My Time So Far in New Zealand

As the semester comes to an end back at Susquehanna University and all the study abroad students return home to the United States. I am only a little over halfway through my semester of courses in New Zealand that ends in June. At this point in the year, I am usually taking my last final and looking forward to summer vacation away from the classroom. This is also the last blog post from my time studying abroad at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.
I have decided to make my last post about my time studying in New Zealand. I have made many new Kiwi friends on the floor I live on at The University of Waikato. These are friends that I will always remember and will try to meet up with If I come back to New Zealand. I have come to find out that people who are from New Zealand are a lot more laid back then Americans. New Zealanders never seem to be in a rush to get where they need to be. Overall, they seem to be happier about what they are doing with their lives. If you were to visit the United States a lot of people you would meet would spend time complaining about a dead-end job they are forced to work to make ends meet. Secondary education in New Zealand is not as nearly as important to a successful career. People can get jobs that pay well because New Zealand’s minimum wage is fifteen dollars an hour. This means any jobs above the entry level status will make a decent wage to live on.
I have also learned that professional sports culture in New Zealand is very different from the United States. In New Zealand, professional sports athletes usually do not play at the college level. There is not enough competition at the college level for athletes to play at their highest potentials. Professional sports leagues do not bring in nearly as much money due New Zealand’s smaller population as well as the attendance rates. This means that professional athletes do not get put on a pedestal like American culture likes to do. Since there is not a crazy amount of money in professional sports in New Zealand almost all professional athletes must work a normal day job. I found this interesting because in the United States professional athletes live the lime life and make millions of dollars a year.
Classes at the University of Waikato have been a lot more informal then what I am used to back in the United States. No attendance is taken in my classes in New Zealand so going to classes and learning the material needed to pass the class is all on you. It is helpful that two of my lectures are recorded. Most of the courses offered at The University of Waikato are recorded and uploaded online. The recordings are helpful study tools that I do not have back home. Teachers are a lot more hands-off due to the much larger class sizes that I am in. They assign you an assignment and you do it on your own time. There is a lot fewer hands-on teaching outside of the lectures sessions.
I would say that my experience in the amazing country of New Zealand has one that I will remember for the rest of my life. The landscape that I have been able to travel to and see first hand is like nothing I have ever experienced before. New Zealand is one of the most breathtaking countries to travel through in the world. From the coastline to massive mountain ranges there is never a dull moment to be had while in New Zealand. I can not wait for the rest of the semester all the new memories that are still to come.

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Scenic New Zealand Travel

After a week on the open road, I was ready for a break from the daily bus travel. The long hours spent traveling were due in part to New Zealand’s ever-changing rugged landscape. The South Island only has one or two main roads that are one lane. These critical roads enable you to travel from the coastline to the Southern Alps. These were some of the craziest roads I had ever been on in my life. There were times were our massive bus was driving up the side of a mountain inches from the massive cliffs below us. It truly takes a special type of person to be able to drive a bus full of people on such intensive roadways. Thankfully I never felt in any danger due to our outstanding bus driver Shockz.

On the April 23rd, we made it to the tourist capital of New Zealand. The city of Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand attracts people from around the world. This was also the break in the trip that I was looking forward to we planned to spend three nights and four days exploring the endless activities to take part in. On our way into the city, we stopped at the first ever commercial buggy jump location (Kawarau Bridge Bungy). AJ Hackett Bungy was the leader in bungee jumping innovation.  This bungy location is at a height of 43 meters from the river that flows beneath the bridge. The river provides a unique experience for jumpers, it allows them to be dunked into the river if they would like. All seven of the other Americans I was traveling with on this trip decided to jump off the bridge. Personally, I decided not to go bungee jumping due to my fear of heights. Call me a chicken all you want there is no way you could convince me to jump off the bridge.

The next day we decided to take a bus trip ironic isn’t it to a place many people call the eighth wonder of the world. The Milford Sound is a place that you must visit if you have the chance to travel to New Zealand. This sound is located on the west coast of the south island. The area was carved out by the past ice ages that produced glaciers in this region. The remains are massive mountains that are a sight to see for yourself. We decided to take a ride on the Jucy Cruise that takes you around the waterways of Milford Sound. The Milford Sound is a unique place because it receives on average 6,412 mm (252 in) of rainfall a year which helps make the region a rainforest. It is also the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest places in the entire world. When it rains or the snow melts all the water drains of the sides of the mountains into the sound. When this happens thousands of waterfall form varying and size. These waterfalls can disappear in a matter of hours.  The sound is home to many species in New Zealand the most recognizable are the seals and dolphins that call the waterways home.

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The same night when we returned to Queenstown we decided to eat at the famous Fergburger a burger joint that makes amazing burgers not only out of beef but deer and lamb as well. These burgers are massive in size and have absolutely amazing flavour. We loved it so much that we waited in the forty-five-minute line for a second round later in the week.

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April 24th we decided we need to get out and stretch our legs so we decided to hike the Tiki Trail. This trail goes up the same mountain peak in Queenstown that you can ride the gondola to the top of. You can also mountain bike down the mountain   This trail provides amazing views of Queenstown, The Remarkable Mountain Range, and Lake Wakatipu. This trail goes through the typical mountain landscape in New Zealand. This consists of rocky soil and massive evergreen trees. The Tiki Trail hike was a great workout with the added view at the lookout at the peak of the Queenstown Skyline.

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For the final day of our stay in Queenstown (April 25th), we decided to ride the gondola to the top off the mountain and ride the luge carts at the top of the mountain. These are single rider carts that use the momentum of gravity to propel you down the concrete track built on the side of a mountain. These carts have a signal brake that can stop instantly by digging into the cement track. I was able to pick up pretty decent speed during my five runs down the track. What made the experience even more fun was racing two of my friends two the bottom on each of our runs. I could have road these carts all day long if it was not so expensive to buy rides.

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For the next and final day of our trip, we traveled to the tallest mountain in New Zealand Mount Cook.  We decided to take a short hike to the base of the mountain before the sunset behind the Southern Alps. We hiked up to a lake created by the melting of the glacier in the Tasman Value. The water in the lake was the bluest I have ever seen and this is due to the melting glacier. My friend Bobby had the great idea of taking a quick dip into the freezing lake because why not. In the process of running into the lake, he forgot to take off his glasses and that was the end of them. Stuck at the bottom a glacial lake in the Southern Alps.  Seeing this world famous mountain range in person was incredible I never really pictured the true scale of them until I could physically stand next to them and look up at them.

 

 

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The Stray Travel bus trip was an experience of a lifetime that I would recommend to anyone who has the time to travel. With the bus trip, I gained a larger knowledge of New Zealand wildlife and culture that makes up the towns and people of the Southern Island. The Southern Island and New Zealand as a whole has been one of my favorite travel destinations so far. This is imparted to the beautiful landscapes but a large part of being a fan of New Zealand is the amazing people I have met on my travels.

South Island New Zealand Travel

The first full week of my two-week journey around the South Island of New Zealand has been a whirlwind of travel and adventure. I have been traveling on Stray Travel, a bus tour that takes me to the top destinations around the South Island. This bus trip is filled with fellow travelers from around the world. It is a wonderful way to make new friends from foreign countries. It truly is the journey of a lifetime so if you ever get the chance to travel to New Zealand I would highly recommend it.

Almost every night we were staying in a new destination in a new hostel that offered new adventures. I never found myself sitting around asking what there was to do for fun. Picton, New Zealand located the Marlborough Sound was the northernmost city we visited on this trip. While in Picton on April 16th, we decided to explore, the harbor and coastline that acted as the gate to the Marlborough Sound. This port has an important ferry that allows cars to travel between the north and the south islands of New Zealand which is key to New Zealand’s economy. We decided to hike a trail called Bob’s Bay track that took us to an amazing viewpoint that looked out into the Marlborough sound. This trail was a lot longer than we expected but the view was well worth it. The next morning, we decided to get a little more extreme with our adventures. We borrowed some not so amazing bikes from our hostel and rode up to the top of the viewpoint where there were some mountain bike trails that we took back to the bottom. Thankfully I did not fall off my bike or even worse off the side of the mountain. Mountain biking is a sport that I could see myself getting hooked on.

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After mountain biking, we traveled to the incredible untouched Able Tasman on April 17th. We had the opportunity to stay on the perimeter of New Zealand’s most visited national park. This town was living in harmony with the native nature of New Zealand. For the first time ever, I decided to wake up on April 18th at 6:15 am to see the sunrise. This was one of the most incredible experiences from my trip so far. I had never seen a sunrise that turned a sky so red in my life. If that wasn’t enough I decided to go kayaking with two of my American friends on the trip. The kayaking adventure took place throughout the coastline of the uninhabited Able Tasman National Park. The coastline hosted some of the most incredible landscape I had ever seen. We paddled out to an island along the coastline where a seal colony was living. The colony had some of the cutest seal puppies that I had ever seen in my life. All was fun and easy until we decided to paddle back to the starting point of our trip. The winds decided to pick up and blow directly into the direction we were paddling. This made paddling twice as hard for us and the wind also created small waves to slow us down. This was some of the hardest paddling I have ever done while in a kayak. Hours later we made it back to launch spot cold, wet, and hungry. Luckily, we had the best us Stray Travel bus driver (Shockz) who decided to cook a group meal for the entire group of bus riders. That meal really hit the spot after a long day of hard work on the water.

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The next day (April 19th) we headed for the small west coast town of Westport, New Zealand. Before we made it into two we stopped for a hike along the coastline of the Tasman Sea. The coastline was made up of massive rocks and cliffs the rose above the beach. The sea was not very happy on this day, which meant the waves were massive as they crashed into the rocky coast. After this, we drove into the town of Westport. At one point in history, Westport was a booming gold and coal mining town where many wealthy people lived. Modern-day Westport is a one-stop town that has seen better days. Many residents have a tough time finding work as almost all the mining has stopped, and other important jobs have started to move offshore. If you like quiet peaceful living this town is a place for you. This town acted as a resting spot for the night on our long day of travels.DSC_1212

DSC_1193.jpgThe following day (April 20th) offered more adventure in our day of travels. Our destination for the day was Franz Josef a town located at the base of the Franz Josef glacier. The glacier is located within the South Alps mountain Range. Our first stop for the day was to the pancake rocks and blowholes made famous by the Lord of The Rings movies. The pancake rocks are rock formations that formed in layers on top of one another to look like stacks of pancakes. They are found in a small area of coastline along the Tasman Sea. After this short stop was back on the road again and a few hours later we finally made it to the town of Franz Josef. That night we decided to go for a short. hike to see the nocturnal Glow Worms that live in the jungles of New Zealand. The Glow Worms were an incredible sight to see in the pitch black of the forest. This hike wound up having an amazing surprise in the form of an old gold mining tunnel that was open the public. We were able to walk through the shallow water inside to explore the tunnel which was truly amazing. The next morning (April 21st) we woke up to a rainy weather and decided to head out on a hike that took us through the glacier river valley to a location where we could see the Franz Josef glacier. This was some of the most impressive landscape that I had seen so far while in New Zealand. After getting completely soaked we decided to go on two more hikes throughout the valley. One of the hikes to us to a suspension bridge that crossed a glacially fed river. The third and final hike took us to a rather small and unimpressive lake that was not worth the effort to get to. After this long day of hiking, we attended Pizza Fest at our hostel. Pizza Fest is an event that takes places every other night and for twenty dollars it is all you can eat pizza. This sure filled our hungry stomachs after a long day of hiking.

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The final stop of the first week was on April 22nd in the town of Wanaka New Zealand. Wanaka is known internationally for its two ski slopes as well as the two major lakes (Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea). Before getting to Wanaka New Zealand we stopped at Lake Matheson which is known for its famous reflection of Mount Cook on the surface of the lake. This was one of the best views of the Southern Alps that I have been able to see on my trip so far. This made a perfect opportunity to snap some amazing photos of New Zealand’s breathtaking landscape. After this stop, we made the journey through some of the craziest roads I have ever been on in my life. Our bus driver did an amazing job making the roads look like a walk in the park. After making it to Wanaka I learned that I was an upscale town based on tourism. Me being the tourist I am as well my passion for photography I could not pass up the world-famous Wanaka Tree that is all over social media. The Wanaka tree is a singular tree located in Lake Wanaka. Hundreds of photographers ( the most photographers I ever saw talking photos of the same thing in my life) lined the shore for the sunset over the mountains as well as the Wanaka tree. I had to almost fight for my own spot of coastline along Lake Wanaka just to take a few photos of a tree. I would say that it was worth it and at least I can say that I have been to the famous tree.

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Hopefully, the final week of my adventure around New Zealand is filled with as much breath-taking scenery and adventures as the first. New Zealand has become one of my favorite places outside of the United States and I would recommend visiting this country to any photographer or outdoorsy person. There is never a boring moment while traveling the countryside, coastline, or mountain ranges of New Zealand.

South Island and Seals

The end of classes this past Friday signified the start of a two-week teaching recess at The University of Waikato in New Zealand. For me, this meant no classes at university for a whole two weeks. I needed something fun to do with the free time I was given. My grand idea was to travel the South Island of New Zealand. The only problem that stood between me and my grand adventure was finding a cost-effective way to see the entire South Island.
Luckily for me, a group of international students also studying abroad wanted to travel the South Island of New Zealand as much as I wanted to. They were able to help us find a great deal on a bus trip run by Stray. This bus trip lasts the entire two weeks of my break and stops at all the major cities attractions the Southern Island of New Zealand has to offer. This was an offer I could not resist and before long I had a ticket for my journey to the South Island.

So far, I have been on the Stray bus trip for one day. The first stop of our journey was to the incredible town of Kaikoura, New Zealand. This town is located between the Pacific Ocean and the base of a major mountain range. The mountains give you a feeling that there not real. It is as if someone painted a backdrop and placed it behind the town. They are absolutely breathtaking to see with the peaks covered in snow.

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The coastline of Kaikoura has its own wonders to show me as a visitor. The coastline is made up of volcanic rocks and massive cliffs. This is an excellent location of sea lions to call home. Sea lions have commonly seen basking of the rocks for heat after a nice swim. Personally, I was able to get close to a few wild sea lions as the sleeping on the shoreline. The sea lions I was able to see where some of the cutest wild animals I have been able to see in my life. Thankfully they provided for the perfect photo opportunity.

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Along with my hike of the coastline, I was able to find many treasures such as an abundance of driftwood, animal bones (from wales, sea lions, and seabirds), and even a small starfish. The beaches of Kaikoura are made of no sand which is usually common to beaches around the world. Due to the volcanic origins of New Zealand and vast mountain ranges, the beach is made up of stones that have been rounded and smoothed by the ocean. This New Zealand beach was an interesting change from the usual sand covered beaches found on the east coast of the United States.

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This stop along our trip was only the start of two weeks filled amazing activities and incredible scenery. Who knows what I will have the chance to do while in the South Island of New Zealand. This starting to look like a trip that I will never forget.

New Zealand Culture and Slang

After being in New Zealand for about two months, I think I finally understand New Zealand slang and social norms. The other students on my floor at the The University of Waikato have an excellent job explaining New Zealand culture to me. They have taught me about food, slang, and sports that are common to the kiwi way of life. To be honest living in New Zealand has not been as big of a cultural shock as I expect. In many ways, New Zealand is similar to the culture of the United States.

There are many sayings or slang that residents of New Zealand like to use in conversation. A brief list includes mate, cheers, sweet as, yeah nah, tramping, and the wops.

  • A mate is a person that a kiwi considers to be a friend.
  • The phrase cheers stand for thank you. This is the most common slang word used in New Zealand. It is also used as cheers mate on a common occurrence.
  • Kia Ora is a very common phrase that has many meanings such as hello, wishing someone well, or thanking someone.
  • Sweet as is used when something or a situation is considered good or ok and is most likely followed by bro.
  • Yeah nah is a used when someone is telling you no. It comes across as a nicer way of saying no to someone else.
  • Tramping is the New Zealand way of saying overnight hiking or backpacking where people sleep in tents under the stars.
  • The wops is an area in the middle of no wear. In the United States, this would stand for the deep woods or backcountry.
  • Jandel is the name for flip-flops in New Zealand. This is also the most common type of footwear worn.
  • Singlets are the same type of clothing as sleeveless shirts in the United States.

 

People in New Zealand friendlier and are willing to talk to nearly anyone who walks by. I have never made friends more easily than in New Zealand. If you are looking to procrastinate from your work, you can easily walk into a room and talk to someone for at least twenty minutes.  Another interesting occurrence is that younger college-aged people like to yell out the window at you as your walking down the street. The yelling is that occurs from vehicle passengers is out of fun and to try and give a jump scare.

Finally, the sport of rugby is a way of life in New Zealand for many people. Though I have come to notice that people are either huge fans or they absolutely hate the sport and its culture. You can still find a group of people heading to New Zealand’s rugby league games every weekend. The main league in New Zealand is Super Rugby and just about every major city has its own team.

Auckland New Zealand

Auckland New Zealand, home to 1.45 million residents is where I found myself for the Easter weekend. Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and is known for its horrible traffic by all Kiwis. Personally, while in Auckland I found it much cleaner than any major U.S. city. I enjoyed the atmosphere the city had to offer. You could tell the cost of living is high, but at the same time the city offered major diversity. The diversity I experienced came in many forms such as food options, languages being spoken, and fashion styles on the streets. This came as a major change from the city of Hamilton where I am currently studying at The University of Waikato. I would recommend visiting Auckland for anyone who travels to New Zealand.

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While in Auckland my friends and I took advantage of the many free activities the wonderful city has to offer. Friday Upon arrival, we took a short walk to Mount Eden where we hiked to the summit. Mount Eden is an extinct volcano in the suburbs of Auckland. At the summit, we viewed the crater that remains from what was once an active volcano. From the summit we were also treated to a wonderful view of the Auckland skyline including the famous Sky Tower. We were also able to see the surrounding volcanic islands that make up New Zealand. This hike is a popular destination for tourists visiting the city and I would personally recommend visiting and hiking up the volcano.

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On Saturday, the second and final day of our trip, we took a short ferry ride across the harbor to the city of Devonport.  A seaside village set back in time. Most of the homes give off a Mediterranean beach town vibe that is a peaceful sight to see. This town allowed us to escape the hustle and bustle of Auckland and that was a wonderful way to spend my day. Without a plan for visiting Devonport we happened to stumble upon Mount Victoria. This mountain is the highest volcano on Auckland’s north shore at a height of 87 meters. This mountain was once used as a defense system and there are still reminisce of a bunker and a cannon that I was able to see. From the summit there was a three hundred and sixty degree view which included Auckland, Devonport, and Rangitoto a 600-year-old volcanic island.

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After the hike, up Mount Victoria, we needed a nice swim to cool off from our day of hiking. We managed to walk another forty minutes into the town of Devonport where we came to a secluded beach that was an amazing sight to see. The beach was a short boat ride across from Rangitoto and the water was tropical island blue. I got lost exploring the sea creatures that lived in the tidal areas. I found a diversity of organisms including Sand Dollars, European shore crab, Cushion star fish, Sea Slugs, and Painted shrimp. Most of the smaller creatures were living in a volcanic rock pool that fills up at high tide.
In between swimming and soaking up the rays we decided to explore the coast line of the beach. We found more historical remanence of a fort. We were able to climb up to a gated tunnel and walk through it. Unfortunately, it came to a point where there was a locked gate and we could not explore any further.

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My advice from this weekend is to never be afraid to explore off the normal path of travelers. You never know what you will find and or are missing out on. Keep and open mind and talk to locals if you get the opportunity.

Zuru Night Glow

 

A weekend without any travel gave me a chance to sit  and relax on campus. Luckily for me, I did not find myself looking for something to do. The fun came to campus this past Sunday. Zuru, a major toy company from New Zealand hosts a massive event on The University of Waikato campus called night glow. This event is the grand finally to the weeklong Balloons Over Waikato balloon festival that takes place in Hamilton New Zealand every year. The local students at the university said it was an experience that I could not miss. They sure had the right idea when informing me about it.

The night glow event is very similar to a fair or carnival in the United States. There were food stands, carnival games, amusement rides, and live music for 10,000 plus in attendance to enjoy. The main attraction and highlight of the night occurs once the sun sets in the Waikato Valley. The hot air balloons in attendance start to inflate as the sun is setting. Once it is dark the show beings. The balloons used their propane to light up the balloons. There is music that the balloon operators try and light up creating a visually one of a kind show. The show lasted for about half an hour and left me wanting more.

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This event reminded me a lot of my home back in New Jersey. You may wonder why that is? Every summer in my home town the second largest balloon festival The Quick Check Festival of Ballooning is held at our local airport. I have been attending that event every summer since I was born. As kids, we use to chase balloons until they landed in local yards just so we could help put them away.

It still amazes me that no matter where you travel in the world massive amounts of people will turn out to see hot air balloons. Maybe it’s the art form of flying one that attracts some many people. Maybe it’s the idea of experiencing the world in a way birds can. I will never know the true answer. For me, hot air balloons will always remain an amazing sight to see floating across the horizon on a summers day.