Mid-Semester Break – Creation Care Study Program NZ

Mid-term vacation was epic! It is a difficult task to explain the vast amounts of beauty we saw on our trip, so nothing is right.

We left Kaikoura early to hang around Christchurch for a bit. Christchurch is a city plagued by earthquakes, so this is the shortest and longest city I have ever seen. The vibe was extremely cool, though! There were tons of cafes with top notch coffee and sausage rolls, and all of the restaurants were radiant. Some of us explored the ins and outs of the city, while others went to a gemstone show held at Christchurch Racecourses. It was a great morning.

Next, we headed to Lake Tekapo, a small town known for its iconic lake, a small church, and stargazing. We drove for several hours through the South Island of New Zealand, taking in the beautiful scenery. Everywhere we looked there were rolling green hills with tons of mountains looming in the distance. Lake Tekapo was freezing! Highly recommend diving, but make sure you warm up properly afterwards! We stayed in a hostel, which was a super fun experience!

The next day we woke up before sunrise and set off for Mount Aoraki! The morning drive was majestic as we made our way to New Zealand’s highest mountain. The sunrise illuminated the verdant forests and rolling hills, making every lake sparkle. It was one of the most special mornings ever. At Mount Aoraki, we did the Hooker Valley Track, which led us to a glacier! The colors were so cool. It was that shade of blue that none of us had ever seen before!

After our hike, we descended the South Island to Te Anu and stayed at another hiking lodge. It was a very pleasant and restful night. We had dinner and prepared our backpacking trip! We woke up early the next morning and took a water taxi to the Milford Track starting point. Then the first day was only 3 miles so we took a leisurely walk to the first hut. At the cabin we lit a fire and spent the afternoon in the gloriously green mossy forest and reading/napping by the fire. It was perfect.

Day 2 was our longest trek. We hiked the entire valley to the base of Mckinnon Pass. It was a tiring day but probably the most beautiful so far. This valley was nestled between massive mountains on either side. The melted snow from these mountains flowed in every place imaginable, creating beautiful waterfalls and sometimes even lakes! We saw tons of birds and were blown away by the sight time and time again. God is a Creator who truly enjoys His Creation. Arriving at the hut that night, we collapsed by the fire. Some of us tried diving in the snow runoff. It was freezing!

The next morning we climbed the mountain! We saw several Kea throughout the day up close. He’s the only alpine parrot in the world and my new best friend. They hop in the funniest way! When we reached the alpine zone, it started to snow! For the native of Southern California (your truly), it was magical! Reaching Mckinnon Pass was the highlight of the trip. It was perhaps the most beautiful view of my entire life. You could see the whole valley we walked the day before, but some mountains were still towering over us! We were in this perfect position where you could enjoy all the bum! It rained the rest of the day so we got super wet!! Waterfalls were everywhere! We saw the highest waterfall in New Zealand (5th largest in the world)!

On the last day we were all starving so we hustled to the end and took in Milford Sound in all its glory and then totally fed ourselves a ton of food. On my own, I ate a whole pizza, a cheeseburger, chicken breasts, two sides of fries and a coke. It was awesome.

The next day we recovered from our bum by driving slowly to Owaka (southeast of Te Anu) and stopping wherever looked cool. We found an amazing little bookstore in Manapouri, explored caves in the countryside, searched for cool rocks on Gemstone Beach, and ate a ton of food in Invercargill again. A major theme of the trip: eating a lot.

The next day, direction Dunedin! We had a little car trouble so relaxed at Balclutha while that was sorted out. I loved reading The Little Prince, if you haven’t read it, well, go for it. In Dunedin we ate pizza and enjoyed our last night together! It was a fantastic trip that we will all remember forever. It also confirmed my decision to come back to New Zealand after the semester is over, and there is too much cool stuff in this country for just one semester!

It was an amazing time exploring New Zealand and being blessed by God and his creation. Highly recommend exploring the South Island as much as possible!!

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