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More Mountain Adventures

Time August 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Every few days here I find myself looking at a landscape that blows my mind. Typically I stand there at a loss for words, and now I’m blogging about it and I’m still at a loss for words. This country is spectacularly beautiful in so many ways. Last weekend I was skiing one day and mountain biking the next, from the same town. This week I had one day hiking in intense New Zealand sun and two days on snow surrounded by equally stunning but very different views. Living here is like being a little kid allowed to set up camp in the coolest playground imaginable.

This past week (5th week living here, woah) I went to some classes, cooked some meals in my flat and hung out with the flatmates. Monday night I got to see some friends who were in town who are currently studying in Christchurch. We hung out at the house and caught each other up on our cities and adventures and talked life and good music. Tuesday night we headed out to Long Beach for a birthday bonfire for two international students celebrating birthdays out here. We did some cave exploring, fire watching and wine drinking. A few people camped there to see the sunrise in the morning – unfortunately I didn’t get to do that again and headed back to town around midnight.

Wednesday I woke up to the most beautiful weather I’d seen in awhile (probably a week, but whatever) and decided I needed an adventure. Mt. Cargill is only a few miles from my house and I’d been meaning to climb it. I did a bit of research on the trail and how to get there and screenshotted the directions on my phone, packed up a lunch and laced up my hiking boots and started walking north. I meant to catch a bus up to the trailhead but it didn’t really work out. The bus system here is a little less than reliable and I didn’t feel like waiting as I wasn’t sure just how long the roundtrip hike would take me. Three miles up the road I found myself in a place called Bethune’s Gully, a park with picnic tables beside a river and mountain biking trails. I followed my screenshotted directions through to the far end of the park and, already feeling a bit tired, located the head of the Mt Cargill trail. In retrospect the trip up wasn’t very long or challenging. Having never hiked alone before, though, it was a brand new mental battle of not knowing how much further I had to go and having no one to distract me from the upward pitch of the trail. That said, it was incredibly silent and peaceful to be alone in a new forest, and so rewarding when I got to the top and looked out over the rolling hills and coastline of my new city. Hard to believe I get to live here.

Thursday night I made it out to the bars in Dunedin for the first time.

Friday I left for a second consecutive weekend in Wanaka – already trying to pretend that place is my vacation spot, because when I grow up and come into some money (ha) I will be purchasing a home there. Skied full days Saturday and Sunday on some really fun demo skis. The winners were a pair of Atomic slalom skis and second place goes to some Rossignols. Don’t tell the demo dude that I’m not actually buying, though – he’s expecting me in his shop any day now to drop a few grand.

On a grander scale, I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to take a few months and enjoy the view. The pace of life here is tangibly slower than back home. I don’t watch TV, my material possessions fit in a backpack, I drink less coffee and I listen to more music. I don’t hear sirens often, I have an easily manageable workload, I’m constantly meeting new and interesting people from all over New Zealand, the US and the world. I get to stop and chat and take a day off to walk up that mountain in the distance. I get to look around at these views that are so beautiful they make my head want to explode.


Preliminary Explorations

Time August 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Need to come up with new adjectives to describe this country and my weekly adventures other than “awesome”and “unreal”…but yeah, this week was (once again) both of those things. New Zealand has it figured out – icecream, skiing, landscapes that make you believe in witchcraft and wizardry. In the last 7 days I’ve attended class, had the first of many Adventure Wednesdays and first weekend excursion away from the coast.

Wednesdays seem to be a pretty light class day for a group of my friends here, and last week it was a beautiful sunny and 50+ degrees so we decided to hop in Kristina and Suzie’s newly purchased Subaru (named Momo) and head out to the Otago Peninsula, a quick 20 minute drive from campus. We picked a quick hike/walk called Lover’s Leap, a path that lead us through farmland to the top of some very impressive cliffs above the Pacific. It was gorgeous and arguably the nicest weather we’ve had since I’ve been here. We agreed that the landscapes looked like they’d been created by some sort of magical wizard and couldn’t possibly be real. The hillsides and ocean around here are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Gandalf, most likely. Also – it’s true, about the sheep. And don’t worry mom and dad – I made it back for my 5 pm class which I attended in muddy hiking boots.

Thursday night flatmates and extended flatmates (complex-mates) headed over to the Speight’s Brewery ¬†for a tour that included a 30 minute stint in the Brewery bar. Oops. Good fun, though.

This weekend I headed out to Wanaka (in Momo) to ski. Wanaka was so beautiful I decided to go back next weekend! I’m not even going to try to describe it, so check out some pictures. It’s an amazing place, I’m trying to live there one day. Shania Twain has a house there, dream big friends. On Saturday we skied at Cardrona, 25 minutes outside town. We drove Momo to the base of the access road, parked and hitched a ride to the top. The access road is something similar to the Mt Washington Auto Road – 20 minutes of winding dirt road up a pretty steep face without guard rails or much in the way of lanes. The base of the lifts is at the top of the road – exciting stuff. On Sunday I opted out of skiing and instead decided to rent bikes and mountain bike around part of Lake Wanaka before getting in the car and coming back to Dunedin. At home last night we made hot chocolate and watched Moonrise Kingdom, topping the weekend off flawlessly. I’m already psyched to get back out there next weekend. Spring break plans are evolving, among others. Stay tuned.


Week 1: Exploring Dunedin, U of Otago Intros

Time July 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Written on: July 5, 2013

Huge, busy first week settling in to life here in Dunedin! I’ve been to the top of Signal Hill for great views of the city, climbed the world’s steepest street (Baldwin street, about a mile from my flat), celebrated the 4th of July with all the international students, visited the beautiful town of Port Chalmers, went on the Taeiri Gorge Train trip into the Otago countryside, and today I made it out to St Clair Beach. The weather was amazing today, and from the top of the dunes we watched people surf while on the land side were spectators to league rugby games. Amazing all around. Navigating the bus system on the way home was a little shaky and we ended up walking a good chunk of the way back. Cool getting to know my new city though. This morning I also checked out the weekly farmers market held at the train station – no surprise, it was dope. Cool people, great food, coffee, music and sunshine. No complaints.

Somehow I also managed to register for classes and sort out lots of administrative stuff this week. Classes start Monday! Signed up for 5 and need to drop one, but I’m going to check out all five of them first. As much fun as this week has been I’m excited to get into a routine. That said, I next week is “reorientation” or “re-o” week for all the kiwi students coming back for second semester, and it sounds like any American “syllabus week” on steroids. Excited to start meeting new Zealand students this week in classes and re-o festivities. Trips to Queenstown & beyond are in the works for the upcoming weeks as well.


First Night in Dunedin

Time July 1st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Written: July 1

Day four in New Zealand and I’ve just unpacked into my room in the University Flats in Dunedin. Feels good to be settled in and no longer living out of suitcases. That said, orientation was an awesome experience and undoubtedly helped me get adjusted to NZ time, wrap my head around all the changes and meet some awesome people. After landing in Auckland at 6 am local time we boarded a bus that took us to the Shakespear Lodge on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Spent the rest of the day (Friday) exploring the peninsula, playing touch rugby and eating “kai” throughout. By dinner time it was a miracle I was still standing – two days with no sleep save for a couple hours on the flight. Passed out immediately after dinner. Rest of the weekend’s activities included sea kayaking, a “bush wander” through restored conservation land, various informative talks about Dunedin, classes, being an international student at a university of 25,000, a visit to a hotsprings and the adjacent pub, exploring downtown Auckland, a few museums. This was topped off by a visit to a Marae where we learned traditional Maori customs and spent a night immersed in their culture.The Maori introduce themselves to one another and strangers by identifying their mountain, their river and their sea or lake that defines their home.

Saturday night I ended up on the beach looking at the stars, the city of Auckland in the distance with volcanic Rangitoto Island in the foreground talking with new friends about this experience we’ve found ourselves on. Pretty amazing night. It’s all been great so far.

Flew into Dunedin as the sun set over snowcapped mountains – the scene was very surreal. From the airplane, I felt like I was landing in the most remote corneriest corner of the globe. Then I ate pizza and drank beer and watched rugby with people I’ve become close to in absolutely no time and didn’t feel so isolated at all. Dunedin exploration starts tomorrow.