Island Life | Island Travel: Carson Wall

Island Life | Island Travel

This is the story of Carson Wall, a senior in Forest Engineering, and his maiden voyage to the University of Canterbury as a study abroad student from the College of Forestry at OSU. The second of three installations, Carson enlightens us on cultural and culinary variances between New Zealand and the U.S. He also shares a few of his favorite excursions in the land of the Kiwis. These are his stories.

What variances in culture, food, people, and day-to-day activities did you experience in New Zealand as compared to life in the US?

The New Zealand slang was probably the most notable cultural difference. Some of the words and phrases for stuff literally made no sense unless you had someone to translate. One could generally follow along fine, but it was hard to get used to being thrown off by some random gibberish that seemed to come out of nowhere. Another big difference is the fact that you drive on both the opposite side of the road, as well as in the other side of the car. I wouldn’t say this was that hard for me personally to get used to, however I found myself hitting the windshield wipers almost every time I tried to put on my blinker. Also, gas station have way better quality food than here in the U.S. and are actually one of the better places to get meat pies (a New Zealand local food).


A FAVORITE RESTAURANT | Photo Credit: Carson Wall


When asked to provide a few of his favorite parts of the experience, Carson replied—“too many to talk about them all”. So here are his top three excursions across New Zealand. Enjoy (and get to planning your study abroad—talk to our IP Office today)!


CARSON ATOP MT. FYFFE | Photo Credit: Raquel Alexis


Mt. Fyffe:

This is easily one of, if not my favorite experience while in New Zealand. There is a quaint town roughly 2 hours north of Christchurch called Kiakoura that has beautiful walks along a peninsula that’s full of seal colonies. Just a couple miles behind the coastal town is a magnificent mountain range. One of its inhabitants is a peak called Mt. Fyffe. A few friends and I decided to complete an overnight hike on this mountain, staying at a small cabin just an hour off the summit (about 3 hours from the trailhead). We made the grueling walk up the gravel road roughly around 4pm and were able to make it to the cabin in time to have dinner while watching the sun set over the inland ranges. We originally planned to watch it from the summit, but hikers passing us on their way down mentioned that visibility was nonexistent. We were a little bummed but figured we would just wake up early and assess whether a sunrise hike would be worth it or not, depending on how clear the sky appeared. We spent most the night just talking, playing cards and keeping the fire hot, which is always fun with new friends since almost every story is something fresh to the ears.

4 a.m. came around and I managed to drag myself outside to check the weather conditions, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only was the moon bright enough to make headlamps worthless, but swear I could see three times as many stars than I have ever witnessed in the night sky before. We decided to leave our main bags at the cabin, and set off to the summit with only the bare necessities. Each turn in the road and each minute we climbed, the sights somehow managed to become more and more breathtaking. Being at over 5000ft of elevation, the clouds had settled with the appearance of an ocean, with the mountain peaks peeking through like little islands. The more we climbed, the more our excitement showed, and were legitimately sprinting the last leg to reach the peak. There aren’t really words for the experience we had after, but we simply stood in quite a bit of silence, took a few pictures that we all knew would not turn out the way we wished, and gazed at the horizon as the sun made its way above the sea of clouds. I’m fully aware that this small moment in time will never be rivaled in my future, but will certainly never be forgotten, as it will forever remain in my mind as a single instance of perfection, without any impurity, for the rest of my life.


MT. FYFFE: A Sea of Clouds Below | Photo Credit: Raquel Alexis



I researched New Zealand a fair amount before I left, and knew that the country had quite a variety of terrain, but I was nowhere near mentally ready to get surprised by the west side of the island. The west coast is tropical, jungle-esque, and has sandy beaches comparable to Hawaii. You literally drive through massive mountain ranges and endless green farms land, then all of a sudden, it feels as if you are popped out into some quaint island in the middle of the Caribbean. This landscape had a big part in my determination that New Zealand is actually Jurassic Park, and I’m rather surprised that I did not see any dinosaurs during my visit. A lot of that idea probably comes from the jungles of fern trees, which flow from the edge of the beaches over the hills, where they slowly begin to disappear the closer they get to the mountains.




Coromandel (Hot water beach and cathedral cove):

On one of my trips to the north island, a group of friends and I rented a car and headed east to the greater Coromandel area. We rented an Airbnb in Onemana and spent the day surfing the waves and playing around on the beaches. Once we got too cold and hungry, we made our way back to the Airbnb to make a family style dinner and rest while we could, since we knew that we would be up quite late. From Onemana, we drove about an hour north to another coastal town, to put in a few late hours on their beaches. The reason this beach is so special is because it lays on top of a subsurface area that has thermal activity. When the tide is low, late at night, people come out to dig holes which fill up from below with hot water. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any shovels so we did the best we could with the pot and pans that we grabbed from our Airbnb. Our best was nowhere near good enough however, as we had a pretty large group and the tools at our disposal just weren’t cutting it. Luckily there were many vacant holes, so we found the one with water temperature that was just right, and hopped in. It wasn’t until after our headlamps were off, our beers cracked and our excitement had settled, that we finally looked up. The stars were out in abundance, apparently a common thing in New Zealand with its minimal light pollution, but that wasn’t even the best part. Cutting the sky in two was the strip of stars that make up the Milky Way galaxy. Never had I ever seen it so milky and vibrant. We spent the rest of the time comfortably laying in our natural hot tubs with our heads leaned back, starring up at that crème white galaxy, with the crashing of ocean waves in the background. And just for fun, we forced out bodies to make a couple quick trips into those waves, though it wasn’t long after that we were back in the warmth of those hot water pools.


An honorable mention would probably be Hobbiton (in my book at least!), the reclusive idyllic village featured in the Lord of the Rings movies that were adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic novels. If this is a bucket list item during your time in New Zealand, be sure to arrange for ample travel time to get to the North Island and stay awhile!

HOBBITON | Photo Credit: Carson Wall        











Want to see more of Carson’s 5-month journey through New Zealand?!

Visit his blog: kiwiornah.tumblr.com 





Published by: Savannah Stanton, CoF International Programs

Completion/Archive Date: 
Sunday, June 17, 2018