I have Internet!

Hi All!

Sorry for my looooong absence. We are back in America! I am so happy to be home from New Zealand. One of the most excited things about being home is that I now have a constant source of unlimited Internet! Woo hoo! Our last few months were the worst for Internet access, hence the lack of posts. Do not worry though, because I have them all stock piled, to tell you all about our last New Zealand adventures and our new life adventures!

We got back to the States about a week ago. We traveled for more than 48 hours to get “home”, we spent a night in the Christchurch Airport, had 3 flights (about 20+ hours in the air total), and a 5 hour drive back to my parents house, all with about 5 hours sleep total. It was an exhausting 2 days and we were more than excited to see a bed at the end of it all!

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“Sleeping” on bean bags at the Christchurch Airport

I have some excited life changes happening within the next 4 weeks, but I will post about those in the coming days and weeks. For now I am spending some quality time with my parents and making a few trips across the US to visit friends and family!

The Weather Screwed Us

Hi All!

Bryan and I just ended a 12-day road trip of the South Island! We drove miles and miles and should have seen a ton, but looking back I feel we saw very little. That’s because the weather stunk! Out of the 12 days, we had 2 gorgeous bluebird days not a cloud in the sky, 2 okay days with high clouds but with lots and lots of wind, and the rest of it was shit, either pouring rain or low laying clouds obscuring any view.

The South Island is the island of New Zealand that everyone raves about. It has the sky scraping spiky mountains, rivers of glaciers, and untouched land. We had planned a road trip to a few of the National Parks where we would spend quality time hiking, taking pictures and enjoying our time. We were both geared up to see the things we have been hearing so much about.

The first full day of the road trip was one of our two gorgeous bluebird days, and from the weather forecast, we last saw read that it was supposed to be okay weather all week long where we were heading. But that forecast did not last long. By day two we were rained out.  The mountains and the glaciers we come to see were not visible through the clouds. But we were on the west coast (the part of New Zealand known to be rainy) so we tried making lemonade out of lemons and drove to the other side of the mountains, hoping that the rain shadow the mountains create would give us some better weather. But to no avail we were rained out there also.  And this is how our road trip played out. Running from the weather, until we finally just put up with it. We did have one last bluebird day, the day we returned our rental car.

We did see a tremendous amount of the South Island in a short amount of time. And as Bryan keeps saying to me “I get plenty of mountains at home” (can you name the movie where that quote is from? Just substitute beef for mountains). We were rained out a lot but still had great experiences, which you will hear about in coming posts!

Have you had a road trip of vacation that was ruined by the weather?

WWOOFing North Island, New Zealand

Howdy everyone!

For the most part on here I have been recounting the tales from our adventures here in New Zealand. But most of the time while we are here we are working…well, sort of. We are WWOOFing(Willing Workers on Organic Farms), which means we work for 4-6 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, in exchange for food and accommodation on people’s farms.

**Before I get into it I just want to say I am beyond grateful for EVERYTHING that has been given to Bryan and I. There is no way we could be touring New Zealand  the way we are without WWOOFing.**

While on the North Island we had four different hosts and all were so different from each other. So here is a recap and what we have learned so far.

Hosts

Lifestyle Block outside of Auckland

The lifestyle block (a kiwi term for a piece of property owned by a family that is farming for a hobby and not for a career) was our first WWOOFing experience. We worked there for three weeks. Our hosts were a friendly married couple in their 60′s: the husband was spending his time developing the property into an edible permaculture forest, and his wife was a teacher at a university in Auckland. They were nice enough to pick us up from the airport, jet lagged and all. They were both very smart and we learned a lot about New Zealand talking with them over the weeks. The lifestyle block was 10 acres, mostly consisted of grassy paddocks, but it also had 3 gardens, 2 new orchards, and a grove of olive trees.

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The lifestyles blocks property

Historic Homestead in Southern Hawkes Bay

We WWOOFed on this historic “homestead” (more like mansion) for two weeks. The homestead was built in the 1870s and included ornate gardens and grounds, a vegetable garden, and a historic church that was brought to the property and was used as an events hall. Our hosts were a wealthy retired couple in their 60′s who had bought the property about ten years ago and had been restoring it since then. They have been hosting many wwoofers for a long time so they didn’t take a lot of interest in getting to know us that well, but they were welcoming, fun to be around and took good care of us while we were there.

homestead

The homestead from the peony garden

Boysenberry Farm outside of Hastings

We WWOOFed on the berry farm for two weeks. The property had sheep, cows, and chickens, but we only dealt with the berries. The hosts were a nice middle-aged couple, but they were usually busy so we got to know their two kids a lot better than them. One was still in high school and the other had just returned from finishing college.

Rare Breed Cow Farm Dannevirke

We WWOOFed on the cow farm for two weeks. Our hosts were a couple in their sixties, the husband was a Canadian osteopath that immigrated about 40 years ago, and his wife was a kiwi elementary school teacher. They were both very friendly and trusting and took some interest in getting to know us, which was nice. The property included a dozen hinterwald cows, chickens, turkeys, a veggie garden, and also a fruit port business closer to town that our host’s daughter owned.

Work

The work at all of our hosts has all been different and we have learned an incredible amount.

Lifestyle Block

Work on the lifestyle block varied everyday, and often changed throughout the day also. Some of our major tasks were: planting native trees, gardening, weeding, lots of chainsawing for Bryan, plus a lot of random tasks. Going into each day not knowing what we were in for was wearing, and often times tasks were left half done which was frustrating.

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Mulching

Homestead

Work on the homestead was generally the same each day. We planted ornamental hedge rows for them. It was a nice change to know what our job was each day, but being hunched over for hours definitely made my back sore. We also helped out with events at the church from washing dishes, setting up to serving food.

church

The church all set for a wedding.

Berry Farm

The berry farm was our least favorite place to work. We were the “supervisors” of the berry pickers, which meant we pushed large carts to collect the berries that had been picked, marked down how much each picker picked, and also told them things like “pick more,” or “your picking too red,” and mind you we knew nothing about how to pick berries. It was long hours (6-7) with no breaks, in the hot sun.

berry farm

Pushing carts of berries.

Cow Farm

The cow farm was just like being on a real farm. We woke up early, milked 3 cows, fed the calf’s, chickens, and dogs. And then we would come inside for a big breakfast. While at the cow farm we house sat for about a week, and during this week the farming kept us pretty busy, but we also found tasks like weeding and such. While our hosts were there in the afternoon some of our tasks were splitting firewood, driving a tractor and using a weed eater for Bryan.

cow

Milking Garnet

Accommodation

Lifestyle Block

At the lifestyle block we were given an outside “cabin,” really just a temporary structure, I don’t know how to describe it, see picture below. It was nice to have our own space, but had to go in and use the bathroom inside. We were free to use hang out in our hosts house to watch TV, and use wi-fi.

shack

Homestead

The homestead had the nicest accommodation–it’s hard to beat a mansion. We had our own bedroom, and a large shared bathroom (only shared with one other WWOOFer for a week) all in our own wing of the house. In our wing of the house we had our own livingroom with TV, and wi-fi was accessible downstairs.

inside

The homesteads foyer.

Berry Farm

At the berry farm we had our own “caravan,” what kiwis call a travel trailer. It was great in that we had our own space, but there were a lot of draw backs such as, the thing would wobble every time anyone made a slight move, it had an ant problem, and it was not very private since it was stored in the driveway. And then there was the bathroom… The bathroom we had access to, we also shared with up to 6 people (4 WWOOFers and the hosts 2 kids). Which is not a big deal, but I don’t think the bathroom had been cleaned in a decade, the tub was orange with dirt and I can’t even begin to describe the toilet… just gross.

caravan

Cow Farm

At the cow farm we had a large bedroom within the family house. The bedroom had a very comfortable queen size bed, and empty dressers! The bathroom situation was less than ideal, but not bad. The house only had one bathroom so we shared with our hosts. But on the plus side there was a sauna.

Food

The one big thing I miss about the USA is being able to choose what I eat. I knew this was going to be the biggest thing for me to deal with since I normally eat clean, fresh and healthy back home. I thought I wouldn’t have much of an issue with it because after all we are living on farms, but you would be surprised. Traditional kiwi food is old-fashioned and very “stodgy and British” as they’ve described it to us, and a lot of what we’ve seen definitely has been–not to mention flavorless. When kiwis describe things as “hot” or “spicy” don’t expect to taste anything hot or spicy by American standards. But I’ll say again I am beyond grateful for every meal I received.

Lifestyle Block

Our hosts on the lifestyle block were vegetarians (Bryan and I are not). We are fine with eating meatless meals, but by the end of 3 weeks we were ready for a cheeseburger. For breakfast we had a bran muffin, lunch was veggie sandwiches (things only got old when the only veggies they had were carrots and mushrooms), and for dinner a wide range of things. The food we were served was ok: Lots of low flavor meals, lots of oil, and a lot of inventive meals (heard of mint pesto? I don’t recommend it. But I did eat all of it!). I did get a feel for New Zealand wine. Our hosts were big winos so we were given at least one glass each night.

Homestead

Since our hosts at the homestead had an event/catering business we had a lot of left over meals. Christmas season was just starting, so we had a lot of Christmas dinner which included ham, stuffed chicken, egg pie, and all sorts of salads. We were given a beer or wine about every night, and event days we were given more since those were long days/nights. For breakfasts we had cereal. Lunches we usually were served more leftovers or sandwiches. The best thing about the homestead food situation was the unending amount of tea and coffee. We did have a memorable meal of chow mein made from top raman noodles.

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So much tea to choose from!

Berry Farm

Our food at the berry farm was frustrating. Our hosts gave us food for breakfast and lunch to store in our caravan, to be eaten on our own. This is fine if the host tasks the initiative to check on our food supply. We had to ask for a new item  every other day, which made it feel like beggars after two weeks. Breakfast we had yogurt and muesli, lunch was cheese crackers and salami, Dinner was shared in the family home, the dinners were ok, more flavorless food.

Cow Farm

While at the cow farm when our hosts were home we had great meals. They produced their own beef, which was my first time eating home-grown beef. Breakfast was large american type with mostly eggs, but sometimes had pancakes and bacon. Lunch was usually something tasty like macaroni and cheese or seafood soup. Our host shared whatever they were drinking every night from beer, wine or port.  But while they were gone, we were left with little food that was not frozen beef or unlabeled leftovers. So we did the american thing and made a LOT of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Lessons Learned

We have learned and done so many things on these farms that we would not get the chance to back home. It has been amazing to learn and do so many things in a small amount of time. Here are some “rules” we have installed for wwoofing that we learned from our first experiences.

  • Three weeks is too long anywhere
  • Do not WWOOF on a commercial anything
  • Always leave time to travel on your own between hosts

The best thing we have learned while wwoofing is that we now know what breed of pets we want.

Currently on the list of animals to get is an Australian Terrier. Isn’t Maggie the cutest?!

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Cutie Maggie

We also need a Burmese Cat. Finn is so regal here.

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Adorable Finn

Abel Tasman Journey

Hi Friends!

This past week has been great! Bryan and I finally arrived on the South Island last Monday and have been having a blast! First thing we did was head to the town of Nelson to visit my friend Emily. I have not seen Emily since college 5 years ago. It was great to hang out and catch up with one of my best lacrosse buds! Not only was it great seeing Emily, but she was an awesome host and organized a sea kayaking and tramping trip on the Abel Tasman Coast Track (one of NZ’s 9 great walks) while we visited!

Organizing the hike/kayak was fairly simple, we looked at a map of the hike online and got a general idea of what we wanted to do. Emily then googled kayaking Abel Tasman and found Kahu Kayaks. They offered a deal where we could rent kayaks for the day and they would bring our backpacks to us at a meeting point for the tramping part of our journey, and all for a very reasonable price.

We started kayaking from the town of Marahau (where the trail also starts) and kayaked to Anchorage (red arrows) and then hiked to Bark Bay to camp for the night. The next day we hiked out on the trail to Marahau.

kayakingIt was the perfect day for kayaking, the sun was shining down on and the water was cool. Emily and I are such pros! Look at those paddles!

sealWe paddled over to Adele Island to check out the seal colony on the northeast side. Only two seals were visible from where we were, but during our morning break a seal swam just 10 feet off the shore of the beach we were on.

lunchspotChoosing a lunch spot was one of the harder decisions to make because every single beach was gorgeous and deserted. If you choose to kayak the first day of Abel Tasman Walk, it will probably be the smartest choice you make! Kayaking past the busy section of the trail gave us the solitude and relaxed feeling of being out in the bush just what we were looking for.

beachhikeOnce we collected our packs from the Anchorage hut (Kahu Kayaks dropped our packs off at 3:30pm) it was time to tramp to Bark Bay 12km (7.5 miles) to set up camp.

viewbeachThe views of the different bays and beaches from the trail were incredible.

trailBut most of the hike you are walking through native bush.

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Barks Bay

The next day we headed back the way we came the day before, towards Anchorage Hut and went on past it back to the town of Marahau where we put the kayaks in, walking in total 24.5km (15.25 miles). This may seem like a long day, and it was, but the majority of the trail is level. The first half of our day the only people we saw were the three of us, but as soon as we passed Anchorage Hut the trail was clogged with day hikers and tourists.

Picture 4

abel signOverall we had a great time on the Abel Tasman! Before we visited Emily we had almost written it off, because we thought we wouldn’t make it over. I’m so happy that we were able to have such a great experience!

Tongariro Northern Circuit-Day 2

Howdy Everyone!

Continuing our journey of the Tongariro Northern Circuit!

Day two was our favorite out of all four days.(If you missed out day 1 recap you can read about it here!) Day two we had gorgeous scenery, wild weather, the steepest section, and a very crowded trail, but it was AWESOME! We hiked from Mangatepopo Hut to Oturere Hut a total of 12.8km (7.9miles). 2/3s of the day’s hike followed the Tongariro Crossing day hike, which made for a well populated portion of the trail.

When we woke up in the morning we could tell by the heaviness of the clouds that we were going to get rained on at some point during the day. While we hiked from the Magatepopo Hut following the Magatepopo river and then hiking up the same steep saddle from the day before until we reached the South Crater, we mainly were walking through light to thick fog.

South Crater

South Crater

Once we made it to the South Crater, the trail flattened out for about a quarter mile before we started up the next series rises that climbed up Red Crater.

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Looking down into Red Crater

Once we got to the point in the picture above, we could see the storm moving in. We quickly got in our rain gear and moved on hoping to miss the rain and wind while on the ridge. Climbing up the ridge of Red Crater was the toughest part of the entire circuit for me. The trail meanders through gravel and exposed rock, while having a steep drop off on either side, and having a heavy pack on your back makes it even tougher.

We were lucky enough to miss the brunt of the storm while on the ridge, but as we reached the tip-top it came full force, with wind, fog, and sideways hail! The top of Red Crater is usually has great view all around, but the safest thing for us to do was to keep on trucking down the trail. Coming down off the other side of the ridge the trail is all gravel, so we just dug our heals in (as if we were hiking in snow) to get down quickly. And we were rewarded, because just as quickly as the storm came it passed and we were afforded great views of the Emerald Lakes just a little ways down the trail.

ELakes

Can you guess why they are called Emerald Lakes?

The Emerald Lakes are just past the half way mark for day two, which makes for a scenic lunch spot.

lunchOur new go to backpacking lunch is… tortillas, peanut butter, honey, and bananas. So good and so satisfying on long hikes.

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down

Once we passed the Emerald Lakes we were off the heavily populated portion of the trail, and started down steep ridge to the valley below.

fall

It was so steep that Bryan slipped and fell and ended up with a big gash in his palm.

valleyOnce we descended the crazy steep ridge we made it to the gorgeous Oturere Valley. The valley was out of this world, and literally felt as if we were hiking on Mars.

campAs gorgeous as the Oturere Valley was, we were excited to make it to the Oturere Hut to set up camp and relax!

Stay tuned for the last leg of our Tongariro Journey on days 3 & 4!

Goals for 2014

Happy New Year!

Did you have a fun New Years Eve? Bryan and I had a very low-key evening in front of the TV, can’t you tell from the photo below?!?! We didn’t watch the ball drop though, since our New Year began 20 some hours before America’s.

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Vino, Job Applications, and LOTR

I am so excited that it is 2014! 2013 was a good year, it had a few ups, and a lot of downs, but I am incredibly happy at where I have ended up (obviously, I’m in New Zealand)!

The past few years, I have tried to set a resolution for myself. In 2012, I was successful in giving up soda (have not had a sip since 2011). 2013 my resolution was to do 5 chin ups in a row (I did 2, than stopped trying).  This year I have decided to not have a resolution but to set a few goals for myself.

1. Travel more on the South Island

We have been in New Zealand for 11 weeks, and only spent 2 weeks traveling. The rest of our time has been spent WWOOFing. WWOOFing has its perks, like not spending any money and having cultural experiences, but it also has its down falls, such as depending on strangers for everything. So on the South Island we hope to do more traveling, hiking, and enjoying our surroundings!

Keep Happy during our LDR (Long Distance Relationship)

Yup, you have read that right, Long Distance Relationship. This upcoming summer, Bryan and I will not be working/ living at the same park. He has decided take his old job in Utah, while I have decided to try to get a better job at another park this summer. In the almost 5 years we have been together this is only the second time we will be separated. Since we have done it once already, I know we can easily get through this summer (plus we don’t have to plan a wedding this time!).

Do the Talking 

It drives my husband crazy sometimes (ok most of the time) when I make him do all the talking in any new situation. He has been on me the last few weeks, to be the one to do the talking. And so far, so good. After getting over the initial nerves, I like being more confident in these uncomfortable times. My goal is to not need reminding in 2014.

Settle Down

Haha, I have to laugh at this “goal”. Even though we are married and have been together for almost five years, we are nowhere near being “settled”. We move every six months, everything we own fits in our cars, our employment never is year round, and we absolutely love it. So this goal means to me having steady employment. Having employment is instant stress relief to our lifestyle.  But having steady NPS employment for me (a non military vet) is hard to come by. This year I hope to accomplish a few goals (that I will share at a later date), to hopefully have two different careers. A lot of work is still to come before this can happen. But I will say, if we had the opportunity where Bryan was able to accept a dream permanent position, settling down would mean getting a dog. Boy, oh boy do we want a dog.

photo-6 Here is to 2014! I hope it’s a blast!

Do you have any goals for this year?

Tongariro Northern Circuit, Day 1

Good Morning All!

Hope you are all doing great!

A couple of weeks ago, Bryan and I completed the Tongariro Northern Circuit, our first New Zealand Great Walk. New Zealand has nine hikes that they consider to be their premier backpacking tracks, two located on the North Island, five on the South Island, and the final hike on Stewart Island.

Tongariro is located pretty much right in the middle of the North Island. The track is 43.1km (26.8miles) and circumnavigates Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings), and also incorporates the popular Tongariro Crossing, rated as New Zealand’s “Best Day Hike” according to what I’ve read.

The track can be competed in 3-4 days, we choose to do it in four days so we could take our time.

Day One

Most hikers start the track at Whakapapa Village and hike clockwise and complete the circuit. We were talked into skipping the first day and to start at Mangatepopo Road (hiking clockwise) instead. We hiked 1km to the Mangatepopo Road to Mangatepopo Hut, set up camp and day hiked to the top of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom).

Start

Starting the hike

Camp

Mangatepopo Hut and Camp

The campsites during the track were located near the hut, which was great for easy access to water and the bathroom, but unfortunately the sites themselves were on only separated from each other by 10 feet, which is fine until the people in the tent next to you wake up at 4:30am to start their day…. Anyways, once camp was set up we headed back out to start the track up Mount Doom!

 

StartH

 

To climb/scramble up Mount Ngauruhoe you  follow the trail for day two past the Mangatepopo Hut or the first half of the Crossing for a few kilometers.

bath

 

 

You know you are on a popular trail when there are porta potties along the route.  Continuing on you will be hike up to the top of a saddle, climbing about 10-12 sets of stairs until you reach a sign telling you the way.

sign

Once you reach this sign it is up to you to find a way up the mountain.

trac

 

But as you can see from this picture, there are social trails that you can kind of follow-up.

half

 

About half way up we were scrambling at about 40 degree angle, and the ground was made up of sand and loose gravel.

panic

This was the point where I started to have a panic attack. I may be an avid hiker but I am not a mountain climber, so we turned around about half way up.

ring

But not before I threw my fake wedding ring on to Mount Doom!

view

Even though we did not make it to the top of the mountain we still were able to get great views of Red Crater and the trail below, which made it worth skipping the first day of flat terrain.

Stay tuned for posts on days 2-4!