Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Maori

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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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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