Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another quick update from a library in Waihi

Mike and Linda have put us in touch with a bunch of their mates around the island. They've been fantastic and have become our "home base" while we're here. We freshened up (shower/laundry/sleeping in a bed) on Tuesday before a wonderful dinner with them before heading off again Wednesday morning.

We're sprinting south to Wellington to take the ferry to Picton to drive to Christchurch to get there in time to go whitewater paddling on Nov 1. It's a little sad having to fly by and not spend as much time exploring as we'd like to but we plan to come back to the North Island later to do more exploring.

On one of our stops, I decided to try snorkeling and look for mussels. As I climbed back out, Megan noticed pools of blood on the rocks at my feet. I'd cut them up on the rocks/shells. It took 5 bandaids to cover the cuts on my feet and a few on my hand. Lesson learned though.

After the kayaking, one of Mike and Linda's mates said we could stop by where he'll be doing tailing - putting rings on the lambs tails so that they eventually fall off. We're looking forward to helping with the operation.

It's been a little tough to keep the blog updated with all the things we're doing so I think it will turn into something of these quick updates along with occassional recaps that include photos. It's fun to realize people are keeping up with our travels so it's fun to share what we're doing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Clowning Around

As we drove around, we stopped along the way to check out the small towns. One of them happened to have a playground and I couldn't resist having a go at some of the spots. This one was sort of a cup that you could sit in, pump your legs and torso like on a swing, and it set you spinning. Or at least I think that's what you're supposed to do? I got it going pretty fast and Megan made me stop when she said my face was turning red.

In Whangarei (Oct 20) we stopped for a picnic in the park and hiked to the falls where I decided I had to go for a swim. The water was a bit chilly so I drew a lot of stares from the other tourists. It was incredible looking up at the falls from below and swimming away on my back.

The flowers and plants here are quite different from those we're used to in Minnesota. We've taken pictures of a few of them. On each of the hikes we go on, we are often stopping to admire the ferns, flowers, and trees. It is impressive how quickly outside of Auckland there is a natural feel to the land (vs. the suburbs that sprawl from Minneapolis).

Lang's Beach Area - Oct 16 to Oct 19

On the way up to Lang's Beach we spied a cememtary that looked interesting. All the stones were facing out to sea. A lot of the family names were Scottish and some of the deceased were from Nova Scotia. We learned later that the nearby town had been settled by immigrants from there who had been forced to leave Scotland, left Nova Scotia because it was too harsh, and tried Australia before ending up in New Zealand.

Mike and Linda offered up their beach house for us to stay at and we took full advantage of it, staying for 4 nights. It was a fantastic place looking out onto the ocean with the sound of the surf putting you to bed each night. We enjoyed just relaxing about, walking on the beach, and sleeping in. The stars were amazing here and we took the opportunity to learn some of the southern constellations and even saw some of the Orionid meteor shower.

North of the beach house was the town of Waipu which had some caves. We stopped by with the intent of going in them but found that our headlamps were a bit dim and there was a fair amount of water that we had no idea how deep it was. We returned the next day armed with fresh batteries for our headlamps and a better torch (flashlight). The water was now low enough that you could see the bottom (had only been 8" deep previously but we couldn't tell that). We tramped through the cave, sometimes in the water but mostly on muddy rock. Inside there were stalagtites and mites and even little glowing worms. They showed up as little green dots on the cave ceiling. When you turned out your light it almost felt like being outside with the glowworms being like stars. I really got a kick out of the caving since in the States everything is "Don't touch" or "Stay Out". Here you could explore as you wanted and touch the stuff that looked like a pile of mud to find out it was just a solid pile of minerals left behind. Megan halfway expected Gollum to pop out and ask for his Precious.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quick update from a library in Kawakawa

We stumbled into a library with free internet so we thought we'd give a quick update. Photos and other details to follow at some later date.

We headed north from Auckland to Waipu, Lang's Beach, Whangarei, and are going to Maitai Bay tonight. Mike and Linda, who we know only though a mutual friend, let us relax at their beach house for a few days while we got settled. Now we're camping out the back of the 92 Toyota Camry wagon (same color as Jason's Volvo wagon) that we bought in Auckland. We stopped at a thrift store and bought some vintage cassettes to play in the radio. Other adventures have included: swimming through a waterfall, getting our credit card eaten at an ATM, climbing hills, stargazing, and hiking into caves.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Well in America it might be "Touchdown" but since the game here is rugby I thought we'd adapt our title appropriately. We arrived in Auckland on time but sans one big purple backpack. Qantas wasn't sure where it was but said they would track it down. Since we were going to be in the area and there wasn't anything critical in it, we're not overly worried. Unlike the band that flew with us which was supposed to be playing the next night and didn't have their microphones. We shared our string cheese with them since we thought customs might take it away anyway. Turns out the inspector just looked at the skinny tubes of white cheese in plastic and said "This must be from the States." It's still pretty amazing realizing we got on a big metal tube, ate dinner, slept, had breakfast, and poof we're on the other side of the world!

We picked up our rental car and dove into the adventure of driving on the left side of the road! We were lucky to be able to get an automatic so that I had one less thing to keep track of. Everytime we did any turning, I'd tell Megan out loud which direction I was going and which lane (hugging the curb for left and across traffic for right) I was going to head for. Since the driver is on the right side of the car, there are all sorts of little things to get used to. Instead of looking right for the rear view mirror, it is left. I kept trying to signal my lane changes with my windshield wipers until I realized that the turn signal was on my left not my right. Roundabouts go the opposite direction and everytime a car comes over a hill at us on the right side of the road my heartrate spikes a little! Needless to say, we're not checking out very much scenery when we're driving yet.

Megan did a great job navigating to Mike's place, our contact in Auckland. He gave us plenty of suggestions of places to go on both islands and even put us in contact with some other Kiwis. Mike took us on a tiki-tour of Auckland's One Tree Hill and waterfront. There were several of these green hills scattered around the city. They (and the rest of New Zealand) were formed by volcanic action. We shared a wonderful dinner of lamb chops, potatoes, asparagrus, and salad and capped the evening off with watching a rugby game. When Megan asked why they don't wear pads, Mike said grinningly - Well we're not like those American pussycats. Megan and I have been amazed at the hospitality that he and his wife Linda have shown.

Photo above is from top of One Tree Hill.
The hill was a park but also pasture with sheep roaming all over.

Monday, October 12, 2009


We made a stop in LA to visit Kelly and Alan. Alan picked us up at the airport and had squash bisque warming on the stove for dinner when we got to their place. Wow.

We've eaten really well the rest of the visit too; namely homefry scramblers with goat cheese, lattice crust apple pie, creamy corn chowder, and a yummy veggie lasagna.

We've been doing some last minute preparing for the trip, like breaking in our hiking boots and backpack hips. Jason chose to wear his pack when we went on a walk around the Rose Bowl with Kelly. I did not.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A white sendoff...

Well it snowed in Apple Valley this morning just enough to make things a little white. Sort of an appropriate Minnesota goodbye. Most people wouldn't miss the cold snowy winters but both of us being avid broomball players, it is a little bittersweet.

We've spent the recent days visiting family/friends and doing some last minute packing/preparation. We've been living out of our car which sort of gives us practice for New Zealand. Thanks to everyone who welcomed us with food and beds. Jason and Erin even let us spread our stuff all over their living room as we did our paring down.

We made a stop by the house to drop off one last load and lock up all our stuff in the attic. We also said goodbye to Pip (our cat). Pete and Jo (left) are looking after the house and Pip for us while we're gone. They are already settled in and handling everything. They've been super flexible dealing with our delayed departure and Jo's even decorated the house for Halloween.

So now it's on to LA for a few days where we'll visit Kelly and Alan before taking off for Auckland, NZ.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Departure Set for Oct 10.

Departure has been finalized for Oct 10. Things got reshuffled so that we would be able to attend the funeral for Megan's grandpa who just passed away. We fly to Los Angeles, California where we have a few days to visit with friends/family who are there and then we're on to New Zealand. We did have to remove the Australia leg of our flight. Hopefully we'll be able to add it back in at some later date to visit Jason's friends.