Where am I now?

in the City of Churches (inthecityofchurches.blogspot.com)

Check it!

ps. NZ photos coming soon! Watch this space!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back in the City of Churches

Well... I'm back in my wee home town of Adelaide! And have been for about 2 weeks now...

I spent my last night in NZ - Sunday night - watching Schindler's List, of all things, until 0130hr. Then up again at 0400hr to be at Auckland airport by 0500hr (thanks for the lift Jade [and thanks also for the lift offer Renée] - legends!) ready to catch my 0620hr plane direct to Adelaide. But when I arrived at the airport, wouldn't ya know it.. My flight was cancelled! I was put on another flight with a stopover in Melbourne, but that one was 2 hours late too... Then, after missing the connecting flight, the next flight to Adelaide was also delayed.. (sigh).
So to cut a long story short, I ended up arriving about 4.5 hours late into Adelaide, where my sister was waiting at the airport for me. I had told my ma that I'd be home the following Saturday, so it was no surprise that she was quite, well, surprised when she went to meet my sis for lunch and the both of us were there!
The past days since I got home have involved organising my photos (around 5,000 of them!), starting to upload them to the net (until my computer blew up), seeing my cousin and her new daughter, hangin' with my homies, my b'day on the Monday just gone, attempting to clean up my room (and still having no luck), and more recently, starting work back at my old job. So I'm able to start saving money again! Yay! And I've not been back for 2 weeks but I'm already beginning to plan my next expedition (I like that one Sandy!). It looks as though France will be the destination - plans for how I get there are still very much in their infancy though.

So all you folk over that side of the world, watch this space...

In the mean time, this will be my last post to this blog. I will try and write an entry every now and again into my new blog, "in the City of Churches", to keep you posted on what I'm getting upto over here in lil old Adelaide...
1. Goodbye New Zealand! Qantas inflight entertainment
2. Bee (my sis) n I
3. Eeeeek!
4. Ryan and Carradean
5. Kate and those poor hugging balloon bears...
6. The boys
7. On the way home from my b'day/welcome home drinks - Bradtke, Tobias n me - well inebriated... What's with the fingers in the mouths guys?!?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Haere rā Tana, a e noho rā Aotearoa

Kia Ora campers! This will be the last time that I post to my blog from New Zealand. So I guess I'd better make the best of it...
I am in Auckland now. After a very long bus ride (about 12 hours) from Wellington - not to mention the crazy woman singing at the top of her voice and clapping the entire way, that's of course when she wasn't interrogating the bus driver about how many slutty girlfriends he had, telling him to hurry up and get to her stop, or trying to force-feed him chips - I arrived at about 2130hr Friday night and was absolutely exhausted! I am up here now, staying with "the flatmates", Jade, Paul, Renée, etc., again, until I fly out.
Back in Welly, Sash had a surge of money spending...ness a few days after I arrived when we bought a playstation and some games to keep ourselves entertained in the nighttimes (and Sash's lunch breaks).. I absolutely slaughtered Sash in all of them (especially Need for Speed - of course he will try blame it on the NOS and all those walls getting in the way)!
I met up with Amanda and Karin (and Amanda's bro over from the States) a few times for drinks before Karin left for home on Sunday. I also was able to meet up again with Pablo and Rob, Lou and Sarah, along with Amanda and Sash for some good times on my 'fuck-off drinks' night (thanks for that term Mel), Wednesday just gone. More pizza and pool at the hellish Hell's Pizza. More partying it up at Kitty's. More playstation. More hanging out with Sash, my Sri Lankan bro - who, I might add, did a damn fine job of cooking dinner for someone who doesn't really cook. More iStation photos. More organising stuff ready for my departure, including selling Tana - which I was having a hard time of until my last day in Welly when a guy offered me $900 for her... Yes!! Yes!! I'll take it!!! Gimme, gimme!!

So that's it.. My trip is fast coming to an end (I don't even know where the last 2 weeks in Wellington - my second home - went!).. The dream is over. Back to reality very soon. I tell you now, this truly has been an experience of a life-time for me.. well, so far. I have had some of the best times of my life up to this point over here, and I am so glad that I am fortunate enough in this world to be able to have done it, seen it, lived it, and met all the wicked people that I have. Not to mention my newfound respect for, and understanding of our South Pacific cousins.

I know it's cheating but I'm going to quote something I wrote in an email to my mom and sis a few weeks back:

I have mixed feelings about coming home.. I'm really excited to start the next chapter, see everyone again and all that jazz.. But at the same time I think I'm going to really miss this country. Everything about it has been just so amazing.. And even though I have been moving around for most of it, I can't help feeling that I am sort of leaving my home in a way. I guess once you've been in a place for so long, you get a little attached to say the least. So many great places and people that I wonder how long it will be before I see them all again, if at all??
I suppose that's in the nature of travelling though. Moving on is the name of the game. It's a big thing but I know once I'm back home I'll be able to focus on everything that I've done and experienced over here and look back in awe and amazement at these past 9 months of my life...

Will life ever be the same? I sincerely hope not...

Keep in touch guys and maybe, just maybe I'll see you again in the near future! Oh and if you're ever in Adelaide, look me up!

Until next time................

Mauri tu, mauri ora, mauri noho, mauri mate... Kia Ora!

1. On the bus from WGTN to AKLD
2. Poor guy felt the need to jump from the Sky Tower - SkyJump, Auckland
3. Sash, Sarah, Lou, me, Rob, Amanda and beer at Kitty's on my last night out in Welly
4. Sash and I got lost and had to ask this guy for directions - John Plimmer and his dog, Plimmer steps, Welly
5. $900!!! Smells good!
6. A Michael Jackson moment.. Sha'mone! - Pablo's pad
7. My shoes by the end... I had to put them down

Saturday, June 16, 2007

South via East

Monday hit and the guys had to head back to their Auckland homes ready for work, so I travelled in the opposite direction towards the eastern-most point of the mainland, East Cape. The bitter cold of morning drew me from my sleep the following day and I decided to start the walk up to the lighthouse around 0600hr with two guys also crazy enough to be up that early, Konstantin and Leo. We were the first 3 people in NZ and almost the first people in the world to see the sunrise that day. And it was actually one of the most spectacular sunrises I've seen over here too. Awesome!
From here, I drove south through the rugged, little-travelled terrain of the east coast to NZ's longest pier, measuring in at 550m, just south of Tolaga Bay.. It's bloody long! Then it was on to the world's eastern-most city, Gisborne. This is the place where Captain James Cook first landed in 1769 - and there are many Cook monuments and statues commemorating this fact (including one that they thought was a statue of Cook, but later discovered to be that of some other unknown captain... how embarrassing!) In the night time I met up with Leo again for a bit, then drove up Titirangi (Kaiti hill) to the (world's eastern-most) observatory to do some stargazing on a perfect clear night. For someone who's been so fascinated by the Universe and has studied astronomy and astrophysics at uni, I've done surprisingly little actual stargazing.
On my way down south again on Tuesday, I decided to take the coastal route towards Mahia Peninsula - an absolutely stunning, serene and windswept landform which was once an island but now forms part of the mainland due to a huge sand bar formation between them. It would be a fantastic place for a holiday home! Following this, I detoured inland to Lake Waikaremoana (Sea of Rippling Waters - and the waters were definitely rippling in the incredible wind there that day) in Te Urewera NP. Te Urewera is described as one of the country's most attractive parks, and the lake itself is certainly spectacular in its branching, asymmetric form. I took a few hours out to climb to the Pukenui summit overlooking the entire lake - yep, windy up there too! Another couple of hours later, at the end of the day, I had arrived in Nelson.
Nelson is known as NZ's Art Deco capital and it has been suggested that the city challenges Miami for the world title. It was devastated by an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale in 1931, leaving the entire Hawkes Bay area virtually flattened. The city and surrounding areas, including nearby Hastings, were rebuilt hurriedly within 2 years, during the peak of the Art Deco architectural design period, literally setting its history and character in stone. Nelson, like New Plymouth and many others, is a lovely place to spend some time just taking in the atmosphere and culture - the region is also a huge player in the wine production sector of NZ. I seem to take a particular liking to the towns with an art/cultural theme.. New Plymouth, Nelson, Wellington, Melbourne in Oz...
In the morning,
I got to chatting with Melanie, a sweet as gal also using her vehicle as accommodation down by the shore. We hung out for most of the day, she showed me a new poi combination, and even caught up with Leo again for a few drinks and games of pool at the local - I won of course ;). On the way again Friday, Mel and I checked out the nearby towns of Hastings and Havelock North before parting ways and I headed up the area's highest point, Te Mata peak, for some awesome views over the entire Hawkes Bay area.
Taking a detour off the main highway took me through some more beautiful scenery - wildly undulating yellowed-grass fields, dairy and sheep farms, sleepy towns, winding roads, stock crossings, perfect country houses shaded from the sun by trees all the colours of autumn - to a place with the longest name in the world.. I can't be bothered writing it out, so I'll just put up a photo :) Get this though, it's a shortened version (!) of 'The Brow of a Hill Where Tamatea, the Man with the Big Knees, Who Slid, Climbed, and Swallowed Mountains, Known as Land Eater, Played his Flute to his Lover'! Nice name.. why can't they name a street or something after my big knees? Anyway, I was hoping to wind my way to a town called Masterton by that night, but petrol reserves were getting a little low so I cut back to a place called Dannevirke, on SH2.
Very early in the morning.. around 0700hr, I started my journey through the Tararua wind farm again towards "student city", Palmerston North (affectionately, Palmy) for a gander before driving down towards the southern tip of the North Island (east of Wellington), Cape Palliser, via Martinborough. Here, there is a seal colony, the town of Ngawi (known for using bulldozers to pull their fishing boats ashore), and an attractive lighthouse atop the headland overlooking a picturesque sweeping coastal landscape - and the biggest waves I've ever seen crashing directly onto the shore! From here it was the home stretch: stopping by the tree-sheltered shore of Lake Wairarapa, passing over the Rimutaka range, visiting Upper Hutt (Lower Hutt's northern counterpart), and finally... back to Wellington to party it up that night with Sash (my ex-flatmate), his mate Jesse, and Mel in my pub, Kitty's.
So there we are.. The travel part of my time here in Aotearoa is over.. That is sad in itself, but I am also relieved: it can be hard work sometimes going from place to place, always sleeping in a different bed or different location, and living generally in a state of unsettlement.
I'm staying with Sash here for basically the rest of my time in NZ before flying out the end of this month.. Then it's back home to good ol' Adelaide town for me!

1. First to see the sunrise at East Cape
2. Konstantin, myself and Leo at the lighthouse
3. Good fishing out there...
4. Cook standing proud in Gisborne
5. Looking out towards Mahia Peninsula
6. Waikaremoana from a vantage point
7. Playing with fire, Nelson
8. Mel and I on Bluff Hill, Nelson
9. Looking over Hawkes Bay from Te Mata
10. Hmmmm.. anyone want a go a pronouncing it?
11. This picture sums up my experience of NZ roads..
12. From the lighthouse over Cape Palliser
13. Oh ok... Here's another shot of that sunrise...

fa-ka-ta-ne, fa-ka-ari

We'll begin with a short lesson in Māori pronunciation:

wh ≈ "f";

a ≈ "u" as in truck;

ao ≈ "ow" as in a cross between how and bowl.

And the Māori word, Pakeha:

Pakeha is the Māori name for any New Zealander not of Polynesian descent. The term is generally used by Māori and Pakeha alike, however some don't like it because they believe it has racist undertones; so much so that some now believe the word means 'white pig', however a more accurate translation would be 'white foreigner' or simply 'foreigner'. It dates back to when the Māori people first saw European explorers.
Now onto my story.. Whakatane (hence the joke that Australian comedian Peter Hellier made in during a performance over here: "I don't know what a 'tane' is but I'll give it a go..." - funny thing is, tane actually means man in Māori - good on ya Peter) is a nice town and the main focus of the eastern Bay of Plenty region. [The name stems from around 200 years ago when the warrior Toroa, along with family and a cargo of kumara, sailed into the estuary here. The men disembarked to greet the local leaders, leaving the women and children on the waka (canoe), but the tide turned and the waka drifted back out to sea. Toroa's daughter, Wairaka, cried out "E! Kia whakatane au i ahau!" ("Let me act as a man!") and then breaking traditional Māori tapu (something that is holy or sacred) that women should not steer waka, she took the paddle and brought the boat safely to shore.] The main attraction of the area is an island called Whakaari about 50km off the coast. White Island is its Pakeha name. This island is actually a volcano, the most active in NZ, with steam constantly bellowing from it's huge crater lake (which is where the Pakeha name came from) and almost non-stop rumblings (I have to say, I was a little disappointed that we didn't actually experience any of these rumblings while we were there - I guess our tour guides felt the opposite though).
For my time in Whakatane over the Queen's Birthday weekend, I stayed with Karen, who I met on the Milford Track, aswell as Jeff, Judy, Lauren and Dean (Jeff's mate). We all crashed on Karen's living room floor in our sleeping bags.. Sort of a grown-up sleep over - all that was missing was the pillow fights, although Jeff and Judy did come close to smothering each other with pillows! The booking for the trip to White Island was for the Saturday, but the weather took a turn for the worst and they cancelled the day's sailing. So we instead went for a pleasant walk on the Kohi Point Walkway through the local scenic reserve, passing some great lookouts and the location of Toi's Pa which is reputed the oldest pa (fortified site) in NZ.
Luckily, the weather for the next day was awesome so we were able to take the hour-and-a-half journey to the island. Like the Craters of the Moon (Lauren even commented that it seemed like we were standing on the moon) and the thermal areas around Rotorua, White Island was a very strange place to be. The roaring sound of steam vents grew as we walked towards the crater lake, which was created between 1981-83 following major eruption events - it is actually one of the most acidic lakes in the world with a pH of around 0 (the corrosive effects of the entire island are amazing: the guides' shoes and backpacks start falling apart after a few months, and the metal ladders and ramps used to reach the island from the boat are rusted after a similar period of time)! This was not the only notable event on the island, however. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mining for sulphur on the island was attempted. One day in September of 1914, part of the western crater rim collapsed and the 10 workers on the island at the time were killed in the resulting lahar, the only survivor being the camp cat named Peter the Great.
Celebrity watch: in May 2004, a Dino (the dinosaur) figurine was placed in front of one of the Geonet volcano webcams, but Geonet decided to leave it there as they assumed it would degrade before not too long in the volatile environment. Today, however, Dino is still there and more lively than ever (he's even become a bit of a celebrity in some circles)... I should know, I met the little fella!
1. On the island, the old sulphur factory in foreground
2. The fumes were a little overwhelming.. Left to right: Dean, me, Jeff, Karen, Judy and Lauren
3. A statue of Wairaka stands in front of another, dormant volcano, Whale Island
4. No Jeff, we're not gonna cross there...
5. The rusted ladder and ramp.. installed recently
6. So this is what the inside of a volcano looks like...!
7. White Island - on the way
8. Fancy a dip? The crater lake
9. Arriving at the island
10. The celebrity

Friday, June 15, 2007

Relaxed, refreshed and reminisced

Wow! It's been ages since I last blogged! Guess I'm slack... what a revelation!
So, where were we? Oh yea, Hamilton... I spent just over 6 hours adding the last post to this blog in an internet cafe there.. Know what it cost me? $11! Awesome!
In the morning, I took off from Hamilton and headed north, past a few small country communities - including Te Aroha with its Mokena Geyser - before coming to the notable town of Paeroa.. There is a popular drink (lemon mixed with spring water from the area) in this country called L&P (Lemon and Paeroa - "World Famous in New Zealand since ages ago") which originated from this town.. and you can't half tell! If there was ever a town that based its entire existence on one piece of merchandise, or tried its hardest to capitalise on the one product to come out of it, this would be it - everywhere you look there are L&P flags, signs on buildings, even businesses with L&P incorporated into the title.. not to mention the two huge bottles of L&P that you can have a photo taken with (which, of course i did!)
After this, I soldiered on further north to the smallish, but very popular peninsula east of Auckland known as the Coromandel Peninsula. This place is a popular weekend getaway for Aucklanders and other kiwis alike mainly for its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful scenery. The first place you come to travelling up the west coast of this piece of land is Thames (in which I have stayed before with the French bodyguards, JC and Julien). I decided to stay here for a couple more nights. The remainder of that day, I was generally lazing around on the beach, trying to re-build my tan from scratch even though the days of quality tanning sunshine have long gone, and looking for interesting shells. The next day, however, was a little more active when I undertook a day-long tramp up to the dramatic Pinnacles (759m) in the Kauaeranga Valley overlooking Thames and its Firth. Near the top it became extremely muddy, extremely slippery, especially on the smooth metal bars that were installed to make it easier to climb to the peak. It was also extremely windy at the peak and the clouds refused to lift until I was about to start my descent again after having been up there for around an hour. I think that just the act of accomplishing a difficult task like this walk is what gives me the most satisfaction - not necessarily the view from the top. Born to tramp..?
Leaving Thames earlyish on the Sunday, heading west to the opposite shore of the Firth of Thames, I travelled along the coast back towards Auckland, through Manukau, to get a feel for the lifestyle in this tiny corner of the country - relaxed as always. After this, I looped back through Thames and followed the highway along the impressive, stony, shell-laden coast to the town after which the peninsula was named. Again, there was not much to do in Coromandel Town per se (apart from mussel farming), but like I said people don't come here for the fantastic shopping or entertainment facilities. In the morning, the weather was fine so I decided to go for a drive up to Fletcher Bay at the tip of the peninsula. On the way I attempted to find the beginning of a track which leads to the summit of Mt. Moehau, the Coromandel's highest point, but it turned out to be a little too well hidden, and so I continued on. The simple majesty and land's-end feel of Fletcher Bay and its surrounding areas reminded me very much of Cape Reinga. Just don't try and drive on the beach there, as I found out the hard way... I had to ask the nice local DOC officer to drag me out with his tractor! Oops..
After this ordeal, I took another road almost back up to the tip of the peninsula again, but this time along the eastern side, past the beautiful Port Charles to the end of the road at Stony Bay - 3 hours walk from Fletcher Bay. I took a short stroll about half way along this walkway before turning back to chill out at the (stony) beach for a bit longer. The majority of roads north of Coromandel Town are winding and unsealed which I am very used to, but for some reason they just seemed to stretch on forever here on my way back down. I sat up admiring the stars for most of this night.
Morning came and the road to my next destination was short but I had plans to visit a few places along the way so I left early. Turns out that Waiau Waterworks (a place recommended to me by Theresa) was closed that day and also another walkway was closed due to logging so that removed about a half a day of activities and I arrived in Whitianga well before lunchtime. Because the skies were again clear with the forecast not looking so good, I figured I'd take advantage and visit some of the fine beaches north of the town. All the beaches around the eastern side of the peninsula are really quite white, stretching and sandy, whereas the western beaches tend to be more black, stony and covered with driftwood. The eastern beaches of Otama and Opito definitely fall into the former category and I decided to go for a relax, dip and run along the first of these for a good few hours before heading back to Whitianga for the night. This town, in my opinion, is the most lively and interesting on the peninsula.
After watching the sunrise the following day on a very crisp morning I drove around the Whitianga Harbour to visit the huge limestone arch and lovely beach at Cathedral Cove, then onto a place known simply as Hot Water Beach. This beach has natural hot water springs which run down to the ocean. Within a few hours of low tide, you can go down and dig yourself a hole to make your own hot pool. Very cool. I met a couple of gals there, Daphne and Laura, who I met up with that night for dinner and drinks at the local bar. It was karaoke night. I don't do karaoke. Well, I thought I didn't.. I was somehow persuaded, not at all helped along by a few beers I'm sure, to get up there. I thought I'd go for a blast from the past and sing one of the songs I used to sing back in good old "Rizn" (my highschool band) days.. "It's been a while" by Staind. Shit, I haven't sung in front of people since I left my last band 2 years ago... But it was awesome fun (and Laura missed it)! Laura and another girl from her hostel got up there aswell to sing their hearts out to the classic, "I will survive".
Following another couple of hours of driving in the morning, I had left the Coromandel region and entered the Bay of Plenty region having arrived again in Tauranga where I was to spend the night. From there, I was on my way to Whakatane and the beginning of the final leg of my travels in Aotearoa...
1. L&P&Me - Paeroa
2. The main form of transport in Thames
3. Almost at the top - The Pinnacles
4. Oh no, there's more???
5. Thames to Coromandel
6. That is Fletcher Bay
7. Ooops..
8. On Opito beach
9. Watching the sunrise in Whitianga... Brrrrr...
10. Cathedral Cove
11. Aaahhh, that's better... Hot Water Beach (that's Laura w the shovel, Daphne next to her)
12. I took this cool snap of the moon's reflection over Buffalo beach in Whitianga
13. I'm still amazed at how they did that in 1769!