Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Boat trip

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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Mid-semester break

by on 18 September 2009, under New Zealand, Caves

As the loyal reader of my blog might have noticed it has been quite scarce with updates recently. This is because I haven’t been home much but instead have been enjoying my two weeks of break from the university by traveling a bit around the northern part of New Zealand.

Before I tell you more about my break I have a couple of loose ends I need to tie up first.

First of all: I have gotten my stolen money back so that has luckily been completely sorted after a couple of weeks where I had to borrow money, mostly from Skott and my brother, Benjamin. But now I do have the money back and more importantly (and the reason why I had to borrow money), I have access to them via my new Visa card which my brother, Rune, was so kind to send to me. But that’s enough talk about money for now…

As far as I recall (I’m apparently too lazy to read through my own blog) I have mentioned that Skott and I have invested in a car but not told much more about that. Not that there is much more to tell. The Sunday before the break began we went to the weekly car fair approximately five kilometers from PSV. There we found a Subaru Legacy ’91 which seemed to be in pretty good condition and it could even drive! The couple who had it needed to sell it since they were moving to Australia where the husband was originally from. They started out by saying the price was negotiable so we ended up paying $1460 instead of the $1650 the car was originally priced at. That seems like a fair price, especially if we can get some of the money back in the end by selling the car again.

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My first (shared) car!

I have also mentioned that I was going to watch Inglorious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s newest movie. It definitely met my expectations. It was pretty easy to see that it was a Tarantino movie but in my book that only counts as a big plus. The guy is excellent at writing compelling dialog and it did not hurt the movie that most of it consisted of scenes based around conversations while the amount of action was kept at a pretty manageable level (even though the trailers had insinuated something else). It is incredible how intense scenes that man can create just by intelligently written dialog (and excellent acting) – definitely a movie that is worth watching. At the same time it was interesting to see an American produced movie which contains so much dialog in languages which are not English. Very risky, but of course something I appreciate in a movie about nazi occupied France.

I have also seen District 9, a movie which surprised me positively. It is sci-fi as I have never really seen it before, made on a fairly low budget compared to this summer’s (or winter’s, as it is down here) other big movies, even though it contains excellent CGI effect throughout the whole movie. It tells the story about how aliens got to earth and were kept in concentration camps. Parts of it is filmed like a documentary and seems pretty realistic – at least as realistic as it can be when it is a story involving life and weapons from outer space. The movie never loses momentum and is extremely hectic throughout which just helps to keep you emerged in it.

While I saw Inglorious Basters with a number of people from the usual PSV gang, District 9 was enjoyed together with Skott and my brother, Benjamin, who had arrived in New Zealand the same Friday my break started. Thus he travelled with us on our trip around Northland, the northern most part of New Zealand, in our first week of the break. Besides him and me the group included the Chris the German, Skott and his girlfriend, Malene, who had also taken the long trip to New Zealand for two weeks to travel with us. I will try to make it short (you know that’s not true, though, if you have ever read any other parts of my blog):

Monday:
Vi started off by trying to get an insurance on our car. Both Friday and Saturday we had tried to get a third party insurance, but both times in vain. Friday because we, due to rush hour, didn’t get there before they closed. Saturday because they wanted us to pay a lot of money (I think it was about $560) for a four month insurance while we knew a couple of other international students who had gotten a similar insurance for a year for less than $200. Apparently we had made the mistake to tell them that we were only going to stay here for a few months which made us tourists who apparently travels much more than students who live here for a year and have a three months break in the summer… Monday we went to a different store (same franchise); they had stored our information from our first visit but we told them that there must have been some kind of misunderstanding and that we were actually going to study in New Zealand for a year. Suddenly we could get the insurance for about $170 which seemed pretty fair. Skott also became a member of AA at the same time (in NZ AA is apparently not Anonymous Alcoholics but Automobile Association or something like that) so we can get a bit of help if our car should break down.

We continued to Goat Island which should be filled with animal life – at least in the summer where a lot of people enjoy snorkeling in the area. We had thought about taking a trip on a boat with a glass bottom to see some of the fish, but it didn’t seem to be sailing that day, either because the season hadn’t really begun yet or because it was too windy. Instead we spend the time on looking at waves hitting the rocks and to point fingers (you can do that in English as well, right) at the birds which had troubles flying because of the wind.

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Benjamin makes fun of the poor birds.

Next stop was Whangarei Falls, which is described as the water fall in New Zealand that is probably the most photographed even though it’s not the most impressive. It still seemed pretty nice, though, and of course we did take a couple of photographs of it, just to help it keep its status.

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One of the many photos that apparently exists of the Whangarei Falls

Next stop: Abbey Caves Abbey Caves, “the poor man’s Waitomo Caves” where it should be possible to see glow worms and so forth without paying to go down in the caves. Unfortunately we couldn’t enter them, either because we did not find the right place or because the water was too high. In other words: No glow worms for us (that day).

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The most exciting part about the caves was probably the walk to them which was quite muddy. Some people came pretty close to falling.

We had timed our trip to Whangarei perfectly. Apparently some big soccer tournament was taking place while we were there which meant that almost every camp site and hostel was booked by the 36 soccer teams residing in the city. We ended up at a motel where we shared two rooms with another group (the Norwegians Caroline and Kristian and the Dane Søren) who had also ended up in Whangarei after a couple of days of surfing further south.

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The two groups at the motel.

Tuesday
Tuesday we went to Mermaid Pools, a rock formation which creates a small pool at low tide. We sat at the rocks for a while and enjoyed the sound of the waves while we dried in the sun after some cold winter bathing in the sea.

Tuesday we succeeded in seeing Glow Worms in a half hour guided tour through Kawiti Glow Worm Caves. The cave was placed just outside Kawakawa which we passed through in order to see Hundertwasser Public Toilets, created by the famous Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The toilets are said to be “The Worlds Most Photographed Public Toilets” which is probably true – I know I haven’t photographed that many public toilets in my life but it might be a hobby one could take up.

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The famous public toilets from the inside!

We ended up in Russell, a historical town which has previously been the capital of New Zealand. It was a very quiet town, probably because the tourists hadn’t arrived yet since it is technically still winter. We saw an old church with bullet wholes from previous wars and went to a flagstaff at the top of a hill (Flagstaff Hill) where Union Jack is supposed to have been raised for the first time during the negotiations between the British and the Maori. At last we took a ferry to Paihia where we spent the night.

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Some people were more fascinated by the church than others.

Wednesday
Wednesday we took a boat trip around Bay of Islands. We were the only ones at the boat and the guy who was in charge of the trip, Mike, was a really nice guy. It was his first tour of the season and he told us that he had seen dolphins on his way out to get us. Unfortunately we didn’t see any dolphins or whales on our trip but it was a pretty good trip regardless. We went to one of the islands at the Bay of Islands where we climbed to the top of a hill from where we had a fantastic view.

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We were allowed to help steer the boat.

After the boat trip we went to Haruru Falls, some water falls which are shaped like a horse shoe. However, they were not as impressive as Whangarei Falls.

Thursday
Thursday we took the long trip to Cape Reinga, where the Tasmanian Sea and the Pacific Sea meet. It is not the most northern point of New Zealand but it is pretty close and a lot more accessible than the “real” northernmost point. It was a long drive on shitty roads to see a lighthouse and some signs showing how far away different big cities in the world are, but it is still something you have to see when you are in the northern part of New Zealand.

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The light house at Cape Reinga.

We drove south again to get to Ahipara which is placed in the beginning of the Ninety Mile Beach, a beach which is approximately 55 miles long. Here we rented a couple of boards to do some sand surfing on the big sand dunes which was quite entertaining even though it was a long walk up the sand for a couple of seconds ride down, only to do the whole thing over afterwards. It was a trip filled with exhilarating crashes and we were all covered in sand in the end.

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Benjamin had some pretty spectacular crashes.

Friday
There wasn’t much to see on our way back to Auckland along the west coast and therefore Friday didn’t offer many adventures. We had a short stop in Waipoua Forest where we saw some impressive Kauri trees. Among other trees, the forest contains Tane Mahuta, 51.2 m in height and 13.77 m in girth which makes it the biggest Kauri tree in the world. It was really impressive sight, especially because the (up to) 2500 year old tree stood in the middle of the forest surrounded by other trees, making them seem completely insignificant by comparison.

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This photo might give some idea of the size of the tree – we are even placed some meters in front of the tree on this photo.

Also the next biggest tree, Te Matua Ngahere, could be found in the forest. It wasn’t as tall (“only” 29.9 m) but it was wider since it had a girth of a whopping 16.41 m.

I will tell about the weekend and the following week at a later point since this post is already faaaaar too long.

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