Weekend Adventures: Canyoning

Thursday night (March 29th… where did the month go?!) was awesome; we went out for sushi, Italian, and ice cream. All in one night. There were about six of us and we went back to Huia and caught up with a few more friends for a movie, watched hysterical YouTube videos, then played Halo before going to bed. I wound up reading until the wee hours of the morning but I love nights like that. Friday I don’t have class so I got up to Skype Olivia but I was a dork and completely forgot about daylight savings time and missed our date by an hour. Womp Womp. I spent most of the morning catching up on emails, doing laundry (FINALLY got most of the green stains out my clothes that mysteriously appeared the last time I did laundry thanks to the care package Mom sent me!) and got ahead in my work for the week. Later I met up with the girls for a shopping trip! We got some cute clothes and yummy snacks during our long trek up and down Queen Street. I’d never been shopping with such a big group of girls (six of us!) and it was really fun; they shop like pros. We hung out for most of the night but I wanted to turn in early so I could be well rested for my adventures the next day.

Saturday I went on a day trip to go canyoning. It was absolutely one of the most amazing and exhilarating experiences of my life!! There were only six of us from Loyola but fourteen in total in the group. It was really nice to meet some new people and hear about their stories of New Zealand so far. It was a cool group to spend the day with. We all met at the Sky Tower and piled into the vans after a brief round of introductions. We had two guides, Mike and Jack who were super sweet and hysterical. It wasn’t a long drive a tall to the store where we had to pick up out wetsuits and gear. I was practically giddy to get my hands on some rope again! I definitely miss spending time at the rock wall at Loyola. After we were all decked out in thick, padded wetsuits, wetsocks, and jackets we pilled awkwardly back into the vans and headed off to the canyon. I didn’t realize that there would be quite a bit of hiking involved in this expedition, but there was. After we went over safety and basic abseiling (aka rappelling) techniques we hit the woods. We had to stop and spray or shoes off just a few yards into the forest. New Zealand is huge on protecting their natural lands so that they can preserve them for as long as possible. Just try getting hiking boots through customs and you will understand. Anyway, after the balancing act of scrubbing our shoes in wetsuits we hiked almost vertically up the mountain to the top of the canyon. We had to stop once for a breather but other than that we made it just fine.
We had a chance to jump off a little ledge into the pool before the first cliff we would be abseiling down. I was pretty darn hot so I figured why not, right. After the first few people jumped in I realized why the guides were chuckling. The water was freezing. But we were well covered and going to get wet anyway so might as well get used to it right away. I was actually really glad I did it because the rush of jumping into the water took the edge off my nerves and sated a little bit of the adrenaline rush I was already feeling. Because there was 14 of us and the first descent was narrow only one person could go down at a time. And I was at the back of the line. I anxiously awaited my turn. I clipped in slowly edged myself over the edge of the cliff. Immediately to my left was a beautiful waterfall. The whole situation seemed to perfect to be real. I LOVE this kind of stuff. It’s doing these kinds of unique and somewhat extreme adventures that gives you a new perspective on how you approach your days. I was eating it up. Luckily our guides both had cameras to take pictures as we went down. Of course I was so overwhelmingly excited my pictures all look like I need to be wearing my helmet full-time. But honestly, they don’t even show half the story of the day. It took me a little bit of time to get used to rappelling but eventually it felt pretty easy and natural. Once I reached the first ledge and back-belayed for the next person coming down (a safety measure in case they begin to fall I could stop them by pulling the rope and acting as an extra break, the friction stops them) I had a chance to swim through the waterfall I just came dowm next too. I attempted to climb some of the rocks but they were too slippery and my mobility was really limited. I decided to save my energy for what I came here for.
The next abseil was wide enough for two people to go down at a time and was significantly longer. I couldn’t see the bottom at all. The rock face was also a lot more varied than the relatively flat face I had just came down. This time took a lot of concentration but was a lot more fun! This is where we stopped for lunch. After a quick picnic by the water we had a little trek to our next abseil. This included crawling over some boulders, trying not to slip and fall on my face crossing a stream, and caving! There is a great picture of me wedging myself through the small opening with water gushing through under me. It was so much fun! I ended up kind of sliding through face first. We also had to do a similar motion through another set of rocks and a fallen tree but this time one of the guides had to help guide was through by holding on to our harnesses so we wouldn’t smash our faces into the rocky riverbed. I appreciated the support. Then we came to my favorite part of the trip. The REAL waterfall. This time we were abseiling directly through the middle of the waterfall! It was really narrow and slippery so we went one at a time. I started off getting my balance set to the right of the falls and then I had to kind of hop/swing myself into the full force of the water. What a totally different experience! I was laughing and cheering the whole time. The force of the water was driving me down but I was able to control myself and take my time. I tell yeah, it is a surreal moment when you are being pumled by unfathomable amounts of water. And the fun wasn’t over yet!
Just after the waterfall there was a giant tree trunk, the biggest I think I’ve ever seen, blocking the path. We had to climb over it to move on. After being stuck there for so long the tree had taken on a kind of rubbery texture; probably the slipperiest substance I’ve ever touched. Luckily for me, my friend Tj waited for me and we tackled the obstacle together. He was up and over no problem because he had seen the other guys do it too. As I finally get to the top of the trunk he yells up to me from the water below, “Oh, yeah, and there is an eel swimming in the water too.” Casual. I didn’t believe him at first. And then I saw the eel. It was HUGE! I had to see this thing up close so I waited for it to swim out from under me and then I jumped in the water too. It was so curious of us! I ended up swimming alongside it. They way it moved through the water is indescribable. The best I can do is say that it looked like it was just breathing its way through the water world. Unfortunately, the girl behind me was not so keen on the creature. It took a lot of convincing from me and Tj to get her in the water. Our guide was right behind her and laughing the whole time. He said that the eel was about 70 years old and 7 feet long! After that we had one last abseil before we had to head back into the woods. I was pretty comfortable with the technique by now and came down the cliff pretty fast, but now I’m wishing I had taken my time a little bit more and really soaked in everything. We were back to the vans and then the shop before I knew it and all I wanted was to do the whole thing over again. Who knows, maybe someday I will! I really can’t describe how awesome this trip was, this description and the pictures don’t do it any justice. You will just have to try it yourself to understand!

Sunday I went to the International Festival, similar to the Pasifika Festival but had cultural samplings from around the world, with Jessie, Brianne and her sister who is visiting! It wasn’t as organized as the Pasifika Festival but it was really cool to see so many very different cultures side by side. I was glad I made myself get up after the long and tiring day I had canyoning because I definitely could havce just slept the day away. I think I have this constant fear that I’m going to miss out on something if I turn into the lazy self I can be on the weekends. I’ve been doing my best to take advantage of as much as I can while I’m here. We have adopted a little mantra in our group to keep us going when taking a nap seems like the best choice; “You only live once” of YOLO (and with that is the inherent, “so sleep when your dead” but we let that stay unsaid). Anyway, we had lunch, I had a lamb wrap with veggies that was delicious from the Srilanka tent, while we sat and watched a Brazilian group perform music and do an elaborate dance/fight. I got some pretty cool pics—these guys were amazing! I walked around quite a bit and after finding some delicious fried dough for desert, headed home. When we got back it was time to get to work before Palm Sunday Mass—this time at a Catholic church. The mass was really nice, although it had been a while since I had been so I goofed on some of the new responses… oops. After a crazy weekend it was nice to get lost in the rhythm of the mass. There were a lot of passages and songs in Latin and even a bit in Maori. I’m glad we found a Catholic church that isn’t too far away so I can, hopefully, start going more frequently—at least, after spring break, my next BIG adventure.

I leave on Saturday for my spring break trip to the South Island! I can’t believe it! 13 of us will be spending 10 days in camper-vans trekking around some of the world’s most beautiful places and doing its most extreme activities! If you are really curious ( MOM SKIP THIS PART) I’m going to be going to Christchurch, Kaikora, either Blenhim or Picton, Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park, Greymouth and the pancake rocks, Castle Hill for some excellent bouldering, Franz Joseph Glacier, Fox Glacier, Wanaka and Queenstown where I will be going to Milford sound to see the fjord lands, and 2 awesome bungee jumps!!, along with some all kinds of exploring in Queenstown, then Mt. Cook and we end back in Christchurch! I’ll be back on Wednesday the 18th doing laundry and sleeping a lot before we leave again for another trip on Thursday to Rotorua and Taupo—the last of the Loyola-organized trips! Already!! I’m not planning on bringing my laptop but my journal is definitely coming along for the ride so I’ll be sure to catch you all up on the insanity when I get back (I’m pretty pumped because the next time you talk to me I will be able to drink coffee again! YAY)! Wish me luck!

Fun Fact: A kiwi is not a fruit – it is New Zealand’s native flightless bird and a slang term for a New Zealander. Kiwis call the fruit “kiwifruit” – they are also known as Chinese Gooseberries. I still haven’t seen one but it’s going to happen!!

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