Archive for November, 2006

A global warning

30 November 2006 4 comments

The third movie I watch in a NZ theatre is “An Inconvenient Truth” (Climate Crisis, after Munna Bhai Part 2 and Ata Whenua. The only reason I go to a theatre this time is because I get a free ticket. The Skycity theatre in Auckland reminds me of PVR in Bangalore – the red ambience and the lighting is so similar. Ever since I heard of the movie many months ago, I wanted to see it. I don’t know if it will be released in India. So I use the free ticket here to watch that must-see film.

For starters, it is a documentary by Al Gore about global warming, its disastrous effects and how to avoid it. The way he illustrates the catastrophic consequences interlaced with humour makes it very interesting. His use of statistics, graphics and cartoons in the slideshow or presentation tell the point. His intended audience is the US people who are the only other big country (apart from Australia) not to have ratified the Kyoto protocol. The US is the world’s largest emitter of Green House Gases. I doze off whenever he sidetracks with his personal history. He jibes at other politicians a little and calls for political will to solve the crisis. The damage that we humans have caused to the environment is very significant. The Stern report (at a glance here) is serious indeed. It highlights the environmental and economic impacts. Al Gore has been working on this issue for a very long time and will advise the British government with possible solutions.

But not everyone agrees to this portrayal of climate change. Bjorn Lomborg, the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” opines on WSJ that the Stern report is flawed and the world has better priorities. Michael Crichton vehemently attacks this crisis as misleading in his novel, State of Fear. Also, a MIT professor says that there is no scientific consensus on the global warming crisis in his WSJ piece here. Politics and science cannot be mixed, they say. They do not refute most of the facts presented by the movie. So all I can do is protect the earth for our children, which seems a clinching argument.

As the movie says, the solution is in our hands. It is all about efficiency and a sense of thrift or carefulness we need to cultivate. Several tips to take action are here. They look like – use less hot water, recycle more, drive less and plant trees. You can also visit the Stop Global Warming site. I have seen that NZ (especially the YHA) is a pioneer in eco-sustainable activities. I learnt to be eco-sensitive more by seeing their work. Here I try to do my little bit by spreading the word around. I request my blogmates to link to this or write about it, maybe after watching the movie or reading the Climate Crisis site.

Categories: Society

Adventure and adrenaline

27 November 2006 7 comments

NZ is famed for adventure so much so that Queenstown’s moniker is the adventure capital of the world. One primary reason for that is you cannot sue any of the adventure companies and claim crippling damages like you can in the US. If you are hurt (which you don’t or very RARELY do), the government just compensates for medical treatment and most of the financial burden is upon you. Saying that, the safety records of most of these companies are extremely good (like A J Hackett who boasts of more than a million bungy jumps with no casualties) and they cancel the activities if they find the weather slightly risky. I have gone with my instincts and have done a lot of safe adventures when I have been travelling. Here is a top 10 list of the scariest, wackiest, thrilling, adrenalin-pumping things I have done in the last 3 months!

  1. The scariest has got to be the bungee, born in Queenstown over the Kawarau river. A J Hackett(he’s even got a bio now) pioneered it. I did the one at Taupo over the Waikato river because it was priced lower than 100$ (all the Queenstown ones – same height or much higher – start above 140). It’s not the biggest, about 47m when the river is at its highest(?). You got to decide to do the bungy before you see the drop. Else you may never do it. As I walk to the edge, I cannot throw myself off. My mind argues about the harness and the safety record. But the heart has a reason… People who come back then get a “Almost did it” certificate! I ask quite a few questions before I take the plunge. The river comes rushing to me. For a second, I close my eyes but time just flies away and I hang upside down the cliff. It is an awkward position before I clutch the pole thrown by the boatmen. I would want to do it again now that I have done it. I must do it properly the next time.
  2. The second scariest is the Shotover Canyon Swing (nicknamed Not Your Average Backward Variety Swing), a reasonably new activity, available only in Queenstown. It is located precariously at 109m (more than double my bungy). I could describe it as half-bungee and half-swing. Here you free fall for 60m before the swing gently pulls you over the canyon – the views from here are just gorgeous – you are swinging at about 50m over the canyon. I had happily booked it and I was excited to jump, hoping to forget my not-so-good bungy and do a good swing. But the minute I peeped over the 109m edge, I stopped. I did the 5star (most scary) side jump, but I went all over it and ended up doing a tumble down the way. The people here are the most funny guides I have had and the jump guide later told me if you haven’t jumped in a while, it takes some effort to put yourself over the edge. Did he tell that to comfort me?
  3. The third on my list is the Tandem Sky Dive over Wanaka. Its byline is “Adrenalin is legal”. After a bungee, I could not possibly be scared when another person is ready to support me. The very idea of a person with you is so comforting that the fear factor reduces almost completely. For the bungee and the canyon swing, the machines should be equally trust-worthy, but it’s just a lot scarier. This time, I took the maximum height possible, 15000feet or 4572 m (thanks Google This is half the height of Mt. Everest. As the flight circled the snow-tipped Southern Alps and the picturesque lakes for gorgeous views, I never felt so excited. As the altimeter slowly counted up and other jumpers at lower heights went away, the excitement got to me. Even before I could get scared, I had to JUMP out of the plane. The free fall feeling is incredible – no words to explain. Slowly as we fell for about a minute, my guide opened the parachute and after that the float back to the ground was quite normal. Sky diving on the Southern Alps helps you relive paradise. I have videoes of all these 3 scary jumps and my Amma will certainly faint on seeing this one because this is the sexiest of them all.
  4. Snorkelling in the brilliant blue coral reefs of the Fijian islands is indeed a thrilling experience. With two guys to help me get over my fear of the deep waters, I catch a glimpse of live corals and live out the fantasies of an under-water adventure.
  5. Rappelling or abseiling inside a small Waitomo canyon (home to the glorious glow-worm caves) is the next one. It remains my first adventure and so is very special. The safety procedures done, descending the canyon proves to be quite easy for me. I descend twice. In fact, I do it quite fast that I have time to visit the caves too. The “Lost World” adventure in Waitomo is very highly rated, but I don’t have time to do that.
  6. Sandboarding or duneboarding on the huge sand dunes of Te Puki on the Cape Reinga trip (the northernmost point) is exciting too. You walk up the dune with a boogie-board and slide all the way down to the bottom and the stream running there. My first two slides are just plain but on the third, I manage to slide all the way down to the bottom. Pros slide across the stream on the board, which is a thrilling sight.
  7. I try my hand at indoor rock climbing in Nelson because it has been raining so hard and my kayak/sail combo trip has been cancelled. It is quite tiring indeed. The owner is so nice to tell me that it is an all-day entry fee and I can come back any time. I learn the basics of climbing, like belaying and actually ascending up. Old ladies of Nelson belay me. I try the easy ones first and find that I am good at it. But the hard ones get me. Towards the end, I am not able to climb at all and give up half-way on the artificial climbs. There are just too many of them. This place also offers out-door rock climbing. If the weather had been good, I should have done one of them. Now I know how difficult mountaineering is. Having climbed trees and easy hillocks with bare feet, all this equipment (climbing shoes, harness) help me do it differently.Zorb
  8. Zorbing is another ‘Made in NZ’ activity in Rotorua, the second-most touristy place. It is by no means scary. I enjoy a wild wet ride and when I get out of the big ball, I feel fresh and funny. It provides me a huge amount of joy and transports me back to my kindergarten days!
  9. I include white water rafting here because it zapped me. Maybe that’s because I didn’t have a proper lunch before I rafted on the Shotover river. It had snowed a couple of days back in Queenstown and the waters were quite cold. It is not scary at all because there’s a team that will pull you out of the waters if you happened to fall. Our team is quite good over all the Grade 3-4 rapids and we have a dream time, managing to remain on the boat all through the trip. I didn’t even feel like buying pictures or videos because it is so ordinary. The bus trip through the Skippers’ Canyon road (where rental cars are not allowed) to the starting point of the raft is an equally thrilling one.
  10. Walking for almost 6 hours on the majestic Coastal track of the spectacular Abel Tasman National Park is bliss(!), I tell you. I hear that an area can become a national park in NZ if only it has a walking track around it. In fact, it rains quite heavily that day, I am soaked fully, my wet feet are begging me and I am happy to reach the park entrance. A Dutch IT girl called Ankie, an English software girl called Gills and an American couple called Caroline and ? (Oh, I don’t recall the husband’s name) talk to me through the trip. The more than 20km walk is not scary as my wild kiwi walk in Christchurch, which is another adventure by itself, because it is daytime and there are so many people who walk on the track. NZ is known for its great walks. In fact, Te Anau is fondly called the walking capital of the world. Without any walking gear, I manage quite well, doing a fair bit of walking in most places I went. Apart from that, I run barefoot to the charming Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel Coast.

Except for the walking, I am doing the above-mentioned activities for the first time in my life. Riverboarding is something I could not do in Queenstown because of the lack of time. Also, Harbour Bridge climbing is an exciting adventure which I will not do to save some money. Before I leave NZ in two weeks’ time (yeah, I can feel it is all over), I will do some canyoning (near Auckland to use up my budget), which I reckon, will be in the top 5!

Categories: NZ

Shadowland in Fiordland

22 November 2006 Leave a comment

Ata Whenua is a fantastic movie I saw in a Te Anau theatre 2-3 hours away from Queenstown. 32 minutes of incredible scenery from NZ’s first world-heritage area (the whole UNESCO list here) from the best movie-makers and fabulous music to accompany the visual treat! It screens only in that theatre and I got so lucky to stay in the small town overnight. For 10NZD, I could see everything (Milford Sound, some isolated rocks and a lot more) as if I were on scenic heli-flights through the park across the seasons. You can also order it online (52NZD=1500INR for shipping to the US, you have to mail them for shipping to India). A must for the arm-chair traveller!

Quote from the plain UNESCO brief description:

“The landscape in this park, situated in south-west New Zealand, has been shaped by successive glaciations into fjords, rocky coasts, towering cliffs, lakes and waterfalls.”

Categories: NZ

Queenstown Skyline View

14 November 2006 3 comments

Queenstown Skyline View

Originally uploaded by cool_spark.

Queenstown is the prettiest place I have seen ever. A sample for you here… More descriptions next week.

Categories: NZ, Travel

Queenstown is next…

8 November 2006 3 comments

As I promised you, my long-awaited Queenstown trip is finally round the corner. I cannot possibly tell how South Island is a nature-lover’s delight. I like planning my trips to a large detail. I like to know where exactly I will be at any time in my travel. I am travelling for the next 11 days, save a day in the middle, when I’ll come back and attend a class. Here’s a teaser list of activities or sights I plan to do or see in this final DIY trip.

  1. Skydive in Wanaka amidst the Southern Alps, weather permitting.
  2. Swing the canyon or raft the Shotover River in Queenstown.
  3. Take a Milford Sound (arguably, the best 1day trip in NZ) cruise.
  4. Coast through the Catlins, one of the best-kept secrets of South Island, possibly stopping at the southernmost town in NZ Invercagill.
  5. Walk one of the steepest streets in the world at the student city Dunedin.
  6. Do the spectacular Taieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin.
  7. Walk the beautiful Abel Tasman Coastal Track from Bark Bay to Marahau (6.5 hrs).
  8. Kayak and sail in the golden beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park.
  9. Take a bus along the wild West coast from Nelson to Franz Josef (Glacier Country) and to Queenstown, indulging in the sights of a lifetime.
  10. Luge in Queenstown, if I am still in shape after this exhausting adventure.

So, what are you waiting for? Wish me luck, good green guys!

Categories: NZ, Travel

Krakatoa and the Emperor Penguin

5 November 2006 3 comments

Well, the words in the title are not related to one another. Krakatoa is a book and March of the Penguins is a documentary. I like them both immensely and can heartily recommend them. History and geography have always been my favourite subjects. Though NZ does not have much of history, the book has more than made for it. It is so apt that I see the film when I am in the natural heaven of NZ. NZ also happens to be one of the closest places to Antarctica.

Penguins are sweet creatures and so is the film. The movie (taken with help from National Geographic and filmed in the coldest terrains of the world) is a heart-warming tale of how adult penguins make life-threatening journeys just to protect their eggs and new-born baby penguins. The photography is out of the world and the events are just incredible. Love for kids stands out in the movie. Just one sight – the way the emperor penguins march to their resting places – is nothing short of spectacular.

As for Krakatoa, I am only 100 pages far in the book. But the way the author Simon Winchester has talked about the Dutch East Indies empire, the zoogeographical divide in the Indonesian archipelago (one half having Asian mammals and the other Australian marsupials) and ‘continental drift’ has just blown my mind away. This book has history, geography and just about everything I like. The narration is fast-paced and quite eventful. I am sure when I finish the book, I shall want to read other books of his.

Categories: Books

Fiji farewell poem – Isa Lei

2 November 2006 1 comment

Picked from Remember to visit the link.

“Isa, Isa. You are my only treasure
Must you leave me, so lonely and forsaken
As the roses will miss the sun at dawning
Every moment my heart for you is yearning

Isa Lei, the purple shadows fall
Sad the morrow will dawn upon my sorrow
Oh forget not when you are far away
Precious moments beside Suva Bay”

The boat crew sing the Fijian version at the end of the day. Very nice…

Categories: Travel