Written by Hallie Chavez ’18
This blog post is written in response to Hallie’s fall 2017 3-week trip to New Zealand with Professors Doug Brattebo and Acacia Parks.
While in Dunedin, we participated in a group discussion with Dr. Tamlin Conner at the University of Otago where we learned about the Maori history of one of her Ph.D. candidates. We also explored The Octagon, or the city center, including a tour of Dunedin’s Cadbury chocolate factory and a fish and chips picnic on the lawn outside the historic Dunedin Railway Station. As we visited during New Zealand’s summer, we shared the lawn with students taking graduation photos and Hiram’s own terrier had his picture taken with a mime on stilts. At the head of the Otago Harbour, Dunedin brought us close to the Otago Peninsula. At the top of the peninsula, we visited Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle (built in 1871). While the castle itself was beautiful, the view of hills and the Pacific Ocean from the top of the tower proved to be the most memorable part. The Otago Peninsula is also known as the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand, largely because it features the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the Royal Albatross. Located at the Taiaroa Head of the peninsula, we were also lucky enough to visit the Royal Albatross Centre, which serves as home to a colony of over 100 Northern Royal Albatrosses. There, we could use binoculars to watch the natural behavior of the giant birds (boasting a wingspan of 106-120 inches). We also learned about Fort Taiaroa, established in 1885 to protect against potentially invading Russians. As New Zealand was not the most strategic land to attack, and thus there was not much military action happening in the area, some lucky soldiers were put on albatross duty.
While a beautiful city, most foreigners are more likely to have heard of the cities Auckland or Wellington over Dunedin. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city, located in the North Island, and serves as home to about a third of New Zealand’s total population. While there, we visited the Sky Tower and took a bus tour of the city. For being the densest city in the country, Auckland was not crowded as one might think. Comparing it to a city like New York, Auckland was much cleaner (we saw a number of people walking around barefoot), brighter (with lots of green space), and roomier. It is also very touristy. The capital, Wellington, (on the North Island) is a much more popular city, at least among the locals we met, and we were able to visit Parliament. The Executive Wing of the New Zealand’s Parliament is referred to as the Beehive because of the building’s resemblance to a beehive. Wellington was also the city where we most noticed how chill the country, and Kiwi’s themselves, are. Walking around the capital at 5 pm, you will notice that just about everything except restaurants and bars are closed. The Kiwi’s value their family time, so stores and other such places close so that retail workers may also have the time to be with their family. The Kiwi’s seem to need only their families and their land to be happy, a lesson as beautiful as it is simple.