A little here, a little there

I know it’s been over a month since I posted anything about my adventures in New Zealand and I’m sorry about that. Ever since my big trip in the South Island I haven’t gone on many big weekend trips and honestly have lost motivation to write about everything I do. I’ve had a few small trips here and there but each of them still amazing!

Snowboarding

Shortly after the big trip I went snowboarding on Mt. Ruapehu which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world! It is also part of the Tongariro Crossing or aka “The Lord of the Rings walk”. We went to the Turoa ski field on the grand mountain’s slopes but instead of buying a lift pass and hitting the big slopes we stayed at the bunny hill all day which was still a blast! It started out rough (with lots of sore spots the next day) including a bad attempt at going on a jump but by the end of the day I finally got the hang of it. It was so much fun and inspired me to go more often back home… might as well take advantage of the good ole’ New York snow!

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The whole gang!

Just before the dreaded wipeout

Hiking

Another weekend I went on another overnight hike with Cat and Maclean on Mt. Holdsworth, part of the Tararua mountain range. It was definitely an interesting one since we didn’t get there and start walking until 5:30 pm… plus it was rainy. It was actually pretty nice walking through the dark woods in the light rain. There was something magical about it at times. We crossed multiple bridges and raised walkways, some only allowing one person on them at a time because they were so long and wobbly. We stayed in a hut for the night with another group of guys, one of whom was a fellow New Yorker! Of course it was still raining by time we left in the morning but we at least got to see things we couldn’t notice at night time. It was a nice short weekend hike! I would love to do more of them but it’s hard not having a car.

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On one of the many one-man bridges!

Castlepoint

For Cat’s birthday a gang of us went to a little beach town named Castlepoint. My oh my is it gorgeous there! Instead of being one long strait beach there are a few different little bays separated by peaks and a lighthouse. The area we hung out at was edges by big sand dunes and bush (forest). It was a picture perfect place!

We spent the whole time right on the beach playing around and eventually built a fire to make tacos and keep warm. After a long night of celebrating, jumping off sand cliffs and chilling by the fire I slept in a cozy hammock. I woke up pretty early and watched the sunrise from my hammock and eventually gave up on trying to fall back asleep so I grabbed my sleeping bag and watched the morning sun and waves on the beach. It was so serene embracing the beauty all on my own.

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The morning light gradually making its way to the other side.

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All wrapped up

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Hobbiton

I finally was able to check another thing off my New Zealand bucket list! Hailey, Diana and I took a bus to Hastings to meet up with our friend Stanley again who drove us all the way to Matamata. Hailey and Stanley went to visit Capernwray (a campus of the bible school Hailey went to) so me and Diana just tagged along for Hobbiton since they were so close to each other. The whole thing was even cooler than I imagined! I thought there would only be a couple hobbit homes but there were up to 40, each with such intricate details that probably wouldn’t even be noticed in the movies. The village is set in the middle of a giant privately owned sheep farm in Matamata. The background of how Peter Jackson got his perfect location and hearing of all the work that went into it was incredible. Thank goodness for the landowners who only let them use the land again for the Hobbit films if they would use quality materials to rebuild the village so it could stay there!

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The famous “no admittance” sign in front of Frodo and Bilbo’s house

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Overlook of the pong and Green Dragon’s Inn

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Knocking on Sam’s door

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Cheers to some Hobbit ale and ginger beer!

 

It’s been a fun past few weeks since mid-semester break! I definitely haven’t done quite as much every weekend due to an increasing lack of funds but I’m still trying to make the most of the time and resources I have! We just finished classes for the semester and have 4 weeks to study and take exams which may seem nice to have all that time but it also adds on a lot more pressure to do good on them especially when a lot of them are worth 60% of the final grade. I’m planning to still do a few things the next couple weeks in between studying including bungy jumping which is set for October 30th! Stay tuned to see how that goes…

Cheers!

Kristi

 

 

 

 

10 day South Island Road trip

My latest and biggest adventure was a 10 day road trip in the South Island with my friend Diana. This was the trip that I had been anticipating since before I even came to New Zealand and it finally happened! Our goal was to see as many things as we could during our short time which didn’t really allow us to spend much time in any one location but we decided we would rather see just the highlights of the whole island than spend a lot of time in a few places.

We rented a campervan which was just a minivan with a bed in the back through Spaceship Rentals in Christchurch. They had great prices at just $19/day minus the extra costs of their optional insurance packages. The only major downside of renting a campervan is the high costs of petrol which we definitely underestimated going into the trip.

It's name was Babylon 5 so we just called her Baby.

It’s name was Babylon 5 so we just called her Baby.

To start our journey, I took a bus to Wellington to spend the weekend there celebrating birthdays with friends. On Monday, Diana and I flew down to Christchurch. We had originally planned on staying in a hostel but decided we would give couch surfing a try since it’s free and gives the chance to meet new locals. We ended up staying with a couple originally from Canada and their 3 daughters. They welcomed us in even though it was late and they all had work and school in the morning and gave us great tips on our upcoming road trip. In the morning, the wife even offered to drive us to the rental place to pick up our campervan. Thus began our journey…

Day 1:

It didn’t take long to get used to driving on the left side of the road. In fact it didn’t feel weird at all other than repeatedly turning on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker.

We didn’t waste any time getting our trip started. Our first destination was Lake Tekapo. In case you ever wonder how to pronounce any of the places I mention, usually the first vowel (“e” in Tekapo) is emphasized whereas most Americans would emphasize the second or middle vowel (“a” in Tekapo). It was just as beautiful as I expected it to be with clear waters surrounded by snow capped mountains. We visited the famous Church of the Good Shepherd. It didn’t have the colorful flowers making it even more picturesque like what you would find on Pinterest but still beautiful nonetheless.

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Church of the Good Shepherd

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Our next stop was Lake Pukaki. It was pretty similar to Lake Tekapo except we were the only ones there and we could see Mt. Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand on the other side.

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It was exhausting running back and forth up the hill to make it before the self-timer went off but we finally got it!

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Selfie with the lake

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With a few hours of daylight left, we went up to Mount Cook National Park to try and get a short hike with a good view of Mt Cook in before the sun went down. The drive there was amazing with nothing else around us besides lakes and mountains… and the multiple rabbits that ran in front of us (only 1 was hit). We did about half of the hike to save daylight but ended up seeing a beautiful sunset over Lake Pukaki. Instead of staying at the campsite there, we drove to Omarama where we would visit the Clay Cliffs in the morning.

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The drive to Mount Cook

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The sunset shining on Mount Cook

 

Day 2:

The first night sleeping in the van was probably the coldest of the whole trip. I was layered up and even wore gloves and hid my  head under the covers the whole night it was so cold. That made it even harder to get out of bed in the morning… we were really struggling. We eventually got going on the road to the clay cliffs of Omarama. These were on someone’s private property with a little gravel road leading to them in the middle of nowhere. I liked them because they aren’t something that everyone hears about and would expect to go to but were still worth a visit. We even made friends with a few sheep!

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If I was any good at climbing I would’ve tried on them

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Our sheep friend!

We were Dunedin bound for the night but made a quick stop to see the Moeraki Boulders. I was amazed at how large and perfectly round they were!

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After seeing the boulders, we finally made in to Dunedin! I loved that city with all of it’s beautiful architecture and coastal landscape. There was a lot to do and see just within and around the Octagon (city centre) such as the historic railway station, the Cadbury chocolate factory, old churches, and cafes. We spent some time in the less appealing side of town in search of a laundromat but it was still cool to explore the area outside of the main attraction. Looking for a place to park for the night, we headed out on the Otago Peninsula. The roads were scary at night because they were windy with no guardrails right on the water’s edge. We ended up parking at a tiny beach parking lot and were happy to have toilets in an actual building to get ready in rather than the outhouse from the night before.

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A mountain of chocolate in Cadbury World

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The beautiful railway station

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I felt like I was in a movie or something

Day 3:

We partly planned to sleep on the peninsula so that we would be close to Larnarch Castle and see it first thing in the morning. Even though we had to get off the peninsula to get gas cause we were of course very low, we got to the castle right after it opened. There was an entry fee just to walk around the outside but we deemed it worth the cost. Apparently it’s New Zealand’s only castle but even so it seemed more like a nice house, not quite as grand as say a European castle. It was still pretty though; I enjoyed walking around the gardens and taking in the views of the bay.

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Entry into some of the gardens

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The view from the back

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They had a little Alice in Wonderland theme going on

After the castle we went to see the world’s steepest street, Baldwin St. It was a pretty intense trek up to the top but we made it! There were stairs built into the street because it’s too steep to walk for the average person.

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tried getting the same angle as the street

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The helpful stairs

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The greeter cat Tommy

From there we headed to one of my favorite places of the trip, Tunnel Beach. It was a cool feeling standing on the edge of high peninsular rock with mighty waves crashing below my feet. We could also go down a tunnel (hence “Tunnel” beach) to get closer to the water and explore more little tunnels for the more adventurous ones.

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You know you’re in exercise science when the first thing you think is how it looks like a femur

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About how far I got into that little cave

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The creepy tunnel that we swore we heard Gollum in

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and I’m freeeeee, free fallin!

We were on the hunt for the world’s smallest penguins in Curio Bay. On the way there we stopped at Nugget Point and Parakaunui Falls to see more of the Catlins before sunset. Apparently Parakaunui Falls are the most photographed waterfalls in New Zealand. The looked like a very mini version of Chittenango Falls from back home in New York. Nugget Point was another coastal view with a possibility of seeing penguins but we didn’t see any there.

Parakaunui Falls

Parakaunui Falls

The best time to see penguins at Curio Bay is just before sunset which just happened to time out perfectly for us. With a little spare time before sunset we walked around the cliffs of the bay and checked out Porpoise Bay where you can supposedly swim with wild dolphins… totally would have been worth getting in the freezing water! We saw some other touristy looking people on a deck so we assumed that was the best penguin viewing spot and sure enough there was one there! Only one penguin showed up while we were there and he didn’t get very close but I can still say I saw a yellow-eyed penguin, the rarest in the world!

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Sunset at Curio Bay

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Mr. Penguin flapping his wings (flippers?)

We were so close the very bottom of New Zealand so even though it was dark we tried getting to slope point which is marked the southernmost point in NZ. The gravel roads getting there were rough but we eventually ran into a sign for a trail to get to the point. It said to follow the yellow markers but we couldn’t find any kind of trail so we just tramped along the fence line toward the water’s edge but didn’t see any sign or anything so we just said “ehh close enough”. It was slightly sketchy in the dark so we didn’t bother trying to find it.

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Close enough

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There really needs to be a better trail… not just through sheep fields

Our ultimate goal was to make it to Te Anau that night to give us plenty of time to get to Milford Sound in the morning but we were still hours away. We made a pit stop in Invercargill to get make dinner in the Burger King parking lot and use their wifi and toilets to get ready for bed… the relied heavily on Burger King and McDonald’s for their toilets. That was our latest night not getting to Te Anau until 12:30 which was about 3-4 hours past our normal bed time… yes we went to bed that early.

Baby all set up

Baby all set up

Day 4:

Since we just parked in front of some random person’s house for the night we got up nice and early to head to Milford Sound. There’s only one road leading to Milford Sound and it’s about a 2 hour stretch each way. It’s also pretty rough the second half of the way there. At one point we noticed the road seemed to just end right at a snowy mountain then realized there was a little tunnel we had to drive through with a stoplight at each end since it’s only one lane wide. Surprisingly there weren’t many people there when we arrived even for being off season. But hey, I’m not complaining! The only way to get really close was an expensive cruise that we didn’t want to spend money on so we just walked around the edge and still got some good views! I heard it rains more at Milford Sound than anywhere in New Zealand but with our luck of the sun following us it was a beautiful day!

The little tunnel we had to drive through

The little tunnel we had to drive through

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After some time at Milford we made the trek to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world! I loved this little city despite it being filled with other tourists and the difficulty we initially had navigating through it. We walked around the downtown area and the lake for a while then went to the world famous Furgburger for dinner. I’ve had my fair share of tasty burgers but this was probably the best I’ve ever had! We walked around town some more, made our nightly pit stop at BK then headed toward Glenorchy to camp for the night.

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Fergburger… yum!!

Day 5:

Just past Glenorchy is a little place called Paradise where many scenes from Lord of the Rings are filmed. I was excited to see the sites but our good luck with weather had left us as it was raining all morning. Just before we got to the “town” sign for Paradise we had to stop because  there was a stream flowing through the road that we just knew Baby wouldn’t be able to make it through…. so we walked… in the cold rain. All we saw were a few farm houses but I’m sure there was probably more further down the road that we just didn’t venture to.

A little difference than what I imagine paradise to me

A little difference than what I imagine paradise to me

The next stop was Wanaka. Just before getting into town we stopped at Landsborough’s Puzzling World. The inside exhibit was filled with tons of cool illusions and mind games then there was a big maze outside that took us over an hour to get through! By the end of it I was so hot and frustrated that I was just ready to get out. It was a nice change from the other sight seeing things we had been doing before. We spent a little longer than we expected there but we finally got into town. This was like a mini Queenstown which was perfect for me cause I tend to like the smaller towns anyway. Lake Wanaka was just as beautiful as all the other lakes we had gone to with blue waters surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

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We had a long hard fight with the wind while trying to cook lunch.

After sunset we started to make our way toward the West Coast. Unfortunately that meant driving through Hasst Pass AT NIGHT which was scary to drive through at times. I wish we could’ve driven through it during the day because not only would I feel better about driving it but I could tell it was a beautiful drive in daylight. Eventually we safely made it to the little town Haast for the night.

Day 6:

We were on the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park which has many hiking trails to chose from and we chose to do a trek to the Blue Pools Hut. The description mentioned light blue pools and a big swinging bridge but we never found either. We also thought it was a 2 hour roundtrip hike but it ended up being each way. The whole trail was difficult to navigate around the mud from all the recent rain. Even though there wasn’t much to see or do on it we still made the best of it!

Just a random part of the trail

Just a random part of the trail

From there we headed to Fox Glacier. We weren’t too thrilled about seeing a dirty block of ice but we went for it anyway since it was just a short hike. As expected, once we saw it that was about all there was to it so we were in and out pretty quick.

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On our way to Arthur’s Pass we stopped in my favorite little beach town, Hokitika. It was just a quick stop to walk around the beach, feeling the freezing cold water and got some gas.

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We accidentally detoured to Greymouth (my bad navigation skills) for dinner and to see the sunset on the beach but it wasn’t as pretty as we thought it would be. We drove out to Arthur’s Pass for the night so we could explore the area in the morning.

Day 7:

Arthur’s Pass was a bit of a detour for our trip route but heard wonderful things about it so we went out of our way to go there. I’m not sure if either of us knew exactly what we were looking for there other than to see the Devil’s Punchbowl. Honestly we probably could’ve saved a lot of time and gas money  by skipping out on Arthur’s Pass because by the end of it I realized the scenic drive through it really wasn’t any different than what we had already seen.

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The Devil’s Punchbowl…. looks a lot different on Pinterest!

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One of the high bridges through Arthur’s Pass

After driving back through Arthur’s Pass we stopped in Greymouth again for showers and a salvo trip and kept on going toward Punakaiki. Here we got to see the Pancake Rocks and blowholes. They were pretty neat how they were stacked so intricately.

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The next day was the adventure I had been anticipating the most, kayaking in Abel Tasman! We drove up to Moteuka for the night so we could start first thing in the morning.

Day 8:

Unfortunately it was raining when we woke up so we tried waiting it out a little but looked like it had been raining for a while and wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. We went into town to get wifi and check the weather and sure enough it was supposed to rain all day… that’s exactly what happened too. I was so bummed because I knew we wouldn’t have time to stay an extra day to kayak the next day so with great disappointment we decided to just head to Kaikoura early and try there.

On our way we stopped in Nelson to see if there were any fun things to do indoors but there wasn’t really besides to see “the ring” which we did but didn’t stay long. We made it to Kaikoura with plenty of time to see town before the sun went down and everything closed. The town is known for their great seafood especially crayfish so we asked for recommendations on where to eat (that was cheap of course). When we were checking out one of the recommendations I noticed someone who looked familiar and it was my friend Chandler who had been travelling with her mom! We hung out with them for a bit then went to the end of the peninsula to see all the baby seals that hang out there. It was so comical to watch them pose for pictures then run/waddle away!

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The babies have such puppy dog looks

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We ended up eating at a little takeaway place called Cooper’s Catch and it was mighty fine! Chandler and her mom happened to come in while we were there too so we chilled with them for a little again.

Day 9:

We were determined to kayak at some point in our trip so we booked a fur seal kayak tour with Kaikoura Kayaks in the morning. We weren’t originally planning on doing a guided tour but I’m glad we ended up doing it because the water was pretty choppy and we got to see lots of seals and even penguins swimming around us! Although I’m stilled bummed we couldn’t kayak in Abel Tasman it was still beautiful in Kaikoura with blue waters, snow capped mountains and playful seals.

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Ive never had so many layers on while kayaking… at least I stayed dry!

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What a beautiful background!

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Shortly after we were done kayaking we made our way back to Christchurch to end our trip. I was actually glad we had that extra day to explore some of Christchurch. It seems like it was a beautiful city before the earthquake and I enjoyed seeing the ways in which they use their resources to rebuild the city. For example, the new mall is call Re:Start and it’s a collection of shipping containers. There were shipping containers all over the city used as mini restaurants, stores, or anything really.

*not actually my pictures*

*not actually my pictures*

We had no idea where to stay for the night so we contacted our couch surfing family again and they welcomed us back into their home at the last minute even though the wife had just had surgery a few days earlier and was still in recovery. I’m so grateful for their generous hospitality!

Day 10:

Our last day of the journey had come and I could not bear the thought of going back to campus to catch up on all my homework and projects. We still tried to make the best of our last half-day by going to the Canterbury Museum and later on the pier in New Brighton. The museum was awesome with all of its displays big and life-like! It took us a long time to get to the pier because of all the construction and closed roads… it was really frustrating after a while.

We had to clean Baby out good before returning her and had to wait for a while to get a turn but once we got a turn we cleaned super fast! Our flight was at 4:30 and we didn’t leave the car rentals till 3:30 but we had to walk 1.5 miles. It seemed very doable to get there in 20 minutes but between carrying my suitcase on the rough sidewalks and the large roundabout we had to cross it took a little longer than we expected. On top of getting there with only a few minutes to spare, my suitcase wasn’t checked in all the way and I had to check in all over again as the plane was boarding. I was kinda a nervous wreck but somehow made it to the plane on time! From there it was just a short flight back to Wellington and a bus to Palmy.

 

I had such a great time on this trip! Although it was constant moving around I still feel as though I saw almost everything I could in just 10 days. It was a great bonding time with Diana in which we have so many unforgetable memories.

Sorry this post is so long but I hope y’all enjoy it, I know I sure did!

29 places to go in my 20’s

As I’m just now entering my 20’s I’m reminded of all the great opportunities I’ve already had to see the world. I really believe that this decade in my life will be the best yet, filled with many opportunities to do the things I really want to do. Studying abroad in New Zealand has matured me in a way that I feel more comfortable doing things (“traveling”) on my own now. Even though my life may get busier and stressful as I finish school and scout for jobs, now is the best time for me to step up and just go to the places I have always dreamed about.

My teens were filled with a variety of trips to Mexico, El Salvador, Ecuador, Italy, various Caribbean islands, and currently New Zealand which I am all extremely grateful for but there is still so much out there to see. The world has everything to offer, all it takes is for us to take the world up on that offer. Many of the places I want to go would probably be more of a vacation, but what’s the point of travelling the world and not contributing to it in any way? There are many global health or other volunteer projects that I would take part of in a heartbeat to be more than just a tourist, but a contributor.

Although it was hard to narrow it down to just 29, here is my list of places I thought best to visit ideal as a single girl in my 20s!

Asia

1.  Cambodia
The one thing I would make sure to see is  the Angkor Wat temple! Then I could move on to other beautiful parts as well.

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2. Thailand
Although I’m still a bit iffy about going to Thailand and even Cambodia alone because they’re big hubs for human sex trafficking, I would love to go with others. I would make sure to go to the annual paper lantern festival!

All I would need is my Flynn Rider and a rowboat!

All I would need is my Flynn Rider and a rowboat!

3. Sri Lanka
This little island off the coast of India has a culture similar to many Southeast Asian countries. Their main religion is Buddhism. Although I don’t really agree with the beliefs of Buddhism, I love the peaceful atmosphere it creates.

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4. India
Of course the Taj Mahal is a must see despite my hate for crowded places. The Holi Festival would also be an incredible experience… must better than the Color Vibe 5k runs I’m sure. There is also a volunteer global health project through Cross Cultural Solutions in Dharamsala that I would love to do!

Holi Festival

Holi Festival

5. Japan
The strong personal connections I have to Japan have inspired me to go. I want to see all aspects of it from Tokyo to the countryside to Mt. Fuji to the botanical gardens.

Mt. Fuji, cool buildings, and cherry blossoms... yes please!

Mt. Fuji, cool buildings, and cherry blossoms… yes please!

6. Israel
I always wanted to visit the places I learned about in Bible classes, to be in the footsteps of Jesus. Maybe not until they aren’t in so much political drama though.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

7. Turkey
I’ve heard fantastic reviews about Turkey from people I know who have been there. Some specific places I would like to visit are Istanbul and Cappadocia. Although Istanbul is technically in both Europe and Asia, I’ll let it stick with the Asians here.

Hot air balloons in Cappadocia

Hot air balloons in Cappadocia

Africa

8. Tanzania
Anyone who grew up fearing The Kilamanjaro at Water Safari should be inspired to at least visit the place that wedgie-giving  water ride was named after, Mt. Kilamanjaro. Cross Cultural Solutions also has a cool global health volunteer project that I want to go on!

Well hello there Mr. Giraffe

Well hello there Mr. Giraffe

9. South Africa
Cape Town has so much to offer and I would love to accept that offer. There are an abundance of global health projects due to the country’s big HIV problems. What a beautiful place to live/volunteer in and be able to make a difference!

Cape Town

Cape Town

Europe

Europe is a tricky one to narrow down because I literally want to go to every country there. It has always been at the top of my bucket list to tour all over Europe but these are the key places I absolutely cannot tour Europe without visiting.

10. Greece
This is one country that I have always dreamed of going to. In my opinion, their food is some of the best out there! Eating an authentic gyro while sitting on a balcony overlooking the ocean and hearing Greek music in the distance sounds like heaven to me!

Santorini, Greece. yes please!

Santorini, Greece. yes please!

11. Austria
Salzburg is known by many Sound of Music fans which is cool to me but regardless of its connection to the movie, it’s a beautiful city that I would love to see anyway. Vienna is also a must see while there.

Now those are some adorable lake houses!

Now those are some adorable lake houses!

12. Germany
I don’t really have one place in particular but it would be cool to see all of the beautiful castles and maybe even attend Oktoberfest if the timing is right!

Hohenzollern castle... how grand!

Hohenzollern castle… how grand!

13. Norway
This place sure has an unlimited number of outdoor adventures just waiting to be found! I always see pictures on Pinterest of a cool ledge or grand fjords and it almost always is Norway… if not,then most likely New Zealand.

I would like to say I would sit on that ledge but I'm sure it's scarier than it looks!

I would like to say I would sit on that ledge but I’m sure it’s scarier than it looks!

14. Netherlands
Ok I have no idea if this is an actual thing or not but when I think of Amsterdam I think of having class. Maybe it’s just the idea of cruising along the canals sipping wine. Regardless, Amsterdam is a city I would love  to visit.

I'll also need a bike to fit in with the locals

I’ll also need a bike to fit in with the locals

15. Italy
Yes, I know I’ve already been here but I only saw a fraction of the places I want to.  Like Amsterdam, Venice is filled with canals and has always been near the top of my list. Food and wine is the first thing I think about when I hear Tuscany so of course it makes me want to go there. Others in the wonderful country are coastal cities like Burano and Portofino.

How could anyone be sad in a colorful place like Burano?

How could anyone be sad in a colorful place like Burano?

16. France
Not gonna lie, France was never really of any interest to me but I have recently come to dream about it. I want to see all sides of it from the French Riviera, especially Eze to Yvoire to Bordeaux and Paris. Maybe I’ll wait to go to Paris when I have someone to put a lock on the Love-Locks Bridge with me.

Bordeaux

Bordeaux wine country

17. Spain
I love Spain because it brings my two loves for spanish and Europe together. Some cities I would like to see are Barcelona, Seville, and Menorca.

Crystal clear waters in Menorca

Crystal clear waters in Menorca

18. Ireland
I know I keep mentioning places that have always been at the top of my list to visit but seriously Ireland has always been #1. I have even always dreamed of permanently moving there. The green hills and multitudes of sheep make it seem similar to New Zealand but I still need to see it for myself.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

19. Scotland
Scottish highlands, more castles, and great culture? Sure sign me up!

Night life in Edinburgh

Night life in Edinburgh

20. Iceland
Now who wouldn’t want to go to this little island just to say they did? It seems like a mini version of New Zealand just on the opposite side of the world.

Northern lights in Iceland

Northern lights in Iceland

South America

I took Spanish lessons in middle and high school and was actually pretty decent at it in 9th grade but unfortunately, I have since lost most of it. I would love to become fluent or at least able to easily communicate with other Spanish speakers. My oldest brother moved to Mexico for 9 months a while back and became fluent in Spanish which made me realize that the best way to improve foreign language skills is to just immerse myself in it. It’s my goal to live somewhere in South America for a year or so until I am fluent and really get to know the culture better.

21. Uruguay
This little country nestled between the coasts of Brazil and Argentina is known as the best kept secret of South America. Montevideo is a comparatively safe city and from what I’ve heard much cheaper than it’s neighbor Buenos Aires. They also have a high percentage of uninhabited beaches!

La mano in Punta del Este, Uruguay

La mano in Punta del Este, Uruguay

22. Artengina
There are so many things about Argentina I want to go there for! Mendoza is the wine country situated by the mountains and Buenos Aires just seems like a cool city in general. But the real thing that attracts me most to Argentina is Patagonia. This mountain region is just gorgeous with spiky mountains different to most mountain ranges you would normally see. I would hope over to Chilean side of Patagonia to see Marble Caves as well!

Patagonia

Patagonia

23. Peru
Typically equated with Ecuador (which I think is underrated), Peru is the dream of South America to me. Of course I have to see Machu Piccu while I’m there but what I would really love is to do some kind of work there whether it’s the Cross Cultural Solutions program or some other job to make healthcare access easier for the Peruvians, especially those who live in rugged regions.

This ancient classic tourist attraction is definitely a must!

Some major tourist attractions are worth going to… after all, there is a reason they’re so popular.

24. Brazil
Rio is a classic go-to in Brazil that I would make sure to go to during Carnival. It would be cool to go deeper into the Amazon too to really experience the jungle life.

Would love to hang glide through here!

Would love to hang glide through here!

25. Costa Rica
I know this is Central America, not South but it still fits into the category. I have never heard anything bad about Costa Rica and is widely known as a great place for budget travelers… me.

Goal #1: visit the sloth sanctuary

Goal #1: visit the sloth sanctuary

North America

Many people, myself included, thinking of travelling as being international. Being in New Zealand and telling people about the things to see and do in America has made me realize how great of a place the United States really is. There are still so many places in my own country that I haven’t seen yet but long to.

26. Cross country road trip
Although the rest of my destinations have places not activities, this one deserves to be put on here since it’s actually on my bucket list. I think the best way to see our huge country is by road trip. I can’t name all of the places I want to visit because I literally want to everywhere! This could easily be done with friends or family and make unforgettable memories along the way.

Good thing I love driving!

Good thing I love driving!

27. Alaska
This great beauty deserves it’s own separate trip. Even though I haven’t been there yet, I already love everything about Alaska! 2075aaed9eabb442e146be5ceb04bb9c

28. Hawaii
Honestly, I always forget Hawaii is one of our states because it’s so far out there. If its pristine beaches weren’t enough, there’s an abundance of beautiful volcanic hikes and such there to make it more of an adventure.

Looks like paradise to me!

Looks like paradise to me!

29. Lake Louise, Canada
Last but certainly not least, this spot always pops up on Pinterest and I’m awed by it every time. I really need to get to Canada more often.

Lake Louise, Alberta

Lake Louise, Alberta

 

I’m really looking forward to my 20s not only for travel opportunities but for life experiences in general! I have faith that this will be my best decade yet. Heck, I’m already starting it off being in New Zealand!

If anyone who reads this has good suggestions about any of these places or even other places, let me know! I’ve already been bitten by the travel bug so introducing me to a new place isn’t going to make it any worse.

Cheers, Kristi!

 

 

 

 

Adventure 3

This week’s adventure was a great escape to Hastings in Hawke’s Bay. The area is known for its multitude of vineyards and nearby Napier is a beautiful coastal city with a pebble beach that we got to enjoy for a bit. For the second weekend in a row, it was just Hailey, Diana, and I (we stayed in last weekend) along with our new friend Stanley who kindly let us stay at a children’s camp for FREE and chauffeured us around. Hailey had connections with Stanley through a bible school  that she went to back home and he went to here in New Zealand. Because of Stanley’s generosity, this weekend was quite cheap compared to most which is exactly what I need as I’m saving up for my big 2 week trip in a few weeks!

Friday: Our bus didn’t leave Palmy till 7:15pm because Hailey and I have a late class from 4-6 which by the way is such an unfortunate time to have a class on a Friday especially when you plan on traveling most weekends. To give things an even later start, our bus was 40 minutes late leaving so we didn’t get in to Hastings till about 10:00. We were impressed by how cute and lit up the city centre was and spent a few minutes checking it out, playing in the train tracks and climbing on statues of sheep!

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If only a real sheep would let me get that close.

We didn’t really know who to look for since none of us knew what Stanley or his car looked like but I guess we were pretty recognizable as 3 girls standing in the street late at night with big hiking bags. The drive to the camp was beautiful! Even though we couldn’t see any of the landmarks around us well, the stars were enough for me. I thought the stars were beautiful at home, but they’re at a whole new level here! I’ve never been able to see the Milky Way so clearly and vibrantly. The new iphone should have a star setting so that I can actually take beautiful pictures of a star-filled sky.

When we got to the camp, Stanley showed us around a little and helped us get settled in. I was expecting to stay in a basic cabin with no heat as I always associate camp cabins with the ones at Camp Shiloh but we actually stayed in something more like a cottage with a little heater. I somehow had a lot of energy still so we stayed up for a while talking and eating some cookie dough that Hailey brought for us! We may have an obsession… After getting our sweet tooth fix, we settled down and finally got to bed.

Saturday: The morning thankfully didn’t start out too early. I didn’t come the most prepared with food but we were able to eat some leftover  pancakes they had from a recent camp which really hit the spot! The camp also happens to be ranch so there were lots of sheep, of course. They have two lambs whose mothers died and have to be bottle fed now so Stanley let us feed them. One of them was going crazy, eating like it never has before but the other was more timid and we had a hard time feeding it. We were then showed around the camp and got to try out their awesome zipline and ropes course! Better yet, the sheep just casually wander around the ropes course area.

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So many mama-baby pairs. So cute!

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Diana going down the zipline or “flying fox” as it is commonly known as in NZ

At first, we weren’t sure if Stanley was going to come with us to the places we wanted to check out or if he was just going to let us borrow his car but thankfully he came with us because none of us know how to drive stick shift. Although I want to learn how to drive a manual, it’s probably not best to learn that and how to drive on the opposite side of the road at the same time… too much to take in for a driving experience! He was also handy to have around because he knew what things were worth checking out and knew how get to those places.

Our first stop was Te Mata peaks. The trail head for the hike said it would take an hour but really only took about half that time. This hike was different than the ones I’ve done so far in that it wasn’t mountains necessarily but peaking green hills. One thing I love about New Zealand is how diverse the terrain is so I never get bored with the same type of hikes all the time. The view from the peak was incredible! I could see the ocean and a few mountain ranges, including the snowy mountains that bordered Lake Taupo (from Adventure 1) which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive away. Being up there made me realize how small New Zealand really is which also makes it great because it’s relatively easy to travel around but still experience incredible diversity.

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The roads leading up to the peak were very curvy

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The classic Te Mata peaks shot.

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One of the views from the top

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The mighty winds up there gave me a Titanic feeling

 

I would love to jump off that platform with a parachute!

I would love to jump off that platform with a parachute!

After the hike we did what our main purpose in the trip was… wine tasting! We went to Black Barn Vineyards for some FREE samplings. I’m not much of a wine snob as I’m just starting to actually enjoy it but they were all quite tasty, especially the Riesling. I ended up buying the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay to bring home which is their most awarded wine they make. Plus they said they mostly sell their wines locally so I figured I would pick up some great wine while I could! I would have liked to go to more vineyards in the area since they’re literally everywhere but I don’t think the whole group was into it as much and we moved on to bigger and better things.

As Stanley was the expert of the area, he brought us to the spots he thought was best in Napier. We first went to the Bluff Hill lookout. It’s a big rock formation that sticks out in the ocean, giving views of the city, ocean and mountains!

The main shipping port of the area.

The main shipping port of the area.

We then went back into Napier to walk along the stony beach. I ended up getting my pants and the inside of my boots soaking wet trying to get pictures but it was worth it. The stones were soft and round so it wouldn’t be painful to walk barefoot down the beach, if anything like a nice foot massage.

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Getting wet worth the shot?

Dinner that night was a little slim since I just had an instant rice packet (college life is all about the “instant” foods) and snacky foods. Of course with my big stomach, I was still hungry and ate my second instant rice. After some debate, we decided to drive back to Napier that night to go to the hot spring pools by the beach. They were actually man made pools unlike the natural springs in Rotorua but the hot water was straight from natural springs. It was $10 admission but totally worth it! There’s nothing more relaxing after a busy day than chilling in some hot tubs and the steam room. To end the night even better, we watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (a great classic comedy) and attempted the bake some cookies… we had difficulties baking last weekend too.

Sunday: Usually Stanley plays drums at his church but figured we would want to do some more sight-seeing so he got a replacement and brought us to Shine Falls. This was a less common (but still amazing) attraction that was way out in the middle of nowhere but was great because we were the only people there the whole time. The beginning of the trail wasn’t actually a trail at all but a sheep pasture. Being how dumb they’re known to be, sheep are amazing how they can keep balance on steep, rocky slopes and even more run up them!

 

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The cliffs looked great for climbing but we were unsuccessful in actually getting up them

It only took about 30 minutes to actually get to the falls and I was immediately amazed by how they just showed up out of nowhere. The falls were pretty high and had a perfect swimming hole at the bottom that I would love to revisit later when it’s warmer and I’m prepared for it. I tried climbing around to get closer to the falls but the rocks were so slippery it was hard to get anywhere.

Vertical panoramas are hard to get an actual portrayal of what they really look like.

Vertical panoramas are hard to get an actual portrayal of what they really look like.

 

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#modelstatus

Gotta get an artsy pic of the boots!

Gotta get an artsy pic of the boots!

The creek coming from the falls was really clean and clear so Hailey and I filled our water bottles in the creek and actually tasted better than regular drinking water.

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I dont take much precaution in water-bourne diseases

Unfortunately, Diana and I’s bus left at 2:30 so we couldn’t stay too long since we wanted to get something good to eat in Hastings before heading out. We ended up going to a little Fiji curry shop (I LOVE curry) which of course was delicious!

It was yet that time of the weekend again when reality starts to kick back in and I have to lower the adventure level for a bit. These next couple weeks are going to be pretty crazy as “midterms” are coming… yes, I do actually do schoolwork here. Hopefully soon I will be able to post more about what it’s actually like living and studying in New Zealand, granted I find time for it.

Cheers!

 

Adventure 2

I am blown away by how lucky I am to be in New Zealand! I’ve only been here 3 weeks and already feel like I’ve done so much. This last weekend I was able to get out of Palmy again and head up to New Plymouth. It’s right along the surf highway coast in the Taranaki region and was a beautiful city at that. What makes the city so great is not how big or luxurious it is but that it’s right on the water, has Mt. Taranaki in it’s backyard and has artistic paintings and sculptures all throughout the main city. The whole Taranaki region also has rich Maori culture with stories of it being one of the first and most favored areas settled.

Friday: I usually have a class from 4-6 on Fridays (the literal worst time to have a class) but it’s at least one that is okay to skip occasionally and this week seemed like a good week to skip. Most everyone else also had later classes that they couldn’t or didn’t want to skip so they weren’t able to catch a bus till 7:30pm. I had a lot of homework to catch up on but figured I would rather catch an earlier bus and do homework in a new place than wait around on campus all day. Of course I still didn’t get as much accomplished as I should have… figures. Maclean took the early bus with me so I at least wasn’t wandering around on my own (teamwork makes navigating much better!) and we had plenty of time to check out some of the city before heading to the hostel. As soon as we noticed a good sunset was coming we ran across the road to the boardwalk to get the best view we could get… and we were not disappointed!

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As we were capturing the moment, a nearby fisherman suddenly started talking to us and told us all about the variety of sea creatures he catches. He even went on to tell us how some guy was giving him a hard time once and he just happened to catch an octopus so he threw the octopus like a frisbee and it latched right on to the guy’s face obviously making him freak out. The fisherman was cracking himself up telling us stories for no reason and probably would’ve kept talking all night if we didn’t end the conversation.  As soon as we walked away, a lady passing by us told us to check out the baby seal chilling on the boardwalk so we did and it was so cute. I was so tempted to pet it but decided it was probably safer for me and the seal to give it some space.

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What a nice place to sleep every night!

We thought it would be best to get to the hostel before it got too late to check in so we made the 25 minute sketchy walk to our “hidden” hostel. There were only a few other people there but everyone was hanging out in the common room so we got to meet the family that runs the hostel, an American that was WWOOFing there, another American who is spending a few months exploring NZ on his motorcycle, and two Germans. Everyone was quite friendly so we made some dinner and spent a while talking with the others. Thinking we would be nice, Maclean and I ventured back into town to meet up with the rest of the gang once they got off the bus to lead them back to the hostel so they wouldn’t have to find their way really late at night. I guess their bus driver was also feeling nice and actually dropped them off right by the hostel, making it pointless for us to walk back to meet them. I at least did some grocery shopping for our upcoming hike so the extra trip in and out of town wasn’t totally pointless. It wasn’t long after getting back to the hostel and greeting everyone else that I was ready to get some shut eye — I knew I had a big day ahead of me!

 

Saturday: At a bright and early 6:30 am, Maclean, Cat and I got up to head out on our Mt. Taranaki journey! We could have taken a shuttle from the hostel to the mountain but it cost $50 EACH! Yea, no way I would do that. However, that meant we needed to find a way to the mountain on our own… what better way than to hitch hike! I knew hitch hiking was a common and ‘safe’ thing to do in NZ but I still wasn’t really sure what to expect. We knew we would have to get to the main highway (aka just a normal semi-busy road in the States) before we could stick our thumbs out but fortunately that half an hour walk was the longest we had to walk the whole way! The spot we started at was a bit awkward to start hitch hiking because there was a designated walking path for pedestrians away from the road but once we got closer to the road it was only maybe 5 minutes before a friendly guy named Carl pulled over. What still amazes me about the willingness of kiwis is that before we even caught up to where he pulled over and told him where we were going, he already had his trunk open ready for us to pile in as if he was willing to take us anywhere. Even more than that, he drove us the entire way to the mountain center which was about 15 minutes off of the main road so it was quite a bit out of his way to take us there! I’m so thankful for such a positive first experience hitch hiking or else I would be a lot more hesitant to do it again.

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Our thumbs worked!!

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Glad to be seeing the mountain from inside a car than walking the whole way there!

I guess we didn’t eat enough for breakfast because by time we walked into the visitors center and saw the cafe, we realized we were all hungry and ordered some delicious curly fries and chips (french fries). It was a little more than expected though so we put the leftover fries in a baggie to save for later… they’ll come back into the story later. After a long debate on whether or not to get a 6 month pass for unlimited stays in huts all around NZ, Cat and I finally decided to go ahead and buy one but no one ever checked if we had a pass that night anyway so we technically didn’t need anything at all! We just keep telling ourselves that the money goes to the conservation of the parks anyway to make it worth the money.

It took a bit to get our heads in the right direction but we found the right path to our hut and surroundings areas and immediately ran into snow. Though it was a little tricky to get used to climbing uphill in snow/ice I eventually got used to it and didn’t slide around quite as much. Just from climbing up the steep slopes in the beginning I knew I was in for a real treat and may have underestimated the intensity and temperature of the whole hike.

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Ready to hike the beaut behind me!

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Just near the beginning… oh boy!

It seems like no matter how much I prepare, I will never be able to hike a mountain without trailing behind the rest… partly due to stopping to gaze and take pictures but mostly due to how exhausted I get and how much my legs burn! Even though I try to stay active every day, hiking this mountain made me feel like the laziest person alive. It may sound like I’m just complaining and well, maybe I am but believe me when I say every ounce of pain and exhaustion was worth it!

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We’re actually the best at using the self timer camera function haha

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Da girls 🙂

About halfway up, we met this couple and their daughter who just so happened to also be from Palmy! We stopped to take a little break to take a group pic and chat with the family. After departing from them we couldn’t stop admiring how perfect their family was for being so adventurous together and the dad who we called ‘mystery man’ carrying his 4 or so year old daughter in a backpack carrier!

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Aint we cute… photo credits to mystery man!

It wasn’t too long until we met the trail marker to get to our secluded hut for the night but since it was only about 1pm and had so much more we could do we decided to keep going toward the top! The trail was super intimidating from the bottom because it was a VERY steep slope and had a “danger” sign at the beginning. I believe this trail was called “The Puffer” because of its intensity.

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The sign says “danger”, we say “challenge accepted”.

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The angle of the picture doesn’t even do the angle of the mountain justice

As we made our way up the steep slope we kept noticing a not-so-friendly cloud coming our way. We would go some, stop to debate whether or not to continue, then go some more anyway until we agreed to go back down since we weren’t really familiar with what the cloud would bring on the rest of the way up.

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But before we head down to escape the cloud might as well take a picture, right?

When we were just about back to the bottom of the extended trail, we ran into the family again! We told them how we were going to go up to the tower and hut (the end of the trail… kinda) but turned back because we didn’t know how to feel about the cloud coming. He took one look at the cloud and said something along the lines of “ehh, it’s no big deal” and invited us to hike up there with them. Honestly, I was not feeling it… my legs were screaming out “please don’t do it!”, but I knew by time I made it up there I would be glad I did. Plus if a 30-something man could easily do it with a 4 year old strapped to his back, so could I!

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The hut in the middle was our ultimate destination

We didn’t expect to go inside the hut since it was privately owned by a club but Maclean found an open door that just led to a small cement room where we went in to layer up, grab a quick snack, and re-situate ourselves. The wind was crazy up there and of course I left my gloves and hat in my room so I had nothing to keep my hands and ears warm but luckily I had an extra flannel that I used as a make-shift head-wrap.

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Whatever works to keep the ears warm!

It was quite slippery getting back down the steep and icy slope but as long as we stuck to tramping through the side bushes it wasn’t too bad. Once we reached the trail marker for the Maketawa hut again we were definitely ready to just find it and settle in. The hut was actually much better than I expected but there wasn’t much to it. There was an outhouse about a minute’s walk away and a sink right outside the hut but the sink had no running water. Inside the hut was two bedrooms each with eight mattress pads and a common room with two long tables and a wood stove. Without that wood stove and Maclean’s dedicated fire-making skills I don’t know what we would’ve done!

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The front view of the hut and useless sink

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Goofing around while Maclean slaves away haha

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The view from the patio.

We got to the hut around 3:30 but because it was gloomy outside and we were tired from the hike, it was so difficult to stay awake! It was our goal to stay awake till at least 8:00 and we just barely did it. Once the fire was going good we warmed up by it, ate lots of food and eventually played cards. I ran out of water pretty fast but thankfully there was snow outside so I started melting snow in my leftover chicken can over the fire to keep me hydrated the rest of the night. We also whipped out the leftover fries and toasted them on top of the stove which actually worked out pretty well!

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Resting in front of the fire.

Sleeping that night was pretty rough… mostly because the fire was dying and the winds were crazy. Our hut was right by the edge of a cliff so it was open to all of the nightly winds which made for creepy noises and cold drafts.

Sunday: The original plan was to wake up just before sunrise and set out for a hopefully beautiful morning hike but by time we woke up it looked horrendous outside! It was so hard to get up because I was freezing even in my sleeping bag. We waited it out for a bit, bundled up and braved the outdoors! The weather wasn’t quite as bad as we expected since we took a different trail back to the visitors center that was wooded all around to block the wind and snow. The way back was completely different than the way up because it was in the woods with a lot of stairs and climbing ladders. It had such a mystical feel to it with sparkling fog scattered throughout the woods, it was beautiful.

What better way to end an overnight hike than a nice warm cup of mocha coffee. All I could think about that night was how good some hot cocoa or coffee sounded so I treated myself to some! Over the last couple years or so I’ve been growing in my obsession with cool mugs and maps so I got an NZ mug to add to my collection (or as a gift?) and a cool cloth map of  NZ with the regions to spot kiwi birds in… as Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec would say, “Treat yo self!”.

At this point we had no idea how we were going to get a ride back to town so early in the morning but thank God a mother and daughter who were originally from Holland were just finishing a short morning walk and started chatting with us. Eventually Maclean worked his magic and smoothly asked for a ride just as they were getting ready to leave. They were happy to help us out but couldn’t take us straight back to New Plymouth and actually made us back track slightly but it was at least on the main road. After getting dropped off at the post shop I dug through my bag to put on an extra layer but before I could even get my bag strapped back onto my back someone had already stopped for us! I’m so amazed at how easy it is to hitch hike and thankful for how helpful and nice Kiwis generally are.

We got back to New Plymouth a lot earlier than we expected so we had like 5 hours left to explore the town more! Thankfully the ladies at i-site were feeling friendly and offered for us to leave our bags with them for $5 so we didn’t have to carry them around with us… again I’ll say it, kiwis are so nice! Since Cat wasn’t with Maclean and I the night we first walked around town, we walked down the boardwalk for a bit and gazed at the beautiful water.

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I love the rock lining all down the shore

Besides having the ocean and Mt. Taranaki, New Plymouth is full of random street art and structures. Each painted wall flows with the other around the corner and it’s just beautiful. There just so happened to be a grand opening of a new art gallery down the street so we went to check that out. I had the realization that I must be getting old because I actually enjoy art galleries and museums now… oh how things have changed! The main artist of focus in the gallery, and well the entire city, was Len Lye. I guess he was from New Plymouth and became a well-known artist because his name and art is everywhere! He was the one who constructed the famous “wind wand” on the boardwalk.

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Just some of the street art…

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The outside wall of the art gallery

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The Wind Wand! Established at the turn of the century!

As we were strolling outside of the art gallery I spotted the family we met on the mountain! We of course went over to say hi and talk to them a bit. Maclean finally found out what his name was even though I kinda liked just knowing him as “mystery man”. I really wanted to offer babysitting services or something for their daughter Chloe, mainly just because they were such a cool family and I really want to “get adopted” by a Palmy family, but I wasn’t sure if that was too far or not haha.

I figured we should eventually meet back up with Diana, Hailey, and Allen before getting on the bus so we all met up at the mall food court (for budget reasons) to talk about our weekends. Their weekend in NP also sounded great! On our way back toward the bus stop, we decided to get from froyo (the best froyo I’ve ever had!) and just so happened to walk by a noodle shop that the guys who went surfing were at! We stopped to catch up with them for a bit then went our ways.

All in all, New Plymouth was great! It has pretty much everything there but isn’t a big city at all. I plan to go back when it’s warmer to try some surfing and spend more time along the coastal hikes. I would definitely recommend anyone in Palmy to check it out sometime!

 

Thanks for keeping up with my blog and sorry it’s so long but there were so many details I just couldn’t leave out! Until next time my friends…

 

 

Adventure 1

Hey there! I’m sorry, I know it’s been a week since I took my first weekend trip here in New Zealand and some of you have been patiently waiting to hear more about it. Blogging takes a lot more time than I expected! This first adventure’s destinations were Taupo and Rotorua which are known for Lake Taupo (the giant lake in the North Island) and hot springs!

I will put a little disclaimer in and say that the pictures just don’t do it justice!

Friday:  I started off the day by taking an early trip to the Salvo on the hunt for a cheap winter coat. It was huge and kinda dirty but hey, whatever gets the job done! Then we all met up in town, packed the van up full and headed off! Although everyone that went on the trip was from The States, we didn’t meet until orientation and became friends quickly. The diversity of the landscape made the drive enjoyable and always entertaining. We eventually ran into a big traffic jam but it at least allowed us to get out of the van and play in the snow a bit!

Our first group pic of the gang!

 

After getting back in motion we finally made it to Lake Taupo! We stopped at the first lookout we saw and spent time admiring the beautiful lake with giant snow capped mountains in the background. It made me really want to go tubing and kayaking… maybe when the weather is a bit warmer

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Our first hiking (or mini-hike) stop was at Huka Falls. It was here that I first noticed how blue the water actually is, looking a lot like icy blue glacier water. I was expecting it to be like normal tall waterfalls but it was more like beautiful raging rapids. The power that ran through the falls was incredible, I doubt anyone would ever be able to raft on them. After snapping some pics of Huka Falls we ventured onto the trail that eventually led us to the calm waters and unexpectedly ran into some natural hot springs filled with other bathing visitors. The guys decided to jump in while us girls kept to the side… we concluded that it’s much easier to the guys to take a swim not having brought a bathing suit than it is for girls.

 

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The mighty Huka Falls… I wish it was easier to capture the color of the water.

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Maclean, Trey, and Hailey enjoying the nice warm hot springs!

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It’s cool how such calm waters turn into raging falls.

Since the gate to Huka Falls closed at 5:30 (by the way, it’s so dark by then) we had to head back to our hostel for the night. This was my first hostel experience and I was lucky to have such a great first experience because it was much nicer than I expected! It worked out nice that we had a pretty even amount of girls and guys so we could have a girls room and a guys room without having to share with other random people. Once we got settled in we began cooking a big pasta dinner. We may have overestimated the amount of pasta we would eat along with a poor pasta to sauce ratio. I’ve been trying to do gluten free the last few weeks so I brought my own special pasta that Chandler so kindly cooked separately for me. Being gluten free is such a struggle here with so many bakeries and the famous meat pies! I don’t think I’ve actually gone a day completely gluten free cause I just can’t resist but hey, I at least avoid it when I can!

That night we decided to venture out in search of some more hot springs. The girl that ran the hostel gave us directions to some good ones but we ended up getting lost quite a few times and wandered through the dark woods for well over an hour. We finally came by someone’s house and two of the guys went in to ask the man living there for help finding them. With his directions we found the hot springs… eventually. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pics of the hot springs since it was night time but believe me when I say it was incredible! Chandler was the only girl to actually bring a bathing suit and towel so the rest of us girls had to wear sports bras and shorts or really whatever we had along with sheets from the hostel as towels. With it being so cold out, it felt wonderful getting into that hot spring. For a while we just chilled in the “natural jacuzzi”, had some wine and gazed at the wide blanket of stars above us. What made the hot springs even better was that there was actually a small waterfall flowing into the hot spring that most of us climbed up and checked out the even smaller pool at the top. Eventually we got out and thankfully made it back to the car only getting lost once.

Saturday: After a good night’s sleep, we got to enjoy a FREE breakfast at the hostel. I’m still trying to get used to instant coffee and master the art of making it actually taste good. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss dad’s fresh and strong coffee ready for me every morning.

I’m not sure if we actually had a specific plan in mind when we left the hostel but we were able to make a pit stop at Huka Honey Hive. They had free honey samplings and didn’t even have a limit of how many kinds we could sample. I absolute love raw honey especially when it’s locally made so of course I ended up buying a little bottle of it for $8 but I don’t regret spending that much at all. They also had some honey meade samples which were so delicious but quite expensive. If it was cheaper I definitely would have bought some to bring home as well.

We weren't allowed to pour our own samples but she was very friendly as most kiwis are!

We weren’t allowed to pour our own samples but she was very friendly as most kiwis are!

After leaving Huka Honey Hive, we had our way to Kerosene creek which of course had more hot springs. No one from our group got in them this time but there were other visitors enjoying them. The whole walk had such a mystic feel to it with the hot steam coming up from the water and glistening in the sunlight.

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Maclean looking all angelic in the sunlight and whatnot lol

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Some others enjoying nature’s bathtub

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Although you can’t see the steam very well, this entire lake was also warm just not quite as hot as the smaller springs.

The next stop was our big hike up Rainbow Mountain. A lot of the rocky cliffs were white and red due to all of the sulfur and clay (I  think at least) which was a nice pop of color in addition to all of the greenery. It wasn’t too difficult of a hike but me being so out of shape, I was dragging behind a little. I’m definitely inspired to try running in the park by the river so maybe the next big hike won’t be so bad for me. The view at the top was well worth the hike! You could see a different view from every angle and each was just as beautiful!

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We stopped at a little lookout over Crater Lake. The picture just doesn’t do the color justice.

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Even the cliffs are steaming

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I’m not sure what lakes so are but would love to get a closer look!

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Once we got back to Rotorua, we were all so hungry! Most of us craved to have some of New Zealand’s famed fish-n-chips so we wandered into a little corner shop with tons of delicious and CHEAP food (mostly fried anything). It was the best dang fish-n-chips I’ve ever had! Not to mention it was Cat’s first time ever having them…

I think we were all pretty tired after the hike and decided to just chill at our next hostel for the rest of the night. Some went in the very heated pool, others watched a movie in the lounge, and I floated between the two. Since I’m pretty much always hungry, Maclean and I walked down to McDonald’s (which is much better than in the U.S. by the way) to grab a bite to eat and hang out for a bit before settling down for the night.

Sunday: As much as we didn’t want to leave, it was time to head back to Palmy before classes started on Monday. There was still so much more to explore though so we managed to squeeze in some time to explore the Redwood forest! You might be just as shocked as I was when I first heard about California Redwoods being in New Zealand but it just proves how they really have everything! The trees were so grand and beautiful!

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Even the creeks are so incredibly blue!

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Just call me a treehugger now

And finally, our last stop was the Aratiatia rapids which is one of the filming sights for the second Hobbit movie, more specifically the scene where the hobbits are thrown down a waterfall in barrels. Since it’s actually controlled by a dam, the rapids only flow every 2 hours. We just missed the 12 o’clock release but waited around for the next one at 2. It was cool to see the giant rocks hiding underneath the raging rapids and see the whole thing fill up!

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Yet another beautifully clear pool

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Just chillen around waiting for the dam to open

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Chandler and Trey also patiently waiting

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After the river finally rose up!

By now, it sadly was time to get back to Palmy and we eventually made our way after yet another traffic jam. I am so grateful to be included on a trip with such a wonderful group of people!

Next stop: glow worms? surfing? kayaking? mountain climbing? who knows! Stay tuned…

Great Expectations

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Happy Birthday America!

Today is the day! I am currently sitting in the Los Angeles airport patiently waiting for my plane to Auckland. I’m getting a little nervous about the flight because the 6 hour flight I took to get to LA felt like forever and my flight to Auckland is 13 hours! Hopefully this plane will be a little nicer and smoother though…. I’ll let you know how it goes later. As sad as I am to miss out on my favorite holiday celebrating America’s freedom, this day could not have come any sooner!

Rather than having a bucket list of things to do in New Zealand, I thought it would be more important to have personal goals that will make a larger, more permanent impact in my life. Here are the top four things that I want to experience most…

1. Independence- My whole life I have been dependent on other people for pretty much anything. When I say the word “independence”, all that runs through my mind is “Oh wait you mean just becoming an adult?” Well sure I can pick up a few adult responsibilities but I’m definitely not ready for the total adult life yet. For example I want to get the whole booking an entire travel plan AND manage to get the best deals thing down on my own. I usually rely on my mom for things like that among many other adult tasks that I really should be able to do on my own by now.

2. Sociability- For those of you who know me well know that I don’t really talk with people I don’t know very well.. maybe it’s the New Yorker in me. How do I ever expect to make connections and new friendships with random people if I don’t even talk to them (or acknowledge their presence at that)? The best way to get a full cultural immersion experience is to just make friends with the locals, especially if they’re known for being friendly and welcoming people like kiwis! I want to be able to walk up to a checkout counter and make someone’s day a little brighter, or get to know the person sitting next to me on a plane, train, bus, etc… you never know what evidence you can find to prove how small of a world it is that we live in!

3. Identity- College is an interesting time… much of the college atmosphere is totally different than what I was used to growing up which causes a lot of confusion in knowing who I am or even who I want to be. While in New Zealand, I want to discover more of myself. I think a lot of it will come from any independence I gain because it will allow me to be away from all the things I knew before and give me a chance to almost start over and find the version of me that I love most.

4. Cultural Awareness- One of my favorite things about traveling is not only learning about other cultures but interacting with them myself. What I’ve noticed over the years is that it is easier to make friends with locals the more I embrace their culture with love. I have read multiple times that kiwis are known to be quite friendly people who openly welcome foreigners to their beautiful land. Maybe if I’m lucky, some of their friendliness with rub off on me (not that I’m a mean person at all).

Most of all, I want to the American who defies all of the negative American stereotypes and show the world that we’re not all what we are perceived to be.

Words cannot describe how excited I am for this incredible journey that lays ahead of me! I am ready for whatever challenges and life-changing experiences New Zealand has to offer!

P.S. Please feel free to subscribe and/or follow my blog as I will capture my most precious moments to share with y’all.

 

 

ENZTA Motivational Statement

Emerald Lakes Tongariro National Park

Emerald Lakes Tongariro National Park

My ideal destination has always been a land with green rolling hills, grand mountains, beaches, and rich culture. Of course this land sounded too perfect to be real, until I discovered New Zealand. This beautiful land became my new dream.  I am in love with everything about New Zealand: the landscape, adventure sports, rugby, the cities, Maori culture, and the openness of the people. As a Lord of the Rings fan I hope to visit Hobbiton, walk the Tongariro Crossing to “Mount Doom”, and see some other breath-taking landscapes from the movie that ignited my love for New Zealand. Another thing that fascinates me about New Zealand is the fusion of Maori and Pakeha cultures. I love that the indigenous culture is very much still a part of New Zealand which shows me that it is possible for two cultures to peacefully coincide with each other. For all of these reasons and more, choosing a destination was easy since there is no place that I would rather study abroad in more than New Zealand.

 

Choosing a university to study at wasn’t all that difficult either. Part of choosing Massey was the location in Palmerston North. I like the central location of the city to make it easier to travel all throughout the country. Palmerston North is also known as the “student city” so the people there embrace young adults into their culture. Another major contributor to choosing Massey was the program of study. They have an excellent sport and exercise science program with a similar structure to the program at my home university. Massey is also ranked in the top 3% universities in the world which comforts me to know that I am choosing a quality university.

 

Spending the semester in New Zealand will be an absolute dream come true. I hope that I can embark on many outdoor adventures that New Zealand is known for (especially bungee jumping!). It may be a challenge to learn the different ways a kiwi lives and get used to the new culture. However, the process of overcoming the challenges will increase my appreciation for their customs. I expect to broaden my horizons and increase my possibilities to travel more. I figure that if I am able to move to the other side of the world “on my own” for 5 months, I will be able to do so much more internationally in the future. It is a goal of mine to get connected with locals so that I have people to come back to if ever given the chance to return, which I’m sure I will try to do after studying abroad there. Words cannot explain how excited and grateful I am to have the opportunity to study abroad in my dream destination!

Tortuga Backpacks

I recently discovered an awesome study abroad scholarship opportunity called Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship.  I thought the essay questions would be interesting and relevant for my blog to share with you guys.

What do you hope to learn by experiencing another culture? How do you expect to apply these lessons when you return home?

I firmly believe that everyone, if given the chance, should spend time in another country such as studying abroad. It is the best way to learn new cultures, languages, and especially learn more about yourself. Although New Zealand has a Westernized society much like America and Britain, there is still enough of a difference to influence the way I see the world. I want to discover the things that differentiate New Zealand from America and use them to broaden my perspective of world cultures and habitats.

The thing that intrigues me most about New Zealand culture is the Maori society. From what I have read, the Maori are still able to contribute to society their carried customs and maintain good relationships with the Pakehas (a.k.a. Europeans). While being in New Zealand I hope to experience the Maori culture and learn more about their history and how they interact with the Westernized society. It would be interesting to compare the relationships between the Maori and Pakeha societies with the relationship between Americans and Native Americans near my hometown.

More than learning about the cultural differences in our countries, I hope to go through a tremendous personal growth during my time abroad. It’s tough for a nineteen year old to be on the other side of the world away from all friends and family for five months. I expect it to be hard at times but thrilling none the less. Traveling to New Zealand on my own will strengthen my independence and help me to not rely on others as much to fulfill my future travel dreams. There is a quote by Clifton Fadiman that says: “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” This quote is perfect for anyone studying abroad because it’s all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and into a new culture. Spending the semester in New Zealand will surely expand my comfort zone and teach me how to reach out to new friends by engaging in their way of life instead of making them conform to mine. There may be some cultural barriers that come between me and other students such as learning their lingo and cultural mannerisms, but I will use those obstacles to build stronger relationships and teach them about my own culture. I hope that my experience as a study abroad student will encourage me to reach out to the study abroad students at my home university to make their experience here better. Traveling is my passion and the opportunity for me to study abroad in New Zealand feels unreal. I will use my testimony to encourage others to take charge and experience it for themselves. New Zealand, here I come!

Taking Advantage of Travel Opportunities

One of the hardest things about traveling is finding the time and money to go. As a college student, I try to take advantage of every travel opportunity I can get while I still have summers off (until I start internships). Studying abroad is one of the best opportunities out there because you get to spend a whole semester, year, or summer in another country while still getting the credit for school! However, studying abroad can be quite an expense depending on the type of program you go with. In my case, it is actually cheaper for me to spend a semester abroad than at my home university granted I get some study abroad scholarships, crazy I know! If you’re interested in studying abroad I highly encourage you to at least look into it and not let the cost scare you away because there are many scholarships available for study abroad and you never know what financial aid applies to it.

Studying abroad isn’t the only way to travel during your college years. There are plenty of volunteer programs that allow you to work for free in another country in exchange for accommodation with a local family. I know the word “volunteer” looks scary since it typically means working without pay but your only big expenses will be travel costs and excursions. If you’re interested in organic farming, WWOOF is a popular program with tons of places to go. Helpx is another good one and has more than just farming like helping around the house, being a nanny, or helping in a local business. If living with strangers in a foreign country alone scares you, many of the programs allow more than one person to come so invite a friend to come with you! Missions trips are always a great way to travel too because you’re going there to make a difference and further the kingdom of God. If you’re involved in a church that is planning a trip, go ahead and attend an interest meeting even if you haven’t been going there that long. Going with a group of people you already know is a great way to establish a stronger bond with other members of your church. If your church doesn’t go on missions trips that often, you can still go on missions trips with national organizations. I went on two trips with Global Expeditions while in high school and they were a few of the biggest life changing experiences for me. I’ll talk more about those experiences in future posts.

Money is always a big issue that prevents people from traveling as much as they want to but if you plan ahead and start saving early, it’s not as expensive as it’s put out to be. If you’re bad at saving money like I am, you can take money out of your account and hide it someplace so it’s less tempting to spend. That system works wonders for me! Also, when looking for places to stay while abroad, avoid the big touristy areas since everything is usually more expensive there, plus you get a better cultural experience!

All in all, I encourage every one of you to take advantage of every opportunity given to you to travel while you’re young. Plan strategically and start saving up even before you know where you go. Take advantage of the summers you have off while you still do! More than likely, traveling anyway will never be an experience you regret. Have a wonderful day, friends!