Jessica + NZ + a campervan

by Jessica Brown

Hey, you wonderful blossoming students of Honors! I’m Jessica Brown, and I am a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering at THEE Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. But who cares about the studying part, right? (Sorry Mom and Dad) I just returned from a two week hell-raising, memory-making, AMAZING road trip around the South Island of New Zealand.

My friends Joey (fellow Iowa Stater), Sam, and I flew into Christchurch and picked up our campervan, which we affectionately dubbed ‘Tammii’.

After picking up 10 pounds of cookies from the Cookie Time factory (no, I’m not kidding) and pressing play on our dope jams playlist, we headed for Lake Tekapo, which overlooks Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand.

Lucky for us, we actually got to camp underneath Mount Cook. I tried my hand at night photography, with a few shots actually turning out pretty well.

In Queenstown, which reminded me of a Colorado ski town without the snow and with a lot more adventure activities, we took a ride up the gondola to catch some amazing views of Lake Wakatipu and the city. We also indulged our inner children and raced each other down the luge, a mix between go carts and bumper cars.

One of my favorite parts of our trip, and the most nerve-wracking, was the Nevis Canyon Swing. Boasting as the world’s biggest swing, the Nevis Swing is suspended 160 meters above the valley floor, then launches you 125 kilometers per hour (77 miles per hour) through a 300 meter arc as adrenaline courses through your body. I chose this picture instead of the one of a terrified me screaming as I freefall. You’re welcome.

No matter where you go in New Zealand, you are always treated to magnificent views. As we were driving to our next destination along the coast, the sun began to set, treating us to a brilliant display of rays and various colors. We stopped 7 times on the way just to take it in.

When I left for New Zealand, my parents feared that I wouldn’t come back. I wasn’t too worried, as New Zealand doesn’t have Chick-Fil-A and I can only go so long without those nuggets, until I got to Milford Sound. A fiord situated on the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is truly the 8th wonder of the world. It was raining on our boat ride through the sound, but it was even more breathtaking as the waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs. I love the water and even as our boat approached the Tasman Sea and the water started getting choppier, I was leaning forward, laughing and urging the captain to take any opportunity to get me soaked. He obliged, and the turned the boat so the water started coming over the sides of the boat, hitting me like walls at full force. I loved it. The captain must have too, because he invited me into his cabin, gave me his pirate hat to wear, and even let me drive the boat for a while! Once again, sorry Mom and Dad, I may never come home.

It wouldn’t be a trip in New Zealand without some hikes, right? In Fiordland, we did quite a few, with my favorite being the Lake Marian hike. The 1 ½ hour hike was well worth it when we arrived in view of the gorgeous reflective lake. Joey and I couldn’t help ourselves: we jumped in the freezing cold waters, shivering and clattering our teeth as we climbed out.

We also got the chance to kayak Doubtful Sound, which was SO COOL. I loved being right on the water, getting to see everything up close. A little blue penguin swam near us as we glided through the sound. Our guide for the day, Tony, went fishing during our lunch break and caught a very large grouper. The way I feel about this clearly shows on my face.

We loved kayaking so much we did it again in the Abel Tasman. Just a small ways out from the shore stood an island with seal pups playing in the water! Did I mention I may never leave New Zealand?

I’ve been loving my time in New Zealand. Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I’m so thankful to my family, friends, and all the people at Iowa State who have supported me and made this possible. Every day in New Zealand is a new adventure waiting to happen. I’ve come down with the travel bug, and here’s to hoping there’s no cure!

One comment on “Jessica + NZ + a campervan

  1. Scott Grosenheider says:

    looks like a lot of fun Jessica. I could see why your parents might be concerned about your wanting to come back 🙂

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