Thursday, January 29, 2009

Testing my limits

Written on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009.

It's a bit of a strain to carry the pack on my back, but I suppose I'll develop better shoulder and back muscles. I'll come home looking like conan no doubt! I've seriously overpacked, and I'll be sending a box home with all the stuff I don't need.

Lake Tekapo was very, very beautiful with a milky, completely turqouise colour from glacial sediment, and just a jewel in sunlight. Unfortunately clouds came before i picked up the camera, and they didn't leave.

This little patch had sun (the lake itself is quite big)

I thought I'd do a picture of home

I stayed at a nice backpackers place where, bizarrely, I ran into a woman from Denmark who's good friends with my father's fiancée! I could hear she was danish, so i started the conversation. She asked me how I'd got here. I said it was my bike parked outside, and she said "you must be Jophiel then!". It's a small world indeed!

I took a one hour walk to the top of Mt John which had beautiful wievs of the landscape and the lake. I tried doing some video diary, bu muggles kept showing up. I did however get some nice pictures:

This one catches the colour of the lake decently

The summit of Mt John looks like something out of Tolkiens Rohan.

This beautiful little church was by the lake shore

I played cards with a german girl and a dutch couple until midnight and then hit the sack. What a pleasure to sleep in a good bed after Ashburton! The next morning, the dutch guy and I took a quick dip in the lake (real quick, it was cold!), and then I followed two german girls up to Mt Cook. They were kind enough to let me put my baggage in their car and I had a great time zipping around unburdened. The ride to Mt Cook was truly beautiful, and it was hard keeping my eyes on the road driving through the magnificent valley. The majestic Mt Cook loomed up ahead, seemingly never coming closer. Suddenly the road was blocked. By sheep!

Me and Mt Cook.

We checked in to a beautiful hut run by the NZ Alpine Club. There was no reception and no staff, except for the hut warden who lived next door. We just claimed a bunk and paid the warden 25$ when he came by.

Katja in the backyard of the hut. What a view!

And if you look in the other direction...

The view from the common room of the hut was just spectacular! The girl half in shadow, and halfway in light (like the rooftops of London) is Samone, the other german girl.

Most of the people staying there were mountaineers, and what a crazy bunch they were! There was a real sense of adventure, and two of the guys left to climb Mt Hood around mid-day. They started their ascent at night, but they had to turn back because of poor conditions. One guy staying there, called Stig, was an Australian who'd done the climb already. He was resting for a few days, tending his sore feet and entertaining us with stories. The two Katja, Samone and I went for a walk up Hooker Valley. A beautiful walk indeed. the girls kept laughing at me for taking so many pictures, but it's all so new to me, and I'm awed by everything I see!

That river was really fast, and that bridge didn't feel solid at all!

The view up Hooker Valley. The clouds obscured the view, but made for an eerie feel.

The girls taught me to take it easy. Up until then I'd been rushing on to get my route started, but they said that two months was more than enough for seeing the south island, so I should just relax and enjoy. I took their advice to heart and the joy of travelling increased immensely.

That afternoon, I went up the Tasman Valley on advice from Stig. He'd told me there was a 4WD track up there which would be great fun riding on my bike. The road there was gravel, and I rode slowly (25-30km/h), testing the bikes handling on the loose surface. I found the track and read the sign besides it:

Warning: Route ahead is not maintained and is subject to periodic flooding. Vehicle travel beyond this point is not advised.

Ball Shelter was a little hut on the glacier they'd dismantled only days before because it'd come dangerously close to the edge of the glacier wall dropoff (or rather, the glacier wall had come dangerously close to it.)

I continued unfazed since Stig said it'd be doable. What I'd forgotten to tell him was that I only had a couple of days of riding experience! The track was made almost entirely of a mix of gravel and big rocks. By no means easy! This was the first place doubt started creeping into my mind:

The sign says "AVALANCHE AREA: no stopping between signs". Rock avalanches that is!

I kept going. I went through three big, deep puddles, which was the second, third and fourth time I doubted the wisdom of my choice. The second avalanche sign was the fifth. I passed a parked Nissan, and I thought "this must be the right route then" and carried on. From here the road turned worse (it had never been less than difficult!) and eventually I couldn't even make out a road anymore!

Yet again I was riding on a prayer, and this time I was scared shitless. Eventually, my good sense came back to me as I thought "this is ridiculous", turned the bike around, and headed for home. This is a view back on the "road" I'd taken:

On the way back, this big puddle next to the parked Nissan almost killed the bike, as the engine started taking in water. I got out of it, but for a second the exhaust blew out a lot of smoke.

I don't know what I would have done if it'd died on me. I don't know how to drain an engine, and I'd probably have been stuck out there. After this ordeal the gravel road held no fear for me, and I sped down it at 50km/h. I'd made it out alive and I was very relieved!

What you see in these eyes is adrenaline and relief.

The valley didn't care one bit about my predicament and still looked mockingly gorgeous.
I think Thunder and lightning would have been more appropriate. The Tasman Valley has no situational awareness, apparantly.

Well back in the hut Stig told me that the parked Nissan marked the end of the track he'd suggested. I'd passed it, going on far into what was considered a tramping track only! I told them vividly of my fear and subsequent triumph, and well back in safety I was able to laugh it off quickly. There's another story for the grandchildren!

A gathering of adventurers

I'm still without a sleeping bag, and that night was quite cold. I slept next to the old iron stove in the common room, but it went out after a few hours. I did manage to get some sleep, but not much.

The morning greeted me like this.

Yesterday morning I took off not long after waking, and by 2pm I found myself in Oamaru (had to look at a map to remember the name - crazy kiwis!) the road here from Mt Cook was 208 kilometres and quite cold, reminding me that I need to get a scarf. On the way I passed these remarkable rock formations:

There was also some Maori rock-art, but it was too worn to be good in pictures. This poem on a nearby plaque, however, touched me.

We are cleansed by the winds of our ancestral mountain Aoraki,
We gaze upon the swift waters of the Waitaki river,
We are here under the cloak of the Ngai Tahu Whania,
Write it in the sky,
Write it in the land,
Write it in the hearts of the people...
Behold! There is life!

Right now I'm in a decent hostel right smack in the center of town. It's pretty cheap, at 23$ per night, and it's quite homely. It's quite close to the sights in town, but of those there aren't many. I went to see yellow-eyed penguins at a nearby beach with an italian couple, but only two birds showed up. Later in the evening would have been better, but rain came, and I didn't care to ride in it.

Just this first week or so, in which I've ridden more than 1000km, has already taught me so much about travelling on a motorbike. Even though I've done some rookie mistakes, I've learned so much from them and feel much better about the whole deal, and much surer of myself to boot. Also, I've learned a lot about what I need and don't need, and I'll surely be able to pack my stuff way more efficiently in the future. As I said, I severely overpacked, and I'm gonna lighten up one way or the other.

Tomorrow I head to Dunedin.

Until next time.

I am still Jophiel.

PS.: A few weeks before I left home, a danish guy, Ulf Foss, (I didn't know him) died in a tragic diving accident in the red sea. The details were sketchy at that point, and it seemed that three divers had agreed to go much deeper than what is safe on normal air. I thought them fools, but today this article was brought to my attention.
It is a thorough description of how the dive progressed, written by the sole survivor. I don't want to make any judgements, but there's some serious lessons for all divers here. Yes, they are obvious, but apparantly not everyone has taken them to heart yet! Take care who you dive with!

I've promised myself (and my mom) to be very careful when diving with people I don't know. Some people put them selves in unnecessary danger, and without thinking they drag their dive-buddies with them. To any future dive buddies of mine: If you're a fool and put your life in unnecessary danger, I won't risk my life trying to save you. 

1 comment:

Lucas Alexander said...

Det lyder simpelthen så fedt, og også som om du er i en rigtig fed sindstilstand!
Og jeg vil stadig med næste gang! ;)
Nu vil jeg læse næste blog, nice!