Sunday, January 12, 2014

7 January 2014: Abel Tasman National Park: a lazy day

On our first day of no movement from one site to another, and free from any planned activities, students slowly emerged from the tents as the morning expired and the rains began to fall.  An overcast morning transitioned into periodic showers of different intensities.  Students explored the beach, the caves, and studiously (yes!) worked on their daily and topic journals.  Just as a side-note: Dr. Moran and I have been so impressed by the dedication the students have shown in completing their journal entries in a timely basis.  Not only do the journals represent a significant part of the graded component of this course, but they are a future reference point for the students on the trip.  My reading of the journals several days ago indicates that the students are taking journaling very seriously and it’s great to see them working diligently!

Late in the afternoon, in between rain showers, our group decided to visit Cleopatra’s Pool, a freshwater pool created along the Torrent River high above Torrent Bay.  The frigid water, having been collected from rain run-off from throughout the watershed, slices and winds its way around giant boulders, passes along a natural slide, and then collects in a pool.   The algae covering the rocks on the slide make it a great treat to slide upon and our students took-up the challenge.  Among our group, only Jack Capetola (Chemistry, 2016), Kristen Maddock (Biology/ pre-med, 2019), Lara Guindi (Biology/ pre-med, 2016) and Dorian Shann (Physical Therapy, 2016) took a dip; the rest of us video-recorded their efforts, and, well, stayed warm!  The slide looked very inviting, but on my third time to the slide, I opted for warmth instead of fun.  Ah, well, maybe next time.  The students that did take the plunge looked they had an incredible time! 

During the trip to Cleopatra’s Pool, Sean Harrison (Business, 2016) and Jason Lorch (Biology/ pre-med, 2016) followed the Torrent River upstream.  They quickly disappeared from view and scrambled along enormous boulders in the river bed and searched out some great finds: several incredible waterfalls!  Apparently, approaching the waterfalls involved some careful movement along rock ledges that ultimately resulted in wading through the cold river water.  Sean and Jason were pretty pumped from their expedition and relayed their journey with great excitement. 

Tonight’s dinner of rice and chili was extraordinary and the team of students responsible for cooking it, Kate O’Driscoll (Biology/ pre-med, 2016), Lara Guindi (Biology/ pre-med, 2016), and Dorian Shann (Physical Therapy, 2016) did an excellent job mastering the cook stoves so the food never got burned (a task I can’t say I’m adept at while using the stoves!).  After dinner, a crew of students cleaned all the pots and pans to make sure we were ready for cooking in the morning.  The students have taken great initiative when it comes to camp-tasks and Dr. Moran and I have been very impressed with their efforts and coordination.

After dinner, Sean Harrison (Business, 2016) led the charge on ghost stories and all seemed to be creeped-out by some of the tales.  Following the stories, another foray down to the caves on the beach produced another surprise: cave weta!  Weta are distant relatives of grasshoppers and crickets (Order Orthoptera) and are only found in New Zealand.  The Giant Weta, a forest-dwelling nocturnal species of Orthopteran can be found at sites such as the Karori Sanctuary, but we didn’t get to see them while we were there.  Some of the students were freaked-out by the weta and left the cave pretty quickly, or so I’ve been told.  In any case, we have another New Zealand endemic to add to our list.

Lara Guidi (Biology/ pre-med, 2016), Kristen Maddock (Biology, 2019), Dorian Shann (Physical Therapy, 2016) and Jack Capetola (Chemistry, 2016), from left to right, stand in front of Cleopatra's Pool and the rock slide along the Torrent River.

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