But at least it's Summer here
13.01.2010 - 03.02.2010 32 °C
Since I last blogged, my favourite days in NZ have been my glacier walk; Lord of the Rings tour; jet-boating down the Darts River; and most recently my day trip to Cape Reinga - the most northern part of the north island. The glacier walk was fantastic! I was able to do the FULL DAY tour in the end (7 hours) because that half day tour I told you about was cancelled! I decided to stay at the hostel I was already staying in for one more night (where I met three English girls who allowed me to join them in watching the Lord of The Rings 1&2) so I could start my glacier walk at 10am the following morning. After a safety briefing and changing into our ice boots/thick socks/jackets we made our way onto the coach which was to take us to the glacier 20 minutes drive away. Got there and thought "Wow" - we are going to walk on ice 150 metres deep! To get on the glacier though, we first had to climb up 750 steps (this was nothing compared to the amount of steps we had to climb on our trekin' in Nepal!) After sweating in the heat from our steady climb up these steps, we then spent around 4-5 hours on the ice, including our lunch break, while our guide hacked away with his axe, a number of paths for us to 'safely' walk on. We had crampons on our ice boots which made it easier for us to walk on the ice without slipping. We even got to go beneath the ice a few times, as there were quite a few 'holes' in the ice that we could climb down and into! I met some very nice people on that day - there was even a German girl (and a kiwi tour guide!) called Nadine ('Nadine is a very common name in Germany apparently!) I am still in contact with a Scottish couple I met on that tour, who since that day I have met again randomly about 600 km away in a place called Mt Cook...the chances ay?!
The Lord of the Rings tour was very expensive...but at least I had an "Uruk-hai" extra to myself by the name of 'Dean' (or half the day at least). Dean had the opportunity of having had 'style training' for his part as an Urukhai in LOTR and had sword training so he could be used in both the first and second LOTR. He took me to several locations that were used in filming in and around the Queenstown area and showed me the 'exact' spots were scenes were shot (and from what angle the camera was pointing, and where the director and famous actors were standing, etc, etc). Dean has since made a living taking tourists like me round. He also does a bit of modelling and acting himself now! A south african family joined us for the half day tour and we got to dress up in some replica costumes, and wear a hobbits' cloak that was actually used in filming, as well as being able to hold the weaponry!
The next day I went on the Darts River on a jet boat and paid a nice price for that experience. I met the south african family AGAIN on this tour (we tourists go to the same places it seems!) We did some 360 degree spins on the river and rode 250m up-stream, before we got out of our life jackets and were taken on a walking tour of the nearby forestry and then bus ride back. Got to see some more scenery used in the LOTR here. Lots of international adverts for beer, chocolate,etc that pretend they were shot in Switzerland, China, & America..use the backdrop of the scenery here...amazing! Our tour guide, Ron, also told us the story of the possums. Here goes:
Around 1850 the NZ government wanted to start a fur trade. So they approached the Australian government and arranged to have 50 little possums come over on the plane and settle into the forests of NZ. These 50 possums over the next 160 years had turned into 70 million! The reason why their numbers exploded is apparently due to the fact that female possums spend 95% of their lifetimes being pregnant with up to 10 baby possums a time THREE TIMES A YEAR! Now that's a lot of possums ay. Well...because the possum has no predators (unlike in Australia), their numbers keep on growing and growing and each possum eats around 4g of forestry per day! So the kiwi people take great pleasure in killing them so they can preserve their land and then use the possum fur jumpers/hats/scarves! I've also heard people calling them "squashums" and hear jokes like "Why did the possum cross the road?.... The Answer: To see his flatmate." How sad.
I've spent the last couple of days with a girl called 'Ciska', from Holland. We share the same values (not wanting to get wrecked like our fellow backpacker associates/adopting smiley faces to show kindness to people who we don't know rather than having faces like thunder, etc etc - I won't go there!) Anyway, it's been very refreshing to spend some time with her. So yesterday we went to a Maori village together in Ohinemutu (in Rotorua) and our guide, Sunny, spent over 2 hours with us and a (recently married) couple from CROYDON (now living in Auckland, NZ). We each had to give a short 'presentation' to him and our fellow tourist-friends about who we are/where we are from/why we are here in NZ because in Maori culture it is considered very rude not to introduce yourself when entering a marae and meeting house (the marae is the sacred courtyard in front of the meeting house; the meeting house is normally the major central building where 'meetings' as well as funerals take place). I was so engrossed in what Sunny was saying that I didn't take any photos (sorry!) but the meeting house is a very beautiful building, ornately carved, which has a carved figure (representing the ancestor from their tribe who first arrived onto the land) on the roof top. The entire building represents the local tribes' ancestor's body. We were also taken round the marae memorials, where their ancestors who had fought in the Second World War were laid to rest. This part made me cry because Sunny sung us a beautiful song that their ancestors apparently would sing before they entered combat. It made me more upset to hear that their ancestors were instructed to be on the frontline (where you were most likely to be killed) while their fellow Australian and NZ soldiers were allowed to attack from 'hidden' / less-likely-to-be-killed positions. The worst bit of all is that if their ancestors (who arrived in NZ thousands of years earlier than the first European settler) chose not to fight in the war they would not be 'accepted' as citizens in THEIR OWN COUNTRY!!!! Oh...mi...gosh.
And with all this information stowed upon us, we were told that it was up to us if we wanted to leave a donation. I must add that this is the first time in NZ that I have been somewhere that didn't cost a freakin' fortune and was the first place I had been that wholeheartedly deserved my money!
So tomorrow I am going on a "FREE" 6 hour day walk to the Tongariro National Park, which is supposed to be one of the best day walks in New Zealand (HOWEVER, "that's 55 dollars to take you to the start of the Tongariro crossing and back to your accommodation") I have to be up at 5am tomorrow morning for a bus that leaves my accommodation at 5.40am. Oh mi. Well, think of me while I'm hiking for 18.5 kilometres with steep climbs and unpredictable weather...