Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Post with videos

Taranaki, Wagamama’s and Eurovision

by on 18 June 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

Interesting fact: The following post the very first this semester receiving the tag “Me complaining”. That specific tag was one of the most heavily used last semester. In comparison “Ankles” has been used three times this semester and “Anti climatic endings” four times. Thank you, Wagamama’s for ruining a good run. You can see all the different tags I have used on the blog on the right, including old favorites such as “Public toilets”.

Wooh! It is time to actually (almost) catch up with the present on this blog after having been several weeks behind. Yay! And so much enthusiasm as well! Three exclamation marks in just two lines – and here is another one: !

This semester I have really wanted to go on some hikes but due to several different circumstances (waiting for other people to have the time and the car to be willing to drive) it didn’t happen until a couple of weeks ago. The trip went to Taranaki which had also been the plan a couple of weeks earlier. We were seven people who went in two groups: Skott, Tor and I (the Scandinavians) in one group and Ilana, Jeremy, Mickey and Max (Americans + a Frenchman) in the other. We, in the first group, left fairly early in the morning (especially considering it was a Saturday) while the other group followed some hours later since Max had to teach some tennis lessons before he could go. We were going on a two days’ hike where the first day was fairly short (about 4 hours according to Department of Conservation) while the next day was supposed to be much longer (7-10 hours). The plan was for the two groups to meet in the hut after the first day’s short hike. The first group had to buy and bring the food for the rest to minimize the risk that the second group had to walk too far in the dark.

Mount Tarankai/Egmont is fairly easy to locate on a map due of its very iconic cone shape, as I also mentioned in my last blog post. Unfortunately it was too late in the season to actually climb all the way to the top of the mountain without having to use ice axes and cramp-ons. It would be possible to rent them but you would have to prove that you actually knew how to use the equipment – such an unreasonable requirement. The hike we went on was therefore not straight up the mountain – we did have it in background for most of the hike, providing a pleasant scenery. I had been a bit nervous that the hike might be a bit boring with just an even-leveled path since we weren’t going up the mountain. Luckily I had no reason for such fears. It was actually a quite interesting hike; some places it was hard to see that it was actually a proper path since rocks were lying everywhere. When we realized that the other group was so delayed that they would have to do the entire first day’s hike in the dark, I called them and warned them not to do it. It didn’t really seem like a very good idea to climb around on those rocks in the dark with a scary chasm at one of the sides. We had enough trouble just crossing in daylight. They didn’t really seem to listen to me, though.

As is tradition: Haka before the hike
It has become a tradition to start our hikes with a haka

Tramping on the edge
A small example of some of the rock slides we had to cross the first day.

Norwegian, scouting for the path
Tor, scouting for the path.

We arrived at the hut exactly as it got dark which was pretty lucky since none of us had brought flashlights. We spent a good deal of time trying to light a fire which proved to be quite difficult since none of us had thought about bringing matches or a lighter either (I guess we weren’t really well-prepared). However, since we were three engineers we figured that we should be able to create fire somehow. Immediately Skott started trying the well-known “wood-against-wood-makes-fire” trick. Since the hut was lit by light bulbs powered by solar collectors we also considered the possibility of short-circuiting one of them, giving rise to a useful spark. We spent some time considering different options until I in the end chose to take the lighter hanging on the notice board and suggesting we could maybe use that.

4) Stab the piece of wood
Skott, trying to create fire.

When it was about 9pm we figured it was time to go to bed. At this point we had realized that the others had probably chosen to listen to my warnings and skipped the hike. They arrived at 10pm after having spent five hours on the same trip we spent two and a half to do.

The second day was very nice with a view of the mountain most of the day. About halfway through the hike, which ended up taking about eight hours, the nature of the path changed dramatically. While the first part had consisted of either stairs or level ground, the second half offered almost vertical drops which made for some quite interesting climbs. There were also a couple of rivers we had to cross by walking around on slippery rocks. During the last half hour I managed to throw away my lens cap for my camera and twist my ankle (as I had predicted I would do in the beginning of the day – I love my ankles) – these were two separate occurrences. Just as we were done with the hike it started to rain. It kept raining for the six hours it took to drive back to Auckland. Such a nice end.

Traditional pre-hike haka. Max (and partly Ilana) didn't get the idea
We tried to introduce the other group for the idea about starting the day with a haka. Max (and to some degree Ilana) obviously didn’t manage to grasp the concept.

Mount Taranaki and a group of posers
Mount Taranaki with Max, Skott and Tor posing in front of it.

... and still climbing down
As I mentioned, some places the path just went straight down. Luckily, ladders were placed at the worst parts

Some places the track was hidden pretty well. This sign says "Track", quite helpful
The path was sometimes quite hard to find. The sparse markings with signs did however help us find our way.

The suspension bridge where I threw away my lenscap - and minutes after twisted my ankle. Yup, I am a genius
The suspension bridge where I chose to throw my lens cap away.

The following Monday I went to Wagamama’s for the first time for the dinner which is held for the PSV residents once every semester. It was a very chaotic and messy dinner. We were split up at three long tables and the dishes arrived in an order which appeared to be fairly random to me. A lot of people got their main before the starter and long before a lot of other people at the table had received any food at all. We quickly found out that you just had to eat whatever you were served when it was served since you had no idea when anything else would arrive for either you or the others sitting around you, staring hungrily and jealously at your food. I think our table got the desserts before those sitting at the last table got their starters. The serving of the dessert was also disappointing. Many (including me) had ordered cheesecake which the waiter didn’t have any problems with. When the others around me started getting their desserts and I could see I wasn’t about to have any, I asked the waiter where my cheesecake was. Apparently they never had it. One of the alternatives, a chocolate cake with ice cream, they only had five pieces of. Not too organized when you know a big group is coming. The food was fine, though.

Tuesday I went (alone) to the cinema to see Kick-Ass which I am really happy I did. It is an amazing movie about a relatively geeky guy who wonders why nobody has tried to become a superhero in real life. After this realization he naturally decides to try it out himself. The movie develops into something completely different by the end – almost as if it is three different movies of different genres, each extremely entertaining. The end of the movie contains action sequences which reminded me of some of Tarantino’s amazing movies which is probably one of the strongest recommendations I can give.

Thursday I had been invited for dinner at Jocelyn’s, one of the two Frenchmen who I went to Samoa with. crêpes were served and wine was drunk in a truly French manner. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Sunday I got up at 7 to watch the Eurovision with Tor. Unfortunately we missed about 10 songs in the middle of the show because the stream died. We did get to see the random stuntman running onto the stage during Spain’s performance (I thought he was part of the show until the hosts pointed out that Spain of course would get to sing again since their song had been ruined), Moldova’s amazing attempt to one-up last years winner by not only having a fiddle, but a glowing one (with a lot of other craziness added). We also got to see Germany’s winning song and Denmark’s performance. I was very happy when Denmark received top points from the first two countries after which Lena from Germany started getting all the points which in the end resulted in her winning. Tor was happy that Norway managed to (only just) beat Moldova and I was amused about the fact that the UK, which is secured a spot in the final each year since they put so much money into the Eurovision, ended dead last with only 10 points (Denmark had 12 points after the very first of 39 countries had given their votes). Tor and I agreed that we were content with Lena winning, though, since that resulted in a memorable interview with an extremely nervous 19 year old girl who didn’t look comfortable on the stage at all. It didn’t help that she had to be interviewed in English which was obviously not her language of preference. Classic moments such as a very cautious “Hiiiii” as answer to a number of questions she did not understand or “I… I don’t think I am strong enough… to carry this… the whole time” about the trophy she had just been handed immediately appear in my head. The same does the image of the poor German girl who tries to hide by wrapping her head in the German flag when the whole situation becomes too much for her and at last her surprised expression when she realize she has to sing again (“Do I have to sing… NOW?”). Luckily the stream continued for a bit after her song was over: They just let her stay on the stage without anyone helping her. She had no idea what to do or say and in the end she had to switch to German in order to at least manage to mumble something remotely coherent until they unfortunately turned off the stream.

Later that day Ilana, Max and I went on a small trip to Rangitoto Island, a small volcanic island close to Auckland. It was a nice little walk up and down the volcano. We had a very nice view of Auckland from the top. The weather was perfect with the sun shining from a cloudless sky. I am still amazed that it is possible to have such beautiful weather, now that we have officially entered winter here in New Zealand. I don’t get where the annoying, bitter cold, the persistent darkness and the horrible snow, that completely ruins your chances of going anywhere without getting your feet wet, have gone. It is definitely not winter, as I know it, and I am quite happy about that.

DSC_1896
View from Rangitoto. Auckland is the city in the world with most boats per capita.

As I also mentioned last time I have been quite bad at writing blog posts this semester (thereby not implying I was doing a good job of it last semester either). Hopefully I will manage to write at least a couple more before I leave New Zealand. However, it has started to dawn upon me that I will have to leave soon. Students all around me are busy with exams which is usually a sign that the semester is about to end. At the same time a lot of people have started talking about leaving resulting in the mandatory invitations for goodbye parties. Indeed, some people have already left which of course is very sad. Unfortunately that is how it always goes with these studies abroad, as I have now started to get so accustomed to.

Coming up: A post about what it is I spend my normal weekdays on down here!

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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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