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Milford Track: The Most beautiful track IN THE WORLD

Time October 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This weekend the Betsy Trouble Squad did the Milford Track. We were hesitant to go at first because there had been a rockslide on one of the roads the week before and the avalanche risk was high because it was still offseason. After hearing positive things from the DOC center we decided to do it.

 

We took a boat over Lake Te Anau to get to the beginning of the Milford Track. We only hiked 4.8 km the first day, walking along a river until we reached the Glade House, our first hut. There were other people doing the track at the same time: a group of American structural engineers working in Christchurch after the earthquake, and a couple of kiwis. The first night in the, the whole group of us ended up playing spoons together, except for me, because I was content in reading Game of Thrones instead of playing. Each time people lost they had to do a dare. The funniest one by far is when six people lost, and as a consequence they had to crowd into the one stall bathroom together. For dinner that night we made veggie fried rice, delicious!

 

Lake Te Anau

The Betsy Trouble Squad on a boat

The next day we hiked 16 km, making our way through a valley surrounded by tall rock walls dotted with waterfalls. We stopped frequently to take pictures of the green-blue rivers and the marshland. It began to rain in the last two hours of our hike, so we powered through the remainder of the track. There were areas that indicated dangers of rock fall, so we hurried by those, ushered on by the rain. It continued to pour non-stop when we got to the hut. That night we stayed in the Mintaro Hut, warming ourselves by a small stove fire. We spent most of our time in our sleeping bags, alternating between playing cards and cuddling for warmth. For dinner that night we made quesadillas (cheesy tortes as I like to call them) with beans, salami, and cheese.

Beautiful green river and reflection

Andrew, Toria, and Laura at the Hidden Lake

Playing cards in our sleeping bags

 

On a brief side note, on the trip, using my impeccable broken Japanese accent, I created an alter ego named Yuki.

 

Yuki came up with small zen poems and stories to pass the time.

 

‘Plump boys make the savouriest dumplings’

 

‘If you listen to the trees, you will hear the wisdom that they have to share…… I guess they don’t have anything to share today.’

 

It rained all night and into the morning, so the next day we we’re feeling optimistic about the weather. We had a 14km hike ahead of us, climbing up the mountain and through Mackinnon pass to make our way over to the Dumpling Hut. When we started on the trail, the rain ended up being only a light drizzle.

 

As we gained altitude, snow began to appear all around us. We had to be careful where we put our feet, because many puddles and streams were hidden by the snow.

Rainbow!

 

On our way up the mountain we witnessed a huge avalanche pouring down another mountainside. It was beautiful and terrifying to watch. It didn’t faze us too much, so we carried onwards to the pass. We stopped for lunch on the pass and then continued down the emergency route into the valley. The wind began to pick up, which only made it colder, but we eventually made it below the tree line, where we were pretty much sheltered from the rain and wind. I had my trail swag (aka bunny ears) on for most of the hike, so I felt right as rain despite any questionable weather.

Mackinnon Pass

 

Posin’ on the Pass

The rest of the walk was made up of more waterfalls and bright green foliage. We followed the river all the way to the Dumpling Hut, passing by the Sutherland Falls, the 5th tallest waterfall in the world!

The last night in Dumpling Hut we made delicious pasta with salami, cheese, and tomato sauce. Surprisingly, I ate much better on the Milford track than I had been at home.

 

OMNOMNOM

The last day we had a 19km hike to finish the track, but it was all on level ground along the river. We made really good time along that trail. After lunch, I began to go at my own pace, walking by myself for the last 8 or so km of the track. It was a very different experience, walking, lost in thought and reflecting on the beautiful scenery.

 

We took a small boat to the car park at the end of the track. We took a bus from there back to Te Anau, and drove back to Dunedin from there. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen, and one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m so glad I went, and with such great people too!

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A poem I wrote

Time September 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 

Cannon fire

I bolt

Wind rushing by me

My feet pounding in the sand

Tiny, cold grains of sand

Irritate my feet

The sand flies by me

A spectral trail

Suspended in time

For a second

Falling around my footprints

Sand-layered cities of speckled blocks

My shirt rippling against the wind

My lungs, pumping like billows

This beach is mine

So I run

Until my breath is thick and warm

And my heart knocks furiously in my chest

The roots of my hair are damp, sweaty

My fingers get caught in my curls

Thick and dark: My mother’s gift

I continue running

Eruptions of energy

Fuel my piston legs

Hopping up onto moss blanket boulders

I bound from rock to rock

A teeter dance

A full laugh

I almost step on a sea lion

It barks

I bark back

But it comes out hoarse

Because my lungs are still billows

So I slowly

Slowly walk back

Revisiting the points of impact

Of my feet in the sand

That will soon be washed over

And washed away

As though

I was never there

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Mid-semester Break continued

Time September 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey there,

My last post was quite rushed because I wrote it while staying at a hostel in Nelson, where I had limited internet. This time I have the luxury to relax and update you all on my travels. I have decided to use a different type of narration structure for this post. Enjoy!

When we last left our heroes, the Betsy Trouble Squad featuring Devon was staying at the Anchorage Hut along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. They made it to the hut after a rainy morning of hiking. The next morning they intended to go sea kayking, but when the time came, and their alarms woke them at 6am, they quickly abandoned their plans. It was a dark and rainy morning, so they decided to sleep in until 9am. After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, cheese, and apples, our heroes made their way towards Pitt’s Head point, a beautiful corner along the coast with beautiful views of the ocean and glimpses of the North Island.  As they prepared to return to the hut, Daniel came across a hidden path through the bush. Not knowing where it led, and feeling filled with the spirit of adventure, he pushed through the bush, ignoring the cries of warning from his friends. When the bush thinned, Daniel saw that they had stumbled about something amazing. Climbing over the barnacled rocks that covered the shore, Andrew, one of Daniel’s companions, came across a cave. Our heroes found a small corridor through the far wall of the cave. After edging their way through the corridor, they came out into a beautiful patch of rocks, surrounded on either side by the cliffs of Pitt’s Head point! The cliff walls were dotted with small alcoves, filled with the nests of Shags, a local New Zealand bird. The Shags were in the middle of mating season, so little tufts of feathers were sprouting out of the heads in order to attract females.

Beginning the Abel Tasman Track

View from Pitt’s Head Point

Navigating the cave

Shags in their nests

After basking in the beauty of nature for a while, the heroes made their way back along the coastal track to their car, ready for the final leg of their mid-semester break. Leaving Abel Tasman that day, the Betsy Trouble Squad made their way along the western coast of the South Island, pausing along the way for lunch on the beach and a visit to the famous Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki! Excited at the prospect of famous pancakes at the pancake rocks, our heroes were disappointed to find that though the rocks were fantastic, the pancakes were over-priced, so they continued onwards. That night they decided to stay at Gillespie Beach. A beautiful beach, covered in smooth rocks and bundles of driftwood, it made a perfect setting. They set up camp, and then watched the sun set. They built a glorious fire using the driftwood, and basked in the glow of their primal creation. The next day they made their way to their final adventure. All that stood between them and the relaxing 9-hour drive back to Dunedin was 35km tramp on the Copland track! The hike to the hut was uneventful until Daniel, mistaking a pile of mud for a sturdy patch of ground, dropped his leg into mud until only his knees were showing. Quickly, Daniel leaped out of the mud, but the damage was done. Cursing the folly in his judgment and God’s cruel sense of humor, Daniel and the group continued on, stopping every so often to bask in the beauty of the green-blue colored river, the giant tree-like ferns, and the cloud-covered mountaintops. As the mud dried, Daniel and the rest of Betsy Trouble Squad crossed over narrow steel-wire bridges towards the hut. What made this hut particularly special were the natural hot springs only 2 minutes from the hut. So when the heroes took off their packs and boots, backs and legs aching, they relaxed in the pools of warm sulfur-scented water. The water ran through several pools, cooling as it traveled farther from it’s heated source. Afterwards, our heroes went back to the hut to eat and sleep. The next day, hiking back, they already knew, each one of them, that the car ride back, though long, would be a time to reflect on their adventures, the boundaries they’d crossed, and the limits they’d broken.

 

Pancake Rocks

Watching the sun set on Gillespie Beach

Relaxing in the hot springs on the Copeland Track

Cheers

 

Daniel

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Beach Weekend

Time September 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend, after several days stuffed with work, I was able to unwind with a couple of buddies at the beach. Friday we went to Long Beach, and Saturday we went to Doctor’s Point Beach. Although we got lost on our way to Long Beach, we got in some rock climbing. On Doctor’s point we found a giant rock on the beach. No one should ever underestimate how cool it is to chill on a rock on a beautiful beach. Beachs in New Zealand defy any previous notions you’ve ever had about the beach. No lifeguards, no beach blankets and umbrellas crowding the beach, no pollution.

Long Beach

King of the Castle

The climbing begins

Ben’s still got it

Bold

Doctor’s Point

Chillin on a rock

Best Rock EVER

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Tramping Adventures

Time September 4th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Te Anau and the beginning of mid-semester break

Time August 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been a while since my last post so I’ll update you all on the latest adventures.

Two weeks ago, The Betsy Trouble Squad ft. Toria made their way out to Te Anau to embark on the Kepler Track, one of New Zealands seven famous tracks. We drove to Rainbow Reach carpark to camp for the night. Having few available trees we attached one side of our tent to the car. The next morning, while we were taking down our tent, an RV pulled up next to us in the lot. Expecting to see a family caravan, I was surprised to see five old people jump out. We greeted each other, nervously lauighing as they read the obscenities written in the dirt covering our car. They were there to clear the traps along the track of rats, stoats, and weasals that attacked the local birds. We began our hike, surrounded by giant ferns and blankets of moss as we walked. We ran into two hikers, a british man in purple long johns and an asian woman. They told us that we had parked two hours farther away from our destination than we had intended. Although we were a little disheartened, we continued on, having lunch at Broad Bay, a beautiful beach next to a fog filled lake. We then began our ascent of Mt. Luxmore tp the hut, which was supposed to be at an elevation of over 1000 meters. Always on a constant incline, I led the way, feeling energized. Little did I know that two days later, after walking 40 km in total, my thighs would burn with a soreness that I’d never felt before. When we finally broke the treeline, the view was so amazing that we all took our shirts off to hike the rest of the way to the hut. The hut itself comfortably fit 50 people, but besides the five of us, there was only one other person, so we had plenty of room. After exploring he mountain a little more, we decided to make dinner. We made a delicious meal of hot dogs, cheesy bread and potatoes. We later made smore, using ginger snaps instead of graham crackers.

The next morning we boooked it down the mountain, doing the hike in half the estimated time. Andrew and I decided to hitchike back to our car instead of hiking an extra two hours. The second car we saw picked us up. They were a lovely couple from Te anau named Gary and Gail. After getting back to our car, we picked up the rest of our squad and drove back to dunedin.

This weekend was the beginning of our midsemester break. We slept at Kaikoura the first night and hiked Mt. Fyffe the next day. Today we stopped at the Cloudy Bay winery on our way to Nelson for a wine tasting. We had the Rose Blanc with salted olives, the chardonnay 2009 with spiced nuts, and the pinot noir 2012 with a meat crostini. 2010 was a very good year for wine.

 

I’m at a hostel in Nelson so I can’t upload any picture or videos but i will!

 

Cheers from New Zealand!

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Betsy, Bushball, and something else that starts with B… can’t think of one

Time August 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

On our way to Mt. CookHiking through the valley towards Mt. Aspiring

Hey there guys! It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been pretty busy having fun in Dunedin. I’ve been here for a little more than a month now, and I’m always surprised at how quickly time goes by here. My classes are going really well. I’m taking Directing, Design for Theatre, Voice and Movement, and Modern Aspects of Drama and Theatre. All the kiwis (new zealanders) in my classes are really friendly and outgoing, but I still have to struggle when the professor tells us to pair up or pick groups for projects haha. Always makes me a little uncomfortable. Regardless, my schedule is pretty great. I have no classes on Thursdays or Fridays. And yet I still feel as though I don’t have enough time on my hands. I got a part in a Lunchtime Theatre show. The show is Sure Thing by David Ives, a funny one act comedy. I’m looking forward to being in a show again.

I bought a car with three of my friends, for about 800 dollars. Obviously you get what you pay for, she runs, but she is fallin apart haha. Her name is good ole Betsy. She’s been holding up well, but as I said, she’s a piece of crap. Two weeks ago, we took a trip up to Mt. Cook/Aoraki, 4 hours northwest of Dunedin. Mt. Cook is where Gandalf fought the Balrog in the beginning of the second LOTR movie. Just  little note to keep in mind. It was beautiful walking around. We found a lake filled with glaciers at the base of the mountains. It was pretty incredible.

Betsy made it to Mt. Cook!

That same weekend that we went up to Mt. Cook, I went with the Ifsa-Butler group up to Naesby, for a curling/luging trip. As much as I make fun of curling for looking ridiculous, it is pretty hard. The stones weigh 20kg, but the hardest part isn’t sliding them, it’s doing gently so that you don’t overshoot the target. We also had a nice little run in with a group of sheep on the way…

DSCN0606

Another weekend, we took old Betsy out to Sandfly Bay, on the Otago Peninsula. This place had to be one of my favorites. Making our way down to the bay, we took our shoes off and ran down a steep dune, into the bay. It was breathtaking. The wind was rolling over the sand, stirring up clouds of sand and dust. Sea lions lay out on the beach, sleeping, occasionally moving in order to pile sand on their bodies to keep them cool. The water was incredibly blue, and the sand was warm as we ran along the beach.

Asher, me, Andrew, and Pete, with our sea lion friend

This weekend we’re taking a day trip up to the Moeraki Boulders, these huge spherical boulders that are over 3 meters in diameter. The weather may not be the best, but it’ll still be pretty beautiful. Last weekend, a bunch of us went to Bushball with the Tramping Club. We drove 5 hours to Wanaka, about 60 of us, and we hiked through the valley of Mt. Aspiring, until we reached the Mt. Aspiring hut in the middle of the valley. We stayed over in the hut and had a crazy dance party. The theme was Into the Wild/ Animal Kingdom, you can only imagine how crazy it got.

 

Well that’s it for now, but I’ll post again soon

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A day at the Shakespear Lodge

Time July 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

An English and Maori welcome at the Auckland Airport

Woken up early. Today we had another full day of activities. We had our morning meal. All meals are known as Kai, time for a feed, as they say. After breakfast we had a fun competition known as a publess quiz. Typically quizzes of those type take place in pubs.  Our team, the heffalumps ( a word borrowed from a news article about a NZ woman being attacked by some local hooligans trespassing on her property.) came in 2nd place after all the trivia, which ranged from general knowledge of NZ, to safety procedures, to sex and drugs. My team consisted of Taylor, Devin, Mike, and myself.  The second portion of our competition was a ROGAINE. Every time I heard that word I thought of male pattern baldness, but apparently it stands for Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Exercise. So our task was to search the entire Shakespear Regional Park for Numbered posts labeled with different symbols, record those symbols and return to the lodge before an hour had passed. We sprinted up and down the hills, hopping over fences and bounding over streams, running along the beach, and weaving in and out of trees, searching for the small posts. Eventually we found all of them, and weezing, huffing and puffing, we charged up the hill to the lodge, finishing with 20 minutes to spare. All the teams eventually made it back. After they deliberated, it turned out that we came in second overall, not a terrible result. Our next activity, after more kai, of course, was sea kayaking! They took us down to the beach, split us up into two groups, about six boats to a group. Mike, our group leader, led us through the basics, forward, backward, side to side, and we paddled along the beach over to a beautiful rock wall along a ridge that jutted out over the sea. By that wall, the two groups reconvened and we engaged in a chaotic and extremely entertaining game of kayak water polo. Back and forth the ball went, over and around many people’s outstretched paddles. Eventually our team emerged victorious, winning 3-2! We paddled back to the beach, joints aching, and shoes soaking wet. We headed back up the lodge, and I took a hot shower to wash the salt water off. We met up again for more kai (Kiwis eat a lot throughout the day, a style of eating that I am now rather fond of. We’ve eaten delicious food so far: pastries (delicious muffins filled with chocolate or caramel), fresh fruit, roasted vegetables, lamb, fresh bread… After kai, we were given the option of doing a couple activities: archery, mountain biking, and rock climbing. I was still feeling pretty tired after kayaking, so I went with archery. We went over posture, positioning, following through our shot, and aiming your shot. After several rounds of practice, we played Archery Risk. We had to shoot at picture of different continents hung on the wall, the goal being to “take over” all seven continents by the time the game was done.

After archery, we had dinner, and then we moved on to our briefing before our visit to the Maori settlement, known as Te Hana. A man named Tom, a member of the settlement, introduced and ran through many customs, rituals, and procedures involved with visiting the settlement. The main rituals we learned about was the introduction of our group to the Maori that was necessary before we would be able to enter the main house of the settlement. The introduction involves stating not only your name, but a river, mountain, and lake/sea that you relate or “belong” to. Learning about this showed me something that I had seen before when I visited a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and heard the Navajo speak. This was a deep and profound connection to nature that helped shape the Maori’s individual and collective identity. I wrote the La Salle Mountains, where I backpacked on Outward Bound, my first backpacking experience, the Wissahickon River, the river in the woods right next to my house that I’ve spent a lot of time at throughout my life, and the Red Sea, one of my favorite places in Israel to visit. We designated two people, Taylor and Asher, as our two chieftain, the two people who would introduce our group to Maori. After their introduction, we would stand behind them and sing two Maori songs, a sign of support, indicating that we approve of our chieftains leadership.

Every now and then I get gentle waves of homesickness, for my family, for my friends, for my living room couch that I could just lie on, watching tv, without a care in the world. I feel awkward, being in the period of getting to know people, I’d rather skip that part and move on to feeling at home. Or rather, I wish I was living in New Zealand with all my friends. I know that this homesickness is a symptom of culture shock, so I don’t read too much into it. The people on my program are really nice though, and spending time with them has been a blast so far! I’m excited for another day, and more adventures…

View of the Shakespear Lodge from a lookout point

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The Lead Up

Time June 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

One week.

One week until I leave Philadelphia to head out to LA, and then from there fly to New Zealand. I haven’t started packing yet, I’m kind of dreading it.

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