Monday, 27 June 2011

Accidents happen

When I decided to visit New Zealand, I knew I was going to do all sorts of crazy stuff, but I never expected that it would include seeing car crashes in close-up mode. Frankly, something I could live without... Why am I saying this? Because I've seen a nasty accident from about ten metres, right in front of the hostel I'm staying at.

They have this weird road rule in NZ that says if two cars coming from opposite directions turn into the same street, the car turning left, hence just around the corner, must give way to the other car, the one that's crossing one lane. The problem with this rule is that foreigners aren't used to it.

We were driving back from town and were just about to turn left from the main road into the car park, when a van came from the opposite direction and was about to do the same, so Dominik stopped on the curbside to let the van go first. However, the guy didn't realize it until several seconds later, and when he finally made a move, he forgot to check for oncoming traffic...

As soon as the van got into motion, a big SUV popped into my peripheral vision and I had just the time to think "there are two cars on a collision course, they're gonna crash...". Two seconds later, the SUV smashed into the van's side at maybe 100 km/h, tipped it over and pushed it for a couple of metres.

Then a bunch of people ran out of the hostel and the usual post-accident stuff broke loose. The SUV driver promptly called the police, the van's driver was trapped inside, unable to open the door, until I suggested to roll down the window, a few guys from the pub helped him get out, and then they waited for the police. On a positive note, nobody got hurt, although the woman driving the SUV was apparently pregnant. Then I went to have a shower and forgot about everything.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Scandinavian Expedition 2010 - Days 36-37

Tampere with Lenin museum. Click for full album.
This post about Scandinavia might come as a surprise now that I'm in New Zealand, but I wasn't able to publish it before leaving Europe, so here it is now. There's not much to write about NZ anyway, it's mostly routine now that I have a regular job, so here's some reading to fill the gap. It picks up directly where the previous Scandi post finished - in the middle of Finland.

 Another WW2 museum
After Punkaharju I kept close to the Russian border and my next destination was the Salpa Line museum, right in the bottom-right corner of Finland. Salpa Line (Salpalinen Finnish) was a defence line built to stop the Soviet invasion during WW2. It stretched for over a thousand kilometres and it was an impressive military work. Although it was never put to use, it did serve its purpose well, since it discouraged the Soviets from continuing their offensive against Finland.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Mid-summer or mid-winter?

Today was the winter solstice here in the southern hemisphere - the longest night and the shortest day. We had a bbq to celebrate that half winter's already gone and we said hello to it in great style. With a bunch of delicious marinated beef steaks on the grilll. Hmmmm yummy. And all that's left is the second part of NZ winter; the hardest one. July and August are the coldest months down here (they correspond to January and February), and apparently also the wettest (so I may see some more rain after all, so far in a month and a half I only had about a week of rainy days). But all in all, the weather is great for being mid-winter! Frosty in the morning until around 9 o'clock and then sunny, sometimes a little bit windy. I really love the weather in this country. After five years of rain in London, who wouldn't...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

How many people are reading my English blog?

I'd like to make a little survey about this blog's popularity. Anyone reading it (not just looking at photos or skimming through headlines), could you please let me know by either putting a comment under this post or clicking on "cool", or just telling me through any other communication channel you may have? Cheers.

The reason is that several of my Czech friends and old blog's readers who aren't that good at English tried to persuade me to switch back to blogging in Czech. While I'd love to do that or to double-post, it would be too time consuming, and besides, this is a good way not to get rusty on my English. However, should the interest in this blog be extremely low, I'd consider switching.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

What are the odds of meeting and old acquaintance in NZ?

More precisely, what are the odds of meeting a person from your hometown, someone you used to hang around with after school, someone you haven't seen for over 13 years, and then you stumble upon them in New Zealand, in the same town, in the same hostel? Well, I don't know what the odds are, but it certainly happens...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A day I want to forget

After a month of relatively happy days in New Zealand, here comes the first time I really wanted the day to be over and forget about it forever. It started with a shitty morning, when I didn't really wake up, because I hadn't really slept.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A moon in New Zealand

The post's title actually means "a month in New Zealand". Forgive me the rather poor pun, unfortunately it doesn't work as well in English as it does in Czech (měsíc na Zélandu). Anyway, you've probably guessed why I chose it. Yes, it's been exactly a month since I landed on kiwi soil and it's the second time I see the object on the title photo (you guys in the northern hemisphere notice anything unusual?).

Titles and puns apart, today was the perfect day for celebrating my "monthlyversary". Not only was it my day off, but it was also warm and sunny, ideal for wandering around the countryside and taking photos. Indeed, I took plenty of them, probably causing a few bewildered looks on the locals' faces in the process (unless they're used to tourist weirdos standing on the roofs of their cars and pointing cameras to sheep and vineyards...).

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A week at the vineyard

Saturday evening's here and my first full-time week of pruning is over. We actually worked only four days and a half, because Monday was a bank holiday and on Friday we were thwarted by the weather, but it's more than enough. My co-workers raised the idea of doing a half-day on Sunday to catch up, but for me it's a clear no-go, I'm taking it easy tomorrow, enjoying my day off and catching up with chores such as the laundry, etc. What I really look forward to is being able to sleep-in. I also have a craving for a big juicy steak, and tomorrow there's a market where local farmers sell top quality meat. Yummy. Most importantly, though, I need to rest. Despite feeling quite ok after work, the way I feel at work is a totally different thing. Sore muscles are a thing of the past (very recent past, though) and I'm no longer knackered when I come home. I don't fall asleep right away, I don't drone around the hostel like a zombie, and I can quite easily do things. It's when I'm at the vineyard that I feel the tiredness in every muscle. Sometimes it seems like I'm hanging onto those bloody weeds instead of pulling them with brute force. As far as I can tell, at least one of my coworkers is in the same condition and shares my view on Sunday work - to hell with it.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

My first kiwi money!

I started working last week and today we got paid. It's not much, since we only started on Wednesday and were in training, but nevertheless, it's my first income after more than a month, and the first cash earned in New Zealand. As soon we get up to speed and start getting paid by carried out work, rather than hourly, the salary should be much more interesting. And what kind of work do I do? I'm a vineyard worker. More specifically, I do pruning (and stripping, when required).

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Mt Fyffe and Kowhai Valley - lost in the dark

Lost in the dark. Literally. Click for more foggy photos
With Matt and Ramin we decided to go for a walk on Mt Fyffe, the mountain near Kaikoura. However, the weather was pretty shitty and we couldn't see a damn thing through the fog, so the plan was to follow a gravel road up to a hat at 1100 metres and turn back. Once there, we found an alternative way down - much more interesting (and steeper) path leading to the valley, from where there would have been another way to the carpark. The path down was very steep and a great fun to descend - we ran most of it at neck-breaking speed and it only took us one hour to reach the valley (which takes three hours according to the official signs). They valley, that's where the problems started and we got ourselves into a bloody mess.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Seals are not friendly...

As the title says, seals are not friendly...
Click for more pictures
Kaikoura is famous for its wildlife. There are several seal colonies and tourists come there by the thousands to see them. Surprisingly, seals aren't friendly animals. They may seem cute in a documentary, but the cuteness ends there. Don't ever try getting close to a seal. They're bloody fast despite the lack of limbs and weighing around 200 kilos, they've got very sharp teeth and don't like to be disturbed. They can cause nasty infectious bites. They don't use Colgate and their mouths are full of rotting fish. As I was approaching the first colony, I was so focused on taking pictures of the landscape that I didn't notice the seals around me. All of a sudden there was an ugly growl just a few metres away that made me jump (in Czech I'd quote kapitán Sobota: "I almost sprayed my underwear") and when I looked around, I realized that I was just a few steps from a bunch of big animals with very big and very yellow teeth. I slowly backed away and steered clear of them, making good use of my camera's zoom instead.

As I was walking around the small Kaikoura peninsula, I reached another colony and took my chances with a lone sleeping beast. I didn't dare to get closer than five meters and just as I was turning back, I heard another growl and here I have to quote kapitán Sobota again. After that, I was glad to climb from the beach up to a very high hill and enjoy the view from above. Alas, at the third, biggest and nicest colony, my camera ran out of juice. I was planning to get back the following day, but my plans changed with the arrival of Matthew and Ramin, two guys I met in Christchurch, also travelling to Blenheim through Kaikoura. More about that in the next post. I guarantee it'll be worth reading.