Adventures in New Zealand, Part I

I’ve wanted to write more about my time in New Zealand thus far, but every time I’ve sat down to do it, I’ve stared at the screen for a solid minute and then nothing.

But I’m just at the halfway mark of our trip and feel that I should at least attempt to put into words some of my perceptions and experiences of this frankly magnificent country…and I promise I’ll split my posts up into more bearable quantities.

I’m with a program called Pacific Discovery, which my friend used for a gap year in Southeast Asia and what I’m now with for New Zealand and Fiji for a month-long trip. I HIGHLY recommend PD already.

We started our trip in Auckland, the City of Sails, which is home to some beautiful harbours and yachts. It’s a melting pot, with Korean, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian, Turkish restaurants lining the hilly streets. However, it struck me as incredibly disorganized, and I had a really hard time figuring out what to make of the city. It was a good place to start the trip, at the very least to get settled and used to the time difference.

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From there, we drove up north to one of the most beautiful places on this earth, Mimiwhangata Coastal Park. It’s most definitely a gift that the earth has given us. There are beaches that stretch along the sparkling Pacific, with rolling green hills and rocky vistas peacefully coexisting with the seaside.

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While we had plenty of down time appreciating the nature around us, we were there primarily for volunteer work. Our work was arranged with the Department of Conservation an the park ranger Chris (He’s unbelievable awesome.) As Chris put it, the goal is always to “beautify the earth.”

Over a span of four days, we planted approximately 4300 trees, which covered our carbon footprint (air travel, etc.). I came out of this part of the trip feeling incredibly proud, not only of our work, but the fact that for once, I had been able to find value in the simple tasks.

One of our nights there, we went out onto our porch (our accommodation was essential ocean front), and looked up at the sky and literally had my breath stolen from me. We had a view of the Milky Way – the LITERAL Milky Way. The sky was so saturated with stars, in a way that probably isn’t possible in any other part of the world.

After our goodbyes to Chris and his family, we stopped by Auckland, and then started south toward Waitomo. Basically how this trip is structured is that we do a week of volunteer work, and then we get a week of playtime, repeat. Our first activity was a caving adventure in the glow worm studded Ruakuri caves. We went into the dark depths where we squeezed through the most claustrophobia-inducing spaces and climbed along the precariously high up cave walls (although it was too dark to see how high up we were). I personally fell in love with one of our guides Kennan…but that’s another story for another time (wink).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From there, we arrived at our next accommodation which was at Castle Rock, a gorgeous rock climbing area that is surrounded by stretches of emerald farmland. We went rock climbing…surprise!

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As a day trip, we went to Hobbiton, the Shire of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A good number of us geeked out. No shame.

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The next adventurous thing was a white water rafting trip. Long story short, it was one of the highlights of my trip thus far mainly because OUR BOAT FLIPPED OVER when we went down a 21 foot drop!!!! I think it was the closest I had ever come to drowning, but it was AWESOME. I also fell in love with the safety kayak guy. Lover #2 and rebound from Kennan (I still miss Kennan.)

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I’m really regretting not having written and reflected before because this post is getting quite long, but almost at midpoint, I swear!

Our final stop before cruising to the South Island was Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and also the southernmost capital in the world. It was more of a real city than Auckland, which I liked. We visited the Te Papa Museum, a museum focused on Maori culture, which was has an incredibly beautiful history. We also had the chance to visit Parliament and sit in on a debate. I fell in love with our guide there as well (so smart and witty). So he’s Lover #3 at this point. My friends and I also went exploring Cuba Street, a hipster haven, something I never thought I would find in New Zealand.

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Something I have realized about the cities, though, is that there is none of the glamour that one might find in any other city in the world. An essential part of the New Zealand “ethos” is fairness, which explains the fact that wealth disparity is not as apparent here as it is in the States or Asia or Europe.

And now, after a gorgeous ferry ride via the Cook Strait and through a majestic fjord (never thought I’d find myself in one of those geography terms I learned in elementary school), I’m in Nelson, on the South Island. The South Island is far less populated and is basically a look into what our planet looked like before civilization…which made me wonder…

The earth has complete and utter power over us humans. We might invent all of the technology in the world and find ways to tame nature, but the elemental forces can wipe us out in an instant. But they don’t. There are natural disasters here and there, but somehow, a good portion of humans have managed to evade the destructive power of our planet. Earth has chosen not to obliterate us yet and provides us with some of the most beautiful views and environments, which makes me wonder, why are we so quick to trash it and destroy what has given us life and sustained our species? I’ve found myself looking over the glimmering turquoise ocean and across at forests saturated with perfectly pointed trees, and I can’t help but feel a little sad that this pure form of nature that New Zealand has worked so hard to preserve might not exist someday.

Anyway, that was probably a long enough post. If you read all of that, you have my love.

 


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