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M & J’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 05 Apr 2006

Location: New Zealand

MapWe’re now in Beijing, the capital of China where we’re studying ‘Chinese Society Today’. Beijing is a smoke bomb due to all the pollution, and so we consider ourselves lucky to get a glimpse of the blue sky, even if it’s just for a moment. The food is delicious, though, so we have to count our blessings.

Spring break has just ended, but we had a blast. We escaped Asia for the first time in eight months by hopping on a long flight to the south pacific to a little remote island known by the locals as New Zealand. Maybe you’ve heard of it…

The population of New Zealand is around 4 million people, most of which reside in the North Island. Consequentially, the South Island is relatively deserted. We flew into Christchurch and had a bit of culture shock. Having come from India where people are everywhere, the streets of New Zealand seemed empty, even on St. Patrick’s Day. The next morning we rented a caravan and headed for the countryside, which we discovered was the best way to tour the island. Our first destination was Arthur’s Pass. A woman in town told us that on the way we needed to stop at the cave, and so we were watching for a sign. What we found was a truly mystical spot of the world. Travis, Bre, Marisa, and I marched down a little path towards what we believed to be the cave, and encountered a warning sign for waist deep, freezing cold water inside and to be extremely well prepared. With hesitation we went on and found the mouth of a large cave. The water was only ankle deep at first, but as we turned the corner, to the sign’s credit, the water was waist deep—and freezing. We floundered around a bit, but finally continued. The cave was formed by an underground river that ran for maybe a mile or so in darkness. With the aide of our headlamps, we followed the river, twisting and turning to its origin. We clambered up waterfalls and spotted big spiders and fresh water eels, illuminated by our halogen bulbs. After an hour or so of navigating the tunnels we spotted a sliver of daylight. Climbing up a ladder we made it out into the day once again. An unforgettable adventure.

From there we headed towards the ocean, camping along the way. In New Zealand there are all kinds of places to simply pull off the road down a dirt path and find a perfect place to spend the night. One night we were able to pull right out onto the beach. In was dark when we got there, and Travis went out to have a look around. Not long after he came running back to the camper, screaming about a rabid duck. We all went out to have look and discovered that a brave kiwi was the culprit. It seemed to be hungry so we gave it a little bread. It the morning it was waiting for a second ration. There used to be huge flightless birds in New Zealand, over six feet tall. They were hunted to extinction, but for a moment that morning we got a glimpse of what once was.

Down the coast and through national parks we went. Much of the southern island is national park, you see, which makes for great scenery. We stopped for a hike at Fox glacier, where Travis promptly crossed the ‘Do not Cross’ ropes and went for a little exploring. Some other tourists got the idea and crossed too. We called Travis back and got the hell out of there.

The scenery in the South Island is incredibly dynamic. One moment the rain forest is plummeting into the ocean, the next there are mountains filled with glaciers, then dry hills like Nevada or Montana, and then just south of that Fiordlands. No wonder they filmed Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. We were like Hobbits on our own little adventure, only without the fancy jewelry and magic clothing. In contrast, we were really roughing it…

After a little over a week of traveling around the south we hopped flight up to Auckland, New Zealand’s capital city in the north of the north island. Luckily we had my dad and Michele to greet us. They spend the winters in the Bay of Islands and have a little house that overlooks the Bay. It was just what we needed. The north island is much different—very tropical. Just after arriving we were hit with a tropical storm. When it wasn’t raining dad and I went out to work on a few projects that he had going. Everyone else pitched in too, especially when it came to painting.

We cooked great meals, went on little walks along the water’s edge, and did some much needed sleeping. Marisa’s parents sent a big box full of goodies—all kinds of reading material and little snacks—for which we are grateful. We relaxed a bit and regained the strength to return to Asia for another month or so. After a week, we said our goodbyes to my dad and Michele, which was hard for me even though I’ll be seeing them at graduation rather soon, and headed back to Bangkok by way of Sydney. Our trip to New Zealand was amazing, and we’re sure to return soon.

We miss everyone immensely, but are comforted knowing that we’ll be home soon. Just another month to soak up the Far East, pollution and all, before coming home and beginning the next stage of our lives.

That’s the news from the south pacific, where all the women have cute accents, all the men own fat sheep, and the children are chased by hungry kiwis.