Friday, December 31, 2010


Just a quick break from the South Island to wish you all a 2011 that's sweet as. We've already been here in the new year for about 10 hours and it's pretty good so far, so no worries. Enjoy!!

Saw the harbour fireworks from just up the street last night at midnight. Cool way to start things off!

xoxo to you all!! K.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let's get started on the South Island

Kia Ora everyone and Happy New Year! Less than 12 hours from now, for us, 2010 will come to an end, which is a real bummer because it's been a pretty great year. Most of you still have another whole day and then some. Lucky ducks.

We knew from the beginning of this journey that we'd only be here for six months and soon we'll be heading back home. In fact three weeks from tomorrow we're outta here. I haven't let myself think much about it, honestly. I love it here and wouldn't mind staying for a while, but as they say it is what it is and so to finish up with a big grand finale, we just spent two weeks in the South Island. What a ride, man!

Everyone raves about this so called South Island, even Kiwis, so what's the deal? Where is it? What's there? I had no idea until we moved here and now I'm going to give you all some travel ideas throughout the next several posts as we tour half of the South Island and see just about every cool thing you can find in the world in one half of a very small country in the South Pacific.

To begin, let's take a look at a map or two. As you can see the South Island is quite a bit larger than the North Island, but only 1/4 (1 million) of NZ's total population (4 million) live there. It is home to glistening green rainforests, ginormous glaciers, 2000-foot deep sounds, braided rivers, endless plains, wild beaches, ancient and bizarre rock formations, whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, all sorts of unique endangered species, and the Southern Alps.

People come from all over the world to skydive, bungy jump, ski, mountain bike, hike for days at a time, fish, surf, and then there's the whole range of extreme sports that involve boards and parachutes and other motion sickness inducing elements. I don't normally pay much attention to that stuff as I'm too old and too much of a chicken for such nonsense, but it's all here if that's your thing.

For a solid month I planned this trip. (As a side note, thank you to Shawn for being my cycling and kayaking consultant!) We stayed at 8 different Farmstays and Homestays and a couple of little inns over the course of 14 days. Started in Queenstown and then moved on through Te Anau, Manapouri, Doubtful Sound, Clyde, Alexandra, Auripo, Chatto Creek, Wanaka, Haast, Fox Glacier, Hokitika, Greymouth, Punakaiki, Murchison, Nelson, and finally Upper Moutere and the incomparable Abel Tasman national park.

We drove 2000km, cycled 20 miles over old railroad bridges through 30mph winds, spent 24 hours on a fishing boat in the middle of nowhere, walked for miles and miles, took a helicopter up to a glacier, and kayaked till our (my) arms were numb. We met the nicest people and dogs you can imagine. We opened windows and closed our eyes and stopped to walk around on the sides of the winding narrow roads and none of us threw up, which was a minor miracle. Here I present days one and two of this totally excellent and most memorable trip to the South Island of New Zealand.

On the 16th of December, we left the big city lights of Auckland and flew into the small city party atmosphere of Queenstown. This was one of our first sights and no, I swear I didn't take this from a Hugh Grant movie.

Queenstown is a fun and adorable little town snuggled into the lakes and mountains of the Southern Alps. The vibe is young but still just fine for a family.

Another gondola and luge experience, even steeper this time. Yay. This is just one of the bungy locations, too. Queenstown is where bungy jumping started with the A.J Hackett Co. We'll get to more of that later.

Our accommodations were just outside of town a wee bit and we had a few hours to enjoy a lovely dinner in a little old gold mining town (lots of those in this area) called Arrowtown.

For you beer drinkers, they have just started selling this in the States. I cannot wait to see if I can find it at home. So yum!! Steinlager Pure.

Loved this little barn where we stayed. I'm always delighted to find an old building with peeling paint, weathered wood, and random metal things lying around. Fun shooting.


I guess gorgeous views go without saying in this part of the world.

Phew!! Long one. Sorry, mates. Had to give you the area overview, but from here on out I'll keep the posts briefer. Is that a word? Next up, south to Te Anau and the trek to Doubtful Sound.

Ten hours left now. Sigh... xoxo to you all! K.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#1 Kiwi

Hello, everyone! Tomorrow, Thursday, we are heading down to explore the South Island for two weeks and so I won't be posting for a little while. I will miss you all! Please stay in touch if you think of it. Merry Christmas and a happy, happy New Year to all.

I will leave you for the time being with this photo of Laurel from her last day of school today, where her friends declared her #1 Kiwi. :o) Sweet as!

Kia Ora, friends. xo, K.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kamahi Cottage in Otorohanga

Hello from Auckland, everyone! It's Wednesday afternoon and tomorrow we leave for a two-week holiday in the South Island, so I am trying to get a bit caught up on the blog because once we return I will have heaps and heaps of photos to share. Also soon after that we must pack up this house and return to the States, which is currently haunting my every moment.

The past few posts have been from our weekend in the Waikato area with its glow worm caves and toothbrush fences. Since we were staying for three days, we wanted a really nice place to relax and enjoy and found it in Liz and Evan Cowan's Farmstay, Kamahi Cottage. What a gorgeous little place in the midst of absolute heaven!! A fifteen-minute drive west of Otorohanga nestled into miles and miles of mountaintops and farmland, it was just splendor in every direction. And delicious splendor at that -- Liz is one brilliant cook! Trey was sold the minute we walked in and found a birthday cake waiting for him.

I've told you all about Homestays and Farmstays in previous posts, but in case you haven't read every single one (God will strike you down for that when you least expect it, just so you know), most of our accommodations here have been in one or the other. People rent out a portion of their home or farm for guests and we've really enjoyed this new way of traveling (to us) and getting to know lots of truly lovely local people wherever we go. This particular farm has been operating for many years and multiple generations, with Evan's grandfather also leading land conservation efforts in the area. Much more interesting to sit down to breakfast with these guys in their home than to grab an Egg McMuffin on the road...

And we could walk forever and ever through the surrounding farmland. The one rule we've learned when dealing with the various property lines, fences, etc. is that if a gate is open, we leave it open, and if it's closed we go through and close it again. The cows have all been friendly so far, but they are typically dairy cows, so I guess they are fairly pleasant.

It was so lovely that we honestly could've just hung out there the whole time. Trey got pretty good at poker, too. Bonus! One of the coolest parts of this trip, and really our whole time here, was that it was so dark that we could see satellites racing across the sky and countless shooting stars. My kids had never seen a shooting star before. Two peaceful, beautiful nights of stargazing. Very cool.

I fell in love with this tea over that weekend. It's a US-based company called Harney & Sons. If you see it, give the Paris tea a try. It's soooooo good.

And now I'd better get back to what I've been avoiding for the past 1/2 hour -- packing. I really, really hate hate hate packing. They are very strict about luggage weights and size limits here and I don't enjoy that one bit. Makes me crabby. I'd better just get it over with and move on. Lunch awaits. Hope you all are staying warrrrrmmmmm!!!! xoxo, K.