First month in Chelmsford

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Chelmsford_sign

Life is very quiet here, I’m not really doing anything exciting. The highlight of my week is Tuesday evening when I take my Latin dancing classes. It’s good to spin those girls and dance with noobs. The last time I twisted a girl’s arm a bit (I wasn’t trying to do anything fancy, she just wasn’t following) and we learned some dips which were very entertaining because the girls don’t trust me to hold their weight in my big muscular arms :D. Oh… sometimes I wish I could do a dip 😀    Nope. Not really.

 

I resumed my running training. So far I’ve run 53, 59, 59 and 65 km per week. I also bought a heart rate monitor after doing some research. I read an article Want speed? Slow down! by Phil Maffetone.  That article convinced me to give it a shot so I bought the heart rate monitor. Basically the whole idea is to run at or slightly below your maximum aerobic heart rate (180-age-5 if injured) and build your running base. In time your body will be able to run faster while keeping the same heart rate. So far I’ve only run 3 times with my HRM and I’m slowly getting used to the feeling of running at the correct heart rate.

By the way the roads were better in Brisbane for running. Also Brisbane had lots of bats but here we’ve got many squirrels and birds who sometimes scare the crap out of me on my runs. For the record… I’m not afraid of those little creatures per se, it’s just that sometimes they fly out of the bush making all kinds of noise when you least expect it. I’m sure these little bastards are the real reason why some runners get heart attacks and die on their runs.

If you remember in a previous post I wrote that I got a job at a financial advice company (technically it’s an IFA – independent financial advisor). You might recall that I needed to pass a series of exams if I wanted to become an IFA. Let’s just say that I started studying for my first exam. I haven’t booked an exam date (you can take the exam every week or so) yet since I’m new to the financial services regulatory world in the UK – my first exam will be in markets, ethics and regulation. Once I feel a bit more confident I’ll take the exam.

 

I’ve lost weight since I left Australia. I was 80 kg when I left Brisbane. Two months in New Zealand shaved off 5 kgs and now since I’ve started training I’ve lost another 3 kgs. Today in the morning I weighed 72 kg. I need to start eating more crap!!!

I remember Vera (the German girl I travelled with in NZ) once told me her New Year’s resolution. She said with that cute cheeky smile of her’s… “What if this year I’ll do the exact opposite of what I normally do? This year my resolution is to get fat!” 😀   I just laughed because I thought that was such a ridiculous idea. Usually people get fat because they’re lazy as fuck – not because they want to. But hey… I wish her luck with her endeavors.

 

Alright back to the UK. I still haven’t received my money back from Turkey. Yesterday I filed a fraud report and hope that this will help me get my funds back. Long shot, I know. The last message from Turkey said that his mother died and he’s in Turkey blah-blah-blah… besides that he’s been ignoring all of my messages from the last 2 weeks. Turkey has my UK bank account details and could’ve made the transfer any day. He’s being a dick about it and that’s why I opened the fraud case.

 

I have days when all I do is wish to be back in Australia. The other day I saw a girl on a scooter and my heart skipped a beat or two because I thought it was Maria. Awwwww, shut up! Every now and then my Australian friends share an update or a video on WhatsApp and all that triggers so many memories of my life in Brisbane. It was a good chapter. A chapter I’d like to visit again.

Ivar the Dreamer

Fifty Shades of Stupid

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Before I get to explain my utter stupidity, I need to close a chapter in my life. I was alone in Christchurch and I wanted to stay there for about 10 days. More than a month ago I bought a flight ticket to London. First I needed to catch a flight from Christchurch to  Auckland and then Auckland-Sydney-Dubai-London.

In the meantime I didn’t want to feel so lonely and wanted to meet some locals. I couchsurfed. One of my hosts took me hiking to Mount Hutt. It was quite interesting actually. We got lost and had to make our own way through a thick bush. Later we criss-crossed a river many many times as we walked along it. I’ve never had to get my feet wet on a hiking track. I also managed to clock in some morning exercise with my host. He was into running and I joined him. Otherwise I’ve been doing very little training in New Zealand.

My second CS host was very busy and we didn’t really do much together.

My last hosts Grace and Nick were awesome. We had so much in common. I will cherish the memories of playing the guitar and singing with Nick. Wow! That man can sing! Good food, good wine, good company. I had an excellent time. Even the cat seemed to like me 😀 Meeeeooowww!!!

I discovered that Christchurch had several Latin dancing schools and they had some socials. So I went to practice my awesome moves and I really loved it. It wasn’t as busy as in Auckland or Brisbane but I managed to have lots of fun. I think the zouk party they had was the best social I’ve ever been to – partly I think it’s because I got to dance with many advanced girls. They bend and twist and turn in very very very cool ways.

This is how I almost dance (in a few months I could do all the moves):

It was a bit sad to board that plane and leave Christchuch. It’s sort of an underdog city. It’s been beat up by some earthquakes but the community is strong, the people seemed happy, helpful and nice. I will miss Christchurch.

I landed in Auckland and had to stay there for 4 days. I knew Taimi (the Estonian girl I met in Paihia) was in the city so I got in touch with her. She had another friend from Estonia – Anngret – who was also living in Auckland. We decided to have a little Estonian reunion. We had some drinks and shared stories about our travels.

Anngret used to live in London and had some contacts there. She offered to help me if I needed anything in London. She kept her word and right now I’m writing this post at the family’s house where she used to do au pair work. This place is a castle!!! Thanks Anngret.

OK. This post is getting long I’ll get to London. My first task was to find a new home. I thought I found one but this story is not that simple… In fact I’ve made stupid decisions one after the other.

I tend to trust people. Even strangers. I generally think that people are good and have good intentions. So I give them the benefit of a doubt. But sometimes people take advantage of that. Here’s what happened:

I found a room to rent in London. I contacted the guy and we met at his apartment. I took a look at the room and everything seemed ok – except that the guy was from Turkey. I don’t really trust Turks – they’re dodgy.

Stupidity level 1. I was tired of looking around for rentals so I gave the guy the security deposit (one month’s rent) to lock in my room. He said a French girl was still living there and I could move in in 5 days on Monday. I never saw the French girl, but he pointed at the two suitcases which he claimed were her’s.

Safety first I thought and I asked the guy for some ID. He gave me his UK driver’s license and I took a photo of it with my fancy phone. I also asked him to give me a receipt for the deposit which he promptly wrote on a piece of paper. We dated and signed it. Having that piece of paper gave me a bit of a boost in confidence – I thought I could trust this guy.

I didn’t pay the whole security deposit. I paid 200GBP because I couldn’t get any more cash out of the Bank of Santander ATM with my Australian CBA card. I said I’d pay the rest of the deposit the next day.

In the mean time I checked my online banking statement which said I lost about 36AUD on that transaction. I wasn’t very happy about that and started to look into ways to minimize my transaction costs.

Stupidity level 2. Next day I met with Turkey. He had “great” news. He said he saw an oven which was for sale for 200GBP and said it would be perfect for the apartment. I like cooking and baking so I liked the idea of having an oven in the flat. He didn’t want this deal to disappear and needed cash quickly. He asked me if I could give him the first month’s rent as well. Earlier we agreed that I’d pay it on the day I move in. I thought it was best to withdraw larger amounts of cash from the ATM to minimize transaction costs so I decided to trust the guy. I gave him another 200GBP in cash. This time I got no receipt.

Turkey also offered to help me with some other things. I needed to open a UK bank account and he joined me to the bank. We spent some time at Lloyd’s bank but were not successful. I needed proof of address (such as a utility bill to my name with my address) to open a bank account. I went to 2 other banks – HSBC and NatWest – and they said the same thing.

I thought there’s one more thing I need – a National Insurance number. We walked to a Jobcentre Plus to book an appointment. The staff wasn’t very helpful. They gave me a phone number to call. Turkey offered to help and said he could do the talking on the phone. I said “sure”. After the phone call he said that they asked him some tricky questions about working in the UK. It seemed like the government doesn’t hand out NI numbers very easily. I got an appointment for Feb 21st. Yes, they don’t just give you a number, you need to pass an interview first.

Stupidity level 3. On day 3 Turkey called and asked if I could wire him 160 GBP because he wanted to do some paintwork in the room and it’s good to do that when I was out of the room. He said everything would be ready once I moved in. Again I believed the guy. This time I didn’t exactly pay in cash. I went to a bank, handed the teller the cash and said I needed it to go to this-and-this account. I thought it’s a safe way of transferring money because a bank is involved.

Turkey also said he spoke to his electricity provider and said he could add my name to the bill. He needed a copy of my passport for that. I emailed it.

Stupidity level 4. Saturday evening I got a text saying that his mother has some sort of medical emergency and needs to stay at his flat for 4 nights. He mentioned his mother earlier and said he’s had to host her before as well. The hospital is very close to his flat.

This time I had had enough. I said I don’t believe him and his taking advantage of me. He called me and we spoke on the phone for 15 minutes. I called him a scammer and he got very upset about that – what a drama queen. He offered to pay for my hostel for those 4 nights and not take any rent for one week’s time. He wanted me to ‘relax’ and ‘not worry about it’. I agreed to his offer. What else could I do?

So tomorrow I’m going to meet Turkey again and hope that he’ll give me some money for the hostel which I already booked. If he doesn’t show up and avoids my phone calls I will go to a police station and seek legal help.

I feel very stupid at the moment. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Stupid.

I’ve done lots of homework on Google about rental scams and none of them are similar to my story. Usually in a scam you would never see the property, nor meet the scammer in person. You also wouldn’t get to take a picture of the scammer’s driving license and they don’t walk around with you helping with opening bank accounts, getting NI numbers and obtaining proof of address documents. But the fact is I’m out of 560GBP and have nothing to show for it.

I hope all’s legit but I’m worried. Very very worried.

Ivar the Worrier

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

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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White water

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One of the things I wanted to get off my bucket list was going white water rafting. That’s what I did yesterday on the Kaituna river near Rotorua, NZ.

I was picked up from my hostel. Then we picked up about 10-15 Chinese from a hotel. They were traveling with a bunch of little kids and most of them didn’t speak English. They were very loud and excited. It was quite chaotic in the bus towards the river.

The driver was a cool guy. I liked the way he messed with the Chinese woman  who sat next to him and kept asking questions. He said ‘The river is very safe. We have a very high survival rate of 60%.’ And to every safety related question the answer was “Very dangerous” with a big smile. It was funny as hell.

After our short bus trip we put on our gear – a helmet, safety shoes and life jackets. The Asians took lots of pics. I was the only one who didn’t fit in with them. I went rafting alone with 5 Chinese men but they had their fanclub of women and kids with them. We got a bit of training and after a Karakia (Maori prayer) we got into the boat. Since I was the only one who understood English I was lucky enough to be in the front of the boat. Sweet!!!

The first drops were nice and small and we practiced paddling and positioning in the boat during big waterfall drops. All of this was quite entertaining. In fact it was the most fun I’ve had in quite a while.

Then the river went silent. The ‘driver’ of the boat said that place was called the quiet before the storm. We went ashore with the boat and the guy said this is the last place on the river where you can turn around. There was a trail going up the riverbank for people who chickened out. Another Karakia later and we were in the river again going down the 7 m waterfall drop (the biggest one on this river). Before the drop the instructor said three scenarios can happen after that drop:

1) The boat will stay nicely afloat with everybody in it. (Boooooooooooooring)

2) The boat will stay afloat but some of you guys will fall into the water and will need to do some swimming to safety (still boring)

AND.

NUMBER.

THREE.

3) The boat will flip over and everybody falls into the water. And when he did the rock-n-roll horns with his hands… saying that this is the coolest of our options.

I was secretly hoping for option #3 but thought that one wasn’t very likely.

We started paddling towards the waterfall, got into position for the drop and off we went all screaming like little schoolgirls AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We slammed headfirst into the water. I think the whole boat submerged for a couple of seconds and then as it bounced out of the water it flipped over. It was so cool! Just look at the horror on our faces in the pictures below. I loved it. This is living kids! I felt alive!!!

One guy was floating around the boat with his face in the water. I thought he lost consciousness or something and reached out to get his head out of the water (see pics). Luckily he snapped out of it and was OK. That guy scared the crap out of me.

Alrighty, we helped eachother into the boat and continued down the river and other waterfalls. The journey was finished by some ‘surfing’. We got the nose of the boat close to a small waterfall and if positioned correctly the boat would just stay near the waterfall and  would move from side to side (surfing).  Sometimes a lot of water would come into the boat and the nose would get heavy and lift the back end of the boat – that created some cool bumpy action. It was very entertaining. I loved it!

I’m glad I did such an awesome thing on the last day of 2013. It was an amazing experience!

Happy New Year everybody!!!

Ivar the greatest white water rafter in the Big White Cloud

What happens in Paihia, stays in Paihia

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My first orgy! All the details are a bit hazy but here’s how I remember it. I walked back to my hostel and heard laughter and giggles coming from my room. I opened the door and saw eleven hot naked girls on the bunk beds. They were saying things like “I’ve been waiting for you. Come! Take me…. Take me now!”. And of course I couldn’t say no to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Everybody knows it’s a Christmas tradition in Argentina – it’s called the traditional Christmas  Eve orgy. It’s considered extremely rude to decline such an offer.

It.

Was.

Awesome!

Honestly, that’s how I remember that night.

A merry merry Christmas! I was supposed to go on a road trip with Vera and Tim (from Germany and USA respectively) but Vera’s car started to make a noise and we decided to take the bus instead. We need to take the car to a mechanic. Not a good time for that during the Christmas holidays…

I spent my last night in Auckland at that Latin dancing venue. They had a Christmas party which was a great success. Lots of people showed up and I had a good time dancing with those hot Russian girls. It seemed that almost every second person I danced with was Russian. That was lovely. I had a good time, plus the performances were quite epic.

I did a bit of zouk with one girl – Phoebe – and she was really good to dance with. She followed my lead perfectly. I told her that she’s great to dance with and she just smiled. It turned out she’s a dance instructor at that dancing school. 😀 That’s what happens when you don’t know anybody.

The next day I packed my stuff and took the bus to Paihia. It’s one of those little towns near a nice beach at the Bay of Islands. My plan was to go kayaking and parasailing.

Urupukapuka. I met up with Tim and Vera and we spent one day on Urupukapuka island (the largest island in the Bay of Islands). It was a nice place with lots of beautiful scenery, lookouts and nature. The only crappy thing was that sometimes the track was covered with sheep shit. Literally. We were walking on shit. A bunch of sheep lived on the island and that’s just what sheep do.

I found it funny that the sheep had a fence around them. What’s the fence for? Are kiwis afraid that the sheep will escape and swim to the main land?

We had a good time walking the tracks on the island, had a picnic on a cliff and saw beautiful pohutukawa trees (the trees with the red flowers).

Parasailing. The next day I went parasailing with Tim. Vera was a bit scared or didn’t feel like spending $90 on that. Parasailing was a very nice and relaxing thing to do – you just hang up there in the air from a parachute. I was worried that I’d freeze in the air but it was quite pleasant. Generally a very positive experience – the view was nice and I highly recommend doing it. After all parasailing was the reason why I came to the Bay of Islands in the first place.

Kayaking. The second thing I wanted to do was kayaking. I’ve never kayaked before and this here was going to be my first time. Tim and Vera were staying in a different hostel than me. They had kayaks which were available for free. After my parasailing trip Tim and I walked to his hostel and we saw Vera. She was about to go kayaking with some other German – Jeremy or something was his name. Since I didn’t have any other plans I asked them if I could join them. Vera was ok with that but Jeremy didn’t seem too happy about it. I guess he wanted to spend some private time with Vera 😀

Mwahahahaa !

I’m such a cock-block. 😀

I guess we’re even now Germany. That’s for starting the Second World War.

Anywho, once we got the kayaks to the water Vera became very cautious. We had two kayaks: one single for Jeremy and one double for me and Vera. The wind was a bit strong and Vera was afraid I’d flip over in the kayak since it’s my first time kayaking. She didn’t want to get wet. It took a ridiculous amount of convincing until both of us got into the water. Once I was in the kayak I didn’t really understand what she was so worried about. It seemed like a very safe flotation device and at no time was there any danger of flipping over. I must admit it was quite entertaining in the waves but I imagined it would be more of an adrenaline thrill.

The funniest part was when we got out of the water. We had to carry the kayak onto the trailer but Vera wasn’t able to lift her end of the kayak. It was too heavy. Then one whitehaired elderly lady – at least 60 years old – walked by and offered to help. You should’ve seen Vera’s face. She was all like “No no no no no, I can do it, it’s alright” but she didn’t even budge the thing. It was so funny then the old woman lifted that end of the kayak and helped us get it onto the trailer.

Tim couldn’t join us at the water because he sort of found a job at a restaurant and needed to get to his trial day. We decided to go visit Tim and check out his restaurant but ended up singing carols in front of that restaurant. The local church was offering free cakes, coffee and tea over there. We couldn’t say no to free food. Ok that’s not entirely true – I couldn’t eat any of the cakes because they all had butter and milk in them. So I enjoyed my cup of coffee.

Once all the singing was done we went for drinks at Tim’s restaurant. It was busy and he didn’t seem to like it that much. But I think he got the gig and will probably stay in Paihia. So I won’t be traveling with Tim. 😦 blah blah blah…

Back to the orgy. Uhm… there were 14 people in my room, 11 were girls – 9 from Argentina (it seemed like they all traveled together), one French girl and one Estonian girl. Yes, three men as well (me and two Italians), just to please all the statisticians/mathematicians who might read this and wonder about my math skills. All the lot was a little tipsy. 😀 We had some additional drinks and I was able to practice my Estonian with Taimi because Argentina formed its own Spanish speaking group.

Taimi said that I speak with a weird accent – that’s what happens when I don’t practice my Estonian. The last Estonian I saw in flesh and blood was about a year ago. Tervitused Peeter!

After the traditional orgy I had to change accommodation. I moved into a new hostel and two Finnish girls stayed in my room, so I liked it there as well!

I also saw the Haruru waterfalls and went kayaking again with Vera since there was nothing else to do in Paihia. Later took the bus back to Auckland and now I’m couchsurfing again.

That’s pretty much it!

Merry Christmas boys and girls! I hope you weren’t naughty and got lots of presents from Santa Claus!

Hohohohohohohoho!!!

PS: Lot’s of love to my sister who gave birth to a little princess yesterday.

Auckland New Zealand

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First impressions. Things didn’t start out so well. I was waiting at the Gold Coast airport for the plane to Auckland. As they opened the gates and we went on to board it, the line of people suddenly stopped. Nobody was allowed to proceed. We waited anxiously outside for about an hour until we were told to go back to the terminal. There was something wrong with the plane.

A bit later the airline staff told us a second plane was being fueled up and we’d have to wait for another hour. At least they had free WiFi at the airport. So it wasn’t too bad.

All went well in the air and I landed in Auckland around 2 AM. I spent some quality time at the airport before I headed out towards my hostel.  Check-in was after 2 PM, so I had plenty of time to kill.

I took the bus to the city center and decided to walk to the hostel. The CBD was virtually dead – I only saw homeless people with their red cups begging for money. Not a good first impression.

The weather was also bad – cold, rainy and miserable. Compared to sunny Brisbane this here was a shithole. I hated it.

Sky Tower

I had a bunch of plans for New Zealand. My first task was to find a room to rent. Then find a job and then later do some travelling and touristy things.

The next day I rented a bike and inspected 6 rentals in various parts of Auckland. Biking was great exercise and it gave me a good idea what the neighborhoods were like near my potential new homes. I liked several ones, others were too dirty or I didn’t like the people living there.

One place had 5 beautiful girls as housemates and I thought that would be an awesome place to call home. So I told them I’d love to rent the room but they chose someone else. Same thing happened with another place which had 3 hot females. Looks like girls don’t like me in New Zealand. 😦 I guess I’ll have to try my luck with sheep. 😛

Once were warriors. I hopped from one hostel to another for a couple of days until I found a couchsurfing host – Anna. Her place wasn’t very clean but she was very friendly and also a somewhat weird person. A pic of my room:

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For starters she was an acrobat who performs in a circus. She also used to teach martial arts and is generally a very artistic person. She took me to a circus show. I watched several acrobatics  performances, dancing and a bit of burlesque (girls taking their clothes off to music). Not too bad of a night I must say…

She invited me and another CSer to the beach. I happily accepted. In the morning she gave us costumes and said we were going to play a game on the beach… something about Persians and Greeks.

We drove to a cliff near the beach and were given instructions. It turned out to be a live role playing game. We had about 15 people all in costumes – half were Persians and the other half Greeks. We were going to reenact a war scene where Greeks were chasing the Persians. The task was to catch them, enslave or kill them. The Persians had a minute or two head start and then we started chasing them down the hill. Some sword fighting later the Persians were killed or enslaved. Only one of them got away to the beach.

We climbed down the cliff – it took at least half an hour and then played another game. We were given a story about a treasure being hidden in a cave and were given roles and tasks. I felt a bit uncomfortable throughout the first game so this time I decided to take pictures instead. Anywho… some guys were ordered into a dangerous cave, they dug out a treasure, met a witch and spent some time sword fighting on the beach. It was all a bit confusing.

The place was awesome – beautiful beach and nature, the views were stunning and the cave was really cool. I suddenly discovered that NZ can be wonderful! Check out the videos of me in a cave.

Martal arts. The next day I did a martial arts class with Anna. I’ve never done any martial arts so I thought I’d give it a try. First the warmup – pushups and situps, Then we walked in a circle and did lunges. So far so good. We paired up and started to push each other so that our leg muscles would warm up a bit. It continued like that for a while as we introduced new elements to making the life of the attacker a bit more difficult. I didn’t like the class that much – too much big sweaty men rubbing each other. Plus being pushed around wasn’t that much fun. I won’t be going to a martial arts class any time soon. Not my thing. I’d rather do yoga.

The next day all my muscles were sore from the pushups, situps and climbing that 200m cliff at the beach.

Latin dancing. On my last night at Anna’s place I decided to go do some dancing. Viva Latino had a social dancing night that day. I went there and was positively surprised. For starters the average age of people was younger than in Brisbane’s dancing scene. Also I met five or so Russian girls who were all very beautiful. They reminded me of home and my favorite dancing instructor Jelena. I had a pretty good night dancing, meeting girls and people seemed to enjoy my never-seen-before moves from Brisbane. I loved the salsa performance they had that night too:

Several days later I thought it would be good to do some running. I found a track, the Coast to Coast walkway, which runs for 16 km from one coast to another in Auckland. It wasn’t great exercise because of the frequent stops at traffic lights and because I got lost so many times. I checked out the view from two hills – Mount Eden and One Tree Hill. The last one was the highlight of my day.

Everybody knows New Zealand is full of sheep but it took me about 10 days to see one. One Tree Hill had heaps of sheep and cows as well. I finally felt like I really was in New Zealand.

Now I’m staying with Jason – a new Couchsurfing host – in Albany (North Auckland).

Yesterday I went to Rangitoto island (it’s just a short ferry trip from Auckland). It’s New Zealand’s youngest volcanic island. Visiting Rangitoto was nice – beautiful nature, puhutekawa trees, birds and lots of black lava rocks.

So far I’ve been in New Zealand for a bit less than 2 weeks and I’ve been busy. I will be going on a road trip this Sunday. So next time I’ll tell you guys all about it!

Ivar the Sheeplover

Not an average Joe

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Last Monday I went to Joe Satriani’s Masterclass Clinic (similar to a concert event but with a focus on teaching). He’s one of the world’s best guitar players and teachers. For example he taught Kirk Hammett (from Metallica) to play guitar.

It was a really cool event. I enjoyed listening to him play and thought that I needed to practice way more if I wanted to play anything like him. His song “Always with me, always with you”  gave me goosebumps. It’s a powerful song!

The highlight of the event was when everybody got a chance to meet Joe and get his autograph. I had Jane (my guitar) with me and got my cherished John Hancock. Now my guitar is worth millions 😀 I’m rich!

With Satriani

I remember my guitar teacher Erik once told me that he’d wish to get Satriani’s autograph on his guitar. Now I feel like I’ve got a very special instrument at home. I’m almost afraid to play it.

OK. New Zealand. I still don’t know what the deal was with my chest X-ray. I picked up two envelopes. One of them was sealed, I guess they don’t want the applicants to be able to tamper with the results. So I don’t know what the doc wrote about my lungs. The other envelope had the X-ray pictures but since I’m no doctor I wasn’t able to see any abnormalities. Anywho…  I just put the envelopes into another envelope and happily mailed it to the embassy in Sydney. Now all what’s left to do is wait for a decision about my visa application.

Today is also my first day living in solitude – both of my roommates moved out. OK, Benn moved out only temporarily. I was heart-broken when I discovered he took his juicer with him. What a dick move! Why didn’t he discuss that issue with me? Maybe I wasn’t OK with him taking it… We just never talk anymore…

Am I going to die?

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What’s the point of scheduling an appointment if nobody cares about it? My chest X-ray was supposed to be at 2 PM. I arrived 15 minutes earlier, waited in line for 20 minutes to get to the receptionist and then had to wait another 30 minutes to get to the “radiology” room. Welcome to Australia!

The real kicker was this: after taking the X-ray the radiologist told me that he needed to do a second X-ray. I told myself “no reason to panic, I probably moved when the picture was taken or something”. Before the second attempt I was asked whether I’ve had chest pains. Not to my knowledge. And that was it, no further comment about my lungs. Am I fine? What was wrong with the picture? Am I going to die? Great things to ponder about for the next couple of days…

Another retarded thing is that I need to come back to the clinic in 2 business days to pick up the X-ray paperwork and mail it to Sydney. Why can’t the people at the clinic mail it themselves? It’s just stupid.

I hope all this trouble is worth it,
Ivar

PS: It’s not my X-ray in the picture.