Kia Ora

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One of the most diverse things in hotel rooms is the shower. Sometimes the hot water tap is on the left, sometimes on the right. The water could be a powerful massage source or a meager trickle. I can easily spend a good two minutes figuring out how to get the water to come out of the shower head. In one hotel, it took me a moment to realise there was no shower door. In this motel, the dial was super sensitive, so Canadian icicle was a mere half centimeter from boiling lava.

Pro tip: if you ever go to New Zealand, it is unnecessary to  pack chapstick or lotion. They have these brilliant creations called iSites, which I found in every town we visited. Among helping you book hotel rooms and plan hikes and activities and having several hundred pamphlets to add to your ever growing pamphlet collection, there are testers of all sorts of lotions and lip balms. You can completely moisturize with the samples of lanolin body lotion and honey eye serum. If you are willing to go find a bathroom to rinse off, you can even test the mud masks.

We drove to the Wai-O-Tapu hot spring park. We viewed pools of all different colors, thanks to the various minerals and oxides present. My parents and I made a game of guessing what compound was in each pool, based on the color. The weather switched from cold and rainy to hot and dry, causing my mom and me to take our rain jackets off and on at a comically frequent pace.  My dad played tour guide, reading knowledgeably from the pamphlet at each geyser. Getting engulfed in sulfurous steam smelled gross but apparently it is good for your skin. My favorite sight was Devil’s pool, because of its bright, acidic green color. The mud pools were entertaining to watch. It looked like boiling clay, with bubbles of various thickness and size. I couldn’t help but think of Shrek’s hot tub.

Next stop was a hot spring designated for swimming. It was on the edge of a river. I waded into the cool river water, and as I got closer to the springs, the water gradually got hot, especially near the surface. I braved the heat and climbed up to the source pool. I felt like I was standing in a hot tub turned up to the highest setting. Other people in the pool encouraged me to stand under the hot waterfall. It was worth it. It was basically like having a hot shower.

I woke up to rain. When we arrived at Whakarewarewa, the precipitation had transformed into a light drizzle. During the journey, as we followed a large white van, the door to its luggage trailer swung wide open, and as it entered a roundabout, a suitcase escaped. We pulled over and rescued it, leaving it at the nearest iSite.

To enter Whakarewarewa, we sauntered across a bridge and set foot upon the geothermally active land. I loved the Maori cultural show. They make great use of their tongues and even make their eyes look as if they are popping out, all to confuse and scare the enemy during war preparation dances. I put this knowledge away for use in future Snapchat face offs. The villagers knew how to put the free geothermal power to good use. They built wooden boxes over steam vents for steaming meats. They had a designated hot pool for cooking leafy greens, corn, and seafood. The locals took baths in the hot water twice a day, curing arthritis and bug bites among many other ailments. It felt oily due to its richness in minerals.

Kiwi Kiwi Kiwi

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land of the sheep

 

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Found the rainbow!

I clung to the rental car as my dad figured out how to drive on the wrong side of the road. The rumors are true- there are a significant amount of sheep here. Also, cows. The term Kiwi is extremely ambiguous here. You could be talking about a person, a bird, or a fruit. Important snippet of information: it seems like nearly every establishment closes down at 5 in New Zealand. It makes it tough to find food after that point, and even checking into hotels is difficult.We managed somehow.

Every hotel we went to, milk was provided in a little carton, and hot water heaters were always available in the room. They are really into tea and coffee here. Except not drip coffee. My dad prefers that American standard, but he drank a lot of flat whites here as a replacement. We went to bakeries almost everyday. I am not a fan of meat pies, but I tried a Ginger Slice and it was fantastic!

In Coromandel, we went body surfing. To get to the beautiful beach of Cathedral Cove, we trekked through a section of jungle that was reminiscent of Jurassic Park. After my parents convinced me to get out of the waves, we got ice cream. I got the two local favorite flavors: Boysenberry and Hokey Pokey, which is a popular candy here. Later that day, we drove to Hot Water Beach. We encountered tons of people with shovels, digging holes in the sand. As I walked around, I felt heat under my feet, radiating from the sand. I began to dig with my hands, and as I dug deeper, hot water seeped up and pooled in my hole. Soon I had created my very own hot tub!  I wondered why there were so many lifeguards around- the ocean at that portion of the beach was too rough that day and no swimming was allowed. Then I realized- they were there to help with burns. In some parts of the beach, the sand was literally steaming. If I stood too long on the sand near the steamy area, my feet started to burn.

We hiked the Pinnacles. Before stepping onto the path, I disinfected my boots to help save the Kauri trees from dieback. The terrain varied from giant fern jungle to cable bridges to rock steps that were carved in the 1920s. It kept randomly raining, but due to the heat of the day, I welcomed it. I munched on an apple cucumber. It was the shape of a kiwi, and tasted like a sweeter, more flavorful cucumber.  We finally reached a lodge that was completely self service and anyone could sleep in it. I am willing to bet that we could fit the entire UConn Outing Club in just one of the bunk rooms. For lunch, I put Manuka honey on a roll from the bakery. As we left the lodge, two friendly little birds greeted us and proceeded to escort us down the path. As we hiked along down the mountain,  I suddenly realized that I did not recognize the trail we were on. It turns out that we accidentally ended up taking the flood route detour. Oops!

Airplanes in the Night Sky

Hello there! It has been a crazy couple of weeks, and I have barely had time to sleep let alone write! This week is O-Week here at UNSW. Each day has been filled to the brim with activities. Mucho mingling. More about that later, let me first catch you up on my New Zealand adventures!

First, my airplane experience: I am not good at sitting still. 14 hours did not seem doable. But I survived! I watched the sunset out the window, made some progress on my movies-to-watch list, paced up and down the isles, and went through about a pack of gum. Then I spent hours editing GoPro videos. I’m super grateful to be blessed with the gift of being able to sleep in moving vehicles.

We spent a few days in Sydney. The highlight was definitely the walking tour, where I learned hundreds of fun facts that I sincerely hope no one expects me to remember. But our Sydney stay was not long-before I knew it we were waking up at 4:10 in the morning and catching another plane. This was only a 3 hour jump to New Zealand, but we flew in an impressive Airbus A380. It could hold 615 passengers!

After all this frequent customs security experience, I must tell you about my recently improved skill: I can get my shoes off real fast. Not just any old shoes you can slip on and off, but lace-up hiking boots. (contemplating putting this on my resumé)

I brought some homemade trail mix from home, so I had to declare it. I recommend bringing food to declare because you get to be sniffed by an adorable beagle.

More soon- I promise

Here We Go

After almost forgetting all of my shoes, my parents and I packed into our trusty blue Subaru to drive the first leg of our journey up to Bradley Airport.  We thought we were being clever, using our UConn parking discount and avoiding the craziness that is JFK. But the snowstorm Mars did not let us get off too easy.  The supposedly 1.5 hour drive took us 3 hours. Luckily Bradley was empty and there were no lines to speak of. We sat down at a restaurant with a TV right there at the table, because no matter where we are, when there is a UConn women’s basketball game being played, my dad and I are watching.

Our plane got slimed! Because of the storm, we had to be de-iced. A man in a cherrypicker sprayed our plane down with steaming hot water, and then doused our wings with a thick green goo. I wash my parents’ cars myself, so I’m not used to the drive-through car wash experience. I gotta say, it was a fun time.

An hour later, after some enjoyable turbulence thanks to those clouds, we zoomed over the national mall and touched down in D.C. Our family friends Jim and Nancy picked us up and chauffeured us to their house in Virginia. This morning, I woke up to an Airedale licking my face. My friend Charlie came over, and his dad Jim treated us to a brunch of Eggs Benedict with special Jim Sauce.

I gotta go now- must burn energy before I have to sit on the next plane!