Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easter Break: Taranaki and Wellington!

Easter break has come and gone, and I have no idea where the time went. This last weekend was spent on a fantastic road trip; a journey from Auckland to Wellington with Ryan, Rachel, Marjie, and Lyssa.

First of all, Easter Break? Seriously, who gets time off for that? RIT, get on this for semesters, it's great. However, I don't like the fact that there is the tying of national holidays to religion, especially in a nation as secular as New Zealand. All of  the bars were closed in Wellington on Sunday, and it was also somewhat difficult to find a bite to eat for most of the weekend until Monday morning. Everything worked out fine, but I was not impressed that I could have the after-effects of someone else's religion pushed onto me.

Anyway, back to the trip. In Wellington, I was lucky enough to be able to stay in a friend of a friend's flat for two nights. It was really REALLY warn down, and will be torn down in a year and a half for construction of new earthquake-proof buildings. And it had mad character. It looked in worse shape than Animal House, to give you an idea. It was awesome that we were able to stay there, and our kiwi hosts were pretty cool themselves.

I was able to tour Parliament and learn a little bit more about Enzed's political history during my time in Wellington. It was nice doing a strictly educational outing for once. I really liked that the MP's more accurately represented the people who elected them (eight parties, instead of two). I also found it humorous that the building was never finished because the government ran out of money while building it. I milled about Te Papa, The Museum of New Zealand, later in the day. The Pasifika exhibit took up almost all of my time, and was really stimulating, just like my time at the museum in Auckland a few weeks ago. I was mostly interested in the culture and technological aspects of pre-European pacific life (as well as the changes after the foreign arrivals), as one of my classes is very closely related to these things. Something that really stood out to me: the seafaring and agricultural technologies that these civilizations had were in leagues of their own for thousands of years.

Now I'm not really going in any particular order on this post, mostly because the trip had large patches of driving or periods of relaxation. And eating. There was a lot of that too. In retrospect, I was very impressed with the Wellington cuisine, both in quantity and value. Actually, that's an understatement, 'cause I had some massive portions both nights in town. Most notable was The Chippery's huge box of fish and chips that I simply was not ready for. I ate it all, of course, but that meal certainly put up a fight. I washed it down with some ice cream later.

Sooooooo, I kinda saved the best part of the weekend for last. The second day of the trip, I climbed the all-powerful Mt. Taranaki (site of The Last Samurai filming). The 9-hour return hike (I stayed at the top for 2 hours) was grueling every step of the way. In the beginning, the group tramped through heavy rain and harsh winds, with only about 10-20 feet of visibility at any given time. After an hour and a half, it was enough to send the girls back down. However, Ryan and I continued in the crappy conditions.

Later on up the mountain, we reached a portion of the hill that looked vaguely familiar to scenes from movies filmed in coastal northern Ireland. It was dark, dreary, cold, wet, rocky, and mossy (which apparently screams Ireland in my head; I have absolutely no credibility on the comparison). I felt like I was experiencing so much more than just one country during this hike.

But that's where the awe stopped (as well as the rain). What we had approached was a 1.5-hour march in knee-deep scree with no designated path and even worse visibility. I often had to call out to Ryan to make sure he was still with me. But then the clouds parted for a bit, and I (thought I) saw the top of the mountain. This began the rapid ascent of really steep cliffs by yours truly, fueled only by adrenalin and cheerios. I really didn't stick to the "path", as climbing the cliff faces was much more fun (except that really tall chimney climb that I almost fell from). I got really carried away a few times and totally lost Ryan, but he came through the fog time and time again. After an hour of this ferocious terrain, we had reached crater lake, a basin filled with snow and ice.

And then we moved on, because it honestly wasn't as interesting as what was to come. After another 10 minutes of climber-deterrent landscape, I reached the summit of Mt. Taranaki, and the view was overwhelming. I was now around half a kilometer above the clouds that only a few hours earlier had been dumping torrents of rain on my unhappy figure. Everything was white and fluffy. And the sun was out. And the wind wasn't too bad. This was totally an acceptable reward for the trials that we had conquered. And so I sat down and ate my heart out, staring at the clouds (and the farms below all the way to the ocean when the clouds occasionally broke up). I finally got to pull out my camera for the first time that day (it was finally dry enough), and I got to snapping the wonderful visage. Sadly, I don't have pictures of most of the journey, because it was too dangerous to bring the camera out, but I can safely say you aren't missing much, for the volcano was pretty damn barren for a majority of the trip.

I'm not going to get into the descent, because it was just as exhausting as the way up. Honestly, I think it was much harder to get down the mountain than up. Regardless, I made it down, and the journey will go down as one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.

Well, since I only got back to Auckland Tuesday, I can't say much has happened in the interim. However, I am going on another trip this weekend to tour The Shire from Lord of the Rings, and hike Tongaririo Crossing, an easier tramp compared to last weekend, but with another volcano to conquer- Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom, anyone?). Expect many more pretty pictures, as this is my first time experiencing a world heritage site with a camera!

I'm gonna go watch Game of Thrones now.


Chillin' on top of the clouds

A nice sunset in New Plymouth, a town near Taranaki

Lyssa, the Birthday Girl, in a shoe

A boat I encountered on a coastal walk outside of Wellington

That's South Island in the background!

An Orc lost in the Te Papa museum

Amateur photography at it's finest on a black sand beach

Must've been a Canadian on Taranaki before me

Clouds, man.

Taking a picture of Marjie taking a picture of Lyssa

That's a 2,518-meter drop

Overjoyed at the summit

Told ya it was barren

Another view of the long way down (New Ireland?)

Windy Welly

I need a wide-angle lens

A fishing boat in a bay on the coastal walk

A part of the impressive indigenous people's outrigger

Future Poké Ball Concept

I figured out how to take a picture of wind

Intro to High-ISO, Nighttime Street Photography

I'll get better, I promise

Lyssa, Ryan, Rachel, Marjie, and Me in Wellington (Marjie Shrimpton)

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