New Zealand & Fiji Eco-Adventure
June 29- July 1, 2019
Thanks to the help of our instructors, Steve and Dave, we managed to complete the expedition despite the tides and cold water, completing the challenge as a team and taking in the beautiful views. Afterwards we enjoyed a picnic on the water front with some pesky seagulls, and had some impromptu rugby lessons. Sadly, we lost the rugby ball to the estuary, and in the end were unable to recover it.
~ By Phelan H.
July 3, 2019
Today we went to an eel and bee farm to plant some trees and help out our new friend Jan, who has lived on this farm for 20 years! There were many animals, like alpacas and goats. It was such a beautiful place! The plants were so lush, and the animals seemed very happy.
When we got there, we met all the animals- the sheep were very excited to see us. Then we had some tea with scones, which were delicious! Then, everyone helped clear some gravel. After lunch, we went and got to feed some eels. They were very big and silly. There, we also saw some ducks and a goose with a bad leg, who had been shot- Jan takes on a lot of animals who have been hurt or abused at her farm. In the middle of planting trees, Jan’s WOOF volunteer asked us to help wrangle some sheep. Apparently a male sheep got in with the girls, so we had to catch him. Alejandro chased him with a stick, and after a while we finally got the girls separated from the boys.
After the wrangling, we took a break and had some more tea. There were a few more trees left to be planted, and after finishing up we said goodbye to Jan. It was a good day!
~ Tatum S.
July 4, 2019
Today I woke up, and it was the 4th of July in a country that doesn’t celebrate it!
The morning was rainy and cold, so today was the day we got to do our laundry (I mean no sarcasm with this, I’ve been looking forward to doing my laundry since we got on the plane!) We got a chance to go back to the town of Raglan while doing our laundry. We experienced the kind people through our lunch at the Shack, the nice woman and her dog in the laundromat, and the cool surfer dude in the Raglan Surf Superstore. After our laundry was done, we got back in the van and headed to the lodge for our surf lessons. We started our lesson in the “Barn” at Kaiori Lodge where we are staying, with our instructors Jane and Hemi. They went through the basics and let us practice on foam surfboards, before going to the beach. We all got our stances perfect, and our four steps memorized, and then headed to the beach.
When we got there, it was rainy and windy. We quickly got our wetsuits on and ran to the beach We did another quick practice when we were on the beach, and then headed to the water. Surfing was surreal, because we were on a black sand beach, and it was a bit harder because of the rain. We were in the water for an hour or so, and everyone got to stand at least once! After surfing, we headed back to the lodge and got to experience the sauna for the first time. The sauna was a small wooden box, but somehow 10 of us actually fit. After some time in the sauna, it was time for burgers and apple pie to end our 4th of July.
~ Taylor C.
July 5, 2019
Happy Cinco de Julio everyone! Today we woke up early to a continuation of yesterday’s rain. For breakfast we had crepes, and started our service project with a man named Rock. Before we began, we all took bets on who when the rain would stop, with Charlie and Aleiya promising a prize to whoever was closest by the end of the day. I was pessimistic and said 3:58pm.
Because of all the rain, we stayed inside and half of us cut mandarin oranges from the Karioi lodge property, and half of us squeezing the oranges into a bowl for fresh orange juice. Most of us who were squeezing ended up with orange hands by the end, but we ended up with 6 jugs of the best orange juice I’ve ever tasted! After we were done we headed to the Raglan Pier for our boat tour of the harbor. We learned about Maori culture as Uncle B. (the captain) welcomed us onto the boat with the traditional breath of life greeting. He enlightened us with Maori culture and taught us the three steps to the ultimate Kiwi greeting that locals use. We have made sure to utilize this greeting the rest of the day (widening your eyes and nodding your head, you say “sweet-as Bro!” in your loudest voice).
On the boat we had burgers and fries, feeding the leftovers to the birds on the back of the boat. At around 3pm we got off the boat and drove to a 60 meter high waterfall. It also stopped raining, which meant that Thomas won the prize of a whole bag of gummy Jet Planes. The clouds parted like Moses in the Red Sea, and opened up to a gorgeous view of the sky. From the top of the waterfall to the bottom was 261 steps, but I only counted 259. When we were done taking pictures, at the bottom we climbed all the way back up the 261 steps, but I didn’t count that time.
On the way back to the lodge we stopped at a beach to watch the sunset and Dave (one of the surfers). After a quick break at the lodge, we went off for dinner at a restaurant called The Orca. All the guys wore matching bow ties. During dinner, we played the “who has the ball” riddle game. Back at the lodge we chilled out and went to bed. Happy Cinco de Julio, love you fam!
July 6, 2019
The shrill sound sound of my tiny watch alarm awoke not only me, but also my roommate. Unlike him I did not go back to bed. Instead, I stumbled around with my headlamp, gathering my running clothes. Once changed, I went out for a spectacular run. Not spectacular for the feeling during the run, but spectacular for the sunrise that was seen. The only way that it could be described is as a Bob Ross painting with light red and orange on an intense dark blue canvas. Purely hills, the run left me drained and hungry for the bagel and eggs breakfast. Just imagine, 12 starving teenagers given free range to eggs and bagels. Needless to say, the seemingly endless amounts of food soon disappeared.
We then had to pack our bags, clean our rooms, and hop onto the bus. Being the leader of the day, I was able to sit in the front with Charlie and Aleiya. The perks of being the day’s leader came down to 3 bonuses: being able to see the road clearly, learning about New Zealand from Charlie, and being the DJ. The trip was filled with great songs (finally). Great songs you ask? Well, of course that includes the legendary band of Queen. Charlie drove us south through the truly rolling hills from Raglan to Waitomo. Once we passed through the majestically green hills of New Zealand, we settled down in awe of the four tiny motels in Waitomo. After unpacking our bags, we made ourselves lunch (wraps where we put in whatever we thought would taste good). Naturally, there was a small fight over the limited supply of meat.
I then called my family, and what I thought would be 5 minutes turned into a 20 minute recollection of all the amazing things we have done so far on this trip. It was surprisingly nice to hear from my family. The group then headed out on a 3 hour hike that took us through forest, by rivers, and onto cow poop, and close to the piercing eyes of a curiously confident herd of cattle. The hike was perfectly planned to end at the town’s playground, where we watched a gorgeous sunset. During this time, we witnessed the incredible acrobatic skills of Nawaf (aka faceplant).
We then headed to dinner which was served at the hotel. After dinner we did peach and pit (highs and lows of the day), and played Mafia. I was only able to play two rounds before I passed out asleep on a bean bag. The group apparently played two more rounds and many games of Monopoly Deal. Then my roommate woke me up and we went to our room. I immediately jumped onto my bed and my roommate went to the bathroom- in the 30 seconds that he was there I had fallen asleep.
July 7, 2019
Hey guys! Today was a busy, yet engaging day. It started off at 8am when we ate a delicious breakfast at our new lodge in Waitomo. After breakfast, we gathered in our van to go on a series of short nature hikes. Our first hike took us to a splendid natural bridge. On the hike there, the sun was beaming through the trees, giving the leaves a brilliant golden glow. As we arrived at the bridge, I marveled at nature’s ability to create magnificent structures that some assume can only be man-made.
Second, we briefly explored a natural cave, giving us a taste of what we would experience later. Finally, we saw an amazing waterfall, where we took some nice group photos. In the van, on the way back Nawaf and his melodic voice lead us as we sang a few catchy songs. We had a quick lunch back at the hostel before going to explore the Waitomo caves. The air was buzzing with excitement as we hopped off the van. However, 20 minutes later we hopped off a different van to get to the caves. We entered a large warehouse, and put on wetsuits, gum boots, and additional wetsuit jackets. Furthermore, we split into a couple of groups to receive some instructions on how to safely repel. Entering the cave, I was a little nervous, but also excited. Our first major repel brought us deep into the cave, and soon led us to a small underground waterfall. I repelled down the waterfall and was disoriented, but exhilarated as the water was raining down on me. From there, I helped the other members of my group down the waterfall, and directed them down a small suspicious tunnel. Eventually, I reluctantly entered the tunnel, and squeezed into a much larger cavern where I was greeted by my groupmates. We then traversed through the caves and army crawled through many small spaces. I enjoyed these caving adventures, and further appreciated my hot shower afterwards.
As we arrived back at the hostel, we enjoyed pizza and played some intense card games. I finished off the night writing this blog, and plan on getting some sleep for some more fun adventures tomorrow!
~ Thomas B.
July 8, 2019
Today the whole group woke up bright and early for a breakfast of cereal and toast at 7am. During the meal we watched HGTV and discussed dreams from last night. Alejo spilled Thomas’ tea, and I stubbed my toe on the table. After this eventful breakfast, we hopped in the van and drove to Otorohanga Kiwi House to help Sue clean the bird sanctuaries.
The group split into two, and my group worked on pruning the bushes, and uprooting the massive blackberry vine. After an hour’s work, the whole group headed inside for some morning tea, including trail mix and fruit. We then had the chance to watch the feeding of the Kea and Kaka birds, which was super cool.
While the other half of the group went to the cages to continue our work, my group explored the kiwi bird night caves, and other bird areas. After touring the sanctuary and purchasing various souvenirs, the whole group reunited for some leftover pizza and sandwiches on some picnic benches by the sanctuary. WE then headed to the heart of otorohanga for a scavenger hunt where we would learn about the history of New Zealand and try out a classic New Zealand ice cream flavor: the hokey pokey, made up of vanilla ice cream and bits of honey comb. It was the perfect frozen treat for a perfect chilly day.
After exploring, we loaded into the van and headed toward Taupo, home to New Zealand’s largest lake. On the way, we saw beautiful mountain views, sang along to music, and accidentally drove into the entrance of a prison after Charlie made the wrong turn. After about 2 hours, we arrived at Finlay Jack’s hostel and eagerly went to drop our luggage off in our rooms before driving to the lake. We parked near a park and walked through a mini winter festival of lights that ran along the lake. We took pictures along the path, and then strolled over to the restaurant where we would eat dinner. Afterwards, we gathered our dirty clothes to do a much needed load of laundry. We finished the night off with a group meeting and a movie, which was the perfect, relaxing way to end the day.
July 9, 2019
Good morning from Finaly Jack’s Hostel! Yesterday was our first and last day in the lovely village of Lake Taupo. After breakfast and sending my shirts in for another round of drying, I took on the valiant task of jenga, stacking suitcases into the back of our van. We then headed to New Zealand’s largest waterfall (by volume), called Huka Falls. The color of the waterfalls and their immense size was incredible. After stopping there for a short bit, we headed to the sulfur springs park, where a short little boat ride took us across the river into the steam. It was nothing like I’ve ever seen or SMELLED before- all I have to say is that the smell of eggs has been forever ruined for me. At the end of the hike around the trail, we were ravenous. Luckily, a small cafe in the park had some nice apple muffins and hot chocolate to offer! We even had some contact with the outside world by checking some news in the cafe. When we finished, we hopped back into the van, cranked on some Cat Empire, and headed to find a spot to make lunch. We got lucky and soon found a nice little picnic spot. Lunch was quick but delicious, and soon enough we found ourselves back on the road again. Some short 45 minutes later, we found ourselves pulling into the Backyard Inn, my favorite hostel by far because the rooms felt very cabin-like. Since we still had a little while until our huge feast, we decided to check out the pool, which we found was outside and naturally heated by nearby sulfur springs. Unfortunately, it also smelled quite a bit like eggs. After swimming for a while and showering off the egg smell, Sophie, Tatum, and I grabbed some ice cream.
At around 4:45pm, the van squad got back together and headed to a traditional Maori feast and show. Everything about it was incredible, and it was really amazing that we got to spend one of our last nights in New Zealand immersing ourselves further into the Maori culture. We ate a meal of potatoes and lamb that had been cooked underground for 4 hours, and then listened to another Maori tribe who was visiting from the South Island, perform a beautiful song (check out Rob Ruha on spotify!). Later in the night, when the festivities had ended, we circled up for our usual peach and pit, and then played cards until it was time for lights out.
July 10, 2019
Hello from Auckland! Today we woke up early for our drive to Hobbiton, the set of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It was fun! There were a lot of Lord of the Rings fans (but I’m not one of them). We had a hobbit feast inside of “Baggins town”, and it was delicious. Then, we had a 3 hour drive to Auckland. I call it “nap trip,” because we all had a good nap on the way. We eventually made it to the airport hotel, and had some group activities and fun, including an appreciation circle as we closed this half of our trip and (very sadly) said thank you to Charlie before she leaves tomorrow. We even played a game where we tried to see who knows Charlie the best! After this, we went out to dinner and the burger was AMAZING! Then we came home and prepped before our big day of travel to Fiji tomorrow.
July 11, 2019
Good morning from Auckland! This morning will be our last time spent in the wonderful land of New Zealand. Breakfast this morning was the latest we’ve had yet, falling at 8:45. Some of the group, was allowed to stay in the rooms, and finish a movie we started yesterday. After getting ready for the 10am check out, the group was ready for Fiji, our next destination. We caught a bus to the airport, and took in the amazing views for the final time. It was a sad time, as everyone said bye to Charlie. She was such a good leader, and we will all miss her!
A quick bag drop, and security check-in left downtime for everyone to grab food and use our phones. Personally, I called my friends and family, and most of the team did the same. Our flight departed at 2pm, and everyone was very excited to land in a new place. Fiji differs greatly from New Zealand, meaning the group would have to adapt. One of the first things I noticed after clearing my bags, was the much warmer climate. The first thing we had to do was exchange our currency. I made sure to keep a 5 and 10 dollar bill from New Zealand, because of how cool they looked. After meeting our new group leader Craig (and Jo who we had met earlier), we headed to the car park and waited for our van. The van ride was pretty quick.
As we arrived at our beach resort. The resort was super chill, and the guys instantly hopped into the pool. The water felt super nice, and we found fun playing keep away with a coconut. We enjoyed our first great meal at the resort, and sat down for a chat. Our first chat as a group went well- we discussed our trip and upcoming activities tomorrow. Tomorrow we will meet 10 new group members, and I speak for the group, when I say we are all super excited. New Zealand was super beautiful and amazing, but Fiji is a whole new adventure to be had.
~ Jack S.
July 12, 2019
Hello from Nadi! Today was our first full day in Fiji. We all woke up super early, and eagerly met the new kids, who are going to join us for the rest of the trip. We all had breakfast, and then sat and talked by the pool. Then, we had our first group meeting, and prepared for a walk on the beach, where we played some get-to-know-you games and did some icebreakers. We then had some pizza by the beach, and headed back to the resort. We had some free time before we went to the market, so we had a quick dip in the pool to cool off from the sweltering heat (quite the change from freezing New Zealand).
Then we all changed and went into town to by our sulus for our upcoming week in Nativi village. Sulus are similar to sarongs that are traditional to wear throughout the day here in Fiji. We also took this time to buy some souvenirs/gifts for our friends and families back home. Then we had a dinner out at the Nadi Farmers Club. We all enjoyed some delicious food, and a live musical performance. We rounded out the night with a practice for tomorrow night’s Kava ceremony that we will have in Nativi, called a Sevu Sevu ceremony. This ceremony will welcome us into the Nativi village and our homestay. We followed the practice with a quick dip in the pool, card games, and just overall rest before all of the many activities to come.
~ Zawadi B.