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New Zealand & Fiji Islands 2016

July 2, 2016

Ah! Finally, after months of anticipation we all met up at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX airport. I look around and see my family for the coming month. There was Misha the Eager, an amateur chicken lover. Noah the ProfessionalGoPro Footy Editor the 2nd, And then there was Declan, our much loved DJ. Aside from these fine lads there was Adam, Emma, Lucia, Scarlet, Kira, Sydney, and Pia. All of whom were deserving of equally rad titles, but for sake of keeping this short and to the point I’ll skip over those.

Our travel days were all in all pretty rad. Many movies were watched, including the Hateful Eight. Another instant classic from Tarentino, I would rate it an easy 8/10 and highly recommend it. Despite it being an intimidating series of flights to the other side of the world, time flew by pretty quick in the company of new old friends and Samuel L. Jackson’s commanding voice. Just hearing him talk makes me feel like a baby swaddled in a warm blanket, clutched to a mother’s tender breast. The other main highlight of our travel days was exploring the Warehouse, which is an Aotearoan cornucopia of all things awesome and practical, like gumboots.

Our first day in New Zealand was primarily spent adjusting to Jet lag and learning our agenda for the coming weeks. We spent time all around the town of Russel, doing a wide variety of things ranging from a good bit of Mahjong at Sally’s family restaurant (bless her soul) to bushwacking our way through the jungle to even befriending the local population of chickens. CJ, wherever you are, know we care for you and that you were our favorite chicken. We all wish you nothing but the best.

-Sam L.

July 3, 2016

Today, we started off with a warm breakfast at sweet Sally’s and then proceeded to the top of a lush green hill which belongs to the Kiwi Conservation. We immediately sprang into action by ripping the invasive pods off the indigenous plants. After mounds of vines were collected and wheel barrows were filled, we took our lunch break on the beach. Once we grabbed our sandwiches and chocolate croissants, we jumped from rock to rock, occasionally splashing the small pools of tide water, only to find the perfect lunch spot, which overlooked the calm sea and bay of islands. With only a few encounters from our seagull friends, we headed back to the beach to play a quick round of Frisbee before hopping back on the bus for more service. We pulled widdles, a small invasive weed that quickly matures into trees, and many of which led to dirty bottoms. We ended by sawing down the last of the widdle trees, climbing up the bus, and dumping out our gummies (rain boots) filled with rocks and leaves. We head back to our lodge and once we cleaned up, we left for our dinner, where we welcomed high schoolers from New Zealand. We then chatted with the kids during dinner and played a large game of cards and the interactive game of pukana! We all stood up and slapped our thighs to a beat and shouted pukana back and forth to each other. After our goodbyes, we ended our night with warm fuzzies.

-Pia S.

July 4, 2016

Happy Fourth of July in New Zealand! To start off the day, we hopped in the van, singing the national anthem very loudly, and made our way over to Sally’s for some gooey pancakes. After breakfast, we drove for forty-five minutes to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where we learned about the history of New Zealand through cultural performances and guided tours. Following the Treaty Grounds, we took the ferry, while still sitting in our car, back to Sally’s for lunch. At Sally’s, we all agreed that we had some of the most amazing soup. I personally loved the chowder. Completely stuffed, we went to work on our service projects with the Kiwi Foundation. We each grabbed multiple baby trees and headed deep into the woods where many laughs were shared as we got muddy from head to toe. After planting around two hundred trees, we climbed up a hill to look over the entire bay of islands. It was one of the most beautiful sites I had ever seen with the perfect, pink sunset as well. We ended the day at Sally’s, munching on hamburgers and fries. We couldn’t go without these things on the fourth of course! Overall, it was a very fun and adventurous day.

-Sydney W.

July 5, 2016


Happy Fourth of July in the US!

It started out as another beautiful morning in Russel, New Zealand. Everybody left the comfort of their beds to enjoy a delicious breakfast at Sally’s. We all stuffed ourselves knowing we had a long day of work that involved lots of ginger cutting and pulling gorse (an invasive plant). After our first round of work, we had lunch, stretched, and hydrated. We went back to work until four and then we got to do laundry. We relaxed while watching the sunset and headed over to Sally’s for our last supper there. Sally prepared us pasta alla bolognese. Everyone enjoyed dinner very much, but was saddened because we all knew it was our last meal prepared by Sally. We packed into the van and went back to our rooms for a good night’s rest anticipating our long travel day to Waitomo.

– Declan P.

July 6, 2016

Today we woke up at the crack of dawn to prepare for the long day ahead. We packed all of our bags into the van and made our way to Sally’s for one final breakfast before the six-hour drive from Russell to Waitomo. After enjoying Sally’s warm toast and hot chocolate, we said goodbye to her, her family and Russell. We drove two and a half hours singing along to our van playlist before making a stop at Kerry Strongman’s art studio in Te Hana. He makes awesome sculptures and jewelry out of petrified wood that is incredibly old. We got a personal tour of his gallery and studio during which we learned about his life history, the wood he works with, and what his pieces symbolize. He also let us take pictures and even sit in a huge wooden throne that he carved himself. After our tour, we each chose small jewelry items to buy either for ourselves or for loved ones. As we made our purchases, Kerry explained the meaning behind each item. After giving a blessing to our newly purchased stone and wood necklaces, he gave us each a free rock to keep that would remind us of New Zealand. We thanked him and said our goodbyes before going back in the van once again to continue our journey. After another hour of driving, we stopped for lunch and we all got some sleep on the final few hours of the trip. We arrived at Waitomo, got settled into our rooms and had a nice dinner. Then we got a good night sleep to prepare for our caving adventure tomorrow. We made it!

– Lucia

July 7, 2016

Hello! Today, we all woke up and ate breakfast excited for the amazing day ahead. After eating, we all piled into the van and drove to Waitomo Adventures where we meet our guides. After Meeting T, Fish, and Craig, we all went to the caves. Upon arrival, we were given wetsuits, gumboots, and finally slipped into harnesses. The group then walked to an area with three poles and learned how to use the rack on our harnesses and abseil. After we had a go, we walked down to the cave opening. We climbed down to a big hole that you could not see the bottom of, and abseiled down. After quite a bit of squeezing through rocks, we came to a part where we clipped onto a rope and fell through a small hole in the rocks. It was terrifying! As we went down we were pummeled by waterfalls and landed in pools of water. We then lied down on our stomachs crawled into a little opening where we were told to turn off our head lamps so we were able to see the glow worms on the ceiling above. After lots of climbing and crawling through rocks, we made it out of the wet caves. With gumboots full of water, we trekked up the hill to change back into our warm, dry clothes. We had New Zealand’s finest two-minute noodles for lunch back at the lodge. Following lunch, we continued with warm, hot showers. We met back at five and all went on a walk to see more glow worms. It was extremely muddy but totally worth it when we got to see the beautiful glow worms light up the forest. It was a magical sight.

Scarlett B.

July 8, 2016

After a gnarly time at Waitomo, the squad set off to Raglan! It was a pretty uneventful van ride as most of us were sleeping. We then awoke to the breathtaking beauty of the Raglan beach. On the way to our lodge we drove through the downtown Raglan area, passed through the bay, and even got to see some of the surfers shredding waves on the beach. We briefly unpacked at our lodge and then set off to downtown Raglan. Imagine a quaint downtown area had a love child with a surfer’s paradise and you will have some sort of idea what it’s like to live in Raglan. We all initially split up, but as fate would have it, everyone chose to eat at The Shack, a lovely eatery where the curly fries were something out of a Food Network show. After our stomachs were full from The Shack, we set off into town to go shopping. We went to surf, thrift, and gift shops, along with plenty of other local hot spots. Two parts of town that especially stood out were the surfboard photo shoot and background, taken courtesy of Kira’s Polaroid. Finally once we exhausted the options that Raglan’s downtown had to offer, we jumped in the van and watched surfers do their thing at the beach for half an hour. Our time after watching the surfers was spent playing Foosball, cards, and ping pong. We then had tasty lasagna for dinner, cheesecake for dessert, and then headed off to bed!

– Noah L.

July 9, 2016

After getting settled into Raglan, the girls and I woke up bright and early to catch some early morning sunrise meditation at Inspiration Point. It’s a beautiful overlook on the edge of a tall hill. The overlook has a great view of the ocean and the gorgeous overgrowth around us. It’s the perfect place to yell, “I’m the king/queen of the world!” We walked back to the kitchen to get some good grub. Sam and I prepared some cereal, yogurt, toast, and of course, a kiwi classic, Milo. For those Americans back home, Milo is a malt and chocolate drink that is best served hot and is as delicious as hot coco. After breakfast, we all packed in the van to head to a farm for community service. It was so rad! I went on a scavenger hunt for potatoes and walked an alpaca! I held a four day old goat Timmy and played with a dog named Minty. It was a beautiful day on the farm and it made me rethink living a city life and just live on a farm instead. We had onion-filled burgers and chips for lunch. Then, we headed to the eel farm to feed the eels meat or as I like to call them water snakes. After that, we got into kayaks for an easy cruise down the river. Shout out to my bestie Misha for being my kayak buddy. We kayaked to a beautiful boat to continue the journey across the river. We were greeted with a warm welcome in the Mallory language. We set sail to head back to the van, played cards, and were educated about the rock formations lining the coast. Fun fact: The floating rocks in the movie Avatar were inspired by the “pancake” rocks here in Raglan because of their many layers and they appear to be floating on the water. We got back to shore and went in the van to get back to Karoi Lodge. We hiked up to Inspiration Point to catch the sunset and to share our warm fuzzies and cold prickles. We headed back down the hill to grab some dinner. It was SO GOOD. We had chicken curry with white rice and soft pita bread. Alongside was soft, warm brownies that were oozing with fudge and New Zealand’s famous vanilla ice cream scooped on top. New Zealand’s vanilla ice cream is sweeter and creamier. Yum! After dinner, Scarlett, Sam, Misha, and I watched the stars and saw a shooting star, too! Score! We went back to our rooms and dreamed of surfing the next day and a pre-surfing yoga session. Am I in Heaven or a hippie commune? The world may never know. With love and good vibes,

-Kira xoxo

July 10, 2016

No better way to start off the day than going to the Farmer’s Market. Looking around all the cool stop, I decided to buy some amazing nachos with Kira and Scarlett. The drink we had was a mix of many fruits which was very flavorful as well. As we regrouped to head back to our lodge, we all conversed on what we had purchased. Once we got back, we had a little down time to play cards and nap in the hammock. Sam, Noah, and I played with some darts. At two o’clock, we started our surfing lessons. As we sat watching the instructors telling us what to do, I couldn’t wait to start. Finally after forty-five minutes, we jumped into the vans to go to the beach. Once we started, Emma, the first to catch a wave, made it look so easy. Quick shout out to Kira for shredding it up and Scarlett for taking some great pictures and footage. After that, we came back and went to the sauna. Then, we proceeded to take showers. We ended the night eating some delicious Hawaiian pizza and ice cream. The ice cream was well deserved after hours of surfing.


July 11, 2016

So far the trip has been awesome! From Russell to Auckland we have seen and experienced the Kiwi way of life. Today started with a windy van ride from Raglan to the city of Auckland. We then arrived to our hotel and stored our bags, but quickly headed out into town for some shopping and lunch. Everyone decided to get their own type of food for lunch because of the great diversity in the city. After eating and buying gifts for our families we headed back to the hotel for some down time. We played cards and looked at all the cool things we bought before leaving for dinner. After walking on the waterfront, we went to dinner at a place on the wharf that was excellent! We all shared our warm fuzzies for our time in New Zealand and reflected on the strong bonds we have created in such a short time. We ended the night with ice cream as we said good bye to New Zealand.

July 12, 2016 (FIJI)

Bula! We’re in Fiji! Today was big travel day. Half of the group arrived from Los Angeles early in the morning. They passed the day with time on the beach and checking into our resort before the NZ kids arrived. The NZ group arrived later in the afternoon to Fiji. We all met at Saweni Hotel to have dinner and meet each other as one whole group. After some name games and ice breakers we were all off to bed tired from the long travel day.

July 13, 2016 

Today we shrugged off our jetlag and began with a breakfast around 8 AM. There was toast and cereal with local fruits. I was so happy because I feel like my jetlag is gone because I slept through the whole night. Next we headed to the beach which was a short walk from the hotel. We played Frisbee, listened to music and worked on our tans. We were at the beach for a couple of hours getting to know each other and having fun in the sun. It was so warm and so lovely to be surrounded by such amazing people in a wonderful place. After a yummy Chinese food lunch we embarked on a trip to Nadi town and went shopping. We bought sulus for the village and a bunch of people got henna, which was super fun! After the town we had dinner at a really nice restaurant which involved dancing and lots of laughs. We met Solomon back at the hotel. Solomon is a member of the Nativi village we will be staying in. He reviewed several Fijian customs and traditions that we should be aware of prior to entering the village. I am very excited to meet my host family and help their community tomorrow!