A bit of everything
My last week at New Zealand consisted of a mini trip heading farther north on the northern island. Each part of my trip represented a bit of my personality. These small “bits” were a highlight to my experience in the land of Kiwis.
A Bit of Culture
While traveling across the New Zealand country side, I met some unique individuals. The most interesting person was a local Kiwi, Dave, who ran the quaint Juno Hall hostel in Waitomo. My first interaction occurred when Dave checked me into my hostel. Dave informed me that my credit card didn’t work and access to Wifi was $50. Not only did I begin to panic (hey, I was traveling by myself!), but I was suffering from a cold. The last thing I wanted to worry about was that I had no place to sleep. Dave quickly cracked a smile, and turned to his mutt Max and whispered “Jeez, we have a gullible American here Max.” After this occurrence, I knew that half of what Dave said was a joke. He may have been a constant joker, but he was also one of the kindest people. Dave drove me into town so I wouldn’t have to walk the 15 minutes, he provided great advice on places to hike, and he gave guests the opportunity to feed the lambs on the property. I learned from Dave how amazing the people are across New Zealand. They love life and extend their unending happiness with others.
A Bit of Wonder
Upon my arrival to New Zealand, a hometown friend asked me if I had heard of the glowworm caves in New Zealand. I had not heard of them, and thus asked my host family to tell me more about these glowworm caves. The Murrays said the best place to see glowworms would to be in Waitomo. So I planned my whole mini trip to see these spectacular creatures known as glowworms.
If you ever travel to New Zealand, do not pass up the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo. I have never seen anything through all my travels (which is 23 countries) that was as beautiful. The glowworms are a starry night sky across the cave ceiling. As I traveled through the cave, it appeared as if a million blue stars were at my fingertips. An inner peace filled my soul as I gazed upon the beauty above me.
Along with this wonder, came the truth of glowworms. If you want to continue to imagine the beauty I painted above then stop reading now, but the truth is just as amazing … amazingly gross! A glowworm happens to not be a worm at all. It is actually fly larvae, which we also know as maggots. You may all gaging but do not fear because it gets grosser. This bioluminescent maggot lures its food by the glowing light it produces. To top it off, the maggot is not what is actually glowing. Through the natural process of digestion, the glowing part of the maggot is its own personal waste. Eating and depositing waste is truly a circular process for the glowworm. I still believe this is a wondrous beauty to behold, but it definitely includes a gross factor.
A Bit of Adventure
Everyone needs a bit of adventure in their life, it keeps you on your toes! For some, the adventure might be trying an unknown food, for others meeting new people can be enough, but for me I take things a little more to the extreme. Namibia was an opportunity for first time skydiving! Well, New Zealand brought along another first–black water rafting! You may be asking “What is black water rafting?” Well it is essentially white water rafting … except you are in the depths of a cave in an underground river. Through my adventure under the earth, I leaped off cascading waterfalls and floated serenely through the dark water. It was another adrenaline rush, but was worth every minute of the three hours.
A Bit of Nature
Waking up to the smell of rotten eggs is a bit unpleasant, but seeing the astonishing geothermal activity was worth the stench. Located in and around Rotorua, New Zealand is one of the world’s most spectacular Geothermal Wonderlands. I spent my time in the Wai-O-Tapu observing mud pools, geysers and the geothermal area. Waiotapu is the Maori word for “sacred waters.”
During my visit to the mud pool, I heard the unique sounds of the erupting mud. At the Lady Knox Geyser, I learned the history of the geyser and witnessed an eruption of 20 meters high. My last stop was a 60-minute walk through the geothermal area, where the hot pools ranged from rich green, sulfuric yellow, turquoise blue and burnt orange. Specifically, the Champagne Pool is an example of the diverse colors caused by the different minerals located within the water. My favorite spot along my walk was at the Devil’s Bath where the mixture of sulfur and salts creates a yellow-green pool that appears to be toxic waste.
A Bit of Geek
I took an unexpected journey from a cloudy, dreary region to a beautiful place with rolling green hills and clear blue skies. A quaint village filled with people of small size with hairy feet located in Middle-Earth. For my fellow geeks, I hope you realize that I am talking about the Shire. Matamata, New Zealand is the home of the Hobbiton movie set. Upon arrival to the Hobbiton movie set, I was astonished by the feeling that I was truly in Middle-Earth. There were no young Hobbits running through the Shire, but their toys were forgotten in the field and the wash was hung to dry on the clothes line.
My journey through Middle-Earth … excuse me … New Zealand was the perfect way to end my time in this truly magnificent country.
Cierra Bartol-Byers, a senior elementary education major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia and New Zealand.