Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Canoe Club Trip!!!!


Back to my adrenaline-filled adventures, this past weekend I traveled to Rotorua for the third time, to raft and kayak the Aniwhenua portion of the Rangitaikī river. And it was cool to finally hang out with the canoe club (which owns exactly 0 canoes, if you were wondering). I went down in the bus with a bunch of people, and that was definitely the way to go. I met a ton of people this trip, all the type that like to be outside as much as possible. It's definitely the kind of group that'll try to push you to try new things.

On Saturday, I got to raft again on some grade 4 and 5 rapids, and I was lucky enough to get in the baby boat, which held 4 people. It was much more of a workout, and much more intimate than the big rafts, for sure. We didn't flip, which was nice, because the river was super cold and I didn't have a wetsuit like most people.

That night, the whole group of us (~80 people) swarmed a local pub and things got a little weird. I didn't go too crazy, however, since I was going to be kayaking for the first time in whitewater the next morning. This is where I got to meet everyone else who wasn't on the bus. When I get back to RIT, I'm going to hit up the outing club as much as I can, because I think I've been missing out.

On Sunday, I finally got my chance to prove my rolling skills on the river. For those of you who don't already know what I'm talking about, rolling is how you upright yourself when your kayak flips upside down. However, I never got to roll, as I never flipped. I thought about doing a roll for fun at the end, but that would've required me to get really wet and really cold, and I was quite comfortable.

The river was magnificent. I loved taking on the rapids, one-on-one. I had a very long kayak, which meant the boat was easily bullied around by the rapids, but I hung on as well as I could. My guide, Tim, helped me with a bunch of useful skills for navigating the river. I was in a really small group, so I had a lot of time to pick up on a bunch of stuff. When I get home, I'm going to continue to pursue this. I really like the blend of the independent-ness of the kayak, and the group mentality of getting down the river together.

This weekend, I also discovered a hatred for sand flies. Their bite hurts 100x worse than a mosquito's, get's twice as big, and lasts for weeks. My legs and arms are completely raw. I would never wish these things on my worst enemy.

So, I'm traveling to the South Island for Semester Break on Friday, so there most likely won't be a post next week since I won't be anywhere near a computer. But expect the biggest, most insane post this blog has ever seen around the beginning of next month!


I don't have many pictures this week as I would be insane to bring the Canon with me this weekend, but I have a few shots from the club page and friends.

All of the kayaks lined up at the start of the day!

Kayaks galore

Our kayak fisherman, getting a few bites before setting off. Oh, and a waterfall

The steep climb down to the hydroelectric plant

Me dropping 3 meters into the water!

I don't have one of myself, so here's Mikhael tearing it up

Everyone carefully paying attention to kayak saftey

Our mascot, Nadi!

Tony, Amaury, and I thumbs-upping after two successful days on the river

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A more relaxed weekend

Due to weather constraints, I was not able to do the Tongariro Crossing this weekend. But that does not mean that I idly sat around staring at the sky (truthfully, that was Saturday afternoon though). This weekend I kept busy, doing some of the activities I had been meaning to do for a long while.

On Friday, after my last class, I walked around some of the busiest parts of Auckland for almost 5 hours! During that time, I was snapping photos, eating local cuisine, and walking through what is just a marvelous city. It was an all-around good time. I met some quality street performers, chatted with some skaters after a quick photo sesh, wandered the harbor area, and accidentally meandered into a maritime museum! I want to learn how to sail now (Starling class). But since I don't think I'm going to get to that anytime soon, I'll stick with working on capturing moments with my camera.

On Saturday morning, I was up super early, as I had to get on the ferry to Rangitoto, a volcano off the Auckland coastline, before the sun rose. It was a cloudy, rainy morning. Peaking through the clouds was the reddest sunrise I had ever seen (after looking at my pictures, I realize I may be insane, as it wasn't red at all, although I remember it that way), and it lasted quite a while. The climb to the top of the volcano wasn't too extreme, after Taranaki anyway, and Bianca, Lyssa, and I summited relatively quickly. We chilled in an old bunker at the top for a bit as we willed the rain to stop. It did very quickly, and I got the tripod out so we could take some pictures with my remote (best $2.50 I've ever spent). It didn't take too much longer to explore the small island, and we were soon back in Auckland, right in the middle of an intense triathlon with competitors from around the world!

I took a nap later that day, and it was glorious. Then I watched Cool Runnings with my roommates and went to bed again. Successful Saturday.

On Sunday, I got up and made myself a big breakfast. Then I got in a car with Rob, Gemma, and Bianca, and headed back to Hobbiton to see The Shire from Lord of the Rings! The whole site was really cool, and the guide showed us where all of the major scenes took place. I honestly wish I had watched the movies a few times and read the books before getting here, because watching each extended edition just once is not even close to enough. Everyone else felt the same, so we're going to watch all of them next week some time. It was fun to learn about Peter Jackson's filming tricks; for example, on Bilbo Baggins' one-hundred-eleventh birthday, to film the sunset in front of Bag End, they had to film many short segments during sunrise, as the hill was facing the wrong direction. The whole filming of the movies was just so complicated. Just hearing about the mighty crew of 750 people and 200 trucks is just overwhelming and the fact that none of them could come near the actual set for fear of media leaks is just crazy. Oh, and the Green Dragon pub was mean as. I had the Oakbarton Brew, a traditional English Ale, and the best beer I've had since getting here.

For once, I wasn't completely wiped out after the week's end. I kinda like the change of pace. Next weekend won't be anything like calm though, because I'm going to be kayaking Aniwhenua! This'll be my first time kayaking in whitewater, so I'm pretty pumped. I also completely nailed my roll training last night, so when I flip, I won't drown. Pretty happy about that, I am.

Fa'afetai lava! (That's Samoan, I'm expanding a bit.)


And now for an overwhelming amount of pictures:

Britomart: Land of attractive women and bean-bag chairs

Auckland harbor in the early 1900's

An NZ racing yacht, which would be manned by a crew of 16!

Really chill seagull

One wall of a "bach," the ideal Kiwi summer home

Random book swap built into a shipping container on the viaduct

Model of a steamship that would've taken migrants over to NZ

A big boat, and a little boat

Quay St., and the majestic Ferry Building

Businessmen at lunch

The best blues player in Auckland

Awesome street art on a staircase to nowhere

Korean Pancake! Just one of the many takeaways I frequent

A view down Symonds, the street Uni is on

This guy is the bomb, he's on Queen St. every day without fail

I wish I could say he landed that

The Auckland harbor, from a ferry


I really like when the sun peaks through the clouds

Family photo

This is an exaggeration of what I kept imagining while thinking back to the sunset

Rob, Bianca, Gemma, and me at The Shire!

I ran like mad to get in that shot

RITchie in front of Bag End!

A hobbit hole

A 50% scale hobbit hole

There were a lot of hobbit holes

And wonderful scenic views

Party Tree!

The Green Dragon!

A garden!

The tree above Bag End is fake, and worth $1.5 million

Inside the Green Dragon

Again, the Party Tree

Green Dragon once more

Happy Pierce in LotR land

I love taking pictures of signs

The Water

Gemma was taking candid's on Mt. Eden later that night

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Easter Break: Taranaki and Wellington!

Easter break has come and gone, and I have no idea where the time went. This last weekend was spent on a fantastic road trip; a journey from Auckland to Wellington with Ryan, Rachel, Marjie, and Lyssa.

First of all, Easter Break? Seriously, who gets time off for that? RIT, get on this for semesters, it's great. However, I don't like the fact that there is the tying of national holidays to religion, especially in a nation as secular as New Zealand. All of  the bars were closed in Wellington on Sunday, and it was also somewhat difficult to find a bite to eat for most of the weekend until Monday morning. Everything worked out fine, but I was not impressed that I could have the after-effects of someone else's religion pushed onto me.

Anyway, back to the trip. In Wellington, I was lucky enough to be able to stay in a friend of a friend's flat for two nights. It was really REALLY warn down, and will be torn down in a year and a half for construction of new earthquake-proof buildings. And it had mad character. It looked in worse shape than Animal House, to give you an idea. It was awesome that we were able to stay there, and our kiwi hosts were pretty cool themselves.

I was able to tour Parliament and learn a little bit more about Enzed's political history during my time in Wellington. It was nice doing a strictly educational outing for once. I really liked that the MP's more accurately represented the people who elected them (eight parties, instead of two). I also found it humorous that the building was never finished because the government ran out of money while building it. I milled about Te Papa, The Museum of New Zealand, later in the day. The Pasifika exhibit took up almost all of my time, and was really stimulating, just like my time at the museum in Auckland a few weeks ago. I was mostly interested in the culture and technological aspects of pre-European pacific life (as well as the changes after the foreign arrivals), as one of my classes is very closely related to these things. Something that really stood out to me: the seafaring and agricultural technologies that these civilizations had were in leagues of their own for thousands of years.

Now I'm not really going in any particular order on this post, mostly because the trip had large patches of driving or periods of relaxation. And eating. There was a lot of that too. In retrospect, I was very impressed with the Wellington cuisine, both in quantity and value. Actually, that's an understatement, 'cause I had some massive portions both nights in town. Most notable was The Chippery's huge box of fish and chips that I simply was not ready for. I ate it all, of course, but that meal certainly put up a fight. I washed it down with some ice cream later.

Sooooooo, I kinda saved the best part of the weekend for last. The second day of the trip, I climbed the all-powerful Mt. Taranaki (site of The Last Samurai filming). The 9-hour return hike (I stayed at the top for 2 hours) was grueling every step of the way. In the beginning, the group tramped through heavy rain and harsh winds, with only about 10-20 feet of visibility at any given time. After an hour and a half, it was enough to send the girls back down. However, Ryan and I continued in the crappy conditions.

Later on up the mountain, we reached a portion of the hill that looked vaguely familiar to scenes from movies filmed in coastal northern Ireland. It was dark, dreary, cold, wet, rocky, and mossy (which apparently screams Ireland in my head; I have absolutely no credibility on the comparison). I felt like I was experiencing so much more than just one country during this hike.

But that's where the awe stopped (as well as the rain). What we had approached was a 1.5-hour march in knee-deep scree with no designated path and even worse visibility. I often had to call out to Ryan to make sure he was still with me. But then the clouds parted for a bit, and I (thought I) saw the top of the mountain. This began the rapid ascent of really steep cliffs by yours truly, fueled only by adrenalin and cheerios. I really didn't stick to the "path", as climbing the cliff faces was much more fun (except that really tall chimney climb that I almost fell from). I got really carried away a few times and totally lost Ryan, but he came through the fog time and time again. After an hour of this ferocious terrain, we had reached crater lake, a basin filled with snow and ice.

And then we moved on, because it honestly wasn't as interesting as what was to come. After another 10 minutes of climber-deterrent landscape, I reached the summit of Mt. Taranaki, and the view was overwhelming. I was now around half a kilometer above the clouds that only a few hours earlier had been dumping torrents of rain on my unhappy figure. Everything was white and fluffy. And the sun was out. And the wind wasn't too bad. This was totally an acceptable reward for the trials that we had conquered. And so I sat down and ate my heart out, staring at the clouds (and the farms below all the way to the ocean when the clouds occasionally broke up). I finally got to pull out my camera for the first time that day (it was finally dry enough), and I got to snapping the wonderful visage. Sadly, I don't have pictures of most of the journey, because it was too dangerous to bring the camera out, but I can safely say you aren't missing much, for the volcano was pretty damn barren for a majority of the trip.

I'm not going to get into the descent, because it was just as exhausting as the way up. Honestly, I think it was much harder to get down the mountain than up. Regardless, I made it down, and the journey will go down as one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.

Well, since I only got back to Auckland Tuesday, I can't say much has happened in the interim. However, I am going on another trip this weekend to tour The Shire from Lord of the Rings, and hike Tongaririo Crossing, an easier tramp compared to last weekend, but with another volcano to conquer- Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom, anyone?). Expect many more pretty pictures, as this is my first time experiencing a world heritage site with a camera!

I'm gonna go watch Game of Thrones now.


Chillin' on top of the clouds

A nice sunset in New Plymouth, a town near Taranaki

Lyssa, the Birthday Girl, in a shoe

A boat I encountered on a coastal walk outside of Wellington

That's South Island in the background!

An Orc lost in the Te Papa museum

Amateur photography at it's finest on a black sand beach

Must've been a Canadian on Taranaki before me

Clouds, man.

Taking a picture of Marjie taking a picture of Lyssa

That's a 2,518-meter drop

Overjoyed at the summit

Told ya it was barren

Another view of the long way down (New Ireland?)

Windy Welly

I need a wide-angle lens

A fishing boat in a bay on the coastal walk

A part of the impressive indigenous people's outrigger

Future Poké Ball Concept

I figured out how to take a picture of wind

Intro to High-ISO, Nighttime Street Photography

I'll get better, I promise

Lyssa, Ryan, Rachel, Marjie, and Me in Wellington (Marjie Shrimpton)