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Study Break: Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Wai-O-Tapu, and Cathedral Cove

In New Zealand they don't give students a dead week, you get a true study break. Many students have early exams and spend it studying, but lucky for me my exams were on the back half of the two and a half week exam period. So, like almost all international students I know we headed to do some traveling.

One of my goals coming to New Zealand was to spend more time in nature and become a better hiker. I set a goal of being able to finish the Tongariro Alpine Crossing by the end of my time here. Unfortunately I pulled my groin two days before I was supposed to do the hike, but decided it was in decent enough condition to go up the mountain. My friends had underplayed the difficulty of this hike and the summits in the hike. I definitely had a false sense of confidence heading into the hike.

I was told the Tongariro Alpine Crossing would take roughly 7 hours. I came in just under 6.5 hours and am quite sure another hour would have done me in. While it was a long hike, with some brutal weather (ice and extreme sunburn), it was awesome. I met tons of people along the hike. Everyone had different stops and changing paces, so I would hike with a group or two every hour, as well as hiking alone part of the time. I also got to see some awesome sights, views that pictures cannot begin to capture.

I would definitely recommend doing the crossing but here are a few lessons I have learned:

  • Running 3 miles a day, even including lots of stairs in your run does not prepare you for a hike like this.
  • Pack light. If you hike early, you will not need additional clothes and will end up carrying half of your layers in your pack anyways.
  • Stretch before, during, and after.
  • Wear sunscreen. The last few hours in the bush burnt me to a crisp. 
  • Take time to enjoy the walk instead of wishing it was over. 
As I did not follow any of my tips, I was very sore and had very burnt. However, I packed up my stuff and headed up towards Coromandel and Whitianga. The drive was amazing. New Zealand topography offers amazing sites no matter where you are. I ended in Whitianga, where I yet again met a great group of travelers. The next morning I took a boat trip to cathedral cove (can be seen in Narnia or the Can't Hold Us-Macklemore and Ryan Lewis- music video) and around the Whanganui A Hei Marine Reserve. Here we learned about the culture, reserves, and got a unique NZ perspective on the history and politics during our two hour boat trip. We also saw Cathedral Cove, which has been used in movies and music videos, and got to see the marine life through the bottom of the boat (made of glass). It was a great experience with Captain Joe!

I then headed back to Rotorua. There I stumbled upon a street fair with great food, music, and people! However, I was very sore and a local told me to head over to the polynesian Spa. I had never been to a spa, nor thought they would really be my cup of tea. I was wrong. It was magical and not overly expensive. After the much needed relaxation at the spa and a good nights rest I headed off towards Wai-O-Tapu. This is a geothermal wonderland. Words really can't describe how breathtaking it is, so I will let the pictures do the talking. However, I will say they fail to represent how vibrant the colors were. 

Then I came back to good old Palmerston North to finally start studying for exams. 

Photos from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing:

Whitianga Warf, Cathedral Cove, and the Whanganui A Hei Marine Reserve:

I loved the "hours of darkness"

The view of the inside of the picture below

Cathedral Cove

"secret island"- Captain Joe

The rising of the glass floor

Rotoroua Street Fair
 Polynesian Spa

Government Gardens, Rotorua:

Lady Knox Geyser

Oyster Pool

Lake Ngakoro

Champagne Pool

Inferno Crater

Sulfur Cave

Here you can visibly see the manganese oxide (purple), the iron oxide (red), and the sulfur (yellow) in the soil.

The soil judger in me had to do a little texture and ribboning. 

Devil's Bath

 Sights on the way back:

Mr. Rupaheu 

Back in Palmerston North


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