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The journey home (3/18/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Saturday, 18 March 2017
031817
3/18/17 - The journey home

NZ2017

Media, Round 12
3/18/17 - The journey home (Photos)
3/18/17 - The journey home (Video)



3/18/17 @ 8:30pm - The Williston Northampton School (Google maps link)



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To switch things up here at the end of our journey, Mr. Seamon's going to step in with the write up:

Our journey home began with Ms. Evelti rousing the kids to consciousness at 4:30am. By 5:15am everyone was down in the lobby of our super swanky, ultra-modern hotel and, of course, the kids were super energetic. After a few last-minute packing checks including applying more pink duct tape, we gathered up outside and shortly after 5:30am we were on the road to the airport.

At the Christchurch airport we scampered our way to the Jetstar counter, checked in smoothly, then waited for a bit before boarding our hour-long flight to Auckland. In Auckland we collected our bags and met up with Glen, the local tour director who has been getting tongs done behind the scene. Thanks Glen! We then went upstairs to the food court area to settle down for a few hours of grazing while waiting for our next flight. We said our goodbyes to Glen and relaxed over good food, good coffee, and good company.

We next checked into our flight, made our way through security to the gate, again relaxed for a little while, then boarded for our 13 hours flight back to San Fran.

Shortly before boarding, I gathered the kids up and read through a summarized version of the itinerary for my 2018 trip which will be announced this Saturday at the first Second visit day! The kids had done a truly excellent job at asking questions about the trip and had narrowed down the possibilities quite well!

Our Auckland to San Fran flight was punctuated by a bit of turbulence, but overall it was rather smooth. By this point the kids are real travel warriors! In San Fran we cleared customs, picked up our bags, then rechecked them for our flight to Boston. 6 hours to Boston? No problem at all.

Once we unloaded unto the gangway in Boston we were hit with our first bit of cold weather since embarking on our 20,000 mile journey. Ah, yes, we could see our breath! In the airport we quickly made our way to baggage claim and on the way met up with our first parent! Down in baggage claim we met up with more parents, gathered all of our bags, took a group photo, said our goodbyes (until Tuesday!), easily found Mr. Simpson (our drive) and hit the road to Williston.

The drive was smooth and we rolled back into campus at 7:30pm to a waiting crowd of lively family members. Everyone diffused amongst the crowd and lots of happy reunions commenced. Lots of hugs went around and the parents, in a super gracious move, gave us chaperones a very well appreciated thank you speech and gift.

Everyone then picked up their gear and so ended NZ2017!

To Ms. Evelti -- Thank for being an incredible co-chaperone! You made everything so easy!

To the kids -- You may think that New Zealand made this trip awesome. Yes, the country is unreal amazing. That being said, you are all more amazing. It was due to your joy, focus on all the right things, ability to connect with one another, and to fully lean into the whole trip experience that made the trip perfect.

As you slide back into life here in the States, the last message I'd like to leave you with is this:

Take the time to reflect.

What did you learn while on the trip? What did you learn about the world? About yourself?

Once again, thanks for an unreal, amazing trip.

Adrenaline, sun, and rugby (3/17/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Friday, 17 March 2017
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3/17/17 - Adrenaline, sun, and rugby

NZ2017

Media, Round 11
3/17/17 - Adrenaline, sun, and rugby (Photos)
3/17/17 - Adrenaline, sun, and rugby (Video)



3/17/17 @ 11pm - BreakFree on Cashel (Google maps link)



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A gloriously sunny day greeted us after a nice long night of rest. We fueled up at the hotel and then boarded the bus, ready for our last round of adventure. We headed to the Adrenaline Forest, a high ropes course on steroids consisting of eight courses of increasing height and difficulty throughout a forested area adjacent to a park outside of the city. We started with a lesson in how to use the double clip system to ensure that we were always properly harnessed, then set off on our introductory climbs on the easier courses. We started just behind a camp group of 9-12 year olds who showed us the ropes. We zip-lined, climbed, shimmied, jumped, and swung (and screamed a little) through three hours of exhilarating exertion.
 
Following our culminating adventure activity, we decided that a rest on the beach was to rejuvenate before our evening. At the hotel, we grabbed a quick takeaway lunch and changed into some beach clothes, then headed out to a lovely stretch of beach in the city. We were greeted by many dogs and families out for the same kind of afternoon. We picnicked on some shell covered rocks and then either relaxed in the sun or spent some time swimming in the surf.
 
After two hours at the beach we packed up, hit the bus, and cleaned up and packed for a bit at the hotel before heading to our final agenda item, a rugby game of the Christchurch Crusaders vs the Auckland Blues. Some of us had purchased Crusaders jerseys at the Re:start mall yesterday in preparation, so our team spirit was high. In the early part of the game the Blues pulled way out in front, disappointing our crew and the rest of the 14,000 home team fans. After the half, however, things started to turn around and eventually the Crusaders battled their way back for the win! We left the stadium thrilled with our rugby experience and ready to get ourselves all packed up and ready for the journey back. We’ll wake up at 4:30am New Zealand time and spend about 30 hours making our way back East. See you all soon!


Southern migration (3/16/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Thursday, 16 March 2017
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3/16/17 - Southern migration

NZ2017

Media, Round 10
3/16/17 - Southern migration (Photos)
3/16/17 - Southern migration (Video)



3/16 @ 10pm - BreakFree on Cashel Hotel (Google maps link)



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We awoke in Wellington to bright, sunny skies and headed down from our rooms, through breakfast, and onto our last bus ride with Mike. So sad! He dropped us off at the Wellington airport and gave us all a hug farewell. He really was a terrific addition to our trip and the perfect fit for our group.
 
At the hotel we relaxed, had some snacks, attempted to help Ms. Evelti finally find the elusive Pokémon her children have been hoping for, and waited for our turn to depart. Once on board the plane we had a quick and painless journey of about 35 minutes to Christchurch. After grabbing our baggage we headed outside to meet our new driver, Gavin, and our new full-size bus. Our first stop was at a local mall for lunch. Afterwards we jumped back in the bus and made ourselves comfortable for our driving tour of Christchurch. Gavin told us all about the earthquakes of a few years ago, the damage they caused, and the resulting reconstruction which is still happening today. He showed us a temporary cathedral made of cardboard and also drove us past the original stone cathedral which is still heavily damaged. Our next stop was at the Canterbury Museum and adjacent botanical gardens. We spent an hour learning more about the natural history of the island, enjoying the gorgeous, sunny day in the garden, and even taking a virtual reality tour of what plane travel might look like in the coming decades.
 
Next, we checked into our ultra-modern hotel and were amused by the wedge-shaped bathrooms, bunk beds, and funky lighting and phone panels. From there we took a walk to the Re:Start container mall a few blocks away from the hotel. This group of shipping containers was established after the earthquakes to give temporary homes to the shops whose storefronts were being reconstructed. The container mall was also home to a variety of small food trucks and entertaining elements like a ping pong table and twister board. After amusing ourselves with some shopping and snacks we returned to the hotel to settle in a bit and get ready for dinner.
 
We walked about 10 minutes to Oopen Pasta & Grill for our last formal dinner together. During the dinner Lizzie offered a lovely toast to the group and the students presented the chaperones with cards thanking them for an awesome trip. The chaperone truly felt the same! But, of course, the fun isn’t over yet. After a quick ice cream stop we headed back to the hotel for one last late night together before our final day in NZ.

 
A journey to the capital (3/15/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
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3/15/17 - A journey to the capital

NZ2017

Media, Round 9
3/15/17 - A journey to the capital (Photos)
3/15/17 - A journey to the capital (Video)



3/15 @ 10pm - Mercure Wellington Hotel (Google maps link)



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We woke to a chilly morning at the National Park and packed up for our long car ride to our next stop, Wellington, New Zealand’s capital. On the way, we stopped in the small town of Bulls and boy was it incredi-bull! We ate lunch in the pun-filled town and continued on our way. In addition to Bulls we passed through other towns with offbeat icons of their own including gum boots and carrots.
 
When we finally arrived in Wellington we headed straight to the top of a lookout point to learn a bit about the city and its “belt” of greenspace. We also enjoyed the sunny view of the multiple water ways and neighborhoods of the beautiful coastal city. Next, we checked into our hotel for a short break and then walked a few minutes to the Te Papa museum. Te Papa is a nationally funded museum, free for visitors, that houses exhibits on New Zealand’s natural and cultural history. We saw exhibits about volcanos, WWI, and much more, and even saw the world’s only Colossal Squid preserved for display.
 
Following the museum, we spent a bit of time shopping on Cuba street, a quaint cobblestone pedestrian street lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. After half of the group bought matching sweatshirts, we came back together for a feast of Indian food. Once again, we cleaned our plates and many students continued to expand their food horizons by trying each other’s dishes. With the spicy burn lingering on our tongues we made our way to the nearest gelato stop and returned to our hotel. We spent the last hour of our night watching the video footage that Agroventures, Huka Falls Jet boat, and the Ogo companies provided us with following our stops there. We had a blast reliving these moments and headed off to bed.


Mt. Doom, Mordor, The Red Crater, and Emerald Lakes (3/14/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Tuesday, 14 March 2017
031417
3/14/17 - Mt. Doom, Mordor, The Red Crater, and Emerald Lakes

NZ2017 Tongariro

Media, Round 8
3/14/17 - Mt. Doom, Mordor, The Red Crater, and Emerald Lakes (Photos)
3/14/17 - Mt. Doom, Mordor, The Red Crater, and Emerald Lakes (Video)



3/14 @ 9pm - The Park Hotel (Google maps link)



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It was finally time for the big event, our 20km hike through Tongariro National Park! While there was some chance of showers in the forecast we woke to a dry, yet overcast day. We fueled up and boarded our bus to meet Zeb and Doug, our tour guides for the trek. This will be a story that is far better told in pictures, so make sure to look at the Flickr page for a true representation of what we saw!

We began our journey with an hour or so of “warm up” through rolling territory. After a quick break and bathroom, we set off for the “devil’s staircase,” about 350 stairs (not including the intervening boulders and inclined terrain) to scale the initial ascent. Following the challenge of the stairs we had a brief reprieve across a flat area, but then, another series of steep climbs. When we finally made it through the roughest parts we were greeted by the Red Crater – an incredible volcanic area colored bright red by its mineral contents. Atop the crater, we took a short walk with Doug to find some blue-colored lava rocks to take home with us, and we then took a last small ascent to the very top which faced out over the Emerald Lakes at the top of the mountain. The lakes are the result of the geothermal springs in the area and have a glowing blue/green color. We walked to the shore of one of the lakes and had a well-deserved lunch.

The weather eventually turned sunny with some mountain mist and, luckily for us, very mild winds for the area. Following lunch by the shores of one of the Emerald Lakes, we began our initial descent down a face of scree – sandy, rocky, slippery terrain that almost called for the dune surfboards we used back up north. Following this area, we ascended slightly again and then came around to the last 2.5 hours or so of the hike, the switchback trails that meander down the mountain and into the rainforest below. On this slope our guides introduced us to some sweet, edible berries and some very spicy pepper leaves. They also joked with us about what a lahar is, since, apparently, none of us knew ahead of time! (It’s a muddy area as a result of flooding.)  

After we all finally made it out of the woods we returned to our hotel for showers, rest, laundry, and dinner. We were also excited to get to sing to Glede for her birthday over a special dessert. Afterwards, we all hit the bed early for a much-needed rest!


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 March 2017 )
Adventure time! (3/13/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Monday, 13 March 2017
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3/13/17 - Adventure time!

NZ2017

Media, Round 7
3/13/17 - Adventure time! (Photos)
3/13/17 - Adventure time! (Video) 



3/13/17 @ 10pm - The Park Hotel (Google maps link)



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In today’s forecast, adventure! And only the *slightest* bit of rain! We started out with breakfast in our Rotorua hotel which was naturally fragranced by the lovely geothermal springs nearby. We were honestly quite happy to leave the rotten eggs behind us. For our first stop the chaperones had another surprise in store, OGO balls! We’d all seen commercials or videos for this type of activity, a big, inflated outer ball connected to another inflated inner ball. People get zipped into the inner ball along with enough water to make it slippery, and off they go down a giant hill! Even though it was a bit of a chilly way to start the morning, the OGO operators kept us comfortable with hot tubs at the top and bottom of the hill.
 
Next, we headed back to Agroventures to use up the last of the tickets that we had purchased from yesterday. We drove through a rainbow on our way in which gave way to bright sunshine (hooray!) We started off with every member of the trip taking a turn at the free fall skydiving simulator. Following this some members of the group also took a quick ride aboard a high speed jet boat in the park’s miniature lagoon. The rest of us watched from the side or stood strategically in the “splash zone” to get cooled down in the sunny weather.
Next we headed to the Rotorua gondola and ascended nearly to the top of the mountain. We ate a lovely lunch outside and then strapped on some helmets to prepare for our luge rides down the mountain side. Each student took a few runs down the hill and made their way back on via ski lift. Following some intense races and/or leisurely scenic rides, we descended via the gondola and back to our bus.
 
As if this wasn’t enough thrill for the day, we still had one more thing in store, a high speed boat ride to the Huka falls! Our entire group boarded the boat and were treated by our driver, Sarah, to a wild and intense spin around the river that follows the falls. Sarah expertly zoomed her way at 50mph through the narrow passageways and obstacles in the river, terrorizing the variety of water foul crossing our path. She executed too many 360 turns to count, including a few right at the foot of the impressive waterfall itself. During the ride she also stopped a few times along the way to teach us about the neighboring hot springs and how their geothermal energy is harnessed along the river.
 
Finally we had had enough for the day and made our way to our hotel in Tongariro National Park. We ate an excellent dinner (and when I say ate, I mean completely devoured) and started getting packed up for our day-long hike slated to leave first thing in the morning!


Last Updated ( Monday, 13 March 2017 )
Underground stars! (3/12/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Sunday, 12 March 2017
031217
3/12/17 - Underground stars

NZ2017

Media, Round 6
3/12/17 - Underground stars (Photos)
3/12/17 - Underground stars (Video)



3/12/17 @ 11pm - Sudima Lake Rotorua (Google maps link)




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Three guesses for today’s forecast… that’s right, rain! After breakfast, we set off wearing our bathing suits, water shoes, and rain jackets heading for the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves and the black water tubing adventure we had planned there. We drove through sheets of pouring rain and arrived to find that the tubing excursions were flooded out for the day. The staff at the ticketing company also believed that the rest of the tours of the caves were sold out for the day, but encouraged us to go to the cave itself to inquire further about any other availability. So we did just that! After the chaperones did some negotiating we were thrilled to find that we would be able to do a walking tour and boat ride in the caves so we would be able to meet the glow worms after all. We began our tour with a walk through the upper part of the cave and learned a bit about the geology of the formation of the cave and its stalagmites and stalactites. We also found out that it’s possible to rent the cave for private events like weddings. Sorry if any students have gotten a very expensive idea for the future now, parents!

During the walk through the cave, we came upon a bridge over a small pool where we were encouraged to crouch to the ground to look at the ceiling above the pool. We could see tiny specs of blue-green light – the glow worms! Our guide explained that the glow worms are not actually worms at all, they’re the larva stage of a flying insect. They glow to attract other insects to their sticky spindles so they can feed for the only time in their life cycle. Regardless of the biology of the insect before or after, the glowing phase is awe inspiring. As we got deeper into the cave and its underground river we queued up for a turn at a short boat ride down the cave. As we shoved off into an unlit alcove and looked up it was as though we had floated off into the darkness of outer space with only the stars surrounding us. The glow worms spread across the contours of the stalactites on the ceiling creating a 3D experience. Thanks to the high water levels we were floating closer to the glow worms than is typically possible, so the galaxy of light was enveloping, beautiful, and other-worldly.

Following the glow worms, we grabbed a bite to eat and went on to Agriventures, a thrill park near Rotorua. First, the whole group tried the schweeb, a pedal-powered suspended rail car system very useful for racing. After this warm up, 9 of the group headed to the swoop ride, a 100-foot harnessed drop swing. Even though it was absolutely pouring rain, the brave and intrepid among us each went not once, but twice through this incredibly terrifying and thrilling exercise. While we hoped to stay longer to use up all of our ride tickets, we had to leave with enough time to make it to our next event and decided to make a return visit in the morning.

After dropping our things at our Rotorua hotel we boarded a bus for our Mitai, a Maori cultural experience. At Mitai we had the fun of revealing our feast that had been cooking underground for 4 hours, learning about the natural features of the site, and enjoying tribal dance, song, and fight rituals. Following the performances, we stuffed ourselves full of lamb, chicken, stuffing, potatoes, and incredible desserts. Though we were quite tired following dinner we soldiered on for the moonlit tour of the grounds where we saw more of the traditional Maori structures and even got to see some of our glow worm friends above the ground.

We settled in immediately following our return to the hotel, ready to rest up for more adventure tomorrow. No rain in the forecast - fingers crossed...

We journey through Middle Earth! (3/11/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Saturday, 11 March 2017
031117
3/11/17 - We journey through Middle Earth!

NZ2017

Media, Round 5
3/11/17 - We journey through Middle Earth! (Photos)
3/11/17 - We journey through Middle Earth! (Video)



3/11/17 @ 9pm - Distinction Hamilton Hotel (Google maps link)



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Another day, another gloomy forecast! But we knew that today, regardless of the weather, it was time to leave Auckland and head in one direction: Middle Earth! We started out with a quick breakfast and headed south toward Matamata in the pouring rain. Once we got there, however, the showers began to let up. We spent our first hour browsing the gift shop and grabbing a light lunch before our tour guide, Rachel, moved us onto the bus that would carry us to the set of some of the mythical Lord of the Rings movies.
 
Once off the bus the skies had largely cleared and the temperature was warming, just in time! As we shed our raincoats, Rachel oriented us to the purpose and scope of the set we were about to enter. This site actually held the first Lord of the Rings set which was entirely removed following the first filming. When the producers returned for the sequel, the owners of the farm negotiated to build the set with more permanent structures so it could be preserved as an attraction for years to come. At present the grounds and hobbit homes are kept up by the park’s crew solely for the entertainment of visitors. Most hobbit holes are all maintained as facades on the hillsides while only one can actually be entered by visitors. In addition to the artistic elements and highly curated landscaping, visitors can also enjoy a functional pub with baked snacks and beverages. We were served some ginger ale as part of our visit and enjoyed relaxing in the rustic, old pub, so accurately detailed that it seemed like Frodo and Sam might wander right past.
 
After leaving the Shire we headed west toward Hamilton, one of New Zealand’s larger citites. We found our hotel, unpacked quickly, and moved on to a local mall to restock on necessities and grab dinner. We chose from a satisfying and comfy American menu of salads, pizza, burgers, steak, and other foods quite a bit more recognizable for our US natives than last night’s Chinese experience. Rather than stay for dinner we decided to grab some ice cream on the go and have a mini party with the ice cream back at the hotel. We followed up the ice cream with a dip in the hotel pool and spas, and then on to bed! We’ll pack up from our single night in these rooms tomorrow morning and make our way southeast to Rotorua.

Exhilaration (3/10/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Friday, 10 March 2017
031017
3/10/17 - Exhilaration

NZ2017

Media, Round 4
3/10/17 - Exhilaration (Photos)
3/10/17 - Exhilaration (Video)



3/10/17 @ 10:30pm - Albany Executive Motor Inn (Google maps link)



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We woke up in Aukland to windy, cloudy conditions which, again, threatened the plan for the day. After meeting with our tour guides for breakfast they let us know that the ferry we planned to take to Tiritiri Matangi wouldn’t be able to run due to the wind. No matter, however, as they had plenty of other options to replace it. Mr. Seamon and Ms. Evelti came up with an alternate itinerary starting with the tour of Auckland, and away we went!
 
We started by heading to the beach on the western side of Auckland. The beach we visited is known for its bigger waves and surf-friendly conditions. While we didn’t see any surfers, we did have a great time searching for shells, climbing on the interestingly eroded rock formations, and enjoying the sensation of ocean spray from the intensifying wind. We also bumped into a local high school group doing some experiments for their biology class. As we continued on through Auckland we saw a variety of other beaches and beautiful homes, and learned a bit more about life in Auckland. We learned that there has been a steady influx of new residents from other countries all over the world, and that home prices have been increasing steadily. The next tour stop was a former military based originally installed to defend Russian threats in the late 1800s. The base, atop a tall hill facing the ocean, still had much of its original structure and some of its weapons including a giant cannon. We walked through the dark hallways beneath the barracks and discovered some oddly photogenic nooks. The wind we were experiencing earlier at the shore was amplified on top of the tall hill and we spent quite a while allowing ourselves to get whipped around as we explored.
 
As we came closer to the end of the morning we headed back toward the center of Auckland for our appointment with the Sky Tower, the large needle with multilevel viewing decks. Once at the 50th floor of the tower the group, almost competitively, raced to the glass paned floor that overhangs the city street below. While some of the students had previously expressed some hesitance about this balcony I am again proud to announce that all of the students enjoyed this element of the experience. While we were walking through the deck taking in the sights of Auckland we noticed a marquee letting us know that a jumper would be passing by the window in four minutes, then two minutes, then thirty seconds. We watched, waiting, and finally saw someone connected to a pair of cables zooming toward a landing platform on the ground. This cued a cacophony of pleading from the students for a chance to jump, but their responsible chaperones politely redirected them. At this point Mr. Seamon left the group to take care of some business while Ms. Evelti brought the group to the higher level observation deck and then to the tower café for a taste of the favorite ice cream flavor of NZ, hokey pokey. After a pass through the gift shop we reunited with Mr. Seamon near the entrance to the building… but wait… why was he wearing a red and blue jumpsuit with a lightning bolt on it? And wearing a harness? He was going to JUMP! The sneaky chaperones hatched a plan for a surprise jump. The students were escorted to the outside landing deck to watch the jump from below as Mr. Seamon made his way 630 feet up to the top of the building. We counted down from below – 4 minutes, 2 minutes, 30 seconds, and he was off! He zoomed towards us and came to a soft landing on the mat. Hooray! We still have two chaperones! It was a triumphant and unexpected moment that called for some Mexican food.

Following our lunch we heading back in the direction of our hotel and stopped at our new itinerary item for the day, a visit to Clip and Climb, a new and incredibly creative climbing gym. The structures, rather than just being your typical rock wall, were varied shapes, sizes, and colors. Some were stacked up prisms or spheres, some were ascending staircases, and others just redesigned the footholds as tetris pieces, circuits, lights, tree branches, or roofing material. The gym also had two other challenge elements, one that pulled the climber up to the top of a slide by a bar like bike handles that he held onto until he either could no longer hold or reached the top height of 8 meters. Once the climber let go he sped down the slide and up the other end. The “Leap of Faith” challenge had climbers climb to the top platform about 20 feet in the air and then jump to catch a large punching bag. Through all of these courses the climbers were hooked into an auto-belay system that safely allowed us to push ourselves both physically and mentally.
 
After a short break to clean up from our climbing workout we went as a group to a nearby Chinese restaurant to try some hot pot as a group. Some of us were a bit surprised that the shrimp we ordered arrived raw and with the heads still attached. After overcoming that shock we cooked up some delicious beef, tofu, and veggies with the shrimp and had fun watching each other experience the new tastes and textures. Following hot pot we congratulated ourselves for such a great day with some dessert and a little pizza to fill in belly space left for those who didn’t quite warm to the hot pot.
 
We turned in to the second and last night at our Auckland hotel ready for a good, long rest before we head off to Middle Earth!


Chasing islands, finding kiwis and a tuatara (3/9/17)
Written by Josh Seamon   
Thursday, 09 March 2017
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3/9/17 - Chasing islands, finding kiwis and a tuatara

NZ2017

Media, Round 3
3/9/17 - Chasing islands, finding kiwis and a tuatara (Photos)
3/9/17 - Chasing islands, finding kiwis and a tuatara (Video)



3/9/11 @ 10pm - Albany Executive Motor Inn (Google maps link)



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After a deep night of sleep Ms. Evelti woke everyone EARLY (5:30!) to another set of cloudy skies. Undeterred, we enjoyed our hotel breakfast and set off for our activity as planned, our chance to take a tour of the Bay of Islands in search of dolphins. While our original intent of finding dolphins in calm seas so that we could actually jump in and swim with them wasn’t going to be feasible given the choppy, rainy conditions, we decided to take the 3-hour excursion anyway to view the vast group of pristine islands up close. We took a short journey across the bay to Russell (the town, not the student) to pick up one other tourmate, then we headed off to sea. Some students had a marvelous time feeling the boat jump across the high waves and positioning themselves strategically to maximize the assault of ocean spray. Others hunkered down in seats and watched from the inside. However, no matter where you sat or stood, you were getting wet! As we popped from island to island we learned about which were property of the country, which you could camp on, which were privately owned, and the one that the Department of Conservation managed to remove all Kiwi bird predators from so they could use it as an incubator of sorts for Kiwi chicks. We all did our best to work through the wooziness that naturally comes with choppy seas, and all felt a bit better after we docked. The wetness didn’t end there, however, as we stepped off the dock into torrential downpours. The locals were glad for the storm as the island has had a sustained dry spell, so we did our best to brave the rain with high spirits and seek out some lunch at a local bakery.
 
Following lunch we had enough time to dry off, change clothes, and relax in the bus as we rode to the Waitangi treaty ground. This national landmark and extensive gathering grounds was home to the original British delegate charged with forging a treaty between the two countries. This site is visited annually in February by residents from all over the country to celebrate and discuss the treaty and its lasting impact. On the grounds, we saw various exhibits about the history of the treaty and were introduced to some beautiful and intricate war canoes. We also had our first shot at some real shopping at the site’s gift shop!
 
Following the treaty grounds, we had another educational stop at Kiwi North, a wildlife conservatory housing some of New Zealand’s most unique and well-known animals, the Kiwi bird and Tuatara. We learned about the threats to NZ’s national bird and how many of the small mammals introduced to the island over the last centuries have contributed to a steep decline in their population. We also learned about the Department of Conservation’s efforts to rebuild their numbers. We visited the center’s active Kiwi breeding habitat, home to a single male and female Kiwi couple, and were fortunate enough to see the male emerge from his burrow! We also learned that when a Kiwi is carrying a fully grown egg that it’s roughly equivalent to a human carrying a 20-lb baby. We provided some hefty retail support to the cause in the gift shop (who doesn’t want a Kiwi bird stuffed animal?) and hit the road for our trip to our next hotel in Auckland.
 
Once in Auckland we fanned out to a few of the local restaurants for some low-key meals and turned in for some early rest.

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