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Five weeks in New Zealand

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Yeah, it's often good to see touristy places just a little off season. Unless you like the crowds, or some scheduled event is what you're after.
     
  2. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I did the same thing on my trips to Patagonia, Peru, and California. Everything is cheaper and it's far less crowded.. And crowds suck unless it's cute girls so
     
  3. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    You met cute girls anyways. :p
     
  4. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Damn right! :cool:

    I met a lot of people in New Zealand, mostly people backpacking through the country like me. I used to be a huge introvert, but making friends on a trip like this was incredibly easy, no matter what the gender or sexiness-level of the other person. Everyone with a backpack is kind of on the same wavelength, except for some of those people travelling through the country just to get wasted every night and not do much else. I ran into some people like that.. They were for the most part obnoxious and not really worth talking to. The locals were for the most part incredibly friendly too, leading to a very relaxed and.. friendly atmosphere all around.
     
  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 10 - Routeburn Track day 2 part 5

    Not too long after the Routeburn Valley became visible, the Routeburn Falls Hut became came into view as well.



    I made it!

    It was already 6pm, but I made it. I was exhausted beyond belief and my left knee hurt, but none of that mattered when I saw the hut.



    I signed in, made myself at home, and checked out the kitchen/dining area. Not too long later I ran into Mari, my Estonian hiking buddy. She had been talking to some people in the kitchen and told me that there was a swimming hole nearby, which she was planning on visiting fairly shortly. So.. I casually sprinted back to my bunk, put on my swim gear, grabbed my towel, and returned with equal casualness.

    We had vague directions that directed us towards a helicopter pad, which was easy enough to find.. but after that, we were lost. Eventually we decided to climb down a somewhat steep rocky cliff, towards what looked to us like a deep enough lake. That could have been it!

    But.. there weren't really any deep enough sections to submerge yourself in! There was nowhere where you could swim, as far as we could see, and the deepest place we found was a small area where the water went up to just below my chest.. Not deep at all, but I submerged myself in the ice cold water anyway.. A bit disappointing, but super refreshing.. and, skimpy yellow bikini. So all in all worth it. :p The climb back up wasn't easy, mostly because we didn't have our shoes with us.

    After that it was dinner time (curry!), I wrote a whole bunch of postcards, read my book a bit, and a bit later witnessed Chanukah. At first I had no idea what they were doing.. It was very interesting, really, I guess mostly because I've never seen anyone performing Chanukah related rituals before. What they were doing involved a candle or candles and some chants, but I can't really remember the details. I watched from afar, trying to not to stare, but I'm a curious person, so I had to see what they were up to.

    And then it was dark.. and out came the stars. Soo many stars and so many unfamiliar constellations. Me and Mari, both from the northern hemisphere, made a point of taking all of that in from the deck attached to our hut - from which you could see down into the Routeburn Valley below. We spent maybe 15 minutes there, sitting on a bench in awe. Sounds romantic, huh? I can't exactly remember, but I kind of doubt it; she was freezing and wrapped in her entire sleeping bag, and I was tired as hell, amazed by the stars, but eager for zzz-time.
     
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 11 - Routeburn Track day 3

    The last day's hike was supposed to take 3-4 hours, but I had to be at the trailhead by 2pm, because that's when a bus was going to pick me up and drive me to Queenstown... And the first 2 hours of the hike are all downhill, taking you down straight to the bottom of the Routeburn Valley, which to me sounded like bad news for my left knee, which had really flared up on day 2. I decided to give myself 5 hours for the hike, just in case. It meant I wouldn't be able to make the walk with my hiking buddy, but I just couldn't afford missing that bus. I would have her strong pain medication with me and I'd see her on the bus, if that was any consolation..

    Here's what was hanging on the railing on the patio right outside of our bunk room. Very informative and helpful! Most huts had this sort of thing, but this one seemed especially informative and organized. They updated that weather forecast every morning at 8:30am IIRC.



    And this was the view... down into the Routeburn Valley.. This is the direction I would be heading in



    In the kitchen there was a cool international Christmas greeting montage hanging on the wall; I made sure to get a photo of it on the way out. It sort of reminded me that I really had no plan for Christmas gifts for people other than "find cool stuff in New Zealand and bring it back", and so far I hadn't found squat



    I left the hut at 9am. The early morning sun made photography fairly challenging, but the Routeburn valley was just spectacular. Fortunately some of the pics came out really well.





    I was going to miss seeing these mountains and this sort of scenery from above the treeline..

     
  7. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    Do you still have the problem with your knee.
     
  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yes, in the sense that my left foot is extremely flat, which leads to altered pressure points in my entire left leg when I walk, which can sometimes lead to problems with my left knee or my entire left leg, if I strain myself enough. That's probably what happened in New Zealand. My right foot is flat too, but not as much.

    I learned all this after I busted my left ankle by overstraining it on a hike last year in Peru. I started seeing a physio who ended up concluding that I "walk wrong" and that the angles in my legs are just all.. wrong, leading to potential problems during long periods of strain.

    What happens is that basically my feet are angled a bit differently when I walk - creating a cascading chain of angle changes throughout my body. This changes where the pressure points are and parts of your body that aren't used to it or haven't been "designed" to handle such things all of a sudden have to take on unexpected amounts of pressure. Usually when you're just going through your day to day stuff or even being active, playing some soccer, basketball, or whatever, your body can handle that stuff. But if you spend a couple days doing the same movement over and over and over (walking) with a lot of weight on your back, some parts will just eventually start complaining.. in the form of a discomfort, pain, or a part of a muscle that will just give out.

    So the problem is really much larger. Fortunately the physio clinic here at work is quite good and I've been able to get orthodics fully covered by my work. I've been wearing them for 6-8 months now and they should help me with some of these problems. They will help re-orient my feet and my legs better and put less pressure on those parts that aren't "designed" to handle it, during long hikes.

    I've known about my flat feet for quite a while now, but never knew they could lead to more problems with other parts of my body like that. Not until something made me want to go on crazy hikes with lots of weight on my back.

    I haven't felt any pain in my left knee for over 2 years now, so that's good, but aside the trip to Peru, where I f'd up my left ankle, I haven't really done anything amazingly strenuous that lasted a couple days... My next long hike through some mountains wherever? My knee pains could very well return. I'm going to have to be careful. The orthodics will help, but I'm going to have to be a bit smarter about pacing myself I think.
     
  9. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    You might want to look into custom designed hiking boots and shoes for when you want to take long hikes again to compensate for the problem.
     
  10. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I haven't really thought this through yet, but my physio guy said that if I wear my orthodics when I'm doing hardcore hiking like that, then I should be fine.. for the most part. It's a pain to transfer the orthodics to other shoes though, so for now I'm just wearing my hiking boots everywhere.. on a trip that might not be ideal.. but I have no idea what sort of custom shoes I could get. I guess I might need another set of orthodics.
     
  11. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    Another set of orthodics seem like a good idea. I don't know if you can incorrectly fit them. It would be awkward if you had to keep transferring them back and forward if you were staying somewhere that did not allow you to wear your boots.
     
  12. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I've gotten really used to wearing my boots everywhere anyway, even before I got my orthodics. They are just broken in so well, waterproof, and.. well, comfy. I am going to look into how much another set of orthodics would cost though. Work covered 85% of the cost of this pair, I think, I wonder if they'd pay for another pair. Maybe next year? These boots aren't easy to dance in, and if I find myself in a fancy dance club in inner Mongolia, I want to be able to impress the ladies. Having another pair of shoes on my trips would definitely be handy.
     
  13. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

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    I suppose if you leave them in the boots if you want to go somewhere and not dance to much but soak up the local culture


     
  14. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I'm gonna stick to my orthodics for now. Some of those shoes look fugly :p I think they'd pretty much do the exact same thing as my orthodics anyway, but who knows, I might as well do some more reading

    Looks like a hike to Everest base camp might be in teh books for late 2014 or early 2015. I'll have to revisit all of this when it comes time to plan that trip
     
  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 11 - Routeburn Track day 3 part 2

    The descent into the valley was painful. Australian pain pills or not, my left knee was hurting. By the time I got down into the Routeburn valley and to Routeburn Flats Hut I was ready for a long break. It took me over a half an hour to get ready and get going again.

    Things were going to be easier after that, as the terrain until the trailhead was for the most part very flat. I was basically now walking right beside that lush green riverbed you see in a couple of the last photos.

    Here's me looking back towards the ridge that I climbed down from.



    Now looking the other way, toward my destination:



    The walk to the trailhead was long and strenuous, but at least flat. That meant that I was able to put far less pressure on my left knee, which helped me keep a somewhat steady pace.

    The terrain was very different from what I got used to over the last 2 days:



    A couple more hours of walking and I was done!

    The Routeburn Track trailhead had an unstaffed information booth, bathrooms, a water fountain, and drying platforms. I arrived about a half an hour before the my 2pm pickup, so I changed into some perfectly dry clothes and put out my wet stuff to dry.

    Reinactment of me putting out my stuff to dry performed by some guy:



    Here's a map of the surrounding area I took at the trailhead, which had a bunch of interesting plaques posted. This might appeal to those of you who are map geeks.. like me.

    Milford Sound is just off the map to the west, Queenstown is past Glenorchy and also off the map to the south-east.



    It was 2pm and Mari really did show up at almost the very last second. We got on the bus and got ready for a 2 hour long drive to Queenstown.

    I had finished 2 great walks back to back! I was exhausted, but my spirits were high. Soon enough I would be back in civilization and drinking beer.
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 11 part 3

    Back in Queenstown

    The bus ride to Queenstown took us through a region that was used to film the The Isengrad and Lothlórien forest scenes in the Lord of the Rings. It's too bad we didn't stop anywhere until Glenorchy, because the pictures would have been potentially amazing. I have a bit of a tradition to consume white chocolate and orange Fanta as soon as I can after a long hike, and the rest stop in Glenorchy did not disappoint: both items were in stock at the general store!

    An hour long scenic drive right beside Lake Wakatipu later and we were back in Queenstown. I got dropped off at my new hostel, I checked in, dropped off my stuff, and headed straight for the best burger joint in town, which was conveniently located right around the corner. I patted myself on the back for the brilliant foresight. The burger joint in question is Fergburger and it was always a "must do" item on my list - it's a very popular gourmet burger place with just 1 location that's "known internationally". Online reviews seemed to suggest that it was actually going to be good and not just all hype.

    I got in line and looked at the menu. This was the easiest decision of my life: I ordered the $16 Mr. Big Stuff and a large pint. Awesome. I wolfed down my meal, which was a true giant culinary masterpiece and tasted like burger perfection, and started thinking about my next move. Nothing else remaining on my trip was booked, except for 2 nights at the hostel. I wanted to bungyjump or something, even though the thought terrified me, but Queenstown was the bungy capital of the world.. so.. if I was ever going to do it, that might as well have been it. I also needed to figure out transportation through the Haast Pass to the glaciers, the next leg of my trip.

    After dinner I walked to the isite visitor centre and ran into the same girl behind the counter who helped me book a bunch of stuff for my hikes. This was obviously the best person to help me plan my bungyjump adventure for some reason. She handed me a bunch of pamphlets outlining some of the bungy options in the area after making some recommendations... I sat down and looked through them in a dazed, very tired, slightly Aussie-pain-med drugged, feeling good after 2 large pints type of manner and went with the thing she was recommending as the "best bang for your buck" - The Shotover Canyon Swing, the world's highest cliff jump. I booked it as a combo with The Shotover Canyon Jet, which seemed potentially worth it.

    I had to be up early next morning to report at the Shotover Canyon Swing head office for pickup, so after all this I just went to sleep.. after finding a very cheap internet cafe and spending a bit of time there first. Turns out I was sharing a dorm room at the hostel with 3 Australian party bros and/or mates and a 65 year old woman who looked very frail and who also sold handmade leathery gadgets. That actually all worked out very well for me - the Australians left rather quickly and the older woman crashed not too long after. She didn't snore either, so it was easy to fall asleep.
     
  18. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Day 12 - Jumping off a cliff

    I was up early so that I could catch a quick breakfast at McDonald's before heading to the Shotover Canyon Swing office. Once I got there they sat me down in a nice comfy couch in front of a large TV and gave me a bunch of forms to fill out. It was the standard "If you die, we're not responsible" type stuff that seemed normal enough. No doubts yet.

    The doubts started when that large TV in front of me turned on.. and started showing clips of people standing on the same platform I was going to stand on in about an hour's time.. It looked incredibly high up.. Higher than I thought it was going to be. It was REALLY high up. Holy crap, what did I sign up for!??! The video playing right in front of my face was mostly showing people too scared to jump - They were screaming, crying, swearing... I of course tried not to look, but a lot of it registered with me. And you know how when something incredibly scary is coming up and the more you think or try not to think about it and the more time that passes and the closer the event approaches, a fear starts building up inside of you? That's what started happening to me at that exact moment... My body, mind, and soul had a quick meeting and decided that I was an idiot and that this course of events was foolish and had to be prevented at all costs. It was my conscious vs them and they weren't happy at all.

    Note that I have been afraid of heights all my life.. Looking down from a place that's high up just makes my body respond in a certain way. That imagery of people standing so high and being so obviously afraid of jumping played right into my fears. I remembered something the girl who helped me book all this stuff told me though: "If you don't jump, you don't get your money back".. but more importantly: "If you do jump, you'll thank yourself later. It will be an amazing experience that you'll remember for the rest of your life. Don't end up kicking yourself for not jumping! Make it a worthwhile memory. You already paid for it - you might as well". These words were a great motivator and sure helped me convince myself to go through with it.

    Seven or so other daredevils who would be taking the bus to the jumping platform with me eventually arrived and filled out their forms as well. Then we all stood in a circle and introduced eachother.. It turned out that only one of them had ever jumped anything like this before, and only once at that. You could tell that everyone was kind of nervous, but comforted by the fact that were in this together! And that we were for the most part new to this.. I'm not sure why that helped, but it did.

    And then we were on the bus, heading towards the Shotover Canyon! The bus ride wasn't very long, maybe a half an hour tops, but you know what? There was a TV at the front of the bus, and yep, you guessed it, it was playing clips of people standing on the jumping platform who were too scared to jump. And again, I tried not to look, but the fear inside me just kept building up. I vaguely remember reciting some version of the litany against fear. It helped! Sort of. I took deep breaths and tried to focus my mind. It didn't make any of the fear go away, but it prevented it from spiralling out of control.

    We had "Pick your jump style!" pamphlets to look through on the bus and so I was sitting there, trying to ease my mind, while also trying to figure out how I was going to make this work. I was pretty sure that both my body and my mind just wouldn't let me jump if I could see the canyon in front of me.. and below. The fear that had been building up inside of me would just make me freeze. I would crap my pants and back out. So, I decided that the only way to do this thing was to jump backwards. It would still be scary, maybe scarier, but maybe I could trick my body & mind to jump by not giving them a visual of what was below.

    I thought about it further.. No.. It would be very hard to just jump backwards, knowing there was a giant drop behind me. No way.. So.. Hmmm.. What if I was in a chair, facing away from the canyon, and I just sort of leaned backwards and let it tip over? Yeah, that was my best bet, I thought. It was the only jump option they listed that I thought I could actually go through with - and only because it would make it easier for me to fool my mind & body into actually going through with it. It was all mind games at this point, really. warpus vs warpus. I was in uncharted territory and very close to freaking out and backing the hell out.

    The bus stopped, we got out, and were instructed to hike uphill for 5 minutes or so, at which point we'd be at the platform. Uh-oh, I thought. This is actually going to happen. VERY SOON. I am going to jump off a cliff. !$&^$%^!$

    And then, another brilliant idea: I had to jump first. There was no way around it. If I was forced to stand there and watch others jump and perhaps struggle.. and perhaps catch a glimpse of the bottom of the canyon below.. The fear that I had inside me would reach a boiling point and I just would be unable to go through with it.

    And I'm not sure if this was just a trick my mind played on me or what, because it certainly wasn't planned, but as soon as we got to the top I mentioned that I was afraid of heights. RIGHT AWAY somebody grabs my arm and pulls me through the gate and starts strapping me in. This is what I wanted! But how did I end up in this situation? I didn't understand. I was in a very strange state of mind - still tired from all the hiking and trying to fight back an impeding wave of fear. I was also somehow surprisingly calm. Nothing made sense. And next thing I know I am strapped into a chair and ready to go.

    Pay special attention to all the little (and not so little) psychological things they do to mess with your head. "Accidently" bumping into you and so on. The whole experience felt like a well planned and calculated scheme to scare you as much as humanly possible.


    Link to video.

    It was just incredible how my mindset went from "HOLY CRAP I AM GOING TO DIE" to "HOLY MOTHER OF ALL MOTHERS, THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING FEELING EVER". The scary part was the whole journey leading up to the jump. Once you jump, everything turns awesome.
     
  19. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    I couldn't have done that :eek:
     
  20. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    1. I was very close to walking away a couple times

    2. I'm not sure I would have even signed up if I wasn't so out of it right after the hikes. It was on my potential "to do" list, the sign-up was partially instinctive.

    3. I'm not so sure I could do it again.. and right at the end of the video you might hear me say "F that!" when asked "Do you want to jump again?".. Even though right before that I am telling them how much I enjoyed it. Jumping again is a lot cheaper too, since you're already strapped in. "Been there, done that, F that" was my attitude.

    4. It was honestly one of the most amazing feelings I've ever felt. That alone might convince me to do this sort of thing again, at some point in the future. Later on on this trip I signed up to skydive - but it was cloudy and it didn't happen. I wanted to feel that euphoria again - and when you skydive you're in freefall 30-60 times longer. I can't imagine the levels of euphoria that wash through your body. For me it's definitely a "I've got to try this at least once" type thing.
     

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