This is a flashback post, that is, it refers to a long-passed event, or contains content that was originally published through a different channel.
In this case it’s based on an e-mail I sent to a bunch of friends on 2008-04-24 from my trip to New Zealand.
OK, OK. I understand that some of you may not be very happy that I’m constantly spamming you from the other end of the planet. If so, just drop me a note saying I’m a fuckin’ cunt and I should stop bothering you. And I’ll stop. I promise!
However, lots of stuff has happened in the past 2 months after I left Queenstown (QT) and headed towards the North Island of New Zealand (NZ). So maybe you’ll find the following travel report interesting…
Through The South Island
First, I headed to the Mount Cook National Park (NP), home of NZ’s highest mountains and most impressive glaciers. Being used to the great alpine landscapes south of Munich, the QT region never got me as much as my Czech and English friends. The lake and the mountains around QT are lovely, alright, but most of them are just oversize hills. In contrast, waking up in Mount Cook Village (after arriving late the night before) I was just startled by the surrounding scenery [P1]! I had finally arrived to NZ!
The next few days, I did a couple of hikes in the area and a short mountain bike ride as well. That lead me along Tasman Glacier, which is NZ’s biggest one, even bigger than Great Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. The retreating Glacier formed a new lake during the last century, which is surrounded by impressive moraines, about 100m high. The lower part of
the glacier itself is completely covered by gravel, but apparently the ice underneath is several hundred meters thick [P2]. The best views of Mount Cook (Aoraki in Maori language) itself are observed from the valley of smaller Hooker Glacier. I went there early one morning — before the masses arrived — and was rewarded by a clear glacial lake great views of the beautiful mountain [P3].
On my way further north I did some more hiking while crossing Arthur’s Pass, a region slightly less overwhelming than Mt Cook NP, but still better than QT. After heading down the pass towards the west coast I took the wrong turn and ended up on some long gravel road. However, wrong turns usually aren’t a bad thing in NZ and this one lead me to
Lake Brunner, which made a beautiful backdrop for my van [P4]. Otherwise, I had seen most of the west coast before, so drove through quickly. I only stopped to do a guided tour in a limestone cave, which also included some rafting on an underground river, with loads of glowworms around. That was good fun, but probably not worth all the money!
By that time I had been traveling on my own for almost one week and the upcoming weekend led me to the sunny town of Nelson, which turned out to have a nice little backpackers’ hostel and heaps of pubs. Nelson is also a good starting point to explore the very north of the South Island, especially Cape Farewell and the Abel Tasman NP. Cape Farewell, the northernmost point of the south island, is the starting point of the Farewell Spit a narrow 20km long peninsula consisting mainly of sand dunes and low vegetation — basically a massive beach [P5]. Though smaller, the beaches of nearby Abel Tasman NP are even more inviting. They consist of a rather coarse (but soft) yellowish sand and are
surrounded by coastal rain forests [P6][P7]. I spent a whole day just hiking from one beach to the other (some of them accessible only at low tide) enjoying the views and going swimming occasionally.
Exploring The North Island
Next I hurried back through Nelson to Picton in order to catch the ferry I booked to Wellington [P8], NZ’s capital and my first stop on the North Island. Though Welly is pretty small (Auckland‘s population is about 10 times greater) it was by far the biggest city I’ve seen for half a year. It really felt good to fell some urban vibe once again, and it made me a little homesick for Munich. Unfortunately all the hostels in town where booked out due to some strange cricket game, so I resorted to sleeping in my van once again. I found a nice spot by the bay, right across the city center and to my surprise the authorities did not bug
me for ‘camping’ there 3 nights. Imagine that in Munich — impossible I assume! Anyways, I spend those few days just biking through the city, looking at sights, checking out pubs, wandering through shops, catching up some e-mails, and actually visiting museums. My most intense cultural experience in NZ so far!
From Wellington I went on to Napier on the east cost to visit Adela, a friend of mine from QT. She has been living in Napier for almost half a year now and was kind enough to ask me to stay at their place for a couple of days. I was really grateful for sleeping in a proper bed for changes and to have some proper meals (BBQ and homemade pizza). We also went to a mountain bike park together [P9] and tried to do some surfing on a lovely beach north of Napier. Thanks again for the hospitality!
My next stop was Taupo, a huge volcanic lake [P10] and a town on its shore, pretty much in the center of the North Island. Originally I just wanted to stay for one night, but I had trouble with my van. (The radiator was leaking water and the engine was boiling over all the time, but I could not find the leak, let alone fix it myself.) It happened on Good Friday and there was no way to have it fixed before the end of the Easter holidays. However, being stuck in Taupo was not all that bad: there was a free campground by the river [P11], some famous waterfalls, hot springs, a good spot for cliff diving, a beach by the lake, and mountain bike tracks all around. All that for free! One day on my way to town I noticed they also had a small bungy jumping platform right above the river. In contrast to the various bungy sites around QT it was very close to the city center and easily accessible for spectators. So I thought: “What the heck, I wanted to try this before I leave NZ, and there in front of me.” I bought a ticket and five minutes later I was sitting in the waiting area of the bungy platform. It was a nice sunny day and the river 47m beneath us looked very inviting. I was scared as shit anyways. After being tied up and fixed to the bungee rope I was suddenly standing at the edge [P12]. Luckily things went very quickly then. Once the jump master started to count me in I was already on my way down [P13]. I have to admit the free-fall phase felt pretty awkward, but when the bungy rope started to slow me down and then carefully dipped me into the water it was really fun! I can definitely recommend it!
However, after a few days in Taupo I had to leave for the Whanganui NP since I had booked a canoe trip with Marcy, another friend from QT. So I left my broken van behind, and decided to do the 100km to our meeting point by bicycle. Turned out to be a bad idea, since the second half of the route — “down hill all the way” according to the woman at the tourist information — turned out to start with a rather nasty pass. Plus I had a heavy backpack filled with supplies for at least 3 days and it got dark pretty early.
I made it in time, and the next day our group of eight persons were driven deep into the woods to begin our way down Whanganui river by canoe. The trip itself was not that different from any European river you would do by canoe — it had a few entertaining rapids, but most of the time it was flowing very slowly and we had to paddle a lot. However, the surrounding scenery was astonishing. Wanganui River flows through a steep gorge most of the time, surrounded with lush rainforests bearing heaps of huge ferns. The huts we were sleeping at are only accessible by the river itself (using canoes or small jet boats) and the second one was built on the site of an old Maori village (Pā) with fortifications and a reconstructed meeting house. (Sorry, no photo’s yet, since Marcy
took care of that and I did not receive the results yet.)
Unfortunately Marcy had to return to the South Island right after the river trip, so I began to cycle back to Taupo on my own. However, I stopped at nearby Tongariro NP to do the Northern Circuit, a three day hike through volcanic landscape. The second day was by far the most impressive, since it included the summits of Mt Ngauruhoe [P14][P15] and Mt Tongariro, the first of which included a steep ascent of the almost perfectly conic volcano. The descend was a fun slide down a dusty gravel burn, almost like skiing! All along the way one could see different volcanic formations, in particular big inactive craters, steam holes,
and sulfur lakes [P16]. The third day the hike back led me closer to Mt Ruapehu, the highest mountain of the North Island. (Though both Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are higher than Tongariro, the Maori consider Tongariro more sacred, hence it gives name to the NP.) However, that day was cloudy and rainy, so I didn’t see anything and I was highly relieved when I finally reached the campground at the end of the hike. The next day I cheated and hitched a ride back to Taupo — some caravan owners were kind enough to take both me and my bicycle along.
Slowly Settling Down
Luckily no-one deemed it worth to steal my van in the meantime, so I could bring it to a garage and have it fixed the next day — pricey, but not as bad as I had feared. I could finally continue to a coastal region called Bay Of Plenty. One of the first places I passed through was Mt Maunganui [P17], a beach-flanked suburb of the city of Tauranga. I stayed in a hostel there for a couple of nights, and I quite liked the place. The beach has some reasonably good surf, there are nice bars, the nearby city should offer heaps of job opportunities, and the strategic location lends it self for short trips. That’s why I decided to end my journey here and settle for a while!
However, I started off with one of these short trips, towards nearby Coromandel peninsula to visit Cecilia whom I had met before in QT. I could park my van in her yard in Pauanui and she showed me around in town and at the beach. Ceci is also working at a bar, and that night they had some special stand-up comedy show on. So I dropped by and listened to two Australian guys talking about getting drunk, driving crappy cars, divorcing their women, bashing Yanks, placing an order at Subways, and the challenges of everyday live as a spastic — that’s right, one of the comedians was actually suffering from spasticity.
Since Ceci had to work early the next day, I set out to discover the Coromandel on my own. First I went to Hot Water Beach, a beach with geothermal activity right underneath the sand. Apparently, if you come at low tide, you can dig your own hot water pool in the sand. Though the beach was crowded with people trying to do exactly that, none of them was overly successful. So I decided to rent a surfboard instead but my surfing efforts were not overly successful either — I definitely need to practice more! Next I headed for a beach called Cathedral Cove, which is a famous tourist attraction. I often find such places disappointing, but the rock formations at this place where really stunning [P18][P19]. You could wade through a huge tunnel connecting the two parts of the beach. And since it was getting late already, I had the whole place for myself.
Unfortunately I could only stay one more night in Pauanui, because I had to return to Tauranga for a Job interview. I had applied to a couple of places in the area and this one was originally for a Belgian bar called “De Bier Haus”. However, the same guys are also opening a new hamburger joint next door, and they want me for that. Not exactly what I was looking for, but it’s only short term so I took the job. Besides it’s quiet interesting, since it’s all just being set up and the managers do not have much more clue what’s going on than I do. Therefore I can contribute my own ideas and watch a new business being created (OK, it’s not like I’m witnessing the founding of Google, but still …). By the way, the place will be called Wünder Burger (umlauts are considered exotic here) and is inspired by QT’s Fergburger!! Well, if we’re only half that good, this should be a great place!
I had a couple of days off between the interview and my first shift, so I decided to try some other work as well. This region is NZ’s kiwi fruit capital and it’s harvest season right now. So it’s very easy to find a job in kiwi picking, which is sometimes paid quite well, too. Though kiwi picking is somewhat exhausting, the main problem is that it’s boring as hell! Well, at least now I can tell a green kiwi from a golden kiwi. Plus, it must have been the first time I ever got paid for working outdoors! Anyways, I only did the job for 2 days, since it started raining then and it didn’t stop for one week.
So I spent most of my time hanging around in the hostel. That’s where I’m living now by the way, and I think I probably gonna stay here for the time being. They have cheap weekly rates, nice people, loads of party, and the location is great— just 3 minutes from the beach. They also have an Internet cafe downstairs, but their notebook rates are a pain in the ass. That’s why I won’t be online that much in the next few weeks. Well, I’ve got used to it over here in NZ.
Anyways, I hope I can do some more surfing while I’m staying here in Mt Maunganui. I’ve already tried it several times, but I still find it pretty hard to catch waves. Hopefully that will improve over the next 6 weeks. And afterwards, I’m heading back to QT again, to devote my time to a sport I’m much better at: snowboarding! Did I mention I already got
my season ticket? Well, I did, so I can go snowboarding all the time from mid June to mid August, when I’ll finally start my journey home. I’ll let you know more about that once I’m back in QT…
OK, if you’ve read that far, you must really be the patient type, or you have plenty of free time. So, what about taking another few minutes, and writing some lines about you and about what’s going on at home! I’d really appreciate to read some other people’s stuff as well! Anyways, hope you’re all doing really well and having a great time! Hope to see
all of you soon, either in QT or back home in Munich or else where!
Keep on rockin’,
PS: Sorry for the poor quality of the attached photos. Most of them were taken with the camera built into my phone, which is really crappy. Still didn’t get around to pick and buy a real camera:-(