Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Chapter 13 ~ The Trip To Taupo

I have travelled a long distance off my original course to get to Lake Taupo, but why would I do that? We'll, I believe I've kept you guessing long enough, so without any further ado, let me present you with the solution to this conundrum: I have come here to meet up with the...



...New Zealand's (mostly) annual furry convention. Since this is quite possibly the one time I'll be on this side of the globe, I figured that it would be a shame not to attend, even if it presents quite a detour.

But before I overwhelm you with details about this fantastic experience, let me tell you a little bit about my journey there,for my aerial trip is not only significantly faster than earthbound transport - it also provides me with a magnificent...

Bird's Eye View


My journey begins at Christchurch airport, which is not quite as fancy as Auckland or Singapore, but still a place so big I end up wishing I had taken that luggage trolley after all. One way or another, I manage to check in my heavy backpack, and end up setting up camp in the departures lounge near my gate at a conveniently placed laptop workstation, waiting for my flight to be called.


Since I'm only travelling to Auckland this time, the machine is significantly smaller than the ones I took down from Germany, presumably a Boeing 747. Having booked in advance, I have secured myself a good window seat, and thanks to the weather being immaculate today, I get an amazing view of the entire city of Christchurch as we take off.



And just like that, I'm airborne again, flying over the South Island, past the cape of Motunau...


...over the great Hurunui River...


...and pass within sight of Kaikoura, with it's distinctive peninsula.


The panorama from up here is truly breathtaking, and as we fly over the mountainous regions between Kaikoura and Blenheim, I do not forego the opportunity to capture a video of this amazing view.



Next, we fly right above the Waipara Valley, where I've been working for a few days during November, looking onto Blenheim...


...followed by the marvellous Queen Charlotte Sound, marking the northern end of the South Island.


From here, our route takes us over the ocean for some time, and it is not until we reach the shore of Manawatu-Whanganui that we finally reach land again. Looking down there I realize that Bulls and Marton have to be somewhere not too far from the shore, but they're to small to make out from this distance.


As we travel further north along the shore, we eventually pass over Kawhia Harbour...


...get to see one of New Zealand's many wind parks...


...and finally cross the harbour of Raglan.


Then, the plane initiates the landing sequence for Auckland, and since the weather is fine up here as well this time, that means I get to see the full extent of the sprawling city of Auckland from the air for the very first time.



I have a little time to change planes in Auckland - enough to get from one end of the airport to the other and meet up with Tecchie the fox-taur, a fellow furry from Christchurch who took an earlier plane. After a few minutes of waiting, we then get to board the plane to Taupo, which is a significantly smaller Turboprop machine of the type Q300. It's been some time since I've last been on one of these.


Takeoff proceeds smoothly, and takes of right across the waters of Manukau Harbour, which is located across from Auckland's famous Waitemata Harbour...



...and for the next 50 minutes, I get to marvel at the airborne panorama of the central North Island.


It seems like we've barely just taken off, and then it's time to land again already. This time, however, the airport is significantly smaller, and the terminal really is just one big hall.



The MiCamp Taupo, where the FurCoNZ is being held, is still quite some distance away from here. Fortunately, Tecchie is here to give me a lift, and thus, the FurCoNZ is only a short lakeside drive away.


Furry Ahoy!


Tecchie and I arrive at the MiCamp Taupo shortly thereafter, and our first order of business is exchanging plenty of hugs with other furries, such as Joppy and Kakapo. After that, it's off to the registration desk with us, where we sign our furry souls away in ye olde black pirate ledger using a feather ripped from the plumage of a dark phoenix.


After this formality has been taken care of, we're free to explore the campsite. I for one share my dormitory with Corpsie the patchwork-rabbit, Klor the cat, and Emete the undead dragon. Among the countless things to be seen around here are the pirate food...


...magical furries...


...technical furries...


...and - of course - pirate furries!


But I'm getting ahead of myself. Why don't I give you a quick tour around the camp at first?



One of the highlights is the archery tournament held on the first day...


...which has very comprehensive rules that do not lack a certain morbid sense of humour. Can you spot it?


Oh, and speaking of morbid humour:


Next up is the Furry Dance with DJ Bytorcus, and boy do I dance my tail off in that! I usually don't dance, but for some reason, it's just different with furries. Everything is better with furries!



The next day, I'm quite exhausted, so I take it easy and go for a relaxing stroll down to the shore of Lake Taupo.


Later on, it's time for the suitwalk, where all 30 fursuiters dress up in their suits simultaneously...


...allowing us non-suiters to take pictures of them.


We also happen to have a Keyblade Master in our midst...


...which somehow promptly results in me and my namesake, Kyra, to re-enact the Keyblade Wars.


Finally, there also is a colouring contest...


...and even though my own humble contribution doesn't win any of the prizes, it still earns a honourable mention for innovation and... well... funkiness.


Monday comes too soon, and with it, the end of this amazing weekend together. After cleaning up and packing, I take a final photo of the group artwork which I schemingly started on Friday by discretely drawing my likeness on an empty whiteboard in the middle of the artists' den...


...and before I know it, it's already time to say our goodbyes, exchange our last hugs...


...and get in our sorry excuses for proper pirate ships.


Once again, Tecchie kindly lets me ride along on his trip to Taupo. This time, though, Taala and Thomas - two of our fellow furry friends - are also aboard, and we get to keep each other some final furry company, until we eventually reach the bus station, and its sadly time to part ways.


Does that finally mark the end of this furry weekend? Not quite, for Tecchie and I coincidentally run into my former room-mate Corpsie at the bus station, and afterwards spend another hour or so Geocaching across Taupo. With that, we have finally drawn out the furry time for this weekend as long as possible, and as Tecchie departs for the airport to catch his flight, I am left to find myself a place to stay in Taupo, since my plane departs only the next morning.

Four Volley-Rounds of Journey


Round 1: The Taupo Transit


Lake Taupo... a 616 km² big body of water filling the caldera of an ancient supervolcano, which last erupted in 186AD in an eruption so violent that it turned the sky red over China and Rome, as described by Fan Ye in Han China and Herodian of Antioch in the Roman Empire. This eruption - also known as the Hatepe Eruption - was one of the most violent eruptions of the last 5000 years, on par with those of Minoan eruption in the 2nd millennium BC, the Tianchi eruption of Baekdu around 1000 AD and the 1815 eruption of Tambora. Fortunately, it should still be another milennium before the first people arrived on New Zealand, or they would have been in for quite a ride.


There are many strategies to finding an affordable place to stay. Simply finding a place saying "backpackers" and walking in, asking for a dorm bed is one of them.


With that taken care of, I have a full afternoon to wander around Taupo, admiring the obligatory murals...


...or crossing the Waikato River - which happens to be the longest river in New Zealand - near where it exits Lake Taupo.


At the shore, I get a marvellous view across the entirety of the lake...


[This line is dedicated entirely to the cat who just ran across my keyboard and hit the power-off button with pinpoint precision, thus causing me to lose my progress beyond this point]

...and also witness 87 ducks, two black swans, and a handful of mixed flickies being fed by friendly visitors...



...which makes me hungry myself, so I decide to wrap up the day by refuelling with a burger at Burgerfuel - a burger chain exclusive to New Zealand - as well as a bottle of "world-famous in NZ" L&P.


Round 2: Airborne Again


My next day starts off with calling a Taxi to get to Taupo's airport - a rather expensive solution, yet the only one available, since there are no buses or shuttles available. Had I booked my flight one day earlier, I could have gone to the airport with Tecchie, however...

...since the price of the flights is based on availability and demand, and this weekend is a highly popular time for trips due to Monday being Waitangi Day - New Zealand's national holiday, celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 - the flights back to Christchurch are actually over a hundred dollars cheaper on Tuesday, more than making up the difference.

Hence, I am the first person to make it to Taupo's little airport, and have plenty of time to sit back and relax, as well as work on my blog a little, while I wait for my flight to depart.


Regrettably, the sky is still quite cloudy at this hour, but I still manage to get a short glimpse of Lake Taupo as we take off, including a view on the area where the MiCamp is located...



...and for the rest of the trip to Auckland, all that can be seen is a fascinating cloudscape, featuring a pillar of lenticular clouds.


I had originally planned to grab a little breakfast at Taupo Airport. However, much to my dismay, I found that neither of the two (!) stalls were open yet. Hence, my first order of business upon arrival at Auckland Airport is grabbing an bacon-and-egg-roll in the transit lounge, where I spend the three hours waiting time mostly working on this very blog. Unlike Taupo's airport, which gave me unlimited internet, I have only half an hour of free WiFi here in Auckland, so I have to skillfully juggle my online time, writing the text in advance, preparing all the pictures and videos, and then uploading it all in one big gulp.


By the time my plane departs (an airbus A320D this time), the clouds have cleared, and thus I get an amazing view of Manukau Harbour during takeoff - I had wisely arranged my seat to be located facing west on the return trip to give me a chance to capture this gorgeous view.



As we fly south, however, the clouds close the sky once more, and hide the land under a long white cloud...


...and it's not until we're well over the south island that the first holes start to appear in the cloud cover, allowing me a brief glance on Lake Sumner - which incidentally is not very far from the Island Hills Station.


Approaching Christchurch, the plane loops around to approach the runway from the southwest, giving me a nice view of the great Waimakariri River, as well as Lake Ellesmere in the distance.



Now all that's left to do is picking up my luggage from the claim beneath a piece of abstract art, and I'm good to go again.


Round 3: The Christchurch Confusion


Since the buses bound southwards only depart Christchurch in the very morning, it means I'm stuck in Christchurch off another night. That's cool, though, since it gives me the chance to capture one final piece of art that I've frequently driven by while on the bus, yet never got a chance to take a picture of. According to the artist, it's supposed to depict every year between 1906 and 2010, yet the logic in the arrangement of numbers eludes me. Can you figure it out?


There are many strategies to finding an affordable place to stay. And apparently, booking a hostel in advance isn't one of them.

I had arranged my stay in a hostel near the city centre two weeks in advance, and yet for some reason, they managed to mess up my booking, leaving me with no bed to sleep in. Fortunately, however, the manager is a very responsible person, and arranges for me to stay in a different place nearby, even going as far as paying for the difference in price, and having one of his employees drive me there with her car (my weary back is quite grateful for that.

Hence, I end up in a hostel known as Foley Towers...


...which has a deep set of rules to follow.


Well, that's just plasmic with me, and since I have some more time to spare, I take a stray around to visit a very unique Earthquake Memorial...


...and walk along the "Street of Sideroads with Very Short Names".


The following morning, I depart from the Foley Towers at half past six to walk to the central bus interchange, from where my bus to Mosgiel departs. The streets are all but empty at this hour, and even the world's most awesome playground has yet to see its first visitor.


About half an hour later, I arrive at the station, and all that's left is to patiently wait for the bus to depart.

Round 4: Mission to Mosgiel


With almost 400 km, the ride from Christchurch to Mosgiel is definitely the longest land-based travel leg on my journey so far. And that's not even all of it: After getting off the bus in Mosgiel, my next host is going to pick me up and take me another 20 km to her small farm near the village of Outram.


But first, there's a six-hour bus ride to be contended with, through sprawling suburbs, fantastic fields, and across the mighty Waitaki River, which marks the boundary between Canterbury and Otago. Curiously, however, even though the road runs parallel to the shore for pretty much its entire length, it only passes within sight of the ocean for a few minutes during its entire length.



We stop for lunch by the coastal town of Oamaru...


...where I have a sandwich and a minced meat pie. Strangely, though, despite being over 500km away from Taupo by now, it seems that this weekend's pirate feeling has not yet fully dissipated.


It's already early afternoon by the time we finally arrive in Dunedin. From here, it's only a short ride to Mosgiel, where my next host is going to pick me up...


And before I know it, I'm all the way out to Outram, where I settle into my cosy cabin across from the house.


With that, I shall end my recount of my most recent travels. But stay tuned, for there shall be more tales from the travelling fox by the end of February. Until then, be of great cheer!

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