"Find life experiences and swallow them whole. travel. meet many people. go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. try everything. exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark

Sorry for the delay in new posts, but I've been busy doing numerous activities :)

  • Raglan-- We took a weekend trip to the west coast, a little south of Auckland.  Raglan is a small town known for its black sand beaches and surf spots. My friends all had long boards and I was borrowing a short board from my friend.  It took me two days to barely get up on it until I caved and tried the long board, which was much easier.  After a long day battling the waves and getting tossed into the sand, we went to THE pub in town and watched some rugby.  Unfortunately, Ireland lost to wales :(  
  • Waiheke Island-- went to some wineries, walked along beaches, and explored underground tunnels from World War I
  • Coromandel Peninsula--- We hiked the Pinnacles in one day, camped that night, and headed to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach the next day.  The view from the top was sweet as--you could see rolling hills on one side, and the ocean on the other.  At the Hot Water Beach, we dug ourselves a hot-tub in the sand and water from the thermal vents poured in.
  • My parents were here for two weeks.  We tasted kiwi dishes, visited Motuihe Island, and my dad and I tramped through Mordor (Tongariro Crossing).
Sadly, my experience here in New Zealand is coming to a close.  In two days, I'll be getting lost, walking the streets of Sydney.  This semester has been heaps of fun, but it flew by too quickly!  I've made some amazing friends, climbed a lot of mountains, and seen too many sheep.  Hopefully this won't be the last time I step foot on New Zealand soil.  It's not goodbye, it's see you later.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

"We're Domesticated Now"

The Rugby World Cup is in full swing!  Auckland has a new life force pulsing through the city.  Last Saturday, my Irish flatmate convinced us to dress up in Ireland's colors and go skipping down Queen St to the wharf--there are lots of tents set up with live music, large screens playing the matches, and bars.  Ireland was playing Australia that night--Ozzies were favoured to win.  So we went down Queen St, singing "Molly Malone"---people kept cheering "Go Irish!" at us, I of course, played along and pretended I was Irish... We ended up watching the game in an Irish pub, Munster's.  The energy in the pub after the game as all the people who were at Eden Park came flooding into the bar was amazing.  A live band took the stage and started playing Irish melodies all night (Ireland won! If that wasn't clear...).  After that night, we decided we should just dress up as whatever country was playing that night and walk down Queen St :)

On a different note, yesterday I went canyoning about forty minutes outside of Auckland in the Waitakere ranges.  Our program coordinator from Australearn took about ten of us out there on the trip, so it wasn't commercially done.  We were "just a bunch of friends having a good time"...in case the warden asked.  We hiked about 40 minutes up a trail in our wet suits--we got some pretty funny looks.  We walked down the river for a bit, occasionally reaching points chest deep (we had been warned of eels, but no worries, we didn't see one....until the end).  At one point, Gavin, our coordinator, dug out some brush underwater, creating a tunnel we could swim through.  Obstacle one, check.  We slid down rock slides and jumped off several ledges.  The tallest jump was about 10 metres.  You couldn't see the jump until it was your turn and you walked up to the ledge--- I looked down, looked at Gavin said "Are you serious?", he nodded, and so I took the plunge.  Not only did we just jump off a massive ledge, but we landed in a canyon.  We had begun our descent underground.  We stopped and ate Mars Bars, a local favourite, and tried to keep from freezing, as Gavin set up the abseil.  We then repelled down a waterfall, water rushing in our faces as we went down the slippery rocks.  Now, completely underground, we took one last leap off a log protruding out over a ledge. It was a pretty sweet day--although very cold!

While we were driving back to Auckland, Gavin said " You guys are pretty much domesticated now after two months-- regular bunch of kiwis."   I have come to understand and love this kiwi life-style.  Where else in the world do you go swim down a river on a Saturday with a bunch of friends just cause you can?

About to abseil down the waterfall

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Last Paradise

I don't even know where to begin.   How can I describe my 17-day road trip across the South Island? There is no way words can adequately convey the many emotions, experiences and sights that filled this trip, but I'll give it a go. Keep in mind that to actually explain this journey, it would take much more than a blog post.  Hence, you all MUST visit the south island before you die.

On Friday the 26th, we flew into Christchurch, a now devastated town due to numerous earthquakes and after-shocks.  That night we drove north in our little two-person camper-van, packed with five people and all of our belongings.  As we drove along New Zealand's windy roads, the stars shone brighter than I think I have ever witnessed right above us--the milky-way streaked across the middle and the southern-cross laid low on the horizon.  After an hour or so of driving, we pulled off to the side of the road to sleep (freedom camping!!).  In the morning we awoke to find that we had stumbled upon a beautiful little spot right on the beach.  We ate breakfast with the sun's rays bouncing off the water and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.  A feeling of humbleness and awe swept over me---New Zealand's dynamic landscape continued to impress upon me this sensation as our trip continued.  One of the cooler things that struck me about our trip was the drastic changes in landscape from place-to-place.  I literally walked through tropical forests, over glaciers, across grassy plains, through a fiord, and anything else you can imagine.  One day we were kayaking through blue-green ocean in Abel Tasman and the next, we were walking towards Franz Josef Glacier.
Since I cannot elaborate on everything I did, here is a list of places we went:
  • Kaikoura Seal colony--so many seal were just basking in the sun
  • Ohau Stream-- seal pups swam and crawled their way upstream in order to get to a waterfall where they played right in front of us
  • Blenheim- we stayed in my friend's cousins house.  We visited several wineries (all gorgeous!) and ate a feast of lamb and roasted veggies (including kumara--nz's sweet potato)--very kiwi as.  We talked a lot about how kiwis just "get it"--they know how life should be lived and they do it.  It was here that I first learned the affectionate term "jafa"--just another 'friendly'(another word is more often used...) aucklander--apparently aucklanders are dis-liked by the rest of New Zealand.  My love for Pinot Noir and Reisling was discovered here as well :)
  • St Arnaud- We did a two day tramp around Lake Rotoiti and stayed in a hut right on the lake.
  • Abel Tasman- We kayaked from Marahau to Anchorage, stopping at Adele Island to see some seals and eating lunch at Akerstons Beach.  We camped at Anchorage and tramped back to Marahau the next day.
  • Cape Foulwind- Rocky west coast with steep cliffs
  • Puanakaki/Pancake Rocks- Sweet as rocks stacked liked pancakes.  The waves crashed up alongside the rocks and water escaped in blow-holes showering us with mist
  • Greymouth/Brunner Mine
  • Franz Josef Glacier-we tramped up to Robert's Point and along the river that runs off the glacier
  • Haast Pass- We stopped at several stops along the way including: waterfalls and the gates of Haast.
  • Wanaka- This is a small town on Lake Wanaka. If I could convince everyone at home to move here, I would.  We went to a movie at the Paradiso( you sat in couches and ate cookies at intermission) and then went to dinner at The Cow.
  • Mt Cook- sweet as glacier views...we spent a good amount of time napping on huge rocks in the river :)
  • Te anau- The gateway to the Fiordland
  • Milford Sound- We did a boat cruise that took us out into the fiord.  Dolphins surfed the waves off the boat, a penguin sat atop the rocks and seals slept along the shore. Rudyard Kipling called it the 8th wonder of the natural world.
  • Queenstown- We "showered" in the freezing Lake Wakatipu and hiked the Tiki Trail--great view of the town and the lake.  We also visited three more wineries and a cheesery.
  • Dunedin- We went to Cadbury World, a farmer's market, the Railway Station (which is apparently the second most photographed building in austral-asia), we drove up the steepest street in the world, and saw a sea lion.
This is just a fraction of what we did, but I don't have the time to recount everything because it was all so amazing.  Those two weeks spent living off peanut-butter and soup, tramping  numerous tracks, sleeping in dodgy places along New Zealand's windy as roads,waking up to find ourselves in yet another beautiful area, and just enjoying the world's last paradise were the best two weeks of my life.  While I do believe there are places in the states that live life the way it should be led, there is something enticing about the kiwi lifestyle that just draws you in.  How can it not when you are constantly surrounded by such dynamic and awe-inspiring scenery?

Winery in Blenheim
Tramp in St. Arnaud


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Tramp of Epic Proportions

This past weekend we drove south to Karekare for a coastal tramp towards Whatipu.  On route, we stopped at Piha Beach.  I am buying a house here and living the rest of my life looking out at Lion's Rock and Piha's beautiful sand.  After playing in the ocean for a while and climbing Lion's Rock, we drove to the beginning of our trail in Karekare.  The trail was a little set back from the coast, but whenever the trees allowed,  we could see a vast expanse of waves pounding against the shore.  The soothing sound of the waves in the background made the muddy tramp go smoothly.

After about three hours in the forest, we veered off towards the beach-- we aren't sure what its name is but my friend called it "black sandy beach: the place where all things go to die."(there were a lot of dead birds strewn across the sand)  It was completely barren, and besides from maybe one other person, we had the entire beach to ourselves.  The  black sand stretched as far as the eye could see.  We continued on down the beach for about two hours until we finally reached Whatipu.  After we had set up our tents, we headed back down to the beach for the sunset.  The combination of the pink sky, rolling waves and the utter disbelief that I'm actually in New Zealand left me speechless.

After a night of restless sleep due to howling winds, we packed up our gear and headed back the way we had came.  The high tide made it more difficult to maneuver our way through the beach and marshes.  The winds were roaring, sending sand against our eyes and cutting our legs like knives.  I've never walked through a desert before, but I can imagine that is what it is like.  Beaten and tired after two long days, we finally arrived back at our car in Karekare.  We made one final stop at Bethells Beach so that a couple of my crazy friends could run into the ocean even though the wind was practically blowing us down. Although we were tired, bruised, covered in mud and hungry after it all, it was a great weekend, one I will not forget.

Piha/Lion's Rock
Sunset at Whatipu


Somewhere at the end of the black sand is the Tasman Sea

Monday, August 1, 2011

Beaches, Caves, Trees, Waterfalls & A Fancy Toilet

This past weekend my friends and I rented a car and drove up to the Bay of Islands.  Not only did we manage to drive on the left side of the road successfully, but we also managed to see some amazing scenery while we were at it.  We left Auckland early Saturday morning and drove north towards Paihia.  On the way we stopped at One Tree Point (there was more than one tree so I was a little confused as to how that name came to be).  After etching our names into the side of the water-eroded cliff, we hopped back into the car.  We ate lunch in the small town of Kawakawa-- unknown to us at the time, this is the location of the "most photographed toilet in New Zealand."  (On the Way home on Sunday, we made it a point to stop and see this odd attraction: Handertwasser toilets)  After lunch, we drove to Paihia and checked into our hostel.  We next drove to Kerikeri ("dig dig") in order to see the oldest house and oldest stone building in New Zealand.  That day we stopped at several waterfalls: the Whakapuna, the Rainbow Falls, and the Hururu Falls--the only other concave falls apart from Niagara falls.  Before going to a local pub to watch the All Blacks play rugby, we took a dip in the Pacific Ocean :)

On Sunday we woke up and walked down to the beach only 100m from our hostel.  We had an entire beach to ourselves.  later, we ate lunch by the Whangarei Falls, explored the Abbey Caves, played around in a Rock Forest, and attempted to catch sheep.  On the way home we stopped at Waipu Cove in order to breath in the ocean air one last time before returning to Auckland.

Climbing in the Rock Forest

Whangarei Falls
Paihia Beach in the Morning

Just a little refresher on the way to Whakapuna Falls

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I know what you're thinking--this is not a promiscuous action, but rather, the kiwi's term for hiking. I spent this past weekend with the Tramping Club at Waitawheta Camp near the Kamais ranges.  Saturday was spent exploring muddy trails and overflowing rivers.  My group hiked for about 4 hours to the summit of Karangahake mountain, reaching roughly 600m into the sky.  We expected dazzling 360 degree views, but instead were met with a sheet of white surrounding us.  We had climbed straight into the belly of a cloud, completely engulfed by mist and wind.  While not what I had hoped to see, it was a pretty cool experience. 

At the summit surrounded by a cloud

Max ten person load...we cut it a little close
the group at the summit

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spinning Globes

I was asked, quite seriously, if I decided upon studying in New Zealand by simply spinning a globe and randomly pointing to a location. Perhaps this would have been an interesting way of doing things, but not my m.o.  So, why New Zealand?  Why this island of 4 million people and 40 million sheep? A place where  "kiwi" has three different connotations, where rugby is the popular Sunday television event, where uni is only three years, and where you can see every possible landscape you could imagine?
...Is that even a question?
So far I have managed to walk my soles into oblivion around the city, picked up a few slang words, and sat through some rather interesting, some not, lectures--this mere taste of what new Zealand has to offer leaves me itching to explore more.  In the up-coming months I hope to visit the "tourist hot spots" while also managing to stumble far from the beaten path and witness the idyllic scenery this island nation has to offer.
First stop? I'm heading to a hut in the middle of the woods in order to tramp this weekend near the Kaimais.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rangitoto Island

  Yesterday we took a twenty-five minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland to a remote island called Rangitoto.  As the ferry pulled away into the harbor, the Auckland skyline grew smaller and smaller on the horizon.  We passed a few smaller islands as we neared our destination.  The rocky faces of Rangitoto shone black through the hazy afternoon sun. This island is covered in volcanic rock; the last eruption was around 600 years-ago.  After a short one hour hike, we reached the summit which offered 360 degree views of the Auckland Harbor.  The sky tower poked up through the clouds.  For the past week I have been hearing things about how Auckland is the best city--if you travel thirty minutes in any direction from downtown, you can reach countryside.  I didn't really understand how amazing that really is until yesterday when I stood atop the summit. After a few hours, we jumped back on the ferry and headed back to the city.  It was a very strange sensation to go from such isolation to the hustle and bustle of the city in such a short amount of time.  A completely different world stood a mere ferry ride away.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"I'm gonna go to Ozzi and snatch a beaver"

Things I've learned thus far:
  • New Zealand doesn't have snakes. In fact, the only animal life they have is sheep and kiwi birds (slight exaggeration).
  • New Zealand t.v. has great commercials-->
  • Unlike for most Americans, volunteer work for Kiwis is not done for any kind of resume.  The concept of doing it for a resume shocked our guide.  He said it is just something every Kiwi does from time to time.
  • One Kiwi said it perfectly: "I love Americans, but I hate America."  
  • Tim Tams are amazing

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Land of the Long White Cloud

    The past week has been a frenzy of activity.  After twenty-eight hours of traveling, we stepped out of the airport in Auckland around 6 am.  That first wave of fresh air passed through every fiber of my body.  While I couldn't grasp that I was a world away from home, soon, certain strange things caught my attention: they drive on the "correct" side of the road here, yield signs instead say "give way,"and you can put 'as' behind any word ( i.e. crazy as) in order to sound more like a local.  More has happened this past week than I can say, but here are a few highlights:
    The Hongi- This is a traditional Maori greeting.  The two people touch noses and foreheads and share two breaths.  The first is a recognition of self and the second is a recognition of all your ancestors.  The Maori believe that everything carries a spirit.  not only do we travel with our own spirits, but we carry the spirits of our loved ones and ancestors with us wherever we go.  
    The Haka- This a warrior dance that is performed when two tribes meet.  The All Blacks (Nz's rugby team) does it before every game.  We learned the history behind it while also attempting to learn the words and the actions.
    Roturua- We stayed in the Kiwipaka in this town.  Thermal vents steamed in various parts of the land, intermingled with houses and trees.  The entire place stank of sulfur.
    to be continued.....

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    The Last Supper (almost)

     “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

    Fun fact: Kiwis each dine upon an average of 57 lbs of lamb per year while an American eats a mere .7lbs each in comparison. 
         Tonight, I managed to fulfill my quota for the year by feasting upon a lamb roast.  After learning of the Kiwis fondness for this meat, I had to, of course, be sure I liked it before I left.  Results? Success.  I can now walk into any Kiwi's humble abode and dine upon their favorite dish without any hesitation. 

    With this last supper of sorts out of the way, all I have left to do is pack my life into one 50 lb bag.  In a little over a week, on July 4th to be exact (a little ironic), I will set foot on the plane, leaving all comforts behind.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    The Wairua of a Black Bear

    Wairua is the Maori word for spirit or soul.  To some, the wairua resides deep within the heart or mind of a person.  Others, however, believe it resides throughout our entire bodies, pulsing through our veins with every beat of our heart. During life, the wairua may leave the body for brief periods during dreams. During this time, it wields the power to warn the individual of impending danger through these visions or dreams.

    What is so enticing about this Maori word for spirit?  I am a UMaine Black Bear and in two weeks I will embark upon a two day journey to the edge of the world.  What will begin as a lengthy flight out of Boston--- full of many tiny seats, numerous snoring neighbors, more airplane peanuts than I will confess to eating and several layovers--- five months later will hopefully end with my ability to fully grasp the essence of the wairua of a black bear and what it means to be quintessentially Kiwi.