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it’s a hobbit’s life for me

for those who don’t know me as well, i am in love with the lord of the rings + the hobbit. i love the books, i love the movies, i love the characters, i love the locations, i love the messages that the stories leave us with.

it’s no surprise, then, that when i decided to study in new zealand, visiting hobbiton was a top priority. after all, i’ve already got the height to be a hobbit… all i needed was a hobbit hole to fulfill my destiny.

so i found one. or forty-four, to be exact.

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on saturday, i boarded a plane bound for auckland with nothing but a carry-on, a somewhat pathetic amount of excitement about seeing hobbiton in less than 24 hours, and my adventure buddy for the weekend, molly. after just over two hours, we touched down — i was on the north island for the first time since first arriving in new zealand. ironically, as we checked into our hostel and made our way to our room, i discovered that we were staying in the exact same room in the exact same hostel as i’d been in in february.

our evening didn’t last long; we went to bed fairly quickly, seeing as we were both pretty excited to get to hobbiton the next morning.

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sunday was the day that my life-long dream of seeing the set of hobbiton was brought to life. after a two and a half hour bus ride from auckland to matamata, we finally pulled into the alexander farm. our tour guide, whose name i cannot remember for my life (sorry, mate) — update: molly remembered, it was damian — was more than enthusiastic and willing to share fun facts and trivia along the way. did you know that peter jackson’s location scout almost missed finding the alexander farm, and hobbiton, because ian alexander was a rugby fanatic & refused to talk to him during the match he was watching? now you do.

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i admit, a tour with thirty-some people vying for photo ops isn’t the most magical scenario possible when you’re visiting somewhere that’s been on your bucket list for years. but luckily, damian was extremely accommodating to all of our photographic desires, and i now have more photos of hobbit holes and the shire than i could have dreamed (see my gallery page).

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damian’s love for lord of the rings + the hobbit outshone my own, admittedly, as he pointed out spots of importance & explained the ins-and-outs of making hobbiton feel like people really lived them. from where bilbo ran out of hobbiton shouting, “i’m going on an adventure!” to where gandalf met frodo just outside the village, it became even easier to imagine hobbiton as a real, although still entirely magical, place. he also gave us full explanations of how they managed to convey such drastic height differences, how to make it look as though people traveled the paths of the shire a mere couple of weeks before filming began, and more (i now accept that i’m not cut out to work on a movie set, as simple things such as manipulating depth perception and building doors of different sizes came as a complete surprise to me).

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i could go on and on about our walk through the village, about the amazing doors, furniture, and accessories that adorned the area, and more, but i’d be embarrassing myself by showing just how geeked and hyper-aware i was. let’s just say, i don’t think i stopped smiling or pointing at things the entire time i was there.

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i will, however, touch briefly upon how amazing the refreshments at the green dragon were. it’s no wonder the hobbits loved to drink and party as much as they did, seeing as the food, as well as the cider and beer, was absolutely amazing. i’d live in a hole in the ground any day if it meant i could drink and eat like that.

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our tour in hobbiton didn’t last long, just a few hours, and getting on the bus to go home admittedly made me a little blue. i’d be lying if i said i didn’t text my mom and tell her i’d already applied for a work visa so that i could stay there forever. but, i couldn’t have asked for a better adventure than the one i had in the shire.

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nothing could beat hobbiton. but after leaving, we made our way to the waitomo glowworm caves. a fellow yogi at bliss flow told me, over the holidays, that if i was going to new zealand, going to the glowworm caves was a must. although i didn’t get to do the blackwater rafting (a college girl’s budget after a semester abroad isn’t exactly bottomless), she was absolutely right; the boat ride through the caves was absolutely magical.

no cameras were allowed, but truly, no camera could even come close to doing it justice. it’s like trying to capture the stars, or a sunset — try as you might, it’s just better to lay back and soak it all in, in the moment. thousands of delicate turquoise-y blue filaments hung from the ceilings, lighting up the pitch-dark cave in a seriously out-of-this-world glow.

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hobbits may, by nature, hate adventure. and while i do love both my breakfasts, elevenses, dinner, and every meal in between, i have to tip my hat to bilbo, frodo, & samwise for being willing to be late to dinner. their heart & courage inspired me throughout my journey in middle earth (okay, maybe i’m getting a little too fangirl — new zealand) in the first place, and for that, i owe them everything.

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even though my trip to hobbiton fell at the end of this amazing, unforgettable semester, it has truly been a part of my entire time here. “all’s well that ends better,” j.r.r. tolkien wrote. this semester was amazing, and my adventures have made it even better & more memorable than i could have imagined when i boarded my flight in february. i will hold this experience in my heart, forever.

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photos from my travels will be available on my gallery page.

special thanks go out to my grandparents, mike & jackie, for helping to make this trip possible. kia ora! 

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to the woman who made me, me

happy mother’s day, mom.

we’ve had twenty mother’s days together, but this year, it’s special. why? because this year, i’ve come to realize how much i truly appreciate each and every thing you do (even though you drive me crazy & i drive you crazy).

leaving for college made me realize everything you’ve done for me that i took for granted, but flying to the other side of the planet for six months made me realize that i would truly run around like a chicken with its head cut off without you.

i mean, i know chelsea & i are complete angels, and raising us was just a delight 100% of the time…. but still, you’re pretty great.

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there are so many things that you’ve given me, more than i think i’m even aware of. but today is a day to be mindful of all of those things, so mom, thank you.

❥ thank you for doing that mom thing where you carried me for nine months and then still had to deal with me after that;

❥ thank you for being there for me when i ran into your room, scared of the dark & of nightmares;

❥ thank you for helping me through teenage angst, high school breakups, & friendship dramas;

❥ thank you for dealing with chelsea & i as a single mother…. i would’ve killed us;

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❥ thank you for teaching me that being an independent, hard-working woman is something to be PROUD of;

❥ thank you for working through my battle with mental illness & self-harm with endless love;

❥ thank you for blessing me with the destiny of a boston sports fan, even if somehow i did end up even more psychotic about them than you are;

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❥ thank you for sharing with me your love of flowers, fall colors, and cool architecture;

❥ thank you for making me fall in love with 80s movies… even though somehow you raised me without showing me a single marvel movie;

❥ thank you for all the ‘gibbs slaps’ and ‘those’ looks that i can’t describe but just know them when i see them – they built character;

❥ thank you for all of the times that we’ve laughed so hard that we’ve cried;

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❥ thank you for falling in love with mike, so that i am able to say that i have the best step-parent in the entire world;

❥ thank you for giving me the most crazy & amazing little brother in the entire world;

❥ thank you for making me realize i am so not ready to be a mother (love you, ryder);

❥ thank you for editing all of my essays, college apps, job applications, and more;

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❥ thank you for supporting my dream to become a hobbit;

❥ thank you for dealing with my daily requests to facetime the energizer bunny that is my little brother;

❥ thank you for bestowing upon me your darling use of sarcasm and dry humor;

❥ thank you for lovin’ me even when i drive you up a wall (come back to this point at the end of this post);

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❥ thank you for never giving up on me & for always being one of my #1 supporters;

❥ thank you for being strong, even when i made it hard to be so;

❥ thank you for raising me for twenty years.

i personally think you did a swell job.

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i love you, kristy lou. happy mother’s day. ♥

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alexis’s reverse bucket list

it’s my birthday month, and suddenly twenty years have passed by in the blink of an eye. it’s insane, how each year of your life feels a little shorter the older you get… (and yes, i know every person who is older than me is rolling their eyes at my newfound ‘wiseness’ that i’ve taken upon myself in this third decade of living)

this month, i’ve decided to focus on gratitudeand in doing so, i’m trying a new thing. see, i was going to do a ‘bucket list for my 20s’ (and i probably still will). but it occurred to me that we spend so much time focusing on what we want to do in the future, and who we want to become, that we don’t take the time to reflect and be truly grateful and mindful of the amazing things we’ve already done with our lives.

i mean, i’ve had 7,304.8 days of living, and i haven’t just been sitting on the couch watching it go by. i’ve had countless memories that have amassed over these twenty years, and those are worth something.

so here is my reverse bucket list. cheers to the past twenty years.

  1. Graduate high school
  2. Jump out of an airplane (x3)
  3. Witness (almost) the birth of my baby brother
  4. Go to college
  5. Work at the camp that shaped me as a person
  6. Control my anxiety & depression (for the most part)
  7. Start yoga
  8. Study abroad
  9. Go vegan
  10. Learn another language
  11.  Buy my own car (sort of)
  12. Experience & survive familial turmoil
  13. Get tatted (x3)
  14. Embrace my shortness (yes, really)
  15. Make friends with people from every continent
  16. Learn to drive stick shift
  17. Make peace with my inner demons
  18. Begin the transition to a buddhist way of thinking
  19. Work a minimum-wage job
  20. Make it to twenty years old (something I didn’t think would happen for a period of my life)

so there it is. 20 things i have done that i have to be immensely grateful for.

cheers to the past twenty years. now, bring on my 20’s.

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snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity

it may come as a shock to you (it did to me), but get this… i’m actually in new zealand for school!? who knew, right?

well, the presentation due two days ago, the 2500 word essay and a separate essay plan due today, the māori assessment on my birthday next tuesday, the 1000 word essay due next friday, the 1800 word essay due in a week and half, and the ten page laboratory report due in two weeks – not to mention finals in five weeks – sure reminded me of my looming, ever-present academic responsibilities. (boooooo).

and so, in the midst of my stress-eating, lack of sleeping, over-scheduling and re-scheduling of every moment of my life, sporadically breaking down into tears over the most insignificant of things, i figured, hey, let’s blog about how much i have to do! makes sense, eh?

* note: i do not handle stress well. never have, most likely never will. thanks, anxiety. *

anywho, i do have to say that this semester abroad (well, and college in general) is teaching me so many things. some things may seen obvious, others not so much.

  1. don’t skip lecture, even if you are one in fifty or one in three hundred. you will not listen to the lecture recording like you promised yourself, and then you’ll hate yourself the night before that essay is due or you’re supposed to take that test. just go to the lecture. snooze through it if you must, but be there to at least soak up a portion of the material.
  2. no one cares about your pity party. seriously, this is clearly simply a phenomenon in american collegaite culture, because none of the international students i have met pull the same kind of ‘woe is me’ routine before each and every essay, presentation, or test. quit griping about the hole that you dug yourself into and just get yourself out. (i haven’t quite learned this one yet… twitter continues to be my trusty pity party medium)
  3. yes, you are there to experience the culture, but you also need to remember to make school at least one of your priorities. enjoy the local social scene, go to see the new film everyone is raving about (seriously, going to see the hunt for the wilderpeople was probably the best choice i’ve made all semester), and take a night off to go to that indian byo (bring your own wine) that all of your complex mates are going to. BUT, do not let that become every night. buckle down and get your work done before frolicking all over the city without a care in the world.
  4. just because everyone around you drinks every night of the week does not mean that you need to as well. (can i get an amen?!) i know, the fomo is soo real, but you will thank yourself if you don’t push the essay until the morning that it’s due. i’m saying this as many of my mates are at a wicked cool american party or watching what we do in the shadows and i’m cramming a blog post in between pomodoro cycles to get this life-sucking essay done.
  5. stay positive. stay motivated. stay grateful. stay mindful. the biggest disservice you can do to yourself is to sit in despair for hours on end… you will end up feeling worse in the end. (speaking from recent personal experience.. recent being this morning, in fact) get up, walk around, do a yoga flow, look to the sky. take a deep breath, and continue to kick ass.

studying abroad is amazing, and it’s everything i could’ve hoped for & imagined. but it was also a wake-up call. just because you’re in a different place doesn’t mean life got put on pause (unless that was your intent. if so, props to you, & disregard this entire post!). you do still have to find a way to balance your schoolwork with the tempting sense that you’re on a semester-long vacation.

and with that, my timer has gone off. back to the essay i go.

cheers.

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the mountains called, & so i went

“it’s a dangerous business, frodo, going out your door. you step onto the road, if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ bilbo baggins

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as i mentioned in my mid-semester break post, the fiordlands are one of my favorite places that i’ve been to on the south island this semester. so, when i had the opportunity to do another great walk over anzac weekend, this time in the fiordlands, i jumped on it.

my adventure partner, tommy, & i caught a ride to queenstown with a kiwi from uni. we spent the night at twelve-mile delta (the lord of the rings camp that i stayed at during mid-semester break), and then the adventure truly began.

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day one: this was when the adventure really began. with no car & an hour drive between us and the start of the track, tommy & i tried our luck at hitchhiking (disclaimer: new zealand, hitchhiking is much more acceptable and safe than most places in the world). amazingly, within a few minutes of sticking up our thumbs, we got a ride. maddie and adam, from ethiopia and canada, respectively, were a great couple who worked in queenstown and were heading out to kinloch & were more than happy to let us bum a ride off of them.

we also got a ride from a friendly european gal, whose nationality escapes me, and from a father & son from england. so all in all, i’d say hitching, something so frowned upon and deemed unsafe back home, actually turned out to be both an effective way to travel (if you’re traveling to or from somewhere populated) and a great way to meet some amazing, life-minded people along the way.

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once we reached the start of the tramp, the excitement really set in for me. here i was, about to embark on my second big tramp of the semester, in my favorite national park within new zealand. sorry, minnesota, but you can’t hold a candle to this experience.

it was a short day, only 6.5km, but it was a good warm up to what would follow the next day. we got into camp early, were lucky enough to get a nap before having a delicious pot of chili for dinner (i swear, food tastes like it’s from another world when you’re on the trail), and managed to sneak a quick session of stargazing in before heading to bed…or, trying to. it was very cold, so sleep didn’t come easily. eventually, though, we managed to get some shut eye.

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day twowaking up before the sun, tommy and i got prepared for the long day ahead. with the majority of the routeburn track – 22.2km – laying before us today, we had to get an early start. by the time the sun was rising over the fiordlands, we’d made it up the relatively steep trail to the routeburn falls hut. from there, we continued up into one of the most breathtaking stretches of the trip.

between routeburn falls and the saddle is a beautiful hike across fields, over streams, and farther up in the mountains. it truly looked like something straight out of the hobbit – something i mentioned constantly to tommy. looking around, it was pure beauty. we had amazing weather, with a bit of wind but clear skies and warm sunshine, as we hiked farther up into the track. turning back, we could see the magnificent southern alps rising all around the valley we’d just walked through. it was an unforgettable, beautiful sight.

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it was around the saddle that we began running into mountain marathoners, and snow. 300 elite runners were crazy and ambitious enough to compete in a run that spanned the entire track – in just a few hours. here we were, hiking the track in a few days, and they were running it in hours. it definitely made my whining quite a bit more pathetic, i will admit.

the snow was absolutely gorgeous, lightly dusting the track around us. mist began to settle in the hollyford valley below us as we continued along towards mackenzie hut and beyond, and a rainbow made an appearance. to add to the beauty, we were lucky enough to sneak a glimpse of kea – beautiful tricksters of birds. they have fairly shrill voices, and have been known to steal a hiker’s boots if they’re left unattended, but they really are pretty birds. they’re essentially new zealand parrots, with gorgeous plumage that is shown off when they glide above you.

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it wasn’t until we had descended down into the valley, just over halfway through our hike, that rain began to fall. soon, it was quite a bit colder and more wet than was enjoyable, and we made our best attempt to book it to howden hut.

collapsing on the bench outside of howden hut, we finally removed our boots & literally hobbled in. after scarfing down our dinner & listening to our hut warden tell us a story about the history of the routeburn, we fell asleep pretty quickly. in all honesty, it was a less than perfect second half of our day, but memorable nonetheless. we were cold, sore, tired, hungry, and swore to never do this to our bodies again – but the pride in knowing how much elevation and distance we’d hiked that day was immense.

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day three: if i had to describe this day in a succinct sentence, i would say it was a series of unfortunate events, with a silver lining on either end.

it started out flawlessly. we slept in, got a well-rested start to the end of the track, and even had the time and spirit to hike an additional few kilometers to a gorgeous lookout that gave a stunning 360 view of the southern alps. we made it to the end of the track without a hitch, and our spirits couldn’t really have been higher. thank you, universe, for silver lining #1.

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a fellow tean student, kasie, was also in the fiordlands over the weekend, and we’d arranged to get a ride back to dunedin with her. only about ten minutes after she picked us up, though, her car broke down. because it was the end of a holiday weekend, we didn’t have many options available. we rode in a tow truck back to te anau, where we got some food (aka the best veggie burger i’ve ever tasted), and grudgingly made our way to the only rental car business in the entire town.

that turned out to be a fiasco of its own, as the car they gave us, which happened to be the only automatic transmission that they had left, was on its last breath. about two blocks away from the rental office, we turned around and returned it. as i said, quite a series of unfortunate events.

this is where we (rather, i) got the silver lining #2. it was revealed to us that the only car left was a manual…and i was the only one who knew how to drive manual (thanks, dad! you were right, it would come in handy). i hadn’t driven stick shift since leaving the states, and i was so excited to be able to drive it home (lame, yes, but so fun). so, after an eventful, long day, we were eventually able to make it home to our own beds.

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as bilbo said, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to, if you go out your door. but all in all, once we were back, safe & sound in dunedin, it was a truly unforgettable adventure.

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photos from my travels will be available on my gallery page.

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large marge + the seven boozes

eight days. seven girls. one van. countless sights seen & memories made.

‘mid-semester break’ this year fell only three weeks into the semester, but it worked out to our advantage, as the weather was still fairly summer-y, sunny, and warm. so, seven of us set out to travel the south island and see many of the ‘must-see’ sights.

the troupe was an extremely entertaining one, with countless inside jokes, laughs, and connections. below, from the left to right, was lydia, ginelle, carly, laura, myself, hailey, and hannah… and the ever-so-beautiful aotearoa landscape (fun fact: that field was a battle ground in one of the lord of the rings movies).

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day one: this began our adventure in large marge, a 10-person ‘rent-a-dent’ van with more character than can be conveyed through words. imagine aunt marge from harry potter, turned into rackety van. that’s what i likened it to, only the van wasn’t as squealy and insufferable as marge dursley (thank goodness).

we left dunedin around mid-morning, with our destination being the fiordlands national park. with a quick stop in te anau, a super cute touristy town that serves as the hub for all of the adventures within the fiordlands (the kepler track, the routeburn track, doubtful sound, milford sound, etc.), it took us about five hours to reach our first campsite, cascade creek.

it was extremely windy that night, but very little could harsh my mellow about being surrounded by beautiful mountains, a mystical fog that was permanently present through the fiordlands, the sounds of rushing water everywhere we turned… who cares about a bit of tent-wrenching wind?

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day two: we woke before the sun on our first full day of kiwi adventures to kayak in the milford sound (also known as absolute heaven). we miraculously got blessed with beautiful weather, which for a region known for extreme amounts of rainfall, was incredible. our guide, ricky, kept us amused with his little-known trivia facts and jokes about sandflies, while the landscape around us had me only capable of saying “wow” and “this has nothing on devils lake” to lydia, my fellow sconnie. (that was a lie… i love devil’s lake, folks, but milford sound is unlike anything i’ve ever seen)

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there are few things as stunning and mystic as milford sound. i firmly believe there is not an ugly sight in new zealand, but there are certainly experiences and sights that don’t compare to anything else… and milford sound was one of those. i wish we could’ve spent more time there, but we had places to be & things to see, so after a few hours of paddling around the sound, we piled back into aunt marge and began the long drive to queenstown – the tourist gem of the south island. (i hope to return here later this semester, as there’s so much to do and not enough time!)

i got to spend the evening with my favorite complex-mates as we celebrated hannah’s 23rd birthday in downtown queenstown, and then headed outside of town to the twelve-mile-delta campsite, known better as ithilien camp from the lord of the rings. it was a gorgeous campsite right on the lake, with mountains rising up on every side of the site.

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day three: today, we packed up our tents, loaded marge up, and headed north to the fox & franz josef glaciers. the west coast highway is absolutely spectacular, so there were frequent pit stops and photo ops along the way. we stopped for a coffee in wanaka, a cute but extremely touristy town surrounded by gorgeous (as always) landscape. something about picturesque mountains rising up behind an expansive, startlingly blue lake takes your breath away immediately.

then, we were back on the road, winding up, down, and around the rolling southern alps. there were a few (okay, many) moments where we held our breath, waiting to see if marge could handle the tight turns and intense inclines, but the old lady did us proud and before long, we had reached fox glacier.

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i’ll geek about the glaciers in the next section, because the franz josef glacier was even more incredible than fox glacier was (which is hard to believe, but it is).

all i’m going to say is that nature is NEAT.

our campsite that night wasn’t anything uber special (let’s be honest, everything here is uber special by default, but still), but we were just thankful that it hadn’t been hit by the flood that had slammed through the franz josef just a few days earlier. it was a long day of driving, and we were more than happy to just settle into our tents and get some shut eye.

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day four: before continuing north, we spent a few hours hiking to franz josef glacier, in awe. there is something to be said about the feeling that comes over you when you’re staring up at ages worth of ice… it’s truly astounding.

as orison swett marden once said, “forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes – every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.”

you simply cannot not understand the incredibility of standing at the base of a 13-kilometre glacier, looking at something so old and magnificent. try as i might, i can’t express through words the feeling of such epiphany of human insignificance while looking at something so old and powerful.

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“a [wo]man who keeps company with glaciers comes to feel tolerably insignificant by and by” – mark twain.  (10/10 would agree)

anywho, after we had had our fair share of awe-striking glaciers, we continued our drive up the west coast, heading towards the goldmine of our trip: abel tasman national park. but before we could get there, first we had to stop at the aptly-named ‘pancake rocks’ (and, to our delight, there were in fact pancakes at the pancake rock cafe). this landmark is incredible, with layered rocks, stunning sights, and ‘blowholes’ all in one amazing place.

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after spending an hour or so “oohing” & “ahhing” at the coastline, we crowded back into large marge for our last stretch of highway 6. it was a long rest of the day to get to our hostel in marahau, where we would be setting off for abel tasman from in the morning, and we had a long night of packing and re-packing afterwards. but, we’d finally reached our final major destination!

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day five: this was the day! after an early wakeup call to get everything sorted for our great walk, we boarded the water taxi, course set for awaroa. along the way, our taxi driver showed us some amazing sights: split apple rock (it really does look like what it sounds like), the most adorable, playful seal pups i’ve ever seen, tons of birds (cueing a “IS THAT A PENGUIN?” exclamation… it was not, unfortunately), and kilometres of beautiful beaches and coastline.

we pulled up to an expanse of beach, where our hike began. this was, we would discover, much of what abel tasman had to offer. known as one of the best coastal walks, it did not disappoint. we were able to enjoy lunch on a gorgeous tidal sand bar in a small bay, and then headed off towards our hut at bark bay.

the days were fairly short, rounding out around 12km per day (which is about 7.5 miles), but it was still an amazing trek. the sun was nearly always out (the weather gods were certainly looking out for us, praise them), the views were breathtaking, and spirits were high.

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after a successful first day of hiking, we finally reached our first hut. for someone who is used to camping in tents in the northwoods with rickety stoves, staying in a hut was quite a different experience. i have to say, in all honesty, that camping in a tent is much more natural and comfortable for me than sleeping in a hut. it was a great night, though, with lots of relaxation and laughs around the fireplace.

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day sixthe next morning, we were off for anchorage hut. we elected to take the high-tide route, which was about 4km longer, so that we could visit cleopatra’s pool – and it was an excellent choice. in all honesty, the hiking was very similar to the first day, with lots of gorgeous views, sun, and smiles, but the pool was particularly memorable.

about a kilometre off the trail, there was a beautiful set of pools created by a gradual waterfall. the water was cold as all heck, but after spending about fifteen minutes dipping toes in & shrieking, i managed to make my way across some rocks to a fairly comfortable spot above the main falls.

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(side story: i met a couple from madison at cleopatra’s pools! ironically, just a few hours after remarking at how there seemed to be a startling lack of american adventurers anywhere we were… so you can imagine the badgers gear was a welcome sight)

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after frolicking in the icy water for a while, we donned our packs and continued on to anchorage hut. we then spent our afternoon swimming, reading, and napping. it was an early night, as a few of us planned to be up and out on the trail by 7:30am, but we snuck in some stargazing before getting some shut-eye.

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day seven: if i had to describe this day in two words, it would be sore & rainy. the blisters were rearing their ugly heads (i have photos, but i’ll spare my audience), it was chilly and drizzly, and boy, oh boy, was i tired. but the joy of finishing this amazing walk (and getting a delish fruit smoothie afterwards) was priceless.

after 45.87km & 58,835 steps, i was able to say that i could check a great walk off of my bucket list! i was so incredibly happy & blessed. something about tramping just makes my spirits soar, and i cannot wait to get back out into the nz wilderness.

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after the rest of our gang finished the walk, it was back to marge to begin our return to dunedin. we spent most of the day driving through the rain, and eventually chose a small holiday park to pitch our tents at one last time. i was so tired from the past few days of adventures that i truly don’t remember much from that evening, but i slept so well.

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day eight: our last day of our trip was probably the least adventurous day. the east coast drive is known to be quite a bit less memorable and exciting then the west coast highway, and we found that to be fairly true. however, we did make a pit stop at the moeraki boulders & get a few photos in before returning to dunners – a sight we were more than happy to witness.

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& that’s the story of how i spent my spring break blasting road trip tunes around the  paradise better known as aotearoa. here’s to many more adventures in this land of the long white cloud before i head home in june.

 i i te wa o toku ora.

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photos from my travels will be available on my gallery page.

 

special thanks go out to my dad, aunt audrey, grammie, mr. ray, kaia, & molly for helping to make this trip possible. kia ora!  ♥

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cheers from dunnaz!

after quite the wait, we’ve finally made it to our eagerly-anticipated destination: dunedin, nz!

the vibe here is completely different than auckland, similar more to that of madison in my opinion. it’s a more low-key city, with more of a suburban feel than a booming, bustling metropolis. the streets are smaller, there are noticeably more residential areas, and the entire city is surrounded by rolling hills and mountains. a mere walk away is a gorgeous harbor, and beaches lie scattered around easily within range with a car.

saturday mornings, there is a fantastic farmer’s market on the grounds of the dunedin railway station. the range of things to get is remarkable, and there are so many vegan-friendly options that i find myself overwhelmed and nearly penniless by the time i leave. it’s comforting to find a place that reminds me of home in an unexpected way. while i miss the backdrop of the wisconsin capitol building, the railway station is gorgeous and timeless in its own way.

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the university of otago itself is very much like uw-madison, with an immensely larger student population than augsburg prepared me for. the campus is quite a bit smaller, with gorgeous, older architecture, but still has a large university aura, similar to uw-mad. i don’t begin classes for another week and a half, as next week is solely ‘o-week’ and the focus is on social orientation rather than academic, but i’ve already been able to explore the campus a bit and it’s an amazing place. i can’t get end-to-end in four minutes, like auggie tech, but i won’t complain about getting a few extra steps in a day.

my flat is a quick two (maybe three) minute walk away from campus, and is conveniently located about as close to the psychology and sociology buildings as i can get. i was nervous upon arrival, as the college part of town is somewhat considered to be the less-nice part of dunedin, but the atmosphere around all of the student flats is so unique, upbeat, and fun, that i don’t find myself dwelling on the quality of my location.

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in terms of flatmates, i couldn’t have gotten any luckier. the six of us are a great match, and get along extremely well. we’re all extremely sarcastic and have an amazing collective sense of humor, as well as an appreciation for pizza & trash tv (extreme cheapskates, millionaire hot seat, the bachelor: nz, the shopping channel, the list goes on).

my kiwi host, sam, is quite a character – the number of times per day that i shake my head at things he says or stories i hear about him is unreal, but equally as hilarious. next is alyssa, the least canadian canadian you’ll ever meet (i thought they were all polar bears, but she blasts the heat even though it’s still considered summer here… lol!), but she’s a hockey fan, so what more can i say about her? we’ll get along fabulously. ian, the bearer of three passports, is an amazing chef with a truly classic taste in music. hannah c. is from norway, and also boasts an envious talent in the kitchen (along with a shared appreciation for oatmeal… aka we get along smashingly). hannah g., last but not least, is from california and showed up sporting a pair of chacos, so that’s a given. uniflats done good.

* update: we now have a ‘garden bar’ courtesy of ian and sam’s creative thinking and our love for green things. this is a pretty grand group of peeps. *

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this flat, uni, city, and region promise to hold some amazing adventures over the next few months. i can’t wait to see what memories, adventures, and friends i make!

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photos from my travels will be available on my gallery page.