By Julia Franquesa ’18
This blog post is written in response to Franquesa’s fall 2017 3-week trip to New Zealand with Professors Doug Brattebo and Acacia Parks.
My study abroad trip to New Zealand was far beyond anything I could have imagined. I knew that New Zealand was known for its vast natural landscapes and untouched regions, but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced on this amazing adventure. We went on three hikes in three very different regions, each with its own set of spectacular views. The first hike we went on, which lasted a total of four hours, was climbing part of the volcano where the region of Mordor (in the Lord of the Rings movies) was filmed located in the Tongariro National Park. This first hike was no easy task, and there were multiple moments when I didn’t believe that I would reach the top, but I persisted and I’ll be forever relieved that I did not give up. The midpoint peak was definitely worth the grueling walk, and the view took my breath away. Not only could we see the vast reaches of the park, but we could also see the crystal lakes well known for their vibrant colors. It was truly amazing and now I can cross climbing a volcano off my bucket list!
The second hike we did was in a glacial region of New Zealand known as Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Again we experienced truly spectacular views and I couldn’t believe how diverse New Zealand could be. Every time we turned a corner a different breathtaking view awaited us and I was left astounded by it all. Again the journey was hard, this time the wind was freezing and so strong it knocked a few members of our group to the ground! But like before, I persisted to reach the end, and like before I was not disappointed by what I found. By the end of our journey we were greeted by a vast lake where chunks of glaciers had fallen from the mountains above. Of course, the temperature at this point was freezing and I could barely keep my hands out of my pockets long enough to snap a picture! Never in my life had I experienced such a raw example of nature’s force and I felt empowered by what we had accomplished that day. Not only had we bared the harsh winds and dropping temperatures, but we also crossed three long bridges that swayed and bounced as people walked across. It was a little frightening, but I honestly found it extremely thrilling (yes I’m one of those people who will purposefully bounce to make such a bridge sway thus further terrifying my already anxious friends). We were never required to walk the full course for any of our hikes, but my advice to anyone planning on embarking on similar trips is to push forward no matter how daunting the task may seem. These hikes were once in a lifetime of opportunities and reaching the end not only instilled me with more confidence in my abilities, but it also left me with memories that I will treasure for all my life.