Showing posts from 2012

A True Kiwi Experience: Motutapu Island

May 6th(Yup, the day after the Americans celebrated Cinco de Mayo)

As part of our Study Abroad program all of the Loyola students have to do an immersion project; we get to choose between interviewing and writing an article about a Kiwi who has lived in New Zealand for all/most of their lives or do a significant amount of service hours with one organization. I opted for the service as I figured I could get the best out of both worlds. A friend of mine who studied abroad here a couple of years ago suggested a conservation project on Motutapu Island, where he did his immersion project. The island’s ecology has been suffering as the introduction of non-indigenous plants have been destroying the native ecosystem and spreading to other islands too. I figured that since I have enjoyed my time here so much the least I could do is try and preserve what makes New Zealand so beautiful as best I can for the next generation of students and maybe even my kids who want to come to this amazing countr…

Back to Reality: Stride for Success Race

April 23-29th

It wasn’t until Rotorua that I remembered I had signed up for a road race set up by the university the weekend after spring break. What was I thinking?! I had no time to train and it was a team effort so it wasn’t like I could back out or just accept doing poorly (not that I would do that anyway). So, once my spectacular spring break came to an end, I had a harsh reality to face; not only did I have to jump right back into classes, but I had to push through my exhaustion and start running my heart out. And I am really glad I did! I’ve know for a while that I am always at my best when I am at my busiest. Preparing for the race was a great way to quickly get me back into my school routine. I needed to get organized, stay organized, and time manage so I could get all my work done and train so I wouldn’t hurt myself come the weekend and race day. It was also great to actually exercise again! Living off of pb&j and pasta in the South Island was fun but not healthy. I plann…

Spring Break: Rotorua and Taupo (day 3 and 4)

April 21st

After a lovely but light breakfast (as we were all still stuffed from out delicious hangi the night before) we headed to Te Puia where the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute is located for a tour of the cultural grounds and a glimpse at the way that the modern Maori are preserving their heritage. Our guide was sweet and showed a real love for her job and thus for us. I’ve been really struck by the kindness and patients all of our guides have been throughout these trips to share that which they are most passionate about with us. I love watching and listening to people talk about their passions like that. You can see the change in their face, in their eyes, even in their voice. It happens to my mom when she talks about her love her country and its history, my dad when he is talking about his family and memories from the past (especially ones involving sports). Next time you are talking with a friend, bring up something you know they love and watch how they change. I…

Spring Break: Taupo and Rotorua (day 2)

Friday April 20th

Today was a great change of pace since we got to spend most of it outside instead of riding on the bus like the day before and the weather was gorgeous. After breakfast in the hotel and a very quick bus ride, we went for a walk around the Huka Falls which we then got up-close-and-personal with on a crazy speed boat called the Huka Jet! I must have been a silly mood or something (and the giant water-proof jackets they gave us didn’t help) because I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard! As we were whipping across the waterway in this little boat I was hard-core belly-laughing and making the girls in front of my crack up too! I was also sitting next to Amanda, and as we learned in the South Island, we feed off of each other. So I would laugh, she would laugh at me and then I would laugh harder…. vicious circle ensued. We were doing 360 spins all up and down the river and got really close to the falls. It was so much fun! Little did I know until we made it bac…

Spring Break: Loyola Trip to Rotorua and Taupo (day 1)

Thursday April 19th

On Wednesday I did exactly what I wanted to do; slept in, did laundry, worked on a paper, and got ready for the next leg of the most epic spring break ever!
Thursday we woke up bright and early and were met by Hester and out bus driver for the weekend in the Huia parking lot. Our first stop after a couple of hours driving was the Waitomo glowworm caves. It felt so good to get off the bus and into the sunshine. Unfortunately there was road work along the way and we were running late and missed our tour time—but they did let us go on the next one. After a brief walk through a densely wooded area we came to the mouth of the cave and met our very enthusiastic guide. It was made abundantly clear that he not only loved his job but did so theatrically. He made the whole excursion ten times more fun. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the caves because of their sacred significance to the Maori and the damage the flash could do to the population of glowworms—so I’ll just…

South Island: Castle Hill and Back to Auckland

Tuesday the 17th

It was raining when we woke up in the morning (Gregg was the first to find out as he was sleeping out in the tent that night). I was totally convinced that we weren’t going to be able to climb because wet, cold rocks are not fun and pretty dangerous. I was more than a little disappointed. But we got up and out early anyway, just in case. I at least wanted to see and explore Castle Hill anyway—we had driven so far to get there. It was my day to drive again so once we had everything packed up and ready to go we were back on the road for the 30 minute drive to the park. Because Jessie and I are actually addicted to caffeine we had to stop for a cuppa along the way.We found this cute little coffee shop for our pit-stop. They had breakfast food too and when I walked through the door I was met by a familiar sound; my dad and I love to listen to his big band cds when we are in the car and one of our personal favorites is Pennsylvania 65000, which is what was playing throughou…

South Island: Last Day in Queenstown

Monday the 16th

Finally, today was the day we got to sleep in. Thank goodness we planned our last day in Queenstown to be low key because we all needed the rest and flexible schedule. The only thing we had to do was get to our campsite near Castle Hill so we could be there and able to climb the next morning before our flight home. Our days had been so busy so far that I realized I hadn’t really spent any time getting to know Queenstown (in the daylight). So a few friends and I ventured out for a late breakfast and cuppa as we wondered down the streets. It really is a beautiful town and not at all what I was expecting. I thought that Queenstown was going to be as urbanized as Auckland, with lots of cars and hustle-and-bustle. But I was wrong. It kind of reminded me of Vermont; purposefully relaxed. It is definitely a tourist destination, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t hard to find a little cafĂ© on the waterfront situated just right for people and nature watching—with delicious cappuc…

South Island: Karawua Bridge Bungee and Cowboy Bar (Yeehaawww)

Part 2 of Sunday the 15th

I made it back to the van after my awesome horseback ride with Amanda just in time for a quick lunch before I had to head back into town for my next moment of insanity: the Kawarua Bridge bungee jump. This was AJ Hackett’s first commercialized jump and is the only one with an option to touch the water! I was the only person to book this particular jump, everyone else who was doing a second bungee was doing the Ledge (that’s the one my sister Carrie did when she was in the South Island!). I was pretty pumped to be doing my own thing and I felt good about doing what I wanted to be doing instead of just following along with the group. Although, it would have been nice to have someone come with to take pictures (don’t worry, it was so epic I got the photo pack AND the DVD)! Since I was doing this alone I knew that it would be my unique piece of the South Island that I could keep selfishly to myself. But anyway, I made it to the AJ Hackett base with plenty of time …

South Island: Dart Stables LOTR tour

(SPOILER ALERT: I talk a lot about the Lord of the Rings in this post! If you haven’t read the books or seen it then 1) go do it RIGHT NOW because you haven’t lived yet and 2) stop reading (you should be reading Tolkien not me) because I would hate to spoil it for you.)
Since so much happened on this day of the trip for me I’m going to split it up into 2 blogs. It will make it way easier for me to write and post and probably a lot easier for you to read!
Part 1 of Sunday the 15th

This was one of the days of the entire spring break trip that I was looking forward to the most. It was jam-packed but well planned and a ton of fun; definitely my favorite day in Queenstown. My first adventure was a horseback riding tour through the area where they filled a lot of the Lord of the Rings, X-men Origins, and most recently the Hobbit!!! As I’m sure you know, I am a HUGE LOTR fan. My Mom had to practically force me to watch it one night as a family and after that I was hooked; it wasn’t long until…

South Island: Milford Sound

Saturday April 14th
(A note to those who read this via your email: if you go to the web page there are lots of links to all of my photos and the videos of my bungee jumps! Please check it out!)
I forgot to mention last blog what our camp site was like in Queenstown! It was called Qbox and it was the coolest place we stayed at. The campsites (aka where you park your car) were powered which is always a plus and the bathroom was pretty big so there was never a line too long to wait in for a hot shower. The best part was that there was a kitchen and a common room with a patio and a fire pit that we could use at any time. The best part of THAT was that each of these rooms was made from recycled materials. They were actually storage containers that the owners had turned into livable space. Everyone was welcome for a really modest price and if you were so inclined you could pitch a tent and sleep under the stars (which I was not). All of the different hostels and camp sites were well known to…

South Island: Wanaka and Arrival in Queenstown (aka BUNGEE!!)

I’m glad we had such a relaxing night at the glacial hot-pools because we had to get up really early the next morning to get to Queenstown. It was really exciting to start this leg of the journey because Queenstown was our last big destination—it flew by so quickly! It was my day to drive and unfortunately I felt like death. A pretty ugly cold had been going around the vans and it was my turn to suffer through it. But, by some miracle, we managed to get up and on the road by 7:45 leaving plenty of time to grab a quick coffee to take along for the ride. Thank goodness Lent was over and I could treat myself to a cappuccino. For a little bit of a change, I had Jessie AND Greg up front with me helping to navigate and chat along the way. Again, the scenery was incredible but driving for 3 hours was a struggle. Greg made my day when he put on one of his own playlists and lifted up everyone’s spirits. By this point I was also feeling te nerves kick in for what was waiting for me in Queenstow…

South Island: Lake Matheson (again) and Franz Joseph Glacier!

Since we didn’t have to be at the base for our glacier hike until later in the afternoon we decided to get up early and try to get back to Lake Matheson before the clouds could beat us there and get that iconic photo we were all dying for. It was a great group effort to get up and moving as fast as we could. We lucked out. We trekked through the walk to the lake with a purpose since we had taken our time yesterday and we were on a tight schedule. When we get there we were not disappointed. The sun was out, the sky was clear and blue, and the world was still in the morning air. It is an understatement to say that the lake was a mirror. It looked like Mount Tasman was standing on itself. We had to tear ourselves away after taking about a hundred pictures and then just standing in awe of the view. But we had an adventure to begin! I don’t know why but I was feeling pretty nervous about the helicopter ride. I’d never been in one before, never mind to the top of a glacier. We dropped the v…