Sunday, 26 June 2016

On the Road Again & Starting the Next Chapter

Written by Amanda White

Thursday and Friday were long travel days, and our last two with Stacey and Wendy. {You mean you don’t know who Wendy is?! Wendy is only the best lil Haka tour bus EVER! Our home for two weeks, now filled with laughter, memories, great music, lots of sleeps, and lots of Stacey fun facts—and once-filled with all of our luggage over and over and over again.}

I’ll be honest: I took very few pictures on Thursday. One takeaway for me personally from Kiwi culture is being laid back and unplugged from technology. I’m trying to continually apply this to my life more and more, looking at my phone and watch less and less. And while I love taking pictures and capturing memories in that way, by this point in the expedition I had taken around 800 pictures (NO JOKE) and was ready to just sit back, look around, and enjoy the scenery the second time around as we passed back through the South Island.

Thursday night was our farewell dinner to Stacey. We ate out at one of her favorite pubs in Christchurch, and she {eventually… after a long and drawn-out night full of procrastination and bets regarding our tour group being in her Facebook cover photo} told us the stories of all her tattoos. It was a cool bonding time, particularly for those on the trip who have tattoos of their own, and several of whom got new tattoos in Wellington today (Sunday)!

Some final views of the South Island mountains
Friday was just an EARLY morning. Stacey drove us all the way from Christchurch to Picton by around noon to catch the ferry back to the North Island. She took us to her favorite spot in Picton for final pictures, selfies, and hugs {and, unfortunately, a few final sand flea bites}. It was a bittersweet goodbye to Stacey at the ferry terminal, but we’ll see her soon.

Me and PC Stace
One last bus selfie!
The ferry ride was pretty rocky. After watching the sunset up on the observation deck, I came to the passenger lounge to find almost all of my pals laying on the floor to mitigate the rocking/seasickness, either trying to sleep or giggling uncontrollably (I’m looking at you, Shannon!). But at least Madeline, Tori, Shannon and I figured out that (1) Tori can list all the US states in 19 seconds; and (2) between the four of us, we know most of the US state capitals. Finally in Wellington (FOR GOOD! Well… for four weeks. Which, in the context of NEIP is “for good.”), we checked in to Trek Global and headed out to the night market on Cuba Street once again, and then to Kaffee Eis for some Well{ington}-enjoyed gelato.

Sunset on the interislander
Saturday marked the last day of our expedition officially! We learned about organizational purpose at Zealandia, and the wide variety of campaigns that Absolutely, Positively Wellington has put on through the years. These were a strong ending to two weeks of travel and 13 branding presentations—now it’s time for report-writing and interning! The group spent the afternoon exploring Wellington in various ways—some shopping, some exploring Te Papa Museum, and others resting up for the big week ahead. Most of us ended up at a bar on the harbor to watch the All-Blacks crush Wales in rugby again—we’re pretty big fans now.

Sunday, according to our itinerary, was “Rest and preparation day,” which we took to mean “Get to know Wellington however you see fit Day.” There were Sunday morning markets; more Te Papa exploration; shopping; tattoo-getting; some naps; and even some homework. We’re getting ready for internship orientation—tomorrow, we’ll go our separate ways and work in the real world! Wow.

Nowhere I’d rather do that than here in Wellington, New Zealand.


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Beautiful Sunday (and Monday. And Tuesday.)

Written by Amanda White

Warning: This post will be a whirlwind. Much like the past week, which I'll report on in two parts, now that WiFi is available--huzzah! 
Sunday morning, we met up with Whale Watch Kaikoura, and learned about their incredible community focus. We found our way to Christchurch that afternoon, and we were both sobered by stories of how earthquakes brought heartbreak and destruction there; and inspired by how the city is beginning to rebuild.

Some of us also saw pictures of our future husbands--#rugbywives?

We were treated to a stop on the beach and, of course, got some cute group pics.

Comm and Marketing NEIP squad
We headed out of Christchurch early Monday morning and had some world-famous-in-New-Zealand meat pies from Fairlie Bakehouse. There were lambingtons involved too: a kiwi sponge cake treat. Yum! We also made a beautiful stop at Lake Tekapo, a beautiful and peaceful mountainside lake with breathtaking views. We only wished we had even more time there!

Lake Tekapo
Our afternoon talk included a wine tasting at Gibbston Valley, a beautiful winery in Queenstown. It was a beautiful and relaxing way to arrive in Queenstown.

Gibbston Valley

Tuesday was a full day of talks: Real Journeys; Destination Queenstown; Shotover Jet {which some of us did want to experience, but opted out because of the wintry weather. Our adage as a group is, “If Stacey is wearing long pants and close-toed shoes, you KNOW it’s cold.”}; and Millbrook Resort. We enjoyed them all, but we especially enjoyed the enthusiasm and professionalism of Ciara, our speaker at Millbrook (see the resort's view below!).

Millbrook Resort
Of course, we couldn’t let our time in Queenstown go by without experiencing Fergburger, which we all did, and it didn’t seem like anyone had a beef with their choice! {Yeah, that one was bad… so sorry.} I’m officially addicted to huge, messy kiwi burgers with beetroot and fried egg. Mmmm…
Shannon, Tori, and Madeline

Stacey and Anna 
Wednesday was a long travel day, with some beautiful stops at Thunder Creek Waterfall and at a lookout at the ocean. It was a very rainy day when we arrived in Franz Josef, and we heard from Glacier Guides while the weather ranged from no rain to a heavy downpour over the course of an hour.
Beach lookout
Thunder Creek Falls

After our talk, Kyle, Lyssa and I were anxious for a hike, so we took the Tatare Trail up to a glowworm cave and really enjoyed seeing them, in spite of the rain and how thoroughly wet we got from the river in the cave. 

More on this week coming soon!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

(A brief intermission...)

Though there are adventures being had and much to report, WiFi is scarce to be had and refuses to report/download much of anything. It's about all I can do to even... type... this message...

(Seriously, though, I'll most likely be able to post again Thursday night when we have arrived in Christchurch, but Queenstown connection is uncooperative for downloading or posting pictures, and Franz Joseph tomorrow evening isn't looking much brighter... I'll just be able to update you that much more on Thursday!

That's all for now, folks. If you're in the states, I hope you're surviving the heat. And if you're anywhere near Queenstown tonight, I hope you're curled up inside near a fire and not getting rained on.)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Our fate is seal'd

Written by Amanda White

Readers—things have gone south.

No, but literally. We made it to the South Island! (Bye to Wellington for now, but we shall see her soon!)

We spent a beautiful Saturday morning on the Interislander Ferry flanked by beautiful water and greenery that is characteristic of the South Island. It was chilly and windy up on the observation decks, but so worth the views and pictures.

We joined back up with our beloved Haka Tours bus for a few hours of driving to Kaikoura. We made a quick stop at a grocery in Bellheim (pronounced BELL-uhm, we learned) and had adventurous lunches. Lyssa and Hannah wanted sandwiches from a closed deli, but were instructed to bring bread to the lady working at the counter, and were then told that “You girls give me a reason to go home and drink the bottle of wine I have there.” They got good deals on large sandwiches on baguettes though—and definitely charmed their way through.

Afternoon stops included SEAL PUPS. We got up very close and personal, taking loads of pictures of the cuties at their waterfall playground. And they were NOT shy about coming close to us; one of the pups touched its nose to Kelsi’s GoPro, and we were glad it didn’t do anything more feisty.

The beach where we saw more seals was beautiful and peaceful, and the sunset was breathtaking tonight. Kaikoura welcomed us.

For a true kiwi Saturday night experience, we headed to a local pub to enjoy the All Blacks game! We learned the rules and got to enjoy a well-fought win for the home team. 

God defend New Zealand!

Friday, 17 June 2016

Well, Well, Wellington...

Written by Amanda White

Today, the wheels on the bus went round. And round. And round.

We drove (correction: Stacy drove. We napped and listened to music and READ! We brought so many books on this trip. Tori read ‘The Chocolate War’ this afternoon alone; Erin is reading ‘Girl at War’; Hannah, a memoir called, ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’; Madeline, ‘Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand'; and I’m somehow trudging my  way through ‘Anna Karenina.’ Just in case you needed some new additions to your reading list…) all the way from Taupo to Wellington today. The drive is around five hours, so we headed out early to make some stops along the way.

We first paused by Lake Taupo one last time and heard stories of Maori traditions about the island in Lake Taupo. It was the most peaceful way to start our morning, and we were sad to leave the beautiful lake. {Also, we are now officially getting the *full* New Zealand experience weather-wise—the Californians among us are especially—ahem—adjusting to how cold it is as we go farther south…)}

We also made a stop at Soul Café in Taihape for hot chocolate, flat whites, and smoothies; and hopped out at Bulls, the town whose main export is puns. It was a quick stop, but the drive through was adora-bull.

Mid-afternoon, we got our first full view of our soon-to-be home: Wellington! It was a perfectly sunny day to see the city in all of its glory for the first time. 

We loved our YHA  here, too, and YHA Area Manager Chris was entertaining and connected very easily as he helped us understand the strong brand of the hostels we’ve now spent quite a few nights in.

For our first evening in Windy Welly, we met Massey intern Jana, who was our guide through the night market scene for all who were feeling up to it! We are all smitten by the city, and can’t wait for more time here. The fantastic food, charismatic performers, and overall character of the city were a great preview of coming attractions.

Tomorrow, we switch from North to South Island! What mode of transportation will we take?? You’ll just have to wait and sea… Till tomorrow!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

adreNaline junkieZ

Written by Amanda White
So, Haka Lodge Taupo has the MOST beautiful view of the lake and mountains beyond. Waking up to those views this morning made the early morning not bad at all. 
Our speaker today was Skydive Taupo, and from the pink plane and cat named Sky, to Gemma’s personable approach and the salesman named Disco, we were absolutely sold. Learning about the importance of relationships in sales, and crisis management was SO interesting. I think we’ve all been very impressed with the breadth of knowledge the speakers have shared so far!

Of course we couldn’t leave without a bit of fun, and Kelsi, Lyssa, and Tori thought, “You know what? It’s Thursday—let’s jump out of a plane today.” (I mean, maybe they thought more thoughts than that, but one way or another they signed up to skydive…) It was a beautiful morning, and what more lovely scenery to skydive above than Lake Taupo?! Everyone else got to watch and had a good laugh watching the parachutes grow from tiny specks (and I mean TINY specks—I literally ran into Anna watching them come down. Like, they were DISTRACTINGLY TINY specks. But we had a good laugh about it. Also, see if you can see the tiny specks in the blue picture--Lyssa and Tori are in it *somewhere*) until they all landed safely. They loved it and seemed exhilarated—no regrets.

After a quick lunch, it was time to rush for more adrenaline with bungee jumping! Even more NEIP-ers jumped or swung, and it was so fun to hear their joyful screams and see their faces afterwards. (Shoutout to Tori for skydiving AND bungee jumping—no day will quite compare to this one!) We also visited the lovely Huka Falls today, and Stacy shared some stories about just how incredible and powerful they are. They were stunning. Those who didn’t bungee today took an hour-long hike along the Waitomo River, and got to enjoy some beautiful NZ nature. There was so much peace and beauty; while I wanted to jump off something really high, I felt very centered and energized just breathing the oxygen, provided courtesy of Taupo flora. A+ stuff.

We ended the day with hot springs, and while our (at least my) scientific understanding of them may be slight, our enjoyment of them was not. The springs were relaxing and exhilarating, though in a rather different way from the springs. Kudos once again go to Stacy for knowing exactly where the prime spots in New Zealand are.

Tomorrow, on to good old Wellington and maybe some volcanoes too. Friday should be erupting with fun… 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Send Me on My Way

Written by Amanda White

Tuesday was bonding day for the NEIP-ers! 

We formed two teams—the Average Feijoa’s (Or, if you like, Fei-Joe-a's) and the Fellowship of the Kiwi—and embarked on our Amazing Race throughout Auckland. We ate hokey pokey ice cream, spoke to strangers in Maori (which was mostly saying “Kia Ora!” to runners and backpackers...), and "sunbathed" on North Wharf. Both teams took creative pictures and enjoyed all of our exploring and wandering.

After the Amazing Race, we joined back up at YHA to prep for grocery shopping at Countdown. The Avg Feijoas bought lots of pasta and sandwich fixings for the remainder of the expedition. Some of us spent a chill evening in, chatting and getting to know our hostelmates, and others went out for one final evening of Auckland exploring.

Wednesday dawned early for our first day of touring and industry speakers! We met bus driver Stacy beside our spacious 19-seat Haka Tours Bus, then got to hear from Jatendra of Haka Tours. He shared about the history of Haka Tours and Lodges, and was a great start to our expedition. We then headed out of Auckland for the rest of our trip—an exciting moment that meant our expedition was truly beginning! We spent the rest of the morning on the bus, observing New Zealand’s incredibly diverse landscapes and weather that seemed to change by the minute. Stacy distinguishes North from South Island by describing the former as “the Shire” of New Zealand and the latter as the more majestic and mountainous scenes from Lord of the Rings. The rolling hills certainly reminded me of my time in Hobbiton! (It was rather challenging to get pictures from the moving bus though…)

After a quick pit stop in a town that is world famous in New Zealand for its corrugated murals (!), we made it to Lake Rotorua which was one of the most lovely and peaceful places I’ve ever been.

Rotorua also was home to our next industry speaker, OGO Rotorua. When Kelly started his presentation, he simply said, “We push people down a hill in a big, giant ball.” His casual and straightforward style of speaking was accessible and enjoyable, in the bustling lobby of OGO. Five of our NEIP-ers opted into the experience, as did Anna! The rest of us took pictures and watched from beside a lovely fire.

Cheers to Day 3!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Another Day, Another 'Dventure

Written by Amanda White

Friends! Dear readers! Mom! (As I'm sure she's reading this, too.) 

After three days of solo exploring, I am so ready for NEIP to start! I arrived Thursday evening, and have spent the past days wandering around Auckland on foot to parks and shops and everything in-between; 

 geeking out over the Hobbit holes on the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour;

visiting Muriwai Beach and loving the fallish rain that came with the sea spray; 

and making lots of new friends from all over the world along the way.

Yesterday evening, fellow NEIP-er Shannon arrived and we explored the streets of Auckland together in search of dinner fare. We landed on Denny’s, which, though technically an American chain, uses a kiwi as an apostrophe in New Zealand, so it definitely counts as kiwi food!

Orientation begins this afternoon, and so do our group adventures... here we go!