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 20/12 1997 - 5/1 1998    

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Diary 1 2 3
 Experience shows that the Danish winter is not exactly the right climate for my body. A quick glance at the globe convinces me, that on the other side of the equator is "my" weather. Since it is difficult to find someone who wants to go travelling in Christmas, I have to go alone, therefore it must be an "easy and friendly" country. It must be warm and interesting, offer a lot of nature and then it does not have to be cheap. The choice is simple: I need to experience the high summer in New Zealand!

20. My parents drive me to the airport at 9am, with SAS to Heathrow, where I buy a backpack that I saw the last time I was there.
Then I continues to Los Angles in a Boing 747-400, they appear no bigger. 10 seats wide, 2 storeys, watching George of the Jungle and Full Monty (in the cinemas back home now). I probably would have slept a bit more, had there not been 2 screaming (and crying) children with whose parents were not competent. Most people don't get their eyes closed, because of these coiled kids, I fortunately have ear plugs.

The sun sets as we approach Greenland, it takes 2 hours and god help me if it doesn't rise again as we fly down across Canada and it's still December 20th!
Finally, we are in L.A. where I was going to buy a nice Stetson cowboy hat to protect me from the scorching sun. We just don't get anywhere near the stores. Through a couple of kilometres tunnels, and into a glass cage with coffee, soda, chairs and toilets.

Here we can nicely wait for 2 hours while our aircraft is cleaned and refuelled.
Talking a great deal with the London resident New Zealander (Kiwi) sitting next to me. She tells me all about what I should see, but there is nothing new to my "plan". Have read the Lonely Planet guide  from home, and based on it; made an indicative time and sight plan, with bus connections (but not times) and backpacker hostels (BP).
The plane is finally ready and we moor aboard, unfortunately still with the screaming kids.

21. We pass the equator and the date line,

22. and then suddenly it's the next day! We land in Auckland at 6am and while I wait for the flight to Christchurch, there will be time for breakfast. On to Christchurch, where there are 17C and overcast. It is 9:00 and I have been 36 hours on the road.

My plan was to rent a car, and I have read you can do so with a Swedish, Norwegian, German, Polish and whatever driving license. It did not say Danish, but I figured they just forgot to mention that in the guidebook. We have, after all, one if not the most comprehensive driving education in the world.
I start at Avis, but unfortunately, they have same list, and ask for an international driving license. That repeats at all the other companies! Bit of a bummer! Public it is...

I stand waiting for the bus to the centre. It leaves every second hours! It doesn't look well. While waiting, I look for birds. There are gray spruce, seagulls, starlings, thrushes, forest finches, blackbird, gold finches, book finches and beach magpies. Not a single new species!

An elderly lady comes and asks, if there has been a man who has loaded suitcases into the car next to the stop. Nope, but he'll be there. Quite right, this is her son. Whether I want a lift to the city? Yes please - why not. With the bus coverage the airport has, I probably have to learn to hitch-hike, if I have to see New Zealand's south island in 14 days.

I am dropped off in the centre, right by the Visitor Information (VI). The bus to Kaikoura leaves at noon, so I have a few hours to find a hat to protect myself from the hot and strong summer sun. Unfortunately they do not succeed, they are all round-headed, not long-shelled, or they are not my size. The price is around DKK 500.

The neighbourhood I walk into is a worse tourist trap. They have even restored their old trams and put a ring lane in the centre for it. Apart from the tourist trap feel, it is a pretty town with many beautiful houses and pedestrian streets. There is a 5 meter wide river that meanders through the city. On it there are gondolas, a´la Cambrigde.

Returns to the VI and waits for the bus. When one finally arrives, he does not drive to Kaikoura, but to the terminal from which another will soon be leaving. Rates, and quite rightly, there is a bus to Kaikoura that will depart soon. Talking a great deal with an old Kiwi, but also considering the totally wasted landscape. There are quite a few sheep, some emu / ostrich and deer. When I finally see a "new" bird, it is a white-backed crow, the "magpie" from the Footrot Flats.

After 3 hours drive through the breathtaking landscape, we arrival in the small fishing village of Kaikoura, where I immediately visit Topspot BP, which unfortunately don't have room for me. The girl at the front desk is sweet to call other BPs, and finds me a spot at Dolphin BP.

Take a walk along the beach. Here it smells of freshly cut hay, which is on the roadside. Down on the beach there are alternating sand and flat limestone. Huge seaweed plants grow on the stones; Kelp. I see them many times, but they impress me every time. 5-6 kilometres from town, there is a seal colony. The seals are located on a small limestone lake 2-300 meters outside. On the way back to the city, I visit Fyffe's house, which is really an old thing -  seen with New Zealand eyes: It was built in 1860 by one of the first settlers. It is rather intact, not restored, the soul is still there over the old whale bone foundation.

On the way to the "centre" I walk through a nice domestically area, where the clear milk bottles are put out to the milkman. Like all other places in New Zealand, all the gardens are incredibly well maintained and landscaped. Also passes the Garden of Memories, which oddly should remind us of soldiers, and not of the whales whose bones form an avenue through the park.

There is also an aquarium in the city. A 3000 litre tank and three 50 litre aquariums with little fish, sea anemones, lobster and other from the coast.
I really wanted to swim with dolphins, but after feeling the water temperature, it will be another time. I doubt I can enjoy anything in 13-15 degree water, even with a wet suit on.

Talk a little with some local girls, who tell me they are not celebrating Midsummer. What are they looking forward to in the winter? The summer! However, there are some, who have begun to skip the dinner party over Christmas Eve, and instead keep it on June 24.

I find a nice restaurant, the waiter comes over and asks at the table to help me understand the menu. It's not really necessary, I understand everything except a "starter", something with breadcrumbs and toppings. The waiter's explanation, however, does not quite help me understand what it is, so to find out, I have to order one. It turns out to be a mega plate with many types of bread and shrimp salad, sausages, avocado mash and - well, stuff. I managed to gnaw through this "starter", but more by willpower, than by hunger. Unfortunately, I've managed to order grilled ribs, and I get a portion that even Fred Flintstone can't handle. They taste fabulous, but I can only force 1/4 of the 1½-2 kilos down.
Stumble around town a bit, accompanied by blackbirds' songs, and then head to bed relatively early. I'm both tired, and do not bother to be polite to a few German girls, who do not take no for an answer.

23. Get up at 6.30 and find the city's only breakfast restaurant. It becomes a recurring problem. To offset the fabulous breakfasts and evening meals, I eat muesli / serials and fruit salad for breakfast the vast majority of times. Really delicious.

Wander around the town a bit, until it is time to go out on the bay's fastest boat to see whales. One of the others who joins, is a real macho / Rambo guy who really shows off - until he, as the only one, gets terrible seasickness.

The boat is on a trailer at the top of the dock, and when we are all aboard, it is backed into the water.
As we sail out to the continental shelf, we see a wandering albatross. We are in radio contact with 2-3 other boats in the bay, but it will be us, who spot the first whale. The boat gives all its 750 hp and we glide the last bit, until we are 10-15 meters from the animal. It is one of the bay's 10-12 sperm whales. They are up to 20 meters long, weigh up to 50 tons, and thus the largest toothed whale. Only the baleen whales blue and fine whales are larger.

They lie on the surface for 10-15 minutes and then dive again for 45 minutes. Just before they dive, they stretch, make a small dive, and then the tail comes up as they dive vertically. We are lucky and see 7 whales up close. On the way back, we get across a bunch of dusky dolphins that are maybe 2-400 around us.
Before we get back to the quay, we're past a fur seal colony, probably the same one I saw last night. This time just close.

We get ashore and get off the boat. Our Rambo is very quiet. As I walk down the town to VI, I see a mixed country store with one hat hanging. Head in and try it - fits perfectly, price: 160 kr.
My "plan" mentions some caves that you should also have to sail to, but it is out of town and I do not know when the boat is departing from. Besides, I have already sailed 2½ hours today, that must be enough.

The sweet people at the VI tell me I'm lucky: Today's bus leaves in 2 hours. I don't have the patience for that, so I walk out of the road as I hitch-hike. It is actually for the first time in my life, and I'm not really dressed for it: Black leather west, long beard and hair.

Being picked up by a young mother with a toodler, who I drive 100 km with. She says there are 280.
Walk 15 meters and then get a lift from an old guy. We drive slowly through a landscape reminiscent of the slightly drier regions of Madeira. He invites me in for tea, and I am welcome to sleep there too. His maid is messing around with a vacuum cleaner in a 550 m2 home, that is most reminiscent of a combination of art, nature, mineral, ethnological museum, workshop, sea brothel, barn and a little home.

I sneak off after tea, and walk 45 metres in light rain, before an Australian picks me up. We drive through a landscape consisting mostly of yellow and brown hills and green forests. Arrives at Nelson 1 hour before the bus.
Again, the first BP is full, but they call around, and I get a bed with a blanket. The price is here, just like anywhere else DKK 60-80 for one night.

The town should have a botanical garden, but it just turns out to be a cricket pitch with scrub around. On my way down town to find dinner, I come across Queens Park, which is a botanical garden. Not big, but very nice.
After consuming a portion of pasta and dessert for the usual 80-100 kroner, I walk up Botanical Hill, on the top of New Zealand's centre. Walk up at dusk to the top of the 147-meter-high hill, enjoying the views of nature to one side, and the lights of the city to the other.

Fumble down the hill in the dark, accompanied by a myriad of bird voices, some familiar, others exotic. Near the PB, there are loud puzzle sounds in the thickets on an almost vertical slope. With life on stake, I manage to find a common hedgehog.

24. Up at 6am, breakfast and a walk along the coast out, and through the hinterland. WI tell me that the bus to Westport leaves at 15:30. After 6 lifts through Canadian-like countryside, green hills and wooded mountains, I am in Westport. On the way, I drive through the Buller Gorge, which is a giant gorge. Had actually planned to go for a walk there, but the area is huge and the walks along the road between the lifts probably provide just as much. There are no traces of people beyond the asphalt strip.

Getting dropped off at VI, paying 120 bucks, waiting 5 minutes, and my private driver driving me through the beautiful deer farm landscape to the seal colony. Most seals with their cubs are 20-30 meters below us on the rocks. A single young male has strayed right up to the top. Here I experience for the first time the horrible smell of seal, a bit of a long-timed storred herring, just stronger! On the way back to the car, we see some wekas; Gallirallus australis. These hen-like birds cannot fly, but are notorious for their thievery. Anything that is shiny is stolen. They are a torment in tent camps.

My driver drives another way back, to show me more nature. Pretty flat and very fertile. Everywhere I come, where there are large cultivated plains, there are scattered small groups of trees and meandering creeks and rivers. I'm getting off the main road out of town, so I can hike on. Didn't really get to see much of Westport, but according to my guide book, there was nothing more exciting than the seal colony, and the opportunity for underground rafting for 500 kr. Surely exciting if it is not in 5C cold water. Not exactly what my body calls comfortably.

Wait for 10 seconds and then drive straight to Pancake Rocks in Punikaki. Strengthen me straight with coffee and sandwiches, before following the path through temperate primeval forest with masses of ferns. Ends out by the sea, where the characteristic sandstone cliffs break the green carpet of the primeval forest. All layers are the same thickness. They stand like towers, forming 20-30 meter deep holes where the waves penetrate holes, creating the most amazing cascades, so-called blowholes.

I stroll well along the country road in beautiful scenery before being picked up by a couple of young people. I share the back seat with 2 uncommonly loving pitt-bulls. We drive along the sea, where giant waves come roaring into the sandy beach. When rocks occasionally pop up, there are many times seals on them. From the inside, large green hills come rolling down the road. We stop at a bar, where they insist on buying me drinks.

Landing in Greymouth (the mouth of the River Gray) a little to 5, and seeing a jade museum. Here, jade is called the greenstone, and is one of the main reasons the Māori were so excited about the country 900 years ago. Here are lots of giant boulders, explanations and a working workshop. Should have, according to my "plan," seen a beer factory, but fortunately it was Christmas closed (I think probably).

Finds Noah's BK, which has room for me. Like many other hostels, it is a huge big old house. Some have always been hotels, others wealthy villas. At Noah, there are really beautiful paintings directly on the walls. Comic but very detailed. Lots of nips, sheets, animals ...
I feel like pizza, and after it; a little nap before I accompany the others down to the police station, where there is a Christmas party.

25. Have slept from 20-7, missed the party at the police station, but are at least fresh for a new day in Kiwi land. After waking up "Noah" and seeing a few of the others, who have been to a party, I have a feeling it has been a very good party.

Spend some time chatting with an Israeli girl. Have seen more of Israel than her, but on the other hand; yesterday I spoke to an Australian, who had seen more of Denmark than I.
Incidentally, it is funny that those I speak with, can never guess where I come from. I can usually guess their country of origin from the accent, but my accent is initially taken for American and Canadian, later for Australian and eventually by some Japanese girls, working in a shop as well as a taxi driver named Victor (and sounds like Arnold S.) for New Zealand!

Thinking in English, and as I formulate a few winged words, it is also in English: The earth belongs to me! You can borrow and enjoy it, but don't destroy it! The God. And: Life's like a gift shop: You can have it all, if you got money enough, but it still won't make you happy.

Do not encounter a single Dane, while I am in New Zealand. Well the same. There are many Kiwis from the North Island, many English and Japanese, some Americans, Germans and Dutch, Spaniards, Israelis, some Swedes and even an Icelandic family.

Two quick lift brings me past Shanty Town, which is a Christmas-closed tourist-gold digger town, to Hokitika. Being set off right at the sign pointing to the city's worm cave. Unfortunately, it is not an actual cave, more a protruding rock wall. The worms spin a slimy thread, illuminate it, and catch insects. Of course, it only works in the dark. In a small lake outside the city, the first black swans which I have seen, swim around.

Stepping in through the dead living quarters to downtown. It's not completely dead; on a porch stands a man playing bagpipes. It sounds fantastic! Fills the else dead valley, and he is real good.
The centre itself is even more dead. Everything has closed and there is not a soul in the street. The museum, aquarium and custom house have closed. It seems like a ghost town, so when I've seen Gibson Quay (nothing special), I'm tumbling on.

A short lift with a guy who bought an old chest freezer, and then a long one with a sheep shearer. He works in England in the summer, and then in New Zealand in the summer. His hobby is tree cutting on show and competition level. I crawled over a 6 '(180 cm) chain saw blade to get into the car.

We drive through primeval forest, huge tall trees totally overgrown with mosses and ferns. He tells me the names and ages of the individual types, as well as the age of the new utility trees. Can only remember that a fir tree is cut down after 27 years.
We pass small towns at regular intervals. 10-15 inhabitants, the big cities you can reach to pronounce the name before you are out of them. No chance in the small ones.

At 12 o'clock I jump off by the Franz Josef Glatcer. Eat a little in the tourist trap, and then walk the 7 kilometres to the glaciers. Along the way, I see a sign with the text Terrace Track 30 min. I have the time, and that might lead to a beautiful view of the ice.

It will be, together with the whales, the greatest experience. Ferntree rainforest. The all-dominant, up to 6-meter-tall fern trees are completely covered with smaller ferns, mosses, lichens and algae. The trail follows and crosses a crystal clear stream, and ends as I hoped; with a beautiful view of the ice that comes sliding down through the forest. It said 30 min. on the sign, but I spend 2 hours. Walking 2-3 meters, then stop and looking around.

Out on the road, and up towards the glaciers. It leads through high and dense forest. Black starlings with white butterfly (tui), singing / whistling exotically, while other spectacle-like small birds roam among the bushes' flowers.
When I finally get up to the glacier, that is; the river that comes from it. There are still 3 kilometres through an uncommonly muddy primeval forest, and over the rock of the dry river delta, to the ice.

It's huge, when I finally reach it. It rattles with fallen ice and rocks at the edge. Walks around the area but start the return trip, as it starts to rain. The rain is gaining strength, and the temperature is 5-8C and the wind is harsh. Rather tired and cold, when I reached the main road.

Getting a lift with one going all the way to Queenstown, so as we pass Fox Glaciser and the rain pours down, I decide that one glacier a day is enough. We pick up a young guy, who is on his way from the North Island to the southernmost part of the South Island to work on a deer farm. We drive through a large area of ​​swamp and primeval forest.

We reach a good distance towards Haast, off the deserted roads, when the engine suddenly says very ugly. While trying to analyze the error, a large American classic with two Croats stops. They only have room for one, so we let our driver get the lift, and then start trotting ourselves.

We do this for 3-4 hours while only 2-3 cars pass. After all, it is Christmas Eve, according to English tradition, so people sit in the compagny of the family and feast on themselves. We can rejoice that at least it is not raining. We walk through forests, along plains and over rivers, accompanied by the birds s beautiful evening song, the quail's (and my belly's) growling. The most common road kills are opossum. They form pairs for life, so when you see a flat opossum, you can expect one more.

Finally, a young guy stops and while we try to make room for one in the trunk with his bike, we tell him I'm going to Haast. He laughs; it is in the literal sense just around the corner. I walk on, while the expectant deer farmer gets the lift.
Finding a fairly extinct BP and an open snack that will serve my Christmas dinner. I don't remember what, but I ate 2 desserts, and really could have ended with the main course again.

I hitch-hike on in Diary 2

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