The North

Published: March 29th 2011
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It is with astonishment that I now type the final blog entry of my time in New Zealand; three months gone in a blink and smile. Leaving the South Island behind, we took the ferry across the Cook Straight to the North Island landing in Wellington. There, we meet up with Mark and Karen, who we began our first tramping adventure with all the way back on New Years. After a couple days in the city, we headed to the middle of the North Island for one of our final tramps around several giant (and active) New Zealand volcanoes; the Tongariro Crossing. This was track was special because we were able to get a large party of friends together from both this trip and Chad's previous expeditions. In total there were five others who joined us; Mark, Karen, Nick (from NZ), Nigel, and Lori. This great company made the tramp much more excellent, not to mention the detour we all took along the way. Always looking for a greater challenge and accomplishment, everyone in the group opted to climb one of the volcanoes along the track, the towering Mt. Ngauruhoe. The nerd in me has to point out the most significant part of this feat was that this was the very volcano used in The Lord of the Rings films.....that's right, I climbed Mt. Doom. So, after lunch at the top of Mt. Doom, the party descended back to the track and finished the remaining 12 km back to the cars rounding out a long and awesome day. The next day, after everyone departed back to reality, Nick, Chad and I began our final tramp in New Zealand. We traveled through some unique, desert landscape circling around another giant volcano over four days. This was a different, and pretty simple track to cap off our tramping excursions, pushing us ever closer to the end. After a long bus away from Tongariro, Nick and I experienced our first hitchhiking adventure, a story of course in itself. Somehow Chad, being the Chad that he is, managed to stop two cars at once and secured us a bizarre ride with five Indian gentleman where we only thought death was a possibility 30% of the journey. Eventually, we all made it to the target city, Thames, where we stayed with yet another person Chad met in a previous trip, Geoff. Once again we were treated amazingly and quickly made another new friend whom I owe. The next two days were filled with lazy sightseeing, highlighted by the very cool Hot Water Beach. As the name suggests, simply by digging a foot or so into the sand, one is treated to a personal natural hot pool from nearby springs. Our North Island touring concluded with finally reaching Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand and the end point of the entire trip. Just being in a big city was almost strange at this point, tall building and masses of people spanning everywhere. We stayed with Nigel (from above) and his wife Tamara who, as is apparently custom here, spoiled us rotten with hospitality.

My time in New Zealand has been a life experience that I anticipated having a profound impact on me, but I have been surprised by the most significant things. Despite the amazing landscapes, crazy adventures, and different memories, nothing has compared to the people I've met here. In past three months, the friendships and generosity shown to me has been nothing short of amazing, and something I forever hope to return in kind. Thanks to everyone who followed this blog and made the trip amazing, especially Nick and Chad. Peace from NZ!


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