Travel Blog

I'm in Abel Tasman!!

Hi Everyone! Guess what?? I made the 9 o'clock news here in Wellington! At the start of our group trip to Abel Tasman National Park, our ferry ride hit a massive storm on our way to the south island. For the duration of the 3-hour boat ride, plates were crashing, friends were flipping in chairs, tables were sliding, and over 300 people desperately sought refuge from the overwhelming sea sickness in the nearest bathrooms, sinks, and trash cans. I know this is probably TMI, and I apologize, but if you lived through that scene in Bridesmaids when they eat the bad Mexican food and then go dress shopping, you would be blogging about it too!

Here is a link to the full story, covered by Wellington's own TVNZ news network:

Although I don't have many pictures from the apocalyptic ferry ride, I do have this amazing "before" shot of my friend, Sydney. 30 seconds after this was taken, the first of the big waves crashed up over the front of the boat and blew us towards the door. Poor Sydney, little did she know when this was taken!!

After getting onto solid ground in one piece and many Titanic references later, we finally drove to the backpackers hostel where we would be staying for the night. Sitting right at the start of the Abel Tasman hiking trail, the view was unbelievable!

This is where we slept:

Just kidding! Don't worry Mom, we had roofs over our heads and beds to sleep on and horses to befriend (see below).

After a good night's sleep (much needed), we started our 8 hour hike the next morning from Golden Bay to Tasman Bay. Along the way, we saw some of New Zealand's beautiful wildlife and geological wonders, like this beauty below. Fun fact: Called Split Apple Rock, this boulder is said to have traveled to New Zealand on the melting glaciers after the Ice Age.

We also saw a LOT of green!! This is a pic from my spot in the line up.

At one point, we crossed a swinging bridge over the Falls River. Right before I stepped onto it, the girl behind me mentioned that 2 Swiss tourists were flung from the bridge in a sudden gust of wind last year! (Talk about the worst time to hear that story...) Needless to say, I held on tight.

As I conquered my healthy fear of heights, I did get to enjoy this amazing view. I still can't believe how blue the water is!

After a long day of hiking, my embarrassingly sore muscles were happy to finally reach the place we were staying for the night. To my surprise, home for the night was floating on the Pacific Ocean a few yards away! The boat hotel (pictured below) was one of my favorite parts of this trip. The rooms were cozy, the food was delicious, and we got to see the stars from the deck! Fun fact: I cannonballed from the roof into the sea below. Unfortunately, we didn't get any photos of that, but it was amazing!

After a fun evening of boat shenanigans (which included teaching Down by the Banks to the kiwis on board), we slept well and woke up to a day packed with sea kayaking! It was a perfect day for being out on the water -- warm and not too windy. Here's a pic of our kayaks, pre-voyage.

Out on the sea, we saw dolphins, penguins, AND seals! Although I wasn't too skilled at taking pictures while balancing in my kayak, I did manage to snap this snoozing seal.

Here's a selfie I did manage to take out on the water. Shoutout to prime kayak buddy, Jenny, who carried the team on her back while simultaneously serenading me with Bohemian Rhapsody.

Here's another pic of the view from the water!

After 4 hours of paddling, we finally made it back to the ferry station and headed home. (Luckily, this time with much less vomiting. Still TMI?)

That same week, our dorm, Everton hall, had our annual formal. Fun fact: kiwis don't call school dances formals, but call them "cocktail parties" instead. Here are some pics from our night on the town!

For some reason, this was very hard for me to get used to and I spent most of the night pretending I was at my high school prom again. My flatmate, Madeline, and I even took prom-worthy pics to commemorate the evening! (Photo creds to Kristy, our honorary prom mom.)

We also took an embarrassing number of selfies...

And this beaut...

I also perfected my photo-bombing skills this night. Can you find me?

After a long night of dancing, french fries, and Rihanna, we woke up bright and early the next morning to go to the Cuba Dupa strees festival, where all of the restaurants on Cuba Street set up food stands along the sidewalks. Performers danced, music played over the loud speakers, and my friends and I consumed an impressive number of pork dumplings. Here's a pic of the festival from our post-feast walk.

We even made a new friend! Kristy even got a big (and somewhat static-y) hug.

That pretty much sums up my past few weeks here! We're currently heading into Easter Break, so expect to see a lengthy post coming soon. (Spoiler: we're roadtripping around the South Island!) I hope this blog post finds you well. To end on a fun fact: I have officially been in Wellington for one month!! Madeline and I ate Subway sandwiches on the waterfront to celebrate the anniversary and documented it with the picture below of the Wellington harbor at sunset. I'm so excited to be here -- can't believe how fast the time is flying. Until next time!

I'm in Uni!

These past few weeks, I have spent most of my time getting settled into a routine here in Wellington. I've done all of the adult things I'm supposed to do, like buying groceries, cleaning the "flat" (occasionally...) and finding all of my classes at my new "uni". (Picking up on kiwi lingo - check.)

So to start us off, here's a pic of my new home away from home, The Victoria University of Wellington (also known as "Vic").

With over 16,000 students, Vic's campus is fairly big and always busy with people rushing to class. (Note: the lack of human life in this pic is largely due to the fact that I took this on a Sunday afternoon.)

Because campus sits on top of a hill, we get a really nice view looking out over Wellington, which looks like this:

Pretty, right? It also helps that its summer here in New Zealand, so we've luckily had a lot of sunshine since I've moved in. This has justified many lazy beach days and shenanigans - like riding around the harbor in a 4-person alligator bicycle.

I know what you're thinking, and no - I did not photoshop my head into this pic. I was actually there! Here's documented proof of my 30 minutes inside the alligator.

Next we went to the Red Rocks Marine Reserve, famous for its red rocks (duh) and the fur seal colony that hangs out on them. Fun fact: Fur seals only migrate to the Red Rocks area in the winter months (aka June - September in the land down under). So we didn't get to see any seals, but I did get to snap some pretty cool pics! Like these:

Found some fun sidewalk art along the way!

And some building art too!

On the 12 mile Red Rocks walk, I scoped out some potential "batches" (kiwi for summer homes) to buy when I win the lottery...

When we finally got to the red rocks, we took a quick lunch break (peanut butter and nutella sandwiches - sorry mom) and were harassed by a giant bumble bee. Fun fact: We've been warned that these giant bumble bees don't sting you, but bite instead. How gross!

Here's the crew (aka me, Sydney, Melissa and Kristy) pre-bumble bee invasion.

After a tasty, nutritious lunch, we finally made it to the red rocks and took this pic of the reserve's namesake (plus Kristy!) :

I also took these:

The dragon princess braid pictured below is brought to you by Kristy L.

Got a bit lost on the way home - but found this cool sign! goes to show, home follows you wherever you go. Fun fact: one of my new kiwi friends in my English "paper" (aka class) lived in Beachwood for 2 years!! Honestly what are the odds... so crazy!

In our effort to soak up as much sun as possible, we decided to go to Kapiti Coast (pronounced like "cop" + itty, we were corrected often). On the west coast of New Zealand, most of the beaches have black sand due to its volcanic environment, so the sand is extra hot! Despite burning the bottom of my feet, I still snapped a quick pic before running to the water.

Also still loving the kiwi cup of coffee. Fun fact: They put cocoa powder on top of their cappuccinos, and it's delicious!

My face when it arrived:

They also make a mean Lamington cake (aka sponge cake covered in chocolate frosting and coconut). Obligatory "trying to be artsy" food pic below:

So that pretty much sums up my last few weeks here in Wellington! To finish this off - my "flatmate" Madeline just introduced me to a cool new New Zealand band called six60. Fun fact: The band met at the University of Otago and named themselves after their freshman year address - 660 Castle Street. Here's one of my favorites from them - enjoy! And I hope this post finds you well.

I'm in New Zealand!

Hi mom! I have now been in New Zealand for a little over a week and my iCloud is already telling me that its full from taking so many pictures. Here are a few of my best wanderings so far. In this blog, I'm aiming for mostly pictures, with just enough context to get you through, so hopefully I'll get the balance right. So excited to be here and share it with you all! Anyways, here goes..

This is a shot from my plane ride from CLE to LAX -- I'd like to think I took this pic as I was going over Evanston/Illinois, but it could be Kansas? (I wouldn't know the difference.) Either way, definitely a tearful goodbye to middle America!

In contrast, this is the view from my plane as we approached Wellington. I still can't believe I'm going to school here!

During our orientation for the program, we did a lot of site seeing, bus riding, and picture taking, starting with a farm show in the New Zealand countryside. Here are some of my new furry friends!

Fun fact: Sheep/wool are one of New Zealand's largest exports.

And they had baby lambs too!

And dogs!!

Which reminded me of this little one :)

We then went to Lady Knox Geyser, where I met my two best friends (tall guy and not-as-tall guy). 

After watching the geyser (and geezers), we hopped back on the bus and headed to Waiotapu, one of New Zealand's geothermic national parks. The excess geothermal energy creates some pretty bizarre land formations, such as this one below. From afar, it's pretty, right? Looks normal.

But this is actually a pit of boiling mud! Up close, it looks more like this. (just goes to show - things aren't always what they seem.)

Then there's the Devil's Bath, a famous hot spring in Waiotapu known for it's bright yellow color. Apparently the water is extremely rich with sulfur and the geothermic heat coming up from underneath the pool keeps the sulfur from settling, giving the Devil's Bath it's color. Also, with a ph level of 2, this natural wonder is extremely toxic. Each morning, park rangers have to fish out the dead birds that fly too close to the water's surface!

Less than 100 feet away, we saw this geological wonder. It's a heart-shaped pit of natural crude oil. (oh the irony!) We were told that the oil is too unrefined to use, so it has remained untouched by human hands.

When Lord of the Rings was being filmed, one of the sound editors visited Waiotapu and heard the gurgling of the pit pictured below. He was so inspired by this brooding natural wonder that he came back the next day to record the sound. It's now the background sound in the movie every time the city of Mordor appears on screen. Even though I am not much of a Lord of the Rings fan - I still thought this was a cool fun fact. 

On a very unrelated note, we also went Zorbing during our orientation. For those of you who don't know, zorbing is an extreme "sport" New Zealand invented where you climb inside a giant plastic ball and roll down a hill. Although I was pretty nervous at first, it was actually a lot of fun! I have a new found respect for my hamster, Hammy now. (RIP)

Another zorbing picture.

After zorbing, we took quick showers at the hostel and got ready for our dinner at the Maori village. The Maori people make up the indigenous population here in New Zealand, and are a major part of kiwi heritage. They are known for their war dance, the "haka". Below is a picture of one of the Maori villagers performing the haka for us, which was traditionally performed to intimidate strangers and determine whether they would be friend or foe.

We also saw live kiwis -- New Zealand's national bird. Unfortunately they are nocturnal and very sensitive to light, so we weren't allowed to take pictures. However, I did snap a pic of this sign on my way out.

Not to be confused with this.

Finally, we made it to Wellington after orientation and I moved into my dorm room. I have 4 "flatmates", who are all kiwi and very nice!

The city is awesome! In the past few days, my friends (Kristy + Sydney) and I have had ample free time to explore the city, check out the beaches, and soak in the New Zealand summer sun. Yesterday, we hiked Mount Victoria, which overlooks the entire city, and took these pics.

This is proof that I've made friends!

more proof!

We even made a friend at the harbor!

Shortly after, we headed over to the museum to check out the new DreamWorks exhibit. This consisted of a make-your-own-animation station, original character sketches from all of my favorite DreamWorks movies, clips from live story pitching meetings, and so much more! I could have spent all day in there (and taken hundreds more pics), but here are just a few of the gems. 

First, this is the sculpture that Shrek's set design team created to map out the layout of Shrek's beloved swamp home.

Similarly, the character development team on Shrek used clay to figure out Shrek's physical dimensions.

The How to Train Your Dragon team created a map of the fantastical world that Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, explore throughout the film. Made out of wood and paper, they used this map to ground the story in a geographic logic of sorts.

Zoom in - this is Berk, the city where the story primarily takes place. Gahhh I wish I could draw!

So that pretty much sums up week one of New Zealand! Sorry to swamp you all with photos - I'm hoping to post a bit more regularly moving forward. Overall, orientation and settling in has been extremely fun and relatively easy and not as stressful as I thought it would be!

To end this obnoxiously long blog post, here's a fun fact about my new kiwi home: Wellington has more coffee shops per capita than New York City. (And it's delicious too!) Anyways, I hope this post finds you well :) until next time!