Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011

The rugby world cup in New Zealand has just ended and although I'm the last person to care about sports, I'm glad I was here for the event.

Not only for the fact that a rugby world cup isn't every day, but because it was a one-time opportunity to see New Zealand so totally excited and it's something not every visitor will have the chance to see. The atmosphere was really great, almost every car had (and many still have) their team's flag sticking out of the windows, people would talk about the games in bars and on the streets, even foreigners whose country didn't play or was eliminated were discussing which teams they support and why, and the locals were really excited and confident about the All Blacks, the NZ national team, winning the cup on their home ground (their last gold is 24 years old, from 1987).

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Golden Bay tourism - part 2 of 2

Part two of my trip to Golden Bay is about climbing, fishing, eating and chilling out with chilli beer.

Wainui Falls
A famous waterfall which apparently isn't a big deal, but it's the only waterfall in the area and that makes it famous. It's quite far from Takaka, but the drive along the coast is really enjoyable and you get to see nice scenery (Tata Beach, Wainui Bay). The walk to the falls is an easy one with a rope bridge crossing the river and giving opportunity to some interesting pictures. The waterfall itself is a nice enough spot to make the walk worthwhile, but really nothing special... unless you make it special.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Golden Bay tourism - part 1 of 2

A glance at Pupu Springs. Click for more pictures.
Last week I said that I bought a bike and have an ambitious plan to cycle around New Zealand. I can't wait to start blogging about it, but I don't want to jump ahead until I've talked about about previous events (trip to Golden Bay and Nelson). I'll try and go through them quickly.

Pupu Springs
Our visit to Golden Bay went literally by the book. We opened a travel guide, noted down the places of interest and checked them out one by one. The first was Pupu Springs, a famous spot with natural springs and apparently the clearest water in the world. It's so clear and seemingly so precious that the government forbids any physical contact with the water (no drinking, washing, swimming, spitting... you basically can't even stick your finger in it). Ah, and it's also sacred to the Maori, although the settlers who devasted the place during the gold rush in the early 1900s probably didn't know. Anyway, the springs really are beautiful, although it's just a short and easy walk. You can go for a picnic, though, and relax a bit while nobody else is around. The pools are several metres deep and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom, where a pleyade of colours creates amusing images. There are supposed to be "dancing sands", too, but we haven't seen any.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Introduction/afterword to My Great Scandinavian holiday

In the summer of 2010 I took a long and much needed holiday, totalling two sweet months away from London and covering over 6000 kilometres on the road, 5000 of which hitch-hiking, mostly around Scandinavia. I wrote a real-time diary about my journey and it's all on this blog, along with tons of photos on Picasa (all linked). Whether you're interested in my adventures or just want to see the pictures, here goes. You need to scroll down quite a bit in Picasa, tons of new photos has been added since Scandi.

It may seem odd to put an introduction at the end, after all the rest has been written, but I just couldn't push myself to do it when I should have. So enjoy this little retrospective look into 2010's Scandi trip.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Takaka, home of the hippies and bad 3G connection

Telegraph Hotel. Or... the saloon.
Our final stop after leaving Motueka was Takaka, Golden Bay's largest settlement. Golden Bay/Takaka Valley is in the north-westernmost part of New Zealand's South Island and so far one of the most beautiful places I've seen.

The town's first impressions weren't what'd call good (Dominik went a bit further, saying that the town emanates strange vibrations) and we really didn't feel at ease after our arrival. Maybe it was due to the frequent hopping in and out of civilisation over the previous weeks (lively Nelson, then a week of utter isolation in Abel Tasman, followed by Motueka and by peering into a deep black hole in the middle of an elven forest, and finally Takaka - a sleepy hollow that could have dropped out of a Western movie.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Big changes, I bought a pushbike!

Pushbike, or pushy, is the Kiwi and Ozzy term for bicycle. I got one today and for the next three months I'll be cycling around New Zealand. When I decided to visit New Zealand, I wanted to do something different than the mainstream tourist, so instead of buying a car or campervan and comfortably cruising around the place, I opted for something more challenging. Thanks to Devil, a fellow traveller, who inspired me.

The bike thing has been in my mind for a long time, although I had much bigger plans in the beginning. Now it seems like I'll only have three, maybe four months for travelling, instead of the whole year. Unfortunately, I arrived to NZ at the beginning of winter and wanted to a) work and save some money first, and b) wait till the weather got warmer and days longer.

I've been here for more than four months now and I've only just bought the bike. I have to pray that my money will last long enough (I'm already half broke, it's gonna be tricky...) and in January I'll start working in any case, probably until the end of my stay. However, plans in NZ keep constantly changing, so I have no idea what might happen tomorrow. Maybe a careless truck driver will end it all.

In any case, even if I only cycle for three months, I think it'll be long enough to enjoy it. What I'm worried about is that I won't be able to see and do everything I want to see and do here. It's already clear that I won't have the time to visit the North Island. I guess I'll have to extend my stay :)

I'll probably have to cut down on blogging, although I have a lot to write about, but it's such a time eater. I wish there was someone reading my mind and writing for me.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Takaka Hill - a hole and an elven forest

After tackling Abel Tasman, my travelling with Dominik continued west, over Takaka Hill and down to Golden Bay.

Harwood's Hole - 176 metres of nothingness and rock bottom
Our first stop at was at Harwood's Hole, a huge 176-metre deep pit connected to some kind of underground water cave system. It's accessible through a short walk at the top of Takaka Hill and it's really impressive. You stand on the edge of this huge black hole whose bottom you cannot see even on a sunny day, with nothing but thin air between you and a deadly drop into utter darkness. Of course Dominik and I climbed the highest and most exposed rocks and posed in the most hazardous ways to get the coolest photos. Shame that the area is so vast a person barely covers a few pixels in the whole picture.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Great Abel Tasman Hike - Part 2

Sunrise at Castle Rocks. Click for full photoalbum.
Last time it was all about the coast. Today it'll be all about the national park's inner part. It's going to be tough, so get ready. 

Wake up and start climbing
Upon leaving Whariwarangi, first we had to climb 405 metres above sea level on top of Gibbs Hill (sunny weather again, great view), then fall a bit down to Pigeon Saddle and then tackle the first really difficult part. Pigeon Saddle is at about 300 metres above sea level and after maybe two, three kilometres we must have been at least twice the elevation. And no more fancy gravel paths, this was the real stuff - narrow paths through thick forest, steep stairways made of roots and rocks... oh yes, that day really tested us.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Great Abel Tasman Hike - Part 1

Click for the first two days' photos.
My travelling around New Zealand has finally started and in big style, too. To begin, I spent a whole week tramping in the Abel Tasman National Park with Dominik and two Japanese friends. It was simply awesome. We could have been a bit luckier with the weather (cloudy beaches are a bit depressing), but in the end everything worked out well and we had a really good time. Not only was it my first serious tramping in NZ, but it was also the longest I've ever done.

Abel Tasman has two faces, the coastal and the inland one. Although they're in the same park, they couldn't be more different and offer such different experiences. This post will be all about the first part of our trip.