Monday, 23 December 2013

Tramping the Tararua Ranges

First things first: Merry Christmas! Well, technically it's only Christmas Eve here, which means it's only the 23rd in North America. But screw it, I'm wishing you all a happy holiday anyways! 

I'm finally off work (worked til midday today) and am so pleased to have 12 days off. We're spending the holidays a wee bit different than last year when we were on the road. This year, we're doing it local. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm still behind on keeping you updated on our recent adventures.

So where was I? Oh yes, the end of November (I've almost caught up!). Our flatmate, the lovely Natalie, took it into her hands to organise a giant group tramp (Kiwi-speak for hike). New Zealand is littered with amazing trails and overnight huts that you can book. So what did we do? Well, we booked out the entire hut, of course. 21 of us geared up with backpacks and took to the Tararua Forest Park for an overnight adventure.

We're a good-looking bunch, aren't we?

 After camping at the trailhead the first night, we spent the first two hours hiking along the riverside. This required us to go up an down a few stair sets and across a number of wooden and suspension bridges.

Patiently waiting in the queue--only one at a time please!

We stopped for a light lunch and stretch, taking our packs off for a bit of a rest. Then we geared up again and were back on the trail. This time, however, the trail went up. Just up. That's it. For two hours. Any confidence I had in my fitness abilities were shattered and I deeply regretted the 65L pack on my back.

Looking remarkably cheery as we take a much needed rest.

But eventually, we got to the top! We really did climb a mountain. It was a beautiful view over Masterton and the rest of the Tararua Forest Park and I could not have been happier to make it to the peak.

Once everyone made it up to the hut, we proceeded with the mandatory group shotgun (no wonder our packs were so gosh darn heavy!) and enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

The next day was even more stunning! We packed everything up (what goes up must come down) and headed back down the mountain, stopping by the river for a relaxing foot bath in the icy cold water.

Because it's important to bring a basketball when climbing mountains.

I have a few spare photos roaming around from 2013 that I definitely want to share, but it likely won't be until next year. We are heading out of town on Boxing Day til after the New Year to work at La De Da music festival. I will be sure to have heaps of memories to blog about.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my lovely readers. I miss you all so much this time of year! 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Labour Weekend in Mahia

New Zealand is silly sometimes. It has the same number of public holidays as Canada, but it crams them all into summer. This makes for a nice summertime with lots of long weekends, but it sure makes for a looooooonnnnggg winter. We go from the beginning of June to the end of October without a statutory holiday--that's FIVE MONTHS. I told you: silly.
So we most definitely took advantage of the long weekend at the end of October, which is Labour Day, and drove up north to Mahia Peninsula. It was a long drive, but well worth the mileage (kilometerage?). Matt, Danielle, Kevin, and I enjoyed a stunning three days of camping, cooking, and even a bit of very cold swimming. These pictures are a mix of mine and Danielle's (her camera is clearly much nicer than mine, so thank you Dani!!).
First stop--mandatory beach yoga pictures.

Almost there!

Driving into the Wairoa region.
While silly at times, New Zealand is also incredible. Many regions in the country host Freedom Camping sites where you can pull up and camp for free for a few nights, while the Department of Conservation provides toilet facilities, running water, and rubbish bins. Being a long weekend, we figured these sites would be jam-packed. As we drove into Mahia, we checked out both sites to find that they were both EMPTY. Not. A. Soul.

View from our campsite.

Boys playing baseball (not cricket).

Matt brought along a cast-iron cooktop from Russia (maybe?) that proved to be a pretty unbelievable camping essential. Throw a few patties around the edges and fry some potatoes and kumara (Kiwi-speak for sweet potatoes) for a delicious meal. It fit perfectly in Kevin's briquette grill and on the fire for breakfast!

The next day, we drove all along the peninsula taking in the magnificent landscape. The boys geared up to go diving for paua (abalone) and crayfish while the girls lay on the beach taking in the sun. I ventured out into the ocean for a very quick dip, but brrrrrr it was cold!

Gasp! Kevin's not making a stupid face. This is a keeper.

Back at the campsite, we witnessed a fleet of old army vehicles that drove all along the beachfront. I also was educated in the fine art of shot-gunning. This was proceeded by some very serious frolicking around the beach.

Aww cute!
Cheerleading (I've still got it!) and yoga was compulsory.

Then we returned back to basecamp for another delicious feast, sunset, and campfire before our long drive back south.

Beer in the bum chicken--classy!

The boys show off their intricate dance moves.

Art installation in Napier.
By the way, I hear it's snowing in Canada. Yuck!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Visitors & Castlepoint

As the days are getting longer and the sun seems to be coming out a wee bit more, it's hard to think about sitting at home on the computer. This weekend, however, has proved to be the perfect day to stay indoors. 130km/h winds are definitely enough to entice me to curl up in a blanket with a hot cup of tea and go through all the photos that I've accumulated over the past few months (except for when it sounds like the roof is going to blow off...).

In early October, we were blessed with a visit by my favourite maternal aunt and uncle (okay, okay, I only have one maternal aunt and uncle, but that doesn't make them any less my favourite!). They were heading to Australia on a corporate cruise and decided to stop off in New Zealand along the way. Now that Kevin and I have established ourselves in Wellington, it is really nice to show people around the city we call home (for now).

Since it was middle of Spring in Wellington, the weather tends to be a bit unpredictable. Kevin and I spent a day driving with Alex and Shirley out to Castlepoint, a small beachside town just over 150km north-east of Wellington. It was a gray and cloudy day in the city but we were pleasantly surprised that the clouds stayed south of the Rimutaka hills.

The peak of the Rimutaka hills, looking towards Wellington.


Shirley, Alex, & myself

We parked the car, ate our picnic lunch, and took a stroll out onto the beach and up to see the infamous lighthouse. The view was spectacular! On the other side of the hill, there was a man propped up on the side of the cliff fishing--we saw him catch a small shark (and throw it back, obviously).

Kevin then got excited with the prospect that we could drive Sophia (our station wagon) onto the beach. We spent some time in the sun, observing a single surfer taking in a few waves. This is what I call paradise!

Little nooks and crannies like Castlepoint are what I love about New Zealand. We can drive out of the city for an hour or two and be in the middle of nowhere. It's days like this that make it so easy to stay here. For now.