Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Water falls

Samoa

by on 4 May 2010, under Uncategorized

Normally I would probably start off with some nonsense like “it has been a while since I last wrote something on my blog but a lot has happened since then and now I think it is time for an update”. This would most likely be followed by some weird excuses for why it has taken such a long time, like “I have been busy with the discovery of muggle quidditch and air guitar”. But I won’t do that this time. Instead I will go directly to the essential part of this post: My Samoa trip.

A week was spent on Samoa. We were eight people on the trip: Øystein (Norwegian), Tor (Norwegian), Helle Kristine (Norwegian), Max (French), Jocelyn (French), Richard (English), Regina (German) – and then me, the only Dane. I have come to the conclusion that the trip is best described through photos.

Random guy ready for the ferry to arrive at Savai'i, the west island of Samoa.
The first day we took the ferry to Savai’i, the most western of Samoa’s two main islands.

Every night we slept in fales (huts) like these, right next to the beach
Each night we slept in fales (huts), placed on or just by the beach. Amazing experience. These fales are build without walls so you get cooled by the wind during the night. This was also needed with 30 degrees (Centigrade) day and night and about 80% humidity (except for when it was pouring down).

Sunrise the first morning in Samoa
Sun rise my first day in Samoa.

"Paradise in He(...)" - try guessing the name of the bus before going to the next picture. People tend to get it wrong.
We chose to continue by bus the second day. The bus was filled with locals who were all returning from the biggest town in Savai’i with their newly bought groceries which were spread all over the floor of the bus. They were extremely nice and friendly, squeezing even closer together to make room for us tourists. Try guessing the full name of the bus (people are often wrong).

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Jane’s Beach Fales where we stayed a couple of days provided some entertainment the first night. They postulated it was “traditional” Samoan dance. Here they are dancing to the sound of Grease Lightnin’ (also note the gigantic speakers in the background).

We went to church Sunday. Everybody seemed grateful that these Europeans had chosen to visit their church. Here two girls are posing at the entrance
People in Samoa are very religious. Every village (which can easily consist of just a couple of houses) has its own church. At some point we considered renting bikes to go around the island on a Sunday. We were warned that people on especially the northern part of Savai’i didn’t like to see people doing any kind of exercise, including biking (that I, as a Dane, see biking more as a means of transportation is something completely different) on a holy Sunday. Sunday morning we went to church to get insight into what the locals spend their Sundays on. They were extremely grateful that we had bothered to visit their church. They all thanked us after the service, which was partly held in English so we could understand it.

Tree growing inside the a church covered by lava about 100 years ago
To complete the Sunday we went to another church, this one of a somewhat different kind, though. It was overflown by lava about 100 years ago and is of course not used any more (except as a tourist attraction).

Me, not posing
The Lonely Planet book about the Pacific contains only about 20 pages about Samoa which probably says a bit about how few tourist attractions are actually located in the country. The Samoa experience is mostly about relaxing at beautiful beaches, perhaps with a bit of snorkeling. Which I am not going to complain about. The guide book does mention a few places worth visiting, though. One of them are these so-called “blowholes”, special rock formations which makes the water splash meters into the air when the waves hit against them.

Richard swimming around at the Afu Aau Waterfall
We also went to the Afu Aau Waterfall. Here Richard is seen swimming around.

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We spent a single night at “The Author’s Choice” from Lonely Planet from a couple of years ago, Virgin Cove. It was by far the most expensive place we stayed and seemed a bit too “touristy” and “protected” for my taste. Of course it did not help that it rained constantly the day we had there. I was rather productive, though, as the photo above proves. The day did not become a complete waste of time, after all.

Me and my new pet crab
From the most expensive place we could find in Samoa, we went to the cheapest one. In the village Tafatafa we stayed three days at some fales owned by a woman who had spent about 40 years in New Zealand but had now returned home to enjoy the relaxed Samoan lifestyle. She seemed extremely happy to have visitors from Europe – apparently, we were the first ones to visit from that part of the world. The place had been hit by the tsunami about seven months earlier and they were still rebuilding. Since tourism is a big part of the Samoan economy, the family had been promised money if they quickly rebuilt the facilities so they could keep attracting tourists. Seven months later they still had not seen any money from the government. Oh, and the photo is one of me and a crab.

Me enjoying coconut milk
Accommodation for three nights and eight meals ended up costing about 55 NZD per person. Not bad at all. Among other things we were served coconuts, as it can be seen on the photo above.

Me presenting Robert Louis Stevenson's house (the guy who wrote Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Richard, Øystein and I went past Robert Louis Stevenson’s house which is now a museum. Robert is probably best known for two books: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island. He spent the last five years of his life on Samoa.

To make it feel more like home, Robert had a fireplace installed. It was obviously never used (there wasn't even a chimney) since Samoa is way too hot
In order to feel more at home, Stevenson had a fireplace installed in the living room. Of course it was never used (there wasn’t even a chimney) since it is way too hot in Samoa to have any kind of fire lit inside.

Richard with his new battle axe
Before we went back to Auckland with the plane we visited a market in the capital Apia. Rhichard invested in a giant battle axe.

Me and colors
”Me and colors” – after a week without shaving.

I appologize for this very “fact”-based post (“then we did this and then we did that”) but I hope some of the nice photos can make up for it. As always, all my photos from my adventures in New Zealand (and now Samoa) can be seen at Flickr. I also have some quotes from the trip which I will probably put up at some point. I think they might only be funny if you know Max in particular – but I’ll still put them up. Also! I will tell you about quidditch soon (see, that is an excellent teaser).

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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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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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/iqon/3912295585/” title=”DSC_0202 by Iqon DK, on Flickr”>DSC_0202
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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