Tuesday, April 6, 2010

1st of April 2010

The beat of German trance is flowing through the speakers and we are doing 150km/h on a busy Autobahn. The sky is grey, the landscape flat and dull without a single leaf on the trees to be seen. We pass town after town and big industrial cities, the wind is cold and bitter.
It is depressing, really depressing.
A week ago I was in New Zealand with all its small lonely country roads, green rolling hills and forests and blue beautiful skies.
As you might have guessed I am home again, I flew via Singapore to Frankfurt and hitched after a bad night of sleep at the airport the 800 kilometres north to Odense in Denmark where my sister lives and my parents were visiting unaware that I would be coming.
So my trip is finished for this time, now I will head back to Sweden and find a job and work for a while. Quite unexpected because I had plans to stay a whole year in New Zealand and work the ski-season there, but mainly because Veronica was back in Sweden I decided to fly home also.
The last week in NZ I stayed at the wwoofing place in Waihi and got a ride to Auckland the last day where I went for a quick trip in the city before leaving for the airport. It took me 66 hours to get from door to door (Waihi to Odense). So quite tired now!

I haven’t counted on how much I spent in NZ nor how many cars I rode with. Neither did I take photos of everyone I rode with.
It has been a very pleasant experience; NZ is a great country to travel in. It is very tourist friendly and probably one of the easiest countries to go backpacking in.
People need to be aware though that if you ever plan to go to New Zealand you don’t go there for the culture, history or fauna (unless you like birds). You go there to see the scenery and nature which is really in world class. Hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls, hot springs and much more beautiful and attractive things.
It do sadden me to leave though, because New Zealand is so far away, literally on the other side of the world I think it will take very long before I go there again if I ever do.. There are just so many other places in the world that I want to see and that are much easier and cheaper to get to and travel in.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my hitch in New Zealand and that you will come back and follow my adventures the next time I leave.
Last but not least, a huge thanks to everyone in New Zealand that did pick me up and showed me their country and incredible hospitality, I hope I can return the favour some day in some way.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

24th of March 2010

The other day I arrived at what I thought would be middle of nowhere, a dead end road. But it turned out several hiking tracks was starting there leading to different huts and other tracks, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside!
All around New Zealand you can find this, huts and tracks everywhere. Often passing or leading to rarely visited waterfalls or hot springs, the sad thing though is that DOC isn’t getting enough money to maintain all of them and so one by one they get closed down and eventually overgrown. Most tourists only ever hear of the 9 famous great walks despite there are so many other nice ones out there.
From Waihi I hitched just down the road 5km until I came to Karangahake Gorge which used to be one of New Zealand biggest gold mining regions, DOC has done a beautiful job restoring most of it and you can walk through the picturesque gorge passing swing bridges, old train tracks and old mining tunnels. I hiked through to a river campsite where I stayed the night. Was planning to stay more nights but seeing 4 rats while just going for a short walk and finding them at my tent when I got back I decided to keep going the next day to Waihi beach instead. From here I walked along a hiking track north for about 2 hours until I got to Homunga bay. I was expecting a beautiful beach for myself but it turned out there was already some 10-15 surfers there and humongous waves! I cooked my dinner and watched the surfers before I went to bed, the next morning I found that my bread had been eaten by rats (or possums). I still stayed the whole day on the beach and this day only one couple came by during the whole day, so nice and quiet. Stuffed my food just next to me outside the mesh of the tent (tent is to small to keep things inside) and went to bed only to wake up during the middle of the night to find that a rat was munching on my oats just 20cm away from me, cheeky bastards! Haven’t had any problems with the animals before when I hitched, don’t know what’s up with this sudden wildlife assault on my grub.
Next day I hiked out to the road, hitched back to Waihi then north and had a freaky day of hitching. First I made a quick stop at the library in Waihi and there just next to me sat a guy from Hawaii that had given me some bread at Tongaporutu, some 350 kilometres to the south, just 7 days before. I hitched north and got picked up by German girl that had been riding with a kiwi guy and was the first couple to pick me up leaving Tongaporutu at the same day as I met the Hawaiian! But it did not end here, a few rides later a polish couple picked me up, and guess what. They were the couple that picked me up the same day just when the kiwi and German girl had dropped me off! Weird..
The destinations of the day was Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, both are quite known and popular places and that it was Saturday didn’t make it better. Hot water beach is a beach where you have hot water coming up from the ground at a certain area during low tide, so people dig their own small little spas in the sand. But it was very crowded and I headed on to Cathedral Cove instead which probably is one of New Zealand most famous beaches and starred in the second Narnia movie. It has a natural tunnel and several huge pillars as well as beautiful blue water, white sand and islands in the distance. When I arrived there was hardly anyone there but soon people started pouring in, on the north side there was a big beach party with about 30 people and on the south side where I put my stuff some 20 American youngsters came to camp the night. But I stayed anyway and slept the night under the stars on the sand, was a beautiful night. But still no peace from the wildlife! During the night I woke up by a mouse running over me and the next morning when going for a swim the seagulls went for my lentils!
I hitched back to Waihi because I found myself a wwoofing host there and that is where I well spend some time for now. This is quite a different host, more like a community, the hosts are a young couple, Brazilian and Aussie and there is plenty of other wwoofers staying in the house, 5 French, 3 other Brazilians, one German girl and me at the moment. The work we do is selling local fruits from the side of the road in a van in the surrounding towns; actually I quite like it because it reminds me of hitchhiking! Sit on the side of the road looking happy and tidy showing what you’ve got. And as soon as someone stops try to be as social as possible to get them to buy extra stuff. Just like hitching! :D

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

17th of March 2010

I have realized something lately. People usually ask me what I think of their country and I always have positive things to say. But in reality this is because it’s only nice and friendly people that pick me up, the grumpy, stressed and scared ones would never let me into the car to start with. This leads to me getting an image of a country that everyone is really helpful and great which isn’t in reality true. Good thing or bad thing? Well I can’t complain because I don’t have to deal with the sour apple, but it still gives a kind of warped image of the countries I travel through.
From Tongariro I hitched west to Mt Taranki which is another big volcano, but this one is on its own which makes it quite impressive and I am pretty darn sure it will be used as the Lonely Mountain in the upcoming movie The Hobbit. Sadly the weather around Taranaki is extremely unreliable and I didn’t see the whole mountain once during the few days I spent in the region. I did go for a short hike in the rain halfway up the mountain and slept for free in a hut before heading north. It was the WOMAD music festival starting in the north Taranaki region so tons of cars and hitchers were going through so it wasn’t to hard getting a ride. I headed north to Tongaporutu and the three sisters where I stayed two nights so I could catch the low tide and have a walk on this incredible beach, black sand with towering cliffs nearby, huge white cliffs in the distance and if I had been lucky Mt Taranki in the backdrop.
I headed further up and inland next heading for the Coromandel region. I did a few stops on the way, among one of them the highly commercialised Waitomo Caves, didn’t pay to go into any caves though. Other then that the only thing that was quite extraordinaire on the way was seeing my first Kauri trees which are these huge native trees.
For my birthday I stayed in Waihi, which is a gold mining town, in a shabby hotel with quite cheap rooms. Not exactly what I had in mind but the evening turned out quite fun anyway. Spent it with the 3 other hotel guests, one 70 year old aussie builder, one 60 year old kiwi with some weak version of Parkinson? And one middle age Indian guy. So I had myself a proper feed and shared a bunch of beers talking about all kind of things.
The last few days I have been a bit sick of being on the road so the upcoming weeks I think I will just generally drift around the Coromandel area, I don’t feel like stressing around to see different things. Maybe I will go wwoofing somewhere.

Friday, March 12, 2010

11th of March 2010

I will try to keep this entry as short as possible and let the pictures speak for themselves instead.
I started the hike 10 AM on Monday morning and finished it at 4 PM yesterday, Wednesday. About 2/3rds of the walk I was accompanied by a nice French guy, Gerome, which I also met at the camp ground the night before leaving.
I walked about 60 kilometres and with an elevation of over 1150 metres.
The first day the weather was great with a clear blue sky. The second day it started out well but when we reached the top of the red crater around noon it started getting really cloudy so we decided not to try the Mt Doom summit. The next day we hiked back and it looked really well but 50m from reaching the summit (after a 600m climb up the mountainside) the clouds rolled in and ruined all our views! Still I am very happy I did go to the top and got to see the crater and do the “run” down the mountain afterwards!
This has definitively been the best multi day hike I have done and one of the best hikes ever.
Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

8th of March 2010

The area around Taupo and Rotorua has quite a lot of sights, so here is yet another entry with new pictures!
After having a steaming bath once again in Kerosene Creek I hitched to the area just north of Taupo and first checked out the Aratiatia Rapids which is created when they open the gates of the hydro power plant letting the water flow through the canyon, they do this about 4 times a day. From there Craters of the Moon was pretty close, an area covered in collapsed steaming and hissing craters where you walk around on a planked walkway for about an hour.
Next I camped in the nearby area at one of the most popular freedom camping areas in NZ, Reids Farm, just north of Taupo and the morning after when I woke up I hiked 30 minutes north to Huka Falls which is quite impressive, not a very big drop but it have some really strong rapids and is spewing 200 000 litres of water over the edge every second. From there I hiked south on the other side of the river (campsite was on the west side) until I came to the Spa Park Hot Springs which joins the river just north of Taupo. Because they are mixing with the river you can select yourself just how hot you want the water to be. The rapids, waterfall and spring all are part of the Waikato river which is the longest river in NZ and just amazingly blue!
Next I hitched south and into Tongariro National Park which is a World Heritage Area of both cultural and natural importance and the worlds 4th oldest national park (NZ oldest). Within it is 3 big volcanoes, the most famous being Mount Ngauruhoe, aka Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy! Last eruption from one of the volcanoes was in 2008, so they are still very active. Mt Doom hasn’t erupted since 1977 though. This is the place I looked most forward to on the whole trip on the North Island and today and the upcoming days I will be walking the Tongariro Northern Circuit which is voted to be one of the top 10 hikes in the world (either this one or the Routeburn, another NZ track, is always on those top 10 lists).
By the way, people who get divorced should travel to NZ and climb Mt Doom and throw that evil ring that have control over them in the crater so they get rid of it once and for all!! Mwuahaha, nerdylicious!
Edit: Lots of pictures in this entry, and because I have a lower resolution on my netbook compared to a normal computer it may look right for you guys reading this with all the pictures, but oh well..

Saturday, March 6, 2010

6th of March 2010

From Rotorua I headed about 25km south to Rainbow Mountain where I hiked to the top for a beautiful view of the surrounding areas.
The area of New Zealand which I am currently travelling through is one of the most active volcanic areas in the world which is quite cool, because every here and there you can see steam rising from the forest and weird coloured lakes or just small bubbling mud pools.
I headed down the mountain and further down the road and onto a dirt track for about 2km and arrived at Kerosene Creek which is this beautiful stream and hot springs waterfall, and oh yeah, because of the volcanic activity the area is also littered with hot springs, quite awesome. I set up my tent and started fixing dinner when this grumpy Maori guy showed up and told me I couldn’t camp there, so I had to quickly pack my stuff again. Didn’t even have time to go for a proper swim or take any photos because it was already dark. But this girl Danielle and her mom just came by for a swim so they gave me a ride and we went to a nice spot by a lake for the night. Next morning though we were told to leave pretty early because 200 people were coming in for some event.
From there I headed south a few kilometres until I got to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, a commercial thermal area. I usually don’t like paying for these things but I find this stuff really interesting so I went in and had a walk looking at all the craters and bubbling lakes and the amazing champagne pool which is this green coloured really deep pool with orange edges and water bubbling like champagne and steam rising! Afterwards I looked up this well hidden hot spring waterfall in the area for a quick dip then I went over and looked at a huge mud pool spluttering and making weird sounds. From there I got a ride to Wakite Valley Thermal Pools which is a hot pools complex with 6 different hot pools between 35-42 degrees Celsius, they are fed directly from a huge hot spring sprouting out 50 litres of boiling water every second. You can also camp next to the complex and get unlimited use of the pools for only 16 $ which I did, chilling in the pools most of the evening. Today I will try to go back to Kerosene Creek before I continue south towards Taupo.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

3rd of March 2010

The next morning I continued north to Waipatiki beach and from there I walked over to Aropaoanui beach, both were quite nice beaches but nothing out of the extraordinary. However I did find some nice Paua shells there to take with me. Then I backtracked a couple of kilometres and went Northwest until I arrived by the Tarawera tavern, halfway to Taupo. Close by there is an awesome hot spring. The signs says it is closed, but it really isn’t, but DOC (Department of Conversation) have stopped maintaining it so they had to put up the sign. This means very few actually go over to the springs so after putting up my tent and having a few beers at the tavern I headed over there while the sun was still setting and then enjoyed 4 hours of very hot relaxing, would guess the water is 45 degrees, takes quite a while to get used to! During the evening in the spring I had a Possum walk by just 1½ meters away from me! Possum is a native in Australia, but never managed to see one over there in the wild. In NZ they are considered a pest though.
New Zealand may be extremely dramatic and beautiful country littered with waterfalls, hot springs, beautiful views and beaches. But one thing is missing, and that is exciting animals! There are none, whatsoever, native mammals on NZ (ok, that’s a lie. There is actually 2 species of bats that are native). Neither is there almost nothing dangerous or poisonous out here (2 very rare spiders). So all the mammals that you can find in the country have been introduced. For example wild pigs, goats, deer as well as Possums. One thing NZ have though is several quite unique birds; personally I never found them as exciting as mammals though.
The next day the hitching slowed down, and it took the whole day to get back to Napier and then hitch 100km north to Wairoa, the last guy to pick me up though was this Chinese teacher Jian, whom told me I could stay at his house if I wanted which I did. I was rewarded with a nice Chinese dinner cooked by Jian.
The following day was another really slow day of hitching, but I did get picked up by a dude named Chris who bought me lunch and while he was on a meeting in Gisborne I tried to find a boogeyboard to buy, sadly I didn’t find one and after the meeting he drove and dropped me off outside town. Then it took me 6 hours to get the 40km I wanted to go next. So I arrived just before dusk at the Rere Rockslide.
Next morning it was raining, but it stopped around 10 so I got up and checked out the Rockslide. Rere Rockslide is this amazing 60m long natural slide, just like a giant waterslide in a theme park, just made by nature!
I found a half broken homemade boogeyboard which I used and broke even more after a couple of fun rides. From there I walked back on the road for about 2,5km to Rere Falls which is another beautiful waterfall that you actually can walk in behind, quite cool. While I was there an Irish couple came by and they gave me a ride back to Gisborne so I could get out on a road with some proper traffic again. I headed northwest for quite some time and eventually got dropped of in the small town of Te Teko. It was starting to get late and I was looking for a place to put up my tent walking through town when a police car came by and asked me what I was doing there. The officer told me this was probably one of the worst areas in NZ I could be in because of Maori Gangs so he gave me a ride further down the road to a hidden away campsite by a lake. He dropped me next to a campervan that was already there and an older fella that was in it came out and had a chat with me. His name was Jim and later on in the evening he cooked me dinner with some nice trout he had caught the same day and afterwards we shared a couple of glasses rum and coke while discussing all kinds of things, turned out Jim was quite the bushman and had lived a very eventful life.
The next morning he gave me a ride to the Soda Hot Springs and gave me another piece of the trout to cook for dinner. The Soda Hot Springs which used to be a nice free spot had been commercialized just last year and I decided not to go in there if I had to pay. I hitched west to Tutea Falls and did a hike along the stream watching people white-water raft going over the world highest commercial run drop of 7 meters. I also managed to see a Tui here, which is quite a unique and native NZ bird. Next I hitched down to Rotorua and found a hostel so I could recharge my camera and more. Also cooked myself quite a feast this evening and got me some more insect repellent for those annoying sand flies, tomorrow Ill keep heading south into one of the most thermal active areas in the world.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

26th of February 2010

I left Takaka around noon the next day, turned out to be quite a queue, but after 1,5 hour it was my turn. A couple of rides later I arrived in Picton just to miss the ferry by the minute. I did get on the next though and 3½ hours later I arrived on the North Island in the capital of NZ, Wellington.
Arriving eleven in the evening in a city is not the best of ideas if you haven’t booked a place to stay, especially if there is a big music festival coming up the next day. I had to walk through the city centre forth and back with everyone out partying. I went through every hostel in the centre of the city until in the last one the receptionist felt sorry for me and put me in a room that was already full, but had a lots of couples in it. During the night though these young kiwis that were in the city for the music festival came into the room several times turning on the lights and screaming, I probably would have slept better at a park bench!
The next morning I headed out of the city as fast as I could, took a train to the outskirts and started hitching again. Now my luck took a 180 degree turn!
The next guy was David whom was on his way to his brothers 48th birthday at his sisters place, so he invited me to come with him and I spent the evening in this beautiful valley with Dave and his brother and son, sister and brother in law which were both professional sheep shearers, going to Norway every year to shear. We had a big barbeque and drank plenty of beer and whiskey that night. I had a great night but a little to topped up on beer I successfully ruined one of the zippers on my new tent, so now I wont be able to sell that either (really don’t like it), and I hope it doesn’t rain to much because then I will get wet!
The next morning Dave drove me a bit back on the way and bought me an ice-cream before dropping me off. From there I hitched south and 3 rides later Duncan and Sarah and Sarah’s mom whom was visiting from England for their wedding which they just had a few days earlier picked me up. Duncan had sworn that he would never pick up a hitcher again because of some weird previous experiences, but who can resist me standing there?
They had a Sheep station down by Cape Palliser where I was heading, 7000 acres and 3000 sheep + some 300 cows in the Aorangi Range, really hilly country! They told me I could put up my tent by their woolshed if I wanted which I did so I would have access to a toilet and a lunch room.
The next day I hitched to the Putangirua Pinnacles and went for a hike looking at the rock formations that was used in the Return of the King during the Dimholt´s Road scene. Then I hitched down to Cape Palliser which is the southernmost point of the North Island. A lighthouse and a big seal colony kept me busy there for quite a while before I hitched back to my tent at the woolshed where a cold beer and fresh eggs was waiting for me.
The next morning after having breakfast with my hosts I went with them to muster sheep in one of the “paddocks” because they were getting sheared the next week. This turned out to be harder then one would think considering the area is covered in wooded hills up to 600m high. So we drove to the top of the hills then two of us started hiking down trying to find and herd as many sheep as possible with the help of the dogs, Duncan just kept going up and down these hills, guess you would get pretty fit doing this so often. After the mustering and having lunch in the house they drove me up to the town of Masterton and bought me an ice-cream in the same place Dave had before dropping me off.
Yet another couple of rides and heading away from the highway to the less trafficked roads this woman Vicky dropped me off just outside their house, which was also a sheep station and told me if I didn’t get a ride within a half an hour I should come over to the house (Was around seven in the evening, so dusk was approaching). So after a while I went over to the house where she fed and let me sleep the night in the house, later on her husband George also came home. George and Vicky had 1000 acres and 2000 sheep + cows, quite different from Duncan and Sarah and in the morning after breakfast I went with George to do some mustering, moving sheep and cows between paddocks. Doing it in these lands which also were quite hilly but not covered in forests we never even had to get off the quad bike unless we were going through/opening gates. Maybe Sheep Herder is something I should become in the future? Afterwards Vicky made me some lunch to take with me and I said goodbye and kept hitching on yet smaller roads until I reached the Waihi Falls which is a very beautiful waterfall but very unknown to the public because it isn’t mentioned in any of the guidebooks. I ended up staying by the falls for 20 hours with only one couple from Auckland coming by to have a quick look. I spent the day swimming in the pool below the falls and sitting in the shade reading and listening to the noise of the falls, I did slip though walking around on the rocks by the waterfall (I never learn do I?) and hurt my left foot.
The next morning I left around 10 and two sheep farmers (yes, there is still a lot of sheep in NZ!) later I came to Dannyvirke from where I hitched north to Norsewood which is a town founded by Norwegians! There is also a wool fabric called Norsewear in town which makes very good and cheap wool socks so I had to make a stop and buy me some new hiking socks before continuing. A few rides later I arrived in Napier where I am now, have to run a couple of errands and wash my clothes and stuff so staying at the backpackers here two nights while my foot recover, half of it is blue now by a huge bruise.
So far I only seen one hitcher on the North Island, way less compared to the south but they still are around.
Oh and by the way, I don’t know if I mentioned the animal thing about NZ yet. But one thing they have for sure and lots of it is sand flies, and god do I hate them, they keep on having a blood feast on my feet every day, not a nice sight. At least they don’t carry malaria so they wont kill me!