Thursday, February 28, 2008

Places Not to Fall Down, Episode 6

Shot at Barrys Bay Cheese, on the Banks Peninsula (Akaroa) outside of Christchurch, New Zealand. Mmmmm..... cheese...

Moment of Zen from New Zealand

Doesn't get much simpler than that.

Milford Track

Due to an extremely quick-mouse-clicking travelmate, we were able to score 2 last-minute spots on the Milford Track (usually booked ~6 months in advance, despite the cost ($120 to hike unguided for 4 days)) and had 3 days to drive from the top of the south island to the track. We went down the west coast, stopping at Greymouth (to stay at the Global Village, see this post) and Hokitika to look at some jade carvings, and Fox glacier for some hiking, through Wanaka, and then back up to Te Anau.

Back to the Milford Track. The track is super-restricted, you have to hike in a certain direction, have to take a boat to the start and from the finish (different locations), and MUST stay 1 night in each of 3 huts. Kinda odd, but interesting because you basically are hiking/living with 40 strangers all day and night for a short week. Met some neat people.

First things first: they have helicopter pads built on top of the bogs so they can fly rich people in. Lame.

Second things second: they have the craziest air strip I've ever seen in my life. Suggled in between two mountain (fjord) walls, with about 500 meters clearance on each side, and a 1000 meter tall wall at one end of the strip:

Third: Loo With A View. Not much to say about this toilet someone ploped on top of the 1000m pass. Just sit back and enjoy the view.

Fourth: These helicopter pilots are nuts. I like how this guy opened his door to keep the trees in view. This is routine, and you should see the speed at which they maneuver through the trees. I have seen some drop in 20 meter clearings to land (surrounded by tall trees).

Finally, they have some wicked waterfalls. Check out Sutherland Falls, the tallest in the country, dropping a full stream of water even in dry times a staggering 1,904 feet!

(I know, I've got to get my head out of the way for more of these shots...)

Places Not To Fall Down, Episode 5

Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a totally awesome hike that you should see at least part of on your next trip to New Zealand. I was able to hike part of it in January and the rest of it in February (about 5 days on it, total), and take 3 water taxis around the area to really see the remote spots (that you can't even get to by hiking).

In addition to all the cool seals, fish, and birds that were alive, we (unfortunately) saw a number of dead ones, including some really cute, really make-tough-guys-shed-a-tear kind of dead penguins. I figured I shouldn't post a picture of that here, though.

ps. It was really green in the rainforest...

New Zealand Weather Site

Just for my records, and for anyone planning to go to New Zealand, I wanted to post this great weather site for New Zealand:

(They also have weather for a few other places in the world: )

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Goat Island Marine Reserve & Mountain Biking

This past weekend (okay, way back in early Feb.) I hung out with some family friends in Auckland and was eager to take them up on their offer to go up to the family bach (holiday home) at the beach a bit north of the city. On Saturday we went to the Goat Island Marine Reserve and did some snorkeling. Glad that my camera was waterproof, I was able to take some good stills and videos. (Click the above image to really see the good detail of the shrimp and fish that decided my ankle was really interesting.)

Sunday we went mountain biking at a great spot somewhat like a ski resort, but for mountain bikes. Called Woodhill Mountain Bike Park, it probably had a few hundred kilometers of bike tracks/routes through the forest, from beginner to advanced. Good trailer / advertisement, click here. Check out two of the many structures they've put up for the advanced riders:
Holden & Bike for size comaprison only, no other claims made... :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tongariro Crossing

Last week I hiked a one-day (18 km?) portion of the 5 day "Northern Tongariro Circuit" called the Tongariro Crossing. It's basically a saddle hike that goes between two of the three main active volcanoes on the north island of New Zealand (Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Tongariro). The picture above is of Mt. Ngauruhoe... otherwise known as Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings.
Unfortunately, the weather was pretty dodgy as we hiked towards the top and half of the people hiking it that day decided to turn back. Of course, being fully prepared, I had nothing to lose and went for it. It was a good hike, there were beautiful blue-green pools at the top, but unfortunately it was super windy and cold (about 50 mph and a measured 36 degrees), so I didn't hang out long.
Additionally, we were in the clouds, so I'm not gonna post any pictures of that. You've all seen gray before, right? (Changed my mind, here's a picture. It's pretty gnarly up there. This was just off the path, and beyond those fingers of rock was a 200 ft. cliff.)

I hate to tell you all, but portions of the descent are now paved... literally.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Down here, even McDonalds is "good."

You can click the image to see it larger, and read on the paper placemat in my (regulation size and color) McDonalds tray that they are doing some really positive things down here in NZ that make me less afraid of visiting their restaurants.

Makes me feel like there's hope for all this international, regulation-free, capitalism, after all!

Wellington, Te Papa Museum, take 2

Outside the museum there was an old Vauxhall in excellent condition, that, apparently, someone had driven that day. Amazing that this would be their commuter car! Email me if you want more pictures of the dashboard or steering mechanisms.

I really should have done a second take with this movie, "Places Not to Fall Down, Episode 4," but I figured enough talking in a museum. Sorry for the bad audio. Transcription below.

"Hi, It's Holden and we're in Te Papa, the Wellington National Museum, and this is another episode of 'Where not to fall down' (sic) and that's on these huge massive bronze spikes that are like (unintelligible) 6 meters high, and you don't want to fall on them. Bye."

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Spent the day walking around downtown Wellington yesterday.

I was able to take a look around the Te Papa - New Zealand's national museum. Saw some exhibits on the native Maori peoples (not unlike those at the Auckland museum -- which were more complete, I thought), the environment in NZ (complete with magnitude 5 earthquake simulation and volcanoe demonstrations), and some local artwork. It was way too big a museum for 1 day, and the feet were aching.

Also had a chance to look at the botanical gardens and ride the historic Wellington Cable Car (and watch the nearby cricket match happening in the park).

Oh, and I like this huge billboard ad for Adidas that shows the traditonal Haka dance. Possibly the best two videos on youtube, very worth watching:

Video 1

Video 2 (Not sure where that second link went...)


Cook Strait

The journey northward continues, and I'm now on the north island of New Zealand. The above picture is from on the ferry that I took across the cook strait, at sunrise (actually, had to arrive at 4:30am...). It was really picturesque with all the islands and fingers of land all around, and the sun coming up and bouncing off them all (and the water of course). Cameras really don't do it justice; hence only 1 picture.

More clear cutting

So here's my first picture from the north island of New Zealand. It's the hills and skyline of Wellington, as you come into port. (Okay, there are some other nice buildings, for sure.) I was just amazed at how much "forestry" was going on in the background, to have such a noticeable impact on the hills. Picture to right pops to full resolution.

On the south island, you can really see how "efficiently" they work.