happy & healthy abroad: kiwi calls & hobbit holes

So here is the extremely delayed reflection on my 3rd week in New Zealand. I decided to put off blogging until after I got home so that I could truly unplug and be in the present moment. Plus, there are so many things to do and see in NZ who has time to be on their computer anyway? I sure didn't, not to mention access to wifi after my study abroad program was painfully limited (more details to come in future posts). While I didn't end up keeping up on my blog during my travels, I did, however, manage to keep a journal. This is very helpful, especially now that I have to go back and remember all the details of the individual weeks. So here we go...

The 3rd week of my time in New Zealand was mainly spent on Ponui Island, a privately owned island of which the southern 3rd belong to David and Roz Chamberlin who were generous enough to let us stay at their summer camp for 5 days. Our accommodations included bunk beds in a retro-fitted bus with noisy penguins that lived underneath, composting toilets (cooler than they sound), a wood boiler for heat in the main building. Our accommodations did not include hot showers or wifi. So in other words, no contact with the outside world for 5 days, and also no shower for 5 days. Awesome.

The purpose of going to Ponui Island? To track rodent activity via handy dandy tracking tunnels by day and listen for Kiwi calls by night. The data we collected would be used in a larger research project concerning Kiwi and predator-pest relationships, pretty cool eh? I felt like a real live scientist...well sort of. Looking back, I would say that listening for Kiwi calls at night was my favorite part of the Ponui Island experience. Since Kiwi are nocturnal birds, after an early dinner small groups of us would trek out to a pre-destined location to listen and record Kiwi calls for the first two hours of darkness. One of the locations was an hour and a half walk to the highest point on the island. We would then proceed to sit for two whole hours counting kiwi calls as well as the recording direction and distance of the call. I will be honest, it was not the most engaging activity and I would get antsy after maybe 15 minutes. However one of the EcoQuest field leaders reminded us that someday we'll tell people about the time we were in New Zealand and we sat up on a hill listening to kiwi. That small reminder changed my perspective drastically and reminded to stay present. And guess what, here I am telling all of you about that experience :)

When I wasn't engaged in the program activities, I was able to strike out on my own a few times just to get some exercise (gotta get those steps) and explore the island a little. Overlooking the Hauraki Gulf, I had a few surreal moments of just soaking in the fact that here I was in New Zealand, on a random island, having a once in a life time opportunity, completely engaged and undistracted by my phone, computer, or what have you. I feel like these moments are so important in our lives, but how often do we actually take the time to pause? Yes, it's easier to pause enjoy the present when you're traveling in a new and exciting place, but what about in our everyday lives? It's time for me to stop wishing away the days, dreaming about some place better I could be, and instead savor each moment no matter when or where.

Now here comes the EXCITING stuff. My visit to Hobbiton! Lord of the Rings geek dreams complete. The Sunday after the week on Ponui Island, a large group of us EcoQuesters set out on a Lord of the Rings adventure. The Hobbiton movie set is located about 1.5 hours south of the EcoQuest Field center near a town called Matamata. The tour of the set was about 2 hours long, finished off by a 15 minute visit to the Green Dragon (complimentary drinks included). It was super cool to see all of the hobbit holes and see the Shire come to life, however I do wish that the tour was longer and I especially wish that we had more time in the Green Dragon. Over all, it was an experience I'd recommend if you ever find yourself on that side of the world. And there you have it, recap of week 3. Details on week 4 coming much sooner than last time ;)