Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fearless Keas (Day 45)

Most of the birds we've met in New Zealand were seemingly not bothered by people at all (which Elvinas took a full advantage of) - you can walk very very close to them, feed them from your hands, take pictures, etc. But these fearless Keas (half a meter size alpine parrots), which greeted us on our way from Milford sound, were the most astonishing of all: along the line of cars waiting to pass via impressive Homer Tunnel they would go from car to car asking for attention, food and posing for numerous cameras. Yet again, the most impressive and colorful pictures stayed in the big devices :)

Posing is my occupation
Just compare the bird's size to the tire of our campervan!

I thought this was an interesting welcome :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tongariro Alpine Crossing (day 28)

Frost on both sides of the window, as we woke up at 6am at the Tongariro base campsite..

The Red Crater of Tongariro

Alpine lake


Gyula, on the descent..

This post was long due... Since this happened about two weeks ago.

So, here are some pics about our first big hike in NZ, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It was 19.5 kms hike, up towards, and then crossing the crater of a volcano, about 2000 meters above sea level. We did it in 8 hours, taking time for photos, lunch, etc.

It was an incredible day, definitely a highlight of this trip.

And now, back to the present. We are on day 50 on our trip, leaving NZ for Brisbane, Australia in about 45 minutes.

sent from my android.

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Campervan cuisine - Frittata


Potato, asparagus frittata with tomatos. Credit goes to Austeja of course.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's not just a Burger! (Day 46)

Following the series of our muffin culinary discoveries, here is a little shift to something bigger and more meaty. I do not think I've seen a bigger Burger in my life. And, apparently, one has to be really careful not to injure his jaw!  It was, most likely, the best Burger I've ever eaten as well! What else can you expect from the company, which employees are wearing T-shirts claiming that Ferg loves you and showing the man with a 3 finger combination :) 

Letter from a doctor

Gyula turned out to be all right, but very full :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Highest Swing in the World - Nevis Arc (Day 47)

A free swing bridge leading you the THE PLATFORM

A 70 meter freefall into the river valley, shifting to a huge (300 m) swing bringing you towards the cliff face with the speed of 150 km/h. What a fear and what an excitement!

The best part for Gyula was the moment of a release from the Launch Pad. The best part for me - a kiss at the moment of realization that I've survived.

Gyula did it twice (hence the pictures made with Android feature the brave man). As for me, I think, this one will be enough for a lifetime.


The moment of a release

Do you see Gyula?

Coming back

Monday, November 22, 2010

The spectacular land of volcanoes and geysers (Day 25)

This is surely one of the most exciting topics for Elvinas!

Did you know that Auckland alone is surrounded by close to 50 volcanoes, and some of them are extremely young (Rangitoto volcano has erupted only 600 years ago)? I didn't. Not before our trip to New Zealand.

The view of Rangitoto island from Auckland Sky Tower

One of the absolute highlights of the North Island for us was a visit to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, where we saw colorful craters, boiling lakes and springs, little geysers and more. This particular valley was created by the 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera, so the whole geothermal area is extremely new. Needless to say, this visit not only served as a great geography lesson for Elvinas (part of the homeschooling programme :)), but also tought us more about the history of New Zealand. 

Boiling lake

Nearly boiling Inferno Crater

The gin bottle :)

Boiling spring

It was simply fantastic to finish the day in Waikite Valley hot pools, where campers have free access to the thermal area and can soak in the pools for as a long as there is water in them. The next morning (6ish) we started off the day soaking again, enjoying the view of the foggy hills instead of the raising sun.

Good morning fog :)


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Abel Tasman Great Walk (Day 34)

We didn't do the whole Abel Tasman Great walk, which usually takes 3 to 5 days to complete, but we chose the best part of it as a day walk. Looking at our rusty map we've calculated that the Headland track via Gibbs Hill should be maximum 15 km of pleasant walking along the beaches and some jungle forest, but it turned out to be 23 km! It took as almost 8 hours and a lot of energy (again, it would have been very  nice to track our walk with GPS for exact distance and elevation, etc), but we were extremely happy with the day, since the scenery was amazing, the seals very cute and the weather turned out to be great (I even dipped myself into the ice cold sea!). 










Greetings from the Wharariki beach! (Day 36)

Thanks to our Tongan friend Susan we drove additional 100 km or so to the north from the picturesque Abel Tasman National Park of the South Island to check out the Wharariki beach, which was said to be a very special place. When we arrived, the weather didn't greet as well... the cloudy day turned into a stormy one and going for a family afternoon stroll was out of question. Therefore we've set off to the mystical place one after each other to experience the sand storm in absolute solitude - there was literally no one else on that beach, except maybe the seals. When Gyula came back from his pioneering experience, he was covered with wet sand from his head to his toes...

Gyula, risking the life of his Android (sand and water flying around is not captured well here)
It was well worth it staying around for an extra night hoping to see the rewarding landscape of this magical spot in the sun light. Thank you very much, Susan, we had a great time!

The big photographer (no risk to the camera this time)

The little caveman

A view from just one of many amazing caves

Silent check on a sleeping seal (down in between the rocks)

Yesterday's storm left amazing sand formations

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Heli-hike on the Fox glacier



Arriving to glacier land on the west coast of the South Island, I couldn't resist and booked a spot on a helicopter hike on the longest glacier around, the Fox.

The weather was suboptimal, but luckily my chosen tour took off (many others got canceled). A few mins on the heli, and I found myself right on the ice, mounting crampons. It was really cool, took loads of photos while navigating various ice formations, caves, streams.

Two hours later, the heli came back to pick us up, just minutes before the clouds closed down on the valley again.

In Wanaka now, enjoying some sun after like five days of rain. Heading to Queenstown tomorrow, and the fjords soon after.

sent from my android.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Today's school

Bundles of tens and remaining units

One of the great things about this trip is that we get to homeschool the little one. He works on reading, writing, maths, spelling mostly. He writes a story with a picture as well every week - they are really cool!

We were really enthusiastic about this opportunity, and right after arriving to the Cook Islands, we broke down all the work that needed to be done to weeks and days. We created a routine around it as well, which we follow quite well since.

On the picture: to keep things interesting and challenging, we occasionally prepare extra pages of exercises. This one is about the bundles of tens and the units left. Took me ~6 mins to create and 3 for him to solve :)

sent from my android.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Android


We didn't write much about Android so far. Here is a quick sum of our experiences to date:

Email:
For possibly the most important function, emailing, our android devices are perfect. Checking, reading, sending mails is convenient enough - especially if you have Swype installed. Most other travelers use small sub-notebooks, but although they might be slightly more comfortable and faster, they only work with wifi. IPads are still rarely seen with long term travelers.

Blogging:
Maintaining this blog is an other important function for us. We use email to send post drafts with pictures to blogger, which we then need to edit slightly in the editor at blogger.com (choosing pic size, adding location, tags) using the browser. This works reliably, and apart from the alterations in the browser, is generally painless. The most cumbersome part is adding links in posts, since it can't be done in email draft, only in the editor (switching windows and doing copy and paste take time...).

Other functions we (would) use are:

- maps and navigation. Google maps is great, when you have unlimited connectivity. Although we have almost that here in NZ, we still had to buy a comprehensive road atlas with specific info for campervan tourers. Signal is also rather sparse in NZ. Another useful app in this space is MapDroyd, which allows preloading and offline viewing of vector maps from openstreetmap.

- gps tracking. We did some serious hikes on the trip, and it would have been great to track them with the MyTracks app, to be later uploaded and displayed on this blog. The main problem with this was battery - gps is very power hungry, and we are generally struggling to keep our devices charged.

- tethering. Works great, very cool for sharing connectivity via a wifi hotspot. The only problem again is battery, the hotspot provider device is quickly going down.

- browsing. It is great to have a full browser at hand. Online banking, searching for info, etc all work perfectly.

- camera. The nexus one is taking superb photos. All pics on this blog are taken by these phones, and we are quite pleased with the quality and usability of the camera.

In general, it would be good to have much longer battery times, and much better/cheaper connectivity. Now we are confined to use our phones and these functions very frugally.

Still, all in all, we are not at all regretting leaving our laptops at home, the androids are great travel companions :)

Your thoughts welcome.

sent from my android.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blueberry and cream cheese muffin


This blueberry and cream cheese muffin in Bulls Bakery was YUMM! :)

sent from my android.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Campervan cuisine

vitamin salad

fried potatoes and chicken sausage

10+ days now living in the campervan, we are through a good few meals. Austeja is usually the mastermind and main chef, while I sort of try to copilot. We have done pancakes, chicken curry, various soups, etc..

We like to eat well, and New Zealand is a great place for doing just that, even in your camper, on a two-burner gas stove. Vegetables and fruits taste great, grown locally, and are well affordable.

On the pictures are the lunch and dinner from today (day 33 of the trip):
- vitamin salad with oranges, raisins, carrots and cashew nuts,
- fried potatoes and chicken sausage, with cucumber-tomato salad in sour cream + onion dressing with some pinot noir. (Sort of eclectic, but it was good!)

sent from my android.

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