Finals and last minute exploring!

Kia Ora!

When I first got my finals schedule I thought there was no way it was accurate. Finals at Otago last an entire month! Most people have 3-4 finals within that time frame and have a decent amount of time in between. This allows for lots of last-minute traveling and hanging out with friends. I’ve fit in a trip to Milford Sound, another trip to the Catlins, and lots of beach days taking advantage of the warmth before I head home to another winter.

My favorite paper this semester was Pacific Health. We learned about Pacific cultures and customs and the history of their migration to New Zealand. The last lecture for this paper was bittersweet saying goodbye to the lecturers that I’ve come to know enjoy. We had a talanoa, a talk, about what we enjoyed through the paper and what we would recommend for next semester, we ate Sapa sui, a traditional Pacific meal, and created a facebook page for the class to stay in touch for the future.

class of students in the Pacific Health paper course
Pacific Health class members and lecturers!

Finals at Otago are very different than at Linfield! My first final was Environmental History of New Zealand, consisting of two essay questions. There was one overall question relating to the entire course objectives and the other question was more specific about one of the main learning outcomes. My exam started at 2:30 pm, so everyone was expected to show up at 2. At 2:15 the proctors opened the door and gave you a number indicating where you must sit. All bags had to be left at the front of the room and you weren’t allowed to wear a watch, have any electronics on you, or have anything at your place other than your student ID and two pencils. The front page of the exam had a place to bubble in your student ID and write your name and at 2:30 you were allowed to begin with two hours to complete the exam. No one could leave within the first hour and no one could leave within the last 15 minutes. After the 2 hours, the proctors picked up your exam, checked your student ID and were very strict about no talking. The atmosphere for the exams is much more stressful and formal than exams at Linfield, adding, I believe, more pressure on the situation.

My second exam was Maori Society and a different format than my first one. This exam had 40 multiple-choice questions about lecture content and then 30 multiple-choice questions about two provided readings. The first 40 questions were only .25 points each and the other questions were worth 1 point each. The readings were also given to us before the exam so we could read and interpret them. My final exam is a combination of the first two, consisting of multiple-choice questions and two essays. All of the exams are also worth a lot of your final grade. My first one was worth 60%, the second 40%, and my last 50%. This made me very stressed considering I don’t always test well and the exam score could make or break my final overall grade in the paper.

On a more exciting note, I finally got to see Milford Sound! We had tried to do a cruise on the sound before but it got canceled due to weather, and many other people also had their cruises canceled due to weather. We went to Te Anau the night before, stayed in a hostel, and left early the next morning for our 12 o’clock cruise. The cruise we did was 2 and a half hours long and described as the best one there is. It definitely didn’t disappoint! The weather wasn’t the best that day so there weren’t too many people on the boat making it more comfortable to move around and enjoy the scenery. As we were leaving the harbor a couple of dolphins came up and swam next to us for about 30 minutes. This is probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen while being here! The tour guide said there were one male and two females and they usually don’t come into the harbor as they did. They were much larger than I was expecting and I loved watching them play in the water doing jumps and just gliding along. They eventually swam off and I finally took in the scenery around me. I felt so tiny on the boat surrounded by huge snow-capped mountains on both sides of the sound that looked never-ending with the fog. Pictures don’t do justice to how big the mountains actually were! The cruise went along both edges of the sound going right up to the waterfalls. The first waterfall we stopped at was one of the “smaller” ones and the boat went right under it! We stayed on the upper level and got a little wet from the mist, but the people on the lower level got soaked. They also put out cups that got filled from the waterfall and we got to drink the water! It was some of the most refreshing water I’ve had! We then went to the end of the sound and the came back along the other edge. On this side, we saw baby seals and went under the biggest waterfall. We stayed on the upper edge again but we all got soaking wet! I wore jeans that got soaked through and all of our hair was dripping wet. It was so worth it though, it was so much fun! After the cruise, we stopped at Te Anau for dinner and dessert and then made our way back to Dunedin.

Milford Sound surrounded by mountains
Milford Sound from the Dock
Milford Sound surrounded by mountains
View from the front of the boat
Milford Sound and mountains with fog
The mountains were huge and the fog added to the effect!

Another trip I’ve gotten in is to the Catlins with my flatmates. We left in the morning and made our way to Nugget Point. We hiked up the hill overlooking the lighthouse and took in the views. After Nugget Point we stopped at a cafe to eat lunch where I got fish and chips. Our next stop was Purakaunui Falls and after that, we went back to Matai and Horseshoe falls. During the car ride, we played games and listened to good music.

grassy slopes of Nugget Point surrounded by the ocean
Nugget Point

Another quick trip was to Queenstown. Victoria and I boarded the bus, which only cost 20 USD, at 8 am and got to Queenstown at 1 o’clock. We ate the best Mexican food I’ve had in New Zealand and then walked around looking for souvenirs and taking in the scenery. We also made a stop at Patagonia Ice Cream since the line wasn’t as long as it usually is. The next day we studied in our hostel and at a Cafe then boarded the bus back to Dunedin at 4 pm.

I really love Dunedin itself so I’ve also spent lots of time just walking around and trying to take it all in before I leave. One of the things I really enjoyed was renting bikes and riding around the peninsula. It cost 30 NZD for 4 hours, so we went at sunset and enjoyed the beauty of the city.

Otago Peninsula surrounded by water with mountains on the horizon
Bike riding the Otago Peninsula
St. Clair beach looking out over the ocean with an ice cream cone in hand.
Patti’s and Cream ice cream at St. Clair!

St. Clair Beach is the closest beach to Dunedin so we’ve spent lots of time there the past couple days with the nice weather. Some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had is from Patti’s and Cream ice cream truck! Their truck is usually at St. Clair and the best part of going to the beach. We also celebrated a couple of early birthdays at the beach the other night with all of our friends. Many of them are leaving soon so it was probably one of the last things we’ll get to do together. We brought burgers from ReBurger and ate it on the beach while watching the sunset, playing games, and hanging out with fun people!

Sunset at St. Clair over the ocean with an orange sky
Sunset at St. Clair
Friends at the beach
Celebrating early birthdays at the beach!

Caitlyn

Brewster Hut

Kia Ora Everyone!

Last weekend my friends and I went to Brewster Hut and had the best time! Brewster Hut is located in Mt Aspiring Nation Park, the same park as my trip with the tramping club. I was so excited to go back because the area was so beautiful! This tramp, however, was very different than my one with the tramping club. The 6 of us squeezed into our friend’s van and Juliet had to sit in the back seat surrounded by all our packs. We were originally going to camp Friday night close to the trailhead but it was raining pretty hard so we instead stayed at a hostel in Wanaka.

When we got to Wanaka we went to Red Star Burger again and then to get groceries. At the grocery store, we ran into another group from Otago who was also going to Brewster Hut. However, their group alone consisted of 15 people and the hut only has 12 beds. They also rented crampons and we did not. We got a little worried even though the DOC said the conditions should be safe. The DOC is a great source to use, similar to the Forest Service. Their job is to know the tracks and advice you on the conditions. If you ever have any questions about safety and knowledge of the track, don’t hesitate to call the DOC! We tried to find a rental shop for crampons the next morning just in case, but when we couldn’t find any we decided we would just asses the situation when there and if it was dangerous we would turn around.

The next morning we left Wanaka and drove another hour to the trailhead car park. We parked, strapped our packs on, and headed out! The first part of the tramp entailed a river crossing past our knees. None of us wanted to hike 4 more hours with wet clothes so we took our pants off and crossed in our boots and underwear! It was definitely a bonding experience for all of us! After crossing the river, we put dry clothes on and climbed up this huge rock to actually get to the trail. We immediately realized this hike would be very difficult and a steep climb. For 2 1/2 hours, we were climbing up the beach forested mountain over tree roots and rocks. Many times we had to use roots and shrubs to help hoist ourselves up. The track was also slippery and very muddy. We had sunshine, rain, snow, and very strong winds in those couple hours. I was definitely losing motivation after a while and ready for a change of scenery when we finally broke through the tree line. The view was worth it as you realized you were tramping surrounded by mountain peaks! The track continued to climb up a ridge with lots of rocks and eventually got to the snow line. Luckily you could walk to the side of the snow and wasn’t dangerous at all. When I finally reached the top of the last hump I was so grateful to see the hut! It was a beautiful location, with this bright red hut surrounded by snowy mountain peaks.

Brewster Hut; The trail was made of tree roots!
The trail was made of tree roots!
Brewster Hut; View of everyone tramping and using the forest to help climb!
View of everyone tramping and using the forest to help climb!
Brewster Hut and the surrounding mountain peaks.
Brewster Hut and the surrounding mountain peaks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There ended up being 30 plus people trying to stay in the 12 bunk hut. It was very crowded! When we got to the hut we warmed up inside, played cards, and then explored around the hut outside. During the off-season, winter, there is no gas provided in the huts so we brought our own stove burner and gas can. During the off-season, there is still water provided outside the hut collected from the roof, an outhouse that doesn’t stock toilet paper, and a first-come-first-serve standard.  Since its first-come-first-serve, you do not have to book a bed but the DOC still suggests paying $10 NZD to help keep the facilities up to standard. To be safe the water should also be boiled before using. Some of the people at the hut used the water and were fine, but one of our members drank the water without boiling it and felt sick to her stomach when we got back.

For dinner, we boiled water and made gnocchi with tomato sauce. After dinner, everyone at the hut grabbed their sleeping bags and sat on the deck watching the sunset. It was so much fun to talk and laugh with everyone as we watched the sunset and the stars appear while being surrounded by native Kea Birds!

Making dinner with a view of Mount Brewster from the hut window.
Making dinner with a view of Mount Brewster from the hut window.
Alpine parrot, the New Zealand native Kea.
Only alpine parrot, the New Zealand native Kea.
Our group snuggled up for the sunset!
Snuggled up for the sunset!
Juliet, Hannah and I in front of the sunset!
Juliet, Hannah and I in front of the sunset!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning I woke up for sunrise, which wasn’t as good as sunset but still amazing!

Sunrise over snow-capped mountains.
Sunrise
All 6 of us ready to head down the mountain!
All 6 of us ready to head down the mountain!
Hiking down the snowy ridge in the morning.
Hiking down the ridge in the morning.

In the morning, the outside water facet was frozen so we collected snow and boiled it to make oatmeal. The tramp down was much harder than the way up! It was really hard on our knees, hips, and muscles because it was so steep and uneven. It took a little less time to get down, but everyone’s legs were so tired at the bottom and we were so ready for lunch! We ate lunch in Wanaka and then made the long journey back to Dunedin. We all slept amazing that night and woke up the next morning barely able to move because of sore muscles!

Sincerely,

Caitlyn

Tramping and Camping!

Kia Ora Everyone!

My time abroad is flying by and I’ll admit my flatmates and I are in denial that our time together will come to an end. Uniflats hosted a farewell dinner for all international students on the 1 of October even though we still have little over a month left. This made reality really hit us that we have to leave this paradise and our new friends soon. However, my flat is already planning when we’ll come together in the future! We have one week of lectures left and then the month of final exams begins. I have three final exams, on the 24 of October, 31 of October and the 9 of November. I hope to do lots of traveling the two weeks before my first final and studying in between trips.

A couple of weekends ago a group of 11 of us went to Mount Cook National Park. It was the most beautiful place I’ve been so far! We did lots of tramping and I was continually amazed at the views! We left Friday afternoon and drove 3 and 1/2 hours to get there. Along the way, we listened to lots of good music and made a couple of stops at the blue lakes. The water was SO blue, none of us had ever seen anything like it!

Lake Pukaki with a view of Mount Cook National Park
Lake Pukaki with a view of Mount Cook National Park
The sunrise hitting the top of the mountain peaks.
The sunrise hitting the top of the mountain peaks.

When we got to Aoraki/Mount Cook the first thing we did was hike to the Tasman Glacier, only about a 1-hour roundtrip. As we left we watched the clouds and the mountain peaks turn pink from the sunset. We went to our hostel to check-in and make dinner. The next morning we woke up at 4:30 to do the Hooker Valley track for sunrise. We started our tramp in the dark while using our phone flashlights to see the trail. It was so amazing to watch the mountain peaks rise out of the dark and the clouds and watch the valley transform with the sunrise. The valley and clouds turned pink and the views were breathtaking! We made many stops along the way and took lots of pictures. When we made it to the glacier lake at the end of the track we sat for a while and just took in the views.

Mount Cook reflected in the glacier lake at the end of the Hooker Track.
Mount Cook reflected in the glacier lake at the end of the Hooker Track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We slowly made our way back to the hostel not wanting to leave the beautiful valley and made breakfast. I would definitely recommend doing the Hooker Valley track for sunrise since it was beautiful and other people weren’t out yet. The Hooker track is the most popular tramp and very easy, so everyone does it. When we were leaving so many people were just starting the track and we were very thankful for getting to enjoy the valley by ourselves.

After breakfast, we were all really tired so we took a two-hour nap before our next tramp. After napping we made our way to the Red Tarns Car Park. This hike was a steady climb uphill and had views overlooking the Mount Cook Town and valley. This hike was kind of a let down since the tarn wasn’t red and the views weren’t the best ones. We went back to the hostel after hiking down and made spaghetti for dinner. When we got to the hostel we discovered three other girls from my complex were sharing a room with us! That night we played games and prepared for the challenging hike the next morning. We were taking on Sealy Tarns, known as the stairway to heaven due to the 2,200 steps to the top.

Our group at the top of Red Tarns!
Our group at the top of Red Tarns!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sealy Tarns was very difficult but absolutely beautiful! The entire climb to the top is overlooking the Hooker Valley and the surrounding mountains. It was my favorite tramp even though it was difficult. When we made it to the top we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and took in the views. We stayed on top for about an hour until others began making their way up. The way down was so steep and everyone’s legs were shaking by the time we got to the bottom. We rested and stretched our legs before making the journey back to Dunedin with a short stop at a Cafe for dinner along the way.

Sealy Tarns
Our group at the top of Sealy Tarns!
Sealy Tarns
View of Hooker Valley from the top of Sealy Tarns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This last weekend we got to spend in Dunedin. Friday night we decided to go camping at Long Beach in the caves. It was so much fun making s’mores and sleeping with the penguins. We got to the beach late and set up our two tents in the dark and started a fire to warm up. Once again we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner along with some other snacks like s’mores with Tim Tams and belVita crackers. Halfway through the night, we saw a penguin run to the back of the cave where they sleep. We also went out to the beach and admired the stars and their reflection in the wet sand. We could also see the bioluminescence in the sand when you touched it! After the fire went out we climbed into our sleeping bags in our tents and went to sleep. Throughout the night you could hear the penguins screeching until they left for the water early in the morning. We woke up early enough to watch the sunrise through our tent window turning the inside of the cave and the water an orange tint. We then packed everything up and made our way home.

Camping
Roasting marshmallows for s’mores!
Sunrise
The sunrise from our tent door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next night, we went to the Fleetwood Mac concert as a spur of the moment decision. We bought the tickets half an hour before the show started, and I’m so glad we did! The concert was in the school stadium and it was packed since one of the band members is from New Zealand. The concert was so good and totally worth it! One of my favorite songs is Landslide, and they performed that one and many other good ones.

Sincerely,

Caitlyn

A week on the North Island!

Kia Ora!

At 7 am after mid-terms week we finally got to leave for our mid-semester break! Juliet, Juliet’s flatmate Victoria, another girl from their complex and I were finally leaving for the north island for a week off of school. Our flight took about 2 hours to arrive in Auckland which we all slept through since we’ve been busy with mid-terms. When we got to Auckland we took a bus to our Air B&B to check into our room. Our room was in an apartment building and was really nice with a balcony that had views of the city. We then went to pizza for lunch and got groceries for the rest of our time in Auckland. The rest of the day was spent exploring the city and hanging out together.

Karekare falls part 1
Karekare falls with a blue pool that continues to flow into the next waterfall.

The next day we went to black sand beaches and waterfalls. Our first stop was the Karekare beach and waterfalls. We walked along the beach for a while admiring the black sand then hiked to the waterfalls. The first waterfall had a little blue pool of water and continued to the next waterfall. The next waterfall was much bigger and beautiful. We were the only ones there for about 20 minutes so we got to enjoy the waterfall and the scenery without others. We then hiked back to the car and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch with oranges, trail mix and salsa lime chips made in New Zealand.

Karekare falls part 2
Karekare Falls

The next stop was Piha Beach and Lion Rock. It was really windy at Piha but the sun came out and it was beautiful! We walked along the beach to Lion’s Rock and decided to hike up the rock to the top. However, to get to Lion’s Rock we had to cross an inlet of water that was really cold! We all rolled up our pants and removed our shoes to cross but Victoria wouldn’t cross since it was cold so Juliet carried her across the water on her back! The climb to the top was steep but the views were so worth it and we had great views of the black sand.

View of Piha Beach
View of Piha Beach from the top of Lion’s Rock.

After Piha Beach, we went to Bethells Beach. We parked in the wrong car park and had to hike through sand dunes and thick brush to actually get to the beach. When we finally got to the beach it started raining and storming. We still walked to the other end of the beach looking for the cave that we were supposed to be able to walk through but realized it was high tide and we couldn’t reach the cave. We stayed long enough to see the sky turn pink and then went back to our Air B&B where we made breakfast burritos for dinner and played cards and watched a movie. For dessert, we went and got rolled ice cream. The ice cream shop also had crapes so I got a strawberry sugar crape with caramel rolled ice cream and whip cream on top!

Hobbiton
Posing in front of Bag End!

The next morning we woke up early and drove to the Hobbiton movie set! One of the cheesy reasons I chose to study abroad in New Zealand was because of the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings movies being filmed here. Since they are some of my favorite movies the movie set was a must-see for me. The movie set wasn’t a let down either, it was so much fun!! We had an awesome tour guide who told us all about the filming techniques used and we only had 9 people in our tour giving us lots of time to look around and take pictures. This was a highlight of not only spring break but my whole study abroad experience so far! I would recommend everyone to visit Hobbiton even if you haven’t seen the movies because it is such a New Zealand tourist attraction.

That same day we also did a tour in the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. The best part of that tour was when we left it was dark outside so the cave walls were covered in glow worms! The next day of our trip we flew to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.  In Wellington, we visited the zoo and saw a Kiwi bird, the national bird, and kangaroos. While there we also rode the Wellington cable car, walked along Cuba street, went shopping for souvenirs, and ate at a really nice Italian restaurant where I ordered a calzone that was so big and delicious! We stayed in a hostel while at Wellington which was not nearly as nice as our Air B&B. We got two rooms that had bunk beds and the bathrooms were pretty gross so we bought crocs to use as shower shoes.

Wellington
Wellington Cable Car with a view of the city

Our final day of being on the north island we had to get up at 4 a.m. to go to the airport. We flew to Christchurch where we had a 12-hour layover until we flew back to Dunedin. In Christchurch, we went downtown to a coffee shop and explored the botanical gardens. We went back to the airport early and ate dinner there before finally flying back. It felt so nice to sleep in my own bed and sleep in the next morning. The last event our mid-semester break was on Sunday when Juliet ran a half-marathon! We all went to cheer her on at the finish line and then went out to get pizza afterward!

Sincerely,

Caitlyn

Mid-Terms

Kia Ora Everyone!

It’s time for mid-terms at Otago and everyone is spending lots of time in the library! I had a foundations exam, a 2,000-word essay, and two 1,500-word essays. The exam was for my Maori 101 class and since there are so many students in that class they split the groups into 5 different test locations. My location was for students that had last names starting with A-B and had about 200 students. The exam had 45 multiple choice questions, and the questions were shown on a powerpoint presentation for 30 seconds each. You also had to bring your student ID to prove you were currently attending the University.

At a study break one day we went to a rugby game. The game was really fun even though I had no idea what the rules were! It was so impressive to watch them tackle each other without any padding and not get injured. The game was for a trophy between the Otago team and the Southland team. The stadium was pretty full and got really loud with the cheering! The atmosphere was very similar to a professional football game in the U.S.

Rugby Game
Study break at a Rugby game!

The weekend before mid-terms my flatmates and some of our other friends went to Te Anau. We left Friday night and drove through a rainstorm to get there. It took about 3 and a half hours and then we checked into the Backpackers Lodge located right in front of the lake. We stayed up playing cards and listening to music before separating into our different rooms to sleep. The next morning we were supposed to go on a cruise through Milford Sound but it got canceled due to weather conditions. Instead, we went to Queenstown, which was beautiful! The drive there was amazing and worth the whole road trip. The road was winding through the mountains and along the river until you pulled into Queenstown where you were surrounded by mountain ranges.

Queenstown
Viewpoint on the way to Queenstown

When we got to Queenstown we went to a park along the water and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. After that, we took a Gondola to the top of Queenstown and rode luges. Luges are similar to a one-person sled with wheels and brakes. It was beautiful to ride the luges down the hill and see the views of the city!

View from top of Lookout
View of Queenstown from the top of the lookout
Luging
Ready, Set, Luge!

Before heading back to our hostel we got dinner at a really good restaurant in the K-mart parking lot. And when we got back to Te Anau we went to a gas station and got ice cream as dessert. The next morning we got up early and made breakfast in the kitchen before checking out and driving to the Kepler Track. We ended up only hiking for about two hours since it started snowing pretty hard. However, the forest became even more beautiful as it got covered in snow and was totally worth it!

Kepler Track covered in snow
The Kepler Track covered in snow!
Flatmates
My flatmates for the semester!
My Flatmates first snow angel!
My Flatmate’s first snow angel!

After hiking we went to the grocery store to get more food for lunch and then made the road trip home. When we got back we bargained for who got to shower first and then we all went to bed early that night.

The thing that is getting me and others through mid-terms is knowing mid-semester break is coming! Juliet, some other friends and I are going to the North Island for some warmer weather hopefully!

 

 

Sincerely,

Caitlyn

Exploring

Kia ora everyone,

It’s my third week of classes at Otago and they’re very different from Linfield! I have one lecture with about 100 people and another with over 300 people. Assignments being turned in only have your student ID number and attendance in tutorials are taken by ID number. My other paper is very fun and I am really enjoying it so far! The paper is about Pacific Health and the culture of the Pacific Islands. The lecturers are from Samoa and very laid back and funny. Last week we learned how to say Hello in Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. We also learned from a guest lecturer how to do part of the traditional welcome dance in the Cook Islands. All of my papers also have tutorials led by tutors to discuss lecture content and prepare for exams or assignments.

During the first week of school, I signed up for the tramping (hiking) club and the winter sports club. The tramping club has lots of members so to attend a trip you have to put your name into a raffle and people are selected randomly. For the first trip, about 100 people were signed up and only 57 could go. Juliet, some of our other friends, and I were all lucky to get into the Lord of The Rings themed Bushball trip! We left Saturday morning at 6 am on a big bus and drove 4 hours to Wanaka where we ate at Red Star Burgers for lunch. The burger was huge and the best one I’ve had in New Zealand! During the bus ride, we did speed dating where the person in the aisle had to move to another seat for 5 minutes and then move onto another seat. I met lots of new people from Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, and the US. We drove another hour to the car park after lunch where everyone was shuttled to the trailhead. The tramp was about 5.5 miles and only took 3 hours to get to the Mt. Aspiring Hut. Along the way, we played sword limbo and other fun games! When we got to the hut the group leaders made us dinner and the rest of the night was a dance party until 1 am. All the bunk beds were taken so Juliet and I had to sleep on the floor in the main room along with 20 other people. At 8 am the next morning we were woken and ate breakfast before we packed up and cleaned everything. The 3-hour tramp out was beautiful since there were clear skies and no rain like the previous day. We stopped in Wanaka again for dinner and made it back to Dunedin around 9 pm.

Mt Aspiring National Park
Mt Aspiring National Park
Bushball Tramping Trip
Juliet and I ready for sleep after a 4-hour dance party!
Bushball Tramping Trip
Tramping friends!

Another trip I’ve done so far is with one of my flatmates and some of her friends to the Catlins. We left Saturday morning and made many scenic stops along the way to Slope Point. Our first stop was at Nugget Point and the sky was still pink from sunrise making it so beautiful! We then went to tunnel hill, Horseshoe Falls, Matai Falls, and Curio Bay. We spent the night at a backpacking hostel on a farm where my flatmate got to feed the sheep! The next morning we went to Slope Point, the furthest southern tip in New Zealand, and almost got blown away from the wind! Next, we went back to Curio Bay and saw the petrified forest and did the penguin walk. Sadly we didn’t see any penguins but it was still a pretty walk. It was raining pretty hard at this point so we decided to head back to Dunedin. We stopped at a cafe along the way and got some really good hot chocolate and lunch to warm us up.

Nugget Point
Nugget Point
Matai Falls
Matai Falls
Slope Point
Slope Point, the most southern tip of NZ!

Sincerely,

Caitlyn

Settling in at Dunedin

Kia Ora Everyone,

I’ve now been in Dunedin for over a week and my semester abroad has already been full of adventure! I arrived in Dunedin on June 29 after almost 20 hours of traveling time. I flew from Spokane to San Francisco to Aukland and finally to Dunedin. When I arrived in Aukland my checked bags were not at the airport and my carry-on was too heavy for the Air New Zealand carry-on weight limit of 7 kg. The airline is very strict about this weight limit so I was forced to check my carry-on. Luckily when I arrived in Dunedin my recently checked bag was there but my other checked luggage was still missing. So I grabbed my carry on, hopped onto the shuttle I had booked through my school, and finally made my way to the University. Luckily it only took two days for me to receive an email from the airline saying my bags were ready to be picked up.

I was the second to arrive at my flat but the other girl was very jet lagged and sleeping. It was a little lonely moving into my flat without others there and very little of my belongings but another flatmate showed up a couple of hours later. We tried going to the store but everything within walking distance was closed so we ordered food to be delivered. I had only gotten a couple of hours of sleep on the plane so I went to bed as late as I could manage and woke up very early the next day. I spent most of the day with Juliet (who also goes to Linfield) exploring Dunedin and the University even though many things are closed on Sunday. When another one of my flatmates arrived we made our way to the grocery store where I barely recognized anything! There was a much larger variety of fruits and vegetables, a small selection of American brands, eggs were not stored in the refrigerated section, and everything was more expensive. I made very little purchases that trip but got the necessary supplies for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

I spent the rest of the week exploring nearby beaches and meeting lots of new people. We went to Tunnel Beach, Sandfly Bay, Allans Beach, and Long Beach. Tunnel Beach had a really steep walk down but the views were so worth the difficult walk back up. At the bottom of the track, you could walk through a tunnel right to the shore to watch the waves hit the rock cliffs. Sandfly Bay also had a steep walk in sandy dunes to the beach but we got to see Sea Lions! At Long Beach, we went during sunset and I collected lots of small pretty shells. Long Beach also had caves that we explored and plan on camping at in the future! But out of all the beaches I’ve been to so far Allan’s beach was my favorite. We walked for a couple of hours along the shore and watched the biggest waves I’ve ever seen come in and hit the rock cliffs.

Tunnel Beach
Tunnel Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Beach
Sunset at Long Beach
Allan's Beach
Allan’s Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finally adjusted to the 19 hour time change after about 4 days but am still trying to get adjusted to sunset being at 4:30. I’m also still adjusting to it being mid-winter and 50 degrees when its nice and sunny at home. My flat is now full of food and all my flatmates are here getting along really well so far! Our living complex has had multiple functions to meet all our neighbors and hopefully, I continue to meet more people and explore the beautiful country!

Sincerely,

Caitlyn Blumenshein

Camping, Tramping, and Friends Part 2: The Kepler Track

Kia ora!

If you have ever thought about coming to New Zealand and like me, are an outdoorsy person, you may have looked into doing a great walk. In all of New Zealand, there are a total of 10 great walks. The walks comprise of multi-day tracks that end at huts or camping grounds and are usually situated in a place with spectacular scenery. Because the great walks are sought out by people around the world, New Zealand has what’s called the Great Walks season. The season runs from October to April, when the weather is warmer, and a cost is set to however many nights you decide to stay at each hut. The great thing about being at Otago for the winter term is that it is out of the Great Walks season, meaning that the cost of staying a night at each hut is lower. Though it would add to the experience to be doing a great walk during the warmer months, the cost between the on and off season is substantially different. For international visitors, it costs about NZ$130 per night during the on-season, while it only costs NZ$15 during the offseason.

A list of Great Walks found in New Zealand can be seen here:https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/things-to-do/walking-and-tramping/great-walks/

The Kepler Track is a 3-4 day track and in total, a 60 km loop. Because we were in the colder months, the risk for avalanche in most areas of the track was higher. We also only had the weekend available since school started on Monday. The combination of these two factors led us to decide to only stay for one night on the track and not do the entire loop.

The start of the track!!
The start of the track!!

Ami, Patrick, Kevin and I started from Dock Bay and made our way to Mt Luxmore Hut. With our heavy backpacks strapped tightly to our backs, we set off along the bay. This part of the track was forested and there were multiple signs along the way warning us that we were in Kiwi territory. Within the first 10 minutes of the walk, I was already beginning to get hot and the view of people swimming in the bay did not help my want to stop and take a swim. Despite this, we swiftly moved along near the edge of the bay, only stopping once to take a swig of water before the sandflies swarmed us. About ¼ into the track, I began to notice that the track had increasingly gotten steeper. With shoulders aching and calves burning, we decided to stop and take a breather. After a couple of minutes, we set off again. We repeated this cycle multiple times along the hike. It was far more challenging than the Copland track that I had completed a few weeks ago. As the steep incline of the hike took us higher into the mountains, we were soon above the bush line and could see the tops of the trees and the view of the bay from which we started.

Tracks like this reminded me that tramping is a mental challenge just as much as it is a physical one. Just as we were about to take another break, we spotted a sign that stated that we were 20 minutes away from the hut. Once we saw this we started booking it and practically power-walked the rest of the way there. At this point, we were above the bush line and the view was absolutely stunning.

The view from the top
The view from the top
Tried to put together a 3D puzzle.
Tried to put together a 3D puzzle.
The view from inside the hut
The view from inside the hut
A kea bird
A kea bird

This was one of the most challenging walks I have ever done but the people and the view made it worth it.

Best,

Mehana

 

Camping, Tramping, and Friends Part 1: The Catlins

Kia ora!

Now that I had gotten my first ever tramping experience over with, I was feeling very confident to plan one without the help of the tramping club. From the mid-semester break, I had also made the realization that I loved camping and wanted to go on more camping trips with friends.

The Catlins is an area about two hours south of Dunedin. Many people, especially surfers, travel there during the weekends because of its popular surf spots. Plus, with its close proximity to Otago, it was an easy trip to make. Me and three of my friends, Jen, Sam, and Ailisa, decided to plan a spontaneous girls trip to the Catlins. We loaded the car with our sleeping bags, tents, and most importantly, hummus, crackers, and chocolate, and set-off on our two-hour journey to the Catlins.

We arrived at Purakaunui, a popular camping spot in the Catlins, close to dark, and most of everyone there had already set up their tents and made their fires. Ailisa, who had camped there previously, showed us the perfect camping spot that was already equipped with a bench and fire pit, and high cliffs that shielded us from the wind. It was a clear sky, and the moon was bright enough that we could still see the waves and cliffs in the distance. Ailisa ventured off to look for more firewood, as we had only bought one bag of kindling, and the rest of us began making dinner. For dinner, we made bacon and pesto pasta topped with cheese. Though the bacon ended up more boiled than crisped, it was still a delicious meal and we were all very proud that we had not opted out for buying already-made food. We sat near the fire, eating our pesto pasta, sharing sweets, listening to music, and talking. We joked about how brave we were to go camping without a big group of people and laughed at the struggles we faced as girls peeing in the wilderness. When our conversations about life died down, we simply looked up at the stars and moon and then decided to head to bed.

Feeling like chefs!
Feeling like chefs!

Like any time I’ve gone camping, I’ve always tried to wake up for the sunrise. Keyword: “tried” because sometimes we’re all too tired or an alarm just doesn’t go off to wake us up. This was one of those times. However, we still awoke to the sun still low near the horizon. We walked along the beach then packed up our camping gear and headed out to explore the rest of the Catlins. As we were leaving, we could spot a group of five surfers running into the surf and more vans had pulled up to the beach to scope out the waves.

Missed the sunrise, but what a view!
Missed the sunrise, but what a view!
Walking along the beach we spotted a seal
Walking along the beach we spotted a seal

We spent the rest of the day exploring Purakaunui Falls, Curio Bay, and Nugget Point.

Purakaunui Falls
Purakaunui Falls
Curio Bay!
Curio Bay!
Nugget Point
Nugget Point

Overall, the Catlins is a beautiful destination in the South Island. I would suggest anyone who decides to study abroad at Otago to spend a weekend here, especially since it’s so close to home.

I’m loving it here in New Zealand!

Best,

Mehana

Mid-Semester Break (Part 2): Camping in Kaikoura

Kia ora!

After seeing the most pristine places along the west coast of the South Island, I felt eager to explore the rest of what the South Island had to offer. I was so excited to return home in Dunedin. It was the first time I realized that I could comfortably call Dunedin home and after being on a bus with fifty other people, sleeping in tents, and jumping from hostel to hostel, I could not wait to be in my own, comfortable, warm apartment. However, my eagerness to be home did not last long and I soon began planning a trip up to the northeast of the South Island to Kaikoura. That Friday, me and a friend I met on the tramping trip started our drive to Kaikoura. The seven-hour drive was accompanied by easy New Zealand tunes, views of sheep (you would not believe how many sheep are actually in New Zealand), and talks of how much we were enjoying our time in Dunedin.

Kaikoura is a town located up north from Dunedin where the beaches are scattered with seals, surfers, and paua shells. The town of Kaikoura is a unique one in that an earthquake had caused destruction to roads and other infrastructure in the area back in 2016. The earthquake was so huge that the construction of the roads is still going on today. What’s even more impressive is the seabed rose a few meters above sea level. Given this recent history, the drive there involved multiple construction stops along the way. Though, it gave us a chance to really see the effects of how this earthquake changed the landscape of this town.

Upon arrival, the sun was setting behind the clouds and our friends who we were to be meeting were gathering firewood for the night. After setting up our tent, my friend Miguel proudly showed me his bench that he had made over the past week that he had been there. In reality, it looked like a pile of rocks, but it worked as the perfect place to watch the waves and sit near the warm fire. As the sun went down, we sat around the fire cooking our meals for the evening and sharing drinks.

Miguel cooking a very nutritious meal of beans and potatoes
Miguel cooking a very nutritious meal of beans and potatoes

The next morning, I awoke to the sun shining through my tent and the sound of waves crashing along the shore. That day, my friend Mia and I did a walk along the Kaikoura coast, all while spotting seals along the way. We then decided to explore the town centre which was simply one strip of road filled with knick-knack shops, cafes, and OpShops. I took this time to search for gifts for my family back at home and even snagged a $2 book from an OpShop.

Kaikoura at sunrise
Kaikoura at sunrise
Through the mist, you could see the snow-capped mountains
Through the mist, you could see the snow-capped mountains

 

The Kaikoura coast walk
The Kaikoura coast walk

The rest of the two days that we were there, we simply sat, lay, and relaxed along the beach reading our books and watching the boys surf. It reminded me that it’s okay to not be constantly doing something when you’re abroad. After talking to other people about this subject, we all seemed to share the same feeling. Because we are abroad and have a limited time in the country that we are studying at, we were constantly feeling that we had to plan trips every moment we could. While spending those relaxing couple of days in Kaikoura, I realized that it was important to take a few days off of exploring and adventuring. During that weekend, I was able to finish the book I had bought and reflect upon my semester abroad thus far.

 

Best,

Mehana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best,

Mehana