2014 – a beginning and the end

4 Apr

Somehow months have gone passed since we updated the blog (Christmas)

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so here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to in between working and the arduous process of applying for various visas:

I went up to New Plymouth to visit my friend Hayley and her boyfriend Matt who both work with me – we went to the annual Festival of Lights there which was great

 

 

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And Craig went to Raglan to visit his friends and to achieve his number one travel goal – Catch a Big Fish:

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We won a barbeque and smoker from our local bottle-o which was a good start to the New Year, and made us more determined to find a place with a garden when our lease is up!

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I went and did the Skyline walk in Wellington from Karori to Johnsonville over the mountaintops…although without Craig my usually amazing sense of direction went awry and I ended up accidentally doing 26km instead of the 12 I was expecting because I missed the end but it was spectacular so I didn’t really mind

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Dad and Susan visited and we went all over the place, sea kayaking

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Nelson

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Dolphin spotting in Picton

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Takahe at Zealandia

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Drive-your-own-golf-buggy-on-railway-experience

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Geothermal parks in Rotorua

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Waterfall we found that comes out of the side of a mountain

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Delicious ice cream in Auckland – although the weather didn’t quite match up

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Ferry across from Wellington to Somes Island (a nature reserve)

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to spot skinks

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The cicadas hatched in Welly

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And I did Wellington Around the Bays, a 6.5km race from town to Kilbirnie along the coast

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And just before we moved from Newtown, we went to Newtown Festival which is a massive event with bands, stalls, food and entertainment and 70,000 people attend.

Wellington Ukele group

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Sea Shanty Society

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Flashdance dance-off

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My colleague and I cooked lunch for our entire team – roast beef and lamb sandwiches with roast potatoes, stuffing, apple sauce, horseradish sauce and kumara (sweet potatoes) and pumpkin with sticky toffee pudding and two cheesecakes. No one could move after that :)

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And we finally moved after spending 7 weeks looking for a place. We have found a lovely flat in Seatoun which is slightly further away from town than Newtown, but right by the coast and has a really nice feel to it. Our flat is only two rooms, but that is double the number of rooms of our last place so it’s definitely an improvement!

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Our flat is the bottom flat and the landlord and lady and their little girl live above us. They are very nice and have a little kitten who is a complete flooze and seems quite keen on having two families to love her

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There is an express bus which leaves from right outside that takes you straight into the city, but what I really love is being able to take the ferry from Queens Wharf (5 mins from work) home again. I saw six little blue penguins on the trip home on Thursday!

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So that is what we have been doing recently. My work visa was granted at the end of March for two years and Craig’s is (hopefully) not far behind. Our residency visas have also been submitted as we love New Zealand life and would really like to settle here, so we can’t claim to be ‘travelling’ any more so it seems like a natural place to end this blog. We are really glad we have this record of what we got up to over the last two and a bit years…sooner or later we have to face facts that now we have jobs and are staying in NZ hopefully, this is just real life! There is still a lot of NZ left to explore, even if we do have to go home eventually.

However, this is not the end of our adventures – in fact according to our midwife, the next one is due at the end of October….

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Sarah & Craig

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Wellington visit

24 Dec

Some pics of Mum and Martin’s recent visit to Wellington – lovely to see them both and we were thoroughly spoilt. Managed to cram in quite a bit in and show them Wellington and the surrounding areas:

Top of Mount Vic

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Rimutaka Range on the way to Martinborough, a region famous for its wines

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At a vineyard

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Lunch spot

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Not usually a fan of taking pictures of every meal but this was so pretty couldn’t resist

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On the way to Lake Ferry

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Wanganui

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NZ’s only steam paddle boat

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Up on the cable car to the botanic gardens

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Amazing steaks at Crazy Horse

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Te Papa and the World of Wearable Art exhibition

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Po boys at Sweet Mama’s Kitchen

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…And then it was over :( But we had a lovely time during their visit and we are looking forward to family visit round two when Dad and Susan get here in late Jan.

We’ve got a tiny Christmas tree to match our tiny tree and will be sitting down to a traditional roast tomorrow – barbeques in Broome just didn’t cut it last year! Wellington’s blowing a gale today so it is almost cold and nearly feels like a normal Christmas – although the sun sets past 9 here and we don’t have any ‘bonbons’ (crackers) – and then we’re off to Raglan and New Plymouth to visit our friends before the New Year and back to the grindstone :)

Tongariro Alpine Crossing aka Monster Walk

24 Dec

Another weekend, another massive walk – this time to Tongariro National Park to do most of the Alpine Crossing. We would have done all of it but it is one-way, rather than in a loop, which would have caused hassle with our hire car so we did around 13km of the 19km track and then turned round again and walked back.

We got there in rubbish weather and as it was getting dark, so pretty much ate and then went to bed, ready to get up in the morning. The weather had cleared up by the time we woke up and we could see what was hidden from us the night before

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We had a bit of a false start as we couldn’t find the right car park and the unhelpful man at the Tourist Information Centre assumed that we didn’t have a car when we asked him where it was, and said we’d missed the only shuttle. He also pointed to the sign which said that if we didn’t have the right kit we weren’t allowed on the shuttle. The ‘right kit’ included hiking boots rather than trainers (I had trainers on) and long trousers (Craig had shorts on). Confusingly, it also recommended taking cellophane…until I read it again and it said cellphone…

But being ones to give up after a five hour drive to get there, we persevered and eventually found the starting point. So, armed with our backpacks full of water and cake, off we went.

The first bit lulled us into a false sense of security as it was on a boardwalk and very flat. It was also easy to overtake the slower people who were in front of us so after half an hour or so we had managed to get ahead

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Except for some pesky Swedish girls who were going just slightly quicker than we were and were noticeably fitter so we used them as pace-makers, resolving to pass them in due course.

We popped to the Soda Springs to look at the waterfall and to catch our breath before tackling the climb up to the South Crater, going from 1400m above sea level to 1600m.

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This climb is known as the Devil’s Staircase and for good reason. Every time you got round a corner, you’d see another set of unending steps and those bloody Swedish girls skipping up them. But the views were pretty gorgeous

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Despite not being natural athletes, we are stubborn and tiny lungs and overactive sweat pores were not going to stop US. So we powered through, stopping as little as possible and smugly crawling past the Swedes when they paused for lunch at the top. Food? Pah, not for us! It was the most difficult thing I’ve done in a long time though!

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This was absolute bliss as it was a large flat crater so we got a bit of a break. Until we realised that we would be climbing to here

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1900m above sea level. Horrendous. There were no steps but loose volcanic rocks so pretty hard going. We had to stop halfway up for lunch (carrot cake) and were slightly dismayed to see a certain pair of blonde girls pass us.

In the meantime, the weather was getting worse and the clouds were rolling in. I am not climbing mountains only to take pictures of clouds up at the top so dug deep and scrambled up to the top, only just beaten by the Swedes, which was a shame but given that we did the walk there and back (26km) in four and a half hours and that most of this was vertical, they probably did us a favour as left to our own devices we might not have done it so quickly! So it was a proud moment when we got to the top – rather cheekily this is recorded by asking the Swedes to take a picture of us…

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And the views were stunning as you could see for miles over the desert (the set of Mordor in Lord of the Rings)

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And look over the Emerald Lakes

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And then it was an about turn to walk allllll the way back again. A quick pub lunch and a pint (sadly during England being thumped by the All Blacks, much to the landlord’s delight) and then a long drive home. A bit much perhaps to try and fit in two days but totally worth it!

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Driving in NZ is SUCH a chore

27 Oct

Having had zero fun and all work recently, we decided to take advantage of a rare opportunity to spend some time together and put the new (old) car to the test and go away for the weekend. Luckily, this coincided with absolutely spectacular weather so we decided to do the walk to the Putangirua Pinnacles – for the second time, the first having been called off during one of the worst storms in the Wellington region for 30 years.

As it was a bit of a last minute decision and we had been all the way there before, we decided not to take any food, reasoning that the nearby Lake Ferry Hotel would be able to provide us with tea on the Saturday. So we packed up our new tent and a few other bits and bobs into the Morris and set off in glorious sunshine.

Driving in NZ is just ridiculous. The roads are always packed and so grey and drab

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But we battled through the traffic ok and on to the motorway. First setback was at a petrol station on the motorway as the car decided to spring a leak after we’d bought drinks and snacks – luckily it was only the coolant having been filled up too much by the previous owner and not the black pool of death (oil).

As Wellington is so hilly, there is only usually one way to each place you want to visit – and the Pinnacles can only be found when you venture over the Rimutaka Range. Stunning views but the poor car struggled a little on the way up (second gear was necessary) so we stopped halfway up to let it catch its breath and to enjoy the views that were shrouded by clouds last time we took this route

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The lovely views continued as we got closer to Lake Ferry

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And finally we were on the road to the campsite (last time the road was covered in waves so this was a definite improvement)

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Our little Morris did us proud and didn’t put a foot wrong

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We dumped our stuff after chatting to a couple of people who were interested in the van – having an unusual car means you can’t exactly slip under the radar…

And set off for Lake Ferry pub to have a meal and a well-earned beer

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We decided to have an early tea so we could fish at sunset. Sadly we caught nothing but seaweed and sandfly bites (the itchiest of all itchy things, hands down) but it was worth it for the stunning sunset. Cape Palliser is the most Southerly part of the North Island so although my phone pic is rubbish, what you can’t see is the sun setting behind the snow-capped mountains of the South Island

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It was just one of those moments you have to remember rather than document.

When it became clear we weren’t going to set any fishing records we headed back to the campsite for a fire and a drink or two. Having remembered to at least pack firelighters (nothing else hugely useful though), we soon had a brilliant fire going, much to the jealously of everyone else. To be fair though, they were all grey nomads with massive motorhomes that probably had central heating, but we did attract the attention of a couple of Slovakian/Canadian backpackers who asked if we would mind sharing. We said that was fine as long as they brought us more wood (we are nothing if not resourceful). We had a very nice evening chatting with them whilst the full moon shone until it was time for bed. Our little Aussie sleeping bags weren’t quite up to the job so we spent a fair amount of the night with teeth chattering, but I guess it’s what used to be called ‘character building’.

Our lack of preparation was woefully apparent the next morning when we had a delicious and warming meal of crisps for breakfast. We had brought water in a 10l container, and our new backpacker friends had drunk all theirs but had a spare 2l container so we did a swap so we at least had something to drink on the trek.

We set off fairly early to avoid the midday heat and walked through beautiful bush

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before finding the Pinnacles. This was the set of the Dimholt Road in the Lord of the Rings films where Aragorn and Legolas are told

The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead. And the Dead keep it. The way is shut.

However, in full sunshine it was not scary at all and really quite amazing

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We’d heard that if we did the loop track we’d see even better views so confidently set off down a little path with a sign pointing the way. Our demeanour was slightly less confident after walking up vertical mountains for few more hours, going further and further away from the sea (and therefore the campsite). Eventually we admitted defeat and turned round, walking up and down around nine mountains before finally getting back. We discovered that the track we’d been on didn’t actually go anywhere except a little hut which would have been somewhat demoralising. Still we didn’t get eaten by bush tigers or eagles so I counting this as a win. It certainly made the calves and thigh muscles realise that they could potentially be more involved in my life.

Not an excellent picture but we walked from the You Are Here sign nearly to the Washpool Hut and back again. Not quite the short two hour ramble we had been planning

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But still a beautiful weekend and nice to get out of the city for a change.

The next weekend (this one) is a Bank Holiday weekend and as the weather was meant to be awful, we decided not to go away but do a couple of nearby things. After the Morris passed its Warrant of Fitness (MOT) yesterday and had a thorough service, we took her out for another run and spent an enjoyable day weaving down the back roads between Karori and the coast. We stopped at a little café with a stream running through the garden and a sign stating ‘DO NOT POKE THE EELS WITH STICKS’. Had the sign not been there, it would not have occurred to us that there would be eels in the stream, never mind to poke them with sticks, but it drew us in to have a look. Fifteen huge 2m long eels lurked back at us which was very unexpected. A little boy poked one of them (with his finger, he was a good boy) and announced that they were pretty slimy so I wasn’t massively tempted to have a go. The café was shut but the eels were worth the detour alone!

The incessant wind let up slightly today (Wellington has 200 days a year which are over gale force, peaking in November so it’s pretty relentless at the moment) so being gluttons for punishment, we went for another walk. This time it was completely by accident as we happened to go past an interesting sign for a coastal walk and followed it. We were glad we did as despite the wind, it was a beautiful few hours from Eastbourne to the first lighthouse in New Zealand (conveniently situated on top of a mountain, joy!) and back again

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Again, only having my phone on me was a complete waste because in the middle of this photo are the South Island mountains which were so clear on a day like this you could see the cliffs. My shoddy panoramic app was no match for the lovely views but hopefully this’ll give you some idea of the amazing scenery (and the absolute lack of other people throughout the whole walk!)

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Where has a month gone?

15 Sep

We’ve mainly been working and not doing much recently but this is what we’ve been up to in between times:

Wellington on a Plate Festival – the hundreds of restaurants in Wellington put on special offers, courses, menus etc for a week. We took full advantage by visiting Logan Brown which we wouldn’t normally be able to afford to do. They did a five course meal for $65 which was delicious, and is an old bank building so the surroundings are lovely too.

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Went to see ‘Love and Money’ – and introduced to a whole new art form of ‘physical theatre’. People doing amazing things with their amazing bodies!

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Completed another ridiculous walk, this time to try and stave off a horrendous cold (didn’t work sadly). I think we ended up walking around 25 miles around what felt like the whole coast of New Zealand, but the views were lovely. There were some cool wind-themed sculptures by the bay…Wellington is the windiest city in the Southern Hemisphere.

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I also had my birthday (same day as Grandpa, Happy Birthday to you too!) and have been rather delighted to find I am now a spring baby rather than an autumn one. So instead of my birthday signalling the annual six-month darkening, we find ourselves surrounded by snowdrops, daffodils and daisies. According to the paper, this change means that I will do less well at school, be less sporty, be more likely to develop an eating disorder but less chance of having asthma than autumn babies. Excellent.

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Took a walk up Mount Victoria, which sounds very energetic but it’s a bit of a rubbish mountain being only 196m and you are able to drive up to the top. The views are worth the climb though as you can see the CBD and harbour, the many bays and out to the South Island. We’re having a gorgeous spell of weather at the moment (except on my birthday which was freezing – some things never change).

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We have also bitten the bullet and bought a car. Something practical that we can chuck our stuff in and go camping, or trundle around at the weekend making the weekly shop a bit easier.

This?

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No.

This?

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No.

THIS:

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Just another example of our sensible, clinical and logical decisions made whilst abroad. The rest of New Zealand, here we come (slowly)…

 

Good things and sad things

7 Aug

We still keep in touch with a lot of the people we met during our travels and had some happy news recently as we heard that Pathum, one of our friends we met in Sri Lanka, got married. We met him and his lovely family near Hikkaduwa (in this post) and again when we returned before we left Sri Lanka (here) and we are really pleased for him and his wife.

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Sadly, he also let us know that his Dad, Silva, passed away before the wedding in a road accident. The danger of the roads in Sri Lanka were made light of by us for the purposes of the blog, but bus journeys and even crossing the road were genuinely scary and we are sad for him and his family that such a nice man has died in such a way. He was one of our favourite of the many characters we met along the way in Sri Lanka and we are very sorry we won’t be able to keep our promise to see him again when we return.

Also heartbreaking was the news from Cambodia the other day that our amazing puppy, Namnam, whom we rescued from the jungle (here), nursed back to health, took on a beach holiday and to restaurants and on buses halfway across Cambodia before finding a suitable expat adoptive family for him to live with in Sihanoukville, has gone missing from his home. Having seen the evidence for ourselves in various markets across SE Asia, the inescapable conclusion is that there is a high chance that he will have ended up on the table. Cambodians were urged by their government several years ago to eat more dog as a way to access cheaper meat and also to reduce the stray population, and sadly a well-loved and fed dog is often more appealing than something mangey and starved on the streets. Apparently this happens quite a lot. Having come from such a bad start, I hope the year he had with his new owners and the ridiculous amount of love and affection we showered on him whilst he was ours made up for the potentially unbearably grim ending to his story.

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Rudely awakened/ashakened

24 Jul

Another earthquake shook me awake this morning but not enough for my poor brain to register that anything bad was happening so fell blissfully back to sleep having slept very badly over the last few days as every quiver I felt jolted me back awake thinking the worst was going to happen. Craig didn’t even wake up which is a good sign. As I work for the Earthquake Commission I get emails of every earthquake felt in the country for information – when I got into work on Monday I had 163 emails! Things seems to be settling down thank goodness but people are still very rattled. Today was the first day at work where the building didn’t shake so hopefully that’s the end of it and things can get back to normal!

Having said that, as the royal baby was born the other day, Wellington Port put on a 21 gun salute in celebration. When everyone’s nerves are shot to pieces after the storms and earthquakes, hearing gun fire wasn’t the most reassuring thing in the world!