First of all, the actual semester went pretty well. I'm happy with my marks anyway. I think the most important thing is that I appreciate RIT so much more than before. Not just for the opportunities it provides, like my chance to study abroad, but for the excellent professors and the emphasis placed on helping the students succeed (I'm sorry to say that UoA's standards were much lower and the professors couldn't care less about the student. It was shocking, for sure). I can't wait to go back to Rochester in the fall.
Now back to the adventuring. Of course, since I only had 7 days left in the country, I decided to go on one last trip to the South Island for some quality snowboarding. This, like my last trip, would be another solo trip. This time I would be couchsurfing in Wanaka, and concluding the vacation with one night in Queenstown, during the last night of the winter festival. Now who's couch would I be surfing this time? None other than Tadhg's Mom's house (Tadhg from Dunedin. Seriously awesome dude)!
After arriving in Queenstown, it was time to pick up all of my gear. The first step was to get the rental car and the gloves my friend Anthony left me. I had to dance for them. In the airport. With no music. Let's just say my swing dancing skills failed me. I drove away from the airport quickly.
After gathering the rest of my stuff in Queenstown, I went for a walk to appreciate the nice day (sunny and 13°C, as opposed to Auckland's constant torrent of rain). I ended my walk at Fergburger (I got the Chief Wiggum) and met up with Jane, my Arcadia correspondent turned ski fanatic now that the weather had changed. It was a good lunch. However, I drank a Coke, thereby ruining my streak of no American-brand foods in New Zealand. If it counts for something, it had real cane sugar in lieu of high fructose corn syrup.
The drive to Wanaka was uneventful and pleasant. A nice open road and a warm day let me appreciate the landscape, unlike the last time I visited this half of the South Island. Wanaka came quick, and I quickly found myself sitting down at the dinner table with Tadhg, his mom Angela, and their friend Phinette (but not before visiting a skatepark and slacklining on some parking-lot chains!). Angela and Phinette make lovely meals, much like Tadhg and his friends in Dunedin. I wanted to get an early start the next day, so I went to bed early.
The four days of snowboarding went by really fast. I put in many hours each day, only stopping when I was completely shot. The first day was by far the hardest, I was having trouble getting used to the rental board and boots, as well as the 5 feet of powder at the top of the mountain. You really don't get to decide where to go with that much snow. The snow takes you wherever it damn well pleases. Nothing was groomed the first day either, and my legs were completely destroyed as a result. But the ultra workout let up the next three days, as powder was more distributed and runs were groomed. Each day was better than the last. I even tried some backcountry stuff on day 3, tramping 45 minutes to another peak for some private sessions.
In short, it was some sick boarding. I think I'm gonna try skiing next season though; watching Tadhg masterfully cut through the powder made me über-jealous. I also want to be able to stop and start whenever I want and not be a pain on the chairlift. I'll get my dad to teach me in a few months, it should be interesting.
Every night was about the same, Tadhg and I came home, chilled for a bit, and had dinner. Every dinner was awesome, I'm specifically remembering a pumpkin soup that really gripped me. We often played Euchre and watched TV for bit before falling asleep relatively early.
The last day was a bit different, seeing as I needed to return all of my gear in Queenstown. So I said some really long goodbyes and got on my way to be in for dinner.
OH! By the way, I had my new new favorite pie on this trip, in Wanaka. The place was called Hammer and Nail. Amazing stuff. Goes in the top 3 for sure. I had many pies on this trip.
So I got to Ferg at peak hours, which was perfect because I returned all of my gear while the burger was made. I got another famous Big Al, seeing as it was my last major meal of the trip. Delicious. After dinner I walked around Queenstown, taking in the festival. There were bands on every block; some of them were fantastic. Lots of covers being thrown around though, which I didn't mind too much, although I appreciate original stuff. There was some real talent being showcased for sure.
I went to my hostel when the festivities were dying down to hang with some of the other tenants. Turns out that a bunch of Scots and Irish folk had rented out the whole hostel, and I was one of three non-British people in the building! Everyone was really welcoming, so I felt at ease pretty quick. Couldn't understand a word the Scots were saying though. After the game room closed, everyone just hung out in the lobby until midnight when some of us wanted to go out. Our first bar included lots of sticky glass on the floor, so we quickly moved on. The second bar had burned down. Clearly, we were not meant to do anything that night. I, among others, checked out for the night and went to bed.
After sleeping in, I made my way to the airport and back to Auckland. The day was filled with many touching goodbyes from all of the people I've grown closer to over the semester. It was sad to see everyone leaving, sadder to realize I was leaving the next day. But I made the most of it and saw as many people as I could. I had an awesome dinner cooked by my friend Jinggoo, there were like 10 dishes! And he made it for 25 people. The dude is an extraordinary chef. After dinner I hung out with the Arcadians until the late morning. Solid night.
Woke up pretty late in the day the next day, finished packing and cleaning, and played some pool. Then it was time to head to the airport for the longest travel day ever. But after 33 hours of buses, planes, and cars, I made it back home, where I promptly fell asleep until dinner (I slept 2.5 hours the entire journey).
Now that I'm home, I've been relaxing and doing summer things, like eating and sleeping. I walk my dog a lot, try to slackline at least every other day, and teach myself Spanish in between naps. But I keep falling back to thinking about the stuff I did the last 5 months, and I'm so proud of what I got accomplished. I got to see an incredible amount of New Zealand, meet great people from around the world, and tried so many exciting things. I'm surprised that I started doing yoga and whitewater kayaking, as far as new things go. I tried so much Asian cuisine that I'm going to feel lost when I go back to Rochester (but not too lost 'cuz the food there is amazing). And I can't believe I grew a mountain man-beard.
I never thought I'd make such good friends in such a short amount of time. I'll remember everyone forever, and I promise to keep in touch. To those from Arcadia, thank you all so much for being the most adventurous and outgoing bunch I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Jane and Kate, thanks for introducing me to your lovely country, pies, and Pineapple Lumps. Thanks to everyone I met abroad, I like to think you all made me a bit more worldly in the last few months, and that is very much appreciated. And thank you Tadhg (and everyone else who offered up their beds and couches during my journeys), you really made my trip a memorable experience.
And thanks to everyone who has been reading this along the way. I really just wanted to have something to look back on in a few years, but when I noticed I had an actual view count, you guys kept me going. I don't write very often, so this was good exercise. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it! This journey was amazing, I'm glad you all came along!
Wanaka was a pretty place
Tadhg and Angela
The Cardrona Hotel, Après Ski must-see. Awesome craft beer and fantastic (cheesy bacon) chips
That's the fluffy jumper kinda thing I talked about in the last post! Everyone has over-sized stuff from op shops
Warning: cell phone pic resolution commencing
I love the gradient on the mountains. The braided river is pretty sweet too
The mountains are so bald! No trees anywhere
Gotta zoom in on this one, check out the RED TRIANGLE rating. So sick
One last dinner at Unilodge! Cheers bruh