South Island

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I found three travellers who were looking for another person for their road trip. They picked me up from my hostel and we headed towards Wellington to catch the ferry to South Island. In case you guys don’t know… most of New Zealand is on two islands – North Island and South Island.

My new travel mates are Marvin, Ben and Carina.

Marvin is from Germany. He’s a business chemistry student on a gap year. He’s very fit: six pack and everything – every girl’s wet dream. He reminds me of Oliver – a German who I became good friends with in Australia when I was working on a farm.

Ben is an Australian. He studies psychology and works as an elementary school teacher. He’s on a holiday in New Zealand.

Carina is a young Swiss princess traveling through Australia and NZ on a 6 week holiday. She’s a bit like me – we both smile like idiots in awkward situations to break the tension.

The drive to Wellington (capital of NZ) was quite uneventful. We were in a bit of a hurry because of the ferry. A lot of people travel south in the summer months and it’s a bit tricky to get the car across because the ferries are all booked. I’ve met several travelers who waited 2-6 weeks for a spot on the ferry. Missing it was out of the question.

The weather got very windy and cold. Sailing to the other island was a little bumpy and I got a little seasick which is a first time thing for me. The following journey in the car wasn’t a picnic either. It was raining and we traveled on a windy road which only contributed to my headache and motion sickness. I needed several stops to pull myself together and continue in the car.

The initial plan was to camp somewhere but the weather was so bad we decided to find some proper accommodation. To our surprise almost everything in that area was booked and the few available options were too expensive. Lots of phone calls later we managed to find a 4 person cabin in Nelson.

I was greeted by the local duck mafia next morning. They were following me everywhere in hopes that I’d feed them.  I successfully escaped from the mafia and we continued to Nelson Lakes National Park to check out lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa.

The lakes were beautiful but there were too many sandflies. I didn’t expect that. Those bastards bite and leave a very itchy bump on your skin. They drove us mad. Me and Carina went for a swim in Rotoroa even though the water was very cold. The scenery was amazing and I wanted a picture of me chilling in the water. The lake was so cold. It felt like my back was on fire – my whole body went into shock/panic mode. I only stayed for 30-60 seconds in the water. Never again! But I got good pics 😀

Ben was also happy to guide us through a quick yoga session. Thank you Ben! We really needed a good stretch after all that driving.

In the evening we drove towards Punakaiki to see the Pancake rocks. We got there a bit late so we decided to camp in the neighborhood and visit the rocks again in the morning.

We also saw kiwis at the roadside. At least I thought they were kiwis. I remember shouting and pointing to Ben ‘Look, look! Kiwis!!! Kiwis!!!’ He stopped the car and I ran after the birds with my camera.

It was so exciting!!!

Sadly all that excitement was for nothing. Two locals told us those were wakas, not kiwis. 😦 I was so disappointed.

Here’s a bit of culture.  A Maori legend about how the Kiwi lost its wings:

One day, Tanemahuta was walking through the forest. He looked up at his children reaching for the sky and he noticed that they were starting to sicken, as bugs were eating them.
He talked to his brother, Tanehokahoka, who called all of his children, the birds of the air together.
Tanemahuta spoke to them.
“Something is eating my children, the trees. I need one of you to come down from the forest roof and live on the floor, so that my children can be saved, and your home can be saved. Who will come?”
All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.
Tanehokahoka turned to Tui.
“E Tui, will you come down from the forest roof?”
Tui looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Tui looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, dark earth and shuddered.
“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too dark and I am afraid of the dark.”
Tanehokahoka turned to Pukeko.
“Pukeko, will you come down from the forest roof?”
Pukeko looked down at the forest floor and saw the cold, damp earth and shuddered.
“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for it is too damp and I do not want to get my feet wet.”
All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.
Tanehokahoka turned to Pipiwharauroa.
“Pipiwharauroa, will you come down from the forest roof?”
Pipiwharauroa looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Pipiwharauroa looked around and saw his family.
“Kao, Tanehokahoka, for I am busy at the moment building my nest.”
All was quiet, and not a bird spoke. And great was the sadness in the heart of Tanehokahoka, for he knew, that if one of his children did not come down from the forest roof, not only would his brother loose his children, but the birds would have no home.
Tanehokahoka turned to Kiwi.
“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest roof?”
Kiwi looked up at the trees and saw the sun filtering through the leaves. Kiwi looked around and saw his family. Kiwi looked at the cold damp earth. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,
“I will.”
Great was the joy in the hearts of Tanehokahoka and Tanemahuta, for this little bird was giving them hope. But Tanemahuta felt that he should warn kiwi of what would happen.
“E kiwi, do you realise that if you do this, you will have to grow thick, strong legs so that you can rip apart the logs on the ground and you will loose your beautiful coloured feathers and wings so that you will never be able to return to the forest roof. You will never see the light on day again.”
All was quiet, and not a bird spoke.
“E kiwi, will you come down from the forest roof?”
Kiwi took one last look at the sun filtering through the trees and said a silent goodbye. Kiwi took one last look at the other birds, their wings and their coloured feathers and said a silent goodbye. Looking around once more, he turned to Tanehokahoka and said,
“I will.”
Then Tanehokahoka turned to the other birds and said,
“E Tui, because you were too scared to come down from the forest roof, from now on you will wear the two white feathers at your throat as the mark of a coward.
Pukeko, because you did not want to get your feet wet, you will live forever in the swamp.
Pipiwharauroa, because you were too busy building your nest, from now on you will never build another nest again, but lay your eggs in other birds nests.
But you kiwi, because of your great sacrifice, you will become the most well known and most loved bird of them all.”

The End

We spent some time checking out the Pancake Rocks and then headed towards the glaciers. The first one we visited was the Franz Joseph glacier.

A glacier is basically a big chunk of ice. I didn’t really know what to expect.

So we got there, walked a good half hour and took some pictures of the glacier – nothing too exciting. There were many warning signs about potential hazards like rocks falling, sudden floodings etc. The glacier was quite far away from the viewing point.

Later we headed towards the Fox glacier. The distance from the car park to the glacier was longer than at Franz Joseph. Me and Marvin ran most of the distance.

I liked that we could walk much closer to the Fox glacier than to Franz Joseph. Me and Marvin decided to ignore the warning signs and go on our own little exploration tour. We had to touch the ice!

Getting to the glacier was no big deal really but the potential for hazards was very real. We saw some rocks falling down the cliffs from a distance.

Crisis

We continued towards Queenstown and noticed a beautiful lake next to the road. We stopped for some pictures. Later went for a swim in the Blue Pools (the water was freezing).

Our first crisis was in Queenstown. I wanted to visit Milford Sound but Marvin and Carina didn’t really want to go there and Ben was OK with visiting it. We wasted a lot of time trying to figure out a plan but ended up all going to Milford Sound.

We got to Milford Sound early in the morning. The cruise was very nice but the weather was a bit too foggy. I loved it anyway. It’s a beautiful place.

We also visited the Mirror lakes and The Chasm on our way back.

I wanted to see penguins at Dunedin. We got there in the morning but penguins only come out late in the evening when the sun goes down. We visited a museum and drove towards Oamaru.

On our way we visited the Moeraki boulders.

In Oamaru, we were fortunate to see some penguins at the beach where we had dinner. Benn picked some mussels from the beach and they later cooked them.

Now we set our sights towards Mt Cook – the highest mountain in New Zealand. Lake Tekapo was on our way. Since we’ve been camping every night for a while (two sleeping in the tent, two in the car), we decided it’s time for some luxury.

We spent most of the day at a hot water spa next to Lake Tekapo. I think I’ve never been cleaner.

Mount Cook was our destination. We went to a tourist information center to plan our visit. The trio decided to rent bikes and visit some glaciers, I decided not to rent a bike. I don’t really like cycling – especially in the mountains and wanted to walk to the glaciers.

It turned out the track to Hooker Lake and Hooker glacier was no good for bikes. Too many big rocks and very bad terrain. I walked faster than the cyclist trio. They were very unhappy about it.

The bikes were ditched/hidden in the bush and everybody walked to Hooker lake.

I ran a part of the distance and needed to cool down once I got there. That’s why I’m not wearing a shirt in the pics.

Hooker lake was really cool. It had small icebergs floating in it and the glacier was also right there. I got amazing pictures of the place. Marvin almost went for a swim:

We drove to Christchurch – the final destination of our road trip. We spent the first night in a hotel because Ben and Carina wanted to stay near the airport to catch a flight the next day. Two days later Marvin left NZ as well and I was left all alone.

Ivar the Islander

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To the top of a volcano

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Taupo is a city next to Lake Taupo – a big volcanic crater lake. I didn’t end up doing much in Taupo. I only stayed there for one night. I couldn’t book any other accommodation because there was a sporting event and everything was booked out.

 

I decided to make the most of my day and visited Huka Falls (a cool waterfall, video above) and later soaked my feet in a hot water spring. It was quite nice actually and the water at the Thermal Spa Park was much warmer than I expected. If you stay too long in it your skin becomes red – just like when having a hot bath. It was interesting because I’ve never seen a natural hot spring before in my life. If possible check this place out for yourself, you won’t regret it.

I spent the rest of the day in my hostel with Olivia (Switzerland). Turns out she was also into Latin dancing and we had a lot to talk about. I think I ignored Olivia’s friend who was sitting next to her a bit too much (I don’t remember her name, but she was Dutch). The Dutch girl must have felt so left out that she gave me her alarm clock so I’d set it up for her… and talk to her too. I felt special.

I took the bus to Turangi the next day. It’s a small town on the southern side of Lake Taupo. On my first day there was a big rugby event in a nearby park with more than 1000 people. I checked it out and enjoyed some live music. I didn’t care about rugby but the music was quite nice. Not a bad day at all.

The reason why I went to Turangi was to get closer to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing walk. It’s described as New Zealand’s best one day walk.

Due to bad weather I had to wait one day in the hostel. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 20km walk and it’s quite miserable on rainy days.  That day I played the guitar like the Beatles never did. I was on fire!!!

The weather forecast was much better for the next day. The following day Ian (the hostel manager) took me with about ten other backpackers to the car park where the walk started. It was dark and cold and 5AM.

The beginning of the walk wasn’t anything special. I saw a small waterfall and some volcanoes in the distance. Later the path started to go up the mountain/volcano. It was a much harder climb than I expected. It was cold and very windy. The highest point of the walk was about 2000m.

At one point the wind got so strong it was difficult to stand up. Visibility was two meters because I entered a cloud. It was a bit scary – I was freezing and wanted to get out of that place as fast as possible. The problem was that I didn’t see any of the guiding sticks with the arrows on them which would tell me whether I was on the right path or not. For a while I thought the weather gods have turned on me. I kept walking even though I wasn’t sure if I was moving in the right direction. One thing was sure – I did not want to stay in that cloud. Here’s what it looked like up there:

Yeah, they don’t put weather and sights like that on postcards.

Luckily I found my way back on the track and soon enough was out of that cloud. I was greeted by b.e.a.utiful views of the volcanoes and lakes in the volcanic crater. I forgot how miserable I was just moments ago and just stood there admiring the view. It was so beautiful. Sadly my pictures didn’t capture the beauty of the surroundings. You have to be there to appreciate the view.

Yes, I know. My commentary is to die for. So much passion in every sentence… you can tell I’m a real expert mountaineer.

I touched the water in the lakes but to my disappointment it was cold. There were a bunch of signs in the area warning about volcanic hazards. The last eruption was on Aug 6th 2012 and there was still some smoke coming out of the side of a volcano. Pretty cool! I loved it.

 Ivar the Alpinist

 

Bye Vera

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I will miss:
Your high pitched ‘yes’
Your sexy laughter
The way you look for words in English
Your very German marching
Doing touristy things with you because you never rush
Your radiant smile
Your quirky behaviour (brushing your teeth and flossing at a cinema)

I will not miss 
The moments you approach a roundabout when you drive
Smelling your finger!!!
Working my ass off in a kayak trying to catch up with you
Your awful taste in tea

I’m off to Taupo. I hope you enjoy your stay in New Zealand! It was great traveling with you.

Ivar
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Time traveling

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I visited Waimangu Volcanic Valley. It was an amazing place. The terrain was so surreal and prehistoric – everything was hissing and smoking and the water was bubbling and hot streams were everywhere. All that geothermal activity was something I’ve never seen before. I was blown away!

I had a really good time there, it was so interesting. Check out the pics below!

Ivar the time traveller