Life changing experience!
June was a crazy month for me, arguably my craziest month. I had final exams to prepare for, I went on my first vacation by myself, and I went on a number of other trips within NZ. One of the highlights of this month was hiking to the top of Wairere falls with Freya and Nikki. The hike wasn’t very long, but it was quite steep and climbing for 2 hours uphill is never easy. The view at the top was absolutely amazing and I enjoyed taking photos of the falls. I was so happy that Nikki brought her adorable little dog ZuZu! After the hike, we drove to Nikki’s childhood home and her younger sisters showed us around the farm. We met some beautiful retired racehorses, pet some real NZ sheep, and played with puppies! We had a yummy fish and chips dinner and headed back to Auckland later that evening.
Another highlight of the month was my trip to the North Island’s Taranakai region. It was a struggle to plan this during the midst of my finals, but the trip was really great! We left for Taranaki on a Sunday morning and drove 3 hours to a beach in Tongaporutu. I had seen online that there is a rock at the beach that looks just like an elephant, and I just had to see it for myself! During the ride to the beach we stopped in Piopio to have lunch and take a quick nature walk. The walk led us to Waitanguru falls, which is a 15-metre waterfall in a secluded area in the woods. When we finally got to the beach later that afternoon, we walked through a few caves, saw 2 of the “3 Sisters” rock formations (no, they do not look like people), and finally saw the elephant rock. It truly did look like an elephant! We couldn’t get right up next to it because the tide was coming in, but we were close enough to get a good look and take pictures. That evening we drove to New Plymouth and stayed overnight in a hostel. We headed to Egmont National Park in the morning and were lucky enough to see Mt. Taranaki before the fog rolled in. Because I had to drive us 6 hours home that same day, we chose to do a short 2-hour hike. This was another super steep track, but it was cool to hike through the clouds.
I was lucky enough to get a few more hikes in before I left NZ. On one of these trips my friend Luke and I took the ferry from Auckland to Rangitoto Island, which is Auckland’s youngest volcano. We hiked through the lava caves and to the top of the volcano. The hike was shorter than we both expected, but it was a beautiful day and the top of the volcano boasted a great view of Auckland. The last hike that I went on was at the Waitakeres Ranges. It was as if my trip had come full circle because the first hike I went on in NZ was at the Waitaks. I took the train from Auckland to Glen Eden to meet up with Nik and we drove out to the bush. We did a longer track and saw some waterfalls and visited the reservoir. We lost track of time and had to walk back in the dark, but it wasn’t too bad considering the fact that there are no dangerous animals in NZ to be afraid of. Nik drove me back to Auckland, and we had ciders and dominos in Mission Bay and said our goodbyes.
I had such a life changing experience in New Zealand and I can’t wait to return! IFSA-Butler did an AMAZING job. I couldn’t have picked a more helpful and professional program. I’ve been back in the states for only a few weeks and I’m already dying to return to my simple and adventurous life in NZ. Until next time, E noho rā Aotearoa!