March 4, 2009
by Allie Niekamp – Allie Niekamp, a four-year letterwinner for the Georgia Tech volleyball team from 2005-08, is participating in the Study Abroad program to Australia and New Zealand this semester. She will periodically be checking in with Yellow Jacket fans about her trip via blogs on Ramblinwreck.com. Check back frequently to see the latest from Allie!
New Zealand is starting to feel a little more like home the longer I am here. The weather has been great, probably because it is summer here. It is really nice to be walking around in shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of January. It doesn’t get hot here like it does in Atlanta though. It is usually in the 70’s and there is always a strong breeze. Wellington is known for being especially windy.
I was walking down the street the other day in my Georgia Tech volleyball shirt and a man walked by with his little girl. He was looking at me a little strangely and as he got closer I realized why. He was wearing a Georgia hat. At first it didn’t seem strange to me because you see so many in Atlanta but then I realized that I was in New Zealand.
My third week of school was especially short because the whole group was taking a class trip to Lake Taupo for the weekend. All of the students in biology class had to do schoolwork but since I’m taking history and literature I just got an extra day off.
Thursday morning all 50 of us piled onto a bus and drove the 7 hours to Taupo. We made several stops along the way but finally made it there. The next morning I got on the bus really early and we drove an hour to some mountains. Since I am not in the biology class I got to do the Tongariro crossing, which is an eight-hour hike. It was amazing but really difficult. Once we were on the bus they made us sign a form saying if we died the program wouldn’t be liable. For those of you that have seen the movie the Lord of the Rings we hiked most of the way up Mount Doom and then over to a different peak. For the most part it wasn’t too bad – Scott McDonald, our volleyball strength coach kept me in good enough shape to make it through the hike. There was this one part on the way down that was kind of scary. We were going down off the peak and with every step you took the ground went with you down a steep slope and it wasn’t very wide. We were all going really slowly until we saw an older fellow run down it. As he went past us he yelled, “Just keep moving forward, if you stop you’ll fall!” So we ran down, looking to fools, and I did fall a time or two but managed to stay on the mountain.
There were really amazingly blue lakes up in the mountain that smelled strongly of sulfur, and the second half of the hike we could see all through the valley. I also saw a lot of waterfalls and some hot springs along the way. It was a crazy day but I loved it. That crossing is supposed to be one of the top 100 hikes to do in the world.
Saturday I had a totally different adventure but one that also involved heights. I went skydiving! I know that I have said this before multiple times in my postcards but it was really the coolest thing I have ever done. I did a tandem and jumped out from 12,000 ft, which was 45 seconds of free fall. I have never gone sky diving before but it was so beautiful. When you first jump out the wind is so strong that you can hardly catch your breath. Luckily once the free fall is over it gets much easier to breathe. I can’t think of many places that would rival New Zealand skydiving from a view standpoint. There were lakes, mountains and forests. It was incredible and I have become hooked on skydiving. I am hoping to get a chance to do it again in Australia.
It was another amazing week here on the other side of the world. As they say here in New Zealand, Cheers!