After nearly 6 months abroad, we have returned home to winter in Wisconsin!  Before we returned home we spent two weeks in Australia, a week in the North Island, and a few days in the South Island.  In Australia we spent three days camping on Whitehaven beach, a beautiful white sandy beach in the Whitsunday Islands. We spent most of our time here in the water and laying in our hammocks. The rest of our time in Australia was spent exploring the sights as we drove up the coast.  The best part of Australia was all of the wildlife we saw including koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, a crocodile, a cassowary (the world’s third largest bird), and many beautiful birds. We even got to cuddle a koala and hand feed the rock wallabies! Another amazing experience we had while in Australia was snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef.  We saw tons of amazing, colourful fish and coral, and my favourite part was swimming alongside a sea turtle.  Overall, it was an amazing experience getting to see Australia’s unique wildlife and experience the Great Barrier Reef, but in the end we both agreed that we liked New Zealand better!

From Australia we flew to Auckland in the North Island, where we spent a week traveling and taking in the other half of New Zealand.  We began by visiting the Coromandel Peninsula, which, like the rest of New Zealand, is filled with beautiful, deserted beaches.  While in the North Island we also visited Hobbiton, the movie set for scenes from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. I’m not really a Lord of the Rings fan, but I thought the place was really quaint and beautiful, and Hunter, being a fan, really enjoyed it.  We also completed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing Hike, called New Zealand’s most beautiful day hike. This trail lived up to its expectations as it crossed over volcanic terrain including past an active volcano, emerald and blue lakes, solidified lava flows, and over steaming ground.  This type of volcanic terrain is common in the North Island and we also saw a geyser, boiling mud pools, and plenty of other beautiful, strange, and stinky (like rotten eggs) sights.  We also spent a lot of time rock climbing in the North Island and we visited the famous Waitomo glowworm caves which were breath taking. At the glowworm caves you silently float in a boat through a cave that has millions of glow worms illuminating the ceiling and walls around you, making it look like a night sky completely filled with twinkling blue stars.

Before we returned to Dunedin to pack our bags, we spent our last couple of days in the South Island visiting Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain.  With the start of summer the edges of the lake, and the roadside ditches were filled with fields of colourful wildflowers called lupines.  Seeing these fields of flowers set against a backdrop of turquoise blue water and mountains, again reminded me of the beauty of New Zealand and how much I came to love this place in the world.  Now that I have returned home I know I will really miss the country I came to love, but I am so glad for all the experiences, memories, and possibilities that this experience has brought me. I know one day I will visit this place again. Thanks for reading my posts this semester!


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