Till We Meet Again

Howdie doodie neighborinos! Hanny and gang here.

What a wild ride the past few days have been….

After we said our farewells to all the people and creatures at the Hart farm (especially to Pippi the dog!) we traveled down to the lively city of Wellington! We enjoyed a couple days strolling up and down Cuba Street, browsing the funky shops, eating at all the restaurants, and drinking TONS of boba. The hostel we stayed in was an experience, to say the least. Shane and Hanna organized an escape room for their group activity as leaders, which was a blast! (except for when Rollie accidentally opened the escape room door and ended the room early). Next we hopped on a ferry and waved goodbye to the North Island as we continued our travels south to our next destination, Whenua Iti.

A very legendary man named Joe picked us up after a quick dinner and we were on our way! We were lucky enough to sleep in bell tents for the night instead of the porch, and since we got there pretty late we went to bed quickly. The next morning we woke up and did our formal welcome and introductions (Mehi’s) with Joe and Gilby, our other instructor for the week, and spent some time testing our limits on a high ropes course.

Before disappearing into the woods, we ventured underground for a few hours of caving! We squeezed through tight cracks, waded through underground rivers, checked out some mean glow worms, and snacked on cookies in the dark!

Backpacking was a new and challenging experience for many members of the group. We hiked all 63 kilometers (39 miles) of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, over mountains and beaches. One night we trekked until 12:30 a.m., under the light of the stars, delirious from hours and hours of walking with our packs on our backs. Shane took charge of the front, and screamed at each and every new hill that presented itself. Amelia taught us all how to expertly set up flies for sleeping under, and we all learned to absolutely DESPISE wekas, evil little birds that patrolled the campsites we stayed at and stole our things, as well as sand flies, from which many of our legs still itch. We learned a lot more about each other from hours of conversations on trail, ate our fill of PB&J wraps, and saw each other through our highest and lowest points.

The day we returned to Whenua Iti was the day we learned that we were to be returning home due to the spread of coronavirus, which was shocking after having been disconnected from the rest of the world for four days. We stayed close to camp in order to be in contact with family, and instead of leaving right away for sea kayaking, spent a day mountain biking nearby.
Sea kayaking also called for a large amount of growth. The beautiful scenery and Joe’s singing helped us find the strength we needed to cross the ocean in our kayaks. On our last morning, we woke early to watch the sunrise on the water and see the ocean come to life. We also enjoyed a final swim in the cold, cold water! (and Hanna got a reallyyyyy bad sunburn… again.)

And now here we are….. We said goodbye to Maggie at the Christchurch airport, who was able to get a flight straight back to Vancouver. We’ve spent the rest of the day hanging out in our Airbnb outside of the city, enjoying some final moments together, listening to music, playing shuttlecock, and eating a lot of pizza. Tomorrow, off to the airport!
Some final things we have learned about each other:

Hanna is the definition of granola. And creative. And is most likely going to Western Washington University.

Claire is the ultimate team player. Secretly, she likes hugs. Not so secretly, she likes pears.

Shane likes the outdoors, but the outdoors do not like Shane. Especially New Zealand bees.

Xan will make a great soccer dad someday. (GAHT!)

Rollie is The Terminator. And Arnold. (according to Gilby).

Lucas is the king of classic rock. (and by the way, he’s changing).

Conner apparently doesn’t like water as much as we all thought. Moana who?

Maggie is gone but not forgotten. And she saw a cow in transition!!

Amelia is now a vegan too (mia is spreading her gospel).

Ryker does NOT conform to gender stereotypes when it comes to hats. He bought a lady hat just to make the store owner mad.

Mia is one of the bros.

Rachael hongi’ed a weka.

Nathan can entertain a group for hours. Literally.

Liz can entertain Liz for hours. She started and finished the Abel Tasman, but did she do the middle? The world may never know…. #watertaxi

We are all very sad to be saying goodbye to this little family of ours so soon. We’ve seen each other at our best, our worst, and everything in between. The land and the people of New Zealand have shown us and taught us many valuable things; swim whenever and wherever possible; always bring a rain jacket and regular jacket; ma te wa; hokey pokey is not a dance; for people who like to live life in the slow lane, they sure drive fast; sunscreen and bug spray are essentials; if someone says “Sweet As,” they’re not talking about your butt. We’ve been inspired to go out and create change back in our own hometowns, especially now, during a time when community and solidarity are most needed, if we are to get through this.

What a wonderful adventure it has been! Kia Ora Hongi fans!

Hongi 2020, signing off.