Life as Kiwi

growing and learning about life in a different county

Three Girls in a Van

After Boo headed on home backed to the U.S.A. my roommates Tara, Nora and I flew up to the North Island for a five-day adventure. We fly out late Wednesday night and after our plane being delayed and then switching planes after boarding because of a mechanical reason we finally arrived in Auckland around midnight. We took a taxi to our campervan and fueled on Red Bull, music and chips drove north to an I-site in the Bay of Islands to sleep there for the rest of the night.

We woke up to blue skies and the sun shining, so we took a look around the city of Paihia. It was beautiful and right on the ocean.  We decided on a game plan for the rest of the trip would be to drive all the way up to the tip of the north Island, with stops along the way and then head back down to eventually finish in Matamata, where Hobbit on is because Nora and Tara had a tour scheduled Monday morning.

On our way up to Cape Reinga, our first stop was Rainbow Falls. A decent size waterfall with a giant pool that is gushes into. From the viewing point above the waterfall there is always a rainbow that is shown, hence the name Rainbow Falls. After rainbow falls we stopped at the Kauri Forest to look and giant 200 year-old trees. The forest had a great wheelchair accessible walkway that took you right up to the trees to make you feel like a pebble in comparison. We then stopped at Cable Beach to enjoy the sun and view. Finally at sunset, we made it to 90 Mile Beach. 90 Beach is exactly what the name implies, a beach that stretches for 90 miles along most of the west coast of the North Island, where cars can drive fly down it with views of the ocean to one side and huge sand dunes on the other. We made it there for sunset and had our first night cooking dinner in the camper van, well I guess technically outside of it.

View of bay in Paihia

Nora, Tara and I enjoying the view

Nora, Tara and I in front of Rainbow Falls

Another view of Rainbow Falls

From the top of Rainbow Falls, you can see the Rainbow peeking through

Nora and I in front of a kauri tree

Tara, Nora and I posing in front of some big trees

Tree just as wide as my wingspan

At Cable Beach

Sunset and 90 Mile Beach

Getting ready to cook at the back of our camper van

The next morning we woke up and got to Cape Reinga early in the morning. Cape Reinga is one of the Northern most points on the Island, but most is most famous as the place where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. I am so glad we decided to drive all the way up, because we almost decided not to. The views were spectacular and there were whirlpools in the middle of the ocean where the two oceans meet.

We woke up in the morning to these guys looking at us

View walking down to the cape

The whirlpools where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet

At the Cape

A little far from home

After a great start to our day, we headed off to visit Tane Mahuta on of the most ancient trees in New Zealand. Tane Mahua is a kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest. ts age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old. It is the largest kauri known to stand today. According to the Maori creation myth, Tāne is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Tāne separates his parents from their marital embrace until his father the sky is high above mother earth. Tāne then sets about clothing his mother with vegetation. The birds and the trees of the forest are regarded as Tāne’s children. This is part of what I have leaved in my Maori studies class.

In front of Tane Mahuta…hard to capture him because of his size

After visiting Tane Mahuta, we drove to Coromandal. A very cute, vacation town.. Here is where we visited Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. Cathedral Cove is an iconic place to stop if visiting the area. The cave itself separates two beaches but you can access them both if you walk under the cave. The cove is most known for The cave and beach was used as the tunnel through which the Penvensie children first re-enter Narnia in the movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Walking down to Cathedral Cove

In front of Cathedral Cove

View from the other side

Hanging out on a ledge

After visiting Cathedral Coves we drove to Hot Water Beach. Hot Water Beach is a beach that you can access for two hours on either side of low tide. Before we could access it we had grilled cheese that we made in the camper. The beach is filtered by hot springs underneath, it is possible to dig in the sand that allows hot water to escape to the surface forming a hot water pool for your friends to enjoy. Tara, Nora and I dug a pool for us to enjoy. Although it was misting out and a little chilly, we enjoyed ourselves in the “hot pool.” I don’t think any of us realized how hot the water would actually get in some parts of the beach, as it would be too hot to sit in at times, but it definitely an awesome experience.

Enjoying grilled cheese before Hot Water Beach

We got spades to dig our holes

Tara and I digging a our hole 

Enjoying the digging

Laying in our pool

The next morning on our drive down to Waitomo Caves, we stopped at Bridal Falls. It was a gorgeous waterfall but it came with a price. There was 261 stairs down to the bottom and it was a long 261 stairs. We made it down, took in the scenery and then hit the road again. As we were driving along we came across a the small town of Pirongia and that happened to have their monthly famers market that day. Nora and I enjoy two bacon buttys each. They were literally bacon on a piece of buttered bread but they were delicious. We talked to the cutest old man who made gorgeous chairs and benches out of wood; pet some alpacas and I bought a scarf made out of alpaca hair. The lady who sold me the scarf owned 110 alpacas with her husband, and was just the sweetest.

Bridal Falls

View of Bridal Falls

Alpacas we petted in Pirongia

Nora and I enjoying our bacon buttys

The cute old man who made the wood chairs

As we finally made it to Waitomo, we had some time to spare before our caving adventure, so we took a walk up the county side to take in the view of the small farm town. When it was finally time to go blackwater rafting in the famous Waitomo caves we were ready for so action. It was just us three girls and an Irish couple so we had an intimate group, which was great! We got to experience glowworms that twinkled above our heads as we climbed over huge rocks, crawled through tight spaces and floated on tubes throughout this intricate cave underneath a bunch of farmland, it was probably my favorite experience of the trip.

We headed to Matamata early the next morning, and while Nora and Tara were doing the Hobbiton tour I enjoy the best hot chocolate I have ever had in a coffee shop and worked on homework for my classes. After they returned from the tour we headed back to Auckland to catch our flight back to Dunedin.

The best hot chocolate I’ve ever had

This was essentially my first true road trip, although there were a few bumps along the way but it was a trip of life time and something I will not forget!

South of the South

Greetings all, I decided to take a break from studying for finals to update you on the latest.

Boo’s last weekend here we decided to take a trip down to the Catlins, the southern most part of the South Island.  But before we did that we explored most of the Otago Peninsula in the moring and then went with Elly to where she rides horses. We got to ride them on a beautiful beach, hang out on the farm and feed them. Later that night we headed to the last rugby game of the Highlanders season. It was an exciting game that the Highlanders were suppose to close but they ended up pulling off the upset. Early Sunday morning we left for the Caitlins. It was only about an hour and a half drive south and we just made different stops along the journey.

Boo and I on the Peninsula

Boo and I riding on the beach

Enjoying the gorgeous day

All of us cheering on the Highlanders

The first stop was Nugget Point, where there was a lighthouse that overlooks “Nuggets” or rocks scattered in the ocean that has seals sunbathing on them. It had beautiful views. Next stop was Purakaunui falls, one of the most impressive waterfalls I have seen. On our way to the next stop, we came across The Lost Gypsy Gallery. It is basically this house where this man builds all this contraption out of anything and everything you can image, I heard from my friends that it is a really cool place and you can get lost spending hours in this guy shop looking at all the crazy things he built Sadly,  his shop was closed for winter but there were a few contraptions that were outside that we got to look around and interact with.

Walking to Nugget Point

Boo and I at Nugget Point

asdfaddaf Falls

The Lost Gypsy Gallery

The next stop was McLean Falls; it was about a 30-minute hike to another breathtaking waterfall. Although the water was a little dirty we had fun climbing right up to the pool of water. After that we headed to a beach known for having yellow-eyed penguins. As we pulled up to the beach it was nearing sunset, the perfect time to catch penguins coming in from sea to rest for the night. We were in luck, there were a couple penguins and we were able to hang out and watch them until we couldn’t see them anymore. This was probably my favorite part of the whole trip, the penguins were the most adorable thing I have ever seen and I could not stop watching and taking pictures of them.

Boo and I in front of McLean Falls

McLean Falls

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

The cutest things I have ever seen

We passed a Dolphin Hostel on the way to see the penguins and decided to go back to stay for the night. Just as we were walking up to the door the woman was about to close up for the night so we got there just in time and I am so glad we did. It was the nicest, homiest hostel I have stayed in this far. It reminded me of my lake house in Michigan. It was right on the ocean and not to mention very warm J. As we cooked dinner and watched a movie, we decided we were going to get up for sunrise at the southern most tip of the South Island, Slope Point. Essentially we were one of the first people in the world to see the sun rise that day. It was breathtaking and I am so glad we decided to do that.

Walk to Slope Point

Boo and I at Slope Point at sunrise

The next stop was the Cathedral Caves, caves that you can only access in the morning during low tide. The caves had high ceilings and went pretty deep, and were great to explore. It was a long walk down to them and an even longer walk back up, but and totally worth it.

On the beach before walking to Cathedral Caves

Inside looking out, Twilight Zone

Outside the Cathedral Caves

We made one last stop before I deported ways with Boo, which was to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. It was a fun tour, with lots of free chocolate…something that I have become addicted to since I have been here. We had to wear hairnets while taking the tour, I felt like we were in the episode from I Love Lucy, where her and Ethel get jobs at the chocolate factory.

After the chocolate factory

My roommate Tara and I, with our hairnets on from the tour.

The Beginning of a Two-Week Adventure

After my mid semester break I had to hunker down with midterms and get ahead on homework before one of my good friends, Boo Sweeny arrived to visit me for two weeks. Once she got here we were traveling pretty much non-stop and it has been a blast.

I picked her up from the airport on a Thursday morning she was a little jet lagged but I think just excited to finally be in New Zealand. While I was in class, she showered and took a nap to rest up for a busy weekend ahead. That night, we took a tour of the local brewery and she met all of the new friends I have made here in New Zealand. It didn’t take any time at all for her to get along with them.

The next morning we woke up early and head straight to Queenstown to bungee jump. One I arrived in Queenstown Boo, three of my guy friends and I took a bus ride to free-fall 134 meters. Don’t get me wrong, bungee jumping is probably the scariest thing I have ever done but I think the bus ride winding up a mountainside on a narrow gravel road was scarier than the jump itself. Once we got there we were strapped in to harnesses and carted off to a platform in the middle of the valley. We jumped off by weight so I was directly in the middle of our group to go. I was not that nervous until I got to the edge and I mistakenly looked down before I jumped. I did it though and it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. On the way up you were suppose to pull a cord to get your feet free but for some reason I could not get it loose so naturally I came up upside down. Everyone in our group jumped, even an English girl who was shaking badly and balling her eyes out.

Boo and I getting ready to jump

The platform where we jumped off

Getting ready to jump

My fatal mistake of looking down

But I jumped

After our bus ride home we were starving at went to the famous burger joint Ferburger for the perfect dinner. We then met up with the rest of our group for a night out. The next morning we woke up early and headed for Fox Glacier. We got to Fox Glacier late in the afternoon after multiple stops at waterfalls and mountainsides. We picked a quaint hostel to stay for the night and occupied ourselves the rest of the night by cooking dinner, playing cards and just chitchatting.

Mountainside Stop

Stop at Lake Wanaka

Thunder Creek Falls

The next morning we took a beautiful hike around Lake Matheson. There were spectacular views of Mount Cook and the surrounding mountainsides.  After the hike around the lake we headed to Fox Glacier. Part of the grouped opted to pay for a guided tour that took them on the glacier while a few of us just hiked up to it. The views were amazing. There was rushing water coming from the melting glacier with waterfalls plunging off the sides of the cliffs. It was a great hike and definitely worth seeing something that probably won’t be here much longer (thanks global warming). We headed back midafternoon for a long seven-hour journey back to Dunedin. They drive was not bad but not having a radio or any form of music player was just plain awful. We made it back safe and sound, which is the most important part.

Lake Matheson

Posing in front of the lake

View of views stopping point along the hike

Another great view

Walking across a suspended bridge

In front of Fox Glacier

In front of Fox Glacier

Once back in Dunedin, the next day we headed to Baldwin Street and Tunnel Beach. Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It is right in town and only about a five-minute drive from my flat. It is about a 20-minute drive away. We walked up the street because there was no chance the car we were driving would ever make it up, it was a tiring walk and a street I would definitely never want to live on.

Baldwin Street

View up the second half of the street

Sign explaining the street

On top of Baldwin Street

On top of the street looking over the city

Tunnel beach was our next stop; it is called Tunnel Beach because people carved a tunnel down to the actual beach part, something similar to what my mom and I found in Australia. The hike down to the actual beach was pretty rigorous and something none of us expected, but we made it and it was totally worth it. We spent a lot of time checking out the rock formations and just looking out into the ocean.

Beginning of pathway to Tunnel Beach

View of part of the beach

Heading down the tunnel

Boo and I on the beach

Hanging out on the rocks

Climbing the ledge

Boo and I found a crack in the rocks

Hanging out on the rocks

Once we got home the all the girls in our flat made a gourmet macaroni and cheese dinner. Boo and I agreed that it tasted like White Castle but it was good and we ate it anyway.

All of us girls in the kitchen

We just got back from another exciting weekend and I will post about it soon. Boo leaves on tomorrow and so do I- but just to the North Island for a 6 day road trip with two of my flat mates. Writing this post brought flashbacks of starting my month countdown until I left the USA because yesterday my mom brought up that there is just about a month left of my time here in this beautiful county. Crazy how time flies! Talk to everyone when I get back!

Koala Bears, Kangaroos and Bats…Oh My!

Over my mid-semester break I met my family in Sydney. After traveling a few days by myself, I was more than ready to spend a week relaxing with some of the most important people in my life. I got off the shuttle from the international terminal and my mom was waiting outside for me. I was greeted with open arms and big smile, and her saying, “I just had a feeling you were going to be on that bus.”

After saying my hellos to the rest of the family, we headed back through security to board another plane Cairns, Australia. We arrived at our beautiful apartment and headed straight to dinner, the first of what would be many great dinners of the trip.

All feeling a little jet lagged from our travels we hit the hay early to prepare for a busy week ahead. The next day we went on a train ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. We left the Freshwater station and traveled up the railway that was built in the late 1800s to the Kuranda station. It was a beautiful ride with waterfalls and views of the ocean. Once we arrived at the Kuranda station we grabbed lunch and took a look at the shops. We took a gondola on the ride down, which provided additional views of the gorgeous scenery. Instead of riding a gondola up a ski mounting, it was in the high 80s and we were going down, definitely a different feeling from riding up with ski boots on pants on.

Jill and I on the gondola

That night we had dinner at the Zoo to spend some time with the Koala bears and Kangaroos. We first had dinner and then got a tour of the zoo. The highlight was being able to hold a Koala bear and feed the kangaroos. After spending time with the animals we came back to the eating area for music and dancing. Jill and I participated in a couple Australian dances that were very interactive.

All of us with the koala bear

Jill with a kangaroo

Jill and I getting ready to dance

The next day we headed to the Great Barrier Reef to snorkel and scuba dive. Scuba diving was not in the original plan but it was an option my dad, Jill and I took advantage of. We loaded onto the boat for a 2-hour ride out to the cay, were we would spend most of the afternoon exploring. My mom and I headed out first and the reef is one of the coolest things I have seen. Its vibrant colors make the underwater world come to life. We got to see two sea turtles that looked so graceful swimming in the water.

My Dad, Jill and I getting ready to go on the boat

My mom and I on a boat to the Cay

My dad, sister and I then went scuba diving for an hour. None of us have ever gone before so after some brief safety training and all linked together we headed down to explore what was out there. The highlight was stinking a hand in a giant clam to see it shut tightly. Scuba diving was a great experience and I am glad I got to do in one of the greatest places to scuba dive in the world.

My sister, dad and I getting ready to scuba dive

My mom and dad on the boat ride back

We all went out one more time snorkeling to explore some more. We dove down to touch giant clams and followed the turtles wherever they lead us. We all loaded back onto the boat for the ride back, which was spent reading and enjoying the beautiful colors of the ocean mixed with amazing scenery.

Tutle

Giant Clam

Unfortunately it was pouring rain on our last day in Cains so we enjoyed a good breakfast and headed to the airport early to wait for our flight back.

Once we arrived back in Sydney we pulled up to our hotel where we found hundreds of screaming girls. They were all waiting for the chance to see their favorite boy band One Direction, a band I personally have never heard of. Apparently they are a popular UK boy band, I guess you could say the N’SYNC or Backstreet Boys of this generation and we happened to be lucky enough to stay in the same hotel as them, which meant the pleasure of staying with their 12-18 year old groupies.

The next day to avoid the ciaos of One Direction groups and the Sydney triathlon we took a ferry ride out to Manely beach. We enjoyed one of the best breakfasts I have ever had ocean side, took a walk along the beach and relaxed watching the waves roll in and out. My mom and I took a long walk along the beach and found this great pathway along the rocks that led us through a man-made tunnel in the rocks and were able to enjoy views we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy otherwise.

View from ferry with Sydney Opera House in the back

Manly Beach

Jill and I outside where we ate for breakfast

The Manly Wharf

Climbing on the rocks during the walk

The tunnel my mom and I found

My mom and I on the beach

We ate Oceanside once more before taking the ferry ride back into Sydney. The next day we went to to tour the iconic Sydney Opera House and while we were there we were able to see the start of the Sydney Triathlon. Competitors from all around the world were competing to qualify for the Summer Olympics. We watched and cheered on the American competing. After touring the Opera House we head to the Markets on the Rocks. It was markets they set up in the older part of town. Jill and I got cute summer dresses among some other things. We got delicious corn on the cob and headed to walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Since myself, my mom and Jill were all reading Hunger Games, we thought it was appropriate to go and see the movie. It was a good film that accurately portrayed the book. After the movie we went to mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral downtown.

Jill and I at dinner

In front of the Opera House

Shopping at the market

Eating corn at the markets

On the bridge

The next day we went on a bus ride to the Blue Mountains where we had a lovely tour guide take us everywhere from a zoo to the mountains itself. We first got to the zoo where we got up close and personal with some kangaroos. We got to feed them and interact with them, even saw a baby in a pouch. We also saw more koala bears, alligators, bats and penguins. We stopped for lunch at a country club before heading to the mountains. Once we got there we took a cable car across the forest and then The Mountain Devil back up. The Mountain Devil was a pretty intense ride, fun and definitely worth it. We got back pretty late and Jill needed to work on homework so my dad, my mom and I headed out to dinner by ourselves. Walking there we passed through the botanical gardens where we saw a bunch of bats and that’s when I think my mom fell in love—she is obsessed with bats for some reason. We enjoyed a nice steak dinner before heading back to the hotel.

Feeding the Roos

A Roo with a baby in its pouch

A bat

With my mom at the Blue Mountains

All of us with Three Sisters Peaks in the background

On a replica of the Mountain Devil

A bat in the Botanical Gardens

My parents with a dog statue in the Botanical Gardens

Spending break with my family was awesome and a trip I will never forget. I can’t thank my parents enough for allowing me to experience this opportunity of a life time. I tried to get this post out for Mother’s Day but am a few days late. Miss everyone back home and will keep on posting!

Before meeting my parents and sister  in Sydney I had Good Friday, Saturday and Sunday free to spend somewhere so I chose to spend it in Rotorua. Rotorua is a town known for its geothermal parks. As soon as I arrived in town I could smell the aroma of sulfur in the air. For those of you who don’t know what sulfur smells like, it smells like rotten eggs, not very pleasant. The smell surprisingly didn’t bother me that much and I got used to it very quickly. Rotorua has a population of 68,000; I was surprised to learn the city is as big as it is with a smell like that all year round. I got into town late Friday night after two plane and bus rides. This was my first time traveling truly alone for the weekend so I was a little bit nervous about making all the connecting flights and busses but it all worked out.

Friday morning I woke up early, grabbed breakfast at this cute café call the Fat Dog and then headed to the tourism center to see what activities I could book for the day. I was able to book a white rafting trip that also gave me free entrance into Hell’s Gate, Rotorua’s most active geothermal field. My bus to Hell’s gate didn’t leave until 1:30 so I had time to explore the city. I went to check out Lake Rotorua, which was pretty but nothing to write home about. Right on the lake was a craft fair and market, so I spent most of the time looking at the different crafts in the booths. 1:30 rolled around and I hopped on the bus to Hell’s Gate. The geothermal park was filled with different pools of boiling water and mud. An Irish explorer in the early 1900s, George Bernard, named each pool, mostly based on what the pool looked like or reminded him of. The geothermal park also has the largest hot waterfall in the southern hemisphere. I started walking through the tour with a guide but had to leave the guided tour and go through the park myself in order to catch my rafting trip.

Lake Rotorua

In Hell’s Gate

Kakahi Falls, The Largest Hot Water Falls in the Southern Hemisphere

At 2:30 I walked 15 feet next door to the rafting company. There I met a couple from Melbourne, Australia and we quickly bonded over the fact that we were the only English speaking people that were going to be on this trip.  After the three of us arrived on site, 25 Asians from Thailand and China arrived shortly after. I knew we were in for an interesting trip down the rapids when two of the girls tried putting their wetsuits on over their large cotton sweaters. What seemed like hours, and after extensive directions to address the numerous people who did not speak English, we finally got on the river. We went down the Kaituna River, which was surprisingly warm. It’s the warmest river in the area because unlike other rivers that are glacier fed, this river is lake fed. It was a good thing it was warm because I got soaked during the ride. We went down class 5 rapids including a 7-meter waterfall. I was lucky enough to sit in the seat known as “the ejector seat” because it is the spot where a person is most likely to fall out. Luckily, I survived the trip without falling out but I still got drenched. The couple from Australia was kind enough to get my email address to send pictures from the trip so when they send them I will share. They also gave me a ride back to my hostel where I ate dinner and watched Charlie’s Angels in the communal area.

The next day I woke up early because I scheduled a trip to Hobbiton, the site where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. The Hobbit has not been released, so we were not allowed in some areas but overall the trip was awesome. If you have seen any of the movies you will definitely enjoy the pictures I have. The tour started with a drive through The Shire, next we stopped and got out for a walking tour. The walking tour consisted of up close views of the party tree and field, the pub, stable and market, Bag End (Bilbo and Froto Baggins’ Home), the reconstructed oak tree (which looked just like a real-like one), and many other hobbit houses. On the shire there are 42 hobbit houses, all of which are fully functioning houses. If someone really chose to live in a hobbit house they could. Our tour guide used to work on the Alexandria Farm before it was leased to New Light Media and turned into Hobbiton. After it was leased to film Lord of the Rings he began building props for the Shire and now gives tours on the weekends for fun. After the tour we were brought back to the Shires Rest and were able to feed some of the sheep on the farm. It was an insightful tour with gorgeous views.

Hobbiton

In front of a Hobbit Hole

Where the opening scene of the first movie was filmed

The Shire

The Party Tree

Getting a Look Inside

Sunflowers

Sheep!

Feeding the sheep

Once I got back to Rotorua I had a few hours to kill before my bus headed back to Auckland. The day before I met a girl from Holland named Sophie, she was staying in my hostel and visiting for the weekend just like I was. I ran into her again because she was waiting for the same bus as me. I showed her pictures from my travels thus far to help her plan her next adventures in New Zealand. Talking with her made the time pass by quickly and we might even meet up in May when she travels down to the South Island.

 

I know I have found myself caught behind catching everyone up! The next post will be a big one!

Adventure Capital of the World

This past weekend I traveled to Queenstown with four of my friends that are apart of TEAN with me. Queenstown is a city known for being “the adventure capital of the world.”  It’s a ski town in the winter and a hub for extreme sports in the summer, a perfect stop for anyone that loves the outdoors. After a weekend of paragliding and mountain biking, the city did not disappoint.

Friday morning we packed up the “cockroach” with all of bags for the weekend. The “cockroach” is the nickname for the car my friends bought. The car got its name from the owner who sold the girls the car. In his ad the owner described the car as, and I quote, “ugly as hell but would survive a nuclear holocaust.” A little snug in the back we took off for a weekend of adventure. We took our first pit stop at the Ewes and Moos Café for lunch and to give Erin her birthday cakes we baked the night before to start her birthday weekend celebration.

Erin with her birthday cakes

A pit stop for beautiful scenery and icecream

Before we made it to Queenstown we stopped in Wanaka for the night because other kids we were traveling with were running a 10k or half-marathon the next day. Wanaka is another ski town, right on a lake and a popular place for Kiwis to retire. It is easily the prettiest place I have been thus far. As soon as you drive into the town you see Lake Wanaka, so we immediately checked it out and decided to go for a swim. The water was initially cold but I quickly adjusted to the temperature. We jumped off the dock a few times and then swam out to the raft anchored out in deeper water. Nearing sunset, we quickly got out and checked into out hostel and grabbed dinner.

Jumping into lake Wanaka

Me reacting to the freezing cold water

While others woke up early to prepare for their race, the five of us woke up early to climb Mt. Iron. It was about a half-hour walk to the summit where we could see the town on Wanaka below and The Remarkables mountain range. It was a great hike, with gorgeous views, definitely worth it.

On top of Mt. Iron

We had to be in Queenstown before 2:30pm because we all purchased tickets to go paragliding, so after our summit up Mt. Iron we quickly left for Queenstown. We arrived around noon and had a little time to explore and grab a bite to eat. There was no question between all of us about where to go to lunch: Fergburger.  Fergburger is a burger joint famously known throughout New Zealand for its delicious and extravagant burgers.  I ordered a regular Fergburger with cheddar cheese and it was one of the best burgers I have ever had. It was so good and despite how filling it was I got another one the next day.

My Fergburger

Me and my burger

Enjoying my burger a little too much

After lunch we met up with the company who took us paragliding. Lindsey and I were the first two to run off the mountain, while the others patiently waited at the bottom for their turn. Paragliding was something I have never experienced before and is the closest thing I can think of that compares to flying. The views below and surrounding me during the ride were gorgeous and it could not have been a more perfect day. Abby, the man who took me, has been paragliding for almost 14 years and has taken over 30,000 people-even his one and a half year old son. Needless to say I felt comfortable with him the whole time. The landing was probably the scariest part of the whole trip because I felt like we were coming down to the ground very quickly, but the landing could not have gone smoother. Under Abby’s direction, I stood up when we touched the ground and ran until we gained control to completely stop. Successful ride.

Getting ready to paraglide

Just took off

Mid-flight

After paragliding, we met up with the runners and discussed what we wanted to do the next day. There were many options to choose from, including white-water rafting, horseback riding, and bungee jumping but we chose mountain biking. It was the cheapest and seemed pretty popular so we made reservations for the next day.

Elly and I got up early to grab breakfast and met up with everyone at the bike rental shop afterwards. There, we got all geared up with wrist and elbow pads, gloves and a helmet and took the gondola up. In addition to the five of us, our friends Bryan and Josh joined the group. Most everyone are experienced mountain bikers in the group except for Lindsey and I so we stayed back and let everyone else go ahead of us and I am so, so grateful we did.  My usual experience with a bike is riding one to and from campus in the spring, summer and fall. My route, sometimes (only if I choose), involves a mini-hill so what I was in for I was not quite prepared. The path was pretty much flat and well laid out but there were sharp turns I had to maneuver around that I quite didn’t know how to, so I did what I thought was the right way and prayed for the best. I had a few close calls, but made it safely down the mountain. Some of my thoughts the whole time down the trail were:

“If this is a green trail (the easiest on a map), I don’t even want to know what the blue runs look like.”

“Well if I have to go to the ER for some reason from falling, at least I am already familiar with the New Zealand health care system.”

“I wish I could stop to look around at the beautiful scenery but I fear too much for my life to look anywhere else except for where I am going on the trail.”

I also asked one of the experienced bikers, while waiting to get on the gondola for the second time what is the proper technique when taking sharp turns on the trail…do you brake before or during…after the turn? I had no clue. His answer to me: “There really is no proper way, you just have to feel it and do what’s natural.” Right. Feel it and do what’s natural….pretty sure if I was doing what felt natural I wouldn’t be asking for advice. Never the less I made it safely down the mountain three more times with Lindsey. She did not get as lucky as me and fell a couple time off her bike, one time pretty hard but no broken bones or major cuts so the day was a success. While everyone else spent another hour and a half on the trail, Lindsey and I rewarded ourselves for not killing ourselves going down the mountain with delicious ice cream cookie sandwiches. After that, we shopped around the town for a bit and then took naps on the grass right by the lake.

Took a pit stop to take a picture of the view

Enjoying our cookies after mountain biking

Once everyone got back, we quickly loaded up the cockroach and headed back to Dunedin for another week of school. I had my first marketing test and my second accounting quiz. The marketing test went well, it was a little stressful because it was just one essay question but I felt prepared so I am not worried. Accounting proves to be more difficult and takes up a lot more of my time to study for but I got an A on the quiz so I guess the studying is paying off.

Back to School, Back to School…

As I mentioned in my last post, I barely survived my first week of school. This wasn’t because it took me awhile to get back into the swing of things after having almost three months off from school or getting used to a new school system. It was because what I thought was a blister from sunburn on my forearm turned out to be a cyst from what the doctors think was a bug bite. The bite on my arm grew into a large bump over the span of three days and became so painful I had to go to the emergency room. Once there, they popped the cyst, which was pretty painful, gave me a prescription for an anti-biotic and told me to visit the student health center to get that packing replaced. I thought it would be all downhill from there after the visit. Nope. Two days later on a Tuesday, the swelling in my arm got worse and the doctor at the student health center told me to go back to the ER to get my arm re-looked at. The ER doctor decided the oral anti-biotic was not strong enough and that I would need to receive the anti-biotic through an IV so it would work faster and treat it more directly. I would have to travel to the ER for the next four days to get a daily injection of anti-biotic. Friday, they decided the IV seemed to be doing its job and I could finish out my prescription of the oral anti-biotic. I would eventually get my dressing changed a few more times at the student health center and now my arm is basically back to normal.

Besides getting to know the New Zealand health system pretty well, I have been attending classes and traveling around the country. While I am here I am taking four classes; Music in Art, Marketing 102, Accounting and Maori Studies. Music in Art is a class I am taking to fulfill my Fine Arts general education requirement and is probably my most interesting class. The class looks at the role art such as famous paintings, album covers and tour posters play in music. The Maori Studies class is about the history of Maori society and culture, Maori people are the original inhabitants of New Zealand. The class is pretty interesting but sometimes the content can get mundane. My marketing class is a class that I enjoy a lot more than I thought I would. My teacher has relatable, real-life examples that make class interesting. My TA for my “tutorial” (a tutorial is what they call labs here) is one of the best teachers I have ever had. He is an older man who was the marketing director for the Cadbury Chocolate factory, a chocolate factory started in 1868 in Dunedin, which has grown to now become part of Kraft Foods.  He is currently getting his doctorate in Philosophy. So in addition to learning, he just genuinely enjoys teaching and being around kids. Although he is older he has the greatest enthusiasm of any teacher I have had and makes going to his tutorial one of the highlights of my week. We have our first project in the class, which is to present a new product into the New Zealand economy. My group decided to pick a company in Madrid that lends out fully loaded iPads with tourist apps and information for travelers. My accounting class will probably be the hardest and require the most studying, so far we watched an interesting documentary about the collapse of Enron called Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Now were getting into the basics and it has been a little challenging so far. I had my first quiz and I got a 99% so I guess that is a good sign that I will do well in the class.

Besides books and schoolwork, I took a camping trip to the Fiordland. It is on the west side of the south island. Milford Sound, which is located in the Fiordland is probably the biggest attraction in New Zealand. We made it there on Saturday after camping Friday night right on a lake called Lake Monowai. While cooking dinner, two local fishermen came over to our campsite and let us eat their catch of the day and after chatting with them for a bit they invited us out on their boat to check out the lake. The views from their boat were gorgeous, it was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. We headed out  early Saturday morning for Milford Sound and stopped at scenic places throughout the ride. It took us about two hours to get to Milford but the trip was beautiful and well worth it. We picked a different place to camp on Saturday night, right next to a stream with a breathtaking scenery in the background. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Sunday was a long and painful trip back home because I somehow got stuck sitting in the middle-back of the small car for the whole four-hour car ride. It could have been worse but let’s just say I was more than glad to get out of the car.

Many sheep we passed in the trip

Where we stopped for lunch

Pretty nice view while eating some PB&Js

Setting up our first campsite

Lake Monowai, the lake we camped on

Cooking the fish, Paul and Allen gave us

Paul and Allen's boat

Liz and I on the boat

Trying to get me with the view in the background

Paul let me drive the boat!

Sitting around the campfire with my roommates Julia and Tara

First stop on our way to Milford Sound, Mirror Lakes

You can see a "mirror" image of the lakes on the water

The girls at mirror lakes

At a stop with glaciers and mountains in the back

Another stop

B-e-a-utiful

A bridge at the Chasm

Finally! Made it to Milford Sound!

This was my view on St. Patrick's Day

Waterfall at Milford

Most of the group, minus a few

Next campsite

Enjoying a spaghetti sandwich

Enjoying some s'mores!

Pretty scenery

The weekend before that, my roommates Julia and Nora and our friend Jess went sea kayaking around the Peninsula in Dunedin, where I live. It was actually a pretty grueling kayak tour, but well worth it because I got to see a lot of seals up close and an albatross, which is the biggest flying bird in the world. It has a wingspan over 11 feet long. Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Getting into the kayaks with the help from Lucky, the dog

On the shore of the peninsula

Jess, myself, Nora and Julia before we got on the water

Seals!

Checking out the seals

Cave formations

Second oldest lighthouse in New Zealand

I also went it to my first rugby game.  It was a sold out crowd and the first local rugby game in the new stadium built for the Rugby World Cup last year.  It was a big deal because the old stadium used to be too far away for students to attend games but now with the new stadium located basically on campus, the game was heavily attended with a special section dedicated for students called “The Zoo.” The Highlanders are the local rugby team and they upset the number one team, The Chiefs with a 23-19 come-from-behind win.  I got a free “jersey” with my ticket so that explains the awesome, obnoxious outfit I am wearing.

"The Zoo" section at the Rugby game

In the stands

Action on the field

After the Highlanders victory!

Other things I have been up to: my flat mates and I went on a tour at the local Brewery. Speight’s is the local beer and it was a very informative tour about the process of beer making. We also went to the New Zealand National Ukulele Orchestra Concert. It was a very fun concert where they played famous covers such as Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake and originals songs. Here are some pictures from those events.

Tara and I at the Speight's Factory

Creative picture I took during the tour

Before the ukulele concert

At the show

The ukulele orchestra

I know this was a long post but I had to catch everyone up because I have been a slacker about posting. I promise to update more regularly now that I am in some sort of routine and my trips to the ER did not help my case. Next weekend I am off to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world so I am sure I will have stories to post about after the trip!

New Places and Faces

New beginnings and experiences, that is what I wanted from my trip to New Zealand. And that is exactly what I have gotten so far. Sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to Dunedin from Auckland, we realized that there were nine of us from the group of 46 attending Otago University. Just like in the Lord of the Rings (which was filmed in New Zealand), there were nine members of the fellowship, so we quickly nicknamed ourselves the Fellowship (also because everyone in my group is a huge Lord of the Rings groupie). We arrived safely in Dunedin, I slept the whole two-hour plane ride and quickly became nervous and excited to see where and who I would be living with for the next four months. As everyone was getting dropped off to their different houses, the anticipation to see my house was killing me. When the van driver yelled out my address to be the next stop, I nearly screamed with excitement. We pulled up and I was pleasantly surprised to see the cutest flat on the street.

The outside of my flat (my room is the one on the right)

Once I brought my bags in I was instantly greeted by 3 of my 5 flat mates; Tara, Jacob and Andy. They helped me with my bags and I sat down to learn more about them and the flat. Tara is from Skokie, Illinois and attends the University of Illinois she is Biology major who is enjoying her light class load for this semester. Jacob, my Kiwi host, is from Wellington, New Zealand and is a med student at the University. Andy is from Edinburgh, Scotland and this is his second semester at Otago. Annemarie, my younger sister would be best friends with him because he loves Disney animated movies; we have already watched Lion King and Hercreles since I have been here. My other flat-mate, Nora was on a geology field trip at the moment but she is from Seattle by goes in Occidental College in LA. MY last flat-mate Julia, is from South Bend, Indiana and goes to DePauw University, she arrived later in the week because she was on a different program.

(From the left) Andy, Tara, myself, Jacob, Julia and Nora in the backyard of our flat.

It has already been an experience living with two boys as I have already found myself cleaning up after them in the kitchen and catching swifts of the lovely aroma of their sweat after they come home from the gym, but they are two great guys and I couldn’t imagine living with any other people at this point. It’s also a small price to pay to have people in the house that know the area very well and are willing to help me out with anything I need.

Kitchen area

My room

Arriving here on Sunday, I got here just in time to enjoy O-Week or Orientation Week. I took this time to explore the city around me and took advantage of some activities offered to us by the university. Monday night I went to go see a hypnotist at the new Rugby stadium built for the Rugby World Cup, it was very entertaining and funny show. I had to register for classes during the week on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was an exhausting and pointless process. It was something that could have done online in five minutes, but I guess not having the same high-speed and advanced technology as we do in America is something I have to get used to. Thursday I went to St. Clair beach, a surfing beach that is about a ten minute bus ride away and Friday I went to a concert. Saturday I spent exploring the Botanical Gardens, which is literally located right down the street from me and is the most beautiful garden I have ever seen. I have to walk right through it to get to the grocery store, so the walk there and back is very enjoyable. Here are the highlights from “O-Week”:

People being hypnotized at the hypnotist show on Monday night

This is my ten minute walk to class every day

St. Clair Beach

St. Clair Beach

On the beach

Shark warning bell at the beach

Distances to places throughout the world

Dogs and surfers, what the beach mostly consisted of

The entrance to the garden

Rose section of the garden

My new favorite flowers, I have no idea what they are called yet

Roots from a tree

You can feed ducks at the garden (Gram, reminded me of old times at Pleasant Lake)

I survived my first week of classes, barely but that story is for my next post!

 

ADVENTURES IN AUCKLAND

The last stop with my TEAN group before we departed to our respected universities was Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand located on the north island; it contains 31% of New Zealand’s population, which is almost two million people. Our flight out of Fiji was delayed five hours so we lost most of our first day in Auckland sitting in Fiji’s airport. Once we finally got there, we checked into our hotel and then headed straight to dinner. We ate at a delicious tapas place, figured out our new groups and learned our schedule for the next three days. The group I was placed in was scheduled to go canyoning the next day so I headed straight to bed after dinner to rest up for an eventful next day.

Canyoning has been one of the greatest experiences I have done so far. Canyoning basically consisted of repelling down volcanic rock waterfalls in the rainforest. All suited up in a full wetsuit, helmet, and repelling gear I took on the 3 waterfalls, jumped off cliffs and wedged myself in between rocks. The view at the top of the waterfall series was extraordinary. I wish I had my camera on me to capture it because my words will not do it justice. The rainforest was a mix of lush greens and the sky was a clear blue with perfect white puffy clouds perfectly sprinkling the sky. After taking in the view, it finally hit me that I was actually in New Zealand.

At the second waterfall

About to go down the second waterfall

The second waterfall was the tallest of the three and I sometimes caught myself looking at the waterfall instead of focusing on keeping my feet grounded. The third waterfall was the narrowest and had the most powerful gushing water. It was quite difficult to navigate repelling down with so much water pounding you, it felt like I was in a washing machine but it was still a lot of fun. Once we made it down the waterfalls I thought our day was done, but I was dead wrong.

About to go down the third waterfall

The next part of the trip consisted of jumping off cliffs into pools of water, climbing along edges of cliffs to keep moving forward and wedging myself under large boulders only to slip into other big pools of water. After we finished our decent down we had sandwiches back at a local shop.

Jumping off one of the cliffs

Trying to fit between a rock and hard place

After sandwiches we went to Piha Beach, a surfing beach that is one of the most dangerous beaches in the world. Because of such the strong currents about 30 people drown a year. I didn’t go swimming, but we did explore the spectacular sights at the beach.

View of Piha Beach

On the beach

A cool starfish I found

One of the many cool rock formations

The next day was dedicated to the history of the Maori culture in New Zealand. I am enrolled in a Maori Studies class so hopefully I will be able to expand on what I have learned so far about the Maori society.

Our first stop was to an inactive volcano, where from the top we could see most of Auckland. Specifically the central part of the urban area and the area that occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate major bodies of water.

The bowl of the volcano

The stadium where the 2011 Rugby World Cup was played (to my left) and the Taaman Sea Bay

The whole group

After a view and stories of Marori cutlure we headed to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Here we got to look around at all the interesting artifacts they had including a restored war ship that fit over 90 men in it and pictures of men with Maori tattoos. I thought the Maori tattoo pictures were one of more interesting exhibits in the museum.

90 person war ship

Picture of Maori tattoo

According to archaeological evidence, tattooing came to New Zealand from Eastern Polynesian culture. The bone chisels used for tattooing can be found in archaeological sites of various ages in New Zealand, as well as in some early Eastern Polynesian sites. The head was considered the most sacred part of the body. All high-ranking Māori were tattooed, and those who went without tattoos were seen as persons of no social status. Tattooing commenced at puberty, accompanied by many rites and rituals. In addition to making a warrior attractive to women, the tattoo practice marked both rites of passage and important events in a person’s life.

Our time at the museum ended with a show, which included demonstrations of Maori games children played that were also used as a way to practice fighting techniques. The show also included a performance of the Haka, my favorite part of the show. The Haka  is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. The New Zealand rugby team’s, most famously The All Blacks Team who won the Rugby World Cup last year perform the haka before their matches has made the dance more widely known around the world.

Performance of the Haka

Me posing with one of the actors

After the museum, we ate fish and chips on the museum lawn that overlooked cricket games being played. We got back to the hotel, showered and then headed straight to Silo Park where they show a movie off an old Silo for free and serve food out of trucks every Friday night.

Me with my fish and chips

The old Silo

Wood Burning Stove Pizza Truck

A few of us at Silo Park

Saturday was given to us as a free day so Elly, Lindsay and I decided to head back to Silo Park for a free concert and explore the harbor a little more. It was a relaxing day and then we headed to our farewell dinner with everyone in our group. It was a great last night together but I was happy to know that I would soon be in Dunedin where I would have a a room to call my own for the duration of my trip.

Elly, Lindsey and I waiting for the concert to start

A picture of the park during the concert

A few of us at the farewell dinner

The original 12 of us at the farewell dinner

I am now finally in Dunedin and I have loved every second on it. A post about my flat, flat-mates and new surroundings will soon follow!

Bula!

Bula! That means hello in Fiji and is basically a common term to describe anything in Fiji… Bula passes were the tickets we used to board the ferry, there were Bula Markets….myself and the other kids in my group started to call everything in Fiji Bula…Bula was money, food, anything we could replace with Bula we did. I used the words at least 40-50 times a day to greet staff, joke around or actually use it for in different situations.

After arriving safely in Fiji I met my group and we headed straight to the Sofitel Hotel, where we would be staying the next two days. It was a beautiful hotel that had a pool and beach access. Before we did anything though a few of us went to the port to exchange money, get food and take a look around. Being the typical tourist Americans that we were we all decided to get pizza at nine in the morning because we were starving from the long flight in. Among the 12 of us there, we represent different regions of America pretty well. My roommate, Elly, is from Atlanta, a girl Erin is from a small town in Oregon and a few kids are from Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maryland.

After getting to know everyone better over lunch, well I guess technically breakfast we decided to hit up and explore the beach. We swam in the warm water, relaxed under the sun and then decided to see what the pool had to offer. We all sat in a cold hot tub, which was perfectly fine because it was so hot out and still took turns learning everyone’s name and little more about eachother. For dinner, we all went back to the port and ate at a restaurant called Lulu’s Bar.

Relaxing on the beach in front of the hotel

The next morning my roommate Elly and I went for a run through the golf course. Trust me, it was not my idea to run but I didn’t want Elly to go alone and plus I thought a workout could not hurt. It honestly felt like we were swallowing water while we ran because of the humidity but we got a good workout in.

After showering from the run Elly and I decided to walk to the port to grab lunch and utilize the free Wi-Fi at LuLu’s Bar. As we just arrived at the restaurant it started to down pour. It was perfectly fine with us it was pouring because we were without Internet for a few days and I wanted to take time to check in with friends and family. The rain did not stop for about four hours so Elly and I just stayed there reading, surfing the web and planning activities for the rest of the trip until the rain died down to walk back.

Elly and I at Lulu's bar, stuck there in the rain

The next day was got up early met the other 34 students in our group and headed to the port to get on a three hour ferry ride to the island of Naviti. Due to the rain and high winds, over half of the people on the ferry ride got sick. I was nauseous for most of the ride but did not get sick. Once we arrived on the island the staff with lays and some introductory instructions greeted us. We all stayed in a 30-person cabin with bunk beds and shared basically an outhouse. The water was not safe to drink so I stuck to drinking bottled water the whole time I was there. The rest of the day consisted of hanging out, playing beach volleyball and eating.

A group of us on the top deck of the ferry

Sitting inside on the ferry

On the first day of Naviti, exploring the beach and I found a blue starfish

Playing beach volleyball

View from the main deck where we had all of our meals

A typical day for the four days we were there was:

7:00 am: Breakfast

8:00-12:30: Beach Volleyball, snorkeling, kayaking

12:30pm: Lunch

1:30-3:30 pm: Reading, walking the beach, hiking

3:30 pm: Tea Time

4:30-6:30: Beach volleyball

6:30 pm: Dinner

8:30 pm: Hanging out

Our daily activity board

 

One day we went on a hike up a mountain to see the great views of the whole island and other Fiji islands. Of course when the group I went up with chose to go up, a huge storm started to roll in when we were just about to reach the top. We got to enjoy the views for a few minutes and then the rain came in and we had to run down the mountain to avoid the rain and beat sunset.

One of the views on the hike

View of the storm rolling in

After the heavy rain, just before the sun is about to set

Another day we went on a 45 minutes hike to one of the seven villages on the island. Called So-So. This particular village is where the grade school is located. So we got a tour of the village and the school and then went to a market the women of the village set up for us. It was a very remote walk but beautiful. The children of the village were adorable and we got to interact with them for a bit.

On our way to the village

Second graders at the school

Me with two little boys

A group of us on our last night there

Leaving on the ferry back to Nadi

The trip to Fiji was quick, but I thought the perfect amount of time to spend there because I was anxious to finally get to New Zealand. My group stayed one more night at the Sofitel Hotel and then left early Wednesday morning for Auckland, New Zealand.

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