New Zealand Blog #3

Published on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

New Zealand Blog #3

by Hillary Dzamba

This month, Hillary covers:

  • Siteseeing: Milford Sound, Wanaka, world’s steepest street
  • Home visit: the accomodating Kiwis (i.e. native New Zealanders)
  • Observations and anecdotes about academics and cultural differences in New Zealand

Swimming in Milford Sound

Hey everyone! It’s crazy to think that school back home is beginning to wind down; meanwhile I’m only at mid-semester break. I’ve gone on a few adventures since my last post, which include exploring Milford Sound, Wanaka and the steepest street in the World. A couple weekends ago seven of us went on a road trip to Milford Sound for a friend’s birthday; the group consisted of four Americans, two Kiwis and one Norwegian. The drive took about 6 hours to get from the east coast of New Zealand over to the west coast. Due to all the mountains there aren’t standard highways, in the sense of what Americans would expect. The main roads are two lanes, sometimes three to allow passing but because they are so winedy the driving can seem to last forever, thank goodness for the beautiful views. During the road trip we passed many farms, including sheep, cows, horses and even deer farms (which seem like such a strange concept). We also passed some spots where the Lord of the Rings was filmed.

We finally reached Milford Sound, one of the World’s top travel destination, Milford Sound is a fjord (an inlet with steep cliffs on the sides formed by glaciers). We boarded our boat for an overnight cruise around the Sound, after we made our way towards the ocean the boat stopped and we were able to participate in water activities while dinner was being prepared. We spent the first half kayaking around the bend, it was a blast.  After working up a sweat we decided to head back to the boat and go for a swim, I was pleasantly surprised when the water wasn’t as cold as what I expected. We were also allowed to jump off the highest point of the boat into the water, multiple times!

The weekend after Milford Sound two friends and I went with a Kiwi to his hometown of Wanaka for the weekend. I heard amazing things about that area so I was very excited to see it. When we arrived at his home we were welcomed with open arms by his parents, who immediately showed us where we would be sleeping and a tour of the house. It was so nice to be in a cozy home instead of a chilly flat, not to mention the luxury of having home cooked meals! They were so accommodating, after hearing I was egan his mom went to the store to buy soymilk, nuts, and other things she knew I could eat, which was super nice and totally unnecessary. The next day we went to a local vineyard for a wine tasting, climbed Mt. Roy, explored the little town, and played on the playground near the lake, needless to say it was a very successful day! Wanaka was just as beautiful as people had described, I would love to visit it during the summertime. We left Sunday to head back home and stopped in the town of Cromwell to shop at the local orchards, and get our picture taken with GIANT fruit.

Hillary and friend laying on the steepest hill

A few days ago I conquered the world’s steepest road, also known as Baldwin Street. It wasn’t as long as I expected it to be, but what it lacked in length, it made up for in steepness. The steepest part was 1 in 2.86 or 19°. We figured it was a good idea to lie down in the street and take pictures, but it literally felt like if I made one wrong move then I would tumble down to the bottom. I was amazed at the variety of people climbing up to the top there were people from 3 years old to at least 75, I was very impressed. To give you an idea of how dangerous the street is I learned that a few years ago a couple teenagers thought it would be a good idea to roll down the street in wheelie bins (big trashcans) which sadly lead them to a tragic death when they rolled into the side of the road.

I’m off to Fiji next week for Mid-semester break next week and I still cannot believe how fast time has flown by. In my classes here, one thing I have noticed that’s different is that there aren’t any quizzes or midterms throughout the semester. It’s mainly just a few essays, research assignments and a final exam. This method has it advantages and disadvantages because I feel like I have less work most of the time, which is great but then all of a sudden I will have a huge paper due in all my classes at once that’s worth a significant amount. I’m still working on managing my time the best way possible, it’s just so hard to sit in the library doing work when I know there is so many things outside to explore.

So far I have noticed a few cultural differences, such as I have yet to hear “bless-you” when others sneeze, and the words “keen”, “heaps” and “sweet-as” are used tremendously. When going out to eat you aren’t expected to tip and instead of the whole table getting one bill and splitting it, each person goes to the cashier and pays for what they individually ordered which makes so much more sense.  It’s also very common to use hitch-hiking as means of getting around (although I have yet to do it), another thing that is totally normal is to see very young children walking the streets alone to the park or convenience store. Where-as back in the States majority of parents are too scared to let their kids out of sight for one second. I love how safe I feel here, whether it’s two in the afternoon or two in the morning I have no problem walking places by myself. Although out of impulse I am always on my toes and aware of what’s going on around me. So all in all I still love life in New Zealand and I know I will miss it a lot when time comes for me to leave.


-Until Next Time,

Hillary Dzamba

  • Watch for Hillary’s final blog entry in late May/early June!

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