“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.” – Gael Attal

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bioluminescence. Ever heard of it? I hadn't.

While on our trip to the Bay of Islands I was able to experience something so insane no amount of photos or description can really capture it. While on our night kayak and swim of "The Rock" we experienced bioluminescent water. What is it? Basically Bioluminescence is the emission of light by a living thing. In this case, it was by algae. On really sunny days on the Bay, this sort of algae absorbs lots of sunlight that it then emits when disturbed at night. So when our kayaks and paddles glided through the water during our night adventure, the area lit up fluorescent green!!!! When the lights were out on the boat and we were on the water, all you could see were streaks of fluorescent green. Even cooler was jumping of the back of the boat and producing the same flashes of neon with every movement of your body!!! According to our Kiwi guides, this phenomenon was inspiration to James Cameron's Avatar. I wasn't able to capture it on film, but here's a similar example...


Bay of Islands

Those Crazy Americans 
Last weekend we took a long weekend and skipped our Friday classes to head way way way North to the Bay of Islands, a must see in most New Zealand Guide books. Our group of 12 Americans traveled by bus to get there. It was an overnight ride exceeding 15 hours of travel from Thursday night to Friday morning. Looking back now, it would be equivalent to taking a long weekend to LA from Boulder and making the trip in a straight overnight shot. No wonder my Kiwi room mate thinks we are crazy Americans (We had the option to fly!)... Oh well the trip was amazing and well worth the travel time!
We're on a Boat! 
Bay of Islands is a paradise. The weather was a perfect 75 degrees with no wind and the water is GORGEOUS. The Bay holds 144 small islands originally named by explorer James Cook in 1769 (History Fact). When our group arrived, we boarded "The Rock" for a two day cruise around the bay. "The Rock" is a converted car ferry boasting it's bar, pool table, fire pit, and fun crew.
Within half an hour of boarding the boat, I found myself shooting paintballs at a plastic duck being towed off the back in hopes of winning a free beer. The competition was followed up by fishing for dinner. When you caught a fish, you were required to kiss it before it was cooked up. Catching the first and best fish of the evening would be rewarded with winning a free beer. With this incentive, my friend Ryan and I partnered up and soon enough got a bite. When we pulled it up, one of the Kiwi crew declared it to be the worst catch of the night (it was only about two inches long and we snagged it through the back...). Ryan kissed it anyway and we threw it back.
Kiss the Fish! 

View from the Boat. 

After a meal of the freshest fish I have ever eaten, we went out for a night kayak and swim. The stars were insane. We paddled away from the boat and floated in complete darkness. We laid back in our kayaks and took in the view. You couldn't tell where the sky ended and the dark water began. Here I also experienced bioluminescent water, something so incredible that it deserves its own post.

Eating Kina 
The next morning we had coffee on the deck of the boat, and prepared to ferry to one of the islands for a beach day. Once on the island, we headed on a short hike to a look out point with a majestic view of the bay and Ocean. Looking out onto water from here reminded me how far away from home I really am. We went snorkeling and hunted for Kina (black sea urchins whose eggs are considered a delicacy, which we ate) and enjoyed a full day of swimming and kayaking before the boat took us back to town.
Bay of Islands. Beautiful. 

Kayak Between Classes. Casual.

Our Two Kayaks  
Living on the water has its perks. Have a two hour break between classes? Sounds like a perfect time to kayak Wellington Harbor :)

Erin With the Boats 

I Love Tramps!

Tramping is the best way to see New Zealand. And for those of you thinking of the "Sexy Tramp" image most Americans associate with the word, that is not what I am talking about. Tramping in New Zealand means hiking and backpacking. So I will say it again, Tramping is the best way to see New Zealand.
I recently joined the Tramping Club on Vic Uni's campus. The club is one of the oldest tramping clubs in the Nation, which just had it's 90th anniversary last year. It's a fun group of people who like to combine hiking, backpacking, climbing, drinking, dancing, parties, exploring, tacos (yes tacos), and socializing into one hell of a club.
Enjoying the Campfire 
One Person Limit Swing Bridge 
Over the weekend of March 16th through the 18th, I went on my first Tramping Club trip, an annual event called Freshers. We headed North to Tararua National Park. Here we spent two days backpacking through the beautiful landscape. Since the trip was over St. Patrick's Day, some of the members even celebrated by dressing like leprechauns and constantly drinking whiskey during the walk.

On the Walk 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Attending Vic Uni.

Let me begin by saying I'm in Wellington attending Victoria University, not going to college. (college here means high school). Very rarely is it called University either, but usually always Uni. Vic Uni. To farther clarify, I am not taking classes at Uni, but instead they are called papers. I am also a third year here not a junior.  New Zealand sentence: "She's acting like a first year on uni and can't find her papers."
View from the library windows
Aside from the technical terms, attending Victoria University at Wellington is very similar to CU Boulder. I have four lectures and four tutorials (recitations), and have similar piles of reading and essays (not papers) to write. The classes are awesomely interesting and the campus is easy to get involved in! Did I mention the view....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wine? Yes Please.

Us in the Tasting Room 
On Saturday a group of us made a day trip Northeast to a region famous for producing Pinot Noir, Martinborough. A short hour and a half train ride landed us in the town square, lined with shops and outdoor patios. The town itself is settled among dozens of vineyards all with wineries open for tasting. The 70 degree and sunny weather welcomed us to walk around the main dirt road leading to the wine. The first, (and my favorite of the day) was a little place called Cambridge Road. This place really is a one man show. The owner harvests the grapes, produces the wine, and runs the cellar door. He was extremely passionate about his work, and even offered to take us back to the barrel room. My favorite taste of the day came from Cambridge Bridge, a blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah called Dovetail. The name "Dovetail" appeals to the owner's family's roots in carpentry, a dovetail being a type of joint.
Cambridge Road

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2 Weeks

Today I have officially been in New Zealand for two weeks and the "I'm here on vacation" feeling is starting to dwindle and the "I get to live this life for 5 more months"feeling is coming on strong. The first two weeks were packed with traveling, exploring, more exploring, and discovering New Zealand. I traveled from Auckland to Rotorua down to Wellington with about forty other American students getting acquainted with NZ life. We went caving, mountain biked, hiked, swam in mountain lakes, played rugby and even attended a Maori banquet. (All of these events were rain or shine... mostly rain).
Some of my Fellow American Students
View from Campus
Now those American students are my unofficial family in the unfamiliar city of Wellington, and one of them is even my flatmate! The two of us and a Kiwi (native New Zealander) share a three bedroom apartment about 20 minutes walk from campus and a 5 minute walk from the harbor. It might be the smallest space I've ever lived in, but our collection of mismatched dishes and walls covered in pinned up maps is making it feel more like a home.
Evening at the Harbor 
Wellington is the cultural capital (and actual capital) of New Zealand. It is full of modern sculptures and every face of every building boasts colorful murals. The downtown area hosts galleries, hole in the wall concert venues, and cafes with outdoor seating serving long blacks (black coffees). Wellington is also the hilliest place I've ever been. Trust me when I say I will have one toned butt by July.
Yesterday, at 20 degrees celsius, was the warmest day in Wellington I've experienced yet. I spent the whole day next to the water soaking up the sun. Looking out into the Harbor, my friend Sarah and I just kept saying, "I wish we could live here.... Wait, we do!"

I can't wait to explore more of the city and the country and keep you all updated as I do! Love you guys!