I spent the spring semester of 2010 studying in New Zealand through the ISEP program. I used this blog to keep an account of my school experience and as a record of the adventures I found. Hopefully it can serve two purposes: to have kept my friends and family informed of my travels and experiences; as well as to serve as a reminder of how important the study abroad experience is, whether it's in New Zealand or not.

01 February 2011

Looking Back

It's been almost one full year since I was leaving for New Zealand. Looking back it's both really difficult to remember how everything felt and really easy. I was so ambivalent about leaving that I never really got excited. I almost couldn't believe I was really going until the plane landed in Palmy and I still feel like I can't believe it ever really happened. I look through pictures and talk to friends and I have this weird feeling I just making it all up. Four months seemed like a really long time to be away from home, but actually being gone it felt like no time at all. Only occasionally do I get little reminders that the whole thing must have happened. Like when someone here talks about something that happened and I go, "No way, but I was living with you guys and I never saw/heard that." And of course the reply is "Well, you weren't here, you were in New Zealand." When I do realize that I went there, it occurs to me how many amazing things I can take from that experience. The people I met there I'll never forget. Everyone was much more laid back and friendly. Perhaps it's not having to deal with being such a large country that's always on high alert for the next attack. Where the news is always only about people who have died or people who have killed or how the whole country is falling apart. Whatever it is, I think Americans could really learn something from these Kiwis. Then of course there were my teachers. People I wouldn't say I was close to, but certainly people I learned a lot from. They all had the same attitude: you people in America have learned a really warped way of farming, and while we don't want to act like we're judging you, we really are, so don't take what we're telling you for granted. It's almost as though they think we're a little joke. Like we're a toddler that hasn't quite figured things out yet, but one day we'll get it. They're the parents and they want us to figure it out for ourselves. I also of course learned a lot from what they were teaching that wasn't necessarily based on the differences between New Zealand and America. And then there were the friends I made. People from around the world, though mostly the US and Germany. Jessica from Maine, who struggled to balance studies and travel. I knew just how she felt. School being so different there; so much more difficult and demanding. But of course you've traveled all this way, to this amazingly beautiful country. You can't just sit around and do school work, even if you need to get those grades. It is really hard to find a balance where you don't feel as though you wasted your opportunity to see all the things you want to see and to get your work done satisfactorily. She had the added pressure of applying to vet school at the end. Which means an A average, any less and you don't get in. Period. There's no exception. Sandy was dealing with some of the same issues. She certainly had the pressure of trying to get into vet school, but she didn't have the need to travel. She had done her traveling when she came to study in New Zealand several years before and then again when she moved back to be with her boyfriend. She could focus much more on her studies, but I sensed she just didn't ever get as stressed out. Don't get me wrong, the last couple of weeks when we were studying for and taking finals, we both went a little crazy. Holed up in the common area, surrounded by books and notes, covered in our bedding, burning our legs with our computers just to get through the finals. Our only little breaks being meals and Shortland Street. Oh Shortland Street. Now there's a little something of indulgence I greatly miss. A show that airs a new episode every weekday. A TV drama, that has all the right kind of bad of TV soap opera-ness, with just enough of the good to make it a wholly worthwhile, stress relieving, indulgence. While I'm back in the US now and not in physical, face to face contact with either Jessica or Sandy, or my two German friends Nadja and Sabine, and I have no way to watch Shortland Street, I find it hard to think that any of it was more than my imagination. What seems to make it somewhat real is that I can remember how much of a roller coaster the whole experience was. At first I couldn't decide if I wanted to leave Hampshire. I knew I would be missing out on all that would happen for the spring semester. I only have so much time here and it felt like I would be wasting it. On the other hand, come on, it's New Zealand, why wouldn't you go if you could? So I finally just left it up to the scholarship I had applied for. I said, if I get it, it means I should go and I will; if I don't get it, not only does that mean I shouldn't go, but I can't afford it anyway. This way, I wouldn't be dissapointed either way. Then I had to deal with losing my passport and having to mail it away once I got it, but needing it to get into Canada. It got such that the whole thing felt like such a hassle, I just didn't know why I was bothering. Once I got the scholarship and I knew I was going, I didn't even feel excited. Not even when I was on the plane to California, or for the week I spent out there, or even when I was waiting for the plane to Auckland in the San Fransisco airport. It was when I landed in Palmy and met several other students, including Jessica, and we were on the way to the campus that things began to sink in and I started to get excited. After a while I got so used to the campus, the city, and the people it was like I had been there forever. There was a point just before Easter break when my dad told me he wouldn't be visiting me and I realized that I really missed him. I didn't have so much a desire to go home, but to bring parts of home to me. My dad did end up coming out and that seemed to quench my craving for those things home like. After that I got even more comfortable there. So comfortable that when time came to leave I put off packing until the last minute. Nearly missed my flight back to San Fransisco and then didn't accept it for a long, long time. I refused to change the time on my watch until after I made it back to the east coast (some four days after my return to the US). I felt depressed and like I wanted nothing more than to have missed my flight back in Auckland. I didn't manage to change my computer clock for months after coming back. The only thing that kept me going was getting back to my farm job as quickly as I could. A normal schedule, with familiar faces and familiar tasks. I still just wanted nothing more than to go back for a long, long time. Even now, I sometimes plan ways that I can get back there. But I think I'm starting to lean toward looking for the next thing. New Zealand is certainly a place I look at for the future, I would love to go back and maybe even live there. But there are other places I haven't yet explored and I can't find myself repeating too many places before I see some new ones. As corny as it sounds, one thing I really got from this experience is realizing how important studying abroad is. The experience of getting away from everything your familiar with. I managed to choose a place, just about as far away from home as I could get. But somehow it's really hard to fathom the distance that you have traveled, once you've traveled it. But there's just something about being so out of your element. Even when you're in a place that's so familiar. New Zealand offers a lot of the same comforts as the US, but at the same time it remains so different than home in many ways. It's great to meet people who have a very different perspective on the world and especially on the country you come from. It's an experience everyone should have. To be forced to live the way someone else does, to see another part of the world, to experience another educational system. I'm not sure how to put into words why people should study abroad or how it affected me, but I do know enough to say everyone should do it if they can.

03 October 2010

My Final Adventures

As the semester comes to a close I can feel a sense of sort of impending doom. I remember when I headed back to the US from Ireland both times and how much I didn't want to leave then; and that was only after a few weeks. Four months is both a lifetime and a second to spend in a place away from home. I remember back when I applied to the program thinking I could go for a whole year, but four months really seemed like a lot. Think of all the things you'll need to pack and what you might miss while you're gone, not to mention everything that happens back home you'll miss. But once the time comes to an end, there's this sudden pressure to do everything. Something that is not helped by the approaching finals. Not to mention how difficult I know the finals will be. With all this in mind, I decided I needed to break up my final time studying with some exploration. So on a moderately good looking day Sabine and I head out in our rental car to Cape Pallisar. She has persuaded me to go for a chance to see seals by informing me that there is a LOTR film site nearby we can go to as well. So with me behind the wheel and her directing, we maneuver our way out to the cape and along the winding road. It becomes clear quickly that this is not the ideal travel day; the rain looks like it might hit at any second, the wind whips around, and the temperature is low. We wind our way down to the water where the cliffs along our side are breaking pieces off into the road that I have to avoid hitting. Eventually we make it to where the road starts to go down close to the water. Unfortunately this also marks the end of where we can drive. The road is flooded out and we have to turn around. Unable to see the seals we move on to find the film site. I have to assure Sabine she will see seals when she travels the south island in a few weeks. We park the care, take a look at the map and start out on the trail. But we're quickly foiled again. The river is too high from the recent rain and after a few attempts at crossing, we decide it's really safer to head back. Just then I notice a side path that's really more of a mud slide than a trail. In fact, we both think it's safe to assume very few or no people probably traveled up it. So we make our way up and through an area I find to look much like Bryce National Park back in the US, but with different colors. We explore for a while, deciding since it looks so much like the film site we were trying to find (the passage where Aragorn goes to call the king of the dead to fulfill their duty) that we'll just take pictures and tell people we got there (obviously something I have just decided I'm not following through with). After we satisfy ourselves that this was not a trip wasted, we make our way slowly back to campus and plan our next trip out. The next weekend Sabine, Nadja, and I pile back into our little rental car and take off in another direction (West) toward Mt. Taranaki. We arrive by midday, eat lunch, and figure out where we're going to hike. This is supposed to be one of the world's most perfectly formed volcanoes, but you can only see it like three days out of the year. So we pick our route and hope that if we go fast enough we might beat the rising clouds to get a good view. However, the clouds are either too thick or were already there and we never do get to see very far in front of us. But we have fun making our way up, across, and down anyway. After a very steep uphill, where there is still a clearly defined road (though it's horrendously steep and I can't imagine the toll it must take on the vehicles traveling it, not to mention it would scare me to death to attempt to drive down in a virtually straight line on an incline like that) used for maintenance, we start to hear a humming sound. Out of the fog we begin to see a pulsing light and a growing dark shadow. It's sort of eerie approaching, what we already know to be a radio tower, in the thick fog. It grows out of the fog and even when we're up-close and it becomes clearly defined, the fog surrounding us still makes it feel like either an alien or a horror movie, I have yet to decide which. Either way I can't say I'm sad to leave it behind us; even if I do want to keep an eye on it by checking over my shoulder now and again. We keep adjusting layers the whole time trying to account for how thick the fog is that it basically feels like rain. At one point we have to stop and try to locate the trail after it was washed out. Creepy moss hangs from trees along the way and there is a distinct sulfur smell at several points, but we just pretend we're in Lord of the Rings as we make our way down ladders and along ledges. When we eventually make it to the bottom we emerge from the clouds to find a bright, sunny afternoon. Our hostel is nice and we find a place for dinner and wander the town for a bit. I attempt to explain what a moose is only to hear them think they've got it and say something in German, to which I promptly respond: "No it's not an elk." They look at me having no idea how I could know what they're saying, but apparently the word for elk is the same in English and German even though our actual elk are somewhat different. We turn in for a what had planned to be a fairly early evening and ends up just being a late one. The next morning we have to find a place Sabine is determined to go to to take the exact picture she found in her guidebook. While we do manage to find the same spot, we of course can't get the same picture, because those stupid clouds remain hovered around the mountain. We just determine we'll have to swear there's a volcano behind those clouds. We get back to school and I settle in to study my butt off for the upcoming finals. Sandy and I settle ourselves in determined to make the common room in our pod feel like home. We bring out blankets, pillows, her heater, our computers, the single Ethernet cord we can plug in (do four people not live in this place? How did that design idea seem good), and all our study materials. We go through everything and answer (in endless detail) all of the previous exam questions for the past 4-6 years for each of our classes. The process takes all our time and we create study sheets for ourselves. I'm glad to have time between each test or I would never manage to get everything prepared. We order take away from Hell Pizza and watch Sortland Street as our rewards for working so hard. I'm glad it's freezing out because it makes me feel less guilty for not being outside. Lucky for us there's a new Shortland Street five days a week so we get a little treat every day. I'm glad for this time with Sandy because we've been so close the whole semester (living with some cultural difference difficulty with the two Chinese girls in our pod) and I know I have to leave just after finals. While I have struggled with my classes over the semester and the grades I have received, I enter each test feeling confident that I have studied as best I could. After the first final is over, I know my method of studying is working and I also know that if I cover enough of the past tests, all the same questions come up throughout the years and I will be prepared to answer them. So I also leave each test feeling pretty good about myself. In the end I just have to say that I have tried the best that I can and no matter what grade I get, I couldn't have done better. The grade doesn't matter, what does is that I learned all that I did. And boy, did I learn a lot. My brain feels just about ready to explode. I can understand why the advisor at the beginning of the year was reluctant to put me in four 300 level courses, but in the end I really showed her. With my last final over I have my last afternoon to pack everything before Jessica and I leave for Rotorua and then I take off for Auckland. After much debate I have decided to take a car from Palmy and, skipping my first flight, go directly to the Auckland airport. This allows for one last trip the morning before my flight. So Jessica and I finally make it out only to determine that we will not make it to Rotorua that night and we instead find a hostel in Taupo to stay at. We wake up fairly early the next day to hike around Taupo before going to Rotorua. We take a walk along the river where thermal springs feed in along the edges. Our goal is to make it to Huka Falls. This is the river leading out of Lake Taupo. A sign at Huka Falls informs us that the force of the falls is so strong that no fish can jump up it and there are therefore no fish in Lake Taupo. We make it back to the car, have a quick stop on the side of Lake Taupo and then start our way to Rotorua. Neither of us really know what we want to do in Rotorua other than to try not to spend too much money. So we go to one free little geothermal park to see the bubbling mudpools. We then decide it's worth it to pay to see something, so we locate Tewhakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao, AKA Whakarewarewa AKA Whaka, the living geothermal village. We see a culture show and go on a tour where they tell us all about how they live there. They use the hot thermal springs to cook and to wash. One of the little thermal offshoots reaches 180*C (356*F for you Americans) regularly. The champagne pool bubbles most of the time and when a major natural disaster happens (such as the major Haiti quake) the water rises quickly, the pool cracks, and the water level drops. You cannot visit Rotorua without taking a soak in a thermal spring and lucky for me, my guidebook has a cheapo section telling me about a free thermal stream you can access off the main road. However, the name of the road is all wrong and it's nearly impossible to find, especially in the dark. However, we persevere and it pays off. Lucky for us another group of people arrives at the same time and we get to follow them out to the spot they clearly are familiar with. Neither of us managed to get a flashlight out to bring along. So we have no idea what anything looks like (upon reflection we both agree this is good since we aren't sure we want to know what colour the water we're sitting in is). We lie in the stream absorbing the heat and the rejuvenating chemicals. Considering I have nothing to shower with, I feel a little bad for whoever will have to sit next to me on the plane ride home the next day, since I'll reek like a rotten egg, but this turns out to not be the case. I drop Jessica off at the bus station later that night, where she'll barely have time to stop in Palmy before heading off for her south island trip. The next morning Sabine and I take off for our last adventure (notice how I'm getting some quality time with each of my friends before the very real possibility I never see them again gets super close to a reality). This is something I debated doing for a long time (i.e. since I knew I was going to NZ). It's super nerdy, but kinda cool; I know I want to, but then again do I really; and it costs money, but maybe not all that much. In the end I have a friend to go, the money to spend, and it really may be my only chance (though let's pray it's not). So we rush our way our to Matamata, where we manage to just miss our shuttle out, which means we get a private one. "Feel free to break out costumes if you have them. We employees are not allowed to by law, but that doesn't have to stop you." Our van driver informs us. Can you guess yet where I'm spending my last morning in New Zealand? One more hint: small, hairy footed, food lovers were found here for months and only the shells of their houses remain. The sign at the entrance welcomes us to Hobbiton and quite possibly the dorkiest thing I have ever done (besides arguing Star Wars politics in the halls of my high school). In the end, totally worth it. However I did have to sign a release saying I wouldn't talk publicly about what they tell you on the tour, so I'll have to leave it out here. I can say that I went at a good time; filming of the Hobbit starts in January 2011 so they're rebuilding. Several sheep posed quite perfectly for their fame shots (no sheep on the farm appeared in the film, while there are over 2,000 sheep on the farm, they flew in Suffolks rather than the local Romneys for the movie). Having satisfied my need to prove my LOTR love to my fellow nerds back home, I take Sabine back to Rotorua and begin my battle to locate the Auckland airport (which by the way, is not in Auckland, but way the heck out in the surrounding country). I return the car, walk about a mile with all my stuff to the airport, and check in for my flight home. All the way until I'm buckled in I debate missing the flight and having to stay in NZ. But I know this isn't a realistic option and I have to resolve to just return in the future. Thirteen hours later (and 1 hour ahead of schedule due to high winds which created unbearable turbulence even for someone who travels as much as I do for the first half hour the flight) I find myself in the San Fransisco airport, immediately welcomed by security I don't know what to do with and the overwhelmingly oppressive presence of American culture. In all my years of air travel I have always been happy to see California because it means vacation and my family. This is the first time I have ever been disappointed to land in SFO. I feel like a total alien in this country and find myself going into immediate denial that I have returned home. I spend my four hour layover thinking of how I can get back to NZ and focusing all my attention on getting through customs so I don't have to realize I'm not still there. I know immediately I will have to save an entry on my blog to write about the transition from NZ to the US, home, work, and school. It's just so hard to start all of it.

24 July 2010

Easter Break - Sunday/Monday - 17-18/4/10

The next morning my dad and I are up early to send him off. We wake however to find that a volcano has erupted in Europe and flights are grounded across the world and everything keeps backing up. My father’s concerned this will keep him from getting home, but we check with the airline and everything appears in order. His ride to the airport arrives on time and I once again feel how much I don’t want him to leave. Once he’s gone I feel like I can’t manage to do anything so I settle on the couch to read Dune for some time. I figure I’ll get out at some point during the day. The little boy in the house comes over and plays for a while in front of me before deciding to engage me and I keep him entertained for nearly an hour and a half while his mother goes about her chores. She thanks me for watching him for so long before they head out to a dedication of a sign down the road. It’s some type of historical marker with information that they’re rather proud of.

I end up spending almost the entire day reading and manage to just make it out to the Japanese Garden to read for a while before the sun goes down. Then I myself must pack for my flight the next day.

The next morning I get some time to slowly get myself together before the shuttle comes to pick me up and whisk me off to the airport. The shuttle driver is quite nice and we pick up a young lady and her son who will both be on my flights to Palmy. The driver takes us the long way to the airport to give me the total view of Nelson. Once again, I’m shocked by the ease of flying within NZ. I simply show up and hand them my bag and tell them where it’s going. They require no ID and there is no security screening before I get on the plane. They hardly even glance at my ticket. It’s a fairly short flight to Christchurch, where I debate going out to look at the city before my next flight, but decide it’s not worth the risk of getting lost. Besides that, I remember coming over the hill and seeing the city for the first time and immediately thinking “this is not a place I want to be.” So I settle down to write out more blog entries which will not be entered online for quite some time as it turns out. I eventually make it back to Palmy where I can semi settle back in. While I still feel like I’m living out of a suitcase here, it’s slightly less bad than living out of the back of a car. At least here I get a closet and a kind of room (jail cell like though it may be) to spread my stuff out in.

23 June 2010

Easter Break - Saturday 17/4/10 - Kaikoura to Nelson

The next morning we wake up to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The mountains line the ocean and we discover that it had just snowed the day before, so those white caps up there wouldn’t have been there if we had showed up just one day earlier. We decide we’ll walk along the coast where there are supposed to be some seal colonies. Before we even get started on our walk, we’re greeted by a group of seals basking on the shore. We look back across the water to the mountains before heading off along the coast. Up we go to walk along the cliff edge next to the water. A sign greets us at the top indicating which mountains we can see from this vantage point. The shoreline below us is white and curving and the water is clear and blue. Along the way we can see seaweed lapping in the waves. We decide to venture down along the beach, but we have limited time and if we encounter a seal colony we’ll have to turn back. As luck would have it, we do run into a seal colony, but they’re far enough away we can make our way around them without turning back. They’re still close enough to keep us on our toes and give me a few good shots from where we stand. All I can think about at this point is the sing on the beach telling us not to try and roll the seals; which of course, is just about the stupidest suggestion I’ve ever heard. I think anyone who actually would think to roll a seal should get a little love bite from it. As we pass the seals a couple of them pick their heads up to get a better look at us. I get the sense that maybe one or two of them are males wondering if we’re going to take their women. All too soon it’s time for us to leave to get the car returned to Nelson. If I could do the trip over again, the only thing I would change is more time in Kaikoura. I could sit and stare at those mountains across the water for hours. At least as we leave we get to see the mountains for quite some time as we travel at their feet. Just as we’re leaving town, we get one more little surprise. Some people have stopped their car along the side of the road and are looking out to the ocean with a camera. Turning, we notice there are things out there jumping in the water. We decide to pull over ourselves, it’s not long before we realise those things are dolphins jumping way off the coast. There must be twenty of them out there, leaping high in the air. They seem like they’re playing, though they’re probably fishing. It’s amazing how high up they can jump. They’re too far out for me to get a really good picture, but I do end up with something of one jumping. We spend much of the day driving, ending in Nelson and then finding a nice little hostel with a very kind owner, and his wife and son, before dropping off the car. We debate going to the beer fest they’re having in town, but decide it’s too far to walk and we don’t really want to pay. Instead we walk into town and get ourselves some dinner. A great little pizza place, where they serve us some NZ beer and talk us into a dessert pizza. It’s nothing I would go for again and takes forever to get, but is still tasty. We end the night by watching the sunset from the steps of the church and then getting my dad packed for his early morning departure.

20 June 2010

Easter Break - Friday 16/4/10 - Timaru to Kaikoura

The day’s goal, other than to reach Kaikoura by night, is to see Akaroa. Along our way we pass through the town that is home to Lincoln University and I take the time to think of Sandy and get a look at where she first experienced New Zealand. Compared to Palmy, the place is almost nonexsistent. If she thinks Palmy’s got nothing going on, I can’t imagine what she must have thought about and done in this place. However, it’s a majorly agricultural school, so I’m sure she loved it and it’s not quite as far removed as Hampshire; I’m sure it’s a place I would have enjoyed. After a long windy way in we reach Akaroa, which is a French – English village (the only French settlement in New Zealand) some 85km from Christchurch. The town sits in an ancient volcano, which doesn’t seem to bother the people living there, though the last eruption was some half million years ago. The ocean has entered via channels made by stream erosion over the past years since the volcano became dormant. There is actually a second volcano that is the town of Lyttleton and together the two volcanoes make the Banks Peninsula (pronounced Peninshula by our wonderful Kiwi cousins). Akaroa is the larger of the two volcanoes, but the way we go, we end up driving through both of them; in Maori the name Akaroa means “Long Harbour.”

We drive a long and winding road to make our way to the small town, a place I’m told is a must see by my friend Winnie back home. When we finally crest the hill that leads into the village, we see a peaceful harbour filled with boats and a quaint French looking village at along the shore. While all appears peaceful today, the area was quite violent back in 1832 and lead to one of the most important events in New Zealand history. The Captain of the British ship Elizabeth, John Stewart, helped the North Island Ngāti Toa chief, Te Rauparaha, to capture the local Ngai Tahu chief, Te Maiharanui, his wife Te Whe and his young daughter, Roi Mata. The settlement of Takapuneke was sacked. Concern over the complicity of John Stewart, along with other lawlessness among Europeans in New Zealand, led to the appointment of an official British Resident James Busby to New Zealand in (1832). This was the first step in the British involvement that led to the Treaty of Waitangi.

While I take very few photographs of this part of the journey, it is still amazingly beautiful. All along the way are endless perfect beaches and sunny blue skies, quite the opposite of what we were experiencing down in the bottom of the south. We eventually wind our way along the ridges to Lyttleton, the smaller of the two volcanoes.

Just over the final pass we get our first view of Christchurch. This city is massive; it seems to stretch on and on forever. It’s an amazing shock to the system after all the farmland along the way, with almost no people anywhere. I can immediately tell I don’t want to spend time here and am somewhat thankful we didn’t make it to sleep there the night before. It takes us quite a while to make our way through the traffic lights and out the other side of the city after a quick petrol stop.

Our next journey is somewhat inland, with a peak here and there of the ocean, but there’s virtually no stopping all the way in to Kaikoura. We make it there just after the sun sets and get a general idea of the beauty of the place before darkness takes over and we find our hostel. We take a walk to the grocery store to get our last supply of food for the night and lunch the next day. I can’t believe my dad will only have one more day here and in two days I’ll be heading back to school. It’s gone by incredibly quickly and I want nothing more than to continue the experience. I joke with my dad that he doesn’t really need to go back and neither do I, we can just tramp around the north island next. This is of course not a real possibility, but we enjoy our last bits of time in NZ by soaking up the heat of the spa tub they have at the hostel. This one is quite nice in the sense that it’s like a little swimming pool and we have the whole outdoors to ourselves, but, as seems to be the Kiwi way, the water is only just at body temperature, which is not quite warm enough to massage away the aches of sitting in a car all day. We finally muster the courage to run through the cold back to our room before making dinner.

Easter Break - Thursday 15/4/10 - Dunedin to Timaru

We start our morning with a trip downtown to the museum. We only have so many coins and so much time to get through the museum and pay for the meter. So we plan a short visit. I’m once again majorly impressed by the Kiwi ability to design a museum that never stops pulling you in. We both get majorly caught up and decide to put one more dollar in the meter. However, we end up separating and that causes us to leave the museum almost an hour after we originally planned. Now we’ll be pushing it to make it to Christchurch by night time and I have to cut out a visit to Sandy. However, we do have enough time for one quick stop to the steepest paved street. This is the kind of road you would never want to drive up or down, without the danger of your car falling down the hillside. We walk up and take a look around, admiring the work that must have gone into this road. But we only get so much time before we have to hit the road again. We get to drive though Palmerston on the way, which makes me think about Palmerston North and how soon I’ll have to be back there learning and working again. But it’s almost hard to imagine now with all the amazing things I’m seeing and doing. It’ll be the final semester push when I get back and I’ll have to be working nonstop to get it all done. Our next stop is to the lighthouse and boulders of Moeraki. Just before coming here I read a book by Keri Hulme called The Bone People it was about a woman who had a house built like a tower and Keri supposedly used the lighthouse as inspiration, so I figure it’s worth a visit, but I have no idea what I’m in for. First off, it’s way, way off the main road. But this proves to be quite worthwhile. We decide to walk out to the penguin hide, not so much because we believe we’ll see anything, but to look at the ocean. However, we’re surprised to find the rocks covered in seals. They’re stretching and looking quite happy, basking in the little bits of sun. Once in the penguin hide we look out to find another giant seal lying happily on the beach. After just a few minutes of looking we get another couple of visitors. Out of the ocean emerge several yellow eyed penguins. We watch a couple of them wander up the hillside together and one seems to take guard at the top. After a while several more come out of the water to join them. Eventually they all disappear into the bushes and we decide it’s time we took off, we took quite a detour getting here, but I think it’s very worthwhile since I’ve wanted to see penguins the whole time. I’ve seen them in a zoo before, but there really is something wonderful about seeing an animal just hanging out in its natural environment. Our final stop along the way is a little further down at the Moeraki boulders. These are fairly famous rocks, though we only manage to catch them when the tide is high, so there’s little to see. But the Maori legend tells of how they got to be there. Many years ago, when the first sons of the gods came to inhabit the islands, they came by boat with many eel baskets, calabashes, and kumara. A storm came and destroyed their ships. The backs of the ships became the Southern Alps and the food baskets became the boulders you see along the beach. What’s interesting geologically about these rocks is that they were formed like pearls. Meaning, the inside started first and they grew outward. They are hidden beneath the beach and are exposed with coastal erosion. They are also almost all entirely spherical, something quite alien to see along the beach. By the time we’ve seen it all we realize we’ll never make it to Christchurch before it’s just too late to want to keep driving so we decide we’ll make it to Timaru and stay there for the night. Once we’re there, we locate a hostel quickly and settle in for the night.

Easter Break - Wednesday 14/4/10 - Owaka to Dunedin

We’re now working against the clock, with the ultimate goal of getting to Kaikoura and then Nelson for the car return after that. Kaikoura is supposed to be one of the majorly beautiful places along the way, so we plan to see what we can before cutting away from there. So the goal for this day is to make it to Dunedin. And we’re greatly successful, the next day is supposed to be set aside for Christchurch, but we’ll leave that for later. The east coast has somewhat less to offer in the way of visual splendour, so we make our way along quite quickly. We do however stop for a walk out to a lighthouse where we get our first glimpse of some seals. They’re so far below us that really I can only see them by zooming in with my camera and looking at the pictures later. They even have babies playing around in the water, which is endlessly adorable.

The peninsula with the lighthouse on it appears to be a spectacularly popular seal colony home. While this has been a nice sighting, I’m hoping for a bit more; ones that I can perhaps wee without the aid of a camera and computer.

We end our day’s journey in Dunedin, a city with a major university for the south island. We search for quite a while to find somewhere to eat before finally settling on a nice looking little student place. Here is where I get my first taste of venison, in ravioli form. My dad goes for the lamb, to get a feel for where all those sheep on these islands get to. After a pleasant meal, we make our way back to our hostel and try to plan the next day. I want to get to see Sandy, but I know we’ll be pressed for time. We decide to stop in the Otago Museum before leaving town.