Category Archives: New Zealand

Surfin’ Safari

Day 73 – 12 April 2010 Monday

Set off after breakfast to meet up with the surf tour- same guys I went with before- they recognized me as, ‘ah yes the American’. Chris, Molly, Jessica and myself followed the van in our car for many an hour to Ahipara, which is a quiet little beach town just at the bottom of Ninety Mile Beach. The town was so quiet it seemed that there were more dogs than people. We made it just in time to put on some wetsuits, find a board and get some basic lessons in at the beach right in front of the main lodge before it got dark. This beach was SO much easier to surf than Piha and everyone was standing up by the end of the session.

Day 74 – 13 April 2010 Tuesday

Woke up real early and was out on the water by 9. After about 2 hours I felt that I had improved alot but was uber tired. We went back to our lodge to eat breakfast and take naps. Then we set out to go sand boarding. Drove the van over some beach and tidal pool-ish type rocks, around the point to a giant sand covered hill. We hiked up with boogie boards and from the top the slope looked much steeper. I got a good run in by sitting on my bum and using my feet in front of me to brake. Chris tried to stand and wiped out a bunch and Jess and Molly just wiped out in general. We then headed to the east coast to Tokerau beach which was slightly tougher but still offered good beginner waves. It rained a lot but we didn’t mind because we were already quite wet. Eventually it got too dark to see and we had to leave. Ate dinner, played some cards and went to sleep.

Day 75 – 14 April 2010 Wednesday

Set out to another east coast beach – this one was further north than the day before but I can’t remember the name of it. It was a beautiful spot- white sand as fine as flour and vegetated bluffs that reminded Molly and I of a beach in SB.  The waves were good-but very shallow and I got very friendly with the sand a couple times. After a bit we ate some lunch and then the group decided to hang around to see if the surf would stay good all day. We took a nap on the grass and played some cricket and Frisbee but as we waited around the surf only worsened. Eventually it was too late to try to find another beach so we head back. We drove back along ninety mile beach. Not just on the road next to it- but literally ON the beach. It was quite funny because in the huge van loaded with people and boards we almost got stuck a couple times. We also learned that ninety mile beach isn’t actually ninety miles long but only 84 km which is just a little over 50 miles. Still probably the longest beach I’ve ever seen. Or driven on. We then headed to a BBQ at the main lodge. Us Californians taught a big group how to play flip cup and we ended up playing for a ridiculously long time. We hung out with the other group of more advanced (and much younger) surfers, had a mini jam sesh with the surf coaches and then walked home before it got too late so that we could be bright-eyed for the next day’s morning session.

Day 76 – 15 April 2010 Thursday

Didn’t end up heading out till 10ish-this time we went to Shipwreck Bay, barely south of Ahipara. By this time in the trip I felt confident enough to catch a green wave- that is a wave before it breaks into white wash and is heaps steeper, scarier and more nose-dive inducing. This was the perfect beach to do this at because the waves would break at the point and curl left hand all the way down the entire beach, so if you did catch one you could ride it for a loong time. The waves kept getting steeper and I got more frustrated. We went back to the lodge for a mini lunch break and then back to the same beach again for an evening surf. This was probably my best session- I caught a couple long waves and apparently at least one of them was green (according to onlookers) even though I couldn’t really tell because I was too busy trying to get over my fear of large waves (the waves weren’t really that big they just seem that way when you are directly under them on a giant piece of plastic). Ended on a good note just as it got dark and headed back to the lodge where we celebrated one of the ‘leaders’ birthdays with homemade pavlova.

Day 77 – 16 April 2010 Friday

For our last surf we headed to Shipwreck bay again- the tide was much higher but the waves were just as scary. Didn’t catch many good ones but was satisfied laying on my board, catching rays and getting jostled around every once and a while and generally just enjoying spending long amounts of time in the ocean.  I realized that I had improved so much in just five days- from barely able to stand to being frustrated at not catching enough green waves. Molly and I vowed to keep it up when we get back to SB. Also, the trip overall was heaps of fun- couldn’t think of a better way to spend my ‘spring break’ than on a surfin safari in the warm north.


A Day in the Waitakeres

Day 71 – 10 April 2010

After a day of recovery we set out again, but this time with the help of some friends. I mentioned to a German kid that lives down the hall (Johannes) that I wanted to go hiking and next thing I know he has a map and says he’ll meet us at 8:15 the next morning at the front gate. So no backing out. Still unsure exactly which track we would do, we headed to the Waitakeres (the closest forest to Auckland city) and trusted that Johannes and the map the he borrowed (which by the way was a 1979 map) would figure out the rest. The track was quite muddy and because I was the only one in just sneakers rather than boots, every time I crossed a muddy passage Chris and Steffen (another German kid from IH) would wait and watch to see whether I would fall and yell “should I get the camera?”  We hiked up to the highest point in the Waitakeres but because there were so many trees there was absolutely no view of anything and it was more just a clearing in a forest. No matter, we took lots of stupid pictures and then made the day’s mission to find an epic view. We circled around, to Goat hill and to Karamatura falls and then made our way back to the car. It was a good full day of hiking that we needed and would not have gotten without that extra (German) motivation. Now I just have to wait until it is socially acceptable to pass out asleep.

Tramping in Taranaki

Day 66- April 5 2010

Originally, Chris and I had big plans for our tramping trip. We wanted to go 4-5 days on a moderate to difficult level tramp and limit the group to 5 people so we could fit in the car. And although we tried to plan it out weeks in advance, it go to the point where, it was a day before we planned to leave and we weren’t sure what we were doing. Ended up deciding to do the 4 day Mt. Taranaki circuit, and then summit the mountain on the fifth day. We didn’t end up leaving IH until around noon and then had to get a fuel bottle, food and gas. Apparently Chris had stayed up till 4 the night before so I ended up driving a majority of the way there. It was dark by the time we got to the Taranaki visitor center, and I was tired enough to sleep but knew it was still early. Turns out it was only 7pm. We set up sleeping bags in the back and read till it was socially acceptable to go to sleep. It rained for most of the night, and every time I woke up to roll over I kept thinking ‘do we really want to tramp in this rain?’

Day 67 – April 6 2010- 1st Day of Tramp

After a long talk with the lady in the visitor center we decided to alter our plans and go the opposite way on the upper level circuit to make it to Lake Dive by nightfall. It was still sprinkling but the forecast said it would clear up by afternoon. Immediately into the tramp we took a wrong turn (which we still blame on lonely planet’s tiny maps) and ended up on the low level circuit. This ended up being a blessing because the rain didn’t clear up, it got worse, and the lower level circuit was much better covered than the upper level so although we were still very wet, we weren’t  getting directly rained on. However, the lower level was very challenging because it consisted of steep inclines up to ridges and then steep descents into streams, over and over all the way around the mountain.  Although we were practically covered in plastic garbage bags, after about 3 hours we were wet and miserable and decided just to make it to Waingongoro hut. We got there around 4:30 and because no one was around we decided it would be alright if we stayed in the hut for the night. Chris made a fire and we hung up all our wet clothes and laughed as the sky began to clear outside.

Day 68 – April 7 2010 Fantham’s Peak

We felt pretty lame after our weak attempt the day before, so we decided to take it up a notch and summit a mountain (or at least a peak). We packed day bags and visited the Dawson falls visitor center where an old man warned us that Fanthams peak is really cold, like 0 degrees (celsuis), and that if more clouds came in we might get lost on the top. ‘Well good thing I brought a sweatshirt’, I thought, and we set off to do it anyway. Anxious to get somewhere we went too fast up the first dirt steps and I was already sore before the first intersection.  We got to the ‘infamous Egmont steps’ which were actually really nice wooden staircases that switchbacked for a bit. Then we hit the scree- rocks, little rocks, and lots and lots of little, little rocks- which lasted until the top. By this time my legs were really tired but it was too cold to stop for longer than a couple seconds at a time. I got more and more frustrated and at one point, when both my feet slipped behind me and I found myself lying on my stomach, I threw a little bit of a tantrum. I may have said some very mean things to that mountain, and threw a few handfuls of rocks of the side. But Chris kept encouraging me by saying ‘come on anni, keep moving or you’ll freeze to death’. Somehow I made it to the top, where the last marker pole was covered in horizontal icicles pointing the same way as the wind. At the top, we were above the cloud line and we could see the ocean, the city, and the distinct circular line that separated the dark green of the national forest from the light green of the surrounding farmland. All of the plants were covered in icicles and the backside of the loo was a sheer wall of ice. We looked up at Taranaki and ate a quick lunch in Syme’s Hut and then decided to ‘get the f off this thing’. Going down the scree was just as hard- but I only fell about five times. When we got to the stairs, euphoria hit and we talked for the rest of the way down about how good we felt to be out of the wind, and going downhill. Back in the visitor center I found an easy chair and watched a documentary on the Dawson Creek Hydro-electro generator. We hiked to Dawson falls and then thought ‘lets go back to the hut and sit next to the fire’. Sounds great. By the end of the day, even though my hands were bruised and my butt was cut up from all the scree, I felt proud of our accomplishment. I apologized to Fantham’s for threatening to come back to level it and turn it into an outdoor mall, and we both agreed how humbling nature can be sometimes.

Day 69- 8 April 2010  Out

Discourage from the day before and the look of the clouds in the sky, we decided to tramp back out to the visitor center and then drive to a different day hike to do the next day. Immediately after leaving the hut we bumped into a ranger. Nervous that he would notice that we didn’t stay in a tent, we practically ran for a couple k to the next intersection. We decided to take the upper level for the way back. Although it was much more exposed (good thing it wasn’t raining again) it offered some pretty sweet views. Also, instead of being up and down the whole time like the lower level, it was mostly just up. We hiked past the plateau (which other tourists had driven to), the ski field (one lift), and Warwick castle (pretty cool rock formations). On the descent we ran into many retired locals who were out for a day hike and were eager to have a friendly chat break on their way up. Most were surprised that we were from California and were able to handle the cold weather. Back at the car I had the best apple of my life and we both agreed that we were tired, sore, and wanted a real bed for the night. So we drove back to Auckland and made plans to go for an epic day hike on Saturday once we were rested and had done a bit of homework. We laughed that we are bad influence on each other and decided that next time we need to bring a motivator.  We had missed dinner so we cooked the remainder of our food backpacking style on a stove in the dorm’s courtyard and then ate it while watching survivor. Even though we didn’t live up to our plans, it felt good to get out of the city and remember what it’s like to be out of our comfort zone.

Fiesta Night

Day 64 – April 3 2010

Although Auckland is the most culturally diverse area in New Zealand, it is extremely deficient in good Mexican food. To most people this wouldn’t matter, but to twenty young Californians who have grown up on diets of cheap burritos and chips and dip, this quickly became a big problem. So we decided to hold a fiesta night in honor of the end of the first half of the first semester. Somehow it was a big success. We were able to find authentic enough food at asian markets and countdown, and everyone showed up and pitched in. Brian, Chris and I spent most of the day cooking and then everyone showed up in sombreros and fake ‘staches. It felt good to re-connect with everybody and by the end of the night when we were all singing along to sublime, it was just like we were back in cali.

Surfing at Piha

Day 58 – March 28 2010

Woke up super early and walked down to Queen Street, was almost late for the bus which was leaving at 7:30am. Being the last person on I had to sit shotgun next to the tour guide which ended up being alright because he was a pretty cool guy. Drove for about an hour and a half to Piha which is THE surf spot west of Auckland. Piha is also notorious for having really strong undercurrents and is the location of the NZ surf rescue television show. We practiced a little on sand first, and then spent two hours in the water. I was just starting to get it, was getting on my knees at least, when we breaked for lunch. I was already soo tired, not from surfing but from dragging myself back out to the water after every time I got pushed in.  After lunch, I finally got up and was getting the hang of it but then we had to end early because of the dangerous tides. To make up for an early finish, the guides drove us to get hot chocolate and then to a trail where we hiked for half an hour to some waterfalls. By the time we got back to Auckland I was so beat I wasn’t sure I could hike back up the hill to my dorm. Somehow I made it back and the first thing I did was make plans to go again.

Flyin’ through clouds, floatin’ through caves

Day 51 – 21 March 2010

What an epic weekend. On Friday morning, James, Mellissa, Jessica, and myself drove in one car and Molly, Jeff, Angel and Joanne rode in another down to Taupo where we went SKYDIVING. We were actually a bit late getting there (somehow Mellissa seriously injured her neck while sleeping) so they rushed us through, made us sign waivers and put us on a plane. Somehow I ended up closest to the back of the plane, meaning: I was going first. As I made small talk with my buddy (by the way awkwardly strapped to him and perched on his lap this entire time) I watched as his altimeter rose and the ground below us dropped away. When we reached 1200 feet he opened the door and told me to dangle my legs out the plane. Ya, sure, no problem. We tumbled out of the plane, maybe even did a few somersaults, but by the time I realized what was going on I was floating, not falling, through clouds at a very high speed. Although I was screaming at the top of my lungs, I couldn’t hear myself at all (I’m sure my friend steve did tho). The free fall went by fast but I did have enough time to realize that my mouth was gaping open and my checks were flapping uncontrollably in the wind. Then all of a sudden I was pulled upright and for  a graceful descent (filled with a few spins) down to the ground. I got to watch everyone land with huge smiles on their faces, too stoked to even muster up a ‘yee-haw’.  That night we camped at an awesome free campsite in Taupo right next to a river. We stayed up late signing along to Jeff’s guitar as campers next to us loudly expressed their opinions of our vocal skills.

We had planned to do a big day hike the next morning but we heard forecasts of bad weather so we ended up doing a hike just along the river opposite to where we had camped. We hiked to Huka falls and on the way back stopped in a thermal area where we all got in for a swim. We then tried to go to Rotorua to go zorbing but ended up going in the wrong direction for an hour and not making it in time. We headed to Waitomo, where, after hours of looking for a cheap campsite, we just pulled off and set up camp at the start of a trailhead.

The next morning we went on the Labyrinth black water rafting tour. It was awesome. We were instructed to put on a ton of wetsuit gear and then driven to the start of the cave. We walked, climbed and floated on inner tubes through the caves while the guides tried to scare us and make us laugh. There were so many glow worms, or glow maggots I should say, and at one point when we were instructed to try and find our way out without using our headlamps, my eyes adjusted to the dark and the glow worms lit the way. If I had been slightly warmer I could have stayed in there all day. After the tour we got to take hot showers and they fed us tomato soup and bagels. Then we hit the road, made it back to Auckland just in time to get some homework done before I go to sleep. Maybe.

Stream Bash

Day 43- 13 March 2010

This weekend was my first painful encounter of having too many fun things to do.  A couple weeks ago I signed up to go surfing this Sunday with a travel company that had thrown a party for international kids. So, I could not go on the climbing club’s first trip or any of the tramping club’s two day trips. So I decided to go on a one day ‘Stream Bash’ with the tramping club on Saturday even though this meant missing the Pasifika festival.  I was pretty nervous because I wasn’t sure what ‘stream bashing’ meant and the email that the trip guide sent out said ‘if you thought the last hike was hard, don’t come on this one’.  Met the group at 8- two kiwi uni students, a girl from so cal, and the trip guide and his wife who were both math professors at Auckland (and knew Ivan, my EAP coordinator).  We drove east from Auckland, around the Thames, up to Coromandel forest park where there was a long stretch of dirt road until we got to the trail head where we met the other 6 trampers. Turns out stream bashing just means hiking up a dry riverbed, sometimes jumping from rock to rock, sometimes climbing, sometimes swimming with your pack over your head. Basically it’s my new favorite thing. We scrambled up the Kauaeranga River, and through the gorge. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera (and deodorant, but that’s a different story) so I am unable to express to you just how amazing this gorge was except by saying, it was amazing. My favorite part was in a couple spots we had the option of swimming through a pool, or bouldering our way around it (and then if you fell in you got to swim!) Lately, I have been doing a lot more climbing, so it felt great to use my new skills outside, with natural holds and above some real cold, cold water. When we got to the dam we made a sharp right and hiked a STEEP ascent (I think someone said 300m) to the main trail, and then boogied it back to the car by about 6. Long day. When I got back to my dorm I got an email from the surf trip saying it had been canceled due to “awful conditions”. Probably for the best since I was exhausted and bruised all over anyway, but now I’m worried the re-scheduled trip will interfere with another fun-packed weekend. Gee, isn’t life hard.

clubs, clubs, clubs

Day 35- 5 March 2010

It’s Friday! And I don’t have a single class today yay! Classes are still kinda boring but after school activities have been fun- Tuesday I went to a free workout class that I am still sore from…Wednesday I went to see the film, ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’ in Grey Lynn Park with my ‘NZ buddy’, Erik. He is actually from Alaska and he has only been in NZ since July so any real questions I had he couldn’t answer and almost everything he told me I already knew- but he was nice at least. And the movie was good. It was like a NZ, 70s version of Harold and Kumar. Thursday I went rock climbing with the Auckland Uni Rock and Alpine club at a quarry near Eden Park. It was cool because they provided shoes and a harness and gave us some instructions on belaying (they say bee-lay) and climbing techniques. Brian is going down today to buy shoes- im not sure if im ready for that commitment yet. So I am now officially in the Tramping club and unofficially in the climbing club and Erik says I should join the canoe club too.  I can tell this year is going to teach me a lot about time management.


Day 31- 29 February 2010

Well that wasn’t so bad. Wasn’t so great either-but hey- it’s school. First class was envsci 201 with Joanne and I almost fell asleep. Tomorrow I definitely need more coffee. And to not stay up till midnight watching the little princess. My next class was envsci 301 which I had with Amanda and her best friend erin- that class seemed alright except we have to do a group project- icky. Then I hung around campus until my last class from 4-6 which was art history 210 which I had with jeff and Jessica. I know im gonna like it because its all about architecture. Got back in time for dinner- jeff came along too- and then went for a run in the domain. I am soooo out of shape. Hopefully not for long.

Last Day of Freedom

Day 30- 28 February 2010

Tomorrow I start my first day of school! I’m nervous- not so much because im at a new school but because I have been out of any kind of school for so long. I hope there are still some working bits up there.  Last night was ‘inappropriate’ party at ihouse. I actually got to talk to some people- some from Japan, a kid from Germany, and some kiwis. I also got to dance to some pretty sweet, old school tunes such as the Macarena. Today we went to the Auckland zoo and I got to see my first kiwi bird- they are so cute and awkward!