"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world" -John Muir

Monday, April 13, 2015

Looking back

Now I realize it has been over two months now since we made it home from New Zealand. Wow, seriously, two months. Let's take a look at where we've been: 

Following our stay with Josh and his wonderful British mother in Queenstown, we boarded the plane for Melbourne, Australia. What a surreal feeling. I am certain that every traveler who has made a home for themselves abroad have felt the simultaneous longing for the comforts of the "motherland" home with the freedom and sense of adventure that the foreign world can provide. As we transitioned from latter to former, we could not stop talking about how much we truly loved the Central Otago region of New Zealand. Despite the high prices, living out of our car, and cyclical meal patterns, we had friendship, a sense of place, and literal breath-taking beauty. Simply, we were sad to leave. 

Following my comeback in the Catan tournament (I tied it up 21-21!) we took off for Melbourne, eventually meeting up with Caroline's parents, Doug and Beth, in our apartment in the city. Doug and Beth's Christmas  gift to us was their offer of paying for this part of our trip, and we could not be more grateful. The scenery, beauty and summery feel of Melbourne was so welcoming, and quite the change from the rugged  and not quite as comfortable nature of our living situation in New Zealand. For a few days we took in the sights of the Great Ocean Road, the city, and the Tennis! Beginning Saturday of the opening weekend of the Australian Open, we watched the best at this sport square off. I have gained a new appreciation for just how good the names like Nadal, Federer, and our new favorite Madison Keys really are. Following our jaunt with the tennis, we jumped up to Sydney to relax on Bondi beach, walk around the waterfront and Opera House, and explore the Zoo from across the Harbour. We even got in some surfing on our last morning! Doug and Beth, we could not be more thankful for a wonderful final week of our trip.

Now that we are home, it has been hard to motivate ourselves to write this post. We felt that we could not do justice to our trip the longer we waited. I however think that we just needed a little time to decompress, and allow for a little inspiration to reflect. We miss New Zealand every day. We have a several photos on our walls now of our favorite places, not as much reminders as much as snapshots that bring us right back.

Caroline and I both have picked up jobs in the Boise area working as physical therapy exercise technicians. Caroline is working out in Kuna, and I am making the hour commute to Mountain Home most days. I have recently accepted a graduate assistant position at the University of Utah to pursue my masters in Exercise Physiology which will begin this coming August. So it is time to save for the next adventure and explore my (our) new home. 

We've truly had a "sweet as" time. 

We miss this view! The hike up the gondola, Queenstown
Our first breakfast in Melbourne
Up on the Skydeck
Harbour Bridge, Sydney
The Sydney Opera House
Surf's up: Bondi Beach
Mom (Robin) got us Chipotle when we arrived home!
The view from Table Rock in Boise.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Do it for the Ferg

It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we only have five days left in this amazing country. After traveling throughout almost all of the south island we decided Wanaka and Queenstown were by far our favorite places so we would spend our last two weeks in that area. About a month ago we set up to do a WWOOF in Queenstown to help us save some money. Before going we were kind of wishing we could just spend our last bit of time hanging out and not working, but we are SO glad we decided to WWOOF there. We pulled up to the absolutely gorgeous house on Sunday afternoon and met Sally, our host, her spunky little dog, Kala, and another German WWOOFer, Annalina. Sally is in the process of selling her house ($4.9 million asking price!) so we spent most of the week tidying up the yard and cleaning the inside of the house so it’s clean for viewings. Another bonus was that Sally is a chef, wine connoisseur, and just opened up a café. We were treated to delicious meals every night and got some wine tasting “education” as well. I even got a little German practice in with Annalina. Sehr gut!
Sally had a big hill in her backyard we hiked and chased sheep up.

A new favorite: bacon and egg pie and beetroot salad. Everyone seems to love beetroot here.

When we weren’t working we took advantage of the nearby trails by doing plenty of hiking and borrowing Sally’s mountain bikes to explore the area. Sally live right next to the Queenstown trail so we had great access to bike to the nearby city of Arrowtown (such a cute place!) and Lake Hayes. We tackled the Ben Lomond peak one day, which made us sore for days. About an hour into the hike Blake points to a peak ahead and says, “What if that was the one we had to climb? I’m so glad it’s not.” Well, turns out that peak was the one we were climbing. As much as my legs hated me, the 360 degree views were so worth it. We rewarded ourselves with a famous Fergburger afterwards, which made it even better.
Biking through Arrowtown

More biking. Lake Hayes in the distance

We made it to the top of Ben Lomond!

Cool viewfinder on the top of Ben Lomond

Basket of dreams on Queenstown Hill

The famous Fergburger

Yesterday before we left Queenstown we spent the morning with Sally and Annalina at the Lake Hayes A&P (agricultural and pastoral) show. Every town seems to have one of these shows, which are very similar to county fairs at home, so we were excited to finally see one. We had a great time laughing at the Top Twins perform their comedy act and at the little boy riding his really short and fat pony.

We could not stop laughing at this pony.
We wished we would’ve WWOOFed for Sally for a much longer time earlier in our trip, because we had such an amazing time. The next four days will be spent in Wanaka hiking, biking and doing as much as we can outside. I will most definitely cry when we leave, but I’m so excited to see my parents in Australia on Friday!

Monday, January 5, 2015

There and Back Again

One thing we’ve learned on this trip is how to be flexible. Bad weather comes in, people get injured, or we hear that thousands of people are flocking to the little town we were planning on staying in for New Years. We were talking to a man who lives at the holiday park we were staying at in Wanaka and he warned us that thousands of people come there for the holiday and it turns into an absolute madhouse. As much as we love Wanaka, it was already crowded, so the thought of the population tripling in size didn’t sound as fun to us. We found a place to stay in Dunedin for New Years Eve, so we decided to go on a little road trip for a few days.

We left Queenstown the day after Christmas and headed down south to visit the world famous Milford Sound. The very first week we were in New Zealand (early September) we tried to book the four day “Great Walk” on the Milford Sound, but it was already completely booked through March. Since we weren’t able to do the backpacking trip, we decided to take a short cruise on the Milford Sound. It rains over 200 days a year in the Milford, so imagine our surprise when we got there to find a nearly cloudless day. Our two hour cruise took us up through the Sound to the Tasman Sea stopping by several gorgeous waterfalls, seal colonies, and the famous Mitre Peak. Sadly it was a bit foggy so we didn’t get to see all of Mitre Peak, but it still an awesome experience. The drive into the Sound was completely fogged in so we couldn’t see anything, but the drive back out was the prettiest drive I’ve ever been on. There were mountains on every side, waterfalls everywhere and a really long tunnel we drove that went right through a huge mountain! One of the other Great Walks in Fiorldland National Park is the Routeburn Track, so we decided to do a day walk on it. We both agreed it was one of our favorites because of the spectacular views we got of Fiordland.  I will let the pictures do the talking.

Cruising the Milford

Our Jucy cruise ship

Beautiful view from the top of Key Summit on the Routeburn Track

We left Milford and headed to the southernmost part of NZ known as the Catlins. Our one stop here was at Curio Bay where we heard from 5-7 was penguin “hoppy hour.” Sure enough, right after 5 we saw a few penguins hop out of the ocean and waddle around the rocks. There were ropes set up, so we couldn’t get close enough to take a good picture but we can officially say we saw penguins! Just around the bay we wandered down to the beach (freezing cold Antarctic water) and saw a few Hector’s Dolphins!

He's pointing to the penguin. I promise it's there!

Beach where we saw the dolphins
We camped one night in the Catlins and headed up to Dunedin the next morning. Dunedin was one of the first major cities in NZ, so they have some older buildings with some really cool architecture. It felt like England mixed with a classy surf town. Dunedin is home to the Cadbury factory, so being the chocolate fanatics we are, we had to sign up for a tour. As we walked into the tour, we were immediately handed a big bag of chocolate. We instantly knew we were going to have a great time. Highlights included walking up the big purple silo to see a chocolate waterfall and the liquid chocolate sample we got. I felt like we were at Willy Wonka’s factory, except the weirdest thing we got was a green cream filled chocolate egg. We figured we should probably exercise after that so we headed to Tunnel Beach for a short hike. Many years ago, a man built a long tunnel in the rock so his little daughters would be able to get down to the beach. Pretty Cool! We had high hopes of going out that night for New Years Eve. The plan was to walk twenty minutes or so down to this cool bar we saw and have a few drinks to ring in the New Year. At about nine it started downpouring followed by some lightning. As much as I would like to say we partied hard with the rest of New Zealand, instead we had some cider and played UNO. Don’t ask what time I fell asleep.
Our stash from the Cadbury factory
Old train station

Climbing on the rocks at Tunnel Beach

This picture was too good not to share. I tried to attack him with some washed up seaweed and this was his revenge.
Our last stop before heading back to Queenstown was to the Moeraki Boulders. This beach has a large section where somehow a bunch of boulders have ended up. There were a ton of tourists there, but we still managed some exploring and got some cool pictures.

Baby dinosaur??

The cutest baby seal ever, although it did look like it was lost :(

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in the southern hemisphere

Camping isn’t much fun in the rain, but we were fortunate enough to have a beautiful week of summer weather in Wanaka, Mt. Cook, and now in Queenstown. We started off the week heading two hours north of Wanaka to Aoraki National Park, home of the majestic Mt. Cook. After a very windy first half of the drive (of course) we turned a corner and began one of the best drives of my life. We drove along the powder blue Lake Pukaki for the next half hour with the mountains beckoning us from ahead. Our weather forecast predicted rain for the day, so we expected an afternoon in our tent, but we were shocked to find a beautiful sunny afternoon when we arrived. We went on a short hike to Kea Point, where we saw much more impressive Mueller Glacier on Mt. Sefton than the ones we saw on the west coast. We got to camp right below Mt. Sefton too, which was pretty cool. The next morning we set off for what was claimed the south island’s most scenic day walk- the Hooker Valley track. It was a fairly easy hike with the flowers blooming and three swing bridges to freak Blake out. After about thirty minutes of hiking we rounded a corner and boom! Mt. Cook was directly ahead of us. I could tell Blake was in his ultimate happy place, chasing the mountain for the rest of the hike.
Stopped at the Clay Cliffs of Oamarama on the way to Mt. Cook
Mueller glacier in the background
Crazy Blake got up at 5:30 in the morning to get a sunrise picture of Mt. Sefton
Mt. Cook with glacier lake
Drive to Mt. Cook with Lake Pukaki
Blake on the Hooker Valley Track

We spent another two days back in Wanaka hanging around the lake and hiking Mt. Iron before heading off to Queenstown on Christmas Eve. We decided to treat ourselves for Christmas and book an airbnb for two nights to have the comfort of a bed and a home. Our hosts were absolutely amazing and insisted we go with them to their family Christmas lunch so we wouldn’t be alone. With the really hot weather we had that day, it was hard for it to feel like Christmas since “Frosty the Snowman” didn’t fit at all. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful Christmas (although sad to be away from our families) and were overwhelmed by the kindness of the relative strangers inviting us to be a part of their family for the day.
This is by the house we had Christmas lunch at with the Remarkable behind us.
Queenstown (known as the adventure capital of the world) is a lot like Wanaka scenery wise, but much busier. If you ever want to skydive, bungy jump, or jet boat, this is definitely the place to go. We went into the city center on Christmas Eve and spent the afternoon shopping with the masses of people there. Luckily, it wasn’t nearly as bad as going to the mall in the U.S. on Christmas Eve. They even have a Starbucks here, which meant we could get iced coffee finally! Yesterday was Boxing Day here (they have Boxing Day as a holiday rather than Christmas Eve) so the city was really busy again. We heard there were amazing views if you take the gondola up to the top of the hill, but a trip up was $30. Instead of paying, we found a really nice trail zigzagging up the hill to right where the gondola drops people off. We got the spectacular views, a good workout, and saved $60! Lot’s of people will ride the gondola up and then take a luge halfway back down the hill or the really brave can mountain bike down some black diamond tracks. We are headed out of Queenstown today to visit the Milford Sound and then headed to Dunedin on the east coast to spend the New Year!
View from the top of the gondola over Queenstown and Lake Wakitipu


Friday, December 19, 2014

Hanukkah in Wanaka

We are currently experiencing a very rainy day in Wanaka, so in order to avoid being stuck rereading Harry Potter in the tent all day we decided to park ourselves at the library and take advantage of their magazines and free wifi (only 30 minutes daily so my pictures better upload fast!). Other than the bad weather today we have completely fallen in love with this town. Wanaka is a town of about 6,000 people centered around the huge Lake Wanaka with mountains surrounding in almost every direction. Although not many people live here, all the Kiwis and tourists seem to flock here in the holiday season making it very busy. We were only supposed to stay here one night, but we ditched our other plans and ended up staying here five nights. I think we both love it because it’s an outdoor oriented community with tons of things to do. Also the weather has finally turned to make it actually feel like summer here.

Blake enjoying Wanaka beer at the holiday park

Supposedly this is the most photographed tree in NZ

 We lucked out finding a really nice holiday park to camp at for three nights that was relatively cheap and right on the lake. Our first morning there we rented some bikes from the holiday park and rode about 20k down into town and back. It’s hard to beat a ride with the lake on one side and beautiful purple flowers blooming on the other side. We spent the afternoon looking around the shops and having some of the best gelato of my life. It’s really hard to stop myself from going back in there every time I walk by.
Blake biking through the purple flowers

GELATO!!! Coffee and salted caramel flavor

There’s a hike right in town that is the “locals hike” that we have now done twice called the Mt. Iron hike. It took us about half an hour to reach the top before we were rewarded with 360 degree views over the whole city. If I lived in Wanaka I would probably do this hike multiple times a week. Moderate effort, for maximum reward.

Top of Mt. Iron
Walking back down from Mt. Iron

My knee was feeling a bit better after getting it taped up, so we decided to go for a bit more challenging hike up Diamond Lake to Rocky Mountain. It was a pretty steep hike up, but we got an even better view of the city than at Mt. Iron. Now here comes the weird part. When we got to the summit there were two other girls talking and we could tell they were Americans. They looked like they were pretty into their conversation, so we sat down 20 ft or so away from them. We were taking in the view when we overheard one of the girls say ”Oregon.” At this point we started listening in on their conversation because we were curious. Then we heard the girl say, “Linfield” and “Kyle.” At this point I jump up and go over to her and say, “Not to be a creep, but I think I know the Kyle you are talking about.” There’s a guy named Kyle who graduated with us from Linfield that had gone over to NZ a few months ago to live in Wanaka, so I was pretty positive that’s who she was talking about. Turns out, the girl had dated Kyle when he was living in Wanaka for a few months. Honestly, what are the chances the only other two people on the mountain start talking about Linfield. We definitely had our minds blown by what a small world it is.

Diamond Lake hike- you can't see Diamond Lake from this picture though. That's Lake Wanaka in the background.

Blake posing for a picture before we had our minds blown.

Another highlight of the week was going to Cinema Parasidio last night to see the Hobbit. (Thanks for the birthday present Drew!) This theater is unique because instead of the traditional theater seats, there are couches and even two cars to sit in if you want the drive in movie feel. I’m not the biggest LOTR fan, but the atmosphere of the cinema plus the homemade cookies and ice cream made the movie very enjoyable. We also visited the very unique attraction of Puzzling World. I was hoping there would be jigsaw puzzles, but they were more like mind puzzles. They have tons of different puzzles in their lobby that you can sit down and work on them for free, so we sat there for an hour or so working on various puzzles until our brains hurt.

He must be really strong.

Blake wanted to use some of his Christmas money to take a tour of Wanaka Beerworks. I even liked one of the beers!

It's hard to see, but this is the movie theater.
We are spending one more night in Wanaka (for now) and are heading up to Mt. Cook tomorrow to hopefully catch it when the weather is better. Then we are headed to Queenstown where we will spend a few days for Christmas!