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.
29 April 2010
Easter Break - Wednesday 7/4/10 - Pounakaiki
We're up fairly early again to get a start on the road, we want to hit Pounakaiki before dark. First we stop off in town to pick up a load of groceries and change some money. We manage to find the one type of apple juice in the place and while we'll be mildly disappointed by it, it won't be anything compared to how disappointed we'll be with the next kind we get. One important thing about our groceries is they have to be relatively stable for long periods without a fridge or freezer (A.K.A. no ice cream, which isn't all that great in this country, so perhaps not the worst thing). Our next stop is Westport where the clouds have gathered and the rain starts to drizzle down. we stop in the i-Site (a chain of info centers located in each town filled with free info pamphlets) to ask some questions. They give us advice on the best way to Pounakaiki and tell us about the local seal colony. While I'd love to see seals, it's 18km out of the way and it's raining quite steadily now. We jump back in the car and drive toward the blue sky. This is my first real introduction to New Zealand driving. Once we hit the coast past Greymouth the road starts to curve. It's like complete insanity; 100km/hr, winding, narrow roads right along the cliffs and everyone wants to go faster than 100km/hr. I however, appear to know better. My little 1992 Nissan Pulsar not only can't get up a hill without going super slow (we're talking 2nd gear and 30km max), but couldn't possibly physically go around these turns at 100km/hr without zooming off the cliff. Not to mention I'm driving on the complete wrong side of the road so my sense of where the left side of the car is, is a little off. I'm constantly pulling over to let people pass. At least, unlike in the U.S. many of them give a little thank you honk as they go by. The slow pace helps me enjoy the view though. It's absolutely stunning. The Tasman Sea with cliffs all along it and endless beaches. The rain forest climbs up the mountains to our left and the ocean stretches on endless flat to our right. It's hard to find words to describe that first look, or any after for that matter. I'm not sure what colour to call the water other than a teal darker than the Caribbean, but like nothing you'll find in the U.S. Along the way, we make a stop at a lookout where we are greeted by our first Weka. A friendly bird that walks around behind me as I take in the view. Good thing I carry nothing shiny or I could kiss it goodbye forever. We reach Pounakaiki just after five and locate a hostel. We're told the blowholes only function around high tide and lucky for us, high tide is at 5:25. We quickly throw some stuff on the best we want and head up to the pancake rock/blowhole walk. For more on the actual blowholes and pancake rocks: http://www.punakaiki.co.nz/about_punakaiki.htm. We wait and watch. After a build of rushing water, water vapor comes rushing up through a hole in the ground, appearing to steam out like a kettle. We walk around, watching the sun set in the distance and catching blowhole explosions. Back at the hostel, we put together dinner before starting in on another long conversation (this time with two young German boys) about many of the same subjects as the night before with the Dutch boy. Two other Germans (a man and woman) join us in the room later that night. I am only just beginning to see the tip of the German iceberg of people there are in New Zealand.