Wednesday, January 20, 2016

21 January 2016: the final day

After an amazing trip that lasted 24 days, nearly countless miles in the van, extraordinary smells from said van, interesting and varied conditions within hostels, we are now poised to return home.  Our final days in New Zealand were spent in Christchurch, a city that was ravished by powerful earthquakes in 2010/2011.  It's a city of rebirth and growing architectural beauty.  We visited withe Antarctic Centre to learn about Little Blue Penguins and Antarctica, and, to send us off in a true summer manner, we spent our final full day in New Zealand soaking up the sun at Taylor's Mistake Bay beach.  While we would all say we'd love to just stay in New Zealand, we're all missing you at home, whether its parents, friends, or the family cat.  We have stories to tell and we hope you'll do us the favor and allow us to revel in the extraordinary time we've had on the trip.  Know that the smiles and enthusiasm are deeply-rooted; with the exception of the odd belly ache, we've had an incredible journey!  See you all soon.

The gang in our trusty steed of a van!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

12 January 2016: Punakaiki & Conservation Volunteers New Zealand

We moved on 12 January to the south to Punakaiki, the home of 'pancake rocks', a geologic attraction along the Tasman Sea, to continue our volunteer efforts with Conservation Volunteers New Zealand.  This morning, we helped Michael Kingsbury plant about 50 native plant species (Totara (Podocarpus totara) and Kahikitea (New Zealand White Pine; Dacrycarpus dacrydioides).  Once again, the students jumped in and planted the trees with speed and enthusiasm!  Michael and I were both really impressed with the gardening skills of the class.

Following our visit with Michael, our caravan moved further south to visit Franz Josef, one of the few towns to dot the mid-westcoast in 'Glacier Country'.  Only about two roads large, Franz Josef sits on the edge of the Waiho River, the river derived from the Franz Josef glacier 5km away from town.  The students settled into the bustling hostel filled with travelers from Asia, Germany, the US, and Scandanavian partiots.  We were fortunate to have the weather hold-out for our evening, such that Anne, Jay, and I could enjoy a brief reprieve from cooking dinner to enjoy a night 'out'.  The students were, instead, enthusiastically tackling a meal of pasta and pesto in the hostel.  I've never heard someone (much less a whole group) get so excited about pasta!

Tomorrow: Fox Glacier!

Our merry band of volunteers following the completion of our planting work in Punakaiki.

Nichole Lopez and Christina Antico plant a Totara tree in Punakaiki.

Monday, January 11, 2016

11 January 2016: A long-awaited post!

To all who have been faithfully checking our trip blog hoping to read the exciting news about our travels: Sorry!  Our trip has been so action-packed and our days so long that my blogging has fallen by the wayside.  I'm happy to report that all is going well, and, despite the busy-ness of the trip, everyone is having a great time and in good spirits.

At this point in the trip, we're in Westport (South Island) for a few service projects and to visit the site of 'pancake rocks' in Punakaiki.  Yesterday, 11 Januanary, we worked with Michael Kingsbury (Volunteers New Zealand) to plant ~200 New Zealand flax (Phorium tenax) at the Kawati Beach Reserve.  The group (17 students and 3 faculty) jumped right in an planted with a vengeance: we finished our service in <1 hr!  Michael was pretty impressed with our efforts.

From Westport today, we travel to Punakaiki to see the famous 'pancake rocks' then travel further south to Franz Josef, where we'll visit Fox Glacier tomorrow.  After a brief stay in Franz Josef, our group, which consists of students and faculty from Ohio Northern University (ONU), splits: the ONU group heads to Milford Sound in the Fjordlands National Park, and the MSMC group heads to 'adventure capital of the world': Queenstown.
Our group listens to Michael Kingsbury as he describes the project at Kawatiri Beach Reserve in Westport.

The MSMC students working hard to plant flax in the dune vegetation at the Kawatiri Beach Reserve.