Alyssa in New Zealand: Seeing the country

It doesn’t take much effort to see beautiful parts of New Zealand. One could even say that it’s not necessary to venture out to the most iconic parts of the country. I haven’t traveled very far from Dunedin yet (four hours maximum), but I am still impressed by everything that I have seen. Each portion of New Zealand has its own kind of magnificence to it; hiking (they call it “tramping”) and camping beyond civilization this past weekend has definitely proved that.

The new adventure began last Friday when Malachi, Andras and Edward (another Kiwi host) and I decided to explore and sight see before we embarked on our weekend tramp. After much anticipation, I finally got to see my first Lord of the Rings movie sites. What surprised me most about them was they were located near such a quaint, remote area called Arrowtown. Walking through the central part of town was somewhat comparable to walking through a ghost town of the Old West. The shops were juxtaposed very closely together consisting of tourist souvenirs such as Maori greenstone (similar to jade, except much more rare and valuable) and The Ring replicas from Lord of the Rings (ranging up to $200).

As we made our way through town, I didn’t see how it would be at all possible to reach the LOTR sites. The area was so small and it seemed like there wasn’t too much to see. However, we figured out soon that we have to venture out a little further to the outskirts of Arrowtown in order to reach our destination. After making our way through open forests, we finally arrived at the area that we were all familiar with having seen the same exact site in the movies several times (it’s typically considered a well-known scene in the movie). You can’t underestimate the potential of anywhere, for you never really know what it has to offer. The fact that this setting for the movie was found near such a humble town convinces me that anywhere in New Zealand beholds some sort of unique aspect. Nothing should be overlooked.

one of the sites where Lord of the Rings was filmed

One of the sites where Lord of the Rings was filmed

The explorations continued after we left Arrowtown and headed to Glenorchy so that we could access incredible views of the well known Lake Wakatipu. I can safely say that this area has been my favorite so far. It presented a new kind of peace and seclusion. The water was so still that the reflection of the mountains in the distance was highly distinguishable. Even though the sun was beating down hard for the wintertime, the snow on the mountains were barely affected. The entire scenery almost seemed somewhat fake, but I had to keep reminding myself that what I was seeing was not an illusion in the slightest.

A view of Lake Wakatipu on the way to Glenorchy

A view of Lake Wakatipu on the way to Glenorchy

Andras and Malachi looking out at Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy

Andras and Malachi looking out at Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy

I finally got a little taste of the Queenstown culture that all other international students have been constantly raving about. I now understand where all the hoopla comes from because the town itself is unmistakably full of life and excitement. Around every corner, there’s always something to do or see. The landmark that we were really looking forward to visiting was Fergburger, a recognized burger bar in New Zealand. Nothing could prepare me for the amount of food that I was about to eat, for it was the largest, yet most delicious burger that I’ve ever had. Andras ordered a burger that was practically the size of my entire head (the Hungarian was quite hungry). For the remainder of the night, we proceeded to take advantage of Queenstown by engrossing ourselves in the animated environment.

The following morning, we made our way to Wanaka in order to begin another adventure. Edward had organized a group of 27 people to hike through Mount Aspiring Park for the weekend. It’s not a well-known trek, but it allowed us to explore the less touched parts of the country. As we made our way to the starting point, we found ourselves driving further and further away from society and becoming more immersed in isolated nature. The mountains seemed to be getting bigger and the grasslands greener. Everything became more exaggerated. When we finally arrived to our starting point, it was clear that we were in a completely new environment.

Mount Aspiring Park

Mount Aspiring Park

The trek to our hut was about 2.5 hours one way. Throughout the hike, rain was coming down and it showed no mercy, yet the wetness barely seemed to phase us. Conversely, the only things that were on my mind were my surroundings. The only thing that the hut provided to us were beds. However, it was soon discovered that the beds were inaccessible due to the fact that the room was locked. Once again, none of us seemed affected by this misfortune, for we weren’t going to let it ruin the trip. Instead, we looked on the bright side and found that each others’ company was all we needed to enjoy our stay out in the depths of the mountains.

The following day, the rain continued to come down for our hike up the Rob Roy Glacier. After our 50 minute ascent, we were presented with a vast glacier and fresh waterfall. We even witnessed two avalanches. It felt so surreal finally seeing nature in action in person. For the first time on the trek, I became phased by what was in front of me.

Waterfall near the top of Rob Roy Glacier

Waterfall near the top of Rob Roy Glacier

I still find myself meeting new people with every experience. Going into the tramp, I knew a total of 8 out of the 27 people. Now that the weekend has ended, I have come out of it knowing at least 15 of those people total. Many of them in the group were Kiwi hosts and international students. After familiarizing myself with them, it’s clear that we all have the same motives. New Zealand has provided much insight into a completely new world and we have only become more motivated to explore it.

Even though we didn’t venture out to the most prominent area of the country, I was still moved by what was surrounding me. There is no doubt that I will eventually see the more well-known parts of New Zealand. However, there is nothing wrong with visiting the unconventional parts of the country for the time being, for they all have something extraordinary to offer.

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