Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

The End of South Island

Day 8:

We head to the incredibly beautiful Milford Sound for a morning cruise. While we were there we took a look around the area and even got to take a long hike on the Routeburn Track.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Waterfalls in Milford Sound

Waterfalls in Milford Sound

the view from Routeburn Track

the view from Routeburn Track

The top of the Routeburn Track

The top of the Routeburn Track

Day 9:

Arrive in Queenstown! Spend the day exploring the town and scheduling activities and then headed to the ice bar, Sub 0, in the evening.

 

The group in Sub 0, ice bar

The group in Sub 0, ice bar

 

The drinks, served in ice cups

The drinks, served in ice cups

 

ice chandelier

ice chandelier

 

Day 10:

Got the amazing opportunity to do the Shotover Canyon Swing, aka the highest cliff swing in the world. Beautiful canyon and an absolute adrenaline rush! Check out the link below to see the different kinds of jumping styles and have an opportunity to see what it’s all about! I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for something extreme to try!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuXT6TAvoaE

I jumped solo both times I went and did backwards and gimp boy goes to Hollywood styles.

We also had the chance to eat at Fergburger while in Queenstown. Huge and delicious hamburgers with condiments unique to the Fergburger!

Day 11:

A cold and rainy morning is what we wake up to on the day we were hiking Fox Glacier. What was bound to be an amazing experience didn’t get off to a great start, but once we started hiking it all clicked that I actually had the opportunity to hike a glacier. It’s something incredibly unique and an event I am happy to look back on and know I did.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Tori and I on a cold, rainy day on Fox Glacier

Tori and I on a cold, rainy day on Fox Glacier

Day 12:

Today we were able to do some shopping in Hokitika, the jade capital of the world. We were able to pick out some amazing jewelry pieces for our family members and bought pieces from a man who makes his own jewelry. He picks out the jade rocks, polishes them, and then carves them into jewelry pieces and other pieces of artwork. He was even hired by the US Navy to make necklaces for our sailors! Amazing opportunity and unique pieces!

We then made a pit stop in Punakaiki to see the pancake rocks.

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Finally we made it to our final stop of the day, just outside of Nelson. We stayed with an amazing family, Wendy and Blue, who gave us a taste of home when we were on the road for so long. We had a great time staying with them and we were incredibly lucky and thankful to have them open their home to us.

Day 13:

Today we got to kayak the Abel Tasman! Beautiful area and fun experience!

Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman

kayaking

kayaking

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Day 14:

See the geological center of New Zealand, just outside of Nelson. Then, drive to Hanmer Springs to stay the night.

 

the view from the center of NZ

the view from the center of NZ

 

Day 15:

Spend some time walking around the quaint town of Hanmer Springs and then back on the road again to Christchurch to return our camper.

Day 16:

We were up early for our last day in the South Island, catching a flight from Christchurch to Auckland. Once we got back to the capital city, we spent the day walking around and taking in the country’s busiest and largest city, but don’t get confused, it’s nothing like New York City. After dropping off our luggage with Ashley, our kiwi friend who lives in Auckland, we all headed out to enjoy the city. After a long last day, we took our last bus back to Hamilton where we finally were able to be home! It was an absolutely incredibly journey and I was fortunate enough to spend those two weeks with a great group of people.

Matt, Me, and Tori from the top of the Skytower

Matt, Me, and Tori from the top of the Skytower

We even got to see a protest!

We even got to see a protest!

Auckland's Skytower at night

Auckland’s Skytower at night

 

 

Larnach Castle, Penguin Sighting, and Mirror Lakes!

Day 5:

We start off the day with taking our first camper showers in preparation to go to  Larnach Castle. Being in the campers only a few short days meant that we hadn’t become familiar with how everything worked so as the boys all hopped in and out of the shower quickly, Tori and I had some more difficulties with showering. It takes a lot more time and water for girls to wash their hair properly so since we weren’t sure how much water the camper tank held, we decided to play it safe and use buckets of water that we filled from our water bottles. There was about an inch of water at the bottom of the bucket for us to attempt to soak our hair and put shampoo in it. While we struggled for a quite a while, the boys thought it would be a great idea to laugh, take pictures, and video our unsuccessful hair washing experience. Eventually with some help, we were able to wet our hair enough and then shampooed outside. We then took our showers in freezing cold water because no one could figure out how to use the water heater. By this time, with all the chaos that had just occurred, we were off to a late start with our plan for the day.

Tori washing her hair before first camper shower

Tori washing her hair before first camper shower

Finally, we made it to the castle and took a tour of the outside gardens first. All the gardens surrounding the castle were Alice and Wonderland themed, with the Queen of Heart’s chair in one spot, a statue of Alice in another, and the Cheshire Cat statue in one of the trees. The gardens were cool, filled with many unique plants that I had never seen before. We then headed inside to see the castle and learn more about the Larnach family. The estate was very beautiful and kept in pristine condition, just as though the Larnach family still lived there.

Flowers in Larnach Garden

Flowers in Larnach Garden

Flowers in Larnach Garden

Flowers in Larnach Garden

View from the top of Larnach Castle

View from the top of Larnach Castle

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Larnach Castle

Larnach Castle

We were then off on a long drive and eventually our campers became separated.  My camper got lost after taking a wrong turn and we had to drive 50 kilometers on an unpaved road in order to get back on track. Eventually we were back on the right track and arrived at our destination. Unfortunately, we were supposed to meet the other camper much earlier in the day to see Purakaunui Falls but we only arrived after it became dark. We decided to spend the night here and see the falls in the morning.

Day 6:

Lots of driving and sightseeing today! The best way to share my South Island experience at most places is through pictures because words cannot accurately describe these wonders. We were up early to see Purakaunui Falls.

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Next we drove through the Catlins National Park to see McLean Falls

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Then we drove to Cathedral Caves, caves that can only be accessed at certain times in the day. When it is high tide the caves are filled with water coming in from the sea, but when it is low tide they are able to be walked through.946969_10151375543012617_1407269400_n

We made our way to Curio Bay as our third attempt to see penguins during the South Island trip. After spending two ours in the cold and rain, we finally did! We saw them in the evening as they were returning to their homes on the beach after a long day of hunting. The other camper was there earlier in the morning to see them getting up and going out to hunt. We were able to see the yellow-eyed penguin, the rarest species in the world.

Tori and me bundled up to see the penguins

Tori and me bundled up to see the penguins

Penguins making their way to the water

Penguins making their way to the water

The other camper's penguin experience

The other camper’s penguin experience

After a long and exciting day, it was time to head out to our last stop for the night in Invercargill in preparation to head towards Milford Sound the next day. We stayed at a holiday park for the night which was absolutely amazing, hot showers, a place to make food, and wash our clothes. After almost a whole week in a camper, there’s nothing that can be better than that.

Day 7:

Our goal for the day was to meet up with the other camper in Te Anua. So after an hour delay due to camper problems, we weren’t off to a very good start. We first made it to Bluff, the southern most point in the South Island.

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Quick pit stop there and then another quick stop at Fraser Beach, which in my opinion was one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.

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We made a short stop in Te Anau and got some New Zealand pies (pie crust filled with minced meat and cheese is the most traditional). From here, I was able to drive the camper because Christian had been driving the past days without a break. I learned to drive a manual car before, but hadn’t had practice for a few years so what a great opportunity right? There were just a few technical difficulties in the beginning with adjusting to driving a manual vehicle, a camper, and doing that all on the wrong side of the road. Luckily the rough patches were smoothed over quickly and it was an easy drive after that.

Made a quick stop at the Mirror Lakes.

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And then on to Cascade Creek to spend the night.

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Unfortunately, we didn’t make it in time to meet up with the other camper, but it was ok because we had a Milford Sound cruise the next morning and we would definitely have to see each other there.

 

Moeraki and Dunedin

Day 3:

We start off the day picking up our campers and were luckily upgraded to two six-person campers instead of the two 4-person campers we ordered, and as we all found out later this was a very good thing. We then hit the road and stopped for groceries when we realized that the other camper had some technical difficulties with their bathroom. So after waiting around in the local mall for a few hours, our camper used the wifi for the last time before actually starting our South Island adventure. Finally we heard that the other camper was fixed and so we set out to all meet up in the small town of Timaru. We then travelled around looking for a camp site or a holiday park to stay at and finally found a holiday park, however the prices were really expensive so we decided that we would just find a place on the side of the road to spend the night. After a while of driving around trying to find a spot where we could fit two campers, we found a spot close to one holiday park and figured we would just ignore the small no camping sign. Driving through the night in towns that you don’t know also makes everywhere seem scarier so we fell asleep believing we were in a “shady” area just outside of the town of Moeraki.

Day 4:

When we got up the next day and walked outside, we realized there was no need to worry the night before. We woke up next to a few houses right next to the beach. After taking in a nice morning view, we were off in search of a lighthouse that had penguin and seal viewing areas. We successfully found the lighthouse after a long drive with the campers on a gravel road, a very bumpy ride. After taking some pictures of the view near the lighthouse we made our first attempt at seeing penguins. Unfortunately, we were too late to see the penguins go out into the water and way too early to see them coming back in for the night so our first attempt at penguin viewing was unsuccessful. However, once we make a walk down to the seal viewing area we were not disappointed. There were seals everywhere! Many were out sunbathing when we saw them so they were just laying out on the rocks and some of the younger seals were playing in the little pools of water that were made in the rocks from the incoming tide. Once we had our fun taking tons of pictures of the seals, we packed up in the campers and headed to the Moeraki boulders. These are just huge boulders that are on the one beach so it’s a pretty incredible sight to see, but my most favorite parts of being at the boulders was seeing dolphins in the ocean. They were coming in and out with the tide so we were able to see them riding in with the waves and jumping in and out of the water, pretty special to see because dolphins typically aren’t that close to shore. After a while, we were on the road again and heading for Dunedin. Only a few hours on the road and we arrived in search of Baldwin street, the steepest street in the world. Everyone ran or walked up the street which is quite the accomplishment and then headed back down to the campers so we could head into the town a bit more. Dunedin is a beautiful city and is full of amazing architecture; it’s difficult to correctly describe the buildings in words so enjoy the pictures below!

 

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

looking up at Baldwin Street
looking up at Baldwin Street

First Presbyterian Church in Dunedin

First Presbyterian Church in Dunedin

seals!

seals!

Dunedin Municipal Chambers

Dunedin Municipal Chambers

Tori in front of the Dunedin Railway Station

Tori in front of the Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin First Presbyterian Church

Dunedin First Presbyterian Church

After a relaxing evening enjoying the beautiful city of Dunedin, we made our way just outside of the city to Sand Fly Bay where we stayed the night in preparation to visit the Larnach Castle in the morning.

South Island Adventure Begins!

South Island: Day 1
Thursday night we took the night bus from Hamilton to Wellington. We arrived around 6am in Wellington, so we were set up for an extremely long day with little sleep to run on. As soon as we stepped off the bus, it was obvious why Wellington is considered the “Windy City.” It felt as though I was standing in the center of a wind tunnel and at any second could be blown over. After the walk down to the hostile to drop off our extra bags, it was time to hit the capital city! We walked around for a bit looking for places to grab a quick breakfast and finding ways to pass time before anything opened for the day. After a few hours walking around the harbor, we went to the Te Papa museum, a national museum full of everything New Zealand. From a few Lord of the Rings mementos to animals and plants found in New Zealand, there was something for everyone to enjoy. Once we felt we finished everything we wanted to in the museum we were off again in search of the government buildings and then old St. Paul’s Cathedral, all of which were beautiful. The architecture of all these important buildings are incredibly unique and added a certain special flavor to the city of Wellington. After we completed our tour of the city, we headed back to the hostile to get all of our things settled into rooms and then we were back out in the town again for the evening. We ate at a great Irish pub, Molly Mallone’s, and then walked around some of the other streets. The one area was especially amazing as the alleys came alive at night, filled with international foods and music everywhere you turned. We had a great time walking around and experiencing this unique part of the Wellington nightlife. We found a little kiosk that sold Hungarian Chimney Cakes, which were incredible! It was dough twirled on the outside of a wooden cylinder, baked in an oven, rolled in cinnamon sugar, and then coated with chocolate on the inside. After we all were full from the delicious treat we found, we then headed back to the hostile for the night so we would be ready to head out early the next morning.
Day 2:
We were up by 6am the next day in order to get packed, checked out of our hostile and be on the shuttle to the ferry by 7. Luckily everything went pretty smoothly and we were to the other side of the city in perfect time to get onto the ferry and settled. We departed from the Wellington harbor around 8:30 and had a great ride to the south island. We walked around the ferry and discovered the different things you could do on each level, sat out on the open deck, and even visited with the sheep travelers as well. At one point while out on the top deck, we even got to see some dolphins swimming close to the ferry along with the amazing view of the land around us. Three hours later we arrived in our first destination on the south island, the little town of Picton. Shortly after we were off again on another bus to Christchurch. We made one pit stop on the way in Kaikoura where we got to see a seal colony that was on the beach right next to the road and got to take some pictures of the snow covered mountains around us. It was a beautiful area and a very unique experience to see seals in the wild. After a few more hours of travelling, we reached Christchurch. Even though it was recently devastated by an earthquake, it was still an amazing town with great architecture. One of the most unique things I saw while I was there was the Smash Bar. The building the bar had been located in before was destroyed in the earthquake, so instead of closing down the owners took two busses, clear out the inside and one served as the bar while the other was an indoor seating area. We opted to sit outside on a picnic table that had been surrounded with barrels to make fires. After a long day of travelling, it only took us a short time relaxing at the bar to make the decision to head back to the motels and settle down for the night because the next day we were picking up our campers and about to begin the true adventure on the South Island.
Stay tuned to hear more about the 17 day journey around the South Island! Unfortunately my computer is having some problems so I can’t add pictures to these posts, but hopefully I can access and post them soon!
Cheers!

Easter Weekend: Coromandel Peninsula, Gisbourne, and Mount Maunganui

Hello once again from New Zealand! I apologize it’s been so long since I’ve blogged last, but I will be doing my best to get caught up with everything that has happened over the past month within the next few posts.

Over the Easter holiday, we headed on a 5 day adventure across the North Island, traveling from Hamilton to the Coromandel Peninsula then to Gisbourne and stopping at Mount Maunganui on our way home. Ten Americans from LVC and one of our kiwi RAs, Leshaan, loaded up in a van we rented and headed out Good Friday morning. We started off with our two and a half hour journey to the Coromandel in order to see Cathedral Cove, a shooting site for the second Chronicles of Narnia movie. We pull into the Coromandel and it was packed! Heaps of people were there for vacation over the holidays and we had difficulty finding placed to park our large van, but after finally finding a spot we ate our packed lunches, got changed, and headed for the beach. It was only once we got to the sand did we find out that Cathedral Cove was another hour and a half walk from where we were so after stopping to take some pictures of the bright blue water we started off on the hike. Winding your way on a gravel pathway wasn’t my favorite part of the beach, but the view along the way definitely made it much more enjoyable. Everywhere you looked, you could oversee the blue water, rock formations in the ocean, and smaller islands that were farther out. Once we finally got to the cove, it was absolutely beautiful! The sand was soft and golden the Cove was amazing to walk under and it was perfect weather for a day on the beach. We were all super excited and rushed to get our towels laid down and as soon as I pulled my stuff out of our bag, I realized something was wrong. There was a brown mush on my towel and all inside our bag. A word to the wise, bananas are not a good snack to take to the beach when it’s hot! After we cleared the mushy bananas out of the bag and towels it was time to actually enjoy the beach. The water was nice, not too warm and not too cold, there was quite a bit of sand in the water and some big waves every now and then, but when you can stand in the ocean waist high and still see your feet, the small imperfections are definitely worth it. Once we all had enough time at Cathedral Cove, we started our walk back and visited Stingray Bay as well as Gemstone Bay. Even though we didn’t see any stingrays or gemstones, these areas were also beautiful with cool rock formations and clear water. We were then on our way to Pauanui, a small beach town where we stayed at Lauren’s house, a kiwi who lives in College Hall. Her family was so nice to open up their house for all 10 of us to stay in. It was such a blessing to have a place to shower and amazing food to eat after a long day of traveling and being on the beach.  After a good night’s sleep, we were up the next morning to hike up Mount Pauanui. This was an incredible and a bit difficult journey up to the top with humid conditions and a steep incline, but once we get there it was worth every bead of sweat. The view from the top of Mount Pauanui was absolutely incredible, as you could look out over every part of the town as well as the ocean. We then started our hike back down the track and then off for a quick lunch of fish and chips in town. Before we knew it, it was time to start out on the road again, this time headed for Gisbourne.

This drive was quite a long one, with about 4 hours of driving time. We winded through the different roads and saw some amazing views until it got dark and then continued driving through The Gorge (which are known for having some of the windiest roads in New Zealand). Luckily, we had some great drivers (a big thank you to Christian, Andrew, and Tim!) and we were through that section safe and sound in no time. We finally arrived in Gisbourne late that night and were fortunate enough to stay with Leshaan at her house. It was late, so all 11 of us filed out of the van and made our way to the backyard where we stayed in a tent for the night. While it seems like it would be a tight fit, having 10 Americans all in one tent together, it was the most luxurious tent camping in history. We all had mattresses to sleep on, pillows, blankets, and the bathroom was just a quick walk inside. After heading to bed, it seemed like I had only been asleep for a few minutes when everyone’s alarms started going off again so we were up really early on Easter morning in order to see the first sunrise of the day in the world. We drove out towards the beach in order to try to get the best view, but the rolling hills of New Zealand created a bit of a problem for us because they completely blocked the sun from view where we stood. However, there is always a way to get around obstacles so while a few people decided to drive down the road a little ways, the rest of us decided to jump an electrical fence into a sheep pasture and to the top of a hill in order to get a better view. While some of the boys went sprinting up the farther hill, Tori and I decided to stick with a slower walk up the less steep one. Once we got to the top, we could tell the sky was starting to light up. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day so the sunrise wasn’t the most perfect one to see, but it was still an amazing experience to say that we saw the first sunrise of Easter morning in the world. After the sunrise we all met up again and headed back into Gisbourne to Leshaan’s house and stopped at a small bakery on the way for some traditional hot cross buns, croissants, and Danishes. I don’t know if it was the surplus of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had eaten that weekend or if the bakery was really that good, but the pastries I had were incredible! The hot cross buns (a traditional Easter breakfast food) were warm, fresh out of the oven and the apple, cinnamon, and custard Danish I had was delicious. Once we finished our tasty treats, we made our way back to Leshaan’s to get ready for church.  Most of us headed to a small Baptist church for Easter service so as soon as we walked in, everyone knew we didn’t typically attend services there, but they were one of the friendliest congregations I have ever met. There were many people who said hello and asked where we were from and how we liked New Zealand so far. Even after the service, the pastor came over to us to introduce himself and hold casual conversation with us. Right after, they also served hot cross buns, tea, and coffee where more people stopped to talk with us, typical kiwi hospitality. Once we were finished talking to them, we headed back to get changed and were again on the road to the Rearey Rock Slide.

This is a natural rock slide that people in the Gisbourne have been enjoying for years and it was definitely a unique experience to have. People bring body boards, inflatable tubes, air mattresses, tires, and just about anything else to float on to the slide to go down on. Leshaan’s family was very generous and allowed us to bring some of their air mattresses with us and a couple body boards. Once we got there, I was really nervous and watched some of the more experienced sliders go first and then finally got on a mattress with Tori for our first slide down. It was heaps of fun, until we hit a bump, I went flying off the mattress and had to slide down the rocks until I reached the end. With some minor cuts and bruises, I walked back up to the top and decided rock sliding was not for me and that I needed some recovery time from that experience. Everyone else had a great time sliding and I eventually went again, and that time was much more successful and less painful.

After a fun Easter afternoon, we were once again back at Leshaan’s house getting dressed for yet another occasion, Matt’s 21st birthday. We went to an amazing restaurant in Gisbourne that served their food on a hot stone grill. The restaurant heats up slabs of stone and then put the meat you ordered raw onto the stone and serve it to you that way and then you are able to cook everything exactly how you like it. A dash of salt to help the meat from sticking and you’re good to go. I’ve never been to a restaurant that did this so it was pretty cool to experience that for the first time and the food was absolutely delicious. Once we were done with dinner, we grabbed blankets and warm clothes and went to a nearby beach to hang out for the night.

When everyone finally got up the next morning, we were once again on the road and headed for Opotiki to stay with Leshaan’s aunt, Carol. It was great to have the ability to stay with her because she had a guest house that we were able to be in. Everyone had a bed, we could make our own food, and the beach was just a short drive down the road. Right after we arrived, we unloaded the van and almost immediately got changed to hit the beach for a short time before getting dinner started. The beach was nice, no one else was there and the actual beach stretched our really far until it hit water. The temperature was really nice and waves were pretty calm, the perfect mix for an amazing beach day. When we all had our fill of another beach, we headed back to get dinner started. Some buffalo chicken dip to start and then heaps of spaghetti for dinner, a pretty great combination for hungry college kids. A relaxing evening playing cards, pool, darts, and just hanging out was the perfect way to end a day after an incredibly busy weekend.

What was supposed to be an early morning the next day ended up being an extremely slow-moving morning. We all were up fairly early, but it seemed like we just couldn’t get ready to go in a timely manner, but it was ok because that day had the most incredible sunrises I’ve seen in New Zealand so far. The sky was full of hues of orange, pink, and reds and that created a beautiful sight over the rolling hills and mountains in the distance. Once we all took enough pictures of the sunrise, we ate a quick breakfast and got everything ready to travel to Mount Maunganui for a hike up the Mount and then some time on the beach. We arrived and didn’t waste any time, heading straight for the hike. The hike wasn’t too long, but was definitely not ideal to do in flip flops (jandals as the kiwis call them). However, the view was beautiful from the top, with blue ocean water on the one side and the bay on other. Once we completed our hike, we had a little bit of time before heading back to Uni. Some people went to lunch, other spent their time on the beach, and a few of us decided to walk out onto a small peninsula just off the beach that is a great place to take some pictures of the area. After a really long weekend packed full of adventure, we were all ready to make our way back to school and recover before classes started up again the next day.

Our Easter trip was full of amazing experiences, fun beach times, and great stories and sights I’ll always remember.

Over my next blog posts I will be writing about our amazing 17 day trip through the South Island. Stay tuned for that!

Cheers!

Raglan and Rotorua

 

Kia Ora!

Things have been pretty busy in Hamilton the past few weeks. Following orientation, schoolwork has picked up into a more normal pace with tutorials now starting. At LVC, we are fortunate to be in small classes where professors know our names and we can visit them with questions at any time. However, now being at The University of Waikato it is not quite as simple so for each class every student is required to attend one tutorial a week. These small classes are designed as a time to ask questions, have more in-depth discussions about the previous lectures and to cover information that may have been missed. Teaching styles and learning techniques are very different here simply due to the size of the school and it has taken me some time to become adjusted to these changes, but the transition is becoming better each day. Now it’s time to discuss the exciting parts of studying abroad in a beautiful country such as New Zealand!

Two weeks ago, the international office here at Uni planned a trip for us to be able to go to Raglan. After a small mix-up with booking seats on the bus and there being too many people to fit, Tori (another LVC student) and I ended up making the trip with our guide, Charlie, in his car. He was originally from California and moved to Raglan about 15 years ago. It was a good opportunity to talk to a local and get his advice on where we should go and what we should see before we have to leave. On our venture to the small surf town, we made a stop off at Bridal Veil Falls. It was about a ten minute walk from the road where we parked to the first lookout for the waterfall. Walking along the trail to the waterfall was beautiful and unique because many of the plants cannot be seen back home in the US. After walking through that we made it to the top of the waterfall, the first of three lookout points. Once everyone was done taking pictures and taking in the beauty of the area we were in, we continued on to the second lookout in the middle and then the final lookout at the bottom of the waterfall. This last location is where our guide took pictures of us in his favorite pose. Check them out!

After our short pit stop, it was back on the road to Raglan for a day on the black sand beach and a chance to take surf lessons. Once we got there and walked down to the beach, we immediately rented our surfboards and put on our wetsuits, which is no small task! After the suits were finally on, we took the boards down the beach in order to start lessons. We all practiced basic paddling and standing procedures using a four step process which wasn’t too difficult to grasp when lying on the beach, but for me it was a whole different story once we were actually trying to catch waves. It’s quite amazing how you can immediately tell if you’re off centered when on a surfboard and go to stand up because you will be off balanced and either will not be able to stand at all or your board won’t be following a straight path. Surfing takes some time to get used to the feeling of standing on a board on top of the water, but the instructors were great and gave us all suggestions on what to fix so we could stand up and after a few attempts I finally did! They took extra time with people who needed it and everyone on the trip stood up and rode a wave in to the beach by the end of the lesson. Lessons took a while which didn’t leave any time to just be on the beach, but it was a great experience and I’m so happy I did it. How many people can say they learned to surf in New Zealand?

The next weekend the Uni was taking a trip to a dairy farm, but living where we do all the LVC students decided that we’ve seen enough farms in our life that we didn’t need to see another. So, all 12 of us planned a weekend trip to Rotorua. We got up early and headed out on Saturday, ate breakfast and made a lunch, and then caught our bus. The hour and a half bus ride went quick and before we knew it we had reached our destination. The second we stepped off the bus we all knew what people had warned us about, the smell of rotten eggs, sulfur. The geothermal hot pools in Rotorua contain sulfur from underground that is released as the water bubbles to the surface. We stopped at a few of these pools on our walk from the bus stop to where we would be staying the night, a little holiday park called The Cosy Cottage. Our cottage had two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen and was only supposed to be able to sleep 7 people, but us being poor college students decided that it was a good idea to just fit all 12 in there for the night to bring down the cost so our cottage was definitely living up to the name.  After getting ourselves settled into the cottage, we met up with a few boys from Rotorua and they took us to a Maori village that was nearby. We walked around, taking in the beautiful view of the lake and the beautiful buildings that the village had. New Zealand history was apparent within this town as you could see the culture crosses of the Maori people and the European settlers. There was a traditional Maori marae and right across from it was an Anglican church that incorporated certain aspects of Maori culture into the design. After walking around the village, we headed to downtown Rotorua where we stopped to get some Hokey Pokey ice cream (a must try if you’re ever in New Zealand) and then went to see the Government Gardens. It was a beautiful area with bright flowers, unique trees, and amazing buildings. We only stayed here a short time before we headed back towards the Cosy Cottage to a small hot sand beach. With Rotorua being a geothermal hot-spot, the top layer of sand is the coolest and continues to become hotter the deeper you go and you can even create your own hot tub by digging deep into the sand and boiling water will be brought up into your pool. A word of caution if anyone else tries to do this, be careful! The water is literally boiling and bubbling and the hot sand are extremely hot, so just add a little bit of cooler lake water into the pool to make the temperature a bit more comfortable. Once we had our fun at the beach, we headed back to get ready and then back into town for dinner and a free concert as part of a celebration of Rotorua. Just a friendly tip for anyone heading here at any time, definitely get to Fat Dog for at least one meal, you will not regret it! Also part of the celebration was fireworks over the lake, so halfway through the concert we went back to get blankets and then headed to the beach where we all watched the firework show. Definitely the best way you could ever end a night in New Zealand!

The next morning, we got up and headed off for another day of fun zorbing and luging. Rotorua is the home of zorbing, which for those who don’t know is essentially rolling down a hill in a giant hamster ball. We all opted for the zorbing with water because you don’t flip upside down and it was so much fun! We all split into groups of two or three and were driven to the top of the hill where we got ready to go. Running and jumping with arms straight out, just like Superman, is the only way to get into the zorb and then the worker gave us the challenge to stay standing and running the whole way down the hill. Well, that challenge didn’t work out so well for me and my group because I fell straight away and they weren’t far behind me. Every person who went zorbing had a great time and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try it. We then headed down the road to go luging and on a gondola ride up the mountain, which happens to be the only way to get to the start of the tracks from the bottom. Luging is when you sit down in low cart and then drive down a mountain on a concrete path, almost like sitting on a low tricycle. Extremely difficult to explain, but extremely fun to do! The little kid in everyone was very happy during this activity, reaching high speeds and taking sharp turns, and then when you got to the bottom you took their version of a ski lift back up to the top and tried the next track that was more difficult. This was the best way to end a weekend of adventure by relaxing, getting your mind off school, and just having a fun time with friends. Well that just about wraps up the past few weekends in New Zealand. Until next time, cheers!

Hobbiton and Lake Karapiro

Greetings from New Zealand! This weekend, international students at the University of Waikato were invited on a trip to see Hobbiton and Lake Karapiro. For those of you who don’t know, Hobbiton is the place where the Lord of the Rings trilogy filmed in order to set the scene for The Shire, where hobbits resided. In 1998, Peter Jackson discovered their future filming site while on a helicopter tour of New Zealand. They were searching for a place with beautiful views and rolling hills in order to bring the words J.R.R. Tolkien’s description of middle-earth to life. They spotted a 1250 acre farm owned by the Alexander family and decided it was the perfect place for their filming to occur. After the trilogy was completed, most hobbit holes were torn down except a few that the Alexander family wanted to keep so fans were able to visit the site and after a few years of negotiation with New Line Cinemas, it became a reality. The current Hobbiton is what the set looked like for the newer movie, The Hobbit. Although very similar to the original, the new Hobbiton has more hobbit holes for guests to see and is made of permanent materials so they will be around for years to come. You can see everything, from the home of the Frodo and Bilbo Baggins to the party field and The Green dragon. Even being in the middle of the drought, Hobbiton brings The Lord of the Rings series to life for fans and non-fans alike.

After our tour, we loaded up the bus again and made our way to Lake Karapiro for an afternoon of kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. After a very short lesson on how to maneuver on the water, we were sent off on the lake in search of two waterfalls. My adventure started out fairly slow, as my kayaking partner and I had never tried kayaking before, but a few minutes and a couple sore muscles later we finally got the hang of it. Even in the more open water, the trip was relaxing because there were constantly moments along the way where you just had to slow down and take everything in that you were seeing: clear lake water, extremely blue skies, white fluffy clouds, and trees and other greens that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. After getting past the crew teams who were in rowing practice on the lake, we headed over to an area of the lake where it began to narrow and the farther along we got the narrower it became. Winding our way through dense area covered with trees and shrubs, you began to feel as though you were kayaking through the middle of a rainforest. We kept moving and eventually made it to the waterfall, and I truly felt like I was in another world. Our group then headed out from the waterfall in search of the second one, but that took a bit of time because when the only way to leave is to reverse, it’s quite difficult to attempt that with six kayaks and a few paddle boards in such a small area. After my kayak experiences many difficulties in turning around, we got a few nudges from the other kayaks and finally we were off again! The search for the second waterfall took us again through some small windy paths that were lined with dense grasses and mosses. After a while of paddling and getting stuck on trees, the group decided we must have been in the wrong place and started our journey back. Unfortunately we did find out we were in the correct area, just didn’t go far enough to get to the waterfall, but oh well who would ever complain about only seeing one waterfall in a day? We all had a relaxing trip back with some getting off at a small beach area and swimming around in the lake and others just slowly paddling and then stopping to sit on the lake and take in everything that was surrounding us. Looking around at everything was beautiful and that’s when it hit me that this will be my home for the next four months and I can’t wait to see what else the country has in store for me to discover and experience.

The New Zealand Adventure Begins

Kia Ora!

Greetings from the University of Waikato! I’m Kalah Burger, a sophomore physical therapy major and business minor, and I will be blogging from Hamilton, New Zealand. We arrived here in New Zealand two days ago and are beginning to settle in to our new home for the next four months. First thing you notice about the country is how friendly everyone is. Sadly back home in America we have all gotten accustomed to not talking to people we don’t know, but here it’s the complete opposite. Even if someone has no idea who you are, it’s not uncommon for them to say hello and ask how you are doing. Most people make a point to get to know as many people as they can and make a point to go out of their way to meet new people.

During orientation you realize this about the people and they also immerse you in the Maori, native New Zealand, culture. Today there was a university Powhiri for all new students. This traditional Maori welcoming ceremony was very interesting and was spoken in the Maori tongue. With some help of the RAs, after the ceremony us Lebanon Valley students given a rare invitation to step foot into the wharenui, a sacred house of the Maori people that is on campus. Within each section of the house had artifacts from each tribe, from gods who are vital in their survival to the stories and history of the tribe that has been created in the form of a tapestry. It was a rare opportunity that I’m very grateful for because most outside of the Maori culture never are able to set foot into the wharenui.

The University of Waikato has also given great opportunities for international students to meet other international students here at the uni as well. Yesterday all internationals were able to join the university’s version of the TV show, The Amazing Race. Each team was to be made of five or six people with at least three nationalities represented in each team. Once your team was formed, they sent you on a scavenger hunt throughout the campus, inside almost all of the buildings. First place team won $150 NZD (New Zealand Dollars) worth of prizes. Even though our team didn’t win, it was still a lot of fun and a great way to meet new students who are going through the same shock and adjustments as you.

So far, all is well in New Zealand and I will be headed on a trip this weekend. It is an international student trip to Lake Karapiro for kayaking and then heading to Hobbiton to see where they filmed the Shire in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Stay tuned for updates on that!

Cheers!