Week 9 & 10: Earth, Air, Fire and Water

The last thing we did in week 9 was go to Tiri Tiri Mantangi, an island an hour and a half off the coast of Auckland. Up until the late 20th century, this island was one big farm and all the native birds there were either completely driven away or nearly gone. Their were tons of pests like mice and rats on the island. It was transformed into an animal and plant sanctuary in the early 1980s. To this day, both bird and plant populations are still growing and the island is doing a great job at preserving lots of nearly extinct New Zealand wildlife.

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Early Saturday morning we left for our week trip across the North Island. we started off by going to Raglan, a small coastal village south of Auckland. The village had one very high bridge, about 10 meters high. Jenni, our biology teacher and tour guide told us to jump off off it, and so we did. The hostel we stayed in had a pool table, and we spent the first night playing pool, having dinner and drinking some beers while getting to know new people from all over the world. the next morning we went surfing at a beach. it was my first time surfing, but it actually went quite well. after being completely demolished by some of the bigger waves in the back, I decided to try some smaller waves closer to the beach, and I managed to get up and stand a good few times.

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In the afternoon we traveled to Waitomo, which is famous for its glowworm caves. I had already seen glowworms on the weekend trip so I decided not to go, but some friends of mine did go and said the caves were very different and incredibly beautiful. they rafted through the dark caves which were solely lighted by the glowworms.

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The next day we went to Taupo, the center of the North Island. It has a huge lake with lots of famous rivers leading into it and tons of activities around the lake and on the rivers. We went on a trip in a Hamilton Jet Boat across the river where both the Hobbit and Yogi Bear were filmed. We had a blast. Our very skilled driver got us real close to the rocks on the sides, did some powerful turns and dove with the whole boat into rapids. We ended up being completely soaked and we had enough adrenaline for a few days.

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In the afternoon we went to some natural hot springs, pools with water up to 45 degrees Celsius in which people were just swimming around. It was very relaxing, even though the hottest one I could handle was only 30-something degrees Celsius.

The next day we were supposed to go on an eight hour hike, but the pass was deemed to dangerously by authorities because of wind speeds up to 85 kilometers an hour. Some of us then went bungee jumping of a 50 meter high bridge and others went on a swing from that same bridge. It was quite a sight to see everyone just free falling of a bridge so high up.

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after that we went on a different hike along the same river we went Jet Boating on and hiked all the way up to the Huka falls, one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist attractions. It was only a small hike up there, and the view was well worth it. Huka Falls.jpg

The next day we went to Rotorua, where we visited a traditional Maori village, which had some enormously hot natural pools and geysers. These pools were so hot that some were even boiling and all were used to cook their traditional food, but also eggs and corn. This is possible because only 30 meters under the ground, there is still hot lava flowing. It was almost surreal.

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After that we went to Hot Water Beach, a beach on which we could dig our own hot pools. beach was on some places so hot that I just couldn’t stand on it. turns out I really can’t handle hot water, because some of my friends didn’t really have much trouble with it. We also boogie boarded some more and had fun in the water once again. Hot Water Beach.jpg

Next thing we visited was Hobbiton, the famous film set for both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. It represents the town as described in the books and seen in the movies. It looked just like it, and you felt like you were in the movie yourself. we even got to drink some hobbit beer in the Green Dragon Pub. It’s a must see for everyone visiting New Zealand.

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We then went to Crystal Cove, a nice secluded beach were we did some swimming and jumped off some cliffs and also snorkeled for a bit. This is when we realized that this was our second to last day in New Zealand and we had to start heading back home.

The next day we did some paintballing where I got severely injured (not really, just don’t take your shirt off completely). We ate some ice cream, my friend Dante ordered and finished the biggest one you could get and ended up on the wall of fame. IMG_20160311_174400.jpg

That evening we had our last barbeque and the next day we started our journey home. I had 30 hours of flying to look forward to, and I wasn’t too happy about it. after being interrogated by the San Francisco customs officers for about two to three hours, I was getting pretty tired. We then had another 2,5 hour flight to Seattle after which I got to say goodbye to my new friends. I will love you guys forever, thanks for making this trip awesome! The next morning I had my last 10 hour flight home and I am currently still recovering from a terrible jetlag. I can’t wait to go back there. This trip was an experience of a lifetime and something I will never ever forget.

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Week 8: Sandboarding and Glowworms

I came back from my weekend trip to Paihia. This was one of the best things yet in New Zealand. We started off by driving to Leigh, were we were supposed to go snorkling. However, due to ocean conditions this wasn’t possible so after a short visit to the Goat Island Marine Museum we decided to move on. Shortly after that we arrived at Waipi, were we went caving. I forgot to bring shoes that could get wet on this trip and apparently this cave was halfway filled with water, so I ended up getting my favorite shoes wet. About five minutes into the cave a stranger behind us asked us to turn of our headlamps. Confused at first we did it anyway. Turns out this part of the cave that seemed completely dark had all these small green dots on the walls and ceiling. There were glowworms everywhere! It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. such impressive natural beauty. We then moved on and walked through some waste deep water, crawled through a small tunnel and almost got lost. We spend about two hours in the cave and it felt like ten minutes.IMG_5856

After the caves we went straight to the hostel in Paihia, a small town in the Bay of Islands. In this bay there are over 200 small islands. We had some dinner and a rough nights sleep and the next morning we went to 90 mile beach. The name lightly suggests that it is about 90 mile long, however in reality it is only 88 kilometers, or 55 mile long. This beach is a road as well, but apparently not for all vehicles. we saw some 4×4 trucks drive on it without a problem, but the first tourist that we saw got stuck within 100 meters of the entrance and had to be town away by the police who looked like they had done it before quite a few times before. We went boogie boarding in the sea which had waves of about 3 meters high. It was an absolute blast, and as the only one that’s only used to Europe’s sad 50 centimeters high waves I am not afraid to say that I got pulled under quite a few times.

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After that we went to the most northern part of the island. It’s called Cape Reinga. The Maori believe this is the place their spirits go to before swimming to Hawaiki, the place where their ancestors are. When we got there, it was extremely foggy and hard to distinguish anything. As we got closer to the lighthouse, it became more and more clear. At the tip of the cape we could see the Pacific Ocean meet the Indian Ocean. The fog made everything feel a lot more spiritual to most of the group.

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After Cape Reinga we went back to 90 mile beach, but this time not to the water. We visited the sand dunes. some of these were over 100 feet high. We got the boogie boards out of the van and carried them to the top of these hills. We then proceed to slide down the dunes face first and I ended up face first in a river filled with red algae. Another guy nearly broke his neck and someone else flew three meters through the air and also landed in the river. My second attempt, from an even higher dune went slightly worse. There was  no river at the bottom of this dune, there was only sand. I managed to go down the hill fairly smoothly just to come to an abrupt stop. I had landed face first with my open mouth on a small bump and to regain my ability to breath I had to scoop the sand out of my throat with my hands. After sliding down that hill a few more times I also managed to come down without crashing once or twice. A video of this will probably be on my Facebook tomorrow.

The next morning we went to the Waitangi museum, this place, Waitangi, is one of the most important historical sites in New Zealand history. This is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, which prohibited the English from killing all the natives and stealing all their lands. New Zealand is one of the few countries in which they managed to do this. On the picture below you can see the old colonial house in which the Treaty as well as New Zealand’s Declaration of Independence were written and signed. At this place we also attended another Maori welcoming ceremony and were shown some more of their martial arts and they also sang a bunch of traditional songs.

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After the museum we went to some natural hot springs and mud baths. These springs weren’t heated by man but some of these were 47 degrees Celsius. The mud also made your skin feel real soft. The downside was though that everyone and their clothes smelled like rotten eggs. Just now, two days later, is when the smell is slowly starting to fade away, to the joy of all the others in the group who didn’t go in the pools.

I had an amazing weekend, even though I was sick the Monday after. It was one of the funnest things I’ve done here yet and I would suggest everyone to do these things if they ever come to New Zealand.

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