Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Catlins!

I got a car last week with three other girls, all from the states. We’ve been learning how to drive on the left side of the road, which isn’t actually as hard as I thought it would be. We did a test drive to the nearby St. Clair beach last week. It was quite windy and cold, but still beautiful and still full of surfers even in the middle of the winter.


We took our first road trip this weekend and it went great! On Saturday morning we drove about an hour south of Dunedin to the Catlins, saw as many sites as we could see, spent the night in a cabin at a Christian camp, completed a 5 hour hike, and made it home before sunset on Sunday.

Our first stop was the incredible Nugget Bay. That was my favorite stop. On the way out to the point there was a beach where penguins live, but unfortunately we weren’t there at the right time to see them. In the winter, the penguins spend most of the day out fishing and don’t return to the beach until after 3pm. We stopped to look at the beach and ran into some kiwis coming back from the point that told us it was too foggy and you couldn’t see anything. They said it was hardly worth going up there, but we were determined. So we drove up to the next parking lot and walked out to the point. Kiwis must just be spoiled, because we thought it was a great view! There was a light house at the end and huge rocks extending way out into the water. The ocean is a surprisingly light blue color that looks almost tropical.

This is the view from the point, beyond the lighthouse
The view beyond the lighthouse on the point

We got back in our little purple car and made our way very slowly on curvy gravel roads cut into the hills to Cannibal and Surat Bays. They were huge soft sandy beaches with the occasional sea lion enjoying the sunshine.

Surat Bay
Surat Bay

We walked from Cannibal Bay to Surat Bay and almost walked right on top of two wrestling sea lions as we attempted to enter the Surat Bay. We stood up on a ledge and watched them for a while. They are huge and fascinating animals.

Crazy sea lions
Crazy sea lions

We ran into another group of international students and went to Jack’s Blowhole and Purakanui Falls. Then we had a ridiculously expensive dinner in the tiny tiny little town of Owaka on our own and then had a relaxing wine night in our little Christian cabin.

This morning, we got up early and went on a five hour hike. The trail followed a river through the hills near Owaka in the Catlins. The trail was full of wire/cable bridges that were a little shocking at first, but seemed to work fine.



There are sheep EVERYWHERE.

Particularly picturesque sheep

Particularly picturesque sheep on the way to Jack’s Blowhole

And now it’s time to finish my weekend with a little homework and some studying for a plant ecology lab test tomorrow. Cheers!

Chocolate and Trampin’

Well, I’m settling into New Zealand life! 

The other day, everyone was out and about doing things so I decided to go for a walk. I happened upon some trails going up the hills into the woods and decided why not? I ended on top of a hill behind the botanic gardens with a pretty good view of the city just before sunset. It was exhilarating to finally do a little hiking (though unintentional) and breathe some fresh air. The track I happened to pick was incredibly steep and parts were quite muddy, so coming back down was a little more difficult. I slipped down a small fairly steep part and my hand landed in a bush. As I continued walking, my hand started getting itchy and got red and bumpy. I was a little concerned, but it slowly returned to normal after I rinsed it off back home, so no harm done.


The next day I had plans to hike up Signal Hill with a group of international students. Signal Hill is THE hike to do in Dunedin, and it is right by my flat!  I found that the hill I had hiked up the day before was a smaller hill right next to Signal Hill, so I knew the terrain well. It took us about an hour to get to the top. We chose a beautifully warm and sunny day. From the top, we could look down on all of the city and the bay. My solo adventure was good fun, but I enjoyed sharing the view at the top of Signal Hill with all my friends.


The view of Dunedin from the top of Signal Hill

This weekend is the end of the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival. Friday is the Jaffa Race where giant chocolates are raced down the steepest residential street in the world. I’m pretty excited for that.

Classes are in full swing. Plant lab was not nearly as exciting this week as it was last week. Learning about the botanic gardens last week was really interesting, but this week we spent the full 3 hour lab drawing parts of ferns. My friend Kristin and I realized just before lab that we had not yet purchased the required incredibly expensive lab coats, so we ran all over campus trying to find them and arrived in lab a couple minutes late. The professor promptly informed us we were late and demanded that we sit down immediately. Yikes. He’s a little bit scary. I passed him on the street the other day and he stared me down, but didn’t show any recognition. Not really looking forward to lab next week!



I’m in New Zealand!

After a ridiculously long day of travel, a lost day on the way over, and one missed plane, I’ve finally made it to New Zealand!

I’ve been imagining what my time here would be like for a long time now, and I still can’t quite believe I am actually here. I have already met so many amazing people. It feels a little bit like starting freshman year of college all over again. All the international students make immediate bonds trying to figure out how to decipher the kiwi accent and words that are used in completely different ways from what we are used to. For example, I needed to get passport photos to get an 18+ ID card (so that I don’t have to carry my passport everywhere as ID) and the woman I asked about where to get them started giving me directions to the “chemist”. I thought she was directing me to the chemistry department and just didn’t know what I was asking for. Turns out the “chemist” is the kiwi term for pharmacy. Who knew?

I went on a tour at Orokonui Ecosanctuary the other day.  It was pouring rain most of the time and began hailing a little bit towards the end, but we got a couple minutes of clear skies while we were up there. This is what it looked like during the few clear minutes. 


The wind was stronger than any wind I have ever felt since it was fairly unprotected from the elements up in the hills. We learned a lot about New Zealand plants and birds, though we only saw a few birds. One cool one we saw is called the Takahe. I also tasted the incredibly spicy leaf of a native New Zealand plant called horopito. I wouldn’t suggest eating more than just a taste!

IMG_4316Big smiles despite the cold and rain!

The Botanic Garden is right across the street from my flat and I have to walk through part of it to get to the grocery store. It is really pretty and has been fun to explore, there’s still much more of it to see though. I went to a new part of it today for my botany lab. We went up on the top of the hill and got tours of some of the green houses and specialized gardens. The view was amazing!


Besides all that, classes started today! I am taking New Zealand Environmental Politics, New Zealand Plant Ecology, and Maori Society. I think it will be a good bunch of classes. I already know people in all of them so at least I can’t get too lost trying to find the classrooms!

Good on ya!