Each semester IFSA-Butler students chronicle their adventures and experiences as they live and study in different countries. Read a firsthand perspective of how cultural and educational differences shape their journey.
After an exciting week in Queenstown we continued on to Te Anau in order to experience Fiordland. We did part of the Routeburn track which I really enjoyed. I wish we could have done more of it since we only got to hike about three hours out before turning around. We made it to our goal though which was an amazing waterfall. It was a great day and really got me excited for the Milford Track which I will be doing in a few weeks. The views throughout the hike were amazing and even the ride in was fun due to all the views.
The next day we went to Milford Sound. We hit snooze a few too many times and were running a little late for our cruise that we pre booked. This caused us to do a little speeding to make up time. I do not recommend it. The road to the sound is extremely curvy and it was quite a scary experience. We made it just in time though. We literally had to run out to the boat as it was pulling away from the dock. The cruise was well worth the stressful morning though. It started off a little slow but once we got further out in the harbor the views were amazing. We were lucky enough to have it rain too which usually would be a bad thing. In this case though the rain adds to the beauty. Whenever it rains tons of waterfalls form along the rocks. Even though it wasn’t raining hard it was still a site to see. Also, we encountered a pod of dolphins which was a really nice surprise since I didn’t even know that was a possibility. Milford Sound was really nice but it didn’t fully live up to my expectations. It seems like everyone thinks that is the number one thing to do in New Zealand but I personally think the glacier walk was more interesting. That night we just relaxed at our hostel which was much needed.
The next day we thought it would be a good idea to drive to Dunedin via the scenic highway. We drove all the way down to Bluff so that we could be at the southern most point in New Zealand. We got some oysters there which were amazing! Expensive but amazing. Then we continued with our journey and drove up along the coast. We stopped at Nugget Point right as the sun was setting. We kind of underestimated the amount of time we would spend in the car so we didn’t get to do all the little side trips we would have liked but it was still a nice day. We arrived in Dunedin around 8pm and after getting some food we all went to bed since we were so tired. I never want to be in a car for ten hours in one day ever again!
On our first full day in Dunedin we took a few tours. We started the day with a tour of Cadbury Chocolate. It was the most delicious tour ever since we got so much candy. They even gave us little cups of melted chocolate which was the highlight for me. After the tour Caroline, Lauren and I went over to the University of Otago campus to get some lunch. The campus is really nice and kind of made me wish that I studied there. After filling up on some cheap food we made our way over to the Speights Brewery for another tour. It was really informative and was a lot better than the wine tour. After we finished walking around the brewery they took us into a room where we could sample the beers. I didn’t plan on starting to drink at 2pm but who am I to complain. After the free beer tasting we went next door to the pub and met up with Adam and Nick who are in Megan and Lauren’s group. After a while we decided we needed some food so we went to this mexican restaurant near the octagon which is the center of the city. It was the first place with real mexican food so I was pretty excited. That night we went back to the hostel and played some drinking games with the other people staying at the hostel. It was really nice to hang out in the common room since before this part of the trip we were always too busy or tired to just hang out. I met people from England, France, Hong Kong, Germany and Ireland. It was really fun and talking to them made me change my views on travel. I always thought traveling was something that people who couldn’t find jobs after graduation did. But now I really want to travel after I graduate. Everyone I met was so happy and social that it seems like a really fun thing to do.
On our last full day in Dunedin we went to Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world. Megan and I ran up most of it but got a little tired before reaching the top. We then made our way to the botanical gardens. They were not as good as the ones in Christchurch but there was a really cool aviary. Once our friend Adam finished his tour of Cadbury we went over and picked him up to go to the peninsula. We went to the only castle in New Zealand which was a little underwhelming but still a cool thing to say you saw. After that we went on a quest to see some penguins and sea lions. Sadly we couldn’t see any penguins without taking a tour which we didn’t want to pay for. We did end up seeing a sea lion though. That night a big group of us from the hostel went out in Dunedin. It was a blast and was the perfect way to start wrapping up the trip.
On our last full day on the south island we went back to the peninsula to try and find more sea lions. We ended up finding quite a bit and even got to roll down the sand dune on our way to the beach. After hanging our with the sea lions for a bit we started the trek back to Christchurch.
The next morning we woke up before dawn in order to catch our flight back to Auckland. I couldn’t have had a better spring break! It was a blast and really made me start to thing about what I want to do after graduation. I now know that I want to have a year of just backpacking around at some point in my life.
Backpacking is a big culture in New Zealand. In every city, you’ll see lots of backpackers hostels that provide cheap accommodation, also cheap meals and even cheap drinks. I spent my past two weeks backpacking entire South Island. I started from Christchurch and went around South Island in a counter-clockwise loop covering places like Kaikoura, Nelson, Westport, Franz Josef glacier, Wanaka, Queenstown and then back to Christchurch. I also flew to Wellington and spent a couple days there. The best way to enjoy a country is to travel alone and that’s what I did. I traveled with legendary hop on-hop off Kiwi Experience tour bus and my journey was enriched with commentary all along as we went to places and looked outside at breathtaking scenery that changed drastically.
Just like US colleges have Spring breaks, at University of Auckland we have a two week long mid-semester break. Most study abroad students utilize this time to travel and get to know the country more. Some of my friends even left the country to go to Australia, Fiji or other far-flung islands like Cook Islands. The part that made my trip so wonderful and memorable was my crazy dreadlocks that I had gotten just two days before I began the trip. If you have not seen fresh dreadlocks, let me tell you, they look nothing like anything you have seen before. Fresh dreads have a natural tendency to stay erect, as if it wants to touch the sky. See a picture of my dreads below. And wherever I went, I got stares and lots of unsolicited attention. The fact that I went around carrying my DSLR camera with big lens and wearing sun glasses just made me look like a stereotpyical tourist. At several places people would tell me, “Hey, how’s your vacation going? Do you want something to smoke?” You know what I mean. I thanked them saying No and walked on.
My sick as dreadlocks.
I met lots of people just because of my hair and had tons of interesting conversations. You would not believe it but in some towns (more than one) someone would come to me and say I saw you in another town, the town that I had been to before. I just stood out in the crowd wherever I went. In Christchurch, I thought I was being followed when the guy walked up to me and said, “We were on the same plane, I recognize your hair.” These past two weeks were all about meeting new people and learning about their travel experiences. Some of the people who were traveling on the same Kiwi Experience tour bus had been traveling around the world since several months. And they had plenty of stories to tell.
If there is one place in New Zealand that is closest to Times Square of New York, it has to be Cuba Street in Wellington. There are plenty of benches on the street, you just sit there and see all kinds of people pass by. Fortunately, no vehicles are allowed so it’s only people. There’s a lot happening there and you’ll never be bored. The least favorite town of my trip probably was Westport, a coal mining town that smelled like burning coal. I was not feeling well and the smell of Carbon Monoxide made it worse. But overall, this 15 day long adventure was probably one of the most enjoyable days with lots of activities during which I took more than 800 pictures. Now I want to travel more, a motor-cycle tour of South America does not seem too far-fetched.