Saturday, 23 November 2013

Last Week and Goodbyes

Hi everyone!

As of Sunday night (technically Monday morning) I was back in the US! It was a long journey home, but it has been great to see my friends and family again. Last week, I traveled through the North Island with 5 of my friends for what was probably one of my favorite weeks in New Zealand. We spent the first day doing the Tongariro Alpine crossing, then went to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves on Monday. The caves are home to glowworms which are native to and only exist in New Zealand, and the tour takes you walking down through the caves and then on a boat ride where the entire ceiling is covered in glowworms. We then spend Monday night, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Coramandel, visiting New Chums beach as well as hot water beach and Cathedral Cove. Although I don't have many pictures of New Chums since I only brought my iphone and not my camera, it is ranked one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and is very isolated due to the fact that you have to walk on rocks by the water and then through an unmarked path to get there. Then, we went to Auckland on Thursday before heading back to Wellington! All of the places we went were breathtakingly beautiful, and it was an amazing way to spend some of my last days in NZ. I have a bunch of photos from the week, which are below. I don't have any pictures of the caves, as you aren't allowed to bring cameras in. However, if you google Waitomo glowworm caves you can see pictures.

Hot Water Beach, where you dig a whole in the sand to form your own natural hot tub:

Red Crater at the highest point of the hike

Emerald Lakes

Cathedral Cove:
Then, Sunday afternoon came and it was time to leave. When I left for New Zealand in July, I could have never predicted how difficult it would be to return home. The past four months have been more amazing than I ever could have imagined. I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to live in and travel such a beautiful country, as well as make incredible friends. To all of the people who I spent my time in Wellington with, it wouldn't have been the same without you and you all mean more to me than I can describe here! Also an enormous thank you to my family who made so many sacrifices so that I could have this experience. I will without a doubt remember my New Zealand memories as some of the best I've ever had. Although it was extremely emotional leaving, I'm so thankful for the experience, and couldn't be happier with how I was able to spend my last four months. I feel like this quote is able to express my feelings better than I can:
"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place" -Miriam Adeney

Thanks for reading all semester! I've enjoyed sharing my experiences, and hope you enjoyed reading about them :)

Monday, 4 November 2013

Abel Tasman, WWOOFing, and Somes Island!

Hi everyone! I'm finally back after quite a long break of traveling and adventures. After the final week of classes, I headed off bright and early with 9 of my friends to complete the Abel Tasman great walk, located in the northern section of the South Island, near the Marlborough region. Abel Tasman is known as one of the most popular and also easiest Great Walks, but also has beautiful beachfront views the entire way as you alternate walking between beach and forest. The full track, which is what we completed, is about 31 km, or 50 miles. We took the ferry from Wellington to Picton, where we then rented cars and drove around 2 hours to the beginning of the track and we were off for a 5 day backpacking adventure!
Our lunch spot on the drive out
Driving through Nelson

Our first campsite, Apple Tree Bay, was about a two hour walk from the start of the track. When we got there, we found that we would be sleeping on a beautiful and isolated beach!

   The next day was our longest, with about 6 hours of hiking. It was worth it though, ending with a great campsite which had a fire pit (something we didn't have the first night). It had also rained a little bit that day, however, which meant that the number of sandflies multiplied. Although NZ doesn't really have mosquitoes, they have sandflies galore anywhere near water. They look a little like fruit flies, however they attack feet and ankles causing outrageous numbers of insanely itchy bites. Despite the sandfly bites (which continued through the week and are still very visible on me) it was a great night. Below are some pictures of both hiking Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as views from the beach at our Tuesday night campsite.
Beach at our campsite on Tuesday night

No New Zealand hike is complete without some swinging bridges!

Our Wednesday hike also included the unique aspect of tidal crossings. Since the track is along the water, there are multiple areas that can only be crossed at low tide. We had two of these on Wednesday, first leaving us with about a two hour wait for waters to recede to walkable levels, and then a big crossing which doesn't actually drain completely, resulting in us taking off our shoes and socks and walking through varying depths of water pools, from ankle deep to almost thigh deep. Just when we had allowed everything to (mostly) dry out, Thursday's weather took a turn for the worse and our day was a lot more damp than expected. Our original plan was to hike to our campsite (about 2 hours), set up camp and drop off all of our packs, and then do an additional loop on the northern part of the track. However, when we arrived at our campsite in pouring rain and wind, we decided instead to spend time playing card games and reading in our tents instead.

The next morning, we had a short hike backtracking to where we picked up our water taxi back to the car park at the beginning of the track. Of course, just as our water taxi pulled up the sun came out again. A few hours later, we arrived back in Nelson with all of our damp belongings, hungry and desperately needing showers. After much needed lunch and generous portions of frozen yogurt, those going back to Wellington headed off while Sam and myself stayed behind in Nelson in preparation for our next activity: working on a vineyard for a week! One of my goals coming into NZ was to be able to WWOOF (, which includes working on a partially or fully organic farm, working for 5 hours a day in exchange for housing, food, and expanded knowledge of sustainable farming and lifestyles. Sam and I were set to leave for our vineyard and farm in Seddon, NZ that Sunday, so we had two days in Nelson to be able to relax and explore. Friday our priorities included doing laundry, showering, and sleeping, but on Saturday we went to the Nelson market and then took a short walk to one of Nelson's main attractions,  the geographical center of New Zealand!

Sunday, we were picked up in Seddon (aka a town of only 500 people, and where a lot of earthquakes happen) around 4 and were taken to the vineyard, showed where we would be staying and made dinner as well as homemade bread and museli! Monday, we started our standard schedule which was working in the vineyard from 8-12 shoot thinning, which is thinning out the unnecessary parts of the plants which are growing in the wrong place. Then, we would eat lunch and do one more hour of work in the afternoon, which consisted of either working in the garden or some extra work in the vineyard. Then, we would have an afternoon break followed by making dinner at 6, having an awesome dinner and dessert with lots of great conversation and then heading to bed to get ready for another day! Sam and I were accompanied by two German students who had just arrived in New Zealand and were traveling the country for 8 months. The week was an unforgettable experience, and I loved both being able to learn about sustainable wine production (the vineyard was certified sustainable by New Zealand) as well as general sustainable and simple livelihoods very different from my own. It was definitely an experience I won't forget!

 One part of the vineyard


River by the house

Friday, we arrived back in Wellington! But, my travels weren't over yet as Saturday I headed off to Somes Island to camp for the night. Somes is just a short ferry ride from Wellington, and is owned by Maori. After doing a few walks around the island during the afternoon, we made dinner in the campsite kitchen (which felt so luxurious compared to Abel Tasman camping!) and played some games inside since we actually had lights, then camped for the night before heading back to Wellington in the morning.
 View of Wellington from the ferry
Sheep on Somes

Since Sunday, Ive been studying for my two exams that I have the week, and preparing for the final North Island trip I will have next week! So crazy to think that my time here is almost over,  but the last two weeks were definitely amazing ways to spend some of my last time here. I will try to write another blog post before leaving, but depending on my time it may be once I'm already back in the states! Thanks for reading!

Also: Sorry for the weird formatting on a lot of these pictures! They were being unbelievably uncooperative and I gave up on trying.