Monday, 31 March 2014

Such is Life


Isn't life great? Last weekend was the best. I made an impulse decision to join my friend, Maria, on her trip to meet her crazy Italian friend, Rocco, in Rotorua. This guy is an adventure seeker. He jumped on top of a train and rode it for 23.5 hours across the Australian Outback. A real amazing person - No worries mentality, happy all the time, makes the most of every situation, "such is life". I can't wait to tell you what he does later on in the weekend. But for now, we start in Rotorua. We arrived late in the night and camped at a picnic shelter on the side of the road. In the morning, we had a champion breakfast of peanut butter + banana and then met up with Rocco's traveling friends Dinko (from Croatia) and Julie (from France). Also wonderful people. So with car of four languages, we started off the day by visiting Ohinemutu, a Maori village near Rotorua. We got to walk around a see some real Maori marae, but didn't get to go inside. They were so beautiful.

Rotorua is huge for geothermal activity. In this village, you would find random geysers on the side of the road and sometimes the sidewalk would be decaying and oozing steam from the boiling sulfur water beneath it. I was walking barefoot on the street and sometimes the pavement would be too hot to stand on! 

Next in Rotorua, we saw the Waiotapu Mud Pools! Those were really funny. It was a big grey pond of mud and all over there would be spots where mud would be bubbling and spurting into the air with flarpy sound effects. Also, all this geothermal activity makes the whole region smell like hardboiled eggs or sulfur water that comes out of a well that's been dug too deep.

After that, we explored the hot/cold hot spring. My first hot spring! On one side there was hot, hot water that we hung out in for a while. Then we went in the middle where you can feel the hot water from the one stream on your arms and the cold water from another stream on your legs. You can move around to find your favorite hot/cold combination. 

Picture from left to right: Maori elder, Julie, Rocco, Dinko, me

On Saturday, we did the famous Tongariro Crossing. This day walk is 17 km (~10.5 miles) and it took us about 7 hours. I saw some of the most beautiful things that I've ever experienced in my whole life. This is the hike where you can summit Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom, for you Lord of the Rings fans) but that takes an extra 3-5 hours. We decided against it, but Rocco, who will only be in NZ for a short time, wanted to do it. He said he would catch up with us later. And he did; he met up with us before we had even finished the Crossing! Apparently, when he reached the top, he found a frisbee and preceded to SURF DOWN THE VOLCANO ON THAT FRISBEE and arrive at the bottom in about 10 mins. Keep in mind, this usually takes normal humans about 2 hours to get down. Here are some views from the hike:

Cole, Maria, me, and Jordan. Americans!

Me and Maria and Mt. Doom

Emerald Lakes


We were SO tired after this hike. We camped near the lake and there were so many stars. I mean, there are lots of stars at home, we have an incredible sky, but there are SO MANY stars here. !♥

On our last day of this dream weekend, we visited the Tokaanu Geothermal Pools. Here we saw more geysers and experienced more prehistoric vibes. We brought along some eggs, put them in a clean sock, tied the sock to a stick, and stuck the eggs in the boiling geothermal geyser. We let them cook for 10 mins and boom! NZ geyser eggs - so delicious. Well, they tasted normal, but how many people can say they've eaten an egg cooked in a geyser? 

pardon my tired eyes sinking into my head...

Our last stop of the trip was the Taranaki Falls. This was just a short 2 hour hike so we brought lunch and hung out by the waterfall and played ukulele and sang. I'm teaching Maria the Maori song, Purea Nei, so maybe I'll record us one of these days. 

What a refreshing weekend. I hope I carry this relaxed NZ mentality back home with me.

Kia ngākaunua!


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Randomly NZ, because I love lists

Kia Ora

- My American friend, David, was baking cookies only to find that he burnt them to crisps because he didn't realize the oven was in Celcius

- I have officially Tim Tam Slammed. That is when you bite off each end of these beautiful biscuits, dip it into your hot drink, and sip through it like a straw. It becomes so soft and melty and chocolately Mmmmm... When I come home my suitcase is going to be filled with 23 kg of Tim Tams ♥

- The radio plays really old songs and I love it. So far I've heard: Beautiful Girl by Sean Kingston, Laffy Taffy by D4L, and Complicated by Avril Lavigne

- At some grocery stores they make you pay 15 cents per plastic bag, encouraging people to bring in their own reusable bags

- I went a whole day without wearing shoes - school and everything

- I touched an ocean for the first time!!! The Pacific

- The ukulele has been a key prop in my New Zealand experience. I made musical friends and we like to sing together and it makes my heart smile :)

- The cost of living in NZ is a little expensive but this is just random and cruel

- There was a praying mantis in my bathroom......

NZ Slang:

"Chop and change" - Change around
"Gutted" - Really sad or disappointed
"Good on you" -Good for you
"How are you going?" - How are you doing?
"Cheers" - Said all the time: Thanks, You're welcome, Goodbye, Right on
"Have a think" , same goes for have a sleep, chat ....

Mauri tū, mauri ora.
"An active soul is a healthy soul."

Life is beautiful

Haere rā
Go well


p.s. I did the Tongariro Crossing this weekend among many other AMAZING things... So that post will take a little while. I'll hopefully get it up soon after all this homework I have to catch up on ;)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Kia Ora :)

I finally made it out of Palmy!! It was quite the ordeal, actually. My friend, Maria, and I had planned for days to meet up with her friend in Auckland and go camping in the Coromandel Peninsula. But, the day before we were supposed to leave, we learned that Cyclone Lusi was going to attack New Zealand that weekend and the eye of the storm would right in the Coromandel. Of course, that was just our luck. New Zealand doesn't even get cyclones! So after deeply considering driving directly into a tropical storm to go camping, we decided it may not be the smartest idea. So instead, we followed a few fellow Americans to Wellington and spent the weekend exploring the city.

Wellington is such a cute city! It's nicknamed the "Coolest little capital in the world" and the "Windy city". The weather was actually very nice while we were there - considering there was a CYCLONE somewhere in the country... All weekend Maria and I would joke about going up north to camp in the cyclone. At one point, we actually thought we were going and even bought groceries. Then we came to our senses again. We really wanted to go... Can you tell?

I got to see a Dr. Seuss exhibit and the National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa. Te Papa was wicked! They had so many cool exhibits and it's completely free to get in. I got to see the Colossal Squid (which was actually kinda sad), an earthquake exhibit, and a beautiful Māori Marae ("Ma-Rye" ~ meeting house). We were able to go inside the Marae if we removed our shoes and did not take any pictures. Every part of the Marae is significant - the floor represents Papa, the Earth mother, and the ceiling is Rangi, the Sky father. It's interesting to learn about Māori beliefs - how they perceive the world and how they say everything came to be.

Here are some shots from the city:

Wellington Harbor

Street Art

My wonderful friend, Maria

Cuba Street

Classy BK

View from the Mt. Victoria lookout

On the drive home

We stopped and enjoyed the view

The last picture is the scene of where I touched an ocean for the first time! This is also the day we all learned what amazing friends we had just all made. The people are what really enrich your experience. I am so happy for all of the kind-hearted, talented, adventurous friends that I've made in NZ so far. 

"Kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui."
Be brave, be strong, be patient.  
be "big hearted"
-Māori Proverb


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Flightless Birds

Kia Ora!

Yesterday I hiked the Manawatu Gorge. We hiked for about 4 hours and got to see some beautiful views!

And today my host family took Jenny and me to Pukaha Mount Bruce, a national wildlife centre. We started off looking at the Takahe, a critical species. The Takahe is a flightless bird that was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1948. There are less than 250 left in NZ (and in the world). They mate for life and seem to be very personable birds.

Takahe: feeding time!

Then we learned about the Tuatara, an endangered reptile that resembles a lizard, but whose skeleton says otherwise. It's the only survivor of an extinct group of reptiles that lived during the ages of the dinosaurs. The Tuatara are now only found on predator free islands around NZ.

Tuatara: chillin' as usual

Next, we saw the Kokako! This is a vulnerable species who use song to communicate with eachother and maintain their territory. What's cool about these guys is that birds from different locations have different songs! Even the few birds that are separated at Mount Bruce have their own dialects. This one, named Kahurangi, was wolf whistling at us and saying "Kokako". 

I only have a video that won't upload on here sorry.....

Then it was the KIWIS. The Kiwi is the national emblem for New Zealand and is considered to be 70 million years old. It's also considered to be the least 'bird-like' bird in the world as it doesn't have wings and has nostrils at the end of its beak. We were especially lucky to get to see the only known white Kiwi in the world named Manukura. She is not albino, but received the recessive white feather gene from each of her (both brown) parents - extremely rare! Manukura is considered a blessing by the local iwi (tribe) and her name means 'of chiefly status'.

Manukura: nocturnal

A baby Kiwi! Checking in with the doctor

I also got to feed some Eels today! These Eels are threatened and are NZ's biggest endemic fish. They used to be the main diet of the people of New Zealand. They are fresh water Eels so they're not electric, but they could still bite your finger off! I was really careful to not put my hands in the water.

They looked a lot bigger up close

Aw, here we all are