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.
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.
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.
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."
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.....