Land of the long white cloud.
"Aotearoa" means the land of the long white cloud in the Maori language, the original inhabitants of New Zealand. More than 350 years after the Dutchman Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand, it is now our turn. The first thing we find out is that there are three kinds of kiwi's. The green hairy fruit, a bird, with the size of a big chicken, and the New Zealanders themselves. They are proud they have the nickname Kiwi (named after the bird).
Months we lived in Asia at temperatures above 30 degrees centigrade and now it is only 16 degrees, dark grey clouds (instead of long white clouds), rainy and a cold wind is torturing us. We are not used to this kind of weather anymore and it is not pleasant to ride the bike. And when after a while my rain pants start to leak i get chilled to the bone. We keep riding, knowing that sometime the sun will be back. And when the sun comes from behind the clouds we can feel the warmth and everything looks better. The smell of the pine trees and the freshly cut grass tickles our noses. Traveling on motorbikes you feel everything much more intense, you feel that you are alive. When it gets dry we spot a nice place to camp. Our first night in New Zealand.
The Southern Island is a paradise for the outdoor freak. There are so many activities to do like mountain biking, bungee jumping, sky diving, scuba diving, river jet boating, rafting, ballooning, zorbing, tramping and much more. And maybe the best outdoor activity is traveling on your own bike. We pick two activities to do which are special for New Zealand. At Kaikoura we do a whale watching. With a speed of 50 km/h a big catamaran flies over the ocean. With a hydrophone the shipper tracks down the sounds of the whales and when he picks up a sound they go in pursue. The theme from "Bonanza" blasts out the speakers and we go "whale hunting". When we arrive in the area we stare over the ocean. Then we see a mist from the whales blowhole and the catamaran gets closer. We see a 18 meter long sperm whale. Wow this is great. After some minutes the sperm whale dives and flip up his big tail. Awesome.
At the west coast there are two beautiful glaciers and at the Franz Josef Glacier we make a glacier walk. The guides supply us with some old glacier boots, probably from Franz himself and some woolen socks from his grandmother. After a 10 minutes bus ride to the glacier my feet are killing me already....We walk up the glacier and when we reach the ice the guide shows how to put on the crampons. These "metal teeth" will give us grip on the slippery ice. These glaciers are called "warm" glaciers because they reach the rainforests at sea level. They most glaciers melt at altitudes at 2000-3000 m. Carefully we walk along deep cracks and then we have to go through a 30 cm wide split. We squeeze ourselves through the narrow slit. This is cool. Later we have to go through an ice cave. On hands and knees we crawl over deep blue colored ice, pushing ourselves forward with the ice talons. This is exciting and it is a great experience.
Touring around over the perfect and empty roads we reach the Bluff. The Kiwi's call this "lands end". It is the end of New Zealand and geographically it is the most far away point of our trip (18.824 km to our hometown Delft). From here we start our long way back...
In Asia we had to take hotels for the night because it was too crowded to camp but in New Zealand we find the most beautiful spots to camp. Along a river, in deserted forests or at empty lakes with views of snow capped mountains. The only thing that bugs us are the sand flies. When these big mouthed flies bite you, you have terrible itches for a week. They drive you crazy. Would this be the reason why Abel Tasman left New Zealand for the English...?
Hongi and Hangi.
The good thing of traveling is that you meet interesting characters and learn a bit about other cultures. You have to deal with other habits, other food and different languages. It is a mind opener. You get a different, better look at the world. It's makes you rich! One of the things we pick up in daily life is some words from the local language. We learned a few Maori words but after a while we talk like Kiwi's with their flatty English.
A chat on a parking place:
Kiwi: Whur u up to?
BB: To the wopwops, grab some metal roads.
Kiwi: Good on ya. Is he yu cuzzie?
BB: Yep, he's my bro.
Kiwi: Cool. 'r the bikes holdin?
BB: Yeah, no worries, 180.000k's and still going strong.
Kiwi: Awesome, wanna Steinie?
BB: No thanks mate, w've to ride.
After a long day of winding roads we find a nice spot to camp near Waitomo. Nearby is a waterfall where we walk to. We descend on a steep, slippery trail through a dense jungle. We reach the pool where the waterfall in plunges and the spray cools us down. We sit down and listen to the 'thundering' sound of the falling water. It's relaxing. In this area are a lot of caves where glowworms live. In the evening we enter a cave and when our eyes are used to the dark we see thousands little lights. Just like a milky way at a bright night. Choice! Glowworms are larvae of the fungus gnat and are about one centimeter long and a millimeter thick. They have a luminescent organ that produces a soft green light. Hanging on the rocks they weave sticky threads to catch unwary insects attracted by their lights. It is not allowed to shine a torch on them because they will dim their lights and it will take hours to become bright again. During this time the glowworm will catch no food. The glowworms that shine most brightly are the hungriest. This is more friendly then crying babies...
A couple of days we are guests at Nigel and Kitty and they take us to their Maori friend Vincent. Vincent is a woodcarver. In a very exciting way he explains the carving symbols and how to make them. Woodcarving was very important to the Maori because they had no written history. His art collection covers tiny figures till war canoes of some meters. Vincent felt a certain "vibe" among us and gives a "koha". This is a gift and is a custom in the Maori culture. We receive a special "tiki" necklace for good protection.
We became more interested in the Maori culture and visit Tamaki village. This is a replica of a Maori village how they lived in ancient times. Many Maori tribes were warlike and for a better defense they built their villages on hill tops and surrounded it with fences of trees and wood carved guarding statues.
When we want to enter the village a Maori guard, dressed in a cloak made of dog fur and feathers, jumps in front of us and make a "Haka". This dance comes with fierce shouting, flexing arm movements with a spear, thunderous stamping and showing his tongue. It is a frightening sight and is done to chase unwanted visitors away. But we come in peace and may enter. A Maori woman makes a "Hongi". This is a traditional greeting where noses are twice pressed together and share the breath of life.
Higher classes and warriors decorated themselves with "Moko". This is a tattoo where they made incisions with chisels of bone and color it with charcoal. Women only had Moko on their chin and lips, while high-ranking men had tattoos over their entire face and buttocks. The Maori had no natural painkiller so this was a very painful ritual. They show us around the village and demonstrate some music instruments and weapons. After the tour we get a "Hangi". This traditional Maori kitchen exist of chicken or fish, kumara (sweet potato) and some vegetables. They put it all together in baskets, put it in a hole in the ground with hot stones and steam it ready till it is cooked. They call this "Hangi". It is a healthy BBQ. Bon appetite.
West from Melbourne lies the Great Ocean Road. For many motor bikers it is the most beautiful coastal road. But just coming from New Zealand with all the windy roads we are a bit disappointed. Or better, we are spoiled! Along the Great Ocean Road are the Twelve Apostles. Beautiful rock formations rising from the blue sea.
Hot, it is bloody hot in Australia. The hot dry wind in the outback turns our sandwiches in no time into toast. The drinking water we have is also 37 degrees centigrade but still refreshes us. We are on the Oodnadatta track. For hours we ride on dusty gravel roads. Roads that goes forever. We can do this forever. As far as we can see there are arid grasslands. We see kangaroos hopping and emu's racing against us. A wedge tailed eagle lands near a dead kangaroo. A thorny devil, a kind of lizard, is sitting on the road and we help the little creature to cross it before it will be run over. We pass a grid in the road and see a sign to a Homestead: 80 kilometers. A homestead is a farm on a huge piece of land. From a few thousand square kilometers till a size as half as our home country Holland. Unbelievable! The families who live here get their supplies by truck every fortnight and the kids follow the school by radio. At night we just pitch our tent somewhere in the outback.
In Mildura we visit some friends from Holland and it is time to change our first rear tire on this trip. We replace the Continental TKC 70 that last for more than 33.000 kilometers. Thank you mister Conti. During the replacing of the tires we notice that the suspension lever of Udo's bike is worn out. Too many vibrations on corrugated roads. It take us a day to fix the problem. And we close the day with our friends with a barbie and a VB. Life is great!
Australia is divided into six states and two territories. They have their own traffic rules and laws. And some parts of the states are fruit fly free zones. To protected the fruit farms it is not allowed to bring fruit or vegetables into the zones. You have to dump your fruit at the zone entrance. Sometimes there are checkpoints and violating the law results in heavy fines. We just bought a kilo bananas when we pass a fruit fly zone. So we eat bananas till we get yellow...
The mining town Coober Pedy is famous for its opal. Just before we enter the city the flat landscape change into a moon landscape full of craters and cone shaped hills. Forty different nationalities are living here to find their fortune. A lot of pick-ups have winches and a sign "explosives". In some of the pick-ups we see a box of dynamite. Just laying in the sun to warm up...In the summer it gets really hot over here and a lot of houses and shops are build underground. Rooms and kitchens are dig out by hand or machine and are transformed into nice cool houses. In one of the underground opal shops they explain us about the different kinds of opal. With this knowledge we dig for a few hours and find a fortune to buy one liter petrol!
We stop at a roadhouse to refill and have a drink. When we want to ride on Harald notice that his bike has a flat rear tire. When we try to fix it we see that the rim is cracked over a distance of 25 centimeters. The spokes are pushed through the rim and perforated the tube. Now we have a problem! The first city is Alice Springs, 400 kilometers away! No worries, first we pitch our tent and make a cup of thee. When the night comes, we enjoy the beaufiful sunset and Harald plays on his mouth organ the song "Roadhouse Blues". And Udo start to sing: " Keep your eyes on the road, your hands up on the wheel. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands up on the wheel. We're going to the roadhouse, we're going to have a real good time". Roll baby roll...
With a new second hand rim for Harald's DR we set off to Ayers Rock. Or Uluru as the Aborigines call this huge monolith and is located almost in the center of Australia. Eight years ago we were also here. With the same bikes! The same brothers! Uluru looks still impressive. About 40 kilometers away from Uluru are the Olga's. These are huge red boulders and a very long time ago it was one big rock, like Uluru. But due to erosion it break down. We take a walk through the "valley of the winds". The big boulders change color in the sun and we sit down and enjoy the peace. We feel a warm wind blowing in our face and takes our thoughts with it. We can feel the spiritual meanings from the Aborigines that make these places sacred to them.
There are a lot of Aborigines living in the red centre and the first impressions we got is that they sit in the city parks and drink beer. It seems that they don't care about anything. This are only notices, not judges! But when we make a tour to an Aborigine village the guide explains the problem. Until the beginning of the 20th century they had never seen white men. 30.000 years they lived from hunting and gathering food in a very harsh environment. They lived from what nature offered them and moved on when the food was running out in that place. They had no possessions and were not materialistic. And then the white men came. They build houses, fabrics, drove cars and had computers. And this in two generations time! It must feel for the Aborigines like if they stepped from the Stone Age into the 21st century in one day. They cannot handle these quick changes. How many people back home cannot handle computers or use internet?
The Aborigines in the village tell in a enthusiastic way about their life. More about their dreams, the Dreamtime. This is the time when everything was created. Before this time there was nothing, no life, no trees, no mountains. At the Dreamtime, the creation time, there were spiritual beings. Dreamtime means in the aborigine perception "live and travel", and not dreaming or day dreaming like we know. These spiritual beings lived and traveled and left their energy behind as trees, hills and caves. Many of them are now sacred places. Aborigines have no written history (only rock paintings) and tell their stories in a "Corroboree". These are dances, where they paint their body and sing songs about the dreamtime. And they make a lot of paintings about there Dreamtime. After the dance it is lunch time. We have "damper" (bush bread), bush fruits, grubs and kangaroo tail. How delicious. It is great to see how they live from and in the nature. And again we are happy that we met and learned an other culture. This makes us rich...
We kick on our bikes and continue our dream. Living and traveling! Ride over endless plains, across deserts, through the outback, camp at the most beautiful spots and enjoy beautiful sunsets.
In the Blue Mountains we met an Aborigine that plays a didgeridoo. This is a hollow branch from an eucalyptus tree. The heavy trembling sound from the didgeridoo fills the air and makes us dream...
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