The New Zealand Program kicked off with a sunrise swim in the Pacific Ocean before breakfast, a briefing then a scavenger hunt across downtown Auckland. The next morning we drove North in pouring rain to the Bay of Islands and a quaint town, Russell, which was once dubbed the 'hell-hole of the Pacific' for its licentious ways! Charles Darwin, on his 'voyage of the Beagle' was so disgusted that he donated money towards the construction of a church, which we visited. In contrast to the early 1800's, Russell is now marketed as 'Romantic Russell'. We enjoyed the hospitality of Janet, a local Maori woman, at her homely accommodation and we introduced the group to Rugby, by going to a local inn to watch the New Zealand 'All Blacks' take on the South African 'Springboks' in a tense match.

The following morning dawned clear and we loaded our bags and a week's food onto a Department of Conservation boat for the short trip across to Urupukapuka Island. Home for the week was a tumble-down house and attached building. The island is spectacularly beautiful and we had it to ourselves for the week. The island is managed by the Department of Conservation to preserve it's rich archeological sites and as a recreation site. Next year, after a pest eradication program, the island will also be home to some endangered species like kiwi.

We spent our days planting trees, painting and re-roofing a historic barn, and cleaning up the site of a historic whaling station. The group loved the Department of Conservation staff we worked with - their obvious passion for the jobs and the depth of their knowledge of the local environment and the area's rich history. Evenings were spent preparing meals and hanging out getting to know each other. The group were very sad to leave the island on Friday and the transformation from a group of people who hardly knew one another to the tight group we are now was amazing!

I'll upload a few photo's to this blog in the next couple of days, so check back soon.


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Author Scott Burnett Posted

Program New Zealand and Fiji Departure 2008