Morgan biking in New Zealand, at the Cook Straight
This week, middbeat’s “Voices From Abroad“ will feature Morgan Raith ’16.5, who is studying in New Zealand this semester. Morgan is a junior feb environmental science and architecture joint major from Nantucket, MA. Morgan is living in Wellington, New Zealand and studying at Victoria University of Wellington. Her classes include Digital Creation (3D printing), Photography, Landscape Architecture, Construction, and Pacific Designed Environments — an incredibly interesting course load that she couldn’t find at Midd. Morgan’s writing is formatted like a personal blog post and focuses on how biking has shaped her experience abroad so far. We can’t imagine studying in New Zealand, arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth, could be anything less than fantastic, and Morgan seems to agree. Read up:
About a Bike
I came to New Zealand on a mission to get outside and explore as much of the untouched landscape as possible. Though I walked off the plane straight into a metropolitan area. Wellington is the biggest city I’ve ever lived in. When I tell people that they laugh and say something like, “you know Wellington isn’t really a city right?” When I first got here I complained about the petrol fumes filling my lungs up in my walk to and from campus, but my flat mate who is from DC just sort of giggled and said, “All I can smell is clean air here.” I guess fresh air is always something I’ve taken for granted having grown up on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic and going to school in rural Vermont.
Don’t get me wrong, being in New Zealand for the semester is a total blast, but as I step onward towards new horizons, I’m constantly seeking ways to get a little taste of my life back home. Fall is my favorite time of year being an October baby. Who doesn’t like picking apples? Thanksgiving? Can you beat that Vermont foliage? Though fall does signify the start of a new school year and ensuing piles of work. So, one of my favorite ways to decompress is a ride through the hills around Midd, blasting through the trails kicking up freshly fallen leaves. I longed for the rush in between the trees and wind chilling my ears.
I started classes here in July, cutting my summer really short. I remember sitting in the library looking out the windows at the chilly winter weather with my head buried in a book and thinking, I could be back home right now in the sweet sunshine. Something had to change. I needed to find a way to satisfy my desire for fun in the sun. That sounds cliché or whatever, but I’m being completely serious. So what does one do when they move to Wellington for the semester? I bought a used mountain bike. Duh.
Just one week into classes I walked into a small rental shop and talked with the Dirt Merchant himself, James, a tall ginger-breaded, soft spoken fellow who was happy to sell me last years model of a 27’ Merida Big Seven. It’s a Taiwanese made hard tail, no rear suspension, with stock parts and well-worn tires, but she’ll do just fine. I took the bike for a spin before forking over a good chunk of my summer savings, which I’ll hopefully get back when I sell the little lady on Trade Me, New Zealand’s version of E-Bay, before I leave. James pointed me in the direction of the nearest hill to test out the low gears. I was so determined to take home two wheels that I brought my helmet with me to the shop. I clipped the chinstrap, mounted the saddle and off I went in search of incline. I rode until I felt the burn in my legs as I wound up one of Wellingtons many steep, narrow streets. I took it all the way down to the lowest gear, though that wasn’t hard because I was horribly out of shape at the time. I turned around for the shop. All right, time for the fun part. As soon as I started zooming downhill all that cash I was about to drop got a lot easier to let go of. I wasn’t just buying a bike. This was my new ticket to freedom in a city I barely knew. This was my escape vehicle from the boundaries of the city. I was headed up up and away from the sound of diesel engines, rush of traffic and smell of petrol.