Don’t worry, I did arrive in New Zealand, not Greenland (also greenland is icy, not grassy).
Well, in my last post when I told the Universe to throw whatever it had at me, the Universe answered.
Midway through my second flight of the day I woke up to a message from the captain on the loudspeaker:
“Well folks, we’re going to have to land in Ontario. The winds are too strong to land in LA, & we don’t have enough gas to stay in the air.”
Now, I was half asleep & slightly disoriented. So the first thought that went through my mind was, WTF CANADA?! Little did I know about 30 miles from LAX (my intended destination) lies Ontario, California. So no, no I did not go to Canada today.
Anyway, slight panic quickly ensued because I was quite sure that if I missed my flight from LAX to AKL (Auckland, New Zealand), Southwest Airlines was not going to pick up the bill. Thankfully, a wonderful Urban Planning professor & her husband sitting next to me distracted me with tales of Typhus outbreaks caused by contaminated water before the industrial revolution, & the beginning of today’s municipal infrastructure in the United States (light topic ‘eh?).
After about an hour & a half of listening to a screaming baby (bless those parents) & not knowing how I would get to LAX in order to catch my next flight, the pilot announced that we were cleared for takeoff & would be arriving at LAX within a half hour. The flight from Ontario, Cali to LA was 15 minutes take off to landing. Fastest flight of my life. From there I went to claim my baggage, go through international security and sit at my gate.
At the gate I finally found a familiar face, or rather a familiar backpack. Spotting the only Duluth Pack other than mine in the airport I found a few fellow Duluthians. As we shared excited/anxious laughs the anticipation to finally arrive in New Zealand grew & grew.
Not only is LAX the biggest airport I’ve ever been to, but it’s also the most expensive. In three hours I managed to burn through a hundred bucks. One $20 salad, one $12 beer, & one $70 international sim card later, I was ready to hop on my 13 hour flight.
This was the coolest/largest plane I’ve ever been on, & as I boarded I most definitely resembled a kid in a candy store. There were 9 seats across, a huge first class, polarized windows, plenty of movies to watch at my fingertips, two warm meals, & and a complementary blanket & pillow all for the cheap price of 900$. Luckily our flight was 2/3 empty so I was able to sprawl out & get a decent nights sleep.
Upon arrival in New Zealand we went through customs without any hiccups, found showers at the airport to clean up in (thank god), & found the rest of our group from UMD. We then boarded a bus & drove to Leigh. The drive was beautiful & not too long as the very small community of Leigh is located just north of Auckland.
After arriving on the reserve we were let loose to explore. The Goat Island Marine reserve that we are staying at is beautiful! It is a no take marine reserve, which means you can not take anything from the environment. Not even sea shells. Because it is a no take reserve the marine life is thriving in it’s seemingly unaltered environment.
*side note: when my professor told us it was a no take marine reserve I had a shell in my hand I was going to take with me. Sheepishly, I dropped it.
The beach is beautiful & I will most definitely be posting lots of pictures of it later (today’s photos were very poor quality via snapchat), but the best part about today was the coastal hike we went on. The hike wasn’t too long (about 45 minutes), but it covered grasslands, coastal bluffs, and jurassic rainforest terrain. Even on an overcast day, New Zealand does not disappoint with it’s luscious green scenery and breathtaking views.
After a long day of traveling with ups & downs, I am so thankful to be here. The scenery is beautiful, the food is good, & the people are better. Most of the students from UMD knew one or two other people going on this trip, but not all. We all seem to be meshing well with one another, & even finished up the evening playing a few card games.
*We also went over our course syllabus: too bad because I had kind of forgotten I was here to study.
This morning I woke up at 5am because of heavy rainfall (another gift from the cyclone). No worries though, because I’m enjoying listening to the rain & excited for whatever lays ahead.