April 30, 2006

Winter? Ow no!...


Ok ok ok, I admit it, this picture is slightly doctored in Photoshop by Kaitsu. But only to reveal what was there anyway - an amazing sharp contrast of snowy peaks and brownish-greenish rocky slopes.


We spent 3 full days in Wanaka, a town up the mountains, and as it often happens with a beautiful golden autumn, it turned to be nasty grey thing with spraying rain and the sun nowhere to be seen.


We managed to catch quite a few non-rainy moments to do some more of our 6-7 hour walks (that is becoming a norm nowadays, if we walk just some 3 hours a day, I get the nagging sense of non-accomplishement that manifests itself (thats the worst!) through the feeling that I don't deserve a pizza for dinner... :).


We were quite impressed with the views of snowy peaks at the Mt Aspiring national park.


But the day after a layer of clowds brushed past the mountains around Wanaka and left equally impressive snowy mountain tops everywhere around us.


The tiny little black specks on the grass are cows (full bodied and much bigger than any cow I've seen in Europe), maybe it gives a better picture of the size of the mountains. Its difficult to comprehend the distances and sizes here. Everything seems to be within easy reach, tiny and cute, but may be enourmously big and tens of kilometers away.


We happened to go climb up the hill at the Diamond lake off Wanaka just during the 2 hour gap between drizzling and raining. Lucky us! It seems that so far we've been carrying good weather with us. (knock the wood, spit 3 times, etc..:)


After autumn in Wanaka we moved even further up towards winter at the Fox Glacier that descends down from the Mt Cook (the highest peak in the South Island) :)


Fox Glacier is famous, because it descends down all the way to the rainforest and somehow manages to sustain itself in pretty moderate temperature.


It is melting, of course, and there's a big river going down the valey, but there's enough snow up the mountain to keep it growing from the other end.


Here's more kiwi fashion for you. We're merging in nicely, don't you think? The crampons (or how do you spell them correctly?) besides being extremely comfortable to wear on ice, was a pretty cool fashion accessoir as well, don't you think?


Our guide was wearing a T-shirt all the way (out of 7 hours walking we spent about 4hours on ice) and we saw other guides in shorts. Excellent (the first "e" you should pronounce like in Finnish "Teemu" or Lithuanian "bega", thats proper Kiwi accent for you)!


Couple of times we had to push ourselves through this kind of narrow gaps that I didn't like at all (thats all for fun, we didn't really need to go there). Its always either hips or shoulders that get stuck in the gap and then you start feeling your butt melting the ice around it. Tiny frezing waterfalls down your legs.. brrr...


I think overall the walk was quite impressive, but Kaj said that its hard to impress him with snow and ice, him being a Finn.. :)


I bet they don't have this kind of ice tunnel in Lapland.. :)



After 7 hours walking we were pretty happy to get off the ice. And we were even more happy to leave the glaciers because of a horrible backpackers hostel that we were staying in. Now we're even more happy on the sunny and warm West Coast in a beautiful place where we had a SAUNA. It was my first sauna in almost 2 years and it felt fantastic, even though it was not quite proper in a strictly Finnish way. We're having a sauna tomorrow again! And here's some more happy moments from Wanaka:


Posted by gkligyte at 05:54 AM | Comments (3)

April 25, 2006

Kiwi cool


Its a rainy day today (the first truly rainy, grey and cold!), so I have time to write my blog. It is also yet another public holiday here (ANZAC day, I think, it has something to do with war victims commemoration and the day of nationhood. People wear red poppy badges on their chests (don't ask me why, only funny explanations come to my head, I guess I should do more research to give you the real explanation.. :) And all the shops are closed again. Again. AGAIN. It takes a bit of time to change our 24/7 round the clock Asian mindsets and remember that sales people also need some rest. We were quite horrified when the supermarkets closed at 6:30pm in Christchurch on the first day when we arrived. But it used to be quite the same in Finland and we didn't quite starve to death..


We've been keeping ourselves very busy here. Right now we're slowly traveling up North from the very South of the island. North is good. South is bad. The traditional European mindset has to change - "we traveled as far South as we could get, why is it so cold?!?" Northern wind is good and warm, Southern wind is cold and bad. Doesn't it sound completely insane to you? The sun also travels the wrong way. It raises on your right and sets on the left. And listen to this: at noon it is in the North! South is bad. North is good. Totally confusing, isn't it?


From Catlins we went North to Te Anau town. It is the starting point for a couple of famous hiking tracks, such as the Kepler Track. We're not ready to do multiple day trekking, we don't have equipment and tents (and neither do we have guts :), so we decided to go up to the first hut, where the real hikers sleep overnight and... yes, listen to that, we went down the same way the same day.


Thats a bit crazy, don't you think? We ended up walking 8h and 28km trip to the 1500m summit. 3/4 of the trip were ok, the last bit we just zombied out.


And the next day we already have booked kayaking trip in Milford Sound (sound is something like a fiord, but, I think it is much more sheltered and has sweet water)


So we ended up getting up at 5:30am and driving 2 hours in pouring rain to Milford Sound. But it was worth every minute of our sleep. I've never seen anything that magnificent - the rain caused hundreds of huge waterfalls to pour all over the mountains and rocks. The pictures can't really convey the breathtaking scale of the mountains.


Maybe here you can see a tiny little car making its way up the road and the huge waterfalls behind, the mountains here must be at least some 800-1000m high!


Here's some Kiwi fashion for you. Looking cool in New Zealand for beginners: put thermal underwear (longjohns), shorts on top, sandals and huge rain jacket (optional). We got suggestions to dress like that when we were buying our gear: "no need to buy rainpants, just wear some warm underwear and shorts on top, thats the best!" and we've seen a lot of people doing that.


After this kayaking trip our hearts started warming up to the Kiwi style. It is truly comfortable and warm. And besides it looks cool!



The kayaking was really great. We got very close to the fur seals that were lying on the shore trying to sleep and waving sandflies away. The weather, although cloudy, was otherwise perfect. The rain stopped right at the moment when we took off and started again when we got out of the water.





Milford Sound is notoriously wet and rainy, so we really had good luck. After 8 hours walking we did almost 6 hours kayaking, so our lower and upper body muscles were equally exercised after these 2 days. Wah... And no sauna anywhere in sight...


And some more fashionable moments at the waterfall. It was also huge, but you can't really see that in the picture.


We were happy to do less walking and kayaking, more driving next day.


Even more so, because the landscapes were really amazing on the way.


As we were going higher up to the mountains, the autum colours were getting more intense.


Until we reached the proper ruska in Arrowtown.


I have experienced 2 autumns during last year. One in Japan, another here. Not a single spring though... :(


Driving through central Otago is truly exceptional experience not only because of its beautiful colours and amazing apple orchards.


The road that we took is also known as Otago wine trail. And we took some advantage of that.


We're not so refined when it comes to wines (mostly we're very excited that the wines that we used to buy for 25-30$ in Leijonakaupunki cost around 9$ here!!!)


Some of us didn't want to leave.. :)

Posted by gkligyte at 03:59 PM | Comments (6)

April 20, 2006

More sheep...


We love this place. Ever since the beginning of our trip.


Every day we see something completely amazing - nature is extremely dramatic here.


And we don't even need to go out of our way to witness some of the most amazing landscapes that we've ever seen.


For example, the Nugget Point in Catlins, one of the most Southern points on Earth, was more or less on our way.


Another great place we saw was Otago peninsula - some 30min of cycling away from Dunedin city. Getting there was easy, I wish I could say the same about cycling.


We were a bit stupid to go cycling there: steep mountains are everywhere here. We were relying on our Bukit Timah mountain biking experience, but its nothing like that here.


Its up up up up the mountain (for an hour or so) and down down down down the hill (some 15 minutes or so). We ended up walking our bicycles up the steep slopes along narrow grassy paths way longer than we would have liked.


After 3 hours of cycling we crawled down to the Sandfly Bay. It was beautiful, yes, but there was many more kilometers ahead of us.


As there was no helicopter coming to rescue us, we stoically pumped up the mountains again to get back to Dunedin (several happy Kiwi cyclists took us over: "g'day mate!"). So depressing!


There's a lot of beautiful sandy beaches everywhere in the Sounth Island, unfortunately its only about 10C degrees warm and full of sandflies.


So we saw these Cathedral Caves in Catlins.


And fossill forest in Curio Bay.


And the Curio Bay itself, beautiful, isn't it? We kind of completely forgot how it was in Leijonakaupuki. Its been about 2 weeks since we left and I can't really remember how it was anymore.. Its truly a holiday of our lives.


We stay at beautiful remote places (if we're lucky, sometimes they're just remote.. :)


For example, the Hilltop cottage in Catlins had one of the most amazing views that I've ever seen in my life.



The cottage up there is open, unlocked the whole day. If you have a booking, you just pick a room and bring your stuff in. If you see other people's things, you assume that the room is occupied. Its really like going back in time when people could trust each other and didn't need to look their doors.


There were 2 cute sheep crazing (its on purpose, I know that the proper word is grazing.. :) outside our window.


This time it was crazing about a peace of bread, not the grass...


Cool 80s haircut!


We're very happy that we rented a car, not a camper van. Its beautiful autumn here and the sun goes down really early. At 6-7pm it becomes quite dark and really cold (its T-shirt weather during the day in the sun and goes down to some 5C degrees at night). If would have been really sad if we would have had to sleep in a tin can of a camper van with no heating? brrr....


And then there are these amazing mossy forests that we really really like a lot.


Certainly looks like some place from the Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings?


As I said, we're very happy here. People seem to be very relaxed, friendly and playful (Kaj says they look like they're on a happy pill.. :) For example, this tiger grafitti in Dunedin really looks very friendly and I really liked these parking places for philosphers - everyone got his neat place - Plato, Locke, Humes, Witgenstein.. Bare with me, I'm quite slow updating the blog, as there's so much to do all the time. And when I finally do, there's mostly pictures and "och.." ahhh".. emotions, not much substance. Sorry, I'm in that stage now.. :) There's more about the cool Kiwi lifestyle coming soon!

Posted by gkligyte at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2006

At the edge of the World


So thats it. We like it here. Its absolutely beautiful, magnificent and breathtaking.


We saw very little - just drove out from Christchurch to Banks Peninsula, just to have a look, so we thought.


But it was so beautiful and peaceful that we decided to stay overnight in Onuku sheep farm.


We're quickly getting used to a lot of empty space and few people around after the initial culture shock. This place is empty, right at the end of the world (this is the Pacific Ocean that you can see in the picture below) and so extremely spectacular.


I wonder a little bit - why the rest of the world doesn't rush down to live here?


In fact I hope the world doesn't rush down here. We were talking with Kaj, that it feels that we came back in time, to the days when everything was better: when people were still kind, when there was time for a chat and a coffee, when you could have the Good Friday and next Monday off, when you didn't have to care about appearances and when everything was so much more humane.


We walked on the hills around the farm and watched the sunset. We couldn't stop grinning stupidly.


During the day we have T-shirt weather and at night, it comes close to freezing. Its Autumn here with the smell of rotting leaves and crispy air. I quite like it after steamy Leijonakaupunki, but considering that mid-April corresponds to mid-October in Europe, the climate is pretty good!


We kind of had to humble down about our cooking capabilities. The food is just unbelievably great in here, extremely fresh, hearty and tasty, plus relatively cheap (our initial fears that traveling here would be very expensive is not exactly true, compared with Europe or the US, excellent!). We'll have to do a lot of hiking to burn our lunches!


For example, today we did our first 3hour hike up Cargill mountain from Dunedin. Once again we were stunned by the unbearable beauty - you can get above the clouds in only some 2 hours walks from the city!


Kiwis seem to be super-fit and sporty. Because of Easter, all the shops are closed (the shops also close at 6pm on a normal day!, can you imagine this happening in Leijonakaupunki?!?! except, of course, Chinese New Year, when you see these crowds looking lost and wandering aimlessly - no shopping!!!), so a lot of Kiwis go out to nature. As you drive the car up the mountain, you may see a bunch of 12 year olds pumping up the hill on their bicycles or then some elderly couple jogging up and down the steep slopes. Just looking at them may cause you a heart attack.


This is a part of panorama. Imagine that this image continues on the right side with the image below. This is Dunedin, a 100 000 town with the oldest university in the country.


Imagining how geographically remote place it is, it is exceptionally civilized with a lively city culture, theater and arts scene (not that we experienced any of that, at least yet - most of the places are closed because of the Easter)


Once again, I don't know how they made it so far here and how they managed to establish and build everything here. There's nothing that people wouldn't have here (except central heating or hot-cold water mixer - this place is not enlightened about this, all the sinks have 2 taps of water - one scalding hot, the other deeply freezing).


And of course they have lots of sheep here (they say more than people)! There's a funny story from my childhood, I'm sure my sister won't remember it anymore, but in this place it becomes amazingly acute. Here it is: my sister has been into horses all her life. She loved them so much as a child: she drew horses, she talked about horses, she had horse toys, she had a friend who was as crazy about horses and they talked about horses all the time. Then one day my sister managed to convince our parents to bring her to a horse riding school. The night before, as we were lying in our bed, she talked how she's excited about going to the horse riding school next day. My sister asked, what was my favorite animal. As the horse was already taken, I didn't know what to choose, I was just staring at the curtain in our bedroom that had drawings of horses, cows, dogs and some other domestic animals. I didn't have a clue, I didn't have a favorite animal. But to answer something I said...


...sheep. Sheep are my favorite animals. They were kind of cute on that curtain. For many months after my sister would bring the sheep to illustrate the point about horses. But in fact I didn't really care about sheep.. Just couldn't take my words back. So I had to continue pretending that I liked sheep. :) And look at me now! Finally I'm in a place full of sheep and I'm finally completely happy!!! :)


There may be more interesting things happening as there are some further developments regarding my job here.. Ahem... Don't want to write about it until its finally clear, its difficult to think about work, when I'm in such a good holiday mood! We'll be doing much more of hiking here, hopefully the weather remains the same. And hopefully I'll be reaching Internet once in a while.



Posted by gkligyte at 03:50 PM | Comments (3)

April 13, 2006

Its over..?!?!

So thats it lah. We're gone. Right now we're sitting in Sidney airport on the way to Kiwiland. Yeah!!!


Its probably pretty hopeless to expect that many people would visit us in Finland, but if yes, we'll show what Finnish/Lithuanian hospitality means! :) And if you're reading this blog, it probably means that you are our friend and it also means that you're welcome to come for a visit! I'm thinking now to take the blog off the password protected zone, as there's no more colleagues, bosses and students in Leijonakaupunki, they turned to be just friends overnight! :)


I can't believe that actually the whole Leijonakaupunki thing is over now.


I've been working till almost the last day, packing till the last minute, rushing through the apartment handover, squeezing the last lunch with friends and colleagues and last minute shopping. Everything in the same day.


This is all our earthly possessions that we've acquired during 1.5 years in Leijonakaupunki. Fortunately we didn't have to do that ourselves this time. And so far, I think, we haven't really shipped away too much of important stuff (when I was packing in Finland before coming to Leijonakaupunki, I packed away my Master's papers. How stupid one has to be?!?!)


Some more last minute pics from Leijonakaupunki.. It feels very surreal that its over and that we'll be having just fun and no definite plans or responsibilities for so many weeks. Great! Its about time!


I felt very flattered by the many farewell emails that I have received and at times almost brought to tears when saying all those many "good-byes" - its quite amazing, how many good people we've met here and how fast we managed to establish strong bonds, as colleagues and friends.. Well, we'll drop by on the way to Finland again and then we can have some more of those countless lunches.. :)


With colleagues..


With Giulianos.. Look at Luca - he's growing up to be a true Leijonakaupungilainen - sporting a bluetooth phone receiver! You should see how many cyborg-looking people there are! Yleensa noita korvakasvaimia nakyy ylipainoisilla miehilla jotka ilmeisesti ovat sita mielta etta ne ovat todella kool. Nayttaa tyhmalta! Mutta en voi kirjoita englanniksi, koska mun tyokaverit myos niita kayttaa! Hullua! Labai kvailai atrodo, jei manes norite paklausti, bet negaliu rasyt angliskai, nes kai kurie mano kolegos irgi juos naudoja! Siaubinga! Joanne, don't kill Giuliano, the bluetooth wasn't on!


With Yong...

And with Lynette and Shirlyn, no photos though...


And some more pictures - we had the diploma show almost 2 weeks ago, the headless students in the picture won't be bothering our lecturers anymore, they're officially "adults" (not adult enough to watch R21 movies though.. :) and kicked out to the real world that for most guys means 2 years of National Service...


And this is already in NZ, we've spent 2 days in Christchurch and I was really very culturally shocked first! Its so empty! So few people! The place looks dead! It actually reminds Finland a lot, especially Rovaniemi. The streets are wide, the modern architecture is horrible (some beautiful wooden villas still left), people look very pale, nobody cares about style as long as it is comfortable (haven't seen such a concentration of worn out fleeces anywhere else in the world!!). After Leijonakaupunki with its LV shops on every corner and countless style conscious tai tais (good looking ladies that married money and can shop throughout days), this is especially shocking!


Food is excellent here, and not too expensive, especially this corner souvlaki shop where we had falafel lunch 2 days in a row.. How adventurous! :)


And some excellent shopping done to merge with the crowd better! Well, these rainclothes may come handy once we go to more rural areas and try to start walking. So far, Christchurch feels even less cultured than many US towns with their drive-in cafes and worn down city centre. Lets see how it will go tomorrow, we're leaving the city and heading towards the coast. Back to Nature!

Posted by gkligyte at 05:06 AM | Comments (2)