Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Sandflies

Sunset, cricket and surf

by on 24 March 2010, under New Zealand, PSV

My todo list for every week always says “Write a blog post”. I am consistently a couple of weeks behind and for some reason it always takes me a war to write (I am quite sure that expression does not exist in English, however, I feel it is so self-explanatory that I will try to introduce it into the language). Where I am going with these considerations, I don’t know. With this post I will hopefully be able to catch up with the present. Because I feel a little sick (well, I did at the time I wrote the Danish text, and I am certainly not going to change it all, just because I am translating it into English the day after) there might be a chance it will be fairly short. One can always hope (it is ironic that, since I translate the English text after I have written the complete post in Danish, I know for sure that it is not what most would consider “short” – however, I am trying to give you the most literal translation of my initial post… except for these stupid comments).

In my last post I mentioned that I have moved back to PSV. I can see my old flat from my room and I have also spent a good deal of time with the crew from Flat 15 where I used to live last semester. Since I, for some reason, have made it a habit to list people, I will continue that trend, listing the people from the flat that has almost become my “second home” down here. Since I am a bit tired the list will only mention name and nationality:

Øystein: Norwegian
James: Canadian
Ilana: American
Kirsty: English
Esther: German

I met Øystein last semester although we seldom met or spent time together – that has changed this semester. The rest are all “new” to The University of Auckland. They were so kind as to let me sleep on the couch in their living room the day I before I could move into my own room in PSV (the day after the fire at my hostel) even though it was barely only Øystein that knew me at that point. I was of course quite grateful for that.

From my room I can see my old flat
The view from my room – I can see my old flat from here.

A couple of weeks ago (yeah, I am still a bit behind with the blog) we (Flat 15, Stefani the Canadian, Jeremy the American and I, the Dane) went to Mount Eden, the highest natural point of Auckland, to enjoy the sunset. It was a nice trip which once again gave me an opportunity to play around with my new camera.

What makes this picture great: The random guy choosing to simply _skip_ past as I'm taking the picture
Random guy skipping past in the background.

Enjoying the sunset
The group enjoying the sunset.

James posing
James posing.

Another picture of the sun setting
Sunset at Mount Eden.

The next photos I have are from the surf trip last weekend. However, before I get to that I want to mention that I have also been to my first cricket match ever. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from this drama since I had no idea I was going to a cricket match when I went to the university in the morning. But I could not say no when I got the offer to go which meant that I went to the cricket match with all my school stuff and my squash cloths which I didn’t get to use that day. We arrived a couple of hours into the match but apparently that is no big deal. I didn’t have any clue about what was going on for the first couple of hours but slowly the game started to make sense. Some of the other spectators helped us understand some of the finer details of the game which was quite kind of them. I have trouble coming up with any other kind of sport where everybody seems so relaxed. Curling might be close. I have been told baseball might also be kind of similar. Tour de France does have a pretty relaxing feeling to it as well but it does have some periods of intense drama which doesn’t really seem to exist in cricket. We were at the cricket match for seven (7!) hours. We did have a break of about one and a half hours between the two innings where we left the stadium to get some food. I have never tried to leave the stadium during a sports match just to come back later without having missed any part of the game (the players also had a break when we were eating). The guy who invented cricket must have been a man of great patience. Not only does the original cricket rules allow a game to last up to five days; if there is the slightest bit of rain, the rest of the match will be put off until half an hour after the rain has stopped. We did get to see that rule applied… hooray! We spent seven hours looking at men throwing a ball about 500 times while some other guy tried to block it with his bat, followed by one of the other ten players on the field walking to the ball to give it to the guy who threw it in the first place. We watched that, and then also an hour of some vehicles dragging a big “towel”, trying to dry the field after the rain while the crowd kept hoping that one of the guys on the field would be tripped by the “towel”. Unfortunately it did not happen. A very interesting experience indeed.

Since this is a post filled with randomness: I also want to mention that I am trying to be a bit active down here. I have played squash and run a couple of times. I have signed up for “Handball for beginners”, the only handball thing they offer at The University of Auckland. Unfortunately it is probably a bit too much a “beginners’” thing for me even though it is about seven years since I last touched a handball (which seems a bit scary to me). I was offered to join the “advanced” team for their games so I will probably do that if my feet can survive it.

Also! And this may come as a surprise, especially for me, I have started taking salsa lessons… I am not entirely sure how THAT happened but I guess it comes from some misguided idea I had before returning that I wanted to try some new stuff. Besides, both Øystein and Ilana tried to convince me and in the end it apparently worked somehow. So now I am going to have eight salsa lessons. Two of them have already been completed, although I have only participated in the first due to sickness (on my part) at the time of the second one. That probably means I will feel even more lost next time, as if my lack of sense of rhythm wasn’t enough.

I apologize that this post can seem a bit disconnected – I will once again use the explanation that I am kind of sick (even though the real reason is laziness). With that apology I will allow myself to take another weird jump. I spend most of my weekdays on my master thesis – the thing I am basically here for and which I have not mentioned on my blog so far. But now I HAVE mentioned it and then there can be no doubt that I am working hard on it with Skott. I assume that I will make a post at a later point, explaining exactly what the thesis is about and which might make people die from boredom. I can reveal that it is about containers… But that will have to wait till some other time.

While the weekdays are spent on the project, my weekends are fairly free. That means that I last weekend found myself on my way to Raglan, the surfers’ paradise in New Zealand. Going there was probably another one of those “let’s try something new” ideas. It was an extremely nice weekend with beautiful weather, a nice beach and a good group consisting of eight people, mainly from Parnell Student Village: Three Canadians (they are the new Germans this semester – they are everywhere), two Americans (although one of them claimed he could also be called a Kiwi), a French guy, a Norwegian and then me, the Dane. We lived at a hostel a bit outside of Raglan which looked like it was placed in the middle of a jungle in Colombia (or any other country in South America, I presume). It was really nice with free pool table, decent cooking facilities and then there was the sauna which we chose to use both nights. The surf went surprisingly well. With that I mean that I got through it unhurt; I did not drown (my initial criteria for success), destroy my ankles or hurt myself in any other way. I (and the rest of the members of the group) all managed to get up on the surfboards at least a couple of times. When I got home from the surf trip I realized that I had had another encounter with my arch nemesis. I am of course talking about the sandfly which had left a couple of stings at my feet which will now bother me extremely for the next many nights. I am considering trying to come up with some kind of scheme to take revenge. I do owe those bastards some kind of practical joke. But then again, I am not sure if insects understand practical jokes.

Me...
I actually don’t have any photos of the surf itself so you will have to just be content with a picture of me… and in the following photos, the other people that were with me on the trip.

Øystein with the final say
Øystein and Max in a friendly fight on the beach.

Sitting on a big trunk
Stefani, Laura, Robin and James sitting on a trunk.

A goat and the small tent it lives in at the side of the road
A goat and the small tent it lives in at the side of the road – it was actually NOT part of the group.

Max with the guitar
Max with a guitar.

After a well deserved lunch
And to also have a photo of the last person on the trip:: Ilana in the middle (Max at the right, me at the left) after a well-deserved lunch in Raglan before going back to Auckland.

In the end I want to talk a bit about the internet in New Zealand once again which I also did a couple of times last semester (as I am sure the people who have somehow managed to stick with the blog that will easily recall). However, I have also promised to not complain as much about stuff this time around, so I’ll just not mention the internet… and this way another post can get the tag “anticlimatic endings”.

24 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

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.


4 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

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!

130 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!