Coromandel Peninsula, NZ: are the hot spots worth it?

One of my stops on the North Island a few weeks ago was the Coromandel Peninsula. Its an area just to the east of Auckland (around a 90 minute drive). With only a day or so in the area, I made sure to stop by the “top spots”. When researching where to go, the main two places were: Cathedral Cove & Hot Water Beach…. so its safe to assume I made sure to stop by.


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If you are headed this way: RENT A CAR! The drives everywhere are gorgeous and filled with endless pull-offs.

Stop one: Paeroa

I stayed in an Airbnb just south of the peninsula in a small town called Paeroa. It is home to the famous Kiwi drink “L&P” (theres an L&P cafe, and a massive L&P bottle in the middle of town). But back to the important stuff, my air bnb; it was behind this adorable, rustic cafe called The Refinery.

I’m really bummed I didn’t get the chance to sit down and take it all in (I was running around like a maniac, no surprise). They had a wide array of coffee (which i had on the go), food and also a cute front courtyard filled with lots of greenery.

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Stop two: Thames

Thames is small town just on the southern west coast of the Coromandel. As you can tell from me above, I decided to have lots of fun being a marine biologist (my friends thought I looked like Darla from Finding Nemo, which i now can see).

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More beach sunset pics???? of course!!!

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stop three: Waiau Falls

The next day started with some gorgeous coastal drives (I highly support the western coastal road to drive on, here’s some proof).

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I decided to make the trip up to Waiau Falls. Whats very convenient, is its located just off the road; what is inconvenient, is its located down a windy gravel road that cuts through the center of the peninsula. The North Island really takes the cake with breathtaking trees (don’t worry South Island, cabbage trees I love you). Of course the renown silver ferns, and other ferns for that matter, never disappoint.

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is it worth the trip? I would give it a 50/50 depending if you feel comfortable driving down a loose gravel road.


stop four: Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is on the Eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. It is really easy to find with lots of signs helping the lost tourists, like me. It is famous for its “Cathedral” shaped rock formation (wow, cathedral at Cathedral Cove???), which paints the frame for a gorgeous white sand beach.

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What they don’t tell you, is to get to Cathedral Cove you have to hike up and down a winding path from the car park. Even though the walk one-way only takes about 25 minutes, I wouldn’t say its the kind of stroll to do in flip flops; the scenery is stunning so it made the steep inclines worth it. Of course being a tourist beach it is going to be crowded but the beach wraps around a bit so there’s plenty room to explore. What I found funny, was there was a water taxi that was around 15$-20$ per person and apparently drops you off closer to the car park to decrease your hike up. It was very popular but I was perfectly fine walking it (more money for coffee). I would block off at least 2 hours to do the trip, enjoy the view and walk back.

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is it worth the trip? 100% a must-see!


stop five: Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach is just south of Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel. A hot water stream runs underneath the beach and is exposed around low tide; it is recommended to visit in the period two hours before or after low tide to feel the “hot water”.

(sorry I have no photos! I didn’t want to get my phone soaked!)

It was very crowded; what they don’t tell you is how small the area of the geothermal “hot water” actually is. So most of the foreigners (like me), who went to visit and try their luck, found themselves on the sidelines waiting for a group to leave to take their already dug-out pool. No it is not impossible, but I am assuming those who snatched a good spot in the sand got there well before the recommended two hours before the tide. On top of that, 50% of the already small geothermal beach area makes it difficult to keep a continuous pool of water. As you can guess, the sand caves in, or gets pushed in, or gradually builds up over time.

The pool me and my friends ended up snatching was a decent sized one but was further away from the water. The water was BURNING hot, so the family who dug it had the hot water streaming into a pool of cooler water farther down so it was kept at a more pleasant temperature. Once we had the pool, we were surrounded by those who didn’t have one and were looking for one. Safe to say there is a lot of competition and unneeded drama. OH AND BRING A SHOVEL! Most people didn’t want to share :/

is it worth the trip? Yes I do recommend going for the heck of it, but you have been warned.


As touristy as the Coromandel is, its touristy for a reason; I’m so happy I made the road trip.

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

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Hobbiton Set Tour // Matamata, New Zealand

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I decided last minute to take an adventure to the Hobbiton Movie Set, where both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogy was filmed. I was beyond impressed with the tour of the set & its attention to detail. The movie set is in the middle of no where in the New Zealand countryside; the hills are filled with livestock and imagination.

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The tour itself was roughly two hours, and for what it gave it was pretty reasonable. The movie set is on private land so the only way to see it is by taking a tour. There is a Hobbiton shop and cafe on the outskirts of the private land, but dropping the money for the tour is worth every penny.

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I am not the biggest fan of the movies personally, but I still had a blast. I was ahead a good part of the tour group which never even saw the films (don’t worry i have), so I’ll take it. The scenery is honestly breathtaking in person.

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Everything on the set is real: all the plants, flowers, trees (except for one), etc. The tour is a walking tour around the perimeter of the set.

fun fact: the hobbit holes are scaled differently to give the viewer the idea that the hobbits are so short. Only one is scaled to be life-size at 100%.

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Some of the hobbit holes are fenced off, while others you could walk up to or even walk inside. Although, the indoor scenes were filmed in a studio in Wellington.

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Even after walking by 15-20 hobbit holes, each one is so different. Based on how high up on the hill you are, is how much your hole was worth. Different props are outside each one to specify what kind of hobbit would live there.

fun fact: some of the holes were built only to be featured in a distance in the background for 30 seconds, INSANE!!!

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I was so happy to find out that the time of year I went on a tour, was the perfect time. If you visit during the New Zealand summer, there is little time to stop and take lots of photos due to the influx of people taking the tours.

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I did the tour out of Rotorua. The tour included transportation to and from along with the walking tour. On the bus ride different behind the scene clips were played showcasing what went into making the Hobbit trilogy.

fun fact: the original Lord of the Rings set was taken down after the trilogy, and was made out of synthetic, plastic products. For the Hobbit trilogy, they took two years to rebuild the set on the same farm; that time they built it all to last for years to come, all real wood and products.

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At the end of the tour, is the trip to the Green Dragon. A glass of beer is included (3 different options), or juice, coffee and tea. There is a separate tour that includes an evening buffet inside. I am pretty sure I saw them sell small food items as well.

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The last stop before heading out is the gift shop! I overheard that there is more at this one than the one that is right off the property. Also, there is a gift shop in Rotorua where I caught my tour bus.

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Again, Peter Jackson’s (the director) attention to detail blew my mind.

fun fact: during filming, someone was hired to put laundry up on the lines every morning and take it down at night ONLY so it made footprint indents in the grass.

If you find yourself in the area, or are unsure if you’d enjoy it because you aren’t a hardcore fan, JUST DO IT!!!!!

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Question for you: if given the opportunity to go on the tour would you?

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

Brighton Beach – south of Dunedin, New Zealand

By living in Dunedin, New Zealand for the past three and a half weeks now, I’ve come to terms with how many beaches there are to explore. In my last post, I explored Tunnel Beach just north of my next destination: Brighton Beach.

Brighton is a small village around 45 minutes of a drive south of Dunedin. It was a gloomy Sunday night and my flatmates felt like exploring, so of course I was down.

When we arrived it was an eerie beach evening.

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Without coming to the realization that the sun was due to set soon, we all turned around in awe to see the colors peaking through (and of course the vibrancy only got better)!

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(peep an excited me)

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LOOK AT THOSE COLORS I’M IN SHOCK THAT IT ONLY GOT BETTER FRIENDS!

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I could not help but to continuously take panoramas, so enjoy.

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Visiting here for the first time during high tide, only gets me even more excited to return while its low tide; there were so many little rocks and islands to explore.

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Once the colors started to subside, the eeriness started to return (but with a more serene demeanor).

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What these pictures do not show, is how just after the sunset was in its full fiery, it started pouring (thanks new zealand 🙂


This country continues to surprise me every day. Some intense adventures are coming soon, like a road trip around the north island!!! Keep posted for more of my trips and adventures. This week I will be putting together a list of my favorite coffee spots throughout Dunedin, no I cannot contain my excitement.

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

 

 

 

Tunnel Beach – South of Dunedin, New Zealand

What makes this walk great, is you don’t have to dedicate more than a few hours to take in the views. It’s even more perfect if either of these criteria fit you:

  • you are short on time
  • you aren’t a very experienced hiker

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The walk both down and up is steep, so take it at your own pace. It is more common for people to visit Tunnel Beach when its low tide, but don’t neglect going if its high tide. I visited at high tide, and as you can see, it was still 100% spectacular.

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What I really appreciated about the area was:

there wasn’t just one place to take photos, or one view to admire.

Above is one of the views when reaching the bottom of the trail, from there you have a few options.

Man-made Tunnel

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In the 1870s, a man excavated a tunnel to reach a private beach so his family could be secluded in more privacy. (OOOOOOH)!!!

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The beach is filled with boulders and insane looking rocks & cliffs. It makes a lot of sense why someone would go through the trouble to build a tunnel to get here, the serenity.

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Mini Peninsula

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Head out a bit further along to the peninsula and see the waves crashing along the side and circumferential views of the coast.

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*peep the cheeky little seagull who decided to model for me*

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I plan to go back at low tide soon to see how much more beach and rock is exposed. If people are interested I could either update this post or do another post altogether.

I highly recommend making the pit stop if you are in the area. I did get there by car but there is the Dunedin bus system which has a few routes that stop not terribly far from the beach.


Anyone been to New Zealand and have recommendations for me??

Make sure to comment below if you do!!

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

 

Getting adjusted // living in New Zealand

Hello world,

Getting adjusted has been a bit more hectic than i anticipated. First off, jet lag hit me like a train my first week here: fever, nausea, the whole bit. DON’T WORRY I’M OKAY NOW!

Lectures have started this week and I am finding it a lot easier to get more of a routine down. I am finally picking up on a few things, while also still clueless on others.

1. Dunedin is actually a city, not just a city-like town, but an actual city.

I have never lived in a city before. I’ve never had to wait endlessly to cross busy streets and had been able to walk to a large list of things in center city. To say the least, at first, it was out of my comfort zone. My first night in Dunedin I felt so out of place roaming George Street (one of the main streets), and deciding where to eat dinner. Over time I’ve left my denial behind that Dunedin IS A CITY! I guess in the states I am so used to areas calling themselves a city, when in reality they are far from it. Dunedin is a city, got it.

2. New Zealand is 120x more Eco-friendly than the US.

That could be an exaggeration, or possibly not. When first arriving in the Auckland airport, there were switches everywhere. Every single outlet has these switches and of course the first ones I managed to play with didn’t work no matter what I did with the switch. Slowly I am realizing that they make a lot of sense, and aren’t only a safety thing but an environmental thing (I have been ranting about this and other things on my twitter he he).

Every coffee I have purchased has either been in a biodegradable lid and cup, or compostable. It is also more common to see coffee shops to give discounts for bringing your own coffee cup or mug.

Reusable bags are more of a trend. Its not only better for the environment, but here they are a lot more common and people are accustomed to going out of their way to bring them places (maybe the states will get it eventually?).

3. Sheep run the country more than you think

Sheep are in charge more than I expected. Yes, sheep are common here no doubt. BUT a daily laugh I get from living in Dunedin is the massive trucks that drive through city filled with sheep. One of the main roads through the city is used as a highway for transporting sheep. HOW COMICAL IS THAT!!!!! My favorite is when a few stick their heads out to see what’s going on.

Yep, those are my three main surprises/shocks/fun adjustments I have made in the past week. Maybe one day I will catch on to Celsius, or the way the English I learned growing up is “American English” & not “English English”.

Nonetheless, New Zealand is continuing to excite me every day.

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

First full day exploring Dunedin, NZ

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Dunedin is the second- largest city in the south island of New Zealand. Dunedin is more urban than I expected; you can walk practically anywhere within the lines of the city.

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This past weekend, I had a jam packed day full of exploring around both Dunedin, and its’ surrounding areas.


  1. St. Clair Beach

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First stop is the ocean, are you surprised?

St. Clair is just south of Dunedin and is a popular surfing spot. There are some nice outdoor cafes, but the main draw is the ocean.

2. Sheep

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After a scenic drive on the Otago Peninsula, it was time to tack into a famous icon of New Zealand: sheep. I visited Nature’s Wonders, which offered a sheep sheering demonstration along with any facts you can imagine about wool and the sheep of the area.

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There also was a short herding demonstration.

3. 4-wheeler trek

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What’s awesome about the company mentioned above, is they offer packages where you can see the sheep demonstration and then hop on a 4-wheeler to trek down to sea level. As you can see, the views were green and gorgeous.

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The first official stop was at a Southern fur seal colony (they blend in so well)! Since the fur seal pups were so young, they weren’t daring enough to stray far from mom.


top tip – If you plan it right, say two weeks from now, the pups are about the age where they get curious about humans and will come close for better viewing.


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(I apologize about the quality, I only had my phone on the tour)

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Next up, was to a beach untouched by humans for seventeen years. What I learned was how temperamental yellow eyed penguins are; if one feels they are unsafe or uncomfortable, their entire colony will flee the next day. A general example is blood or other samples were taken humanely from penguins for research, the next day the whole colony fled.

The yellow eyed penguins are known as one of the rarest penguins of the world; different factors play into their decreasing population, like disease and habitat degradation.

A vital tool in viewing the penguins, is doing it in a way that doesn’t break their trust.

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A tunnel and hidden viewing platform (under vegetation) was built to give both the yellow eyed penguins, and also the blue penguins (another species found here) enough room to do their own thing. Conservation is at its prime importance here in New Zealand, and it’s great.

My tour was able to see a yellow eyed penguin strolling on the beach.

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….but… the penguins have a ramp… for when they get curious…

4. Signal Hill

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To get to the top you can either walk it, or drive it. This time it was by car, but next time I’m excited to walk up. Signal Hill is located just north of Dunedin and overlooks the Otago harbor. On top there is some parking and areas to picnic.

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5. Baldwin Street

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Known by the Guinness Book of World Records as the steepest street in the world (even beating San Francisco).

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It is an amusing tourist spot, which attracts many different kinds of people. Some walk it, some make it their work out, and some drive it. Those who drive usually are the ones with rental cars because the trek both up and down I would imagine isn’t great for your car… Also there is barely any room up top to turn around to go back down…. but your call!! While I was there, one group even did the drive two times….hm.

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More personal updates will be posted soon. I caught some sort of sickness while traveling, and with it being mixed with jet lag, it has required a longer adjusting period.

But nonetheless, a lot is to come!

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

 

…let the countdown begin

I leave for New Zealand in two weeks.

I’m going to repeat that to help my personal denial wake up, I leave in TWO WEEKS!!!!!!!!!

how am I preparing? did I actually start packing? what do I still need to get? culture shock, what!?

Packing has begun (as of today), and I am trying to be as minimalistic as possible. I’ve always been pretty good at packing and going over what I need and what I don’t. I have gradually been crossing off things from my “opposite-land” list (almost done EEEEEEE), and surprisingly don’t need to get as much as I thought I did!!!

I think most of the preparation for my departure abroad is mental preparation. I am still in shock thinking that this is happening. I feel it won’t hit me until I leave the states. I have been so consumed with what is in front of me that I am not necessarily thinking of where I will be two weeks from now. On one side, it’s a good thing because I’m actively practicing one of  my goals (see: What I hope to accomplish abroad). Although, on the other, I don’t want to be consumed with so much awe that I get distracted (let’s be real I am going to sit on the beaches and stare at fur seals and sob #marinebiomajorsunite).

Once I get there, I think I am going to be so overly ecstatic with everything new and exciting that I will be living on a cloud for a while; there’s nothing wrong with expressing happiness and excitement.

Any tips for me? for possible culture shock? packing? breathing?

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

What I hope to accomplish abroad

Yesterday I sat down and expressed in my journal what my personal goals are for my adventure abroad to New Zealand. I didn’t realize until writing them down, how many there are (looks like i’ll be keeping myself busy!).

  1. Focus on what’s in front of you: I tend to look towards the future and forget about what is going on around me in that moment. I’m an avid planner; I love to organize my life months in advance (like “oh! what else could I be doing now?” or “where will I be going next week?”). One that I am currently battling with myself, is: “Where else could I travel to during my semester? What other countries could I get to explore?” (ash, calm down and breathe for a hot minute). I hope to step back and instead admire the beauty and my opportunities in New Zealand first.
  2. Spend more time outside: Along with admiring my surroundings, I want to take a break from my phone and laptop and spend more time taking in the scenery. Hopefully I will go for more walks/runs and find excuses to instead, go outside (maybe even combine the two and work on my laptop while at an outdoor cafe? hmmm). thumb_IMG_2088_1024
  3. Be wise about money: I didn’t find this one surprising since money is a stressful topic. For me personally, it is a lot of making sure I am working enough at home to save up for travel and school. I hope that with my new “planner” obsession, I will be able to track my spending more and keep an eye on what funds to keep aside for the weeks to come. On the other hand, I do love to treat myself, especially to a nice coffee; so for me, it will be important to find a balance between the two.
  4. Gain connections both socially and in the field: I am not only traveling to New Zealand because I think it is an awesome place to visit, but I am for my future science carer (for a more in-depth reasoning of “why New Zealand” check  this out). I hope that with my planned research for my capstone project, I will able to secure connections in a country that has endless opportunities for a marine biology major. On the other hand, I hope to make some life-changing friendships with memories I can look back on for the rest of my life (awwwwww!). thumb_IMG_2067_1024
  5. Learn new techniques, specifically in research: Additionally, I aspire to pick up techniques and ways of thinking that I have yet to learn. With my hopefulness of conducting my own research one day, my excitement to learn will sure help me push through.
  6. Step back & be proud of accomplishing a big dream of mine: It takes a lot in me to be proud of myself, I think that goes along with my first personal goal; I do not always step back and realize how far I’ve come. Studying abroad has been on my mind since first actualizing that it exists. Before enrolling into university, I thought it would be even cooler if it was possible to learn at a different school each semester. Although, now I realize that my idea isn’t actually practical. I am, in fact, very happy with my choice to get my undergraduate degree at the University of Maine.thumb_IMG_2090_1024

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

foot

 

Fortress Hohensalzburg – a photo diary || Salzburg, Austria

When visiting Austria this past summer, Salzburg was one of the main stops. Besides the attraction of “Sound of Music” tours and filming locations, the Hohensalzburg Castle was pretty hard to miss; It overtakes the Salzburg skyline.

The fortress was built in the eleventh century, under the rule of the Archbishop at the time. The castle only went under siege once, in the German Peasant’s War in 1525. By the 19th century, Hohensalzburg was made a staple tourist attraction. It is known as one of the largest and best preserved castles of 11th century Europe.

At the time, I sadly only had my iphone for taking photos so I apologize for the quality.

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To make it to the castle you have two options: hike or take the tram. To save money, my family and I hiked (yes, I mean hike. the pathways/stairs get very steep at the top). Although, the steepest part is at the end; so, even if you take the tram, which goes almost to the top, you will have to hike up the steepest part (which thankfully had spread out steps to help hold your grip).

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There was some signs showing us where to go, but at times it was guessing (& thinking, well ok I know I’m going to head up somehow…).

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A good tip is knowing that there is an admissions fee to enter the fortress grounds. I don’t remember it being that reasonable, especially if all travelers are adults.

After admissions there is, in fact, another steep hill, and a few staircases!!! (Yay!! time to treat yourself to some Austrian pastries!!!!!) The path opens to a large court with a gift shop, restrooms, etc.

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Upon entering the very top, there is a few museum-type exhibits going into the history of the fortress (the lines get long but move quick).

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The top has multiple 360 viewing areas. The amount of photo opportunities even on a cloudy day is insane.

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I recommend leaving yourself a lot of time to explore all the rooms and viewing areas. The views are worth every broken sweat. Times like this, only make me want to explore European castles to the fullest extent possible.

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Continue reading “Fortress Hohensalzburg – a photo diary || Salzburg, Austria”

why New Zealand?

A question I get often is why New Zealand? Why would you want to study abroad there? Why go so far away?

I find myself drawn to the mountains: the elevation, the dramatic landscapes, etc. I vacationed to Alaska a lot growing up (I mean I’m still growing up.. but you catch my drift), and seeing what rocky coasts had to offer struck an interest with me.

With my major at university being marine biology, the undergraduate programs abroad are limited. Europe has more graduate level programs over undergrad, and with myself being fortunate enough to have traveled there a few times before, I was craving something different. South America is rich with options in a tropical scene, so that was indeed an option. Although, that part of the world has not sparked my priority just yet (Galapagos, I’ll come for you soon).

A far-off-opposite-land existed in a distant dream. Oceania is far from me, to say the least, but distance has never stopped me; It brought the difference I yearned for. My father has told me stories about his trip to Australia and New Zealand, and raved about the landscapes of the South Island of New Zealand. With that in the back of my mind, I tended to flip immediately to the “Oceania” section of the massive study abroad books. The books were filled with programs I could choose from, and some specialties of each university.

I came across the University of Otago, which is located in the southern part of the South Island of New Zealand. The specialty courses listed happened to be marine biology, and with further research, I found how famous their science program is. Long story short, I had my heart set on attending this university and was accepted this past summer.

My excitement cannot be contained for how this semester abroad with advance my future career as a marine biologist.