. I guess I’m too organized to be able to live in a small hostel room in the middle of a big city for a longer period of time; it is horrible not to know exactly where all your stuff is since it is hidden away in all kinds of weird pockets in your backpack. I did look at a lot of flats during the first week, both quite central, only a couple of minutes walk from the university but also further away, about 30 minutes away. I discovered how some people live in awful conditions and also did meet a couple of quirky personalities during my visits to the different flats that were looking for new flatmates. Even though most people didn’t say it right out I could feel that most felt it was a problem that I was only going to be in the country for about four months. A couple of people promised to contact me when they had decided who would get the room (most places had at least twenty applications during the first couple of days) even if I wasn’t the winner of the popularity contest. However I never did get a reply from anybody – nobody liked me (or probably more accurate: Nobody wanted the trouble of having to find a new flatmate after just four months but the other formulation sounds so much more dramatic so I’ll let that be the one outside the parenthesis).

Everything worked out in the end, though. I ended up in Parnell Student Village (PSV) where I also lived last semester. It wasn’t the original plan; last semester I thought it was quite expensive for what we got, even though I kind of liked the place. But during my visit to other flats I found out that it was actually just the price. I saw flats in worse conditions that charged more, and in most of them the room was completely unfurnished.

This time I live in a flat which is a bit different from all the others in PSV since we are eight people (compared to the 4-6 living in the other flats). It is also meant to be only for post graduates, i.e. the more mature students. I am fine with that and the rest of the flat is luckily occupied by nice people. The gallery of characters is:

- Anna, German girl, studying law
- Naira, German girl, studying mathematics
- Gillian, Philipinian girl
- Jing Jing (or something like that), Chinese girl
- Jennifer, Canadian girl, studying education
- Isidro, Spanish boy, studying psychology
- Blair, Kiwi boy, studying film
- Jonas (yeah, I’m going to mention myself, just to make the list complete), Danish boy, studying applied mathematics

As you can see it is a good mix of international students which of course is quite exciting. It is almost like the flat is two flats put together since we have to bathrooms, two toilets, two ovens, two sinks, two microwave ovens, a single toaster, no glasses etc. – you understand what I mean. So far it has been no problem living eight people together.

This is interesting. And this is another sentence which seems to just appear out of thin air. The first sentence (“This is interesting”) is to make it easy for people to get to this point in the post quickly because it is now that it becomes “exciting” (there is no reason for the second sentence “And this is another sentence (…)” – it is not the one that is the interesting part). I have spend my first time back in New Zealand on other stuff besides looking for a place to live. For instance I woke up in a burning hostel the night before I was supposed to move out of there. To make that story complete, however, I will have to start some time before that at The Chinese Lantern Festival (there is no such thing as chronological order to this post). It is a festival in Auckland which gathers a ridiculous amount of people on a small area. These people can they walk around and enjoy all the cheap paper figures (often looking like animals) which lights up everywhere in the grass and the trees, buy Sponge Bob Square Pants balloons which the Chinese people apparently love, eat all kinds of different Chinese food and (most importantly) listen to karaoke sung by some of the worst “singers” in history (I didn’t participate in the latter even though I might have been able to qualify for it with my beautiful singing voice).

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When there are so many people gathered in one place there is a good chance that you’ll meet some of God’s most beautiful children. Here two of them are posing.

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Dragons belong to every chinese celebration

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Long dragon.

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Everybody went crazy (in a joyful way) when this man started stealing babies. At first I thought it was some kind of weird Chinese ritual (they do have problems with too many children being born in China, hence their famous one-child policy). He did hand back the babies, however. I was afterwards told it was the prime minister of New Zealand. Now I can check the meeting with him off of my todo list.

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Me and some kind of Buddha look-a-like with a big Swastika symbol on its chest.

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Colorful tiger.

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More colors.

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Woman looking like she’s about to commit a crime.

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The whole thing ended with some fireworks.

You could also buy all kinds of useless crap which Vegard and Skott utilized to buy a waving golden cat which was going to be decoration for their new flat which they were moving into the next day. Apparently this cat is supposed to bring fortune but we quickly agreed that it would try to kill them in their sleep. Its treacherous smile and the uncanny continuation of the waving seemed to be a bad omen.

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Vegard og Skott were so happy just after they had bought the indispensable cat.

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It is always a great sign of quality when the packing contains “alternative” English. The text on the box reads:
——————————————————————————————————————————
WARNING:
1. Please don’t place the unsteady and solid place.
2. Please do not touch or move at will.
3. Please do not use the overdue battery. the overdue battery may make the product electric circuits damaged because of the electric leakage.

THE USAGE MUST KNOW:
1. Please don’t use to refresh battery.
2. Please don’t throw battery away in the fire the in order to prevent occurrence explosion.
3. Please don’t new old battery hybrid usage.
——————————————————————————————————————————

They had not had the cat for many hours before our fear about the cat’s evil intentions were confirmed. We had placed the cat on some shelves in one side of the room where it could sit and stare directly at Skott’s bed in the other end. He didn’t feel completely safe about this when he went to sleep. After an hour’s sleep we were woken up by this really annoying alarm clock. I thought it would be really nice if the people responsible for that would hurry up and turn it off – it was almost like someone tried to wake up the whole hostel. Someone even had the indecency to start hammering on our door which completely ruined any attempt of going back to sleep. But now when the smell of smoke had become so bad it wasn’t really the nicest place to sleep anyway, I thought. As you might have already figured out a fire had started at our hostel. There was no big panic and no flames to see, but you could definitely see the smoke. Even as we were walking down the stairs firefighters were coming up to put out the fire – extremely quick response time. I was quite impressed by the show. The whole street was filled with firetrucks, ambulances etc., probably around 15 in total for this very small fire where you couldn’t even see any flames. We had to spend about two hours outside, waiting for them to put it out. Everything was filmed by a film crew who were there to record stuff for an upcoming TV series with the working title “Fire Investigation”. They performed a couple of interviews but I have a hard time seeing how it can ever be edited into anything which will be just close to exciting to watch. The cameras even followed us into the hostel when we were led back to our new rooms – we couldn’t get back to our own room and our belongings until the next day. I don’t know if they are going to add some kind of special effects later on with us walking through the flames as the hard working students we are, only thinking about sleep so we can concentrate on our studies. It would probably be a better story than what actually happened: Some electrical components short-circuiting. To make a short story even longer than I have already made it, I can report that all my belongings were fine although they did smell a bit like smoke.

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This is how our room looked the next morning. Skott’s bed was placed right next to the wall with the big hole in it. All his stuff had been moved to the middle of the room, without any damage, meaning that the firefighters had been able to take it fairly slowly.

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Through the hole.

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The stairs.

And here I probably have to stop. I have (once again!) somehow written way too much about too little. I have actually experienced a bit more down here (or, I at least have some pictures left I still haven’t presented on this blog) but that will have to wait until next time. Before I end it completely, however, I have promised Øystein, the Norwegian who now lives in my old room in PSV, that I would mention James, a Canadian who also lives in my old flat (not in the same room as I used to live in, obviously – it would have been weird if both Øystein and James lived there at the same time). So now I have mentioned him. Both him, Øystein and the rest of the people from that flat will probably appear again later on this blog since I have been spending some time with the crew from Flat 15 (this could be seen as an alternative teaser, aimed at a specific and very small group of people, if they even care about reading about themselves on this blog).

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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 5: Fox Glacier, Queenstown and Milford Sound

by on 7 January 2010, under Julekalender, New Zealand, Hiking

After having visited the town with the fitting name of Greymouth we went on to Fox Glacier where we the following day were going to take a “Full Day Walk” on the giant glacier. It was a very impressive experience to walk around on such a big piece of ice with clamp-ons on the boots. The only negative about the tour was the fact that it was so guided. I felt like a small child in kindergarten when we were told to remember to keep our hands on the chains along the quite wide path going up towards to glacier. Of course it did not help that the guide seemed a bit short-tempered. Especially the big child Søren seemed to make her quite angry at some points. Of course I understand that it is necessary to impose a lot of safety restrictions on a tour like that since a lot can go wrong when you are walking around on a gletcher. Still, I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a bit less “touristy”. Below I have chosen a couple of the 178 photos which still remains on my computer from the trip after severe sorting and editing of the photos from the eight hour trip.

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The glacier lurking in the background.

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Hele “The Jonas Family” before we have gotten to the glacier itself.

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Me on my way into a hole in the glacier.

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Søren became very excited when he got the opportunity to kill me with an ice axe. In general there was a lot of talk about killing and eating me on the trip. But that is another story.

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On the glacier we found the finest kind of mud. Apparently it is supposed to be really good for the skin so naturally we had to put it in our faces.

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Parts of the glacier reminded me of Supermans Fortress of Solitude if I used a bit of my incredible imagination.

From the glacier we went on to the little town Haast where we met Sarah and Chris from PSV. They were taking a trip around the South Island in the opposite direction. It was nice to see them again and exchange stories about what we had seen and done on the Island so far. It was also here I solved the problem of my missing watch since Chris and Sarah accepted to go by the kayak place in Punakaiki to see if they had it – and that is the solution to “The Mystery of the Disappeared atch” which I (rather misleadingly) could have named either this or the previous blog post.

The day after we continued towards Queenstown, the big tourist trap of New Zealand which people go to in order to be charged to much money for stuff (especially extreme sports) you can do elsewhere but probably not in such a gorgeous looking location with the surrounding mountains. This Queenstown visit on the 25th of November had been one of the only specific points in our plan from the very beginning since Borghil needed to take a plane back to Auckland from which she had to return to Bergen in Norway a couple of days later. The same day we also left Caroline on her own in Haast – she was going to meet up with her boyfriend Miles for about a week. The family was suddenly split.

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Without Caroline and her car it was back to the puzzle from the beginning of the trip. Notice how Borghild laughs at the situation, Kristian just observes Skott’s poor attempt to pack the car, Søren pretends to be occupied by something outside the frame while I disclaim any responsibility for the mess by playing photographer.

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Before Borghild left the South Island she (and the rest of us too) got to see an excellent example of the beautiful views New Zealand has to offer.

We stayed in Queenstown a single night. Before we left the next day for Te Anau we went up with the gondolas to get an excellent view of the city. We also rode on luges, sort of a one man sled with wheels on it.

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A bit of the view.

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The souvenir shop sold lots of interesting crap as souvenirs shop tend to do. Here I’m dressed in a lovely and very fashionable sheep hat with a fitting purse and even a sheep shaped backpack on my back! Especially the cap with the build in mittens is both practical and stylish.

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You also meet interesting people in Queenstown. Here: The Purple Lady.

As mentioned we went on to Te Anau where we stayed for a couple of days. Te Anau is situated two hours from Milford Sound, a fiord (not a sound as the name might indicate to some) which is a big tourist attraction in New Zealand – and not without reason. Since we weren’t allowed to walk the Milford Track we went along with the next best thing: A sail trip around the fiord. The drive to Milford Sound was an incredible experience by itself with giant rocks, filled with water falls created by the heavy rain, rising on both sides of the hilly road we were driving on. Not far from the where the ferry left we arrived at a one way tunnel, Homer Tunnel*. While we were waiting to be able to pass through we could admire the fascinating Kea birds** which tried to destroy the parked cars. At one point one of the birds went and sat on the side-view mirror. We got to take a couple of good photos of it before it jumped onto the roof of the car and ran towards the other side of it. Skott was suddenly very eager to roll up his window for some reason.

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”Kea on side-view mirror”.

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It is a bad idea to have antennas or anything else sticking out of your vehicle when Keas are nearby. A trailer filled with bicycles was severely attacked by the birds who could not stay away from the tempting rubber tires.

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An example of the winding road leading to Milford Sound.

The three hour long sailing trip started out with a “Kiwi barbeque” but the meat which looked like chicken also tasted like chicken and we started to think that they might actually not have served us the protected bird which is near extinction. While we were on the boat it really started raining cats and dogs. It was not as bad as it may sound since this meant that the rocks around us became filled with pretty waterfalls which would not have existed if the sun had been shining. We saw small penguins of a specific rare species (only about a 1000 should be left) which can only be found in Milford Sound, sea lions and dolphins that swam with the boat. We also stopped at an underwater observatory where we got to see the sea life a couple of meters below sea level.

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See if you can find two small penguins on this photo.

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Dolphins swam with the boat for a short while.

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Lots of waterfalls.

After the trip we went back to Te Anau. I invested in some new hiking gear including a new big back pack. When we came back to the hostel Søren made pancakes and after the consumption of those he took the car and went back to party in Queenstown for a couple of days. The three last members of the original group of six, Kristian, Skott and I, were going to conquer another Great Walk, Kepler Track.

Kepler Track is a 3-4 days walk which goes over…

And with that small teaser (this post definitely deserves the tag “bad teaser”) I will once again leave you alone.

Foot notes (yeah, I remembered them in this post too):
*About Homer Tunnel
Homer Tunnel is very different from any other tunnel I have ever seen. It has been blasted directly out of the rock and the walls in the 1270 m long tunnel look like they must have done immediately after the blast without any extra form of fortification. The raod is wide enough for two small vehicles to pass each other but if to big busses meet each other inside they will be in very big troubles. Therefore traffic lights have been put up in each end of the tunnel – they change every 15th (fifteenth!) minute. This is only in the summer periods, though. In winter time it is too dangerous to have cars queuing up in front of the entrances due to the risk of avalanches. Apparently risking direct collisions between to big vehicles inside a dark tunnel is much better.

**About Kea
Kea is one of the only alpine parrots in the world. The bird is said to be extremely intelligent and incredibly curious. We got to see that ourselves at Milford sound where they flocked around the cars trying to find food, or other interesting objects they could steal, peck or investigate. The bird has received the nickname “The Clown of the Mountains” because of the mess it makes of backpacks, boots and cars which they often destroy or steal small objects from. It is a really impressive bird with it’s green feathers and red parts underneath the wings. It is really big and does not seem to be afraid of humans at all. The bird can only be found in New Zealand and there are not that many of them left.

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