Apr 042014
 

After some fine,hedonistic days in Marrakech we headed out to the desert outside the city. We drove along with the Atlas Mountains on one side, and endless stone desert on the other side, interrupted only by the occasional village.

Girls in desert

Girls in desert

This was a different world from the daily life we ​​got a glimpse of when in Marrakech. “the hustle and the bustle of the big city” was only a distant memory as we were racing past wrinkled old shepherds with their parasite-infested cows, and playful Arab kids.

Desert Village

Desert Village

The tea-drinking old men were as prominent in the rural areas as in the big city.
We were ready for some rough,uncivilized days of camping in the desert. This was really going to be “survival of the fittest” Like our ancestors we would be fighting hard for our food…or so we thought..

Here we were going to the desert and living in dirty goatskin tents with Bedouins and donkeys, and the food, we would have to capture ourselves. Only those who managed to find the ever-so-elusive desert bunny would be eating that evening.

It was not quite how our desert experience would be.

"Tent" inside

“tent” inside

We came to the fine,big tents at the camp to terredesetoiles and accommodated us in a room with big double beds,sofas,electricity, and even toilet and shower. Not exactly like your average camping trip in the Norwegian mountains.

Sunset in the Agafay desert

Sunset in the Agafay desert

The camp was in the middle of no-mans-land. It was quite quiet there,a small hill surrounded by desert on all sides, and the Atlas mountains in the horizon. It was a perfect contrast to the life in the city.
After finding a suitable tent I decided to spend some quality time with the camels(very pretty ones; .) that were parked not too far from the tents.

Stig and camel

Stig and camel

They were a highly entertaining gang. They were much more social than the average camel. In Egypt and Syria the camels would bite your hand off if you tried to touch them, but these ones actually searched for attention(and the hay that I fed them).
I think perhaps that I gave a little too much attention to one camel, as he suddenly became terribly horny. Luckily there was a fence between us, so he began to fuck one of the lady camels instead. It was an interesting little show. She lay down on all fours and waited until he came running, but many times he just sort of throned above her like a display of dominance.

display of dominance

display of dominance

There was quite a lot of action that evening, as they ended up having sex like 4 or 5 times before he had had enough. It made for some some cool pictures of mating camels at sunset in the desert.

Sweet love!

Sweet love!

There is obviously hormones in the air in Morocco. Earlier in the day we witnessed a small turtle who raped another turtle and squirted all over her back, an affair that was completely devoid of romance.

mating turtles

mating turtles

After the sun had disappeared behind the endless desert plains, the organizers began serving drinks. I had absolutely zero expectations before I went to the camp,so I was very pleasantly surprised when I found out that there was an open bar!.

Green dancing men

Green dancing men

I was actually surprised to even find a bar in the middle of nowhere. It was a really good setup – wine,beers,snacks,Shisha hookahs and good company. It was even more unexpected when a local dance group suddenly appeared and started dancing. They were dressed in traditional Moroccan dancing Costumes, and they were relatively bouncy people.

Pink dancing men

Pink dancing men

First there was a bunch of green men, Then there was an even bigger bunch of pink-clad Arabs.
They were good dancers,as far as I could tell, and hey had some fun hand-held instruments,and a cobra-flute.
It was very entertaining and fun,but naturally it came to the point which is inevitable in any cultural dance show – pulling in an innocent (and tipsy) tourist.
As the only male in the group I was the natural victim when theywere looking for a dance partner. They were probably a little bit more comfortable dancing with a man, since that is what they are used to,and it`s the culture of Morocco.

Shisha water pipe

Shisha water pipe

It was not something I wanted to do, but I knew(from experience) that they would continue to push me, however much i would deny….I felt a bit like an idiot, but was not to bothered anyway.

After many glasses of wine,beer and endless amounts of water pipe, we went into the dinner-tent for a complete Moroccan feast/banquet.

The gang at the dining table

The gang at the dining table

There was spicy meat,vegetables and red wine, all in the mix. The service was spectacular. For every sip I took of my wineglass tthere was a guy running toward me with refills, and so went the whole evening. It was a good night in the desert. Instead of the simple,Spartan desert-life we had an evening of hedonistic pleasures,All the better.

Delicious morocco food

Delicious morocco food

I did not sleep too much in my luxury tent,but that was only because mosquitoes continued to simmer into my ear. The morning sun was beautiful. We had a big breakfast in the tent,and got to taste the various local stuff. After breakfast, I had some time to just prance around a bit in the quiet desert terrain. It was very nice and quiet in the morning. I would`nt have minded being there several more nights,but that'll be for another time. The tour went on to Ziplining in the Atlas mountains!

Desert-Stig

Desert-Stig

thanks to Visit Morocco and Sahara experience who have sponsored this feast. I can recommend the whole desert experience, but would recommend more than one night!
Thanks also to Ms and Norwegian travel blogger who has been the glue that has binds us all together.
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 Posted by at 7:49 pm
Dec 292013
 

Hanoi was a little less chaotic than Saigon, yet more chaotic than most cities I've been in. On our first day in Hanoi we were of course scammed by a Vietnamese taxidriver, but after that things picked up a bit. We went to Hanoi old town to find a hostel in a little side-street. We picked one at random and remained there. The hostel was only average, but it had an advantage which pulled it up to full marks for me - free beer for more than 2 hours every night !! P1060366
It's pretty crazy to stay at a place with free beer. After the first glass it was not very tempting to have another one as it did not taste particularly good,

Torunn drinking beer !

Torunn drinking beer !

but it was a taste that grew on us (especially after 2-3 glasses). There was a large barrel where we could fill up our glasses every time we ran out of beer. We ended up quite tipsy every single night for 4 days. All my memories from Hanoi seem a little blurred.
We lived right next to a small lake that was nice to stroll around. Along the lake we saw amorous young couples in their best outfits posing for pictures in romantic poses next to the lake, to decorate the mantelpiece (or the aircondition).
By chance we came across a camera team from Vietnam national TV that wanted to interview us. We agreed to that, and immediately they placed typical Vietnam-hats on our heads, just so there would be absolutely zero doubt that we were tourists. We answered many funny questions about Hanoi, a city we had only been in for a few hours and had

Interview with Vietnam Television

Interview with Vietnam Television

no knowledge about.
Next on our agenda during our touristy day in Hanoi was a traditional waterpuppet show….! I have no idea why the dolls need to be in water, but I guess it gives them the possibility to put in things like boats, fish and sea snakes.

Waterpuppets

Waterpuppets

It was a funny thing, but became a bit repetitive after an hour. The dolls jumped up and down in the water and danced in circles while singing. Sometimes there was some drama with dragons and sea snakes and fighting for women, all the typical things in the Vietnamese daily life. Next to the water stage there was a traditional Vietnamese band that played music during the acts. When the puppet theater was finished we found out, to our dismay, that it was only 10 minutes until the free-beer time so we hurried back to the hostel and let the fun begin.

 Posted by at 12:41 pm
Nov 292013
 

 

The hunt for the platypus in Victoria Point

We arrived to a small town outside Brisbane called Victoria Point.

Victoria point

Victoria point

It is right by the sea, and seems like a place where elite from Brisbane live. We arrived just in time to see a beautiful sunset. Just when the colors were at their best a flock of dolphins appeared. Twenty dolphin-fins emerged from the water and moved synchronised into the vanishing sunlight.
Then we found the street where our new local friends lived,and where we would be staying the next few days.
We quickly got to know Tim and Kassandra and found out that we had a lot in common. They were a very nice couple in 30 and 40s who worked hard towards their dream of traveling around the world indefinitely. Their apartment was very small and intimate, but they still found room for both me and Torunn to stay with them.

Together with the Treehuggers

Together with the Treehuggers

It is that kind of people who restore my faith in humanity. They served us an original vegetarian potato-dish for dinner, and the rest of the evening we ended up just talking.

They were both “treehuggers”, which means that they wer active in a local environmental organisation, which of course is admirable in itself.

The first day we borrowed their bikes and explored some nature parks around Victoria Point. There were a lot of woods in the area, but what we really hoped for was to encounter a koala bear or a platypus. We were unfortunately not so lucky despite persistent attempts to find the beaked mammals. We found a pond named “Platypus-pond”, that had a picture of a platypus. When we approached the pond I saw something that instantly jumped into the water…possibly a platypus, but it was too fast to know for sure. The hunt for platypus is to be continued...….I will not give up until I find a damn platypus !
We also drove out to a protected forest where some enthusiasts had unleashed a bunch of koala-bears. We spent time at a learning center about how difficult it is to be a koala bear nowadays, and then we wandered around in the woods for 2 hours looking to find some. How they have managed to become endangered is difficult to understand in terms of how good they are at hiding.

Brisbane

We spent a day in the city of Brisbane. It was a pretty nice city, very modern and very “happening”. The Australians have really understood the whole thing about enjoying life. All Australian cities we went to had enormous fake beaches built around a huge outdoor pool, and everything was free! It was not very tempting to swim in the dirty city river, or trying to find your way to a spot by the coast where you can swim. Many are worried about swimming in the sea because there are lots of jellyfish which can kill people, as well as sharks that eat people. This is why all the cities have alternative swimming-areas. In Brisbane there was one absolutely idyllic beach pool along the river.

The city beach in Brisbane

The city beach in Brisbane

If I lived in Brisbane I know where I had spent most of my time. We walked around town a full day to soak up the atmosphere, see traditional building and drink some local beer.
The beach-area was not the only area available for recreation. There was also a giant park with colorful trees and noisy parrots, surrounded by high-rise buildings. It was a lovely little free zone for the locals.

Torunn in Brisbane

Torunn in Brisbane

Brisbane is probably one of the more pleasant cities I've been in, I definitely would not mind living there. It also helps that they have sunny weather almost all year round. The downside with Brisbane was that the parking cost a fortune.
We went back to Victoria Point and made a better meal for the treehuggers.

Downtown Streets in Brisbane

Downtown Streets in Brisbane

My first burglary..

The next day it was time to say goodbye to our new friends and continue on our journey towards Cairns. We left the apartment with Kassandra when she was going to work, and began driving north. After 10 minutes in the car, we found out that we had managed to forget all our money inside the house. It was a very bad situation to be in. Kassandra and Tim were at work, and we had no way to contact them, but we had to get the money before we could move on.
We drove back to their house and took our first step towards a criminal career. We were in a desperate situation where the only choice we had was to find some way to break into the house. I walked along the house and checked all the windows. There was a window in the back that was open, but to get in there I would have had to break parts of the window.

 

Eventually I found a window on the front of the house that was partially open. It was a little hemp on the inside that we to try to get up in various ways. We felt very exposed as we tried to break into the house. Some neighbours stood only a few meters from us and worked with their garden. The looks they sent us were not the good kind. Torunn had to explain the whole thing that we were friends with Kassandra and had forgotten our wallet, but they were not convinced. They wanted to call the police, which made our job much more difficult. They must have thought we were the most unprofessional burglars ever breaking in in the middle of the day, did great effort not to break anything, and then discuss the robbery attempt with the neighbours.

Brisbane skyline

Brisbane skyline

We had to take our chances, continue the break-in and hope that we did not end up in a cell. After much ado, and after giving out passport numbers to the neighbours, I made a special stick that I used to open the hemp on the inside of the window.
I managed to lift Torunn up through the window and pushed her onto the kitchen sink in a wonderfully little graceful way. We were inside ! We were officially burglars in Australia. Torunn manage to tidy all the mess we had made in the kitchen, found the wallet (under the sofa) and locked the door and window.
We sent a message to Kassandra and told her what we had done, just so she would not be too surprised when the neighbors would informed her of the burglary later in the day.

 

 Posted by at 12:57 pm
Nov 282013
 

By the time we had managed to find our way out of the Sydney maze, it was already getting dark…and we actually left Mannys place at the crack of dawn to get out of town before rush hour . We got lost so many times that we ended up driving past the same toll station 3 times…goodbye to 100 kroner.

The road north….
4 hours later we arrived at a small village called Old Bar close to the larger city of Taree.

Us with Wanda in Old Bar

Us with Wanda in Old Bar

Wanda lived there, who was to be our new couchsurfing host. She is a naturopath and love taking pictures of people's souls. Wanda took us around the surrounding area and to forest that was full of screaming giant bats. They call them flying fox in Australia. It was a pretty cool forest, hundreds of thousands of bats arguing for space on the branches of the trees. They're pretty cute when you get near them, but it's a bad idea to stand too long under the bat-trees. There are bombs falling there. This forest was also the place of our first encounter with the bush-turkey. Our first bush turkeys were very exciting, but we soon found out that it is not possible to go into any forest in Australia without meeting lots of them. Usually we would go to look for something or other exciting animal, then we would hear rustling from the bushes, and it always ended up being a bush-turkey. They make very much noise when they move around, and they are not particularly clever or quick. It is nothing less than a miracle that they are not extinct a long time ago.

Bats sleeping

Bats sleeping

Wanda took us for a walk in the forest near the beach and various nature-spots around Old bar. It was particularly cool around dusk when all the trees came alive with thousands of screaming birds. Birds of all colors came out to look for their favourite-berries. We saw more birds in a regular neighborhood in on evening than we did a week in the rainforest of Ecuador. Most of the birds were special rainbow-colored parrots. For the locals, they were about as exciting as a seagull, so they wondered what was happening when we tried to take pictures of these birds.

 

The backpacker-paradise of Byron Bay and hippie village of Nimbin

We said goodbye to Wanda after a delicious breakfast in her garden surrounded by screaming parrots. Doing a roadtrip in Australia is a pretty pleasant experience. The roads are perfect and always goes straight through bushland and desert areas. We drove off the main road for a distance to get to see a bit of scenery along the many small roads going north. Eventually we arrived to a small idyllic place called Coffs harbor where we got to experience a genuine Australian organic market. We also wandered aimlessly around for a while looking at all the locals who were doing what they like best; surfing.

In Coffs harbour

In Coffs harbour

Byron Bay was much of the same. It is one of the world's most famous surf towns. In the absence of a local to stay with we ended up in an expensive dormitory sharing room with some German teenage girls.

Stig in Byron Bay

Stig in Byron Bay

Byron Bay is backpacker-town number 1 in Australia. Most people we met were from different places in Europe.
We went for a walk to the lighthouse in Byron Bay, which we found out was the eastern-most point in all of Australia. On the way to the lighthouse we had to walk through some jungle, but the only thing we saw of wildlife were bush-turkeys (...). Every time I heard noises in the woods, hoping for some exciting animal, another bush-turkey emerged.
From the peninsula where the lighthouse was located, we walked along the beach all the way back to Byron Bay where we relaxed with a well-deserved cold beer.
In the evening we were going have dinner at a restaurant in town.

Australia's easternmost point

Australia's easternmost point

We went to one of the cheaper places we could find, and were denied entrance by a muscle-man in the door. There were 18 years age limit, and we did not have ID with us. We are both over 30, and neither of us was going to drink, but that obviously meant nothing. This restaurant deserves going bankrupt when this is the way they treat paying customers! No one has asked me for ID since I was 17….

Hippies in Nimbin Still Dreaming

After Byron Bay we headed up into the mountains to a hippie-village called Nimbin. The mountainous landscape around Nimbin was bright green with grazing cattle and pristine forests. It felt a bit like we had left Australia to Alps.

Single cow on a mountain

Single cow on a mountain

Nimbin is a strange place. It is a small mountain village which had a hippie festival in the 70s, and since than a huge number of hippies decided to stay there. Then more and more hippies arrived until the whole place was totally dominated by guitar-clunking men with velvet pants, and blonde ladies with flowers in their hair and joints in their mouths.

guitar-hippie

guitar-hippie

It has been known as a kind of free zone. A free zone where everyone smokes weed and eat hash cakes openly despite the fact that it really is illegal. We were there only for an hour, but were offered everything from hallucinogenic mushrooms to hash brownies and home-grown strong marijuana.
It seemed like a pretty alright village to live in. Most of the hippies care about things like organic food, environmental protection and sustainable development, which are all very good things to care about. The hippies have got it right, politicians and capitalists definitely have got it wrong. Some have described Nimbin as “an Amsterdam in the Australian mountains”
We dropped hashish Museum (as we went to the hash-museum in Amsterdam) and continued north towards Brisbane.

 Posted by at 12:18 pm
Nov 182013
 

In Martinborough, we met an older couple who lives in a big house in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields with cows and sheep. It was a very special couchsurfing-experience from the very beginning. We were accommodated in a small cozy 3 story house with its own kitchen and made up beds. The only thing that was missing was a mint-chocolate on the pillow!

Breakfast with couchsurfers in rural NZ

Breakfast with couchsurfers in rural NZ

Then we ate a delicious meal that they had made for us. It was all very nice and proper, and looked like something we could have been served at a Michelin restaurant. Their house was very special - built in 8 different sections in a hill. It was just like 8 different houses that were connected to form one large house. The bottom section of the house had a warm and cozy sitting area with a fireplace. After dinner we sat in front of the warm fire together with Duncan, Jan and their 2 friends. It was the most surreal couchsurfing experience I've ever had. We sat by the fireplace with a writer, a professor in a medical school, and a Supreme Court judge and drank wine while we talked about the consequences of global warming. It was a good thing that we both have higher education, otherwise we would probably feel a bit out-of-place in such fine company. After many intellectual conversations and a little too much wine so retired to our little couch surfer-house.

Local wildlife

Local wildlife

The reason we had a stop in Martinbourough was that it is known as one of the largest wine regions in New Zealand, and we wanted to do some wine-tasting in different vineyards. Unfortunately, most of the vineyards were closed since it was a Saturday in low season. So we got to taste some wine in a market in the village instead, and spent the rest of the day driving to the south-eastern tip of the north island. There was a huge seal-colony,

Seals

Seals

and after 1 hours of walking we found a cool lighthouse with great views. The seals were pretty entertaining, but most of them were really lazy, sleeping on the grassy pathway leading to the lighthouse. It seemed like they were dead until I went over to them and jumped when one of the sleeping giants jumped up from his sleep and began to hiss at me. "Go away you useless human ape!"" Okay,okay, you do not have to ask me 2 times "
The drive along the coast was very beautiful. We could see all the way to the South Island, but had no desire to go there because it was freezing at that time of year. We saw very many sheep along the road. They like sheep in New Zealand. I have heard that there are 50 sheep for every person there, ought to be enough really.
We said goodbye to our new upper-class friends and continued north towards Taupo and Rotorua. After an hour drive we passed a brewery and I did what I always do when I see a brewery; did a U-turn and drove back there. Tui is the best known and most popular beer in New Zealand.

The sampling of beer

The sampling of beer

We did not bother doing a tour because it was too expensive, and since we have seen quite a lot of breweries before. Instead we bought a tray with a samples of all the beers that they made. The time was technically only 11 in the morning, and we do not usually drink before 12, but this was just a little too good an opportunity to skip!
Further along the road north, we drove through a national park which was a fantastic nature experience. Snowy mountains and extinct volcanoes in front of plains and pine forests. The extinct volcano was no other than Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. We found ourselves in the middle of Mordor!

Road Trip by mount doom !

Road Trip by mount doom !

We stopped for lunch at Lake Taupo and went for a walk to a waterfall which apparently is the number 1 tourist-attraction in New Zealand. It was a nice waterfall, but we have seen better (It starts to feel like this with many different things after travelling a lot and seeing a lot of beautiful places).
The walk to the falls was nice. We walked past a river and a hot spring that emptied into the river. In the hot spring, there were many unattractive japanese people in small panties, so we chose not to swim there.

crowded hot spring

crowded hot spring

When we got to Roturua I found out that our host also was an upper-class person. His family had the nicest house we have ever couchsurfed in!
Richard is a bank manager who lives with his family on a plot on the hillside overlooking the city and valley. He invited us into his giant ultra-modern super-house where we had our own huge bedroom with private bathroom. One wall was just a big window that led straight out to the garden. From our bed we had a view over the valley of Roturua. There were no curtains, so when the sun rose at 07.00 in the morning we woke up with a sunrise. It was spectacular, and unlike any place I've ever lived.
It was also nice to talk to Richard and his family. He told us that he, his wife Karen and their 11 year old daughter recently had traveled in 6 months together through Asia and Europe. It's well done to go on a trip with a little girl in tow, kudos. Maybe life does not have to be over even if you choose to have a baby? Who knows.
Richard gave us some tips on good hot spring that we could go to without having to pay. We drove a long way into the woods until we found a small path, and a warm river.

Stig and Torunn in a hot stream

Stig and Torunn in a hot stream

We bathed and were the only ones there; it was the first time we've had a hot spring for ourselves. It was a real nature experience - splashing around in 40C hot water far into the woods with no other people nearby. We found several other spring that we bathed in alone. Most other tourists are paying hundreds of kroner to sit in a concrete pool with hot water along with hundreds of other tourists. It really pays off to get to know the local people!
We also visited one Maori village in Rotorua. It was a bit more of a tourist attraction, but still something worth doing. Rotorua is an area with enormous amount of volcanic activity. It is not an exaggeration to say that one should be very careful when walking in the area around the city, It is very easy to just plop down in some random boiling mud puddle.

Roturua hot springs

Roturua hot springs

The ground boils everywhere, and the stench of sulphur is something you just have to get used to. The Maoris exploited this to their advantage when they built their village. They built it around a bunch of geysers and boiling water and mud. They used heat to cook vegetables, and to heat up their homes and of course also to bathe in. The village had a public swimming area where everyone could bathe, but everyone bathing there had to be naked. I imagine that there were mostly men there.

Thermal village

Thermal village

Me and Torunn had a corn on the cob each, cooked in natural boiling water, before watching a Maori dance show. The dance show was very funny. There were 5-6 Maoris who danced away with grass skirts and tongues much further out than is comfortable. One of the men looked really bored the whole time, while the other was so into it and was dancing like there was no tomorrow.

New friends ;)

Nye venner 😉

Funny contrast. The women had a little show where they were throwing balls around . It was clear that they had done this before. I do not think I could ever manage to spin balls around as good as them.
After a few days of luxury in Rotorua it was time to head back to Auckland to continue the journey towards Australia. In Auckland we stayed with a woman named Susan and her 3 children. She was kind enough to take us in “last minute” since our original host ceased to respond to our messages. She lived a bit away from the center, so on our last day in New Zealand we went to a zoo that was not far away. It was a nice zoo where we finally got to see a real Kiwi! They have a nocturnal house so that day the animals sleeping rhythms are turned upside down. Thus, we could see the Kiwi when it was active.
The zoo was a nice ending to New Zealand time time around. We hope to get the chance to travel back there and experience the South Island in the summer sometime in the future. Australia next!!

 Posted by at 5:18 in the morning
Nov 092013
 

It was 4 in the morning when, tired and exhausted, we put our feet on the New Zealand soil. The custom officers were friendly, and spoke to us as if we were ordinary people, highly unusual! They are obsessed with avoiding any kind of food being introduced to the country, so we were a bit nervous that they would find the jar of Nutella that we did not have the heart to throw away. Once through security we were had a shock from the cold after the good hot days in Rarotonga. We had no idea how to get to Auckland City, or where we were to stay, but when I accidentally checked my email at McDonalds in the airport, I found out that we had a couchsurfing host in town.

Auckland town centre

Auckland town centre

I called him, and one hour later we were in Hamish` kitchen drinking fresh New Zealand "flat white" which is a very good luxury coffee. Although it was around 5 C outside, there was no heating in his house. In New Zealand there are very few that actually heat their houses, they just wear more clothes instead. Us Norwegians are accustomed to comfortable warm houses, and being able to walk around inside with a T-shirt mid-winter, which is preferable to having to wear a bubble jacket indoors, and yet constantly feel cold. We put on all the warm clothes we could find, and went out to "do" Auckland. Auckland is a very modern and clean city, and the people looked really well groomed. We almost felt a bit left out not wearing a suit and tie. One of the most special things about Auckland was the way the pedestrian crossing worked. The big intersection in the town centre had a system that had a green man in all directions! When this happened the road filled up with pedestrian walking in all sorts of directions, also diagonally. I have never seen that in any other country, but it should be like this everywhere. Many countries only consider making life easy for cars.

Pink bald lady on the pier

Pink bald lady on the pier

Most restaurants we passed were very expensive, so we ended up going to an Asian food market with many different stalls that sold everything from Japanese to Indonesian and Thai food. My favorite food is sushi, whic was very reasonable at most places in Auckland. P1020381 We walked along the pier and got our first glimpse of the skyline of Auckland. It definitely has a very special skyline, that can not be confused with any other city. “ The sky tower” is the pride of the town. It is one of New Zealand's tallest building with its more than 200 meters , and looks like it is straight out of a science fiction movie. It is possible to pay to walk around the big ring on top of the tower, and if you have enough money then you can also pay to jump off the tower. I would definitely have jumped from the tower if it was a bit cheaper…I promise… Those that do are secured to a line which goes all the way to the ground,, so it is in a way like rappelling into thin air, only with much higher speed. We walked along the pier and looked at the fish market and did some people watching before we went back to Hamish and the other couchsurfers living at his place. Together with another couple, who was from Switzerland, we made a pizza that we shared with Hamish.

 

The following day we got an even better chance to study the skyline of Auckland when we went out to a small volcanic island called Rangitoto. It is the youngest island I have ever been on, only 500 years old, which is like a potty-baby in geologic time.
After a short and very very expensive boat ride we were on the volcanic island,ready to mount our fifth volcano. The island was formerly used as a getaway for the rich Auckland people, but is now closed of as a nature reserve. A major problem there is all the critters that eat the eggs of some rare endemic birds. For years, conservationists put out traps for rats and hedgehogs, and after much work finally eradicated them from the island. We saw lots of traps on the way up to the top of the volcano. At the top we found out that it did`nt really feel like a volcano as there were lots of trees, and it was hardly possible to see that there was a crater,and not just a random valley.
The view was very good. We could see far up to the beautiful island regions north of Auckland, and then toward the green landscape that rippled out towards the coast
On the way down we climbed through some caves, something that Torunn was`nt too thrilled with considering her spider phobia kicking in again.

The next day we headed back to Auckland city and rented a car to drive around the south island 2 weeks. We decided to skip the South Island, even though everyone says it is so amazingly beautiful there. 2,5 weeks is just not enough time to do both islands, and in addition, it sounds like the nature on the south island is quite similar to Norway. It was also much colder there, even snow in places.

Whangarei promenade

Whangarei promenade

The first day we drove North towards the tip of New Zealand to a village called Whangarei. We drove a scenic route with evergreen valleys and occasional forests. There was no longer any doubt where the Lord of the Rings was filmed! We went past Whangarei and onto the tip of a peninsula called Whangarei Heads. We were staying there with a lady called Donna. We arrived at a converted boathouse and were greeted by a really fat cat who was afraid of his own shadow. We went into the cold boathouse and were served lovely Pad Thai that Donna had prepared up for us. She was an interesting lady who shared our interest in atheism and travel. In the morning, me and Torunn had a walk around the area.

Paddler in Whangarei

Paddler in Whangarei

It was very nice and peaceful on the stone beach. The water was silent except for a young New Zealander who was paddling standing on a surfboard, which apparently is the trend in the country. After breakfast Donna took us to see some of Whangarei. Torunn learned to weave at the local art center while I ate sushi on the street. We had planned to dive on a very nice reef outside the city, but gave up the idea when we saw the poster outside the dive center "ready to freeze, come on in!"We stopped by a local cave on the way back to our boathouse.

Stig in cave

Stig in cave

It was actually pretty cool to find a cave without any entry fee or tours which was always the case in South America. There was only a small sign there that said “enter at your own risk”. I do everything on my own risk, so I was ok with that. I and Torunn had headlamps, and walked into the darkness while Donna was waiting outside.

Glowworm threads

Glowworm threads

It was exciting to walk into the dark cave while it got tighter and tighter. After we had been walking a few hundred meters into the cave, we saw that the roof and wall reflected our lights. Minerals in the rock created a stunning effect and atmosphere. When we turned off the lights we saw a starry sky of hundreds of small lights. These were the so-called "glow-worms" that live only in New Zealand. They are bio luminescent larvae that glow in the dark to attract insects. They are really bizarre organisms. They live their adult stage as a fly for 3 days, just enough to reproduce and lay lots of eggs. Their life is so short that they do not even have a mouth or an intestinal system. The eggs hatch into larvae that live for 9 months before they hatch into flies. They drop down several long slimy threads that catch insects in the caves. The insects are attracted by the droppings of the larvae that glow in the dark! I continued deeper into the cave and jumped when I felt something moving in the icy water I waded through, but it was just a small cave crayfish. I tried as hard as I could not think of the movie "The Descent". It was an exciting experience, and I found out that I'm not quite as claustrophobic as previously suspected.

Torunn and Donna under the tree

Torunn and Donna under the tree

The area around the cave was also quite magical. Everything reminded me of Lord of the Rings. We even found a little magic forest. I climbed a giant pine needle tree, while Torunn and Donna waited patiently on the ground. In the evening we ate pasta and discussed religion with Donna, who also proved to be a dedicated atheist. We watched a documentary called "Jesus Camp" which was pretty crazy, and quite terrifying. It is mostly about indoctrination, and aboutt incomprehensibly unintelligent people.

 Posted by at 4:12 in the morning