I thought my mid-semester break couldn’t be any better after going to the Cook Islands for 7 days, and I was wrong. After traveling to a few places in the North Island, it felt strange to be back in class.
The plane arrived early in the morning when we landed in Auckland. Myself and five other IESers from the Cook Island trip all went from the airport to our hostel and started to explore Auckland for a short time. We got to go to the Sky Tower (a smaller version of Seattle’s Space Needle) and take a look at the surrounding area of Auckland. We went to the Auckland Zoo to kill some time (and see some cute red pandas) and then got a meal somewhere in the city. My time in Auckland reminded me more of America than the rest of New Zealand combined, even though I spent a day and a half there.
Me and an IES-er met up with a friend in Taupo at night. We went to dinner at a low key restaurant and wound up striking up a conversation with one of the richest Kiwis in New Zealand (who runs a major ventilation / heating / air conditioning company). The next day we three traveled on what is known as the “Forgotten Highway” – a long stretch of road that (besides for the placing of gravel) is untouched by man. It’s the weirdest thing, you’re driving in a rolling-hill landscape and then all of a sudden you’re in the middle of what seems like a rain-forest, and after a while it’s like you never left the large green hills.
After our stint in Taupo the three of us met up with another IES-er in New Plymouth. While we didn’t do much there because of the weather (we were planning on walking around Mt. Taranaki but it became too dangerous to go), the town itself is pretty beautiful. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there without a mode of transportation, but we did get to see a cool art show and take a scenic walk on the coast.
Once New Plymouth was done we all went to Wellington. As the capital of New Zealand, Wellington is quite the place to visit (I’d go there in a heartbeat again). Botanical gardens, cool scenic (and some long climbs) up towards the highest point in Wellington, and a bustling downtown area are just some of the things that make it a great place to see. We tried to visit and go to as many places as we could, but there just wasn’t enough time. A day and a half after Wellington I took a ferry and then bus ride back to Christchurch before my classes started.
I should mention that some of my favorite times during this trip were on the road. I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at mountains and huge green hills that seem to go on forever.