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New Zealand & Fiji Eco-Adventure

June 29, 2018
After what seemed like days of traveling, we finally landed in Auckland. Shortly after lunch we began a scenic drive to the peaceful town of Raglan. It was on this drive that it became clear to many of us that New Zealand was unlike any other place that any of us had been to. The landscape and flora were noticeably unique and beautiful. The beginning of the drive had us all rowdy and excited, but by the end of the drive, we were all in a relaxed sleepy state. Even Will-who appeared to be the most energetic of us all-fell dead asleep. Like an expert-driver, Charlie whipped us around the last few corners of the drive, to reveal the vast Tasman sea and the setting sun. That woke us all up (except for Will)! Charlie pulled a left turn and drove us up a narrow gravel road that led us to Karioi Lodge. Here, a short cheery man, who also happened to be named Charlie, led us to a lookout platform where we observed the last of the setting sun. He went on to tell us a brief history about the area. As the sun dipped below the horizon, a chilly breeze picked up to remind us that we were back in winter. We eagerly went inside to the communal living area and realized that we would be living alongside some real-life surfer-bums! After settling in, we met back in the communal space, where we all helped cook a stir-fry. Amidst all the chopping, Maddy and Lydia found themselves crying! As it turns out, onion-chopping is no easy task! Out of the chaos came a delicious meal and it didn’t last long! After the cleanup process, we met briefly for Chloe to detail the plan for the next day. Afterwards, we eagerly went off to bed and slept for a looong time.
– Massimo F.

June 30, 2018

On the first full day of our trip, 8 weary travelers awoke to the dewy sunlit scenery. After a quick breakfast we headed into the town of Raglan for some sea kayaking. Here, we met Steve and Ann, who guided us through a sheltered bay, protected from the crashing waves. In groups of two, we kayaked in, out, and around incredible rock structures and arches. We squeezed through narrow channels in between the rock stacks. Overhanging vines and mossy trees made it feel like something out of a movie. Halfway through the kayaking trip, the sun broke through the clouds and warmed us up. After lunch and a game of frisbee, we participated in some ice-breaking group activities to get to know each other better. Later on, we headed into town to get a taste of the local lifestyle and even became acquainted with some locals our age. The day was capped with an amazing fish & chips dinner on the bay. A seal was particularly entertaining, especially when it attempted to get a closer look at Will. Back at the lodge we reflected upon our first full day in New Zealand and celebrated with an intense game of ping pong.

-Massimo F.

July 1, 2018

Our second day here started with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the best kiwi fruit around. After breakfast we loaded up the van and twisted through the countryside to visit the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls. The ten minute hike up was surrounded by stunning native greenery unlike any other. We reached the top of the falls and took in the beautiful kiwi landscape before descending the 261 stairs to the bottom pool. The waters gushed down the falls with an awesome force. When we got back to the lodge we ate lunch and then headed up to the sports barn where we had a surfing lesson. By that point in the day it was raining, but that wasn’t going to stop us from hitting the waves! We all grabbed our wetsuits, hopped in the van and rode to Ngarunui Beach. We hit the waves with a lot of excitement and a little bit of nerves, but those faded away very quickly as soon as we got the swing of things. The afternoon was full of wipeouts, great rides, and loads of fun! To warm up back at the lodge some of us hit the sauna while others went straight for the showers. We all worked together to cook up a mean chili, which we enjoyed at the long table, and after we collectively completed the task of cleaning all the dishes. To wind down, some of us watched Anchorman and some of us went to sleep. It was a really fun day and I look forward to many more like it!

-Lydia S.

July 2, 2018

Day three of twenty four~ The girls all woke up at about seven, and promptly decided to go back to sleep because seven is too early to function. We had a ~lovely~ breakfast, and loaded up on the van, gumboots in tow, and headed out to Sweet As farm. There, we met an elderly woman named Jan, who greeted us with a smile on her face and an ecstatic dog named Minty (who is a beautiful goldendoodle single and ready to mingle on doggy tinder). She showed us the differences between animals struggling in the wild for food versus animals given food, and gave an excited speech on how our generation would revolutionize food production. She explained how important bees are to the New Zealand environment, and her dedication to their survival was evident. I considered getting a hive of my own back home, and decided that I’d at least ask my parents, knowing my dad’s likelihood of leaving the door open… We got a tour of her farm, and we got to walk an alpaca and two goats by the names of Gertrude and, my favorite, Vincent van Goat. I immediately decided to take up the idea of goat ownership with my parents. Following that, Jan offered us a variety of teas, as well as coffee, juice, and water while she made us fresh scones. I myself couldn’t eat the scones due to an allergy, but the others swore that they were as heavenly as they looked (and they looked perfect). We then walked down to a pond and fed the eels, which were huge and actually a little bossy, but still kind of cute (cute to me at least…) We walked back and ate lunch, then went on and planted thirty trees on a steep hill. I played the role of the Terminator and eliminated!! Plants, I mean. I eliminated weeds. Fear not, parents, for your children are safe~ After all of our hard and muddy work, we went back up and had more tea, washing off our gumboots. We said goodbye to Jan and went back to the bus, driving to the ocean and watching the surfers, taking pictures on the rocks. After that we headed back to the lodge and made Indian green curry, with a BEAUTIFUL pavlova for dessert. I sit here now, typing, from the comforts of a blanket surrounded by my group members as we watch The Princess Bride~  Well, goodbye for now then!

-Samantha R.-B.

July 3, 2018

Today we headed back to Jan’s Place for some more environmental community service on her farm. This involved digging up trees and replanting them. This was done with the hopes of them flourishing and growing more trees to further expand the amounts of agriculture on the farm. Surrounded by beautiful animals like Minty, her poodle golden retriever, alpacas, donkeys, sheep, goats, and more, made this work very enjoyable. Jan made us some scones and jam to munch on after working, with fresh honey from her bees. When we finished up at the farm we ventured out for a boat ride in the beautiful harbour of Raglan. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, great people, and hamburgers, everyone had a really great time. Once we finished up with the boat ride we went in to town for some shopping and got to get some laundry done. As though it wasn’t a great enough day already, we went to the black sand beach to play some frisbee and watch a gorgeous New Zealand sunset. After a long day of playing, exploring and hanging out everyone enjoyed either a steak, lamb or gnocchi dinner at Orca restaurant near town. Our last night in Raglan we spent hanging out, and packing up as we got ready to head off to Waitomo tomorrow morning.

-Eden G.

July 4, 2018

We had a late breakfast at 915. Very laid back day. Most of the day was jamming in the car to our two song choices. We drove from Raglan to Waitomo which took about two hours. When we arrived in Waitomo we set up our new rooms for the next couple nights then had lunch. After lunch, we had some more chill time before leaving for a short hike. The hike was beautiful and took us to the top of a hill that was filled with turnips. Birds followed us closely the whole time and were daring enough to fly only three or four feet from us but were careful not to touch anyone. The landscape had a Lord of the Rings feeling to it. There was also a lot of variety to the hike even though we only walked for 10 or 15 minutes. We started walking through a jungley forest then took some bridges over a small river. The trail lead us through a little canyon and into a cave like area. After the cave we continued to the grassy area and towards the turnips. After we got back we had chill time for an hour or so before getting a nice lasagna dinner with salad.

-Josh K.

July 5, 2018

An action packed eventful spectacular day starts out with waking to the sounds of Josh. Struggling to get to breakfast on time, I whipped up my clothing and wore them. Breakfast was packed of cereal, toast, kiwi food, and gluten free cereal. We packed into the car and we drove 5 minutes to a forest. In the forest we saw caverns and different trees. A rapid of water flowed like soda through the forest. The trail we hiked wrapped around into a circle. We went back to Kiwi Paka the hostel we are staying at, and got ready for the caves. When we got to the caves we signed a medical questionnaire. We took a 15 minute car to this place where they keep the wet suits. Then we suited up for the caves. We descended down the stairs to the first repelling spot. We went through different cracks and turns. The waterfalls had tons of water pressure. When we got to the end of the cave we all got a big breath of cold air that filled our lungs. We dove back and finished the day off with pizza and fries.   

-William P. &  Michael L.

July 6, 2018
Despite struggling to wake up after yesterday’s action-filled day of repelling down waterfalls and exploring the Waitomo caves, we managed to prepare for the day of volunteering we had ahead. After breakfast, we headed straight to the Kiwi House where we built a limestone staircase which led to the baby Kiwi nursery. Before the building process began we walked around the kiwi house, seeing a variety of birds endemic to New Zealand. Along with this, we were able to see the Kiwi bird, a national icon within New Zealand and a rare spectacle due to its unfortunate status on the endangered species list. The Kiwi birds were described by our group to look like a cross between a chicken and a rodent. After a tiring few hours of transporting limestone to the staircase location, we headed into the town of Otorohanga to eat lunch and complete a scavenger hunt. This scavenger hunt managed to capture an accurate representation of the culture and art within the town, along with its historical relevance. Finally, after an exhausting morning of volunteering and running around the town, we set out on the road again towards the lakeside town of Taupo.

The town of Taupo is located beside the largest lake in New Zealand that was formed by a crater after the collapse of a volcano. After watching the sunset on the beach and checking into our rooms at the Backpacker Hotel, we ate dinner at the Lakehouse. There we enjoyed a game of rugby on tv while eating our dinners. At the end of the meal, our trip leaders surprised us with a dessert plate of chocolate fondue which was instantly eaten and the perfect way to end the day.
-Maddy K

July 7, 2018
Today we woke up at a brisk 8:30 and got a fantastic breakfast cooked by our wonderful guides, as well as Mossi. After we ate our bagles, eggs, and bacon, we set out on the road toward Huka Falls. As we were going down the road we stumbled onto a local farmers market where there were amazing local baked goods, and a plethora of small knicknacks (I got a pizza looking thing, hellaaa good). We arrived to the falls after a 30 minute car ride, and walked to the intense falls. This was spectacular, with 5 olympic swimming pools worth of water flowing over them a minute, creating a deafining sound. We wrapped it up at the falls and headed to another set of falls. This time it wasn’t flowing, but started when the dam gates opened. The dam gates opened at noon, and the river slowly started trickling down. Before long the big rocks were being submerged with the roaring water. The river filled up, and we left to go check out a park known for its geothermal pools. We arrived and were hit in the face by the intense smell of eggs. We ate lunch and explored the park, walking across mud fields and looking at bright green pools. As we walked around, we got more and more used to the smell, and continued to explore the park. We then left, burned out by all the walking, and took a nap on our way to our next hostel. We arrived and immediately left to go to the Maori experience. This consisted of traditional dancing, cultural displays, a big buffet of traditional Maori food, and a walk through the woods. The food was really great with lamb and this special Maori stuffing. We then jammed out to music on the car ride back to our hostel and crashed after a long day.
Miles K.

July 8, 2018
After a quick breakfast we began our road trip back to Auckland where we first landed in New Zealand. We stopped at a beautiful lake with many pretty white ducks. We packed into the van and started our very long journey to Hobbiton. After sitting in the car for one hour we got out and proceeded to Hobbiton. Our tour guide led us as we explored the set where the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed. It was super cool, (as a child I was always trying to get my parents to build me a hobbit house in place of my room), and everyone really enjoyed seeing the sizes of the hobbit homes and learning about forced perspective. Once we finished the complementary ginger beer, at the end of our tour, we headed back for lunch. We ate an assortment of hot sandwiches and french fries and loaded up the van once more for a long three hour ride to Auckland. We settled into our rooms and went to dinner at Szimpa for our last night in New Zealand. New Zealand was really fun, but everyone is ready for Fiji and the warm weather!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-The Whole Group

July 10, 2018

Today was a whirlwind day.  The group of us who didn’t go to New Zealand arrived at like 6:15 in the morning after an exhausting 11 hour flight.  On the way to our hotel we stopped at a really cute market and looked at some of the local fruits and veggies. Meeting all of the new people once we got to the hotel was amazing.  Everyone was so nice and I soon realized I would have absolutely nothing to worry about with making friends or talking to people. I love my room, I have very quickly made friends with Emily, Maddy, Kerri and Sam and a little while after we all met we went to the beach to do some introduction/orientation type games and the beach was gorgeous and the food was really good; fries in Fiji are about 10x better than fries in the United States (in my opinion at least).  After we went to the beach we came back to the hotel to do a quick change from our suits to go to the Nadi for dinner and sulu shopping! We stopped in a bunch of shops while on the main road where we met lots of really fun and interesting people. We all met back at the Nadi Farmers Club for dinner, and had a good dinner. Once we arrived back at the hotel we practied our Sevu Sevu ceremony with a really cool Nativi local; Solomon.  I loved my first day here and I really can’t wait for the rest of our trip!

-Riley B.