South Island Journey - Day #11

31.12.2013 - Abel Tasman

Hiking day! We hopped on a boat and were dropped off after a one hour ride on the starting point of
our 11km hike through Abel Tasman. Luckily I haven’t seen a single Sandfly in Abel Tasman but they
had their fair share of me so I guess we were even.

The hike was really cool, up and downhill over narrow paths and rocks through the rainforest. The
view on some of these beaches there were probably blueprints for a lot of postcards. The length of
the hike was quite right, not too short and not too long so we could hang out at the beach for 3 hours
to wait for our boat ride back to the starting point. Really nice day and really nice weather for the last
day of the South Island Adventure!

South Island Journey - Day #10

30.12.2013 - Abel Tasman

After switching hotels for the last time, we were now situated right next to the entrance to the Abel Tasman.
Since it was a very rainy day we decided to not do a hike but instead do a 3h boats tour to get an overview
over the Abel Tasman National Park. It was worth the money and time and the best decision to make. The
tour started with rain and rough sea, so our boat was jumping a bit through the waves which I quite liked.
Constantly having spray in the air, really cool. Nonetheless we were able to get some nice pictures of the
coastline of the Abel Tasman and got an overview on how big Abel Tasman is and some background infos.
Close to the return point of our tour the weather changed and we were treated with sunshine and smaller
waves and were able to see everything again in a different light situation. Pretty lucky I think. Abel Tasman
has some really nice beaches and is definitely a good place for a ‘I need a break, let’s stay on beach’
vacation, not that much people there and definitely in the middle of nowhere.

At night you can see a hell of lot of stars out there, since there is no light pollution of any kind it get’s really
dark and you can see the milky way with the naked eye. Fantastic!

South Island Journey - Day #9

29.12.2013 - Motueka

Today we had our longest drive of around 300km, from Greymouth to Motueka right on the doorstep
of Abel Tasman. On the way we passed again the usual beautiful coastline and mountains. One thing
to point out were the Pancake Rocks. These rocks on the coast look like some pilled up a lot of pancakes
and shaped some nice sculptures with it on the coast. They are falling steep into the ocean and luckily
we had a rainy day so the waves were a bit higher and crushing into the rock formation causing some
really nice whitewater splashes and some nice effects. One was a 15m deep chimney formed inside
the rock that would spit out steam when the waves were hitting hard enough. Really nice there, we
unfortunately just took short stroll there because of the rain and then headed back to the car.

The hotel in Motueka was really nice and it stopped raining for a bit so we could have a little hike
on the beach before having dinner. This was the first place in New Zealand were I really could see
high and low tide, I think unlike everything I’ve seen so far here it was very shallow for a few hundred
meters before getting really deep.

South Island Journey - Day #8

28.12.2013 - Franz Josef Glacier / Greymouth

Before leaving to Greymouth, our next stop, we went for the Heli-Hike at Franz Josef. At around two we were
prepared for our glacier hike and got some water proof jackets, boots and trousers. We had to fill out a waiver
asking for all kinds of medical stuff and stating that you are aware that this is potentially a dangerous trip. We
were told to listen to the guide and follow whatever he tells us to do.

Then we were walking across the street towards the airfield where the helicopters were landing and taking
of like in a beehive. Sweating like hell in our gear and waiting for our lift up on the glacier. I had the pleasure
to sit on a window seat on my first helicopter flight which was really nice and gave me a really nice few. The
flight was smooth and interesting even though it was just 15min or so. We were entering the valley of Franz
Josef staying close to the right mountain flank going up to the glacier top taking a turn and then being dropped
of on the glacier. When the helicopter made the turn you really could feel the g-pressure getting more which
was new to me cause normally you don’t feel it when sitting in a plane it was more like sitting in a carousel.

On the glacier we were instructed by our guide how to put on the spikes on our boots and what to do and not
do. He was a funny guy and somehow left the impression he was smoking a bit too much pot from time to time.
It was a really cool feeling standing on top of all that ice knowing that it has been there for a very long time but
still moving/living. We followed the guide and after a few meters it was clear that half of our group was more
interested in causing trouble than listen to what the guid had to say. Particularly one chinese girl was trying
to get herself into trouble climbing up on ice blocks and not listening to the warnings of the guide. I already
saw us standing around a hole in the ice with her in it waiting for a rescue team.

Well none of that happened, instead we meet another group with a bunch of crazy indian guys of which one
was crazy enough to jump into an ice water pool on the glacier. Not the type of bath I’m interested in. He
seemed happy and we certainly had fun watching too. After that we started our walk over the ice and through
little ice cave and tunnels where we had to pull ourselves through the narrow tunnels with a rope. Just
bumped my back once otherwise it was good fun. The weather was quite nice, changing from cloudy and fresh
to sunny and fresh and sometimes there was a really warm wind coming down from the top of the glacier.

After 2-2,5 hours we came back to the landing sight where we were picked up again by the helicopter. This
time the pilot flew straight back to the airfield but with a little goodie, we climbed up to the top of the mountain
on the left of the valley just going a few meters over it and then diving down to the airfield. Really nice!
If you get the chance to do this Heli-Hike, I can definitely recommend it!

We then drove to Greymouth through really nice valleys, passing lakes and all the usual New Zealand crap.
Just to reach Greymouth which was really a weird place, it looked like living here isn’t that much fun and it
actually looked pretty ugly from what I could see. The weather did not help with that impression and the
mold smell in our rooms did neither.

Good to see that even in New Zealand not everything is perfect and beautiful ;)

South Island Journey - Day #7

27.12.2013 - Fox Glacier

Today we headed for the second glacier in the area, the Fox Glacier. Franz Josef and Fox Glacier are
one of the very few glaciers in the world that are ending in a rainforest and are easy to access. As we
did at Franz Josef we took the walk up to the glacier to check in out up close. The hike was a bit longer
and was more interesting than Franz Josef. If someone doesn’t believe in global warming they should
be sent here to check out how fast the glacier is retreating over the last decades.

After the glacier hike we visited the nearby lake and took a hike there as well. Lake Matheson was -
the less impressive lake I’ve seen so far in New Zealand. It ‘just’ looked like an ordinary really nice
lake surrounded by mountains and a glacier. One get’s really spoiled here in New Zealand and is
almost disappointed when something not completely overwhelms you with it’s beauty. It was a nice
hike anyway and certainly a good exercise!

South Island Journey - Day #6

26.12.2013 - Franz Josef Glacier

After a 2,5h drive up the coast with some nice views we arrived at the Franz Josef Glacier. The little town
to it's feet consists only of tourist accommodations but is a nice place to be. We checked in our Motel, the
Rainforest Retreat which was very nice and then drove up towards the glacier and took the hike up there.
We took the short hike of 1,5h which was nice and the weather was perfect for it. Sunshine and 25 degrees.
Walking up to the glacier we were constantly walking past waterfalls, if the mountains would have been
floating one could be mistaken of being on Pandora. Really nice!
Getting closer to the glacier you could feel the temperature drop but still being nice for a walk up there.
When you stand up close to the glacier it's really impressive, knowing that this ice has been here for several
thousand years, resisting the sun. It's different than seeing old mountains, it feels more alive, closer.
Who knows how long it will exist with the climate change.
Looking forward to our Heli-Hike to see the glacier up close.

South Island Journey - Day #5

25.12.2013 - Haast

Christmas day in New Zealand! We drove from Queenstown to Haast, a drive of about 240km. It was a
pretty smooth ride over mountains passing countless beautiful lakes and sights. We meet just a few cars
on hour way and when we finally arrived in Haast we felt like we've just arrived on a deserted island.
There were a handful of houses claiming to be a city and everything was closed because of Christmas day.
No supermarket no nothing!

Luckily our landlady had a tip for us that the local hotel might be open and we could get some food there.
So we headed to that hotel and they served us some food right before everyone, in a felt radius of 200km,
came to the restaurant to get some food. Stuffed with fish and chips we drove back towards our lodge and
spotted a small way leading towards the beach. We went in there and what we saw there was just marvellous.
There were just a few guys there in tents and thats it, the beach was completely empty. The waves looked
like there was a storm somewhere on the ocean, they were bigger than usual and hitting the beach one after
the other. The whole area was covered in thick mist making it hard to see the end of the beach to the left and

So I was standing there the beach and the ocean in front of me, rainforest and the mountain behind me
everything covered in mist. The sunlight playing with the waves and the misty mountains and the forrest.

We took a lot of pictures trying to preserve the moment and this fantastic composition. We decided to take
the car and just drive down the coast and see whats there. Heading south for a few kilometres crossing a few
one lane bridges we ended up on a road, straight for about 20km and to the left and right a huge rainforest
flanked the street, the far distance covered in fog. It looked like an endless street going nowhere. Beautiful!

Well the street actually lead, well almost, nowhere. There were just a handful of houses and I guess we could
have went on for hours like this. It was close to sunset, now - so we thought - heading back to the beach might
be a good idea to check out the waves and all that beauty in the sunset. What happened there I can only
describe as the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen in my life. The colours and the light changing with every
second, the waves, the mist, the mountains, the rainforest. WOW!
Nothing else to say. I'm glad. I've seen something like this in my life!
Go do the same! Now!

South Island Journey - Day #4

24.12.2013 - Queenstown

Lazy rainy day. After getting up late we just took a short walk to the waterfront and into the botanic garden.
I enjoyed sitting at the lake for a while watching small waves breaking onto the rocks, the water is so
incredibly clear, one really wants to just jump in if it were just a bit warmer. Then we had to head back to
the city cause a huge rain front was coming over the lake towards Queenstown and stayed there for a few
hours. Well a day lying in bed watching a movie while it's raining outside is not that bad either. Luckily the
rain had something better to do for dinner so I could get my Fergburger with fries in the sun at the waterfront
instead of being soaked by the rain. Only thing was that I had to withstand two ducks starring at me while
eating, obviously they were into Fergburger as well. Never heard of carnivorous ducks before.

South Island Journey - Day #3

23.12.2013 - Quenstown / Milford Sound

Today we made a bus tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound. We were picked up at 7:35am at our
hotel and started our 4h journey to Fjordland. Our bus driver James had voice like his real profession
was reading audiobooks. He told us a lot about the history of the south island and the parts we were
going through in particular. From the Remarkable's to glaciers to Fjordland to sheep, deer and beef
farming and why the little steam locomotive is not in business anymore and why there is a tractor on
the ground of lake Wakapitu.
We made short stops on the way and when I say short I mean it! In some areas we just stopped for 7min,
enough time to jump of the bus take a picture of this fucking incredible beautiful nature and jump back
on the bus. On the way I though it might be nice to not be in such a rush but considering that we had
only one day to get there it's just not possible to make longer stops.

When we got closer to Milford Sound and started climbing up to 900m with our bus with steep mountains
rising up left and right of the small street I really felt like entering a different world. I mean I've seen the
Alps but this was different, it looked and felt wilder, rougher, older and more like untouched nature. The
vegetation was going up higher than in the Alps and looked more like jungle and well yes the Kea's that
were flying around and sitting everywhere help with that. We saw landslides that happened just a few
weeks before, where rocks just crushed away the street or saw where ultra fast dropping winds with
speeds up to 300km/h wiped large trees away like it was nothing.

After entering into Milford Sound through a tunnel we completely left civilisation behind and entered into
nature. This really looked like a place where man doesn't belong besides checking in from time to time
to put one's life in perspective and enjoy nature for what it is. Incredibly beautiful and deadly.

When we arrived at the bus station where our boat was waiting for us I realised that it wasn't that good to
have not used the anti Blackfly/Sandfly spray. Luckily for me the sun decided to hide behind the clouds
and it was pretty cold and windy so the flies had not that much skin to go for. We then left with our boat for
a 90min trip through the sound which was quite impressive. This narrow sound, the steep mountains, the
low hanging clouds, the snow dipped mountain tops, the waterfalls and the wind. Wow! Truly one of the
most impressive things I've seen so far in my life. There was one spot where you could see an open fault
line running up the mountain with a waterfall coming down in it. What better way to show how beautiful
and deadly nature can be at the same time. This fault line produces about 1000 earthquakes in a month
up to 4.5.

If you have the chance to get down here take your time to do the trip to Milford Sound, it's worth the time
and the money! Only thing that could have made it better, would have been some more sun and if the
dolphins had showed up. But this is like complaining after your stuffed yourself with the best food available
and not been offered some ice cream and a mint.

South Island Journey - Day #2

22.12.2013 - Queenstown

First day on the south island, it was kinda chilly this morning when we were heading towards the gondola
to take us up to the skyline park. The ride uphill was a bit short but the view from up there was just
breathtaking! The Remarkable's to the front and Cecil Peak and the lake, perfect combination. We had
sunshine and almost clear sky's which made it even more fun to sit up there and just enjoy the view. We
then did a small hike up there and afterwards we headed downhill through the forest towards the lake.
On our way down we were crossing a mountain bike downhill track several times or vice versa, anyway
they were flying by pretty fast. Looked like a lot of fun ... if only my knee was not so fucked up!

Back down at the lake we took a break at the water front and got us some tickets for the Million Dollar Cruise
on the lake. Even though it just coast $25 each it was worth almost the Million Dollar. The captain we had
was actually the owner of the two boats called Million Dollar and was just helping out that day but seemed to
enjoy doing the cruise almost more like we did. He made jokes and told a lot of nice stories and gave us
interesting background infos about Queenstown, the lake and the surrounding area. Like the fact that the water
in the lake is so pure that it doesn't conduct electricity, so you could actually use your iPhone under water
without damaging it. Weird! Didn’t try it though …

After the tour we treated ourself with a delicious dinner at the Flame restaurant, where I had a really good
300g filet steak with side fries and salad and drinks for just $51. Now that's a bargain, in Munich I would pay
40€ for just the steak!

South Island Journey - Day #1

21.12.2013 - Wellington

Starting the journey to the south island by hopping on to the next flight to Queenstown. Took a while
before we could take off because, there was too much luggage for our little plane so some had to
leave stuff behind. Seems to be happening a lot around christmas so no one was actually concerned
about it.
The flight had a really nice view on the southern alps and a bumpy ending. The stewardess said it
was normal for this time of year but nothing to worry about. All in all it was good - just bumpy.

It was cloudy in Queenstown but it made a nice first impression anyway. We took a short stroll through
the city to the waterfront and got some food before heading back to the hotel. The hotel was nice just
the bed was way to soft for me. Well tough life.

Putangirua Pinnacles / Cape Palliser

Today we drove to the east coast to have a look at the Putangirua Pinnacles that were used in the
Lord of the Rings - Return of the King as the Dimholt Road.

After a one and a half hour drive over winding roads and through one of the wine regions of New Zealand
around Martinborough we arrived at the coast. From the parking area we walked uphill through a river bed
which was quite exhausting due to the fact that we were trying that endeavour at 1pm with the sun right above
trying to cook us. Luckily I had my new camera with me so I could stop every 10m to take a picture and take
a break. It took us about 45min to get to the Pinnacles, all uphill over crushed rocks in various sizes but was
worth it. The Pinnacles looked fantastic, it’s like some one build them for The Lord of the Rings, they for sure
looked artificial even thought nature was the driving force behind it over 120.000 years. Incredible!

I guess those places are what makes New Zealand such a special country to visit. For sure there are a lot
of other places in the world that look astonishing but I guess you won’t find them in such a density as you do

After we got back to the car we drove a bit up north along the coast to Cape Palliser. On the way there we
were crossing a town where it seemed to be normal for every person to have their own bulldozer to pull
there boats up the beach. There was a whole line of bulldozers parked at the beach each one attached to
a boat, I mean 20-30 bulldozers in all sizes. That looked just a bit weird.

Close to Cape Palliser we stopped cause the highway turned into dirt road and the car we were driving was
not really suited for that. So we turned around and took a break at the nearest beach to enjoy once again
the incredible colour of the pacific ocean here in New Zealand the beach was covered in black gravel and
the water looked pastel blue and green. I really haven’t seen these colours in water anywhere else so far.
Really beautiful! Check out the pictures.

Weta Xmas Party

Last night Weta had a little treat for all the people working so hard the whole year - a massive Christmas Party!

On thursday two soldiers in a soviet union uniform came into our comp room and handed out passports to
enter the secret Christmas Party facility. That should be a glimpse of what would be waiting for at the party.

Russian soldiers everywhere checking passports over and over again shouting at you to move along while
entering the building and then passing by russian olympic athletes wearing cliché red track pants and jackets.
Steam coming out of side corridors, massive weightlifters and a female gymnast practicing in front of you.

Then entering a gymnastic hall with athletes and feeling like being transported to the Olympic Games in
Moscow. Really fucking cool! In the next corridor we were scanned by guys wearing hazmat suits and then
send into the soviet space program control centre. Here were guys in protective suits with clipboards taking
notes and soldiers watching everything. Two guys were simulating parachute landings in flight suits while
a projector was showing soviet movies from spaceships, airplanes and all that jazz. I really likeed the 70’s
computer voices and distorted sounds in the room! Of course!

The next room had a bar and a live band was playing sort of russian music, from here you could enter a
dance floor in the next room and go downstairs to the casino and the food tent. Being surrounded all the time
by soldiers, doctors, scientists all kind of weird russian characters. It was really cool.

Ang Lee was there as well, brave little man, to go on a vfx party after not really finding the right words at the
Oscars. I think I almost bumped into Idris Elba what would make sense to me cause he would be the perfect
fit for the role of Joe Frazier in Ang Lee’s new movie about The Thriller in Manila.

Later on they started playing some techno tunes on the dance floor so I was able to dance for an hour,
first time in ages. Felt really good and made me miss going out in Germany.