Kia Ora! Piling into our coach bus we embarked on a 2 1/2 hour drive to the Waitomi Caves, home of the glow worms. Along with the commentary of Terry and captivating views of the countryside out of our window, we were well prepared for our road trip. Try playing “I spy something white” with a population of 35 million sheep. Pulling up to the site around noon, we divided between juniors and seniors for tubing through the caves. Want a taste of the ICGL Antartica trip? Take a swim through the glow worm caves. Temperatures of 30 degrees Fahrenheit and below could not be stopped by a wet suit. Flipping on the flashlights on our helmets we embraced the adventure with numb hands. Climbing on top of rocks, swimming through currents, jumping from water falls as much as 65 feet underground, we fumbled our way through. It was especially hilarious to watch Wendell squeeze his way between cramped rocks. Making faces that resembled “The Scream” painting, the trip was filled with plenty of memorable pictures. But the most surreal moment was lying on our backs in a line of tubes, grasping at each other’s feet and looking up at the walls of the cave. Headlights off, masked in darkness, the glow worms illuminated the sky with their green fluorescent light. The guides explained the science behind it, but it felt like true magic. Damp and frozen we climbed out of the caves and flocked towards warm showers. Then a 3 hour drive back due to Auckland’s laughable “traffic.” Still recovering from jet lag, the group wearily rallied for some Mexican dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss Willy’s. Birthday churros were passed around as we serenaded Donice with early birthday songs and shoved our faces with chips & salsa. It’s a rainy, brisk winter here down under but we’re finding the bright side to each day.
Despite the palpable excitement from the group that morning, stepping off a 15 hour flight was anything but glamorous. weary eyed and slightly groggy we shuffled through customs towards the exit where our jolly guide Terry awaited us. For 7 am, Terry said our group looked pretty “bright eyed and bushy tailed,” ironic considering most of us had not seen a mirror in almost a full day. Yet New Zealand and its people greeted us with open arms. It was close to 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside but plans of kayaking, zip lining, or sightseeing were already weaving their way through the group. But first was Auckland. Overlooking the harbor, we took in the entire city from the peak of Bastion Park, a memorial for the former New Zealand Prime Minister, Australian Michael Joseph Savage. Nevertheless it wasn’t until we made our way into downtown Auckland that we came face-to-face with the true Kiwi culture. People packed the streets along with signs in languages from Chinese to New Zealand slang. And this New Zealand English sharply contrasts anything from America. With their thick accents and unique sayings, the people stared at us with wild eyes when we spoke even though we struggled to decipher half of their sentences. Splitting up in small groups we explored the city in search of food, feeling comfortable in the urban setting. But the bungee attractions at every corner were anything but the norm for us. The people here breathe adventure and spontaneity which they balance with an aura of nonchalance. Picking up on the laid back atmosphere of New Zealand, we retreated to our hotel for a much needed shower and nap. Jet lag can be quite a burden on the tourist spirit, but we’re not letting the 16 hour difference hold us back. It was a great day to be a Kiwi!