Monthly Archives: December 2012

My blog: 2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog. I thought I would share it with my readers. Thanks to all those who have read/commented/contributed¬†since I started my blog back on June 30th. I am hoping to continue to develop my blog into 2013 and beyond! ūüôā

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Dart River Jet Safari in Glenorchy = awesome!!

Friday 21st December: Dart River Jet Safari Adventure!
Dart River Jet Safari

Us on Scenery on the Dart River Jet SafariWe enjoyed an amazing 3 night stay in Glenorchy before Christmas – which I will post more about when I have time, but wanted to write separately about the Dart River Jet Wilderness Safari. It really is one of the best things we have ever done in New Zealand – and definitely up there with our heli hike on Franz Josef Glacier back in 2006. It is certainly the best thing we have done in NZ since then. The whole trip was amazing from start to finish! We undertook a 45 minute bus ride from Glenorchy, after we self-drove there as were staying in a lovely holiday house. The bus took us up towards Paradise and was a really enjoyable ride – with beautiful views and great commentary by the driver. We were told about various TV commercial and film locations in the area – including Lord of the Rings, Wolverine and Narnia. Me on jet boatAs we arrived at our spot beside the Dart River we took a 20 minute walk into the forest, again lead by our wonderful guide (apologies for forgetting his name!) and enjoyed learning about the native flora and fauna. As we headed back to the bus we took a short drive down close to the river, where we boarded our jet boat. The total time spent in the jet boat was around an hour and a half – so much longer than all other local jet boat companies. It was an absolutely thrilling ride! We realy loved every second of it! Our driver – Simon – was so careful negotiating the Dart River, ensuring the safety of passengers at all times. We did have to hang on tight, as were travelling at about 80 kmph at times – the wind blowing in our hair (note the windswept look below!) and we got bumped up and down a little, but never felt unsafe. We headed up to the head of the river, weaving in and out as we went, and stopping at various times for awesome 360 degree turns (yes you get a bit wet!) and to take some photos of the wonderful scenery. We headed back down the river, taking a quick stop at Kinloch to drop off and pick up a passenger before heading back to the jetty at Glenorchy. The trip had just flown by and was over all too soon – but completely worth every penny and we would return again to do it in an instant!

Windswept news

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Family Queenstown Christmas starts today!

Monday 24th of December – the family arrive!

Queenstown Christmas

I haven’t posted in a while as we have enjoyed an amazing pre-Christmas break in Glenorchy. We were lucky enough to do the Dart River Jet Safari in amazing weather – which was incredible! I will post retrospectively about that when I get better internet again.

My parents and sister are flying in today and we really can’t wait!! My parents are coming all the way from the UK and my sister from Sydney (where she is currently living). We are renting an amazing town house in the centre of Queenstown overlooking Lake Wakatipu – with the above stunning view from the living room. We arrived here yesterday after doing the final Christmas food shop.

Everyone arrives in just a few hours, so we have been decorating and getting the house ready. It’s been ages since we have seen everyone, so really can’t wait and are really looking forward to spending Christmas all together. It is supposed to be very hot here today in Queenstown – around 31 degrees celsius!! So it will certainly be a summery and traditional kiwi Christmas.

Roll on our Kiwi family Christmas! ūüôā

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Christmas Lights in Auckland

Christmas Lights on Franklin Road in Auckland

Franklin Road Christmas Lights

On Tuesday night we took a walk through Auckland’s streets to Franklin road – which is famous for being lined with amazing Christmas lights. It certainly was a brilliant sight! The lights were absolutely amazing – almost all of the houses were completely covered in lights and decorations and it was stunning. The atmosphere was also really lovely, with loads of people wandering up and down to look at the lights and taking photos. I was also able to take a couple of pictures of the Sky Tower which was ‘festively’ lit up in red and green and looked amazing. I have included photos of some of my favourite houses below. It certainly got me in the Christmas mood so roll on Christmas!

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Wonderful Waiheke

Saturday December 1st – Spending the official start of summer on Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Arriving at Waiheke IslandWhat a wonderful way to spend the first official day of summer over here in New Zealand – on the wonderful Waiheke Island! I am posting this retrospectively about the time we spent on Waiheke a few weeks ago. We took the ferry from Auckland ferry terminal (costing $35 each – but well worth the cost!) and taking about 40 minutes. It was a lovely ferry ride, with gorgeous views all around of Auckland’s CBD, Devonport and other scenery. There were loads of lovely little boats out fishing and the time flew by. On arrival we decided we wanted to do our own thing on Waiheke and explore. The alternative was getting on a bus with a whole group of others and being driven round on a ‘tour’. Those who know us know we try and avoid tours where possible and really prefer to explore as much as we can and have our own adventures! So we decided on a loop walk to see some of Waiheke’s highlights and off the beaten track parts.

Owhanake Bay 3

So we took a walk from Matiatia bay, where the ferry comes in and headed to Owhanake bay. We climbed up high to begin (as the path round by the coast was only accessible at high tide) and soon¬†experienced¬†wonderful views. We could see Rangitoto and¬†Auckland’s¬†CBD. What was lovely is that¬†straight¬†away as people hired cars and got on the bus, we walked a short¬†distance¬†and were immediately in the middle of beauty with peace and quiet – it was great! We further explored and really enjoyed the beauty of¬†Owhanake bay. We then headed to Fossil bay which was deserted and very quiet. Climbing higher again we had yet more sweeping views of the surrounding area. This walk took us along the coast and through vineyards, as we arrived at Oneroa beach. Here we took a nice walk along the beach – again really quiet despite being a Saturday! There was some kind of Christmas event going on in Oneroa so it was pretty busy but we found a lovely fish and chip shop and had some food here overlooking the beach. We then headed back to the ferry terminal to take the 3pm ferry home.

Oneroa Beach 2It really is an incredibly¬†beautiful¬†island and I would recommend anyone visiting Auckland should definitely take a trip here – for as long as you can fit into your itinerary! It is also quite a popular place for commuters who work in Auckland to live, as they get the gorgeous beaches and relaxed lifestyle on Waiheke but can work and earn money in the city. Apparently houses are pretty reasonable on the island too! Who knows, it may even become a future option me and John, depending on where we end up ūüôā Verdict on Waiheke – one of Auckland’s real highlights, and a real chance to explore!

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Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Tolkien QuoteThought this was pretty appropriate to our current situation, as we are living and travelling around New Zealand. Not knowing how our future will plan out over here is scary but also really exciting! We are having amazing adventures ‘wandering’ and despite not having a stable ‘home’ as such, we have been made to feel at home here by the welcoming kiwis and their amazing country. ūüôā

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Delightful Devonport

Saturday 24th/Sunday 25th November: Parnell and Devonport

View from North Head or Rangitoto

Roses 2

I have got a little behind with my normal posts Рwhile I was doing my Top 5 series of holiday highlights. So thought I would get back on track with a posting about the weekend before last which we spent exploring Parnell and Devonport. On Saturday we took a walk from our apartment up to Parnell, which is a lovely older suburb of Auckland. We grabbed a pizza from Crust (our favourite) which was delicious, and took a walk through Alberon Reserve on the way to Parnell Rose Gardens. The roses here were beautiful and it was a really lovely collection Рsee some photos I took at the end of my gallery below.

View of Auckland from North HeadOn Sunday we took the ferry from Auckland ferry terminal to Devonport (costing only $11 for a return each and taking about 15 minutes). The sun was shining brightly as we arrived and we enjoyed the walk along the coast up towards North Head. The scenery around here was gorgeous and we stopped on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach for lunch. The surrounding views as we walked around North Head were stunning –¬†especially¬†of Rangitoto island and the Auckland sky line. There were also some old war tunnels remaining which we had fun exploring. We would definitely like to return (time permitting!) and explore some more of this wonderful area.

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A New Zealand Adventure Update

Auckland harbour skyline

So I haven’t written an update in quite a while on how our life is going living over here in New Zealand. We are still living in Auckland at the moment, with an exciting Christmas adventure to look forward to.

When I last wrote we had been living in Auckland a short while and have now been here 6 weeks (tomorrow). I thought I would draw on some of the points I addressed in my first post I wrote when we arrived in Auckland – covering topics to consider and think about as a UK person living in NZ.

Work/Jobs: We are over here on working holiday visas, which enables us to work over here Рwith a few limitations. My husband, John, is a Software Developer and has been contracting back home, working on a daily rate, with more flexible contracts. So it seemed like a natural progression for him to look for similar work over here. We found that Auckland had the most work of that kind, so John applied for jobs. He did get a job incredibly quickly actually! He started looking for jobs on the Saturday (mostly using Seek), applied for a job on the Sunday, got a call that day about it, went for an interview on Monday and started on Tuesday! It is working for a great advertising agency here in the city working on big brands such as Coca Cola and Cadbury. He was initially given a 2 week contract with the view to extending it until Christmas Рwhich they did. So he is working there up until Christmas now, and with a good daily rate so we are able to live quite comfortably. Regarding my work situation I am currently working on self employed projects working from home. I have actually started my own business Рvery very recently Рwhich will be a travel consultancy business helping people wishing to travel to New Zealand. It is still in the REALLY early stages but I am giving it a go because am really passionate about it, and really feel I can help people have their own amazing New Zealand Adventures! I will post more about my business as I go and develop it. Two people who have been fundamental in helping start this are my sister, Kat, (marketing guru, who runs her own business called Thought Cloud) and my husband John Рan amazing web and software developer. So with their help and support I hope I can build something successful that I can be proud of.

View from Auckland waterfront apartmentAccommodation:¬†Since I last wrote we have moved from the Celestion Apartment to an apartment on Auckland’s waterfront. We got a reduced rate for¬†committing¬†to a month which is good. Our apartment overlooks the water and the Auckland harbour bridge which is nice. We are right at the end of Princes Wharf in the centre, so very close to everything in the centre (including the ferry terminal) but it is also really quiet which is the perfect combination. It is a nice place to work at home from and I enjoy watching the boats that pass the window during the day, and¬†especially¬†watching all the sailboats out in the evening, if the weather is nice. The sunsets from here are also pretty spectacular – see my photos! The one thing I would say about accommodation is that unless you can commit to somewhere long-term (at least 3 months and most likely 6 months) then you will have to still pay a fairly high nightly rate. Places like Gumtree and Trade Me are only really useful for accommodation of a longer length. And with the uncertainty we had over John’s job we haven’t been able to commit to Auckland long-term so have been paying more nightly rates through our time here. We are ok with this as like leading a fairly nomadic lifestyle for now, and also it gives us the flexibility to go pretty much where we want to after Christmas! We are just finalising our plans for after the New Year so will post soon after everything has been sorted ūüôā

Phone/Internet:¬†As I posted before we got a great deal on our phones with Telecom and have been making do with internet. We are paying a reduced rate for internet at our accommodation so it isn’t too bad. NZ is definitely behind the UK in terms of good cheap internet options though!

Tax registration: My husband has registered with the IRD Рwhich he did within about a week of starting work. It was fairly simple to do Рhe just filled out the relevant form, and took his ID and supporting documents to a local post shop so he could have it sent off. Then he called up the tax office to obtain his number, which he gave to his employer so is being taxed correctly.

Bank/Money: We have been into our local Westpac and picked up our NZ account debit cards which is quite exciting! Now John is being paid in NZ dollars we have been using this more than relying on trying to access our UK money all the time.

Travel:¬†We have used the transport system a fair bit – taking the train to Mount Smart stadium to see Coldplay, buses to Mission Bay and the zoo and ferries to Devonport and Waiheke, plus a few other trips. We have got used to it now, but Auckland is quite a sprawling city, so you can’t easily walk everywhere (which is a shame, as this is something we like to do wherever possible!).

Food: We have been living relatively cheaply, although with groceries costing a fair bit more than back in the UK this has been interesting at times! We have been using the local Countdown as it is walkable and usually buy things on offer there. We have also discovered a lovely takeaway pizza place called Crust Рbased in Parnell, and do order the odd takeaway every now and again for there as a treat.

I would add one more category and that is:

Weather:¬†Obviously we are dealing with opposite seasons to the UK over here, so summer officially started on 1st Dec. We had a really lovely hot weekend just gone, and have had a lot of sun, but like the UK the weather is also quite¬†unpredictable¬†and prone to a fair bit of rain! Whilst I write this I am sat looking out at a big storm that is hitting Auckland with¬†torrential¬†rain, causing flooding. The news has also reported a tornado has hit Auckland, really sadly resulting in some¬†fatalities just a few miles from here. It is quite scary when things like that happen just on your doorstep. It has also been strange being in a much warmer climate in the lead up to Christmas – as for me Christmas is¬†associated¬†with cold and snow! So it just doesn’t feel as Christmassey as usual.

Waiheke IslandOverall then we are really enjoying our New Zealand Adventure. To be completely honest Auckland was never our ‘favourite’ place in NZ when we visited in the past, so it wasn’t our first choice of place to live. However, as I am sure many people realise, you need money to be able to survive and travel so it has made sense to live here and make some money (as well as pay off some of the money we spent travelling in the first 5 weeks when we arrived here!) – at least up until Christmas. After that we plan to hopefully head back to South island – work permitting – and have some more adventures. We have tried to make the most of everyday we are here and Auckland has really grown on us over the time we have spent here. Visiting delightful Devonport and wonderful Waiheke (which I hope to post about soon) has really helped, as they are such beautiful places and nice places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. Waiheke is¬†especially¬†gorgeous and a really lovely place to visit.

Also, as my previous post mentioned my parents are coming over from the UK for Christmas (and my sister is also flying over from Sydney) so we will all be together in Queenstown, which I really can’t wait for. I have missed my parents a lot since leaving the UK in September so it will be wonderful to see them and spend the Christmas season as a family. Lots to look forward to and with many more adventures to come! ūüôā

I have posted a few pictures I have taken around Auckland in the last few weeks that didn’t fit into any of my other posts below (I have many more yet to post for Devonport and Waiheke):

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South Island Highlights ‚Äď Top 5 best kept secrets on South Island, New Zealand

This is my last post in a ‘Top 5’ series I have been¬†writing¬†about – to document our 5 week holiday we took around the South island of New Zealand – as part of a year¬†abroad¬†here from the UK.

I decided to post about South Island’s ‘best kept secrets’ as we discovered a few gems on our travels that not many other seemed to know about, that I thought it would be good to share (and as I don’t get millions of visitors to my site I think they will remain pretty secret!) ūüôā

For the last Top 5 then, here we go

Top 5 best kept secrets

1. Petrified forest at Curio Bay (Catlins) – yellow eyed penguins in the wild

Curio Bay yellow-eyed penguin

Catlins PenguinCertainly one of our most memorable¬†experiences¬†of the whole trip was seeing yellow-eyed penguins in the wild. I posted in detail about the¬†experience¬†here where you can also see a video we made of the amazing penguins we saw. The reason this is a well kept secret is that – as long as you obey the ‘keep your distance’ rule – you can get much closer to the pengiuns here than in other places to see them in NZ. You are allowed right down on to the beach – via proper steps (not via a self-made track at some other sites!). As a result you can wait right on the beach for the little guys to come ashore. We spent two different evenings there and were lucky enough to see one yellow-eyed penguin on the first night who took about 50 minutes to make his way up the beach, and two more penguins on the second night. We were joined by a maximum of about 5 people each time down at the petrified forest in Curio Bay. It is easily accessible with a car park here, right near the camping ground, and as far as I believe people tend to go to other places to see the yellow-eyed penguins instead (such as Oamaru or Nugget Point). We also checked out Nugget Point where you wait in a hide really high up and far away from the beach and decided to leave as our expereince in Curio Bay couldn’t be beaten. You must make sure you respect nature and the penguins’ need for space, but as long as you do this then it really is such an amazing sight!

I have also posted below a video we made of highlights of the amazing yellow-eyed penguin.

2. Elephant Rocks – between Oamaru and Omarama

Elephant Rocks

Enjoying our time at Elephant RocksThese amazing rock formations are definitely off the main tourist past but are a stunning sight! They are located on the road between Oamaru and Omarama, near a place called Duntroon. To find them you take the¬†Livingston-Duntroon Road and then follow signposts which take you there. Parking is just by the side of the road. These rocks were made out of limestone and were originally limey sand on the sea floor (around 24 million years ago) but this was buried, turned into rock and then in the last million years was uplifted and weathered by water and wind into the amazing shapes they have formed today. They are located on private farmland (but open to the public), so may¬†occasionally¬†be closed. The site was also used in the Chronicles of Narnia film – as a location for Aslan’s camp. No one else was around when we visited (on route to Mount Cook)¬†and we¬†absolutely¬†loved exploring and taking photos of these extraordinary shapes – at one of NZ’s best kept secrets!

3. Little Kaiteriteri – Abel Tasman National Park

View from lookout of Little Kaiteriteri beach

Our favourite - Little Kaiteriteri beachKaiteriteri is a little more well-known, and often spoken of as the ‘gateway’ to the Abel Tasman National Park. Just down the coast from Kaiteriteri is ‘Little Kaiterteri’, which is much less¬†visited¬†and a quieter and absolutely stunning stretch of beach. It was completely deserted when we walked along it and back on our route to get our boat from Kaiteriteri. This walk takes you along the beach as you then climb up to a wonderful lookout, and then down the other side to Kaiteriteri. I think this area is much nicer than nearby inland Motueka and a¬†beautiful¬†place to stay if planning some time in the park.¬†We had gorgeous weather on the day we were there on¬†our trip back in October¬†and the beach was one of the most beautiful we have ever seen!

4. Governor’s Bay – off Queen Charlotte drive

Governor's Bay

Governor's Bay 2Queen Charlotte Drive itself is a highlight of any trip to the South island – as I wrote about this drive in more detail on my Top 5 drives. One of its hidden gems is definitely a lovely bay called ‘Governor’s Bay’ – it is signposted off the road, but like many of these places was completely empty when we arrived. It really is the most gorgeous setting, and has a lovely beach and wonderful scenery. You could easily spend a half day or even a day relaxing here, and perhaps go for a swim!

5. Baby seals playing at Ohau waterfall – near Kaikoura

Baby seals at Ohau waterfall

Baby sealThis is certainly becoming more well-known than some of the other things I have posted about (as there were other people at the waterfall when we arrived) Рbut after speaking to and conversing with a lot of people who have been to that area many still did not know about it Рhence I thought I was worth letting a few more know. Just past the Ohau Point seal colony (which is on your right if heading north from Kaikoura) you drive slightly further down the road and on your left you can pull your car in by the side of the road and walk along a river to the waterfall. We were lucky enough to see a baby seal on the rock part-way along the river, making his way down Рwhen we visited on our way up to Marlborough Sounds. When we arrived we were met by an amazing sight Рlots of lovely baby seals playing in the beautiful waterfall! They were jumping in and out of the waterfall and seemed as happy as anything. There were also a couple of little ones lying on the rock rather obviously posing for photos! We took some video which we have pasted below in a short highlights film. I am sure this will become more well-known over time, as it is such a special sight. Make sure you visit when driving the coastal road either to/from Kaikoura.

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South Island Highlights ‚Äď Top 5 half-day walks on South Island, New Zealand

I want to first start by saying that this post refers to ‘walks’ rather than ‘hikes’. I know there are many more hikes (Milford Track, Routeburn Track etc.) that would warrant making it into this top 5, but I am just posting shorter walks – about half a day or less. Having spent 5 weeks travelling around NZ’s South island I have chosen what I feel are the top 5 best shorter walks that we undertook during our travels.¬†

Top 5 walks

1. Hanmer Springs Conical Hill Walkway

Conical Hill View

Conical hill walk benchWe really loved the time we spent in Hanmer Springs –¬†especially¬†the Conical Hill Walkway. This walkway started near our lovely holiday house and we really enjoyed the walk – and were blessed with gorgeous weather while we walked. The walk is pretty steep uphill at times – you are climbing to the summit of Conical Hill after all! It is well signposted and shaded most of the way though – and really worth the incredible views that meet you at the top. There are some well placed benches along the way – including a nice picnic bench at the top, along with a shaded hut and seating area. The 360 degree views from the top are breathtaking – making this one of our favourite walks.

2. Glenorchy Lagoon walkway

Glenorchy walkway boardwalk view

Glenorchy lagoonThe Glenorchy Lagoon encompasses absolutely amazing views and is a fantastic mixture of boardwalks and gravel tracks. We thoroughly enjoyed our walk back in October. It took us about 1 hour 20 to complete the loop around the walkway. As I mention in my blog posting much of the boardwalk is brand new and had just been laid by the local community! There are stunning views of the mountains  all around you as you walk. A definite must on a trip to Glenorchy.

3. Fox Glacier walk

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier walkDuring our visit to Fox Glacier the poor weather meant we weren’t able to do the glacier hike in our time frame (although we weren’t too disappointed as were lucky enough to do the heli hike on Franz Josef back in 2006). However, we decided to still walk to the glacier face ourselves – and it was a gorgeous walk! We were able to get within a few hundred metres of the glacier and the views of the glacier mouth were brilliant. There are some sections of the walk with a ‘do not stop’ rule due to the dangers of rockfall. On the whole though the walk is very safe, as long as you stick to the main paths and don’t go past the signs telling you not to! All in all a brilliant walk enabling you to get very close to the glacier, at your own pace and under your own steam.

4. Mount Cook Hooker Valley Track

Hooker Valley walk

Hooker valley swingbridgeOur time in Mount Cook was incredibly memorable and we made the most of it, despite being limited by time and weather. We had a spare hour or so and decided to walk part of the Hooker Valley Track. We drove to the car park by the camping area to reduce the walking time (you can walk from Mount Cook village which is about 45 minutes). We walked up past the Alpine Memorial to the first swingbridge on the walk and stopped to take some great photos of the Hooker river, which feeds into the Hooker Glacier terminal lake. The sweeping views across the landscape including the stunning Mount Cook were wonderful. In future we hope to return and do more/all of this great walk!

5. Kaikoura Coastal Peninsula walkway

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway 2This walk has it all! Taking about 3 hours 30/4 hours (with stops) to complete this 12 kilometre walk back in September we were tired but really enjoyed it! The walk enables you to see seals in their natural habitat, local wildlife and seabirds, and enjoy fantastic views from cliff top sites with views out to sea with the gorgeous mountain peaks as a backdrop. Some sections are steep in parts but on the whole it is well signposted and has a really great variety taking in much of Kaikoura’s best scenery. A great way to spend half a day in the area!

Others worthy of a mention:

Frankton arm walkwayFrankton arm walkway Р a brilliant but easy walk in Queenstown.

Our own private view on Skyline Loop walkSkyline loop walkway – Queenstown. Also referred to on my blog posting.

Blue Pools swing bridgeBlue Pools walk – part of Haast pass. Read more from my blog here.

Wainui Falls 2Wainui falls walk in Golden Bay – a sense of adventure necessary for this one!

Lake Matheson - not a bad reflection!Lake Matheson walk – near Fox Glacier

Walk at Pancake RocksPancake rocks and blowholes – part of the amazing wet and wild west coast.

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