Archive for September, 2010


This week we spent 4 days in a town called Opoutere, which lies on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. It was about a 2-hour drive from Quest. It is a super popular holiday spot for many Kiwis. Our hostel was situated right on the beach and the view couldn’t have been more fantastic. Down near the mudflats of the estuary you could see eels at night time (with ample head lights). The eels live there for their whole lives (~70 years!), reproduce a couple of miles upshore, and then die. Their offspring then come back to the same estuary and the process is repeated. Up the street you could see glow worms on the ledges besides the road. They were pretty fascinating.

We took part in a Shellfish Monitoring Survey that benefits the local estuary in Wharekawa Harbor. Each morning we woke up for low tide in order to get our surveying done. We had to dig up a small area of mud and put all of it into a sieve. We then measured each variety of shellfish (cockles, wedges, pipi, etc). Some of our sites had under 10 shellfish while others had over 200! Two of the three days were fantastic weather: nice and sunny, and minimal wind. The other day, however, was miserably cold and WET. It wasn’t the sort of rain that just gets you wet. Nope, it was raw to the bone. Our feet and hands were exposed the whole time, which made it that much worse. We only stayed out for about an hour before the leaders called it quits. It was starting to rain horizontally…

When we weren’t kayaking in the estuary, we hiked up to an old Maori pa site to get a better view of the estuary, and that we did. The view was awesome and it stayed sunny! We enjoyed our lunch up there and then headed down.

That evening, we took a walk down to the beach to look do some bird watching with Wendy. We were looking for the Dotterel, which is a threatened species. This particular estuary is a protected breeding grounds for these birds. There are only 1500 left in the world, all located in New Zealand.

photo credit: chris dorich

tapapakanga beach

Last week we headed about 14k down the road to Tapapakanga Beach which happens to be another Regional Park right down the road from us. The goal of the day was to reflect upon what we had seen and experienced thus far in New Zealand.

We were able to explore the beach and just ponder. This particular beach was pretty rocky with loads of organisms to see. A lot of the rocks had little crabs hanging out underneath and they would scurry away when you picked the rock up.

After this, we gathered back under one of the Puhutakaua trees (NZ “Christmas” tree) and were given a little assignment. We had to each draw a tree that basically represented our life. Each part had a different meaning: the roots being people, events, places, and experiences that have shaped you, the trunk being your core values/beliefs, the branches being where you are currently and how you use those values day-to-day and the leaves were aspirations or goals for the future. It was a great-thinking exercise and it was nice to be able to write all this stuff done and sort of assess where I am at this point in life. After that we formed into small groups for another little brain exercise. We had to come up with a way/symbol to represent our idea of sustainability. I was with Cara, Abby, Sarah, and Amanda. We decided on  a hermit crab because of the way it uses its shell as its home and then leaves it when its done for another hermit crab or organism. It is a nice closed-loop cycle that enforces reuse. We called him Bernard, the sustainable hermit crab. Everybody loved him!

After we all explained our ideas, we sat down for lunch and just hung out at the beach for awhile. A couple of people went swimming, but it was a little too cold for me. I was in fleece and my wool hat…

flying into auckland

Well, I’ve almost been in New Zealand for a week now and it feels like I’ve been here for months. I’m totally adjusted to the 16-hour time difference, thanks in large part to the 12+ hour flight which totally threw me off. The EcoQuest campus is located about an hour southeast of Auckland near the Firth of Thames in the village of Whakatiwai (fauk-uh-tee-why). EcoQuest emphasizes living in a way that makes as minimal of impact as possible. We grow a lot of food right in our yard! Lemons, limes, mandarins, grapefruit, tangelos, olives, figs, persimmons, broccoli, garlic, swiss chard, rhubarb, and we even have a banana tree! Our living situation consists of cabins spread out around campus with a communal bathroom/shower/laundry area, called the ablutions. Then there’s the wharekai, or house of food. Our kitchen and eating area is here, but it also doubles as our classroom when we’re not in the field.

Our first excursion off-campus was to the Hunua Ranges about 45 minutes away. It was like stepping back in time, very reminiscent of Jurassic Park. The ferns were like nothing we’re used to, some growing up to 30 feet tall! During the first part of our hike, we had to cross a stream as part of the trail. We were up to our knees in water, but it was a lot of fun!

More pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=203499&id=515993690