New Zealand Fiji Eco-Adventure 2017
June 29, 2017
Today we arrived in New Zealand! It is a little disorienting because of the time difference and it’s funny because technically we traveled into the future. We exchanged our money to New Zealand money, which is a fun experience. Then we went to a local store to buy gumboots (rain boots) to use for our service projects.
We then went on a three hour drive to Raglan, and settled in at our hostel. It has been a long day(s?) of travel, but it has been fun to get to know everyone and we are all excited for all the adventures to come!
June 30, 2017
Today we set out on our first service project: trapping rodents. After the continental drift when New Zealand separated from Australia, New Zealand went under water and all the mammals died. Once it came out of the water, only birds could reach New Zealand, and since there were no predators, they lost the ability to fly. Once humans moved to the island, we brought along rodents, which are now endangering the native birds.
So we worked together to build little boxes made of recycled materials with traps inside. We then went on a beautiful hike checking and resetting the traps.
After that, we explored the charming town of Raglan, browsing local stores and enjoying the company of our new friends.
Then we all cooked a yummy dinner together, and closed the night with hanging out and playing ping pong. New Zealand is amazing so far!
July 1, 2017
To start off our third day we all had our charming breakfast together, we each made sandwiches for lunch and set out to the Raglan Eel Farm where we met the charming Jan, an older biologist who welcomed us with big smiles and a description of what her farm was all about. The farm was centered around the protecting and breeding of the glass eel back in the waters of New Zealand. Jan then introduced us to her passion of beekeeping and its importance in our environment. After our brief education, Jan took us on a tour of her secluded magical farm (with the help of her loving dog Minty), introducing us to her goat (Vincent Van Goat), sheep, alpacas, and donkeys.
Jan treated us to scones and her home farmed raw honey, made by her very own bees, and after we all headed out onto Jan’s land to plant different flora around the property for her precious honey bees to pollinate. Getting down and dirty in the mud was thoroughly enjoyable and with the help of two Italian woofers we were able to complete the planting in no time. We finally headed down to the pond where we fed the ducks and eels (a slimy experience involving raw beef and quick reflexes). We were all thrilled at this experience and Jan’s generous hospitality, and finished off the service portion of our day with a beautiful hike to Bridal Veil Falls, where we ate lunch. Back at Karioi Lodge, where we played cards, ate pizza, and watched the New Zealand All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions rugby game.
Filled with the success of today, we will all sleep great tonight and can’t wait for the exciting adventures of tomorrow! 🙂
July 2, 2017
To start off the morning, I woke up at 8:03, thinking I was going to be late to breakfast. I ran downstairs to the kitchen in order to be there on time, only to find out I was 57 minutes early. After my lonely venture in the morning the rest of the group came down stairs, and made breakfast. We were off to a boat, for a quick trip around the gulf. The boat was tall and fancy. The captain cooked us burgers to eat on the boat, and taunted everyone with how great the food smelled;). After the boat ride we headed into town, so that the group could go shopping and get snacks for back at the hostel. While shopping everyone could only think about one thing, surfing. Some were super excited, and others were out of their minds nervous. Before we got out to the water, we first had to learn the four steps to getting up on a surfboard. After a long lesson that I was zoned out for most of, we were finally able to set foot in the water (with wetsuits on). Despite the 55 degree weather and cold rain the surfing was exquisite. Everyone in the group was able to get up on the surfboard except for Dan(ha!). After surfing and lots of complaining about how tired everyone was, half of the group sent out for the sauna while the remaining group members took showers. After our shower activities we awaited dinner. For dinner we had stir fry, and orange juice. After a tiring day, and a delicious dinner, I wrote the blog.
July 3, 2017
From our first day in Raglan we have been shocked by its beauty. So, for our third act of community service we participated in a community initiative to keep Raglan bewitching through cleaning its main streets. We started cleaning at 7:00 am, this has been our earliest wake up time. Nearing 45 minutes of work the rain had increased from a steady drizzle to an unshaken shower. This weather lead to the cleaning being cut short, but during the time we were picking up substantial trash was collected. Picking up this trash makes a difference to the people and animals in Raglan.
After a little downtime back at the lodge we headed out to go kayaking. By then, the rain had stopped but the weather was still relatively cool. During our tour we were given the privilege of seeing some of raglans wildlife and environment up close. We saw titans (snail like creators), jellyfish, crabs, and many types of birds. On the kayaks we got a new perspective of Raglans rolling hills and sky-high mountains. During our trip, we got to see “pancake” rocks, which are natural formations on the coast of the bay.
The kayaking was near town so after we did laundry and explored our surroundings some more as the weather was clearing and warming up. Some of the group then went on to a second surfing experience. The rest of the group went back to the lodge and spent some quality time relaxing and listening to music at the “inspiration point”. Inspiration point is a large platform with a view of the bay and mountains.
For dinner we stayed in and ate take out Turkish food. For the rest of the night we unwound to prepare for tomorrow’s great adventures!
July 4, 2017
Goodbye Raglan, good afternoon Waitomo! After attempting to gobble down the rest of the breakfast food and repacking our bags, we said a near-tearful goodbye to Charlie and the Raglan Surf School and squeezed like sardines into the van. We got one last chance to explore the adorable Raglan town, buy some last-minute things, and head out to the winding roads of New Zealand. After getting a teensy bit car-sick and enjoying the diverse playlist we made the night before, we finally made it to the busy city of Otorohanga.
Otorohanga is full of interesting history about New Zealand, which we got to explore and learn about in a very enthusiastic scavenger hunt. We also got free ice cream! We then squished back into the van and drove to our new lodging in Waitomo. We got super hyped to go into the caves as we passed all the posters that depicted our soon-to-be adventure. We then settled into our fantastic new, two-story rooms and chilled. Then, we celebrated the Fourth of July with a very American dinner of hamburgers, french fries, and apple pie.
We all just can’t wait to go into those amazing, glowworm caves tomorrow!
July 5, 2017
At about 8:00 am, we woke up to our first full day in Waitomo, New Zealand. We all groggily shuffled into breakfast to eat some dry breakfast goods provided by the hostile at which we were staying. Shortly after eating our breakfast and drinking our caffeinated beverages, we boarded the “flash Mercedes van” and started our morning excursion. After a 15 minute drive, we arrived at a scenic trail leading to Waitomo’s natural bridge. We trekked for about 10 minutes until we reached the said natural bridge. The stone arch was made of dank limestone covered with green foliage, the light was coming through in pieces due to the botanical obstacles. Craig decided this was a perfect time to whip out his drone and get some air-borne footage of the group and the scenery. Soon though he crashed the drone into the side of a rock, sending it crashing into the river below and its imminent death. Craig took the loss of his beloved drone with grace and positivity. After this we hopped back in our awaiting chariot and went to lunch.
Lunch was sub par but the following endeavor of caving most definitely made up for it. We arrived at Waitomo Adventures, the organization taking us on this promised adventure. We creeped into a deep, dark cave which was less than comforting. For the next 2 and a half hours we maneuvered through the dank caves of waitomo, and abseiling the terrifying holes and underground waterfalls. It was about 5:00 when we wrapped it up. We got back to the hotel, ate some baked mac and cheese, and soon went to bed.
July 6, 2017
Today we visited a kiwi house! We pulled up to a zoo- like building with lots of animal enclosures where we were greeted by a friendly woman named Jo. She showed us the many animals that lived at the Otorohunga Kiwi house, including birds, reptiles, and yes of course kiwis. Then we started a service project complying to New Zealand’s on-going theme of pest control. We bedded rocks along a wire fence to keep out any kind of mammal that would get in and harm any of the birds. After doing some good for the birds of the Otorohunga Kiwi House, we got some quick lunch and drove to the town of Taupo. We settled in at our hotel and went out to dinner by the lake. I ordered a steak on a 400 degree plate which i soon found out i had to cook on the plate. This was confusing, because i’m pretty sure cooking your own food at a restaurant defeats the whole purpose of going out to eat in the first place. Full of food, we piled in the van and drove back to our hotel. Everyone was fast to get in bed and fast to fall asleep.
July 7, 2017
This morning we woke up looking forward to a day full of adventure. Our first destination was the astonishing Huka Falls. The sheer power blew us all away. There was 810 cubic feet of water rushing through per second. Despite the slight drizzle it was still fun to walk along the side of the falls and watch as water constantly poured through. Our next stop was Wai-O-Tapu, a geothermal wonderland. The first thing we noticed was the horrid smell. It reeked of rotten, hard boiled eggs and put a slight damper on the walk throughout the park. The geothermal pools displayed an enormous amount of steam constantly rolling off of their surface. Some of the pools were as hot as 100 degrees Celsius, which equates to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The various pools were green, orange, yellow, and red, depending on their chemical makeup. While the coloration was cool, the smell that the chemicals caused was most definitely not. We ate lunch at some picnic tables outside of the geothermal park then headed to our next town, Rotorua. We settled in shortly before departing for our Maori cultural show at the Mitai Maori Village. We felt like royalty as we got picked up by their van right outside our lodge. The night that laid ahead proved to be incredible. We first learned about the waka, or war canoe, used by the Maori, then saw our traditional hangi meal cooking its final hour underground. Next we went to stand alongside a small, natural spring river to watch warriors paddle down in their waka. They were rowing and chanting powerful words in unison. We were then led to the “show” portion of it which was by far the best part, in my opinion. They performed a traditional welcoming ceremony, sang and danced, show us weapons and games, and performed their powerful, intimidating haka, sporting fierce wide eyes and tongues sticking out. Dinner followed and was very delicious: chicken, lamb, stuffing, seafood chowder, and more. The final portion of our night consisted of a bush walk to see parts of their village and we were even able to see some more glowworms. With full stomachs and happy hearts we headed back to the lodge for a good night’s rest.
July 8, 2017
Our morning kicked off with an agricultural/farm show at the Agrodome. Our show featured an array of 19 breeds of sheep, the shearing of a sheep, milking of a cow (which Chloe honorably got chosen out of the crowd to participate in), the feeding of baby goats and sheep (which Dan did), and the display of some specially trained dogs. After the show we were able to go into the nursery and get in the pen with the baby animals. Our next stop on the journey was Hobbiton, the film set for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a portion of The Hobbit. We walked through the outdoor set and got to see all the hobbit holes, the party tree, and the green dragon. We left Hobbiton after our 2 hour tour and headed for our accommodations just outside of Auckland. We quickly settled in then headed out for our final dinner and night in New Zealand. It has been a spectacular adventure and our departure is bittersweet, but we are all looking forward to the warmer weather and new friends that await us in Fiji.
July 9, 2017
Our morning started off relatively early for we had a flight out of Aukland at 1:00 in the afternoon. The flight was two hours 35 minutes of airtime. We arrived in Fiji around 4:15, the temperature was around 85 degrees. After we had completed security and customs we picked up a pizza and headed towards our apartment hotel. The drive introduced us to Fiji in a shocking way. The only thing separating us from the poverty around was glass windows. Right after arriving at our home for the next two nights we headed towards the beach front, pizza boxes and salad containers in hand. The sun was setting as we ate our pizza with our feet in the water. The clouds lining changed from gold to orange to pink to black in what felt like seconds. In the background we could see two sugar cane fields being burnt, which is a common practice after the fields have been harvested. After dinner we gathered to review rules and go over some new guidelines for our safety in Fiji. Our ‘home’ has a pool so when the meeting had ended that was the next stop. When the night swimming became too cold we all headed back to our rooms to shower and change into dry clothes. Slowly most of the group regathered on room two’s outdoor sitting area.