Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: [lang_en]Hiking[/lang_en][lang_dk]Vandreture[/lang_dk]

Wine tasting, comedy and rugby

by on 6 June 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

I have been pretty bad at writing blog posts this semester; to the disappointment of a lot of people, I am sure. Last time I teased about stories about wine tasting and a failed attempt to go on a hike – but wait! There’s more! Included in this month’s edition of my blog post is also comedy and rugby, amongst other things. Very interesting indeed.

But we start at the wine tasting which at this point took place more than a month ago; proof that I have been horrible at producing these amazing blog posts people have become so used to. On the other hand, there is always guarantee for quality, fun and clever remarks. The first weekend in May was the one I spent so much time on last time: The one with air guitar, kiwi fruits and quidditch. A quick side note about quidditch: I will probably not get to see it in NZ. The people who arrange the tournament have chosen to place the matches at a school a bit away from here. I think it might look a bit suspicious if I showed up at a school, in the middle of a weekend, to watch a bunch of kids playing quidditch. But back to the wine tasting: Kirsty, Ilana (again, people from Flat 15), Max (French guy who at this point is as big a part of Flat 15 as I am, without any of us actually living there) and I chose to complete an amazing weekend by going to Waiheke Island on a sunny Sunday. Waiheke Island is located about 30 minutes by ferry from Downtown Auckland. It is (by my personal experience) a sunny island, filled with fantastic beaches and a very laid back atmosphere. The island is well-known for its plentiful wine production and is a popular place for people to go visit and taste the different wines each vineyard has to offer. It was a very enjoyable way to end the weekend. We went to three different vineyards which all had different approaches to how they presented the wines. At Stonyridge Vineyard we bought two glasses of wine to share among the four of us. We enjoyed these wines while sitting outside, enjoying the sun and the green fields surrounding us.

Tasting wine at Stonyridge Vineyard. We all quite enjoyed "Luna Negra"
Stonyridge Vineyard – it was here we found our favorite wine on the trip, Luna Negra.

Wine notes or lyrics creation...
As the the true Frenchman, Max is, he felt a sudden surge of inspiration with the first taste of proper wine. Here he is in the midst of writing lyrics for his song.

From Stonyridge Vineyard we continued to Te Whau where we got to taste the same wine from different years. Here they did do a better job of actually presenting the wines. The wine reminded Max of his home region, Bordeaux, to such an extent that he had to invest in two bottles of wine.

Te Whau Vineyard
People sitting, enjoying their wines at Te Whau.

The final stop of the day was Mudbrick Vineyard, one of the most popular vineyards at Waiheke. Here the presentations of the wines were a bit more like we had expected before the trip, with six different wines in six minutes, with a brief description of each attached. We got the abridged version of the wine tasting since a wedding reception was about to take place. That someone would choose a place like that to host their wedding did make a lot of sense – the surroundings were amazing.

Bride and groom arrives at the wedding held at Mudbrick Vineyard
Bride and groom arrive at the wedding reception at Mudbrick Vineyard.

The plan for the following weekend was to go to Taranaki to do the first hike of the semester. Taranaki is an area 5-6 hours drive Southwest of Auckland. The destination was Mount Taranaki/Egmont, a very iconic volcano which is easy to spot when looking at a map of New Zealand since it is almost perfectly shaped like a cone, meaning it appears as a clear circle (or, to be correct, a disk since a circle technically only refers to the circumference of the complete area) on the map. The plan was that Ilana, Mickey (Ilana’s friend), Tor (Norwegian whom I know from last semester and sometimes play squash against) and I had planned to leave early Saturday morning in order to go on a two day hike near the volcano and still be able to be back before the weekend was over. The trip never took place, though since the dear Subaru Legacy, which has been acting so loyal ever since Skott and I bought it last semester, chose to simply stop after having driven a couple of hundred meters. It happened in the middle of The Domain, the park Parnell Student Village is placed right next to. After having tried to start the car for a couple if hours (which among other things involved asking random runners for help with pushing the car) we had to cancel the trip. In the end the battery in the car had been so drained that not even the hazard lights functioned anymore. I had to pay 80 NZD to get the car towed back the 500-800 meters we had managed to push it through the park. The membership Skott and I bought from AA (Automobile Association) was only in his name which meant he had to be present if we were going get anything out of it. Skott and I met at my place the following Monday to get the car repaired somehow. Before we tried anything else, Skott wanted to try one last time to start the car. None of us were very hopeful, though, as it is seldom very easy to start a car with a dead battery. It worked, though. We drove it to a repair shop where we were told they couldn’t really find the problem until the car wouldn’t start again. Since then, the car has been working fine.

That week in general was pretty eventful with plans for every day. Tuesday meant yet another of my weekly salsa lessons. I still don’t really know why I did take those lessons but I did manage to survive the eight lessons I payed for (although I only showed up for six of them). After Salsa, I went to see Iron Man 2 with Skott and Vegard. I have almost completely neglected going to the cinema this semester which is stupid of me since the tickets here are extremely cheap (10 NZD) compared to what I would have to pay in Denmark. I must try to correct that mistake during my last month in the country. I feel like using the good old cliché “OK, without being anything special” to describe the movie (at least, something similar is a quite well-known phrase used over and over for movie and video game reviews in Denmark). However, that does not really say anything about it. I remember the first movie to be much better and more entertaining, resulting in a slight disappointment about the sequel; a bit too much empty-headed action and a completely irrelevant side story only used to try to setup the upcoming Avengers movie which I do look forward to, mostly because Josh Wedon has been chosen as the director. Vegard complained that the movie was too unrealistic – I’m not quite sure what he had expected when he walked in to see a superhero movie.

Wednesday I participated in a sports tournament (interres) for the second week in a row. This tournament has taken place during most of the semester and requires the different student housings to compete against each other in different kinds of sports. I represented PSV for two weeks by playing handball for them. It was very interesting since nobody down here really knows about the fantastic (Danish) invention, handball is. Those who have been following my blog ridiculously closely might remember that I in the beginning of the semester signed of for “Beginner’s handball”. Contrary to the salsa lessons I only showed up for the very first handball lesson where I realized it was a bit too much “beginner’s” for my taste. I was offered to play matches for their “Advanced” team. Unfortunately I never did pull myself together to contact the relevant person about it. I also think their matches were placed at bad times, though. The interres tournament was a good opportunity for me to get to play a bit of handball again. It was very entertaining to see people’s take on the sport. Naturally it ended up looking more like basketball than normal, European handball. Most people seemed to enjoy it, though, which I guess is the most important part.

Thursday we went to see a comedy show. It was the last week of the three week’s comedy festival so it was one of the last chances we had to get to see one of the many comedians who performed during those weeks. The biggest difficulty was deciding on a show since there were so many to choose between. They all had descriptions which basically stated that the show was funny and since we didn’t know any kiwi comedians it was very hard to tell which shows would be good and which would be bad. Kirsty and I spent a whole evening cutting down the big list of candidates to just one person. The process of elimination included removal due to unforgivable traits such as “being British” (Kirsty’s request), “being a woman”, “having a bad description of the show” or “appear so far down the list of candidates that we cannot possibly include anymore for the next round”. Of course the process did not stop here. Thorough YouTube research was applied along with the creation of a complex point system based on e.g. show length, price and extra features such as being able to sit around tables. We ended up being a group of eight who went to see Brendan Lovegrove who is apparently a fairly well-known Kiwi comedian. He had a couple of jokes which were quite funny but in general it was a bit disappointing. His show seemed to aim at the lowest common denominator (intelligence wise). Most of the jokes had some vaguely racist tendencies or included silly masturbation gesticulations. Our group had been spread around most of the room since we were told to fill up all the tables in front. They didn’t want empty spaces since the show was being recorded. Even though we had been spread out like that, Brendan still managed to pick out almost every single member of the group. He kept returning to me which wasn’t really that surprising since I had managed to place myself on the first row, directly in front of him. Unfortunately the man seemed to be too unintelligent to be able to come of with any kind of relevant jokes concerning me (that should be quite easy, I would say). He did keep returning to the subject of Denmark, clearly not knowing the slightest thing about it. At least I wasn’t accused of being in a boy band which has happened twice before (out of three times) when I have gone to see standup in Denmark. I guess that is progress.

Friday it was time to celebrate Esther (another Flat 15 member) in occasion of her birthday. This was done with dinner at an Indian restaurant followed by a variety of cakes back in Flat 15. I have become pretty used to going there for cake or other baked goods.

Saturday we went to see rugby. Auckland Blues against Hamilton Chiefs. Going to a rugby match was still left on my list of things I needed to do before I leave New Zealand. It was fairly entertaining (the home team, Blues won) and it was nice having Max by my side so he could explain the rules as the game was progressing. I don’t think it is a sport I will ever really get. There are too many breaks and far too many situations with men who throw themselves into a big pile to hug each other.

Another scrum
I feel this situation is very typical for rugby: A lot of men hugging each other.

That's one popular pole!
At times the rugby players also share their love with different objects. Here they are cuddling with a pole.

Being thrown high into the air
Throw-ins in rugby are quite interesting. They are not only throwing the ball but also each other.

I am still a couple of weeks behind in telling about what I’m doing in New Zealand. I also need to post something about my thesis. But that will be another time since I have already spent far too much space writing about (for the common reader) fairly irrelevant events. I’m not certain this sudden end qualifies the post for the famous “anti-climatic endings”. But it is my blog, and I decide, so of course this is another post with that tag attached to it.

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Irrelevant update

by on 9 April 2010, under New Zealand

As my previous post probably insinuated I don’t really travel around a lot at the moment to “experience New Zealand”, when I have time to sit and watch a one year old Danish standup-show on a Friday night. It is of course because I don’t feel I need to rush to see a lot of stuff this semester (I apologize for using “a lot” twice and “stuff” at all – they are such vague terms – but it is late and I really don’t want to spend too much time formulating proper sentences). I was pretty efficient last semester. Obviously that doesn’t mean that there aren’t numerous other places I still want to see before I leave, and that is definitely also the plan. However, sometimes it is nice to just have a relaxing weekend at “home” instead of going on a 22 km hike across mountains, jump from planes from 15000 ft and celebrate the end of the week by cutting your foot on a surf trip. My wallet agrees. Øystein, Tor, Laura and Stefani will know that this is not a description of a set of random events but I didn’t join them for that trip so I really don’t have anymore to say about that.

The above does of course not mean that I will spend my entire semester in Auckland. Tomorrow I will leave for Samoa, one of the islands in The Pacific. It is placed in the middle of nowhere and I assume it just lies there, looking gorgeous with its tropical climate and nice beaches. It will be fun, although we still don’t have any idea about what we are going to see or do on the island during the seven days we are there. I’m sure we will figure something out, though. I also plan to do a couple of hikes before too long; the hiking boots I invested in last semester needs to be used again soon.

Now that there doesn’t happen too much exciting stuff I feel is worth telling about on the blog I might as well explain a bit about the project which I have gone to New Zealand to write (hm, even when I translate it it is an extremely bad sentence). Unfortunately I have chosen to finish this blog post just minutes before I have to go to bed in order to be “ready” (if that’s possible after less than five hours of sleep) for the Samoa trip. The story about my project will therefore have to wait for another time. That’s twice in a row I have posted a blog post without any pictures. I will make up for it next time, I assume. Anticlimatic endings” tag achieved once again.

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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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Part 4: Abel Tasman, Pancake Rocks and Greymouth

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

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

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

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

DSC_0282
Ready for seven hours of hiking.

DSC_0350
Our first tidal crossing. The bridge may give an idea about how high the water can be at high tide.

DSC_0341
A small example of our view most of the day – notice the many kayaks.

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

DSC_0466
This is unfortunately the best photo I have (so far on the trip) to illustrate what sandflies are capable of. You can see a couple of bites on Skott’s feet although I must admit that it doesn’t seem like much at this picture. What the photo further shows is what happens when Søren gets a camera in his hands – lots of photos of random stuff.

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

DSC03111
Tidal crossing.

DSC_0420
Sea lion enjoying the sun on a rock.

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

DSC_0476
Skott shows what makes the Pancake Rocks so special – the taste! A lot of people mistakenly think it is due to their shape…

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

DSC03212
Kristian, Borghild og me on the horses which we were let around on by a Swedish and a German girl (random info once again).

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

DSC03215
The kayak rental place had some amazing 80-90’s cloth that we simply couldn’t resist putting on. In the confusion caused by my extreme enthusiasm I managed to throw away my watch which I miraculously managed to get back a couple of weeks later (now I at least have one loose thread to pick up on in a later post).

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

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

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

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

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

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Part 3: Departure, Wellington and Picton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Søren presents: The Beehive.

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Borghild presents: The central parliament building.

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

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For me, this is a photo of contrasts.

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

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

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The view of the sound.

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

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

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

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

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