FANZ – HONGI (South Pacific)

DSC_1797 DSC_1696 DSC_1460 CSC_1474 DSC_1498 DSC_0562So since we were getting some complaints about a lack of pictures here are some more random pictures from our time in New Zealand. The first two are from our hike up Avalanche Peak, the next two are sea kayaking at Able Tasman National Park, and the next two are from the pancake rocks and our stay with the Maori.

A Surprisingly Successful Trip…!

P1000504P1000494We have come to the end of student directed travel as well as our time in New Zealand. After a long process I’m pleased to say that student directed travel was a success. We started with a bang by going to Tongariro National Park Mt. Ngauruhoe or Mt. Doom. It was a legendary pilgrimage for some and a beautiful hike for others. Personally, as a Lord of the Rings fan, it was extremely validating. From the volcanic landscapes of Tongariro we traveled to Wellington, where we explored the beautiful Te Papa museum and the surrounding city. The next morning we said goodbye to the North Island and took a ferry to the South. Our rental car was smaller then some, but we made it work with our impressive Tetris capabilities.  Olivia had picked out an awesome hostel in Able Tasman. It was a great place to come back to after our exciting day of sea kayaking. The day started with everyone being confident in their kayaking abilities but by lunch most of us were feeling some arm pain. The water was beautiful and we saw lots of baby seals. Our fearless leaders Conor, Annie, Cameron and Hannah led us back to shore safely.
The next day our muscles looked incredible. We took a leisurely drive taking in the New Zealand scenery to Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s Pass is a hikers destination. There are valleys filled with prairie grass and stunning harsh mountains. We spent spent our first day there hiking to various lookouts and waterfalls. Liz and I reenacted a sword fight from Lord of the Rings on top of a bowlder while Matty-Rex filmed us along with the German tourists that had no relation to our group. I guess this means that our sword fighting was epic enough to be on some random person’s camera. Our next adventures were by far the most marvelous hikes we’ve been on. Some of us climbed to the summit of Avalanche Peak while others hiked along the dramatic ridges of Arthur’s Pass. That night we decided to treat ourselves at the local cafe that closed at 8:00 pm. Arthur’s Pass is a very small town but we had a delicious meal none the less. Now that were in Christchurch the reality of leaving New Zealand is
dawning on us. This month has been a spectacular one. We have grown closer as a group and as individuals. I cant wait to see what adventures Australia holds! Until the next internet cafe!
-Rage (Page) P1000341 P1000393 P1000480 P1000483 P1000494

  • Wow, what a week! These have truly been the quickest 5 days so far! We started by meeting Tran, the most awesome dude in the universe, at a hostel in New Plymouth. He drove us to a cottage on the outskirts of the city with the most amazing view of Mt. Taranaki where we slept, cooked our own food and played games (night crawlers). Tran broke the ice by taking us to a thrift store and told us to buy whatever we wanted. The only thing we knew is that we might want to burn them after. We didn’t really coordinate our outfits. Some people wanted to do Oceans 11, a few others Lord of the Rings. I myself had a pretty sweet hobbit getup. We stopped for the New Zealand famous hokey pokey ice cream and drove around the city until we got to a mud bog. We had no idea what we were doing there until Tran came out of the van with a mini skirt and straight up dove into the the mud pit! We had a pretty sweet time basically playing full tackle football. We all left as muddy as could be, and I’m pretty sure Olivia still has mud in her hair. 
    The whole week has been about pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, so Tran never told us what we were doing until we were doing it. Every day we’ve come closer and closer together, and I realize this on days like these where we have to work together for the benefit of the group. Coming to New Zealand we all had preconceptions of what we’d be doing. Whether that’d be Hiking, Canoeing or abseiling I think we’ve done it all this week. My personal favorite day was when we went boating. We went tubing and did something I’ve never heard of before called Scurfing, which is basically surfing behind a boat. It was a difficult task that only a few of us could do, and I think we’re all proud of Rage for sticking with it after a few dozen face plants. We also went on a pretty gnarly hike that I honestly did not think myself or the rest of the group would be capable of. We all made it to the peak, even Liz despite her acrophobia. 
    As amazing as this week has been we’ve had to say our goodbyes to Tran the Man. We had a closing bonfire last night at a beautiful black sand beach. As the sun was setting we even got a look at a green flash, a once in lifetime experience. Many of us have overcome fears, like Annie’s fear of the rope swing or Olivia’s fear of Abseiling. This has been a stress free week of firsts and hopefully not last for everyone. Taranaki has truly become my, and I think most of our most beloved place. Until next time, Cheers- Rex
    PS. We watched Lord of the Rings and realized… there are nine of us and nine of the Fellowship. So we came to the conclusion that we are the Fellowship…-Annie

Getting down and dirty at Sentry Hill

This week on hongi student adventures, we departed from the warm stay with the Maori and arrived at Sentry Hill, a WWOOFing farm. ( World Wide Organization of Orgainic Farmers). PJ, Tom and their three awesome kids, were our amazing hosts that kept us organizaed and made us feel right at home.We sweated hard as we herded and milked cows, cleaned paddocks, and for Liz and Annie castrated bulls. Even though Olivia couldn’t work with the cows or hay or horses or nature, she worked hard in the garden and kitchen! Conor and Matt broke a water pipe, but no worries, it all worked out and we could still take showers. Hannah, always the early bird, loved waking up at 5:30 to milk the cows with PJ and Ruby Doo (the cutest dog ever). We almost lost Annie and John to the Sentry Hill clan because all of the kids and PJ were gingers, or ginga as they call it .

Lets not forget they classy birthday party thrown for the wonderful Page. The party was all the Rage. ( if you havent heard Page’s nickname is Rage, its a long story) All the girls dressed up in (backpacker) fancy clothes and makeup just for this black tie affair. The guys also stepped up their game with plaid shirts and ties ( loan by them by Tom). After having one of the most rich chocolate mousse cake ( gluten free ofcourse) the lot of us went out to enjoy the bright and vivid stars, shining just for the birthday girl.The next morning we woke up early , teary eyed and sad . But we got breakfast cake and speical porridge just for Cameron’s birthday. Now we are chilling in New Plymouth ready to tackle Taranaki Outdoor Adventures.

All in all the stay at Sentry Hill has been unforgetable. we couldnt have asked for a better farming experience!


Kneading some more dough.

Kneading some more dough.


Hike in the rain...ain't no thing.

Hike in the rain…ain’t no thing.

Now thats a tractor!

Now thats a tractor!

Click “hongigroup” below for a fun video of some group members at the farm. (not for the faint hearted :) )



We are in the “land of the endless white cloud!”

We went for a hike with Richard (a member of Ngati Whatua tribe we were staying with) who led us up Mt. Atuanui. The weather was far from ideal: rain, serious winds, and cold temperatures were all tough for most of us. Richard led us up a ridge where the wind and rain nearly knocked us us off our feet! After a short walk we entered the rainforest and were sheltered from most of the elements. The forest ecology system was incredible. There was everything from ferns and vines to palm trees and water falls. We went off trail and went through dense jungle, over volcanic rock rivers, and even ascended a few waterfalls. In a couple hours we reached the summit where were faced withheavy fog cover and gusting winds. As we descended, the weather cleared up and we found ourselves in the rolling cow pastures just uphill of the local marae(maori village). By then, the fog had cleared and we had spectacular views over the countryside and Kaipara Harbour. Throughout the hike we covered roughly 65 square units of land, 1000 units of hike, and saw a Kauri that was 15 kilaunits of tree.


Hiking in the rain!

Hiking in the rain!

Typical NZ view!

Typical NZ view!

Happy Traveling!

Sadly we had to leave one of our group members in Nadi. Jess, after a lot of thought, decided to return home for family reasons. Our hearts are with him and his family at this time and we hope he’s doing okay stateside!
We arrived in Auckland after some difficult moments. As if our daily activities didn’t throw us enough curve balls in Nananu (we love the curve balls), we were faced with some challenges. Our exit from Nadi was great, but when we arrived in Sydney, we had to run across the airport and through customs to arrive at our gate in time. After extreme cardio exertion, we were told by a friendly stewardess that we could not travel to New Zealand from Australia without visas. Now, the details of this were very confusing to me at the time, so there’s probably more to the story than what I just explained, but the bottom line is that we had to wait for 3 hours for the next flight to Auckland. I was okay with this since there was some delicious sushi waiting for Page and I in the international terminal, but our leader Mac struggled during this time with a slight fever and severe headache. The only option we had was to make it fun, so I along with the group had a very pleasant time after just a few moments of frustration.
Unfortunately our luck did not change immediately once we got to Auckland. The airline lost our baggage. However, the following morning our other awesome leader, Gwen, carried all of the bags up to our common space at 8 in the morning without waking up anyone. We are very thankful to Gwen. What a weird 24 hours we had! The next day was a well deserved free day in Auckland. We used that time to rest and replenish our supplies and most importantly, to slack line. We had a great time exploring Auckland. And then we went to the sky tower, and we played in parks and pretended we were small children again. It was fantastic.

We loved Auckland so much


Work Hard, Play Hard

Yesterday we said our tearful goodbyes the people of Nananu. After an all night Kava ceremony with endless dancing and inevitable yawning, the Nau’s and Mangu’s sang us off as we loaded onto a bus to Tavua. We were sad to leave the village that gave us so much and welcomed us as family the moment we stepped into their homes. In such a short time, we were able to connect with some amazing people. One of my favorite activities (that we all dreaded at one point or another) was being tickled by the kids. I don’t even think half of us are ticklish, but they still loved sneaking up on us and unleashing the fury of 1,000 suns on our feet. The kid’s laughs were normally louder than ours during this time, but sometimes Cameron used a loud fake laugh that shook the entire community center. He only used this laugh to entertain them because they refused to believe that there were no ticklish parts of his body. I know that all of us will miss playing with the children of Nananu. Especially Rex (Matt) who I think got the biggest work out of the day when he would run around picking up kids after 4 hours of mixing concrete.

In our final days at the village, we were able to see the finished product of our hard work, spend time with in our home stays, and learn the Meke dance. Some of us hiked with our families to a beautiful waterfall while others swam  in the river. Basically family day was centered around staying cool on a hot day. Our families were generous and loving the entire time. The food they prepared us was awesome and abundant, and we were never able to finish even half of the prepared food. I personally will miss morning banana bread as well as tea time banana bread. The last night in Nananu was easily the most memorable night and summed up our time there pretty well. The girls performed a dance for the village at 4:00 in the afternoon after the boys performed a Kava ceremony for the chief. We then repeated this after dinner after some very confusing directions on what exactly we were supposed to do. The difference between the afternoon ceremony and the nighttime ceremony was that the afternoon ceremony has a clear end time. We were expected to drink Kava all night and dance with all the village members. None of us were afraid to show off our moves, but the Kava drinking became increasingly difficult as the night went on. Kava is a mild sedative, so after a couple of small bowls we were all very tired. We didn’t care that we would get no sleep because it was our last night and our last chance to spend time with everyone and engage in a cultural exchange. We thank Nananu for its hospitality and hope that we can return one day to a village that taught us so much about community and hard work. Will upload pictures ASAP!

Until next time,

Liz Demmon


Bula, friends and family

Six days ago we left the resort at Mango Bay and traveled half way across Fiji to the village of Nananu. There we started working on the pathway throughout the village. We all love our home stay families and everyone has been so incredibly welcoming, nice, and accepting of all of us. On the first night, they told us that we will forever be part of their family. Today we went to the Fiji water plant where they make Fiji Water. It’s the only plant of theirs in the world so to be able to go there was so incredible. After that, when we were coming out of the plant, we ran into the other Carpe Diem FANZ group. We were unfortunately unable to talk to them due to the “fear” that we would start to compare the two groups experiences. But it was still interesting to see them. Right now, we are wandering around the town of Tavua where we will be spending the day here and then returning to Nananu. Then we leave the village next Wednesday and will travel to the town of Nadi (pronounced Nandi) for three days and then will fly out of Nadi to New Zealand. It has been an incredibly fun, exciting, and enlightening experience and we all look forward to what is in our future. Until next blog. :)


Hi from Olivia and Cameron!!

Fiji is beautiful! We have been staying at Mango Bay resort and Wednesday we leave to the village for our two week home stay. We have been exploring the village today and the people here are some of the nicest people we have ever met, it’s so great. We visited a beautiful Hindu temple and experienced a local cava ceremony. Though we didn’t get to partake in the drinking of it yet we got a feel for what to expect in the village. Looking forward to seeing more of Fiji and experiencing more of their culture. Having the best time ever!!!! Moce!! (goodbye)

- Cameron and Olivia

Bula from FIJI!

so in this update we are going to go over a quick list of the highlights so far, first of these i would have to say is the water which is a joy to swim in which is teaming with life.  the next highlight having some freedom to adventure around town and being able to hang out with the group as a whole.  Fiji is totally amazing and very lively. both me and Brandon are very excited to be here and can’t wait top update you more on our adventures! I love you all and will writer again as soon as possible.

Brandon and Hannah