Tag Archives: Things to do

Champlain Abroad goes Tongariro Alpine Crossing

By: Connor Glasset, Secondary Education Major/Global Studies Minor, Champlain College

Kia ora!

Champlain Abroad Students in front of the Emerald Pools. L to R: (back) Meghan, Alexa, Connor, Ali,Seth, Kate Kohl (front) Sarah, Emmalee

On the second weekend in April, the whole Champlain Abroad crew went on a road trip.  The journey began at 6pm outside WSA, when we loaded up the massive twelve-person van that we rented.  Seriously, the thing was a small bus. The first leg of the journey was a 5 ½ hour car ride to the south. Kohl volunteered to take the wheel from our starting point in Auckland all the way to our destination in Tongariro. We only stopped once along the way, in Hamilton, to refuel, eat, and pick up groceries for the next day’s meal.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

AUSM lodge and the spaceship we rented for the weekend.

We arrived in Tongariro a little before midnight.  Another perk of attending AUT is that they have a small lodge, big enough for twelve people, in Tongariro. AUSM, the school’s student union, owns the property and rents it out by the weekend to students at little to no cost. Since we filled almost all of the beds, we each paid $15 a night! The lodge was open plan with one huge space for the combined living/dining/kitchen areas, complete with a wood-burning stove. Off of the central space were three bedrooms with varying numbers of bunkbeds in each and an attached bathroom.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

On Saturday, we were all up and out of the lodge in time to catch the 8am shuttle to the Tongariro National Park. The whole purpose of the trip was to attempt the 12 mile long Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”. We arrived onsite at half past eight and immediately took to the trail. The first two miles or so was an easy walk through a relatively flat and barren igneous rock-filled field at the foot of Mt. Tongariro. We paused for a break at the last bathroom station on the up-hill side of the mountain before continuing on our way.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Starting the hike!

Playtime was over. The next four or five miles were intense. The mountain rose into the clouds with no warning and the trail began to zigzag back and forth across the shear, rocky face. At this point, the path was more of a staircase. Each step was probably a good 18 inches high; luckily for me, I was given the gift of ungodly long legs. Safe to say the quads and the hammies got a nice workout. As everyone went at their own pace, we got spread out a few times on the ascent. We all met back up at the leveling off point where the trail diverged and the choice had to be made to continue on the same path or to do the Mt. Ngauruhoe Summit Trail. We all really wanted to do the Mt. Ngauruhoe trail because the mountain was made famous in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as Mt. Doom. However, it was an extra three hour round trip hike and we were on a timetable because the shuttle back home was meant to pick us up at 4:30pm at the end of the trail. Also, our shuttle driver had cautioned us to not attempt the hike if it was cloudy. Apparently, that trail was much more dangerous and much easier to become lost on. By the time we had reached the trailhead it was nothing but clouds in the sky; we had trouble seeing more than 20 feet in front of us. We decided to save that hike for another, better weather day. We turned left at the fork and went on our way.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The stairs leading up to the stairs that lead to…more stairs.

The next leg of the hike was certainly not for people with a fear of heights or those
without a strong, adventurous spirit. The next mile or so was much more steep and there were no stairs. As we walked, the rocks shifted below our feet and sent smaller ones tumbling down the mountainside. The trail now was only a few feet wide and on other side of it, the mountain dropped off rather sharply. At one point, there was a chain bolted into the side of the mountain to hold on to as we climbed. At last, we had made it. We sat beside a boulder, to shield ourselves as best we could from the frigid, dew-heavy air that ripped over the crest of the mountain, and we ate. Continue reading

Waiheke Food and Wine Festival

By: Connor Glasset, Secondary Education Major/Global Studies Minor, Champlain College

Kia ora!

April 2nd was a glorious day. It’s easy to wake up and get moving when you have a full day of wine tasting and eating ahead of you. With that being said, I still managed to sleep in. Luckily, the ferry ride that I had pre-booked for the Waiheke Food and Wine Festival was scheduled to leave at 12:30pm.  I meet up with Ali Sousa and Meghan Richards in the WSA lounge and we made our way down to the ferry and later on to the festival together.

Riding on the top of the ferry, we enjoyed the warmth of the sun as we crossed the harbor on the 40 minute ride to Waiheke Island.  When we stepped off the ferry, we walked on to a waiting shuttle and headed towards the Te Motu vineyard where the event was being held.

As we walked through the front gates we flashed our IDs and got our 18+ wristbands. Also included in the price of admission was an engraved wine glass and a voucher for a free wine tasting at one of the vendor booths. My free voucher was for one glass of wine from the Wild on Waiheke booth.

Wine tasting at the Waiheke Food and Wine Festival

Meghan, Ali and I tasting our free glasses of wine!

Prices varied from booth to booth so naturally we wandered around and scouted them all out before getting in line for our firsts tastings.  Tastings ranged from $2-$4 dollars with full glasses going anywhere from $7-$13.  After a couple of tastings each we decided to enjoy the other facet of the festival, the gourmet food.   Continue reading

Auckland City Limits music festival

By: Connor Glasset, Secondary Education Major, Champlain College Kia ora! The music festival season has officially begun for some of us lucky study abroad students. Kicking off the fifth, and arguably the most enjoyable, season of the year was the Auckland City Limits music festival on March 19th. Lasting only one day, the festival is […]

Continue reading

“Wait, is this a volcano?” Climbing Mount Eden

By: Connor Glasset, Secondary Education Major, Champlain College

Kia ora!

I have been fortunate enough to call three other countries, besides America, my home in my short 21 years of life. In that time I have had the opportunity to travel and explore a baker’s dozen or so more countries. And without fail, I always run into stereotypical American travellers and vacationers. With their socks and sandals combos, fanny packs, NFL jerseys, obnoxious irreverence for everyone else around them and all together ignorance for the history and culture of the places they are visiting, there is nothing more in this world that irks me. However, I must admit with great embarrassment that I happened to be as completely clueless on one such hike up Mt. Eden this week. Although I must assure you, I wasn’t wearing flip-flops and white socks nor do I own any NFL jerseys, but I was completely conscious and respectful of all the other hikers around me. (Sometimes I do wish I had a fanny pack though. Don’t judge me.)

Climbing Mount Eden

Seth Aubin surveilling Auckland from atop the city’s highest point, Mt. Eden.
Captured by Ali Sousa

It was a beautiful, partly cloudy morning when I met up with Seth Aubin and Ali Sousa on the lime green couches in ground floor common room for 9:00am. Advantageously, we decided to make the most of the low 70 degree early morning weather by going for a hike. Allie took the lead leaving WSA, turning onto Symonds Street directing us up the hill toward the Mt. Eden region of Auckland. After about a fifteen-minute walk out of the central business district and through the more residential streets of Mt. Eden, we arrived at the car park at the base of our destination. There, we were directed by a kind Kiwi woman that the walking trail we were in search of was off to our right, up the earthen steps. Thanking her, we departed.

Happy is he who hikes. Captured by Ali Sousa

Happy is he who hikes. Captured by Ali Sousa

Now, there are two ways to summit Mt. Eden: along the paved path that was once intended, but no longer used for cars, or by way of the dirt path through the bush. Being adventurers, we naturally chose the latter. The first leg of the trail was the longest and moderately steep. We walked under trees and around bushes; all the while the cicadas hummed, providing us with a natural soundtrack for our journey. At one point, one fell from its perch on an overhead branch, landing on my shoulder. Luckily, Ali quite literally had my back and quickly brushed it away. We came out from under the trees as the path opened onto a clearing and leveling off point on the hill. We stayed for a few moments, let our heartbeats return to normal, and snapped a few photos. Continue reading