Backpacking an Active Volcano

So from Saturday to Monday I did an amazing backpacking trip with a fellow US teacher known as the Tongariro Northern Circuit. It was absolutely stunning although I was not convinced I had actually left New Mexico given how similar the terrain was for much of the trip:

Both of those mountains you see are actually volcanoes and it was really cool to see a perfect cone shape on one of them. Unfortunately, but understandably, we were not actually able to hike to the top of either of those volcanoes because they are sacred to the Maori. Anyway, climbing wasn’t really part of day one, but we were treated to mountain streams, some shade, and a sweet waterfall:

Day two was the crazy day, where I started to catch a foul smell and was concerned it was me. Thankfully, that smell was actually from sulphur being emitted from volcanic vents:

DSCN0682It is important to know that the trip to these vents was not free, but required physical sacrifice:

IMG_1846With that said, the vent picture may be underwhelming because you can’t smell the sulphur or hear the sizzle, but another reward was a collection of the volcanic alpine lakes near the top of the climb:

As the wind ripped around us and the loose rock crumbled beneath our feet, we finally made it to the real top of the climb, intersecting with the world famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Here we saw the vibrant colors of an area that had recently experienced a minor eruption:

And just to give a sense of scale, here is my hiking partner looking at a stunning view:

IMG_1921The hike down continued to be stunning, but the footing was quite uncertain so I don’t really have anything in the way of pictures and day three was only a quick rolling terrain hike out. Any other pics I have are quite underwhelming, but hopefully I have given you a sense of how amazing some of the New Zealand terrain is.

Thanks for reading and sorry it has been so long since my last post.

First Mountain Bike Ride

On Friday, I had my first mountain bike experience. Fun fact: the front and rear brakes are on opposite sides in New Zealand. Thankfully, I was not punished by this fact, but I was wondering why my bike acted so funny on the descents. Also, even though my bike was a rental, my pedal fell off halfway up the mountain. I am grateful to the two riders that stopped and lent me a tool to fix the issue. Finally, although I took a bus up the mountain, for whatever reason, all the buses were cancelled for the ride down, therefore I had a wonderful walk back to the city. Despite all of this, and maybe partly because of it, I had a great and memorable experience. I went with one other American and we did a mix of level 2, 3, and 4 grade trails, which were beautifully constructed on Makara Peak just outside Wellington. Here are some photos for you to enjoy, which includes a terrifying line bridge over ravine:

Botanical Gardens

Wellington has a, expansive, beautiful botanical garden that is free to the public, though you can pay five dollars to take a cable car to the top. I just so happened to be visiting the park on its 150th anniversary and was asked to give my opinion on video as part of a promotion campaign, so basically I’m now a star. A major initiative for the park is the restoration of native plants, though they have allowed certain pines introduced by the Europeans to remain because they are hundreds of years old. Also, they have a rose garden made up of hybrids that they have carefully cultivated, which was very cool. Here are some photos I took for your enjoyment:

Lastly, I am very proud of this picture (hint: look closely):

DSCN0470That’s all for now!

It has been a week since I left the States…

To start, here was the view from the window after 16 hours in the air:


It is hard to describe how amazing it is to finally be here. After arriving, I tried to sleep in, but failed miserably and ended up at Te Papa, which is the national museum of New Zealand. At some point I will sort through all of the pictures and upload them for your enjoyment, but for now I will share a couple of highlights:


The World War II figures above celebrate New Zealand’s sacrifices and, although it is hard to tell, the figures are massive (at leaste 5x my size). Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Terracotta Army figures were a visiting exhibit. I have always wanted to see them, but didn’t expect it to be in NZ!

Once I settle in I plan on doing some extended posts, but this post is really just meant to break the silence. I will leave you with a view of Wellington from the Botanical Gardens (with a cricket field below):


Signing off until next time.