The past two weeks have been incredible. I finished all of my assignments the week before mid-semester break, which was such a relief; not having to worry about those essays and online tests piling up was the best thing that I could have done for myself. I gave my first presentation with a partner in my Tourism class and registered for the Fall for next semester back home, it went very smoothly.
The Wednesday before the break, a few of my friends and I woke up early to go to Doctor’s Point (a local beach) to watch the sunrise. It was stunning, and on the walk back down the beach, we ran into a woman and her dog, a gorgeous husky named Shadow. The woman told us that she was also studying at Otago and was going for her Ph.D. She was originally from South Carolina, which is where I am from! Afterward, a couple of us went to the free breakfast that OUSA hosts every Wednesday morning and had our classes for the day.
I spent most of Thursday preparing and packing for my upcoming nine-day road trip. Day 1: On Friday, I met up with our road trip people, Sara, Jason, and Sam (plus another friend, Connor) to make a huge breakfast. We made a crazy amount of pancakes and eggs and prepared for the four and a half hour drive to Christchurch. We picked up the Transfercar from the Dunedin Airport, loaded up, and went on our way. We stopped in Oamaru to see some sea lions on the shore and then we walked around in the Botanical gardens there. We continued on our drive to Christchurch and saw the sunset from the car over the mountains. We arrived at our hostel in Christchurch, checked in, and then went to the Little High Eatery for some dinner. I had a delicious bacon burger. We called it an early night and got a lot of sleep. Day 2: We woke up, checked out of the hostel, and headed over to the Christchurch farmers market. This was a huge event, and we got to walk around and try a bunch of free samples. There was a variety of unique and local businesses present at the market. I purchased a breakfast bagel from a local bakery there, and then we drove over to the Christchurch Airport to turn in our transfer car and pick up our rental car.
Then we drove over to the free Canterbury Museum. This museum was huge and very interesting. It had a section devoted to Maori culture, one for the Antarctic exploration, and one specifically for Christchurch history. We spent a couple of hours here and then went back to the Little High Eatery for a late lunch. This time I got some Pad Thai, which was fabulous. Then we drove from Christchurch to Kaikoura. We checked into the backpackers and then headed to the town to walk around and go to some bars. We went to the beach before heading to bed.
Day 3: We woke up early and drove straight to Picton. We stopped at Subway before getting in line to board the Ferry. Once on the ferry, we discovered that we were part of some VIP section that provided free food and drinks (we still do not know why we got these seats, but we were not complaining.) We eagerly entered the special room and had a great ferry ride, even though the weather was a bit drab. I met a couple who were going back home, and they were incredibly friendly and welcoming.
We arrived in Wellington and drove north about an hour to Otaki. Here, we were supposed to stay in an Airbnb, but we could not find the house. We called Airbnb and it turned out that the house did not exist and the host had been deported! I scrambled to find another form of accommodation and stumbled across a backpackers in Wellington that was only a few dollars more but had a much better location. We booked it and drove back to Wellington to check in. Everything ended up being much better than we could have imagined! We booked a six-person room but got upgraded for free to a four-person room, so we had a private room for the two nights we would stay in Wellington! We saved money on petrol since we would not be driving back and forth from Otaki, but we still got to experience the scenery from the drive to Otaki. We really wanted to take a shower and they had just enough clean towels left for us to use (can you say #blessed,) so we went to take showers and then we walked around the city searching for somewhere to have dinner.
We met up with a friend from school, Elyse, and ended up eating at a homemade pasta place. I had the Carbonara and was not disappointed. We continued to walk around the city and ran into two more friends from school, AJ and Nathan. This was completely a chance meeting but ended up being so much fun. We went over to the waterfront to see the beautiful view of the harbor and the city. The other three girls traveling with Elyse met us here, and the ten of us went back to the city to look for some entertainment. We sure found it, alright. We stumbled across an arcade, and the place was mad busy. Some of us purchased tickets and went at the games. It was fun to watch and there were two guys who were obviously pros at the dance mat game (very impressed, not gonna lie.) We then headed over to a place to play pool. We played a game and then headed to the backpackers for some much-needed shut-eye.
Day 4: We woke up and headed to a local café for some brunch where I ordered a hash brown stack. Afterward, we walked over to a park and listened to some live music and took advantage of the slide. We then headed to the local museum, Te Papa. This museum was huge and had free general admission. We spent a few hours in the museum and got to see the Gallipoli exhibit. This exhibit educated us on the meaning of Anzac day, a public holiday in New Zealand that would occur in three days’ time. Anzac day is a day of remembrance of all of those in New Zealand and Australia who served their countries in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. After the museum, we went to the Wellington Botanical gardens. The treehouse center was incredible and had an awesome view of the main gardens; we also really loved the rose garden at the beginning. After the gardens, we went to get some dinner and then headed out on the town.
Day 5: This morning we also went out for brunch where I ordered a chai latte and an egg, avocado, and bacon bagel. We then drove a little outside of town to visit the Weta workshop mini-museum. This made me geek out and freak out like a little kid. The museum was very cool, and I was so excited to see where much of the Lord of the Rings movie magic had been created. We then went back into Wellington to board the ferry back to Picton. This ride had pretty gross weather, but we still got to sit in the VIP section (again, not sure why) and took advantage of the free food and drinks. Once we landed in Picton, we drove to Nelson. The drive was stunning, and we once again got to see the sunset over the mountains. We arrived at our backpackers in Nelson (which was also really nice) and then walked around the town for a bit.
Day 6: The backpackers provided complimentary breakfast of porridge (really just oatmeal) and toast. We drove an hour to Abel Tasman National Park and did an eleven-mile tramp. The national park was gorgeous and the weather was perfect. The tramp was really easy since it was right near the coast through some covered trails in the forest. We stopped for lunch and pictures and then turned around to finish the tramp for the day. We stopped on the way back to Nelson at the Split Apple Rock beach. This beach was stunning, and the caves were incredible. We had the beach to ourselves and the sun was setting. We made it back to Nelson and splurged on burgers, fries, and milkshakes at a restaurant named Burger Culture. Some other friends from school happened to walk by when we were dining outside, and we got to catch up a bit. We then went back to the backpackers and stayed in for the night after a long day of tramping and sun.
Day 7: This was Anzac day, and we woke up to the sound of bagpipes. Right across from where we were staying was a war memorial specifically for those who passed in World War I from Nelson. It was awesome to see the service, even from a distance. We ate breakfast and checked out, then headed across the street to look at the memorial close up. We also went to see the historical Christ Church Cathedral. We left Nelson, and along the way, we were stopped by a goat crossing. We made a pit stop at the Nelson Lakes National Park to see Lake Rotoiti from the dock and from the viewpoint above. We kept driving and also made a pit stop at Lake Rotoroa; both of these lakes were stunning and peaceful. We stopped at a little town for lunch and saw a waterfall on a postcard, so we stopped there too. We finally made it to Hokitika, checked in to the hostel, and then went to discover the Glow-Worm Caves. We also went to the beach and walked around the town to grab some pizza from Fat Pipi’s.
Day 8: We checked out of the hostel and went over to New World to buy some food for the day. We then went to check out the Hokitika sign on the beach. Then we headed over to the Treetop forest and café to see the bridges suspended throughout the forest. The views were stunning and the spiral staircase viewpoint was incredible. Afterward, we headed over to the Hokitika Gorge. This was also a stunning place with super blue water and a cool suspension bridge. We walked over to the riverfront for some pictures and to touch the water. We then started our way back to Christchurch. We drove through Arthur’s Pass and made a couple of stops. First, we tramped up to Devil’s Punchbowl Falls. This waterfall was very tall and incredible to see.
After that, we stopped at the cave stream to see the natural underwater cave created by slightly acidic water over a long period of time. We finally made it back to Christchurch and picked up my friend from home, Reeves. It was so nice to see a familiar face and to catch up with someone who had been having many of the same experiences as me. She has been studying at Canterbury University through a different program. She showed us around the Christchurch Botanical Gardens and then we ate at, you guessed it, the Little High Eatery. This time I ordered some loaded fries and an Oreo milkshake – both were amazing but super filling. We dropped Reeves back off at her flat and found our Air BnB.
Day 9: We had another early morning, where we drove to the airport to fill up the rental car, returned it, and got shuttled to where our bus would pick us up. We boarded the bus and finally made our way back to Dunedin. I met and sat next to a little eleven-year-old girl who was traveling by herself. We became fast friends, and we kept each other company. We played i-spy, and she even did my eyeshadow (she was just the cutest.) We stopped for a lunch break, and she left with her Nan. We got back on the bus, and I slept for the rest of the ride back. We arrived back in Dunedin, and we could see many other students arriving with their backpacks and suitcases, tired looks and messy hair. We finally got back to our own flats, and I took a much-needed shower, nap, and unpacked and washed my clothes.
We fit so much into our semester break, and even though I am extremely tired, it was completely worth it. I had the best time and got to see so much of the country that I would not have been able to see just over a weekend trip. I am so glad that everything went as smoothly as it did, and how even when it did not go smoothly, it turned out so much better than expected! The weather was up and down, but it never rained on us or ruined any plans. I am excited to get back into the swing of school and my normal routine, but it was a much needed and amazing break. So many students had so many different plans, but I would not have changed anything for the world.