The Ulverston party divided on leaving Rotorua with the exam group heading for Auckland ready for their flight the next day. The rest of us went on to the Coromandel Peninsula. This area is blessed with some of NZ’s best sandy beaches and a great climate. We had booked into the Opoutere YH not realising what it was like. This YH is a 1908 schoolhouse with cabins added in the grounds. The white buildings were set in mature bush surrounded by the calls of native birds. It is positioned on the estuary overlooking the sand spit and the Pacific Ocean beyond. The perfect place to recharge our batteries before our journey home.
The last evening in NZ was spent playing football on the beach outside the Paraparaumu YH with the sunset as a back drop. Everyone was looking forward to coming home to the UK and UVHS and we arrived at Wellington airport all packed & ready to go. Unfortunately, there was a problem……….our flights were cancelled due to the Icelandic volcano. We were first given a new flight date of 2nd May which was later changed to 8th May. Not sure who was more shocked – pupils, parents or trip leaders.
Our last two days were spent taking part in the NZ North Island Schools Champs. Friday was the individual day with relays on Saturday. Although the Ulverston party would not be entitled to any trophies we were determined to show why UVHS are the best in Britain.
There were many more entrants then at the Nationals 2 weeks ago and the standard was high. Havelock North HS had been at World Schools Champs in 2008 and Napier Boys and Girls Schools were in Spain in 2009. Both were well represented here. Nearly all orienteering in NZ takes place on farm land and in this instance it was grass covered sand hills with patches of gorse and impenetrable box thorn. Some of the water courses were quite deep as Meghan found out. With contours marked at 5m intervals instead of the usual 2.5m in English sand dunes, navigation was tricky.
Once back on N Island we were billeted again by the Havelock North families. This time our day with their school group was more informal as they were in their Easter break. We started with a trip to the local chocolate factory (a certainty to go down well). Time was then spent in Napier, known for its Art Deco architecture after the re-building in the 1920’s following a massive earthquake. We then went indoor rock climbing followed by orienteering in a maize maze.
Everyone warned us about the West Coast – rain, rain & more rain. All we had was bright sunshine with great views all the way. Our first close encounter was with the Youth Hostel at Punakaiki. On arriving in the dark we were sent down a small path, lit by night lights, into the rain forest to find our lodges. Magical.
Our first adventure after the orienteering was white water rafting. This took place on the Kawarau River at Queenstown. UVHS joined with the Havelock school and 6 mixed rafts set off down the river. Our first challenge was to get into the river to experience the flow and cold. Fortunately, the wet suits did their job and the only problem was to get back into the raft (which some found more challenging than others). After that the activity became quite frantic – the rapids became progressively bigger, and in the flat water there were raiding parties between rafts which resulted in more people in the river then the rafts!!
UVHS orienteering club are travelling around New Zealand for three weeks as part of an overseas tour. We were invited over by Havelock North High School who we met in Scotland at the World Schools O Champs in 2008. We will experience the culture, nature, geography and adventure that NZ has to offer as well as taking part in the NZ O Champs and N Island Schools O Champs.