Monthly Archives: March 2013

Have you visited New Zealand? Please complete my super quick survey that takes just 2 minutes!

Survey MonkeyWe have had an amazing response from people completing my New Zealand Favourites Survey – and we would love to get more responses so I thought I would re-post my New Zealand Favourites survey. I know lots of people who visit wordpress and my blog have visited New Zealand, and I have put together a survey with 5 short questions – which takes just 2 minutes of your time.

To access the survey either click on the Survey Monkey icon to the left or click the link below.

New Zealand Favourites Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GMHFQ8T.

Blue Penguin Travel logoThe results will be incredibly helpful to my new travel consultancy company I have set up – called Blue Penguin Travel. Blue Penguin Travel specialises in helping you travel to and around New Zealand by providing personalised off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries. We plan to use the results to improve our offering to our customers.

If you are interested in reading more about Blue Penguin Travel, then please take a look at our website or our Facebook page (and ‘Like’ it if you are interested).

Thanks so much to everyone who takes the time to complete it – I am very grateful for all the support. 🙂

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Categories: Blue Penguin, New Zealand, Survey | Tags: , , , , , ,

The weird and wonderful world of Waiheke: insect bites, earthquakes and survival

Waiheke Island: 1st March to 5th April

Beautiful Onetangi beach

Beautiful Onetangi beach

Us on the beach

Us on the beach

We are now three weeks into our stay on Waiheke Island and I thought it was time to report on how we are finding life on an island. For those of your reading that don’t know, me and my husband are currently both working from home, and have been moving around New Zealand since our arrival back in September. We have been doing a mixture of travelling and working from home in different locations. It has been brilliant being able to work from home as we have been able to experience living in different places and seeing what life is really like. So far we have worked from home in Auckland, Queenstown and Glenorchy – and travelled round most of the country on various holidays. We decided (prior to John securing his work from home) that for these 5 weeks it would be good to be near Auckland in case John needed to do IT contract work. It just so happens the company he works for are amazing and have let him work from anywhere. Still, we had already booked our holiday house here in Waiheke and flew up here from Glenorchy on Friday 1st March. The reason we decided to live up here in Waiheke is after loving our day visit we took back in December, which I blogged about here – we loved the walk we took exploring the gorgeous beaches.

We have discovered – as with most places actually – living here is very different! Don’t get me wrong we love Waiheke and it will be one of the most memorable parts of our New Zealand adventure – just for many different reasons! Let me start with the things we love about living here:

  • Tui Cottage

    Tui Cottage

    Our lovely little Tui Cottage – despite a few negatives (see below) that are ‘island’ issues – we really love our holiday house. It does have a few quirks (the washing machine is under the house, and has to have the hose pumping water out of it connected into a tube that flows out of the door and onto the garden! And it only has cold water!), but we really do feel quite at home here. It is small and cosy and actually just the right size for me and John. The furnishings are lovely, the TV a nice size, and it has a nice comfortable bed. It is also in a good location in the small town of Surfdale – with a great little bakery, convenience shop and a water tank giving out free water! (water comes at a premium on the island – see below!) and only a 10 minute walk to the gorgeous Little Oneroa beach. It also has on ocean view from the kitchen window!

  • The beaches – they are simply stunning, and pretty much deserted! We live a 5 minute walk from the south facing Surfdale beach, and a short walk from the beautifully sandy north-facing beaches of Oneroa and Little Oneroa. We have also visited Onetangi beach, which we think is our favourite – the biggest on the island – which was incredible! The sand was a gorgeous colour, with the beautiful sea lapping at the shores – which had enticed a few swimmers when we visited a few weeks ago.

    Little Oneroa beach

    Little Oneroa beach

  • Pizza on the beach! Yes really! There is a small ‘mobile’ pizza place right on Little Oneroa beach – called Dragonfired. They have won a few awards, and serve up delicious wood fired organic pizza from their amazing wood fired oven. Quite unique!
  • Pizza on the beach

    Pizza on the beach

    Waiheke’s ‘quaint’ appeal – Just taking a walk into Surfdale’s shops yesterday we came across someone running a garage sale from a little shop they own – complete with an awesome book on ships and a fax machine! We also saw someone that appeared to be taking their horse for a walk 🙂

  • The birds – staying in Tui Cottage we are frequently visited by tuis and other native birds in our lovely gardens.
  • The peace and quiet – obviously there is a general level of day to day noise, but in general Waiheke is a nice and peaceful place.

However there have also been some things that have been an ‘experience’:

  • John and our water tank!

    John and our water tank!

    The water situation – before booking our holiday house I rather ignorantly didn’t know that Waiheke island doesn’t have a mains water supply! So everyone has their own water tank that stores the water they use, and as such we have to be really careful and conserve water wherever possible. You also get the odd occasion where brown water comes out the tap – which happened to me when I was brushing my teeth – nice!

  • One of my swollen insect bites

    One of my swollen insect bites

    Insect bites – this has been a real problem for me if I am honest. Despite using excellent insect repellant I have been repeatedly bitten by mossies and other creatures (I am still not sure what!). Some of the bites I had were really very bad, and got really red and swollen (see a pic I took as they were calming down!). I probably had about 16 bites at one point, and 4 of them were very bad. I used all of the right stuff on them though and luckily they calmed down. I think I had an allergic reaction or something to them.

  • Adolf

    Adolf

    The cars – we rented a very old car from someone on arrival (who I won’t name as he lacked any customer service skills at all unfortunately) that didn’t appear to be at all roadworthy (we nicknamed the car Adolf, as it was evil!). Its speedometer and fuel gauge were broken and part of it appeared to be falling down underneath, but we stuck with it for a weekend and it just about managed to get us around the island without breaking down. I must admit we weren’t sad to see it go!

  • Food – those of you who know me will know I am a fussy eater (yes really) and we have struggled quite a bit to find food I can eat on the island. The supermarket isn’t really that big, and has a limited selection of food. Other than the pizza place on the beach there isn’t really anywhere we enjoy eating out either. So we have enjoyed little breaks in Auckland to stock up on eating meals out!
  • Ants – eek! Yes the whole island is swarming with them and this is one of the only down sides with our lovely little cottage – ants. We have become incredible clean freaks staying here, and clean up every crumb and bit of food after eating, clean all the time and empty bins, and still get ants. We think they are part and parcel of the island and are learning to live with them.
  • Earthquakes – whilst not Waiheke’s fault we experienced two small earthquakes while we were here – read more about them on a previous blog posting here.
  • Banshee bird – that is what we call him. We haven’t heard him lately but a little pain of a birdie decided to take up home outside our house for a few evenings and made THE loudest squawking noises possible for a small bird. Nothing (tv, music etc.) was able to drown him out. Hopefully he has found a new home far far away and won’t be back 🙂

We are currently in Auckland for a night’s break to go to the cinema and a nice meal – only we can take a holiday in Auckland from Waiheke! It is usually the other way round!

So those are our successes and trials and tribulations of living on Waiheke, and with just over 2 weeks to come I am sure there are more in store!

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

New Zealand news: A tornado, a shark attack, a drought and an earthquake

Newspaper of New Zealand

We have spent the last 6 months in New Zealand and it has actually been a pretty crazy time in terms of New Zealand news – and it has all been a part of our New Zealand adventure. Lots of rare, quite unusual and unfortunately mostly tragic things have happened since we have been living over here.

This post focuses on just a few of them – a tornado, a shark attack, an extreme drought and an Auckland earthquake – all of which are considered quite rare in this part of the world.

Tornado

On Thursday 6th December 2012 a tornado ripped through west Auckland leaving 3 people dead and causing much damage. We were currently living in Auckland city centre in a waterfront apartment looking towards west Auckland and the harbour bridge. I saw the extreme weather coming in, in the form of a severe thunderstorm – strong rain and winds – and then the tornado hit and was all over the news. Luckily we were a few miles from the damage so weren’t affected. Such a crazy and tragic story.

Read more about Auckland’s tornado on the NZ Herald here.

Shark attack

On 27th February 2013 a well-known New Zealand filmmaker was tragically killed by a suspected great white shark while swimming from Maori Bay to Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s west coast. Fatal shark attacks in New Zealand are quite rare, with the last known one back in 1976 – and only 11 having taken place since 1852. It has certainly made big news over here and made people much more cautious about spending time in the water.

Read more about the shark attack on Stuff.co.nz here.

Drought 

Believed to be the worst drought in New Zealand in 70 years the whole of the country has suffered with very long periods without rain over the 2012/3 summer period. On Friday, the entire North Island was declared a drought zone by the Government and there have been many bans of outdoor water use, and strong calls to conserve water where possible across the country. The last big drought was reported in the summer of 2007/2008. It has been estimated that the drought could cost the nation’s economy up to $2 billion.

Read more about New Zealand’s drought on Stuff.co.nz and NZ Herald.

Auckland earthquakes

I recently wrote a blog post about the two Auckland earthquakes that hit on Sunday 17th March 2013. Two earthquakes struck Auckland at 4.01pm and 4.05pm on Sunday afternoon, with the strongest being a 3.9 on the Richter scale at the shallow depth of 6km. More than 10,000 people reported feeling it to geonet’s website and we were amongst that number. Living on Waiheke island we were quite close to the centre of the earthquake and our house shook pretty substantially during both earthquakes – but much stronger during the second. Although nothing compared to the recent Christchurch tragedies it was quite a scary time but luckily didn’t lead to anything more.

Read the NZ Herald’s report of the earthquakes here.

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Earthquakes hit Auckland – March 17th 2013!

Cracks in a driveway following Auckland's earthquake - photo from NZ Herald

Cracks in a driveway following Auckland’s earthquake – photo from NZ Herald

It was a normal Sunday afternoon on Waiheke island when, at 4.01pm the first of two earthquakes hit!

The first was a 3.1 on the richter scale striking at 4.01pm. This shook our house a fair amount and was the first earthquake we have experienced here in New Zealand. This was then followed by a stronger earthquake 4 mins later at 4.05pm – which was a 3.9, and fairly shallow at only 6km deep. This time the house shook a lot more, and it lasted longer – probably around 15-30 seconds. This made us pretty scared! It really felt this time like the earthquake wasn’t going to stop and we looked at each other in shock. It was classed as a ‘moderate’ strength earthquake by the geonet website – see more details here. Over 10,000 people in the Auckland area reported feeling it. It is also the largest in the region since 2007.

Read the NZ Herald’s report of it here.

Once it had stopped we immediately started looking online for earthquake plans and what to do if an earthquake hits (it makes you realise how little you know). We know earthquakes are fairly rare in this area but we were worried another even stronger one was going to hit. We read the advice to ‘drop, cover and hold’ and also allocated an area in our holiday house which might be safest for us. This might seem over the top but until you have experienced an earthquake – even a small one – it is hard to know how scary and helpless you feel. It is completely our of your hands and you are completely at the mercy of nature.

We know these were only very small earthquakes, especially compared to Christchurch, which was obviously on our minds and it made us think and realise – clearly only a tiny amount – how scary and awful the earthquakes that hit there must of been, and how horrible it must have been for all of the people.

So putting things in perspective we know it was nothing compared to the Christchurch tragedies, but it is certainly newsworthy for this part of New Zealand! Facebook groups had popped up within minutes dedicated to ‘I survived the Auckland earthquake!’. Many many people had taken to twitter and #auckland was even trending. It certainly was big news, and something we won’t easily forget!

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Glen Hansard + Lisa Hannigan in Auckland = incredible!

Me and my husband went over to Auckland on the ferry from Waiheke Island last night (where we are currently living – I will post separately about our Waiheke experiences!) to see Glen Hansard and Lisa Hannigan play at Auckland Town Hall as part of the Auckland Arts Festival – and we had an amazing time!

In Aotea Square

In Aotea Square

It was really nice to see Auckland again after almost 2 weeks of being over here on the island. We had a lovely pre-concert meal at Jack Tar – one of our favourite places to eat. We then had a nice wander round the Festival gardens outside the town hall and sat on the steps in Aotea Square. Soon the time had come for the concert to start and we headed in to find out seats. We had chosen seats in the circle area, so were in the front row of overlooking the stage – and had a good view. Just after 8pm the lights went down and the small figure of Lisa Hannigan wearing a pretty pinky/orage dress stepped onto the stage. With her quiet Irish voice she said hello and thanked everyone for the warm welcome.

Our view

Our view

I was utterly captivated from the first note she sang on the opening song – the amazing ‘Little Bird’. Singing most of the songs acoustic on her guitar and ukulele her voice was just so raw, haunting and absolutely note perfect. After listening to both her albums intensively over the last few days she really did bring every single song to life – and add many new dimensions to the studio recordings. The crowd were really behind her and seemed to be there as much to see her as Glen. She didn’t speak as much as Glen did (more about that later) but when she did her stories were interesting and funny – she told about how she had visited Waiheke island yesterday (as Glen had) and how she was enjoying her time here in NZ. She also made a brilliantly funny link between her song ‘Safe Travels (Don’t Die)’ and her touring and travelling in this part of the world. Her 40 minute set flew by all too quickly, but her voice was incredible and its amazing quality of tone and her heartfelt passion for her music really left a lasting impression and one we will always remember.

Soaking in the pre-concert atmosphere

Soaking in the pre-concert atmosphere

Following a short break Glen and his band ‘The Frames’ also supported by 3 local string instrumentalists appeared and took their places on the stage. What followed was an amazing couple of hours of music. Glen has been busking and touring since he was a lot younger and has been with The Frames for over 22 years. He was also part of the very successful ‘The Swell Season’ with Margeta Irglova who made a film together called ‘Once’ for which they won an Oscar for the song ‘Falling Slowly’. Glen was also asked to write some music inspired by the book ‘The Hunger Games’ which was later included in the film, and one of which we were lucky to hear last night. The set covered songs spanning his long and varied career – enough to keep everyone in the crowd happy for whatever reason they were there. There were certainly more cheers for his Swell Season material as this was more well-known. Many of his songs made use of his band, building to a full and rich sound. In many actually Glen bordered on playing his guitar manically as his passion was clear to see! He himself admitted though that the acoustics of the hall meant the quieter songs sounded better – and I would have to agree. The songs where it was just him and his guitar or ukelele (for which he thanked Eddie Vedder) were probably the best. He also encouraged a sing-along in which the audience participated beautifully. Glen was very engaged with the full and enthusiastic audience (it was virtually a sell-out) and told many stories during his set, including one rather entertaining tale of a boat trip out into Dublin harbour last year which involved crashing onto some rocks near a lighthouse! He introduced many songs explaining the inspiration behind them, and this really added to the already pure and heartfelt music.

To the only slight complaint I can have is that the last ferry back to Waiheke wasn’t late enough!! The reason? We had to leave before the concert was over and as such since reading reviews apparently Glen and Lisa duetted on Glen’s most famous song ‘Falling Slowly’. It was a shame to have missed this but we had to get back to the island and also read that he played for over 3 hours (his set was due to be 1 hour 30!) so we simply couldn’t have stayed until the end. All that we heard was memorable though and we are so glad we went.

Both Glen and Lisa were simply incredible. Being a fan of The Swell Season and Glen for so long, surprisingly I think I enjoyed seeing Lisa a little more and have definitely discovered one of my new favourite artists.

Another New Zealand night never to forget and one which will remain long in the memory.

Categories: Activities, New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blue Penguin Travel website launch

Blue Penguin Travel logoThe website for my company – Blue Penguin Travel – has just launched!

Blue Penguin Travel is my own travel consultancy company that I have set up helping people travel to and around New Zealand – specialising in off-the-beaten-track travel advice and itineraries.

Here is the link for our website:
http://www.bluepenguintravel.com/

I have received amazing support for the website from my husband (who is a software developer) to build and develop the website, and have also been working closely with Sydney-based philanthropic marketing, design and events company ‘Thought Cloud Collective’.

To give you a bit of background about our company:

We offer awesome travel advice, care and expertise and create fully personalised travel itineraries – helping you create amazing off-the-beaten-track travel adventures in New Zealand.

  • We will make planning your adventure easy, effortless and enjoyable.
  • With our hands-on experience of New Zealand we can recommend amazing off-the-beaten track experiences and hidden gems.
  • Our itineraries are fully personalised and completely unique to you.

Take a look at our website for more information, and also feel free to visit our Facebook page. You can also contact me at nicola@bluepenguintravel.com.

Thanks for the support and for visiting! 🙂

Categories: Blue Penguin, New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Halfway home

Us in Glenorchy - one of our favourite places

Us in Glenorchy – one of our favourite places

So today marks exactly half way through our New Zealand adventure. Up until quite recently we had left it open that we could decide whether to fly back to the UK at the end of August or not. We have now made our decision and have decided that we will be flying home then (we leave NZ on August 27th). It has taken much thought and deliberation and we have been thinking about it for some time and obviously New Zealand is an AMAZING place to visit and spend a year, but it is just too far from family and friends for us to consider living here for good. I just can’t imagine settling and having a family over here so far away from everyone and their support.

I have posted above one our favourite photos in one of our favourite places over here in NZ – Glenorchy – as we reflect on being halfway through our time here. We have done so many amazing things and still have loads of incredible things planned with the time we have left.

We will of course miss it loads and I know it will be really hard going home but we want to see going home as its own adventure with lots of exciting things still to look forward to in our lives. 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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