Sun 10- Sun17
The Day of Pizza (Sun, Jan 10)
On Sunday, we had a long intensive day on Māori culture and language. We are in the midst of learning Māori waiata (songs) for the River Trip where we will visit different marae (holy grounds) and paddle in waka (canoes) along the Whanganui River (which is sacred for the Māori). Because the marae are holy ground, we comply with the rituals and traditions to honor that place, the ancestors, and the history. Jay has a series of chants that he presents when we enter to announce ourselves and pay respects, as well as comply with tradition. We also have been learning waiata which we sing for different purposes (some are greeting songs, some are closing songs, but they all honor the marae and the ancestors). By the River Trip, we will have at least three waiata and their respective hand movements memorized– in te reo Māori (the Māori language).
The Day of Brinner (Mon, Jan 11)
On Monday, we began our Environmental Issues class with Peter Frost. He introduced us to some of the environmental perspectives of New Zealand. We talked about the tectonic creation of the islands, volcanoes, evolution, colonization, invasive species, native species and the environmental policy of NZ. We finished out the day with a delicious meal of breakfast for dinner, complete with bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and a ton of pancakes.
The Day of Chili (Tues, Jan 12)
Tuesday morning was a botany course with Lyneke, in which we learned about some of the native flora to New Zealand. Lyneke taught us how to take efficient observations, identify species, and about the most popular characteristics of New Zealand flora. We started in our natural history journal observations, which we are making for our Environmental Issues course– complete with detailed sketches and observations.
In the afternoon, we received our bikes and helmets, which we will use for the rest of the semester to get around town, and to our internships.
We had a delicious meal of vegetarian and meat chili to bring our day to a close, along with practicing our waiata (songs) and karakia (prayers).
The Day of Spaghetti (Wed, Jan 13)
On Wednesday we went to Bushy Park with Peter Frost (our Environmental Issues professor). We tramped through the gated park looking at the variety of largely native plants and animals. The whole park is fenced in to prevent non-native species from getting in and harming the wildlife and disturbing the ecosystem. Peter guided us through and told us about the major species and their natural history, and we enjoyed a solo during which we observed species carefully.
In the evening, we ate delicious spaghetti, and drove North to our campsite to spend the night and be up bright and early for our hike on Tongariro crossing. We finally enacted the use of walkie-talkies between the two caravans for efficient communication, announced views of the mountains ahead, and humor.
The Day of Korean Barbecue Chicken and Pickled Cucumbers (Thurs, Jan 14)
Well, folks, there’s a reason that the Tongariro Crossing is one of the most popular day hikes in the world. It is an absolute jackpot of geologic history, beautiful views, and extravagant surprises. The crossing is 19.4K (~12 miles) and runs between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe, through arid craters, rainforest, rambling mountain switchbacks, and beautiful alpine bog and shrubs. The trail was littered with other people– apparently it is always busy, but definitely well worth it. Some ventured off to hike Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings), but turned back due to limited visibility, and we didn’t see the summit of Mt. Ngauruhoe for the rest of the day. The rest of the hike brought many surprises: craters galore, emerald and blue mineral pools, massive lava flows, and so many geologic friends!
The Day of Chicken Filo Pie (Fri, Jan 15)
The next day, Lyneke led us on a nature walk on one of the short nature trails in Tongariro National Park, so we could become acquainted with some of the New Zealand species.
When we returned from the trip, we had delicious dinner prepared by Belinda, our program coordinator. She cooked us chicken pot pie with filo dough, and the classic New Zealand dessert Pavlova. Thanks Belinda!
The Day of Assorted Dinners (Sat, Jan 16)
Yesterday, we went to the Farmer’s and Trader’s Market in Whanganui, which has food vendors, craftspeople, artists, used tools, used books, and plenty of people- and dog-watching. We grazed our way through, talking to the the different vendors and learning more about their craft or food. We learned about honey, the local woodworker’s collective, different types of bread, and even recognized the ice cream vendor as a fellow hiker from the crossing. We collectively enjoyed clay-oven pizza, apple pastries, fresh berry ice cream (Gabe had raspberry-blackberry and Eliza had boysenberry-blueberry), sushi, apricots, corndogs, and Middle Eastern yummies. We had the night off, and scattered across town for Thai food, Turkish food, and burgers.
We’re heading into a busy academic week, and crunch time to prepare our songs for the River Trip, which starts on Wednesday!! Life is good and sunny here at the settlement!
With sunshine from the Southern Hemisphere,
Gabe and Eliza