Category Archives: New Zealand 2012

Turning towards home

December 5, 2012

As our semester draws to a close, our group has returned to the place we started: Motu Moana Boy Scout camp.  I believe it was Eric King who referred to the cyclic nature of our trip as poetic, so I decided to write haiku (mostly as a joke) to describe the last week or so of our trip.  The first one is describing the period of time we spent in the Catlins.  We travelled there after leaving St. Margaret’s College; our home for the previous two weeks.

Outside is wet and dreary,

Inside I journal.

I forgot how to have fun.

The return to travel was strange after weeks of technology.  It took a while to get back in the swing of things as we visited a farm.  We were only in the Catlins for two days before travelling to Invercargill, a town famously referred to as the butthole of the world.  There we visited an aluminum factory at Tiwai point and were able to see some long lived tuataras.

Tiwai future looks quite bleak

Failing industry

Tuataras are cool though.

After Invercargill and some bus breakdowns we traveled to Te Anau, where we saw the underground hydroelectric dam that powered the aluminum smelter, creating more than 15% of Aotearoa’s total energy.  It’s not larger in scale only because of protests to save the lake it is run by, Lake Manapouri.

Tunnels delving to the deep,

Torrents of water,

Islands, a lake, serene above.IMG_3368

From there we intended to go to Milford Sound in fiordland, but were unable to due to closures.  Instead, we headed to the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown.  There we had a lot of free time and people did various activities including bungee jumping and New Zealand’s version of street luge (it is like downhill go-carting.  I personally went on the luge and wrote this haiku about it.

 

Whizzing around curvy tracks,

Brakes are forgotten…

There’s a traffic jam of Asians.

 

Finally we have returned to where we began and I wrote a limerick to sum up how the semester has been.

Here it is spring rather than the fall

Seasons, toilets differ. And see all

This travel’s good for,

New cultures and more,

Then back to the scout bunks much too small.

- Elias Kehr

 

Until the Next Adventure

Our journey from Queenstown back to Auckland marked the beginning of the last stage of our New Zealand adventure.  The South Island was incredibly beautiful and we were constantly surrounded by snowcapped peaks running down into crystal clear blue lakes, but returning to the North Island brought new excitement.  In less than a week we will be flying from Auckland back to the United States.  So now the countdown has begun, and I think I speak for everyone when I say how much I look forward to seeing friends and family back in the states.  Yet, as our trip is concluding, I also find myself looking back upon my New Zealand experience and wondering what things I will remember most clearly and what I have learned.  I am often scribbling into my journal any fleeting thoughts and details I am afraid of forgetting when I return home.

One aspect of our journey that will definitely stick with me is just how little I still know of other cultures and how much they know of mine.  Here in New Zealand they follow the US election, and even our wider political world, and watch TV programs and movies that clearly reflect American culture.  Yet how much do I pay attention to other countries around the globe?  This realization has ignited a desire in me to travel and learn more.  If New Zealand, a very modern and westernized place can teach me so much, I’d love to experience a culture even further from my comfort zone.

Jenn Shenk and Allison Collazo Another thing I will always have fond memories of is our group.  They have consistently been quirky and fun and our dynamic is one that I will miss when we return to the states.  As an only child, I have never been consistently surrounded by even one or two other people, so walking into a readymade family of over twenty was an adventure all its own for me.  It is one I have appreciated and I am so thankful for the entertainment each and every one of them has provided at different stages in our trip.  They made all of our big adventures like hikes, rafting, and marae stays, as well as the more mundane bus rides, and meals a memorable experience, and I am glad to have been a part of such a fun-loving group of people.

Of course this doesn’t even begin to cover all the things that have made this trip wonderful, but those are things you’ll just have to ask us about when we get home.  Just know how excited we are to see all of you loved ones reading this at home, and New Zealand, it has been just wonderful getting to scratch your surface.

- Erica Garber

 

Personally I like being a nomad. To always be traveling somewhere, seeing new things and meeting new people, is an exciting way to spend three months. However, spending 2 to 3 hours or more on a bouncy bus every day with 21 other people equally as tired and grumpy from squeaky beds and loud snorers, can wear you down. My one motivating factor that saved me from throwing myself from the moving bus was that we were headed to Dunedin and we would be staying there for a whole TWO WEEKS – which seems like a lifetime compared to the one, two, and three night stays we were accustomed to. The road to Dunedin was like all other New Zealand roads: incredibly winding and steeply inclined. Such conditions make it extremely difficult to fall asleep as your head is constantly lolling from side to side and you might end up in someone’s lap or in the aisle of the bus. Anyways, I was especially excited to reach St. Margaret’s College at the University of Otago for several other reasons, one being we would each have our own rooms! This had only happened to me once before on the trip and it was the best three nights of my life! I would have room to throw my stuff all over the floor and not live out of a hiking backpack for once. Secondly, we had three meals a day, and they were prepared FOR us and there was NO dish washing involved!! Thirdly, we had no strictly regimented schedule to follow. There were a few speakers we had to listen to and a few other places to visit, but for the most part, the two weeks were ours (of course, we had to write a research paper in that time…)!

When we arrived at St. Margaret’s, we were all impressed by the lovely accommodations. It was by far the nicest place we stayed at in all our travels. We were all thankful that we hadn’t stayed there the first week; otherwise we would have been disappointed with the rest of the accommodations! I spent the next two weeks sleeping in and eating a lot, and wasting a lot of time on the free internet. I did manage to write a seven page paper in between my laziness, and to prepare a presentation along with it. We didn’t do a lot in Dunedin, but that was the best thing about it. We got to walk downtown to the octagon and spend money on clothes and gifts, experience the local nightlife, and play volleyball at the huge stadium complex on campus. We saw the steepest street in the world, and some of the more ambitious members of the group ran up it (not me). We also hid in man-made trenches to spy on the rare yellow eyed penguins as they fed their young by throwing up in their mouths. Yum.

Speaking of food, we also got to celebrate Thanksgiving here. The cook prepared us a special dinner in what he thought was an American Thanksgiving meal. Contrary to everyone’s loud praise for the meal, I was rather disappointed that there was no pumpkin pie! Dunedin was a time of relaxation and research and preparing ourselves to spend the last leg of our trip traveling in close quarters. Though the down time did allow for homesickness to creep in, I was able to use our time in Dunedin to refuel and motivate myself for the next two weeks.

-Laura Nyman

Service learning: stoats, tree planting, ranching

Stoat Trapping With Andrew Shepard

Andrew Shepard and Jonathan Nyce stoat trapping Our journey through the South Island high country has yielded some truly amazing scenery. The snowcapped mountains and tussock covered valleys of the Southern Alps offer the iconic landscapes of New Zealand. The small town of Makarora is no exception to this rule and was the setting for my two-day service placement (November 5&6). A group of four students and I signed up for the “stoat trapping” option and stayed with Andrew and Ingrid Shepard, who were very gracious hosts.

I spent the majority of my days tramping and checking stoat traps with Andrew and my fellow students. To give a little context, stoats are an invasive species similar in stature to a ferret. They were actually introduced to New Zealand in an effort to curb the exploding rabbit population, which ended up going horribly wrong. It was discovered that they are devastating to the native bird population and are now the target of various conservation groups like “Forest and Bird” and the “New Zealand Department of Conservation,” commonly referred to as “DOC.”

Andrew is a seasonal worker for DOC and voluntarily manages several of the stoat trapping lines in and around Makarora. He led our band of five eager students on a few of these trap lines, which were incidentally beautiful hikes as well! We would remove any dead pests and reset the traps as necessary. A secondary objective was to call in and spot any native yellow head birds (Mohua in Maori) in the areas that we checked traps. We had success in both areas as we came across several dead stoats and spotted live yellow heads singing in the trees on multiple occasions. Andrew was hopeful in the effectiveness of these lines since we found far less trapped stoats and heard more yellow heads compared to his check 6 weeks prior.

A common theme in our discussions of New Zealand conservation is that it is necessary to kill certain animals to protect the life of another. Animals labeled as “pests” are slaughtered in huge numbers while “native” or “endemic” species are fiercely protected. Our group discussions have brought up differing opinions and some heated debates on the subject. Some would argue that it is our ethical responsibility to clean up a man-made mess such as an introduced species that is damaging biodiversity. Others feel that animals like stoats deserve to live, or would cost far too much time and money to bring about even a small decrease in their numbers.

The time that I spent with Andrew doing this kind of field work has really cemented my feelings on the issue. While checking the stoat traps, I could actually connect with a species that is directly benefiting from their implementation. The yellow head bird that I mentioned earlier is making a measurable comeback in the area due to the efforts of hopeful people like Andrew. Seeing the action come full circle combined with Andrew’s enthusiasm has made me a believer in this grisly practice. It may be a messy job, but someone has to do it to protect the unique biodiversity in such a unique and wonderful place like New Zealand.

- Jacob Kaufman

 

At the beginning of our trip, during our time on the North Island, Mt. Cook (Aoraki) in the the distance many kiwis told us how beautiful the South Island was and how much we should look forward to our time here.  I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than the black sand beaches, luscious forests and amazing sunsets.  Once we arrived on the South Island I was blown away by the scenery and the wide open spaces of the high country.  I felt privileged to spend so much time in the part of the country that is so admired by the people of New Zealand.

My work experience in the South Island involved working with Andrew Shepard.  Our work group included approximately ten students, and we spent the two days weeding and planting trees.  Although the weeding wasn’t especially entertaining, we eventually learned that we were caring for the trees previously planted by the last EMU Cross-cultural group.  It was powerful for me to see the University’s lasting influence on the land of New Zealand.  My experience planting trees the next day was very meaningful for the same reason.  I feel like much more than a student just visiting and passing through, now I know I can leave something behind that will have a lasting impression on the earth.  Maybe the trees I helped plant will outlive me.

During the remainder of our stay in the South Island the group has discussed a lot about our impact on the earth.  I’ve realized that it is our responsibility as Christians to care for the earth, and doing this service project has certainly helped me come to that conclusion.  New Zealand has given me such beauty and so many wonderful experiences; it’s been a privilege to give back in a positive way.   I am cherishing these last few weeks I have before leaving the country.

-Rachel Kelley

 

What’s up EMU?!!!!!!

Jacob and Litza with local Maori children at Bruce Bay Okay, so it’s my turn to update everyone back home on how New Zealand has been treating me. To put it simply, it’s been spectacular. I’m sure you’ve read bits and pieces from other journal entries that the communications team has put up. A few highlights for me have been sea kayaking, fishing, black water rafting, white water rafting, and jumping off of waterfalls. I could talk all day about the fun I had doing these things, but to avoid being repetitive, I will refrain. Instead, I will write about my recent farm stay. Gregory Knight and myself were privileged enough to spend 3 nights and 2 days at the home of Willy and Kaye Aspinall on the Makarora River Ranch.

The Makarora River Ranch is a ranching station on the South Island that covers more than 8,000 acres of paddocked pasture land as well as the steep slopes of the nearby mountain range. The owner is Mr. Bobby Hill, a successful businessman and fellow American. He had a very specific vision for this property when he purchased it for just a few million dollars. This vision was to use the paddocks to raise a few sheep and cows, to utilize all the land, but mainly focus on turning the steep slopes of the mountain into a hunting park. He bought up Red Deer and Tahr (a rare goat from the Himalayan Mountains) and has been breeding and raising trophy animals ever since. Mr. Hill doesn’t actually have much to do with the property besides his vision. He actually resides in Texas and has no experience in running a ranch, so he hired Willy and Kaye to manage the ranch. They have one employee, Coop, and the three of them run the place. Mr. Hill also hasn’t done a lot of marketing or advertising of the hunts on the ranch. At 12,000 dollars for one trophy shoot and 1,500 dollars for a bull Tahr, the only legitimate business they get for hunts is wealthy hunters. So Willy has had the difficult task of diversifying the ranch enough to still keep it afloat. This has included collecting velvet from the stag antlers to sell to the Koreas, China, and Japan, and selling venison (a Christmas delicacy) to Germany, as well as expanding the sheep and cattle herds. The ranch was home to some 2,000 Perendale sheep, 650 Angus-Hereford beef cattle, several hundred Red Deer, and a few hundred Tahr roaming around the mountain tops in the top paddocks.

Greg and I went into our farm stay expecting to be worked hard and fed well. We were not disappointed. We spent the majority of the first day splitting and loading wood to heat the different buildings around the farm. We had four meals a day and it seemed like we were always stopping to eat, but we didn’t complain because we were always hungry. The second day we did a lot of little jobs; anything from loading wood, to unloading these giant heavy fence posts,(which 58 year old Willy did with ease and Greg and I struggled to keep up) to bottle feeding orphan lambs and a calf. But the afternoon was the highlight of my time working on the ranch for sure.

As we finished with lunch, Willy was trying to think of a good job for us to do while still getting the experience of the ranch. He settled on sheering sheep. This, as I had learned already from several Kiwis on my travels, was a must during my time in New Zealand. So I was excited to get a shot at it. We ran two wild ones who had not been sheered with the main herd. Willy did the first one, just zip, zip, zip and it was done. The fleece was all in one piece ready to go. Then it was our turn. Greg insisted that I go first, so I sat it down, held its feet above its head, held the head between my legs, and started sheering. I quickly realized that it wasn’t quite as easy as Willy made it look. After about ten minutes bent over this stupid ewe I tapped out and let Greg have a try. I had made a mess of it and cut the sheep all up everywhere. I had done the easy chest part and left Greg with the hard parts. Wool was everywhere and it was hard to see where to run the razor, so Greg, who forgot we were trying to keep the coat in one piece, started sheering pieces off and throwing them to the side. I caught a quick glance of horror in Willy’s eye, and when he saw me looking at him he just smiled. After 10 minutes or so, Greg was exhausted so Willy went for a minute of two, cleaned it up a bit, and let me finish up. Soon, there was another bald little sheep, although I don’t know how happy she was with her hair cut. It was shoddy at best and she had about half a dozen holes up the legs and back. Willy said it wasn’t as bad as it looked and that we did just fine for our first time.

That night, while I was waiting for my shower, I sat out on the front step looking out as the sunset behind the snow-capped mountain at the skyline. I had cow crap on my boots, several great big popped blisters on my left hand, a large gash on my right hand, deer hair on my gloves, lamb blood all over my pants, and the truth is I was more happy at that moment than I’ve been all trip, which is really saying something.

Well, that is all I got. Y’all will just have to track me down when I get back and ask how the rest was. I have a great story about diving nude through underwater caves from free travel which is hilarious. But until then, don’t miss us too much. There is just a month or so until we will be in for a chapel.

Stay classy EMU,

-Jacob David Wheeler

Ngatiawa community

Sunday, October 14

Dinner in the warm kitchen at Ngatiawa Today we left Otuku Marae and traveled to the Ngatiawa (the g is silent) community. When we first arrived, the sparseness hit us immediately. The housing, mostly under construction, held no enduring touch of creativity, as if it slid off the symmetrical 90 degree angles and bare complexion. Small patches of grass in sight were swallowed by dusty pathways and a parking area. I was overpowered by confusion with a greater sense of doubt. The article I’d read didn’t help much, as I had formulated an image of a presumptuous community who embraces intentionality, with all of the self-righteous attitudes that so often overshadow the good. It was also apparently a Pakeha community that ran itself as a Marae, and we’d already lived in Maori Maraes for several nights on various occasions. The concept of biculturalism was as foreign to me as the woman standing outside of our bus with the patchwork dress and horn-rimmed glasses.

We were led inside a large room with a few worn couches, the space immediately creating a bit of an echo as 20-some of us shuffled in. Glancing around the crowd about two-thirds our size, I found kind eyes and welcoming smiles. An obviously Pakeha man, looking the same age as a few of my peers, began speaking in Maori. We’d experienced a powhiri (Maori welcoming ceremony) several times before. The first few times, the words of speeches worked themselves through our inexperienced ears. Although they held no translated meeting, they held meaning in the sounds. As Maori words lift off the tongue, there’s a rounded echo quality, as if each sound reverberates off the sides of the mouth as they escape. Yet as we’ve sat through these lengthy foreign speeches before, I must admit they’ve lost a bit of the romantic quality they once held. However, this Pakeha man spoke the language as well as some Maori. Each sound had been practiced, each word studied. And, unlike a few others on Maraes, it added a quality in its brevity. It was followed by the waiata (a Maori song) ‘Te Aroha’.  What came out wasn’t presumptuousness, but humility.

Over the next few days we spent at Ngatiawa, this humility continued to reveal itselfJen Shenk conquers the mountain! in various ways. From the meals that were just as delicious as they were organic, to the 3-a-day chapel services held in the gorgeous newly built wooden structure. These times of worship were my favorite. The flickering of the flames that each person held seemed to dance to the Taize-style chants. It wasn’t the four part harmony that non-Mennonites and non-singers like myself were terrified by. Rather, these simple repeating phrases unified all of our voices together: the visitors and the residents sharing in one experience. Each time the phrase is sung, it reaches a depth of meaning that only comes with repetition.

When we left, we had visited a community rich with experiences and passion. I’m sure that each of us was inspired by every person we met, as they shared their stories of radicalism and migration. Some were even arrested as a result of their determination towards change. Justin Duckworth, the founder of Ngatiawa encouraged us, saying, “Disobey your parents. There’s nothing worse than a 20-something year old who’s boring”.

-Jennifer Shenk

 

Sunday, October 21

 Once Were Warriors

From the mountains of the north

To the slums of the south

From the blood of the mighty

To the labor of the weak

From the deeps of the forest

To the shades in the jails

From the pride of their ancestors

To the shame of their mothers

From the line of the brave

To the ones who gave up hope

Once were Power

Once was Fire

Once were Warriors

- Litza Laboriel

Litza makes a new friend

Sustaining cultural tradition and the environment

October 3, 2012

Keeping Your Feet

Jacob Wheeler does the Hongi with a Maori warrior Staying on the marae was intriguing because of the contrast it offered to North American natives: maraes dot the landscape in New Zealand and you don’t have to travel far to find one.  The Maori have a community base that allows for an effect on national politics, and despite differences of opinion between one Maori to another, as in any community, there is, all the same, a nationwide understanding of being one people.  It is good to see and hear of the rebuilding of the community through a grassroots movement of a people to rebuild the language base, re-adhere to the communal and traditional functions of ancestral things  (whare nui on a marae), and utilize the ancient forms of respectful protocol in entering and leaving the marae.  It shows an ability to regain traditional practice in the context of modern society and the relevance of doing so.

-Jonathan Fretz

 

September 29, 2012

There’s No Knowing Where You Might be Swept Off to

It seems like forever ago that I stepped out of the airport into the On their day off some students visited obbiton, The Lord of the Rings set, and danced in the party field 9 degree Celsius air of New Zealand’s last day of winter in shorts and flip flops.  We are a third of the way through the semester, and so far I have jumped off of waterfalls and ash dunes, floated through a cave on a small inflatable by the light of glow worms hanging above me, struggled to make my way through the dense diverse Waipoua forest of Northland, and stood on top of countless tall, steep, rolling green hills that suddenly give way to cliffs that drop straight down into the beautiful blue of the Pacific.

I’ve been a botanist, identifying trees and plants under the guidance of nationally known conservationist Stephen King, and an enthusiastic birdwatcher on the island reserve of Tiritiri Matangi.  I’ve picked up quite a few new colloquial words and phrases, especially from my wonderful host family in Auckland, and I’ve become a total Kiwi when it comes to Rugby, cheering my head off when the All Blacks beat archrival South Africa recently.  I’ve also realized how true it is that the rest of the world knows more about American politics than many Americans do, let alone foreign policies.  I’ll greatly miss pavlova; pig feet, not so much.  As an [Environmental] Sustainability major, I was overly excited by the electricity saving on/off switches present on all of the outlets themselves here, the half flush option found on a number of toilets, and the prevalence of the use of clothes lines over that of dryers.  The small town of Raglan was especially encouraging and inspirational, being able to boast that 75% of its waste is diverted from landfills, with a commitment to a sustainable lifestyle that can be seen and felt through larger projects as well as small details.

We are currently in the midst of a string of marae stays, where sleeping in one big room strengthens as well as tests the bond of our group, and where we experience firsthand understanding of Maori practices, which have kept alive their culture, whose beautiful language and associated images are an integral part of this country’s identity.  After being welcomed onto the grounds through a series of speeches and songs in the native tongue, we step inside the whare. Removing our shoes to leave the discord of the world outside, we enter into the peace of the meeting house that represents the body of the tribe’s founding ancestor, covered by intricate carvings that all have a part in telling their story.

-Eric King

Understanding legacies of the Maori and the kauri trees

September 18, 2012

Patrice Hostetter A large part of our studies in New Zealand is looking at the Maori culture and their relationship with the Pakeha (non-Maori people). We recently were able to listen to Malcolm Patterson, a political activist for the Marae that he was a part of, where he was the culture and heritage officer. The hill that the Marae was located on was the place where a major protest of the Treaty of Waitangi occurred. Patterson told us about life on the Marae and his history. One thing that I noticed about his talk was how much he valued his ancestry and their land. He told us that when he was a young boy, his grandfather took him out to the hill and told him that this was his land and that he needed to take care of it. They just have a very deep connection to their home and their ancestors. Later in the week, we had the opportunity to visit the Treaty house in Waitangi. This area was where the controversial Treaty of Waitangi was written in 1840. There we were able to go into a Maori meeting house that was built to show the Maori participation in the makings of the Treaty. It was a beautiful building with carvings all around the inside of it, representing the different characteristics and ancestors from every tribe. To continue our Maori studies, we were able to talk to Sam Chapman, who is a respected figure in restorative justice issues. His work and calling revolves around working through members of the Mongrel gang, one responsible for a majority of violence in Auckland. He takes members into his house and works with them and transforms them. He told us that many of the gang members have been rejected from their Maraes and their families, and that the gang life is all they know. Sam has and hopes to continue to provide an alternative to the negative influences. He focuses on reconciliation and restoring their way of life. Sam, Malcolm, and the Treaty House have shown us just parts of this amazing culture, and I can’t wait to see more.

-Patrice Hostetter

September 13, 2012

What a beautiful morning! I say that a lot here, but how could you not?  I’m writing beside a stream just down from camp.  It is still a native stream, so no trout – still beautiful though.  I’ve seen some birds; one was a tui, not sure about the others.

Yesterday was a cool day.  We got a break from museums and lectures and were able to explore the kauri forest.   First, we went to the Waipoua Forest where Stephen King, a well-known Jim, Kathy, and Stephen King in front of an ancient kauri tree conservationist, let us walk around.  He showed us some of the native plants and trees and explained just how complex their life cycle is.  We then traveled to a kauri forest where some of the largest kauri trees are located.  One of them had a circumference of nearly 50 feet!  Stephen King explained that some of the mammoth trees were 2000 years old.  It’s crazy to think that the tree I was looking at was alive while Christ was walking the earth.  I can only imagine what else these trees have seen in history.

After the kauri forest, we went to a tree farm that Stephen King maintained.  While there, we weeded baby kauri trees and helped him out with anything else he needed.  To reward us for our help we went up to a hill and planted a small kauri tree.  The tree was seven years old and has another 993 years to go before it will reach maturity.  We will never be able to see it grow high and mighty while we are on this earth, but someday we will be able to look down and see a full grown kauri tree planted by students from EMU.

-Aaron Spicher

Breathtaking Beauty

There and Back Again

Friday August 31, 2012

Our whole group New Zealand is seriously the most beautiful place in the entire world. We arrived at the airport and as soon as I stepped outside I was met by the crisp, clean air. It smelled like fall everywhere which was awesome because fall always makes me feel at home. We were driven to One Tree Hill by our guide Lyndsey. One Tree Hill is a very large mount in Auckland that makes one feel as if they stepped off the bus and onto the shire! Rolling green hills surrounded me as did beautiful mama sheep and their baby lambs. I took deep breaths constantly—like I was trying to get the crisp morning air to fill me up completely. At the top of One Tree Hill there is now a monument where a very tall tree once stood. There is some controversy surrounding the tree. The Maori people didn’t want the tree on top of their paa. It was cut down during a protest and replaced by a monument. The monument looked cold to me and was nothing compared to the surrounding beauty. You could see all of Auckland and just so much beauty! I felt like I might bubble over with pure excitement. I love New Zealand and this wonderful group of people I am with.

-Bonnie Rae Fisher

 

The Dead Marshes

Saturday September 1, 2012New Zealand Week 1

Well, I thought I was a size 4 but the morning before going to Karekare beach I found out otherwise while trying on wetsuits, which I found out only keep you dry when water is below your armpits. Our day was to be spent river hiking through sprawling canyons laid out in the perfect serpentine shape. The view ahead consisted of layers of green mountains and blue skies. As we tramped over rocks and grasses, inevitably taking some accidental dips, the group was able to have some good bonding time meeting each obstacle that came along. As we left the canyons, we came across marshes I’m pretty sure were straight from Lord of the Rings. Maybe it’s because we’re in New Zealand, but every sight we come across seems to have been a scene that was filmed somewhere in the trilogy. I digress. The black sand dunes were the last lap. As the sun set while we walked the dark shores, the melodies of nature surrounding us were louder than it had been the entire day. And just as the marshes were, the group was dead tired from a long day in the mountains.

-Cutter Chisnell