Kia Ora (hello) New Zealand! VNTRbirds have finally made it to the other side of the world. Looking out of the windows of another long plane ride, TUB could see the ocean and the land that would be their new home for 4 months stretched out beneath them.

Walking through immigration and chatting with a bunch of friendly Kiwis, customs was in sight. The stop everyone was dreading. Hoping no one’s hiking boots would be deported, and sea shells would stay for the whole trip, tensions were high. Kelley and Jaime approached the examination tables and started to unload all the declared items. Kelley had to throw away her palm leaf pin wheel and a beautiful flower she had pressed in her journal because it was too “fresh”.  Can’t contaminate this beautiful country of New Zealand!

Finally repacking and going through another x-ray and metal detector, these birds and the rest of the TEAN group met with their orientation leaders, Lauren and Michelle. With one Australian and one Kiwi, these Americans were lost with the lingo.  Sharing laughs and confusion, the Quadrant Hotel was the next stop. Carrying the two 50lb checked bags once again, VNTRbirds were rewarded with finger sandwiches and other classy snacks. The view of the city from the Quadrant is spectacular, with the harbor at one end and the city center at the other.

Of course the next day, TUB had to be morning doves. The sunrise over the harbor pulled everyone to their balconies. ‘The land of the long white cloud’ welcomed the group with a bright and sunny day. Dressing in warm and comfy clothing, the girls grabbed their cameras and sunglasses and ran down to the lobby to meet the bus.  Chris, the bus driver, started narrating the trip. Chatting about different sights to the left and to the right would have been extremely interesting if Jaime and Kelley weren’t too busy worrying about driving on the wrong side of the road! Boy, New Zealand drivers are reckless!
Seeing a sign for Mt. Eden, the mystery was over – VNTRbirds were going to see the big crater and with Michelle as the Maori guide, they would also learn about the history. New Zealand has a great story. Everything in the country is well respected and everyone is open to diversity. TUB recommends that each and every person in the world take their own personal visit to New Zealand. ANYWHERE in New Zealand too, this place, these people are unbelievable.


Mt. Eden was a short lived trip before the birds were flying off to the Auckland Museum. Narrowing down the visit to just the Maori section (New Zealand’s indigenous people) Michelle went off about all the artifacts, tools and carvings showing her true excitement about this inspiring culture. The different Maori tribes were known as warriors. This was made very clear as Michelle told of the Maori strategies. Looking onto other hills and mountains in the distance, there were many terraces and platforms dug out of the side of them. This, Michelle claimed were all hand dug by Maori men hundreds to thousands of years ago to help protect their emperor and families.


Being at the top of a mountain gives Maori people an advantage to see when enemies are coming and with these terraces, the enemy would have to fight one layer at a time and then finally at the top (if they made it to the top) beat the final level of the game – the leader of the entire Maori tribe.

Following the guided museum tour, TUB went into a small room with a stage to watch an authentic Maori performance. Here three Maori women and three Maori men showed off some Maori songs and dances. Constantly shaking their hands to symbolize each living thing and stomping their feet to keep in rhythm. This was very exciting, and the group even invited some of the audience to join them on stage to give some of their tools and instruments a try.


The performance worked up these birds’ appetite. Fish and chips (fries) was the only choice on the menu and it was scarfed down with no problem. Waiting for Chris to drive the group to their next destination, the group enjoyed the scenery of the beautiful day. Soon it would be of endless waves, cliffs and seagulls.
Piha is one of the five black sand beaches in New Zealand. The volcanic sand is soft and inky. In the middle of the site is a large bewildering rock named Lion. This boulder in the shore line of the Tasman Sea has a trail along its ridges and sharp edges that one could follow all the way up to the very top. This is a very sacred place. The Maori people believe that the top of anything is sacred, from the top of your head to the top of the mountains because it’s the closest they can get to their creator.
Lion Rock is a very chancy hike and everyone was on the beach barefoot running about the sand.  Kelley and Jaime, along with some other kids from the TEAN group went over to to the other side of the beach to explore those volcanic rocks. Most were rough and made for slow travel, but once over to the other side there was another long stretch of sand.  Coming back to the beach and seeing the ending to the touch rugby game that some had joined in on, VNTRbirds were off again to another destination of Auckland, New Zealand.



Hiking through the rain forest, one can say is some form of culture shock. Completely shadowed by such bright greens is enlightening. Each one of these plants and trees have some sort of history and purpose. People can use them for medicines and lotions to stay all natural and healthy, yet only what is needed is taken. The trail was very narrow, so the group of about 25 were extended down in a single file line. Not many minded, especially these birds because the sounds were glorious and the sights were unreal. At the top of the hike, all the hard climbing was rewarded with a magnificent waterfall that VNTRbirds could hear the entire way up, but not able to see until the very top.


Photo Credit: Lauren Hoisl

The silver fern is one of the main symbols of New Zealand. With the top side green when one flips it over it is a metallic silver. It looks as if someone might have spray painted it. Michelle, taking TUB through this jungle, explained that if you ever get lost in the forest, since everything is towering over with green, green and more green, you find a silver fern plant and flip them over in a circle and this is how you would be found from a helicopter or plane above.

Arriving back at the Quadrant everyone was exhausted, but a night out on the town was called for. It’s been a while since the city birds were in civilization so everybody got dressed up and ready to dance to some New Zealand tunes. Too bad each bar TUB went to they were playing old American music like Nelly and the Offspring, but an awesome time was had anyway! The first bar made their cocktails in teapots and handed out some glasses for whomever was sharing. A few bars later many joined in on their first karaoke experience.

Photo Credit: Lauren (our Orientation Leader)

This was a great way to go out and meet people in Auckland for the ones who would be staying to attending the University. Kelley on the other hand kept meeting Australian after Australian. Where are all the Kiwis?!

The next adventure for VNTRbirds is Rotorua, filled with some extreme sporting.

– VNTRbirds