Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Julekalender

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 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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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.

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Ready for seven hours of hiking.

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

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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.

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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.

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Tidal crossing.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The return of the blog!

by on 17 December 2009, under Julekalender, New Zealand

As I promised in my last blog post I have held a long break from writing anything on this great blog. Now, I can’t keep that promise anymore. I have been traveling around New Zealand for almost a month (finishing with a couple of days in New York) and there is a lot to tell about. Of course I don’t want anyone to miss out so the next week will be filled with exciting new and frequent blog posts if I can pull myself together to actually write them.

There might be several reasons why you read this blog in English:
1. You might not have found out yet that you can change the language of the blog on the right hand side which would make me kind of sad since the function of those two flags should be pretty self-explanatory.
2. You might have found out that my English versions of my blog posts contain even more nonsense (such as this whole paragraph – you would have no idea it existed if you read the Danish version) and for some reason you tend to prefer that.
3. You prefer my English formulations.
4. You simply don’t understand Danish (which I feel is the least valid reason for reading my blog in English. Personally I have been able to understand and speak Danish since I was very young, so why shouldn’t you?).

Anyway, if you belong to the (very limited) group of people who read my blog in English due to Reason 4, you might not know what a julekalender (Christmas calendar) is. Which means I will have to explain it to you, even though Wikipedia does a pretty good job. It is a Scandinavian invention (apparently the Swedes were first with the idea in 1960, followed by the Danes in 1962). It is basically a TV show split into 24 episodes (kind of like 24 with Jack Bauer, just not as action packed, and usually with a bit more Christmas mood and more child friendly) aired from the 1st of December till the 24th where we celebrate Christmas in the evening here in Scandinavia. It is actually a pretty good tradition and it makes sense it is Scandinavian since we really don’t have anything else to do than to watch TV when we come to December – it is way too dark and cold to go outside.

Now you can add:
5. You get amazing lessons about Denmark/Scandinavia.
to the list of reasons to read my blog in English.

But now you know what a julekalender is, and you accept that it doesn’t have to be a TV show but can also be a written 24-part story, we can return to my blog post as I was translating it from Danish:
My blog can now be seen as a kind of julekalender, even though it won’t be in 24 parts, there is no guarantee that the finale will come on the 24th (which basically was my complete definition of a julekalender, but you must learn to live with it), there will be considerably less interested people following it and way less uncertainty about the final outcome than usual. Still, it is a story in multiple parts written and told during several days in December so it has a bit to do with a julekalender.

At the moment I am sitting at a hostel in New York and I am just about ready to return to Denmark. I am leaving tomorrow and I hope that my parents will be able to get through the climate chaos (not only due to the Climate Meeting ending and Obama having to leave the country from the airport but also since it apparently snowed in Denmark which I am not too fond of) so they can pick me up at the airport.

But I should stop here – if I don’t I will fuck up the chronology of my blog, and we can’t have a julekalender which starts with the end (no matter how anti climatic that end might be). Talking about anti climatic endings: At this point I was considering giving you some teaser for what you can expect in the upcoming blog posts but I won’t.

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