I spent the last half of September exploring New Zealand. This is a trip commonly made by Peace Corps Volunteers in Samoa as the flight is only about 3 and ½ hours and relatively cheap. This trip is doubly exciting to us as most of us are going somewhere we’ve never been before AND it’s a westernized nation which means it has lots of yummy foods and drinks that we miss in Samoa. It’s pretty cool.
My trip began with me missing all of September 17; New Zealand is only one time zone away from Samoa, but the international date line lies between the countries so a day is jumped or repeated depending on which way you’re headed. I happen to have lived September 30, 2008 twice. It makes you think about how arbitrary our way of thinking of dates kind of is.
My friend Crystal met me in New Zealand after a much longer flight from San Antonio, TX. She left Samoa in May so it was good to see her. We then made plans as to what the main things we wanted to were. The list consisted of seeing Mt. Cook, cruising Milford Sound (a supposedly amazing fjordland in the south of the southern island of NZ), and a glacier hike.
Unfortunately, the weather prevented all of these things so our trip was a little less exciting but, luckily, the scenery we saw while driving around was still pretty amazing!
NZ is a country that rivals the US for melting pot status. There are many people from all over Asia and Europe who’ve moved to NZ to work and live. As well as other implications this may have, it means that the food is incredible. I ate my way through this trip, taking advantage of international food courts that housed foods from Malaysia, Thailand, India, China, Japan, and other I can’t remember and the many Subway sandwich shops that exist in all the major towns of NZ. Between these and supermarkets which carried things like bagels and cream cheese, I was happy as a clam.
OK, enough about food. Here’s what we actually did.
Auckland – A very hilly city that is the not capital of NZ. (a poster corrected me on this) We were only here for a few days and most of that was taken up with me trying to see some doctors that aren’t available in Samoa. Not exciting. Then Crystal and I checked out the Auckland Museum which covers Maori culture(the traditional Polynesian culture of the islands), more modern history, and the natural history of NZ. Here are some pictures.
This was a pretty gazebo in the large park that housed the museum.
This is the museum itself. If you look closely, you can see many children in red and black uniforms. Field trip day!!! We tried to keep one step ahead of the herd of children through the museum, but they were very well behaved so it was ok when we failed.
This is just another carving but it makes me laugh so I thought I’d include it.
Then we were off to the South Island. Christchurch is a city that is amazingly like an English one. Picture a small English city, and that pretty much Christchurch.
This was the backyard of the first hostel we stayed in. It’s Lake Tekapo, pretty awful, right?
Or first big plan involved doing some walking about Mt. Cook. Unfortunately, we arrived along with a terrible rain and fog weather system. It lifted just in time for us to drive off but I did get to take a little walk before we left.
Crystal didn’t come with me on this walk so I had to get a group of Japanese tourists to take my picture. They were very happy to help me and then proceeded to many pictures with me. Haha, maybe they thought I was from NZ.
On another note, does it look like I’m in middle-earth on my way to Mordor. Yup, Lord of the Rings references were everywhere in NZ. And at the mercy of hostel common spaces in bad weather, Crystal and I managed to see 2 out of the 3 movies. The last one is still just too long.
We stopped at a particularly scenic part of the drive. Crystal is taking a Samoan snapshot, hence the hand gesture.
These straight rows of trees separated much of the pasture land. It made a fair amount of the countryside resemble an estate in England.
A mudslide blocked us from checking out the fjordlands so instead we went on a farm tour. The couple breed sheep, deer and some cattle. They were very nice and even gave a us a sheep shearing demo.
Here is the farmer force feeding a lamb. He collects the lambs that can’t feed or are neglected by their mothers and feed them till they are well again.
When our glacier hike got cancelled we checked out the glacier museum instead and I decided to try out an indoor ice climbing wall. This was probably the most fun I had on the whole trip and it definitely got my adrenaline pumping when I got to the steep tome parts of the wall. I did 2 ½ climbs and was very sore afterwards. My hands were completely worn out due to the insanely tight grip I kept on the ice picks.
Me at the top.
Me at the bottom of my first climb. Don’t I look proud?
After my first climb, I attempted this corner hike. (I'm the shadow in the corner.) It took me two tries as I only made it halfway up the first time. Then I had to give my arms and hands a break. By the top on the second try I was relying heavily on the belay ropes but I managed to make it up. It was a real rush.
Soon after this Crystal left for the States and I spent my last two days soaking up comfortability in an amazingly small but very comfortable hotel. I need to go back some day with more time and some hiking gear.
Now I’m back in Samoa to work till Christmas when I’ll take yet another vacation. I missed the food immediately but in other ways it is nice to be home…once I got here anyway.