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Recapitulating the Indescribable January 20, 2013

Posted by pschnaak in Travel Log.

Boy… I have let far too much time fly by without posting to this blog.  The task of putting down into words (and pictures) all that I have experiencs thus far has only grown more daunting with each passing day.  The time has come, however, for me to man up, sit down, and share with you all what I have been up to.

Let’s begin at the beginning:  On the evening of January 3, I departed from the US and headed across the Pacific.  Completely disregarding the existence of January 4, my comrades and I arrived in Wellington (and after a quick connection via Auckland) on Saturday morning, January 5.  This is Wellington:

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Our route (Wellington -> Picton):

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Once we arrived in Picton, we retrieved our rental car and headed straight through New Zealand’s beautiful countryside to Abel Tasman National Park.  Though time was short, we managed to cover ground and hike to Appletree Bay, a beautiful and deserted beach.

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Our second day in Abel Tasman was only more beautiful than the first,  and we spent this day traversing the calm seas of Abel Tasman in sea kayaks, stopping to frolick on a sunny beach or gaze at the wildlife.

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I think that the group that I travelled with was really great, and I have really enjoyed getting to know each and every one of them (and everyone in the Pacific Program, for that matter).

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On Sunday, our group fragmented. Though some went to catch the mid-afternoon ferry back to the North Island, some of my comrades and I desired one more day exploring the wilderness of the South Island.  Upon the suggestion of a hostel employee, we chose to hike to Whistering Falls along the Hacket Track. Though the clouds slowly gathered throughout the day, we still enjoyed ourselves, and had more than enough time to climb mountains, play in rivers, and jump off of a bridge.  Here was my view from the summit:

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Time was our limiting factor, however, and we had to hurry back to Picton to catch our red-eye ferry back to Wellington.  We made the boarding call with literally seconds (100, to be exact) to spare.

Again, for yours and my sanity, I will skip discussing any school-related details.  Just know that for the next three days (Monday-Wednesday): I awoke at 7, was in class by 8, and dreamt only of returning to the great wilderness of this beautiful country.

On Thursday (1/17), everyone on my program departed Wellington bright and early.  This was our first program-organized field trip, and we were headed for the Taupo Volcanic Area.  Along the way, we stopped a few times to catch some great views of the interior of the North Island.  Here is one of my favorites:


After a painfully long bus ride, we finally arrived at our destination: the Lakeland Resort– across the street from beautiful Lake Taupo.

On Saturday, we headed to Tongariro National Park and hiked along the Upper Tama Path.  The weather along the way was extremely variable:  In some areas, the sun was hot and the air was still.  Just a stones throw away, however, the misty air was spitting snow and sleet.  Furthermore, once we were up to about 1400 meters in elevation, the wind was consistent and strong… enough to make the normal force between you and the ground feel non-existent. Needless to say, layers were a necessity on the hike, and I was glad to have every one of mine!  A great outdoorsman I know always told me:  “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!”  He would thrive in the New Zealand backcountry; I’m sure of it. (I MISS YOU, DAD!)

The changing scenery along the hike:






Me, at the summit, about to take flight:


After everyone had returned safely to the tour bus, we headed back to Taupo.  The sunset was spectacular.


On Saturday morning, the group and I went on a guided bus tour of some of the more geologically interesting areas of the Taupo Volcanic Area.  Much of our time was strictly academic, but we did see some things worth sharing.  For instance, the geothermal hotbed known as Craters of the Moon:



Here’s a good one, though not exactly academically relevant:


Huka Falls was our next stop.


For the remainder of our afternoon, we explored the city of Taupo.  Some went bungy jumping, others went fishing in Taupo.  I found the hot springs to be particularly captivating, and spent quite a while chatting with some locals while trying to find the perfect Goldlocks spot (not too hot, not too cold) in the shallow river.

On Sunday, the group had to make the long haul back to Wellington, but not without some great photo-ops!

Here is Mount Ruapehu in the clear skies:


And this is Mount Ngauruhoe.  Some of you might recognize this as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings movies:


Well great!  I’ve now recaptured some of the highlights of my most recent activities over the past two weeks.  These pale in comparison to the actual experiences, but I am doing my best to put what I can into words.


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