The best winter I ever had was my summer vacation at Camp Kiwi on the island of New Zealand. I was halfway around the world in an adventure camp surrounded by fresh air and sheep. I was in the land of the Moari (natives of New Zealand) called Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud. It was a beautiful place, where the snow-white mountains touch the sea, where the water glistens blue and where the farmland is fresh and green.
Our choices at camp ranged from jumping off a mountain on a para-glider to just drifting over New Zealand's rural farmland in a hot air balloon. After setting up the balloon, we hopped inside and lifted off the ground. Once in the air, I was very relaxed. The trip wasn't very physical (like para-gliding), but much longer (we spent about an hour in the air) and I saw things from a higher perspective.
I felt the same way about whale watching; it was bumpy but fun. We'd wait to see a sperm whale while enjoying a pleasant day at sea. When we saw one, we were amazed by its size and magnificence.
Going underground caving was the most adventurous thing I did. We hiked about two miles and it was about mid-day when we got there. When we went into the wet cave, we were tense because it was dark. In fact, it was darker than any night you can imagine! But with our helmet lights and the dim light of glowworms, our eyes adjusted and we could see five feet in front of us. We could see the black water and the wet, hard underground cave. It almost seemed unreal. We went deep into the cave and squeezed, jumped, pushed, swam and rafted through it. When I came out, I was proud and overwhelmed by the bright light and the detail of the forest surrounding me.
Horse trekking was different to me. Over the course of two days, I got to know my companion (a horse named Joe) very well. He and I helped direct each other and I had a smoother, enjoyable trip over the hills and mountains. I was pelted by quarter inch hail stones ; it hurt. It was raining too! It was hard at times, but it was an ordeal I would do again.
Mike Meade, our camp director, did a wonderful job making sure we all got to do what we wanted. Not only did he arrange our adventure activities, but he presented some of the culture of New Zealand as well. We went to a local high school to see the dances and hear the chants performed by Moari people. I was amazed how close their culture seems to the Hawaiians and other islands. The dancing and rhythm is much the same and the language is too. For example, the word Aloha in Hawaiian is Aroha in Moari.
Early the last morning, we put our luggage in the vans and headed for the Christchurch Airport. I was passing through New Zealand one last time. The sky was blue, the air so clean. As we drove past the mountains of white and the fields of green one last time, I realized how special my trip was. All the moments I spent with my friends, all the new sports I tried, and the Moari culture I learned about.L
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.