Backpacking

New Zealand – A dangerous hike?

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The Coromandel Peninsula is famous for one hiking track that nearly everybody who visits Coromandel does: The Pinnacles Track. This hike is not at all intense, it takes only 1,5hours (although guidebooks say 3hours..) up to the hut. From the hut to the pinnacles it takes approximately 1hour – and then you enjoy awesome views over the Coromandel Peninsula. We spend the night at this DOC hut and – after sleeping in – hiked up to the Pinnacles on the next morning(ehmm, at noon.. Actually this hike isn’t dangerous, as long as you don’t step off the cliffs *g* Just have a look – a false step off the cliffs would be really fatal!

The red something standing on one of this pinnacle is ME!

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New Zealand – The northern tip of Coromandel

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We arrived at Fletcher Bay on Friday laaaate at night. Actually the way to this most northern tip of Coromandel is best driven at night, because then you can easily see the oncoming traffic on those really narrow gravel roads! Fortunately there was no oncoming traffic on Friday night, just a lot of possums crossing the street (most possums even don’t leave the gravel road while cars approach – it seems like they want to be run over by cars..)

On the next morning we hiked the Coromandel Coastal Track from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay, met some sheep and drove back south to look for some nice beaches & bays.

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New Zealand – Pancake rocks & blowholes

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The most amazing and spectacular miracle of nature I’ve seen so far in Newzealand are the Blowholes in Punakaiki at night. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any pictures at night, but even pictures could not describe this experience! The blowholes are in a limestone landscape full of secret caves, streams that disappear and reappear via holes in the ground. The sea water surges into caverns below the rocks and squirts out those geyser-like blowholes that are beyond belief! The show is most spectacular at night – and luckily we even had fullmoon! :-) Meanwhile I had lost Chris, who was also heading towards the beach.. Well, I underestimated the distance to the beach and therefore gave up and returned (ca. one hour walking..) back to the car and met up with Chris.

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New Zealand – Rainforest in Milford

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Hiking on one of Newzealand’s finest hiking tracks – the Milford Rainforest Track – normaly means: 4 days of sun and sandflies (that nearly eat you alive!) alternating with rain&wet clothes. As we hiked this track after the main season was finished, we didn’t have to pre-book it and therefore we could hike it in fewer days. (In the main season you can only book the track for 4 days with 3 fixed overnight stays at the huts!)
Luckily we also enjoyed mainly sunny weather, which is really unusual for this rain forest track! All in all we only had about 1hour of rain! The scenery we hiked through is really amazing, the flora is totally different from what we had seen before. We hiked through an amazing vegetation, which was surrounded by impressive mountains. As we reached the highest point of the track we enjoyed overwhelming views on the surrounding valleys & mountains. Having a small chocolate-break (yeah, that provides energy!) in this awesome scenery we also saw a kea. Keas are the world’s only alpine parrot! They are sometimes found in Newzealand’s alpine mountain areas, have green feathers & red wings(you can only see when they fly). On our way downhill we passed by many high waterfalls, wild streams & cold creeks with cristal-clear water. Although the water in all those creeks was freezing cold (it’s melted ice from the top of the mountain) we couldn’t resist the stupid temptation to go for a short swim. Well, we got butt-naked, jumped into the f***ing cold water and took a picture of us (thanks to the self-timer!). Unfortunately afterwards (we’ve already put on some of our clothes) we realized, that one of us didn’t look towards the camera :-(

Further downhill we walked over a suspension bridge and spontaneously decided that this bridge was the perfect location to jump off into the river. To exclude any risk we measured the height of the bridge (ca. 8 metres) and the depth of the river..

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New Zealand – Mountainbiking in Alexandra

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Our guide book Lonely Planet describes the area arround Alexandra to be a ‚Heaven for Mountainbikers‘, therefore we decided to stop by to go for some up&downhill mountainbiking. We found a pretty good mountainbiking track which was located in a lovely mountainous area. It was real fun and the landscapes we cycled through were again overwhelming! Unfortunately some km before finishing the track some invisible pot-holes (or maybe there were some invisible rocks..) on the track kicked me off my bike and I smoothely landed (nice formulation..) on my left arm, waist & leg and rolled down the hill.. By the time I’m writing this, all injuries are gone!

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New Zealand – Rugby in Dunedin

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The one thing Dunedin is famous for is definitely Rugby! Although we had no idea about the rules and didn’t know any of the rugby players – we put on yellow&blue face painting and headed to the rugby stadium. Actually the game wasn’t really that interesting (might have been due to us not-knowing-what-rugby-is-about *g*) but afterwards everybody ran onto the field, just to party or talk to the rugby players to get some autographs. The whole atmosphere before, during and after the rugby match was really awesome! Afterwards we followed those Dunedin fans into one of the famous after-game-bars called ‚The Bowler‘ – and the party went on. All in all I can say that attending a rugby game in Dunedin is real fun and definitely recommendable!

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New Zealand – Yellow eyed penguins

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On the Otago Peninsula we asked some local guy how we could get to see some of those famous yellow-eyed penguins. We followed his description, crossed the peninsula on those windy and steep roads and after parking our car at an end-of-the-road ‚car park‘ we ended up walking ca. 45minutes through fields, bushes & sanddunes to get to the beach. Actually this was not the official way to see the penguins, but we only discovered this afterwards.
After this long walk to the beach at Sandfly Bay we finally saw some sealions and yellow-eyed penguins. Two sealions were totally busy with flirting, so they didn’t notice us taking pictures of them.

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New Zealand – Swimming with dolphins

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The company Dolphin Encounter in Kaikoura offers boat trips along the shore of Kaikoura to visit dolphin schools. Dolphins usually race through the sea in large schools of hundreds of dolphins. It’s amazing to see them from the boat effortlessly slicing through the ocean water and doing their famous flip-jumps.

Due to the cold water we had to wear thick wetsuits that kept us relatively warm. Moreover snorkel, fins & mask were provided. Geared up with all this stuff we were dropped of by the skipper into a large dolphin school passing by. Once in the water you can easily attract dolphins for example by diving down and crossing their way, or simply by circling arround. Most dolphins are not shy and once you have got the attention of a dolphin it starts circling arround you – which can be interpreted as: Let’s play together. It’s really an overwhelming experience and definitely worth it! :-)

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New Zealand – Sea kajaking in the Malborough Sounds

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The Marlborough Sounds Maritime Park is famous for great hiking tracks as well as stunning kajaking tracks through many lovely fjords. For a change, we decided to explore this region on the water way and rented two sea-kajaks. Sea kajaking with those huge two-person-kajaks is pretty easy (compared white-water kajaking in those tiny kajaks we used with the Uni Canoeing Club in Fulljames). On our way through several fjords of the so called Queen Charlotte Sound we stopped at some lovely beaches for a sun bath and also met some lazy seals laying on the rocks.. Once more we camped overnight and returned on the next day. Not to forget the oncomming wind, that made it really impossible to paddle faster than 2 or 3km/h!

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New Zealand – Hiking in flip-flops

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North of Motueka there is the Abel Tasman National Park that offers several great hiking opportunities. The most famous is probably the Abel Tasman coastal track which can be hiked in 2 or 4 days. We decided to spend 2 days on this coastal track (overnight stay at a DOC camping site). The coastal scenery was really great and the hiking path was pretty easy, nearly wheelchair accesible *g* (no steep uphill or downhill parts). To prove that you don’t need expensive hiking boots to do a great hiking track I decided to hike in my flip-flops *g* After two days our legs were totally covered with sandfly bits. Those crappy sandfly bastards obviously wanted to eat me alive.. To get back to the beginning of the Abel Tasman track we called a water taxi and got picked up at Toga Bay.

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New Zealand – Art deco in Napier

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From Taupo we drove down south 150km(!!) to Napier and walked through the city which is known as one of the world’s best Art Deco Cities. Actually most of the buildings in Napier date from the 30s (because nearly the whole city was destroyed in 1931 by earthquake&fire) and the 1930s are famous for this Art Deco architectural style. Hmm, it was nothing really special – actually kind of boring.

But this 150km journey wasn’t senseless, because Heiko figured out that he was not able to jump accross a 6 metre wastage-water river. that was fun – except for heiko ;-)

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New Zealand – Hiking the Tongariro Crossing

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The Tongariro Crossing is one of Newzealand’s finest hiking tracks. You can do it as a 7-8hours hike in one day, but we decided to overnight in a little DOC hut and spend two days hiking. The hike starts gently, climbs to the saddle between the active volcanoes of Mt.Tongariro and Mt.Ngauruhoe and passes by several volcanic craters and crater lakes. The scenery has been used to film Lord of the Rings famous land Mordor and Mt.Ngauruhoe has actually been the Mount Doom where Frodo has finally destroyed the evil Ring.

The small shape on the mountain that’s me, Mount Doom is in the background (see pic above). On the highest part of the Tongariro Crossing we grabbed our camping cooker and had some spicy noodles – with an awesome view!

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New Zealand – Sky diving over Mount Doom

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While other people in good’ol Germany might still have been drunken on Easter Sunday morning – we got up pretty early and headed towards Taupo Airport. Heiko & me got a short briefing, put on some special suits, glasses & gloves and boarded a little airplane. Togehter with some other keen Easter-Sunday-morning-Skydivers we flew up to 12.000 feet (ca. 4km) – and one after the other jumped off the plane and took his way doooooownnn…

This was a Tandem Skydive, therefore we were attached to a professional Skydiving Master. Both therefore shared one parachute.

The first few seconds of falling were the best, because you accelerate pretty fast until you reach ca. 200km/h (that’s terminal velocity!) Awesome! After 50 seconds of absolute freefall – including 20 seconds of spinning-arround-like-in-a-washingmachine my skydiving master pulled our parachute – and the freefall suddenly stopped. As we slowely glided down towards the airport I also steered the parachute..:-)

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New Zealand – Thermal wonderland in Rotorua

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Due to all those thermal springs and steaming pools that spread the smell of sulfur arround Rotorua, this city is also called the City of Sulfur. Yes, the whole city – and the surrounding areas – smell(ehm, stink!) like sulfur. (I was immediately reminded of my Chemistry class in 9.grade..) It shouldn’t be too hard to find out if somebody comes from Rotorua just by sniffing at his clothes. (Our clothes smelled like sulfur until we washed them!)

Rotorua has the most energetic thermal activity in the country, with bubbling mud pools, gurgling hotsprings, gushing geysers and evil smells. To see all those thermal attractions we visited the Thermal Wonderland. Entrance fee was only 18NZ$.

At 10h15 the Lady Knox geyser in the Thermal Wonderland errupts daily. Actually this erruption is caused by a couple of kilos of soap powder. Yes, soap powder! The geyser is blocked up with some rags so the pressure builds up and everyday a guy from the Thermal Wonderland shoves some soap powder into the geyser to decrease the water surface viscosity – and then it goes off…