May 23, 2006


Our congratulations to Finland in beating everyone in Eurovision competition. We were duly updated about the proceedings and the results (thanks for all the sms and emails). 30 years of humiliation and finally... true glory! Latex beats Botox!

Posted by gkligyte at 07:18 AM | Comments (6)

May 22, 2006

Ihan Pihalla


The best thing about Auckland afterall is that you can get out of it.


And be in a place like this in an hour or so.


We were lucky to know Ancjelic, who has spent almost 2 years surfing in NZ. Through her we met Atma and Prasad who have a batch (like a mokki) in Piha beach.


And they kindly allowed us to use their bach over the weekend. Wow. We realized how tired we were from the backpackers hell - checking in to a place, hoping that the room walls will be thicker this time, hoping that we won't find hordes of kiddy backpackers planted at the kitchen table for days in a row, hoping that noone will drink our wine that we store in the cupboard downstairs, hoping that we won't have to elbow our way to the sink to wash a cup or cross our knifes with another "guest" for a chopping board. We're actually really quite tired of travelling, packing and going somewhere else almost every day, being budget conscious, cooking in communal kitchens. The sad thing is that we won't have "our own peace" for quite a few months ahead. Neither in Leijonakaupunki, Lithuania, Finland or NZ. We don't have a home...


Anyway, for a change, it was great to stay in a quiet and remote place (just us!) with amazing views.


There's quite a few famous surfing beaches on the West coast from Auckland. Karekare, for example, was used in the movie Piano (remember the lady landing on a beach and her piano being mistreated?), it was shot here!


There's a lot of surfers in these beaches. Its quite dangerous to swim there otherwise. We've been watching some episodes of the reality TV show Piha Rescue and it looks like they're just dragging full loads of boats of nearly drowning people on that beach. People with broken ankles, exhausted, vomiting water, etc. They say, there are very strong undercurrents in Piha.


The ocean didn't seem to be so dangerous when we were there, but we didn't go swimming anyway :(


We went walking and running instead. So beautiful! The things and places around Auckland almost buy out the ugliness and stressfullness of the city itself. Its also pretty amazing to be able to wear a Tshirt at the end of May (that's like European November). I guess, we're just getting dazed by all the magnificent views here. Tell us, is it worth exchanging couple of years of life in Finland or Lithuania for a couple of years in NZ? Hmmm...

Posted by gkligyte at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2006

The Babylon


Ow my Gawd! This is Auckland.


This is the view to the centre of the town. We were horrified. Seems that everyone is driving a car in this place. There're huge motorways going straight to the city centre and once you're in the centre, then all of a sudden you realize that there's really nothing there.. There's no centre in Auckland. At least nothing nice there. There's a scary mix of buildings of various styles, sizes and purposes and motorways.


As there are no easy walking and strolling around in the neighbourhood. There's streets, houses and cafes, if you're lucky, then there're are huge supermarkets and you have to drive everywhere.


Our few walks in the prime areas of Auckland were also quite disappointing.. It seems that there was no any kind of urban planning here. It looks like Auckland just exploded and people kept their countryside mentality, weary to give up "good old" lifestyles (such as having 5 cars per 4 person family). There's only 3 train lines in the 1.3 million city and some busses. Currently there's a huge debate in the media, whether Auckland needs an electric train and a huge portion of the NZ budget this year goes to building more roads. In Auckland. Scary.


I've been meaning to write about NZ ah bengs for quite a while, but I got a picture of one just now. An amazing proportion of population here are ah bengs and an amazing amount of old cr*ppy cars are modified with spoilers, massive exhaust pipes. You hear their cars 5 blocks down the road and when you finally see them, you just want to burst to laugh.. Talking about psychological compensation.. ha ha...

We've been quite disheartened by the first look at Auckland. I heard that traffic situation is quite bad, I didn't expect it to be that horrible. Basically there's nothing to do in this city if you don't have a car. A lot of people that we talked to said that we should have another look, as there are great things about this city too. And true enough, there are nice leafy neighbourhoods around here too.. So we'll see how it goes...

Posted by gkligyte at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2006

Burping Ground


Continuing with the idea of the "new country" and changing landscape - here's some more. You think its a fog? Mist? Clouds? Smoke? No! Its steaming hot pools near to Rotorua.


There's plenty of volcanic activity around and a lot of maori stories tell about a vicious monster underground exhaling all these fumes. It stinks like hell (right, isn't hell supposed to stink of sulphur?)


Rotorua is one of the first maori settlements in NZ and I found it rather surprising. The whole place stinks like rotten eggs and the ground is very unstable. There were major volcano eruption and fatal lake explosion as recent as 1886! Why on Earth anyone would choose to live there?


But obviously, it was a good place to settle. When maori arrived to NZ, they didn't have good clothing, so steaming hot pools gave a lot of oportunities to have warm baths, heat up houses and even cook their meals in boiling water! Nevermind the smell.. :)


We had a stinky bath too, it felt so good! The major problem with living here is that the houses are very poorly built and don't have central heating (thanks to British heritage, I guess.. :) Many times we wondered why there's so few saunas in this place, it would make a whole lot of difference to have one place at home that is really warm! We didn't mind leaving Rotorua... And got to see yet another amazing waterfall on our way.


Posted by gkligyte at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

The Eye of Mordor


Wow!... We both sighed when we saw the volcano in the Tongariro National park. This is the mountain that acted as Mordor in The Lord of The Rings. But...


...we couldn't get anywhere near the volcano, because there was a huge snowstorm the night before our arrival. The Tongariro crossing is closed till the next season and there's 1m of snow on the trail. Too bad...


We were quite shocked when we woke up and had a look through the window. Everything was covered in snow! Wet and windy, just like Europe.. :) Winter has really caught up with us.. Funnily enough, I started waiting for Christmas... All the roads out of the village were closed in the morning, but the snow started melting quite fast...


We braced ourselves and thanks to wonderful NZ fashion (again!) had a nice walk towards the mountain, nevermind the 75km/h blasting wind.


Its an active volcanic area. There have been eruptions, explotions and different kinds of blasts up till this day. The landscape is still changing and being shaped (everything in NZ is surprisingly new! The British came at the end of 18th century, the Maori, around 12-13th century.. TThings have changed quite a bit in such a short time!).


The view of the volcano was even more striking up there, after we got out of grey blizzard down at the village.


Local people were rubbing their hands because the huge snowstorm made a good foundation for the skiing slopes (skiing season is to open in 1 month!). Are we going to come here again for some slalom/snowboarding fun this winter? :)

Posted by gkligyte at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2006

Do It Yourself!


We're in Malborough sounds, our last stop in the South Island and we'll be heading to Wellington (the capital of NZ) by boat this weekend.


Btw, for anyone who's interested in our whereabouts and future plans, I got the job offer in NZ and we're very very very seriously considering the possibility of staying here for a longer time, or rather coming back here after our visit to Europe. (I can hear my friends and family sighing in Europe and Leijonakaupunki friends cheering and secretely making plans to come for a visit.. :) But it is not decided yet, so hold your breath a bit longer.. :)


Right now we're staying at the most amazing backpackers hostel called Hopewell that can be reached only by 2 hours driving on the narrow winding road or by taking a water taxi and this is the view from our terrace.


The most amazing thing about this place (besides its unbelievable beauty, remoteness and peace is that you can collect oysters and mussels straight from the shore during the low tide.


The water is so clean here, the you can just pick the oysters, open them and our them straight in your mouth (yes yes, eat them raw and alive! yuk...)


We tried eating them raw (the cats did much better job eating them raw, but were a bit too lazy opening them..), but I guess, we still have to grow till this true gourmand status, so we decided to cook them in the pasta sauce.


Which was great! It took us 3-4 hours to go through the process, so we decided that its nice to do it once, but we'd not do it on daily basis. Besides the time it takes, once you go through the process of opening them, cooking and sorting them out, you kinda feel disgusted (the smell of sea water, getting rid of tiny crabs inside, just the shapes and colours that you find in there may make you feel quite full...)


We went kayaking today.



And Kaj's gatherer/collector instincts took over. They're just everywhere and look so good! He got the whole kayak full of mussles again!


However the highlight of today was not kayaking or mussles, but the dolphins that we saw passing by while kayaking!!! I just heard these snoring slurping splashing sounds of dolphins breathing and jumping before I turned back and saw the beautiful black backs drawing smooth curves above the water. We immediatly started screaming and singing (the lesson learned in Kaikoura when swimming with the dolphins, I think its meant to make them feel that we're their smaller disabled brothers that need to be taken care of or something.. ;), but they didn't come quite close, they were very busy going deeper to the sound. I can't really describe what feelings you get once you see dolphins. its like seeing 10 rainbows in the sky and maybe somewhat comparable to 10 thousand penguins doing square dancing...! Just as rare and just the same lack of words to describe the amazement, really...


We had to cook the mussles today again.. This time I didn't feel so hungry and eager..


So other Hopewell inhabitants could benefit from us. Yes, forever friends, I believe you'll be writing to me, Honey (thats the name of the cat)


Posted by gkligyte at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2006

Taas man...


Its been a while since I wrote my blog, mostly because of some mysterious problems with the servers in Finland. Besides that, we're in a very remote place right now, so no Internet for a while.. :(


We're at the very North of the South Island (Takaka and Motueka) right now. We kind of hoped that the weather would be milder in the North, but the autumn seems to be chasing us.


It still gets quite warm during the day, but the sun sets around 5:30pm and the nature starts looking more and more autumnish... Even looking back at the pictures that we took at the beginning of our trip, I can see the difference.


I'm afraid these are our last summery outings in Tshirts this trip.. We're at the very Northern tip of the Southern Island (big deal, as Kaj says, its not even a continent! Not even the Northern most tip of the country, its just the Northern most tip of some island...:)


But there's beautiful sand dunes and even a spit (a sand strip in the sea, like Neringa, although its a far cry to Nida...), so its an interesting place to visit.


We didn't go swimming there, mostly because its not warm enough (water is ok, I even went for a dip in the sea today!! It was about as warm as Baltic sea gets at the end of June!), but the waves in some of those beaches were so unbelievable huge and messed up, that swimming there wouldn't have been a wise thing to do...


And then we took a 6.5h day walk in the Abel Tasman national park.


A water taxi dropped us off on the beach half way through the trail (normally it takes 3-4 days to walk the whole trail) and then we walked back (the tourist services here are quite amazing!!!)


The trail winds through the forest and sometimes goes down to the sandy bays with beautiful azure green water. This place must be amazing in summer!!! We saw a wild goat in the forest...


... and we met the Spanish surfer guys in the depth of the forest again!!! Its been the 3rd time we encounter them in different places in our trip, without planning or even discussing too much about our plans.. Thats really fun and amazing, but on the other hand quite terrible. It basically shows in a very obvious way that most of the people (us included) travel on some very well laid out paths, checking out the same places (also described in the guidebooks). We had couple of other people that we used to stalk on our way (they must have felt the same.. :). I'm weary even to think how it must be in the high season in the midst of summer. The roads are quite full (relatively, of course :) of camper vans and at times the hostels are really crowded.. It must be a nightmare in summer!


Funny signs on the way to the Farewell spit from Takaka. :) This area seems to be full of hippies, people in dreadlocks, people that appear to be "very chilled" and they're not all tourists, I'd say, mostly local... Kaj was in his element.. :)


And the Arthurs pass, on the way from the West coast to the East, nice scenery, but not much to tell about it, just didn't have a chance to throw it in anywhere else.. :)

Posted by gkligyte at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2006

Dolphin queen


Ok, I should write this right now: just 3 hours ago we were swimming with the dolphins!!! We were in Kaikoura, a spot in the North of South Island that is especially popular with all kinds of marine wildlife.


Yesterday we spent 3 hours in the boat, searching for dolphins, but the tour guides couldn't locate them anywhere. Today we packed up to leave Kaikoura and just for the hell of it dropped by to the tour office. And, of course, of course, they've seen the dolphins in the morning and we missed that boat.

Anyway, it worked out even better for us, because we jumped on the next boat and they already knew where the dolphins were!


Its been pretty chilly for last couple of days here, so I didn't feel so hot about swimming in the open sea (the water is maybe some 13-14C degrees cold). However when we finally saw the dolphins, I just got so excited that I forgot all about it (and everything else, like closing my wet suit properly).


Of course, some more of kiwi fashion helped a lot!!! We're getting pretty stylish here!!!


It was just one of the most unbelievable experiences that I ever had in my life. I never expected to see so many dolphins in one pod (they say its about 180 of them in that particular group!). And once you get down to the water, they just start swimming around, approaching you from all directions and inviting to play. They are completely wild and untrained, so its hard to believe how playful and curious animals they are!


Of course, we tried to entertain them as well, by circling with them and singing. Yes! Singing! They seemed to get particularly excited when you sing something in high pitched voice through your snorkel. Kaj was entertaining them with some Christmas carols and I was singing the "sumertime.. and the living is easy.. fish are jumping..." etc...


They are so cool, when you start circling with them, they try to swim faster to outswim you! So competitive! And definitely very interested! We almost missed this oportunity, so its ten times more precious experience, as we didn't expect anything anymore...



Kaikoura is famous not only for its husky dolphins, but also for whales, albatroses, fur seals and sea lions. We went seal "hunting" one afternoon. They're just sleeping on the rocks, completely uninterested in humans snapping photos with their cameras. Well, it was a different wildlife experience.


And, of course, since we're in NZ, a very frequent form of wildlife is... sheep, of course.. :) Its scary at times to see these innocent animals walking just by the edge of the cliff that has 100m drop. What a happy life!


Kaikoura itself is a very beautiful town (or should I rather say that the nature around it is beautiful?)


There's good surfing beaches and beautiful snowcapped mountains around it.


And, obviously, there's a lot of good fresh seafood in local restaurants here, I tried crayfish (some sort of huge lobster) as it is a speciality of Kaikoura. Kaj had lamb (yes one of those innocent ones, my vegetarian self has to confess that I had a bite of that too... Nam!)


Before Kaikoura we were in Greymouth at the West Coast which was a surprisingly good place to be. We ended up staying there for 2 nights. The weather was spectacular and almost summerish (here's almost a full round of seasons in one week for you.. :)


For some reason these cliffs in Punakaiki are very popular with tourists.



It looks like pancakes stacked on top of each other, but why is it so amazingly popular I really don't have a clue. We've seen much more spectacular things in here...


Like this river valley, just 1km away from the "popular" rocks.


Kaj especially liked it, he thought it looks like Jurassic Park. And it certainly does with all these ferns and primordial plants in a limestone canyon. Its pretty amazing, how different the nature is, if you drive some 100km to one side or the other.


Now we're on the way to Christchurch again. Tomorrow I'm flying to Auckland for one day, for a job interview, I hope the future will become clearer after that. Stay tuned. :)

Posted by gkligyte at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)