Fiordland…never disappoints

Another weekend adventure!! We rented a car (again… I’m starting to wonder if buying one might have been a worthwhile investment), and headed west. It’s was a girl’s weekend, which meant epic playlists for the car ride (our group rendition of “Defying Gravity”? Perf.). We had been celebrating the 21st of one person in the group the night before, and were still suffering the aftermath of that, so we weren’t as upbeat as usual, but were starting to recover well by the time we hit the hostel in Te Anau. A lot of laughter and a few Tim Tam slams later, however, we were ready to crash.

So, the Kepler. Our route, by the way, was to hike up to Luxmore hut, check out the caves, stay the night, and descend the mountain the next day.

Fiordland. Never disappoints. I love this part of New Zealand, made even better by the amazing people who helped me explore it.

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The track started through the trees, keeping us shielded from the cold we had just been complaining about. We followed a side path to a beach, then hit the trail again, surrounded by green. The trail was steep, though, and soon someone said out loud what we had all been thinking: “Why do we do this?” It was a valid question. I’m no gung-ho athlete, no outdoor enthusiast, no adventure seeker. What the hell was I doing in the middle of nowhere with a pack on my back, sweating as I climbed and, of all things, smiling?

Not long after that, we hit a break in the trees, and we peered out.

P1080552See that town? That’s Te Anau.

That’s where we started.

Wow.

Oh, yeah. I remember why I do this now.

It’s amazing. So much in a single view. It’s breathtaking, first of all. Beautiful. And inspiring. And it makes me feel so small and so huge at the same time. Small because the world is so much more than I am. Huge because I’m taking it on anyways, unafraid.

We kept walking.

P1080560 P1080561 P1080568 P1080573 P1080575 As we climbed out of the treeline, the wind hit us. Hard. And the sign said we had 45 minutes left. We walked, pausing every now and again as a particularly strong gust threatened to knock our feet out from under us. We walked, shouting at one each other because the wind carried our voices away. We walked and, as the hut came into view, we walked faster. It promised one thing, in that moment more valuable than any other thing: warmth.

We refueled, and regained feeling in our hands, and were ready to go again. The day wasn’t over yet. There are caves, a ten minute walk from the hut, and we were ready to go exploring.

P1080589 P1080592 P1080597 P1080598And they were so cool!! We had to crawl through a large portion of it, which honestly just made us feel adventurous. Neither pictures nor words can really capture what a great experience this was, so I’ll stop trying.

We ate and then girl talked the night away, hardly sleeping as wind worsened, making me fear for the status of our modest hut.

And then we woke. To…..SNOW.

P1080619 P1080622 P1080625 - Copy I guess we should have been upset by the foul weather (everyone else seemed to be) but we embraced it, even leaving a snow angel behind as we started our tramp downwards, singing Christmas carols (my suggestion). We hit the trees again with great excitement, and sped down the mountain. There reaches a point in every adventure, I’ve found, when it was simply understood that the adventure is over, and you just want to get back to your car, and find a good fish and chips place.

We reached the car park, and turned back on the disney music, a perfect end to an amazing weekend. (And we found an amazing fish and chips place).

A Friend comes to Town

Amazing weekend last week! Started out with adventures with “Trixie”, a car we rented, and included a visit from a friend studying Christchurch, so I got to show her around.

Friday night, we went glow-worm hunting. Supposedly, they can be found on some trails just outside of town. We got our little car trapped in a too-narrow path, and then meandered a couple of trails through the woods with no avail. Glow worms, no, but it was a fun night. There’s just something fun (dangerous?) about wandering the woods at night with some friends.

The next morning, we were up and on the road early, this time for the Catlins. Our stops:

Cathedral caves, where we were chased by the tides into the awesome caves, and stopped on the way back up for the first set of group pictures.

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Curio Bay, where we hoped to see dolphins, but instead found petrified wood, a seal, and some crazzzzzy waves.

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Slope point, the southern most point on South Island.

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Purakaunui Falls, for a lovely woods walk to some beautiful falls.

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We stopped to refuel Trixie with petrol and ourselves with caffeine before our final Catlins stop– Nugget Point for a walk up to see the lighthouse and the sunset.

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Then it was back to Dunedin to find Haylie, holed up in the Library. We hit the pizza place, then the liquor store, and headed back to another flat for a fun night. We ended up in the Octagon until the wee hours of the morning…

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It was another early morning, this time for a trip to see some boulders. First, off the beaten path, the Katiki boulders of Shag Point.

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And then to the more well-known Moeraki Boulders.

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We made it back to Dunedin in time for Kiwi Kai, an event organized by our program to try some very tasty New Zealand dishes. After all that food (Pavlova…Cheese rolls… Afghans… Coffee… Mutton…and more) Haylie and I were content with our lives, and ready to walk it all off. So it was up to Signal Hill, to show Haylie all of Dunedin, all at once.

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The next day was more relaxing, which I needed after such an awesome weekend. Haylie and I went into the city, and shopped a bit before she had to catch her bus back.

Awesome weekend, awesome people. More stories soon!

Semester: Part 2

So I’m back to break, and back into the swing of thing.

Classes went and got very stressful. I’m working hard to keep up, but managing.

But to the fun stuff. I haven’t traveled much lately, meaning I’ve been enjoying what Dunedin has to offer over it’s weekends. AKA: drinking.

Not cool, I know. Going to the other side of the world and just getting drunk. But I’ve certainly had some very crazy, very fun nights, none of which need to be elaborated upon here. And part of studying abroad is appreciating the culture where you are, so I’m immersing myself into the student life. Anyways…

As for other fun things, there’s been a few. Went on a horse trek near Aromoana:

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And enjoyed the sunrise after checking out the dawn parade for ANZAC day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp; basically memorial day).

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More plans for fun weekends on the way!

As for the lack of posts of late: A lesson sorely learned. The real world moves on, as much as I want to wrap myself in New Zealand and pretend nothing else is real. And real world’s been sort of crashing down of late… which has left me less than cheerful. But I’m moving out of that phase, still excited for the rest of my Kiwi experiences!!

Mid-Semester break! (Some sweet as photos….)

I know it’s been a while since a good post, but after break it was right back into classes and school work and… well… more about all that later. For now, here’s a best of for some break photos! It was amazing week spent climbing up the east coast into Christchurch and Abel Tasman, across Nelson/ Abel Tasman, and back down the west coast to explore Franz Josef before crossing back through Queenstown back into Dunedin. Amazing weekend, amazing people, amazing memories….

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Just a Little Self-Discovery

Need a break from the homework, so I thought I’d take a little time just to think about my journey thus far in this whole study-abroad thing.

My passion is science. If I wanted to talk about self-discovery back during my freshmen/sophomore years of college, that is what I would say. Chemistry, the interactions of atoms and molecules, the simple way the world is– they fascinate and inspire me. I’m trapped, stuck. I stumbled into this field and I’m hooked– there’s no way out.

What I didn’t know was why. I kind of always thought I had a love of learning (and I’m not saying I don’t), but that doesn’t quite describe it.

Somewhere along this New Zealand semester, I’ve realized something. Somewhere in the awe inspired by breathtaking mountains and amazing wildlife and endless fjords and rich forests and expansive fields and rugged lands and clear waters…. I’ve found my passion.

Beauty.

The world is such a beautiful place.  How many people truly realize that, embrace it? I haven’t, not yet. But I think that’s what I want most. To embrace beauty. To see it everywhere (not by twisting truths and look for bright sides. Beauty is everywhere. I do not wish to place it where it is not. I want to find it where it already lies).

So it’s still about science. Because, even here, there is nothing more beautiful than the elegant workings of nature. I just get it now… why science so excites me. Because it is beautiful.

But there is beauty too, all around us. It’s easy to find here, or any place foreign. A first glance at something new is always beautiful. Maybe I’m just being a little overly deep, since I’m so keen to procrastinate my work right now, but I think maybe this experience has opened me more to be awed, even once I get home, and see the beauty I used to take for granted. Awe is the best word I have to describe most of my adventures here (except, perhaps, for beauty), and it’s what I most want to take home. A willingness to be awed, a passion for seeing beauty, an ability to keep my eyes open to all this amazing world has to offer… from the molecules I study to the mountains of New Zealand, I don’t want to take a single atom of it for granted.

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See what I did there? Cause this post is about staying in? …Anyways.

I’ve sort of let my work pile up a bit, so this weekend was spent stuck inside. I hardly moved from my claimed spot at the kitchen table. Biochem lab (Job’s method of stochiometry… should have been simple but something didn’t seem quite right. We’ll see, I guess), and then a Molecular Biology lab (analysis of DNA clones. Anything but simple. I do now have enough bio background for this class…but I BSed my way through it, and I think it’s okay), and then some research for my English paper (reading 5 books about the Higgs boson? bring it on. Okay, I only got through 1, but I’m working on it). Basically, a very unexciting weekend.

Don’t get me wrong. Still enjoying my time here. I’m managing to make it out a little, mix in a little social life with all that work. Monday, I went to cheer on a friend at a swimming competition, and then got to relax a bit and swim myself. Afterwards, we sprinted to Rob Roy’s (super cheap ice cream) to grab a cone just as they were closing. Tuesday, we couldn’t get a seat at the OUSA pizza quiz night, but found ourselves instead at the Baaa (I really don’t know how many ‘a’s to put in there) trivia night, enjoying some Speight’s cider and making fools out of ourselves. The result of an all-rugby round:

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Thursday started my productivity, which was more or less non-stop aside from a flat movie night on Friday (“Once Were Warriors” followed by some stand-up comedy to recover from the very intense movie) and a half hour spent eating dinner and having a beer with the neighbors on Saturday, whose social event was clearly going to turn into a party, but I had no time for that. I’ve finally finished my work, though, and this weekend starts break, so no worries. I’ll have some fresh adventure stories soon!

Misadventures with Peggy

We rented a car this weekend, to do a little more traveling. Dubbed Pegasus (after the company we rented for, and Peggy for short), our little car treated us well.

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We headed first to Tunnel Beach (after a few wrong turns), where a scenic walk down a steep hill ended with a climb up a large rock to see the beach before we headed down.

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Then it was through the tunnel down to the beach.

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We spent a little time on the beach, just chilling and walking around the beach. The walk back up the hill was exhausting, and we were ready for lunch.

We stopped at St. Claire’s for lunch

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and then headed over just to see St. Kilda’s (attached to St. Claire’s).

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Back to Peggy and we hit the road again, now for Sandfly Bay. Again, we managed to take the…err… scenic route. But it was well worth it. Sandfly Bay is known as a great spot for seeing wildlife, and it lives up to the hype. Fun fact: there are no Sandflies at Sandfly Bay. There are sand dunes. And wind. So… the sand flies.

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Then a hike back up the sand dunes and back to Peggy.

The plan was to head to Long Beach, and camp out in the caves. But, by the time we got there (after some wrong turns… again), it was dark. We had one head torch, and no idea where the caves were. So we opted to play it safe, and the night turned into a girl’s night at someone’s flat.

The next morning, we were exhausted and there was some discussion of just ending the weekend. We finally decided to make our way to Aramoana, to check out this thin strip of land, known as “the mole”. Once again, awesome to see:

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Unplanned and a little hectic, it somehow turned into an awesome weekend. Back at my flat, I got my work done, and then celebrated St. Patrick’s day Dunedin-style.

Loving this country… the adventures the stories the people the sights. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester will bring.