Claire and Karsten

Joined July 2014
  • Day182

    New Zealand Wrap-up

    March 23, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Phew, where to start? There is just so much...

    - the accent is interesting. The "e" gets stretched out and almost sounds like an ie in German or a long i in French. Beeeeeed, teeeeen, beeeeeest (sounding almost like beast) etc. Took us a little while to get that.

    - people are genuinely super friendly and relaxed. That goes beyond the usual "how are you" for greetings. People are willing to help you all the time. Be it the bus driver that explains stuff along the way, the people that pick up hitchhikers etc.

    - so many freaking Germans. Just so so many. We had hardly a dorm room without one...and young ones at that. A ton that went for work and travel just after high school

    - in bigger cities there is free Wi-Fi in the city centre which is awesome. Especially in the south though, internet is not even included in the price you pay for the night, which is like 30 dollars for a dorm bed. So you have to buy access and then you get like 100 MB. Ridiculous! But internet is expensive here, as NZ is far away from anything and data is somewhat limited since they only have one deep sea cable.

    - New Zealand is nuclear free and hardly burns any coal which certainly contributes to the impression of a pristine, intact environment you get here. They do dig up their coal though and sell it overseas, so there is that.

    - there is a kind of animosity from the kiwis towards the French as the attack on the Rainbow Warrior staged by French agents happened in Auckland harbor. Google the incident, it is absolutely ridiculous what governments decided to do against a environmental organization like Greenpeace even in the 80s.

    - it is prohibited to drink alcohol in public. In shops you have to show your passport - and not your identity card - to buy beer. And if a group of 2 or more people buy beer, each of them has to be over 18 and be able to prove it. We wonder how parents get their booze when they have their kids with them... ;)

    - they invest a lot of money and effort in keeping infrastructure in good shape. The streets are usually great or getting fixed. And every little walkway or minor tourist attraction is perfectly signposted.

    - almost every body of water that we encountered was perfectly clear! Rivers, oceans, lakes, even most of the harbor water is see through.

    - all cities are car friendly. Any village is dominated by wide roads which can make towns lose their potential charm

    - most shops offer cereals, seeds, dried fruits, etc. in bulk. The kind of initiative, all green people warmly welcome when a shop offering that service finally arrives in their country. On the other hand, the use of plastic bags is ubiquitous and cashiers don't seem to be used to people bringing their own bag at all.

    - there is a flourishing craft beer scene here in the land of the big white cloud (the Maori name for NZ) which we enjoyed a lot. Great beers and most bartenders are happy to let you try little sips from their often numerous taps so you can find the right beer for you. Really awesome!

    - etc. etc.
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  • Day181

    Train to Christchurch

    March 22, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 8 °C

    Saturday night we spent in Greymouth, a town with pretty much nothing to offer, so you won't have to endure any pictures from there. The reason we went there in the first place was one of the most spectacular train rides in the world. The TranzAlpine, connecting East and West coast of New Zealand. This is the means of transport we have chosen to get back to Christchurch from where we fly home tomorrow.

    Because the train was delayed by 90 minutes from the start the crew was doling our complementary ice cream! We didn't complain too much even though we had another ice cream just before the train was leaving, forcing us to eat 2 in a short amount of time. Poor us! Refusing the free ice cream was for self evident reasons not an option. The comfortable train is fitted with an GPS-activated audio guide for whatever attraction you pass along the way. Very nice but we chose not to listen to it for the most part since it was basically going on all the time.

    The most spectacular part of the journey after the train climbed over 280 meters on just 8.5 kilometers up to Arthur's Pass. Pretty impress given that trains are notoriously bad climbers. Unfortunately, the weather was shit for the whole journey. So we missed out on some of the nicest views as they were covered in clouds. Still, it was s pretty nice train ride and a cool closure for our little adventure.

    Yes guys, it is happening: We are coming home!
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  • Day179

    Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

    March 20, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 26 °C

    In the last 2 days we visited the 2 most famous glaciers on the west coast. It is impressive when you sit on the bus coming from the south and you can basically look left and see the Tasman Sea and look right and see the Southern Alps.

    Quite alarming though is the speed with which those glaciers are retreating. This gets really graphic at the Franz Josef glacier (pic no. 3) where the glacier just 4 years ago reached way beyond the point from where we took the pictures. That amounts to the enormous - especially in geological terms - loss of ice of 10 meters per month! Rising global temperatures might have a thing or two to do with that. Locally they translate to more rain than snow, even at the summits which certainly doesn't help the glacier.

    In more fun news, we encountered 2 wild Germans with broken wings which we could prep back to live with a couple of beers so they could fly on on their way further south. It was great to have our friends around so we could practice our German a bit - both of us ;)!
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  • Day177

    Wanaka, New Zealand

    March 18, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌙 8 °C

    Wanaka is a small town an hour North of Queenstown which many consider their favourite place in New Zealand. And it is easy to see why. Picturesquely situated on a lake surrounded by mountains which are still partially snow capped, it certainly provides great views. We just stayed one day so we wouldn't quite call it our favourite place but it is nice.

    Upon arrival, we hiked to the top of a small mountain to enjoy great views of the area. In the afternoon we enjoyed some awesome ice cream at the lake side followed by a couple of beers. That is about all there is to say here ;).
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  • Day176

    Milford Sound

    March 17, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    I think we might have mentioned it before, but just in case: BOY this is beautiful.

    We got on a bus this morning to drive from Queenstown to the Milford Sound. A fjord, carved out by glaciers. The way to get there drawn on a map resembles a large and very wide U with starting and end point pretty close to each other but some steep mountains in the way that make a direct route impossible. This, however, meant that we would reach the southernmost point of our journey which was below the 45th parallel, the halfway point between equator and the pole.

    The road to get there is one reason to make the trip. Absolutely stunning, it might very well have been the most beautiful route we have ever been on. To enhance the experience, we even got a bus with a glass roof. And while we started out in grey and cold weather, we even got lucky, as it was a beautiful day for the most part. We got to stop at a little creek from which you could drink (pic no 1) and a pie store in Te Anau from which you could buy the best pies.

    Once in Milford, you embark on a very nice cruise on the sound before making the 4-5 hour drive back to Queenstown from where we carry on tomorrow, heading North.
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  • Day175

    Queenstown

    March 16, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    After spending days in small villages like Tekapo and Twizel we travelled to a big city again: Queenstown and its 12.000 inhabitants. And what a lovely little town it is. We were lucky enough to have great weather on our arrival day, so we went out and had the best ice cream ever on the lake front. On the day where we wanted to go for some walks however, it was really cold, so we stayed mostly in the hostel after having a huge burger for breakfast which nourished us for the whole day.

    In the evening we went for a couple of beers - there are really nice places here including an indie rock bar - and ended up spending the evening with a Canadian bar keeper who was working in one of the places we went to. She got a local residents card which entitles her and people with her to cheap beer. We're best friends now!
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  • Day173

    Twizel

    March 14, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Today would have been the perfect day to visit Mt. Cook as the weather was perfect! Clear views. Unfortunately, we didn't have time for that as we had something much more important to do: visit the Pelennor Fields. Or for you non-nerds: the location where the huge battle scene at the end of the third Lord of the Rings movie was shot for 31 days.

    We got to see the locations of Theodens speech, the Charge of the Rohirrim, some Osgiliath stuff, Gandalf crossing over from Rohan to Gondor, etc. We also learned a lot about movie making in the early 2000s and the impact that a movie crew of up to 1000 people can have on a village that is barely bigger than that. That alone was awesome. But the most awesome thing was that we got to play with some replica gear and could dress up a little.

    And in the end we even saw the summit of Mt. Cook from the village.

    Also, since we booked quite late, all dorms were fully booked and there were no double rooms available for under $200! But we finally found an alternative and are for two night in a holiday house. The first time in five months that we are in a completely independent place... awesome!
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  • Day172

    Mt. Cook/Aoraki

    March 13, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    This (pic 2), is what we saw for the most part of our 6 months anniversary hike here at Mt. Cook - or Aoraki in Maori. What you can't see in the background is all 3790m of it. But we did have a lucky window of about 10 minutes with pretty good views once we reached its crater lake which had some icebergs in it! And we definitely had better conditions overall than most people that started the trip after us.

    Mt. Cook is actually covered in clouds 40% of the time which makes sense given that it is only 44km from the coast.

    The 8 lakes in this region carved out by the glaciers in the most recent ice age with their 9 dams and power plants actually provide 30% of New Zealands energy which is quite impressive. This certainly helps shaping a nuclear free energy system as New Zealands'. We actually saw only one tower of a power plant somewhere close to Auckland, we think. This surely contributes to the image of pristine landscapes you get when travelling this country.
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  • Day171

    Tekapo

    March 12, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Oh you really, really ridiculously good looking country, you!

    Our journey took us from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo. This small village is one of the top spots in the world for stargazing! While writing this we are not out hurting our necks because it is cloudy today. But last night it was mostly clear so we had some amazing views at the stars there.

    On top of the local Mt John is also an observatory taking advantage of these prime conditions. When we climbed the mountain today they had some telescopes set up on the summit through which we could see the sun (a red ball with visible sunspot activity) and one of the glaciers of the southern alps, as we are now pretty close to the real mountains. Really impressive! This was supposed to be the first spot from which New Zealands highest mountain Mt Cook was visible. But it turned out to be a shy one and hid behind some clouds. Doesn't matter, we'll get another crack at it!

    But the view from the summit over the surrounding plains, the really blue lake and a long line of snow capped mountains was superb nonetheless.
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  • Day170

    Christchurch

    March 11, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    This town is a construction site! After being hit by 2 devastating earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 - the latter of which killed 185 people - the city centre of Christchurch was pretty much flattened. And as demolition of damaged buildings, reconstruction and stabilisation is still an ongoing process this leaves a weird atmosphere in the city centre which has a lot of empty space now being used as car parks. So naturally, commuters are happy about the abundant, affordable parking space.

    But this also leaves the city in a unique position. They have the opportunity to completely reinvent their city centre, which will definitely look very different - if only for the fact that no new building may be higher than 6 floors. The destruction was also pretty random leaving e.g. one 19th century Gothic style building - the Canterbury museum - unharmed while severely damaging the Art Centre which was built in the same style and at the same time just across the street. The renovation will take until 2019.

    The symbol for the harm the earthquake caused is certainly the old cathedral. Its tower completely collapsed. On the pic you see a grey structure which was erected to stabilize a wall with a famous glass window in it after the first earthquake in 2010. The 2011 one then actually didn't hurt the wall but caused the stabilizing structure to tilt towards the wall and cause its collapse. Whoops!

    Right now the city is full of makeshift solutions. They built a replacement cathedral (pic no. 2) out of shipping containers and cardboard - yes, you read that correctly. The central mall is also in shipping containers at the moment, something we obviously liked! The city is also full of little projects filling the gaps by greening them, putting an 18 whole minigolf course equipped with clubs and golf balls throughout the city, opening places for art and all kinds of projects and a common centre for activities of all kinds. Really, really cool!

    We also visited a street art exhibition and one about T-shirts which were both really interesting. In the latter one we even had to show identification to see a certain Cradle of Filth shirt which is banned in New Zealand. That was definitely a first ;).

    We did all that on one day as we are already on the road again. We have a pretty tight schedule planned for our last days, so we'll see how we manage this. Some compassion from you guys would be in order here ;).
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