Over the last 3 weeks, I’ve gone on several weekend trips, while finishing up classes for the semester. The first trip was to the Fiordlands to hike the Routebourn track; one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. The first day was by far the most difficult. We covered about 15 miles of ground over a 9-hour span, hiking from The Divide where the track starts all the way to the Routebourn Falls hut, which is the second-to-last hut of the trail.
On the way there we saw some majestic sights. The first was a magnificent waterfall that was flowing rather heavily due to rainfall the night before. We walked right past the area where it hits the pool below, and were shrouded in mist.
After passing the halfway point, the clouds started to clear and glorious rainbows that spanned across the mountain range greeted us. I couldn’t believe the great luck we had to experience such beautiful weather, which is not known to be commonplace in the Fiordlands. As we hit the highest point of the Routebourn track, we had a 360-degree view of the area. Beautiful valleys were down below, with a river careening through the mountains and emptying into the Pacific. It was a breathtaking view from which we simply could not move on.
After struggling to continue the hike, not wanting those views to be fleeting memories, we moved on to a rather easy portion of the trail, a flat little jaunt across the mountain, while jumping over several flowing rivers. As we collected ourselves at a small shelter only 1 hour from the finish, we had a bite to eat and took in the beauty. However, the rain started to come down upon us.
We began the final portion, but since it was a group of 7 going at largely different paces, we began to separate, knowing we were closing in on our night’s accommodation. While I scampered down a snowy bank seeing the group leader many meters in front of me, I turned to my left to see a flush valley with a large river carving out the middle. Right before reaching our destination, the river culminated in a large waterfall that flowed with the strength of Poseidon himself. After wondering for several minutes at the sight bestowed upon mine eyes, I walked to the hut and set myself down for the night.
The next day, we took our time waking up, knowing the day’s hike would be less stressful. We went back the way we came, taking in the beauty at a comfortable pace. We rested for the night at the midway hut, before finishing the trail the next day.
The following week, I finished up both my final paper and test of the semester, with a comfortable 2-week break before my final exams. The tests here are taken far more seriously than I have experienced at Hope. You enter the auditorium, and are forced to remove your jacket and place it at the front of the room. The tests are already placed at alternating seats, with 4 different colored booklets at each one to alter the questions to prevent any foul play. The rest is treated like a standardized test, with the proctor at the front reading instructions before the clock starts and you open your test. While my classes haven’t been overly difficult, that type of atmosphere is most definitely not cohesive with my academic abilities.
This previous weekend, a few friends and I took a day trip south to the Catlins, where we explored the Petrified Forest. Here is Geology major Daniel Leaman’s description:
“The Petrified Forest is an extensive fossil record of a Jurassic flood event that deposited tree trunks and plants amidst volcanic sediments. The location of the Petrified Forest, now known as Curio Bay, was a relict fluvial plain surrounded by several volcanoes. Igneous sediments from these volcanoes mixed with flood water and organic debris, and were quickly deposited at Curio Bay. Due to the high silica content of igneous sediments, the flood debris underwent the silification process in a matter of weeks. The Petrified Forest is an extremely rare and well-preserved outcrop of Jurassic fossils and sedimentary formations.”
After a short time walking around this area, I spotted an extremely rare Yellow-eyed Penguin. There are only about 4,000 left, and South Eastern New Zealand is the only place in the world where they can be spotted by tourists. After wandering around a large, nearby waterfall, we headed home, jubilated by our stupendous afternoon.
Now, as I prepare for finals, I look ahead to the coming weeks that will be filled with more traveling, sad goodbyes, and last-minute planning, and I know that my memories will flood outward through my soul every time I encounter a willing ear from henceforth.