That’s it! Finals are officially done and that means summer is here! It sure feels weird to being getting into the summer mindset in November. But hey, I’m not complaining—summer is summer in any country. Before telling you about my summer plans though, I want to tell you about two of my “study breaks” I managed to take during my final weeks of Semester 1.
Study Break #1: Hawke’s Bay
The weekend before my first round of finals, me and a couple of friends decided to head on over to nearby Hawke’s Bay. This area is known for having plenty of sunshine, lots of waterfalls, and miles of vineyards & rolling green hills… the perfect place to get your mind off of studying. Our first destination of the weekend was Te Mata Peak. Normally, tourists can just drive to the top, but we decided to enjoy a hike through redwood forests and grassy hills get to the summit.
The top had spectacular views of the Hawke’s Bay area and was a good place to stop for lunch while we enjoyed the scenery. After we finished, we hiked back to the car and drove to a nearby waterfall called Maraetotara Falls. The waterfall itself wasn’t too exciting, but there was another rope swing for us to use! We each took a turn swinging into the pool of cold! water and then decided to drive over to Waimarama Beach to hangout until the sun went down.
Once it got dark, we decided to do what we do best… freedom camp! This time it took us awhile to find a good spot, but we eventually found one and set up camp for the night. It turned out to be incredibly windy that night, so windy that I woke up several times thinking we were all going to blow away with our tent! But we survived the wind storm, and like always, seeing the view in the morning was definitely worth it.
The destination for the next day was another waterfall called Shine Falls. After a short hike through forests and pastures, we made it to the base of the impressive falls. Instead of turning around to go back to our car though, my friend Andy—who had visited the falls before—said there was a path to the top. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity so we embarked on the tiring, uphill climb to the top. After hiking for about an hour we found ourselves no where near the falls anymore… meaning we were lost. We retraced our steps and finally started to hear the sound of water again. Having had enough of the trail, we made our own path through the forest and eventually made it to the top of the falls. And wow! All the trouble to get there was definitely worth it.
The top was actually quite scary too. Walking out to the edge made me feel a bit nervous with the combination of the wind and slippery rocks. But we all survived and made the hike back to the car. Our last stop for the weekend was…. yep, more waterfalls. Any other day these falls would have been pretty cool, but we were all so tired from hiking to the top of Shine Falls that we only stopped at them briefly before driving back home to Palmerston North.
Study Break #2: The Tongariro Crossing
My finals for Semester 1 were spread out across a two week span, so during the weekend in-between it felt like a good time to take another study break. And I wasn’t the only one who thought this was a good idea. A group of about 10 of us took on the task of hiking the Tongariro Crossing—an 8 hour hike famed to be the best on the North Island. This trail is located right in the middle of the island and weaves through the three main volcanoes: Mt. Ruapehu, Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe. Another interesting fact… Mt. Ngauruhoe is famous for being the stand-in for Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings series. So early on Saturday morning we set off from Palmerston North and made it to the trail head by mid-morning.
The weather was crisp as we began the steady uphill climb towards the volcanoes. But as we got further up, the wind became stronger and we had to take refuge behind some giant rocks to get relief from the biting wind. A woman passing by looked at us and said, “You all look like a couple of hobbits!”, which made us all laugh because we took it as a compliment.
As we climbed more, we reached a sort of plateau at the top and just like that the wind was gone and the sun was shining bright. This area also had the main attractions of the hike: the Red Crater, Emerald Lakes, and Blue Lake. The colors of these features were very striking against all the surrounding browns and grays of the landscape.
After eating lunch on the shores of the Blue Lake, me and Kyle decided to split from the group and take the same trail back to the car so we could drive to the other end and pick up the rest of the group. While walking back, I found it crazy to think about how diverse the landscapes of New Zealand are. Here you have the deserts and volcanoes of the Tongariro Crossing and then also the green hills, vineyards, and beaches of Hawke’s Bay—and both are within the same driving distance from Palmerston North!
I am happy that I was able to see both of these areas before heading off for summer break. My summer plans are shaping up to look pretty nice too: first, I plan to head down to the South Island and explore the area around Queenstown and Milford Sound, which is claimed by many to be the 8th Wonder of the World. After that, me and Kyle plan to go wwoofing, which is a program where you work on an organic farm and receive free accommodations and meals in exchange for your labor. Then around Christmas, I get to spend my holidays with my parents and sister who will be flying into Auckland. For the rest of the summer, I plan on staying in Palmerston North to do an internship with Massey University. However, I know that plans don’t always go…well… as planned. So I’m taking these ideas to be more of an ‘outline’ and leaving room for the unexpected.
And with that, I temporary leave my role as a correspondent from Massey University and will now be blogging on the road from where ever this New Zealand summer takes me!