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Land of the Long White Cloud: Visiting New Zealand

The Maori, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, named New Zealand “Aotearoa,” which means “the land of the long white cloud.” Photo courtesy of Madeline Seiberlich.

Our adventure began like any other adventure… renting a maroon, four-door, old-school Nissan Maxima. Before we were out of the lot, we had already decided a name for our “adventure” car; Eugene.

And just like that, Eugene led us on our way as we took off to road trip around the North Island of New Zealand.

Our first stop on this journey was the beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula, located on the east coast, about three hours from Auckland. The first beach we stopped at was Hot Water Beach, famous for the hot water that is located under its sand. Basically, an underground river of hot water flows from within the interior of the earth and happens to surface and this particular location. We were told that all you have to do is dig a hole deep enough to reach water and the hole will basically become your own personal hot tub. The one (key) thing we failed to realize was that this only works at low tide, and naturally we arrived at high tide. We tried to dig a hole anyway, but ended up just enjoying climbing on rocks and admiring the view of the mountains around us.

Cathedral Cove called to us next, and we spent the rest of the afternoon absorbed in its beauty. Cathedral Cove is a marine reserve and is well known for being a filming location for the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian movie. As we walked down the steps to reach the beach that held this beauty, our breath was taken away. The rock formations were so massive and the arch, that creates the cove, was incredible. It creates a tunnel in the middle of this massive rock, and when you walk through it you can see more ocean on the other side. This place truly made me feel as if I were in another world.

That night we drove another three hours to reach our next destination, a town called Rotorua. This town is known for its geothermal activity and Maori culture. The Maori are the native Polynesian people of New Zealand. Due to the geothermal activity present, you casually drive past pools of hot water steaming into the air and the smell of sulfur never leaves your nose. This made Rotorua quite a unique town. We spent the night in a hostel in the town center, and the next morning explored Kerosene Creek.

Kerosene Creek was magical. We walked into the woods in our jeans and jackets  because the seasons in New Zealand are opposite of our seasons, so it was winter there. The creek was filled with steaming water that rose up through the fern palms of the subtropical forest. We changed into our bathing suits, got into the water, and never wanted to get out. The water was so warm, and we again felt as if we were on another planet all by ourselves. My friend and I swam around and absorbed the beauty of nature all around us.

There are no snakes in the country of New Zealand. Photo courtesy of Madeline Seiberlich.

That night we decided to save a couple bucks and camp. We set up our tent, had dinner and proceeded to put on every piece of clothing we brought with us- it was freezing! The cold might have made us a bit miserable (or the fact that we decided not to bring sleeping mats), but the stars made it worth it. If I could describe New Zealand in one word, it would be: untouched. I have never seen stars like that before, it was as if they had just been placed in the sky and were shining for the very first time: truly incredible.

The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn, mostly because we never really fell asleep, and quickly packed everything up and took off in Eugene. We had one mission for the day, zorbing. Zorbing is basically where you are put into a giant human hamster ball and rolled down a hill. YouTube it. It’s epic. So at 8 a.m. my friend and I put on our bikinis and jumped into a giant plastic ball filled with a little bit of hot water. Once we began to roll down the hill we couldn’t stop laughing, we were falling all over each other and it was so much fun! And naturally this was the one time our GoPro didn’t record, classic.

Our final stop for our road trip was Raglan, a small surf town located on the west coast. We packed a surfboard and an extra friend into Eugene and headed off to the quiet surfers haven. The waves never cease here, and beginners and professionals alike can’t seem to get enough. From the lookout point above, all you can see is the black dots of surfers in wetsuits littered along the blue waves and outlines of humans and dogs playing on the black sand beach. After a day of surfing and exploring, we warmed up and enjoyed the view in the company of friends, a perfect way to end our trip.

New Zealand is one of the world’s least populated countries. Photo courtesy of Madeline Seiberlich.

New Zealand is an incredible country! It is filled with sights and sounds that are straight out of a whimsical fairy tale story. The natural beauty of this country is uncomparable and I hope that as people continue to travel here they treat this land with love and respect. If you have the opportunity to visit here I could not recommend it more! It will be an experience you will never forget, and it will leave you longing to come back for more.

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