Jordan Cohen, 25, of Atlanta, Ga. recently completed a 77-day wilderness expedition traveling in New Zealand with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
To begin the semester-long journey, students took to the water in sea kayaks. The beautiful Marl-borough Sounds area was the outdoor classroom for this section of the Semester in New Zealand course. Students began by learning basic kayak techniques as well as necessary water travel skills. The course traveled 134 nautical miles during the kayak section as they encountered penguins, New Zealand seals, dolphins, Portuguese Man of War jellyfish and endemic birds such as wekas and sad-dlebacks. The pleasant weather made for great travel for the majority of the course. They experienced the rough water of Cape Lambert and Cape Jackson at the Cook Straight. The course curriculum fo-cused on leadership development, risk management, outdoor skills, sea kayak travel and environ-mental studies. Each student had the opportunity to be the leader of the day. Feedback was given to those in the leader roles to develop judgment and decision-making skills. Visiting the wildlife sanctuar-ies of Motuara Island and Blumine Island, along with paddling around Cook Straight, were highlights of this section of the course.
The course then transitioned onto the hiking section, where students traversed the beautiful Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island. Traveling through the incredible landscape of Nelson Lakes National Park provided Cohen and his coursemates with ample opportunities to experience a variety of terrain. The course traveled on and off-trail through river valleys, mountain passes, deep forests, tussock, scree field and the mountaintops above the tree line. During this section the curriculum focused on first aid, travel skills and environmental studies. For the first 19 days of the section the course experienced warm, sunny weather, while the remaining days were overcast with rain and wind. After the instructors decided that the students had the knowledge and were ready to participate in a student-led expedition, the section concluded with a seven-day student-led expedition, highlighted by crossing Three Tarns Pass is adverse weather.
The final section of the semester-long course was sailing aboard two Chieftain-design 38-foot sloop rig boats. The course experienced moderate winds for the most part, punctuated by three days of strong gusty conditions. During this section, students achieved a good level of technical boat handling and sail-ing through participating in all roles onboard such as navigation, helming, sail handling, steward and en-gineer. Each student developed a good foundation as a competent crewmember on a sailing vessel.
Cohen and his coursemates returned from New Zealand to their respected homes as competent and responsible wilderness travelers and leaders.