Mountain biking

We’ve made our way to the town Rotorua, known to be a hotspot for heaps of fun activities. Today we tried out one of them: Mountain biking!

With about 140 km of slopes to mountain bike, Rotorua is recognized as one of the finest locations for this sport on the southern hemisphere. The area consists of hills and peaks covered in many different types of forest. This is because the area has been used as a testing ground to figure out which type of tree manages best in the New Zealand climate. Among the trees planted is actually the Californian redwood, which seems to be quite happy growing here. Already, it has reached impressive heights. But the tree that’s been the most successful, is actually pine. From the time of planting it only takes 40 years before it can be harvested.

We enjoyed nice weather as we pedalled through beautiful scenery, as here by a small creek, in which we even spotted a trout!

Taking a rest by a nice creek

As we progressed through the various slopes we were aiming for a peak about 600 m higher up than our starting point. Getting closer to the top my pulse was surely getting up, and I was starting to feel it in my legs. Such a good workout! For those of you unfamiliar with the language in the film below, that’s Norwegian. And no worries, it doesn’t contain any bad language 😉

Once on the top came the reward of racing back down again! What a kick in the pants! We only went down the intermediate slope, and that was plenty hectic for me as I haven’t really done much mountain biking at all. Venturing down the expert slope would not have ended well with the jumps they’ve got lined up in there.

Riding down is just about as much of a workout as going up. You need to be alert all the time, and eventually I was really feeling it good both in my legs and arms, especially my grip. So, as I was getting tired I didn’t pay enough attention to the slope, which causes incidents like this to occur…

Glad I caught it on film at least 😉 Guess I got too close to the edge, but no worries, I was fine, I barely drew blood. Fortunately that was the only crash I had in a little over three hours of riding around up there. Man, am I going to be sore tomorrow though!

Auckland

With its 1.4 million people, Auckland is the largest urban area in New Zealand, and where I’ve been spending the last week or so. It’s a pretty nice and fairly clean city. It also feels quite safe, although I witnessed a massive street fight with perhaps twenty people involved in the late hours this weekend. Most of them were Maori (and let me tell you, them guys are massive!). But coming from the Norwegian town called Hamar, I’m no stranger to seeing those kind of episodes. If you feel safe in Hamar on a Saturday night, you’d feel safe here in Auckland 🙂 Here are a couple of photos from downtown, all very peaceful.

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It’s been a nice and chill week, just taking in the impressions and getting to know the city a bit. A Gloria Jean’s downtown has become my favourite location to enjoy a good cup of cappucino.

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The hostel I’ve been staying at here, the Station Backpackers, has proven to be a pleasant place. Met a lot of nice people here, so been spending a great deal of time hanging out with them. Our room reminds of a submarine with its narrow passage though, but still gets thumbs up from Martin von Deutschland here 😉

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And the kitchen can sometimes get quite crowded with everyone cooking their dinner, but we manage 🙂

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What’s also great about the Station Backpackers, is that it’s located close to the Auckland Domain, a rather large park/ forest. Very inviting for putting in some physical training, so during my stay here I’ve been to the park nearly every day for either running or body weight exercises (push ups, pull ups etc). Can’t sit around drinking cappucinos all day you know 😉

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In the photo below you can spot the landmark of Auckland in the distance, the Sky Tower, standing 328 meters tall.

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Eivind has now returned from Norway, and we’re ready and excited to explore more of New Zealand 🙂

Hobbiton

Here I am, in New Zealand. Currently I’m based in Auckland, but yesterday I ventured off to visit Hobbiton, the iconic location known from the movies Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Hobbiton is located outside the town of Matamata. I took the bus out there, an approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes ride from Auckland. The price including a two hour guided tour is $149. I’d say it’s money well spent 🙂

It took a big group of workers nine months to construct Hobbiton back in 1999. Even the New Zealand army had to be involved, as a 1,5 km road had to be constructed to reach the location. The crew was trying to keep the filming a secret, and even though the area is quite remote, a fellow from a neighbouring farm started asking questions what the army was doing out there. When he was told that the army was simply practicing on building a road in case of war, he accepted that. However, when soldiers later went down to the local pub and had a few drinks, the actual reason for their activity slipped out. It didn’t take long before word spread all over New Zealand what was going on outside of Matamata.

The result of the activity though, is quite stunning. Hobbiton really gives you the feeling of taking a step into Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The level of detail is impressive, as is the size of the set.

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On a normal day, Hobbiton has about 2.000 visitors, so this is quite a tourist machine. I’ll give creds to the guides though for being quite good at managing the groups. Furthermore, people were nice and gave each other space to take photos, and we also took photos of each other.

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As mentioned the tour takes about two hours. I found that a bit too short, an extra half an hour would definitely be preferable, as we were rushed a little at times. After all, Hobbiton is supposed to be a very relaxed place. For instance, it’d be nice to be able to spend some more time at one of the highlights, Bilbo and Frodo’s home Bag End.

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It should be noted that Hobbiton is an outside shooting location, meaning that filming of the inside of the Hobbit homes was actually done in Wellington. So you can’t explore the inside of for example Bag End at Matamata, you need to go to Wellington for that. In total, 158 locations all over New Zealand was used to film Lord of the Rings. Quite an operation!

The tour ends at the tavern the Green Dragon. Here you can actually go inside, and you’re treated with a beer and have the opportunity to try on Hobbit costumes. A nice touch of the tour 🙂

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Tindering around the world

Since Eivind had to go back to Norway for a couple of weeks, I decided to spend some more time in Melbourne. Having spent three weeks here during the holidays and the start of January, I’m starting to get to know the city, and I must admit I’ve really taken a liking on it. Melbourne has such a great atmosphere, it’s fairly clean and safe, and it’s easy to find your way around the city. It is known to have really changing weather though, but coming from Norway that’s something I’m used to. Here’s a photo from downtown this evening, clear blue skies today.

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Another thing I’d like to mention is this app called Tinder. I’ve found that when travelling around the world, Tinder is a pretty freaking great way to meet cool chicks on the way. In fact, some of the most amazing girls I’ve met so far on this trip, has been through this app. Picking up girls in a bar the old way is not a completely lost art, but you can really filter out the ones you’d like to get to know better by Tindering. And of course, I’m not talking about using the app just for hooking up, I’ve spent heaps of quality time doing activities like going to the beach, enjoying delicious food together, going to the movies, visiting art galleries, and having good conversations. So I’m telling you, Tinder really works. If you’re travelling about and you want to get in touch with the cute locals, get on board with it. Greetings from Melbourne 🙂

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Tomorrow evening I fly back to Sydney and will spend the night at the airport there, before continuing to Auckland on Thursday morning. New Zealand, here I come!

Parting with my surfboard

Since we’ve booked an around-the-world ticket through Star Alliance, different legs of the trip are operated by different airlines, all which have various policies when it comes to bringing a surfboard along. So far on the trip we’ve been fortunate to fly a lot with Singapore Airlines through Asia and to Australia, and they let us bring the surfboards for free! Without doubt the best airline ever!

However, for the remains of the trip we’ll be flying with Air New Zealand and United Airlines, who charge no less than $175 and $200 per flight for a surfboard. Therefore, bringing the surfboard I bought in Bali any further than Australia will become a very costly affair.

So, I really wanted to send my surfboard back to Norway. It’s a great memory of the trip, and is still fully functionable, even though it has become quite banged up as it has weathered half a year of surf and travel.

Therefore, I started doing research on who could send it from Sydney to Oslo for a reasonable price. I think I must have checked at least ten alternatives, everything from Airline Companies, Freight Companies, Movers, and the Post Office. The most expensive was an absurd $1600, and the cheapest I found was a sea transport for $450, and then the guy said I was lucky! Are you kidding me? My board is probably worth $150, I could buy a very decent second hand board for $450! I also tried to send it back with my friend Halvor who returned to Norway on Sunday. Due to overweight Etihad wanted $800 for that favour. Ridiculous.

This left me no choice, I had to sell or trade in my board. Took a walk around Bondi and checked in a few different stores, and ended up making a trade as the shop owner would give me a better deal in merchandise than cash. So I got a t-shirt, a pair of shades, and a small skateboard for my surfboard with fins (also a little damaged), leash, and boardbag.

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Took my new board out through the Royal Botanical Gardens and down to the harbourfront, it’s a lot of fun to ride 🙂

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When I get to New Zealand, Hawaii etc I’ll probably buy second hand boards and then sell them again as I go. I’ve got one more week here in Australia before flying to New Zealand. Eivind however has to go home to Norway for a couple of weeks now, due to disease in his family. Really hoping for the best! It’s going to be strange not seeing Eivind for a while, we’ve been together every day (except one) for the last 7 months. The plan is to meet up again in New Zealand.