I have spent a lot of time in the cooling shadows of giant ferns.
Same Shit - Different Topic
I drove into Raglan, settled down at the bar at a hotel and soon after Katka and her surfer friend Noah joined me. They gave me a quick update on the town. It is about SURFING. Apparently I had stumbled into one of the premier surf spots in the world. A Swedish guy I met at the backpacker place I stayed at, told me that he had been dreaming about that place for 15 years and it seemed like he was almost offended when I told him that I don't surf.
I understand him a bit. When I had just started diving on Pulau Weh a group of young Danes showed up. They had no intention (or not enough money) to dive and I couldn't help asking why the hell they had come there.
That is the problem with those kinds of places. If you are not a part of the party you are really, really a fish out of water. In Raglan all conversations were about surfing and I had nothing to contribute with.
It didn't really matter much. I was there to get my bearings and find time to lay
Bridal Veil Falls
55m drop just outside Raglan.
some sort of a plan. And of course to see Katka.
Katka going home
As mentioned in my last post I met Katka on Mount Sinabung on Sumatra last year. Since then I have in fact told her story many times to many people since I have been quite envious of her.
She managed to travel for a long while being able to do her work over the Internet and get enough money to carry on. See, reason to be envious, right? Well, after having lived almost a year on and off in Raglan she has finally run out of money and energy and has decided to go back home. As I am writing she is in fact en route.
I stayed in Raglan for two nights and on the second evening Noah and I jumped in the EEL and drove out to Katka's place. A small hut in the middle of the bush overlooking one of the cherished surfs. It was just a very nice evening (they both did their best to limit the surf-talk :) and I felt the traveler in me being brought back to life.
After Raglan I
Yet another breath taken away on Coromandel.
sort of drove back North. The drive to the Coromandel peninsula went through sheep-laden hills and small wild-west-like towns, but it was Coromandel itself that was the price. The coastal road that edges along it goes from azure bay over steep hills down to the next wonderful cove. The road is lined with trees that are supposed to explode in crimson flowers come December, so I am seriously considering going there again on my way back north.
I sort of found my rhythm on those two days on Coromandel. Get up at eight-ish and do some grocery shopping, head out and make as many stops and detours as possible and settling down with a book when it got seriously serene and then indulge in my gradually more decadent lunch. I bought a large cooler bag in Raglan and this has ensured cold beer and everything else that my heart could desire. I have had the luck of stumbling upon some farmers markets along the way and that has turned my car into a gourmet restaurant. I offered such a lunch to a Norwegian hitchhiker I had picked up one day and he almost couldn't stop laughing when he saw
The North tip of Coromandel Peninsula. A fitting end of the road.
what delicacies I was able to pull out of the trunk.
Taking the plunge
After Coromandel I made my way to Rotorua in the middle of the North Island and the first really planned "event". While I was meditating I let my mind wander sometimes during the rest periods - mainly to see what it would come up with when left to its own devices. All my old girlfriends (actually pretty much every girl I have ever kissed) would drop by. I remember thinking: "Really, that was twenty years ago. Do you really still have issues with her?".
It also entertained me with a jukebox from hell. Songs that I REALLY don't like or ever have liked and thought I had forgotten all about would pop up and refuse to go away. Johnny Reimar smurf songs, "Mexican Whistler" by Roger Whittaker and most disturbingly "When will I be famous" by Bros. DO NOT LOOK THIS UP. It is embarrassing enough that shit like this shows up when I leave my mind on idle.
It (my mind) did however also start wondering about what I should do during my travels in NZ, and one idea came up
Not Scared at All
I actually look pretty brave and I was quite eager to jump.
and left me giggling and with butterflies in my stomach and Rotorua would be the place to do it.
I was going to sky-dive and the giggling just intensified once I had booked the jump. They offered tandem jumps at 9k, 12k and 15k feet and there are no prices for guessing that I picked the latter.
I went to the airport early in the morning and after the formalities had been done (essentially signing a waiver so that if I should die they could not be held responsible) we prepared for the jump. Into a suit and a quick briefing by Mike who was going to do the jump with (for) me.
The tiny plane must have been designed specifically to be able to climb very quickly and we gained height at an incredible speed. At 12.000 feet I was handed an oxygen mask which added a bit to the drama of it all and I got strapped to Mike. And then the green light went on and the door was opened and the photographer climbed out of the plane as Mike and I quite ungracefully shuffled towards the door. It really only took a few
The first few seconds after the jump was a classic "what the f*** am I doing" moment. Not so brave right then Mr. Smartypants!
seconds and then I was basically outside as Mike made the countdown. I felt fantastic and smiled to the camera.
And then we jumped. The weightlessness and disorientation made the first second or two absolutely terrifying, but then we started hurdling towards Gaia in a more orderly fashion and the sheer bombardment of the senses took over. It is freezing cold at those heights and the wind just smashes into your face. Breathing was a bit hard as well and I remember shouting something in Danish but I have no idea what it was. It was just really enjoyable. After little over a minute of free-falling Mike deployed the parachute. All of a sudden everything went quiet and we were in a cloud like being suspended in a giant glass of milk and being able to breathe at the same time.
Below the cloud Mike made us spin for a while and when he let me take control I did the same until I felt a bit light-headed and then we just landed. Nothing dramatic. We had after all just fallen 5 kilometers in about 5 minutes. GREAT. I have already looked up how I can get certification
Safe on the Ground
Mike and I trying to look cool after landing. My travels have given me yet another hobby!
in Denmark to do this on my own.
That very same afternoon I went to a "Maori Village", which really was nothing but a geothermal theme park. But a great one. It featured geysers and bubbling mud-pools and the lovely smell of rotten eggs from the sulphur that spews out throughout Rotorua. The grand finale was a Maori show with Haka and singing and all the trimmings. Extremely touristy and sort of hampered by ill-behaving Chinese tourists (we'd better get used to that), but fun nevertheless. What a day. I even managed to get my laundry done.
The next day it was raining and I fled southward looking for better weather. After Taupo and Napier both disappointed in that respect I simply decided to get to Wellington where I would at least have some indoor options. A very long drive but a very good decision.
Wellington is lovely. I have realized that I have become a B&B person all of a sudden. The backpacker crowd in NZ is young(!) and I am getting old. In Indonesia I wasn't always the oldest guy, but it is different here and it is just not fun. No,
A very cute and quiet neighborhood. My friend Henrik has "Summertime Wellington" by Marianne Muggeridge on his wall and I had the exact same painting on the wall in my room at the B&B. It became a bit of an obsession for me to try to figure out exactly where she painted it from. It must have been from one of the houses on the mid-left side of this shot, but although I spent at least an hour trying to find the spot, I couldn't really get the houses to match :)
a place like Booklovers Bed & Breakfast is infinitely better. Run by author Jane Tolerton it is packed with books and a romantic charm that I find myself being surprisingly attracted to.
Wellington is more or less the same. Cute and charming and just the right size for me. I spent a couple of days exploring the neighborhoods and parks in spectacular but windy weather and whittled away an afternoon in Te Papa - the national museum. A very nice museum but one thing pissed me off to such an extent that I left a bit earlier than planned.
A little history lesson. I first heard about the terrible fate of the Moriori in Jared Diamond's great book "Guns, Germs and Steel". Highly recommended despite that it has some rather embarrassing errors in it (he never replied to my mail :).
The Moriori originated from NZ and from the Maori themselves. As the great explorers that the Maori truly are, they had found and settled on Chatham Islands and became the Moriori people, some rather un-welcoming islands east of NZ. One noticeable aspect of the society that they built up was that it was
See what I mean?
Living in one of those houses would be OK. I am apparently becoming a bit of a romantic :)
essentially democratic and based on a code of absolute non-violence.
Well, that was changed. The islands were discovered in the late 18th century by some English explorer and he made the mistake of telling the Maori in NZ about his discovery. Eventually a Maori tribe chartered a European ship and headed to Chatham Islands.
A massacre followed. Any Moriori that resisted was killed and even eaten in some cases and the remaining were basically enslaved. The Moriori women were forced to marry Maoris and many were forcibly taken back to NZ.
So what was it that pissed me off in Te Papa. Well, they did have a display about the Moriori, but it only mentioned their admirable code of ethics. Not a single word about what the Maoris did to them. I understand that there is a hell of a lot of politics involved in this, but the current absolute reverence for everything Maori is just a nauseating compensation for European guilt over what they did to the Maori. The fact is that the Maoris themselves were very far from the present day image of a benign and lovable indigenous people.
Ok, I got it off
To the stars
Observatory in the Wellington Botanical Gardens.
my chest. As I am writing this three very nice kiwi gentlemen at the next table has just asked me what my biggest thrills and disappointments have been so far and this was the only thing I could think of in the last category.
So this all happened a week ago. I jumped on the ferry to the South Island last Friday and have had some incredible adventures on the South Island so far. Today was magic and a day that I will never forget. But it looks like there will be a few days of shitty weather, so maybe I will be able to catch up.
Burn like a good Bonfire
P.s. Please note that there are more photos on the next page :)
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