Student Directed Travel Week

Written By Sydney

Welcome back family and friends!

We are happy to say that we are in our Student Directed Travel week, meaning that we students budgeted and planned the whole week. After weeks of planning and excitement building up we were finally able to put our preparation to the test!

Following our week with Whinua Iti we headed off to Nelson to quickly get our groceries for the next couple of days and then began our 6 hour trip to Little Wanganui, where our west coast AirBNB awaited. After such a long day of driving we ate dinner and went straight to bed, everyone excited to venture out on the first day of our week.

Early the next morning, we embarked on our first adventure in Kahurangi National Park. Eager to explore the Oparara Basin, we quickly encountered our first obstacle. Anticipating a brisk three hour hike, the group became aware that the hike was in fact five hours. After a brief discussion we all agreed on taking on the hike, and started off through the rainforest. Along the way we saw some amazing rivers and plants enjoying the scenery. To our surprise, we ended up finishing the hike two hours early (the same time that we initially thought!). After a quick lunch we walked another quick 20 minutes and went to the Oparara arch to see and amazing rock formation. On the drive back we were all even more excited to experience the last 6 days of our week.

That morning we set out with the expectation of another amazing hike. But as we continued our day we soon realized that time was short and we wouldn’t have enough time to do that. Luckily, we got to see some truly amazing views none the less:
The pancake rocks are a geological formation formed over hundreds of thousands of years and now have created a stunning 20 minute scenic walk that also included seeing some blowholes!

After seeing that and having some lunch we headed 5 minutes down the road and went into a cave where we got the chance to do some silent reflection, bringing us back to our insightful time with Tiaki.

A little further down the road we ended up on a small secluded beach, including a water fall and a warm pebble beach, with some waves that were characteristically wildly west coast. There, we spent some time admiring the ocean, the small waterfall, and also collecting some rocks that had washed up on shore. These activities filled up our day fast so we headed back home and had a relaxing night in.

On our final day in little Wanganui we decided to utilize our last opportunity to hike along the beautiful west coast. The Old Ghost Road was the perfect choice because we could hike for as long as we wanted and then turn around. We ended up hiking for 5 hours that day (with a break for lunch in the middle) seeing some amazing views of the river below along the way. That night we needed to have a meeting to decide what we were going to do the next few days in Christchurch and came to the conclusion that we wanted to split up and have two different choices instead of a full group activity.

Waking up early, we packed and cleaned up our air Bn’B and starter our 7 hour drive to Christchurch. This day was filled with reading, listening to music, and a couple crime podcasts to help fill the time. Arriving at the hostel we spent the afternoon exploring the large hostel grounds and utilizing the game room that was there.

The next day, four of us decided to spend the day on castle hill, where the movie Narnia was filmed and had the chance to clamor around on boulders and explore the landscape. After challenging ourselves on dry land, we headed off to explore a local underground stream.

The other eight people decided to head to Acaroa and take a tour of the Penguin wildlife in New Zealand where we were able to get a first hand view of the endangered white finned penguin and its breeding cycle. After a quick coffee/ tea break we helped take data for the department of conservation on the number of penguins in the area and the amount of eggs that there are during this breeding season.

On our last full day in New Zealand we had a free day to explore the city of Christchurch where we explored the large variety of parks, stores, and street food. Two of us even got tattoos! Meeting up at 6pm we searched for a place to have a final meal before our flight to Fiji where we could use all of the money we didn’t spend during the week. We ate like kings in a Japanese restaurant enjoying each others company and reminiscing on the last 6 weeks and looking forward to the weeks ahead. We then quickly drove home and got right to bed that night in preparation for our 3am wake up time to catch our early flight to Fiji.

This week was a new experience for all of us because we had to budget and plan it all on our own giving us a good idea of what being an independent traveler is really like.