Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Crossing the Ditch

G'day mates! In typical fashion, I've taken a few weeks' reprieve before reminiscing on our latest adventure. Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Anzac Day all fell within a week of each other in April this year and we took advantage of the opportunity to take 3 days' annual leave and have 10 days off in a row. Kevin and I took the plunge and crossed the ditch over to Melbourne, Australia to visit some Canadian friends and have a wee vacation.

We left on Good Friday, nice and early, flying non-stop to Melbourne. A warning to those who want to travel to Melbourne: It. Is. Big. It took us almost as long to get out of the airport as it did to fly from Wellington to Melbourne. Our lovely friend Naomi from Whitehorse has been living Brighton, a charming little suburb, with her Aussie partner Paul for a few months and were kind enough to offer their flat as accommodation for our stay, even though they weren't even home for the first few days. 

After finding our way around Melbourne's public transportation (which was surprisingly easy) and having a quick nana-nap, we went into the city to meet up with a dear friend of mine, Dustin, and his stunning wife Ella, for dinner at Chin Chin, a notoriously busy and delicious restaurant downtown Melbourne, followed by a show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. The food and the company were fantastic! It was so nice to see the familiar face of an old friend--it made me realise how comforting it is to spend time with people with whom you have memories (I'm not homesick, I swear!).

Southern Cross train station

The following day, Kevin and I picked up our caravan and spent the morning puttering around town, perusing the infamous and ridiculously busy Queen Victoria Market. We made our way back to Brighton to borrow Naomi and Paul's bicycles for a 15km bike ride along the coast of Melbourne's beaches.

Queen Victoria Market

That evening, we went to the airport to pick up yet another friendly and familiar face, Bowser, who had flown in from Margaret River, where he has been living for the past few months. The next morning we packed up the van and drove down the southwest coast on Great Ocean Road through Torquay and into Lorne. The boys took to the water like fish and I enjoyed a lovely stroll along the beach. 

The next morning we woke up and decided to head further down Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park. Now, the Twelve Apostles are more accurately Eight and a Half (maybe Nine) Apostles due to erosion; however, still monumental. The weather was pretty yuck but luckily overcast makes for good photos.

Some apostles

More apostles

The best apostles

On our way back to Melbourne, we took a mandatory surf break and stopped at Bells Beach to see if we could take a sneak peek at the ASP World Tour surfing competition in Torquay. Unfortunately, they were having a bye day but we were able to watch some of the locals on the water.

We got back to Naomi's house and her and Paul had arrived back home. Kevin, Bowser, Naomi, and Casey (Bowser's Australian friend) piled into our caravans (Naomi's caravan takes the cake) and drove southeast to Wilson's Promontory National Park for another few days of outdoor activities. 

Our homes for the next few nights

Once again, the boys got in the water and the girls took a short 7km tramp to a stunning cliff overlooking the bay for sunset.

The next morning was chilly and windy. We didn't want to waste the day so we took on Mt Oberon Summit, a 7km hike. Up hill. The view was phenomenal and so was the wind. We had to hold on at times to make sure we didn't blow over.

The gang

Tired legs

After a quick lunch, we kept walking. Another 8km loop through the Lilly Pilly Gully rainforest (no, the name is not made up). By the end of it, our feet were tired and our blood sugar was low. We made dinner (grilled kangaroo), huddled in Naomi's van for warmth, and prayed for better weather the next day.

Tidal River

Kevin the lumberjack

And our prayers were answered! The sun came out and the wind died down overnight and we were blessed with a stunning day. We took to the water, surfing and body boarding all morning, and then packed up and drove back to the city.

Back in Melbourne, we went to St Kilda to celebrate Kevin and Bowser's birthdays. We had a super-delicious dinner followed by an intriguing lesson in the art of tequila tasting at Blue Corn. We continued down the road to the Espy and Abbey Road to finish off the night with a beer tunnel and live band.

Learning how to drink tequila

St Kilda is famous for its cakes

Beer tunnel at Abbey Road

The following day we dropped Bowser off at the airport with a "see you soon" rather than a "goodbye." Naomi, Kevin, and I spent the afternoon watching Paul play footie/AFL/Aussie rules. Considering I had never seen or heard of this sport before, I was impressed with my ability to follow the plays and have a semi-understanding of the rules. My favourite part is how the fans get to go in for the intermission huddles (or as I like to call them, cuddles) with the team.

The next day, we took on an invigorating yoga class and returned to Wellington, going straight back to work the following day. It was an amazing holiday and it was so wonderful to see old friends in new places. The trip also made Kevin and I realise how much we love the size, charm, and quaintness of Wellington. 

And for those who haven't heard, Kevin and I have applied for permanent residency in New Zealand. It has only taken three months to complete the application and four months to be assigned a case manager. From here, we wait for up to another nine months to be given residency. From there, we have to be here for another two years to get permanent residency. And then from there, who knows.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Wanderlust Down Under

For those who have never heard of Wanderlust, it's a four-day yoga festival that started in Squaw Valley in 2009. As someone who has frequented a number of music festivals and who also recently became a yoga teacher, I was thrilled to hear that Wanderlust was coming down under. I was fortunate enough to have met one of the directors when working at La De Da over New Year's, who informed me that he and his wife bought the license to take Wanderlust to Australia and New Zealand.

Given that it was it's first year, they started small. It was a one-day festival held in Auckland that brought together the incredible yoga community from the entire country. I did not pass up the opportunity to fly up to Auckland for an unbelievable day of yoga, music, and friends.
A lovely assortment of vendors and kiosks
Hoola Hooping workshop
Aerial yoga workshop
I started the morning off with an hour and a half of intense back-bending with Amy Ippoliti, which proved to be invigorating, playful, and downright delightful. She used me as a demo and helped me get into my very first King Pigeon pose! Amy was a brilliant teacher who teaches in an adorable down-to-earth style that really resonated with my learning style.
I then ran across the park to join in Duncan Peak's vinyasa practise for another hour and a half of intense and powerful flow. By the end of the practise, I was exhausted! Duncan is one of the founders of Power Living, a yoga enterprise in Australia that has trickled its way into New Zealand. I followed up his class by listening to him give a talk about his journey into yoga from troubled teen to disciplined military solider to successful yoga teacher and business owner. It was also fabulous to soak up the last rays of summer sunshine.
Duncan Peak at the Greatest Place
Listening to Duncan Peak at the Speakeasy
By the afternoon, all I wanted to do was relax and observe other people gallivanting around the event. I was, however, signed up for two more hour and a half classes and wanted to make the most of the day. I got to play around with some Acro Yoga (partner yoga) with Honza & Claudine Lafond, founders of Yoga Beyond in Sydney. I ran into some friends at this workshop and we got to make shapes with our bodies and I found a number of similarities to my cheerleading background (oh by the way, did you know I was once a cheerleader?). All in all, super fun!
Honza and Claudine's acro yoga workshop
I sat through the end of Dr Libby's talk about rushing women's syndrome (this Ted Talk is worth checking out!) and how women can optimise their wellbeing before heading back to the mat for my final class: yin yoga with Duncan Peak. It was inspiring to hear Duncan speak of his philosophy around the practise of yin and to hold postures for much longer than I'm used to (upwards of 5-6 minutes a pop!). It's an incredible experience to realise how the body affects the mind and vice versa when you're asked to stay still for that long in a challenging posture.
Dr Libby at the Speakeasy
From there I made my way back to the airport and back to Wellington completely exhausted yet buzzing with inspiration and gratitude. The venue was amazing, the food was amazing, the music was amazing, and the atmosphere could not have been more amazing.
Cameron Shayne at the Mothership
Next time, I will definitely need to pace myself bit better than I did this year but I couldn't help myself, I wanted to do it all--4 hour and a half classes in one day! There was so much to squeeze into one single day that I cannot wait until 2015 went it expands to four days and will be held in Taupo. It was unforgettable and truly memorable.
Kevin and I are off to Melbourne for a much-needed holiday on Friday. Have a Namas-day!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Up North

Yes, another weekend away (you probably think we don't work). Kevin and I have certainly taken advantage of the summer this year and have committed to seeing as much of New Zealand as possible while we are still here.
So, for the Waitangi Day long weekend, we flew up to Auckland and took a tour of Northland, the northernmost piece of land in Aotearoa. We rented a converted campervan from Wicked (we obviously weren't aiming for discrete) and set off on our journey.

We drove up the Kauri Coast (west coast) and took our first stop at the Waipoua Forest to see some trees. Some BIG trees. Kauris claim be to some of the world's "mightiest" trees because, well, they are huge. First, we stopped off to see the Four Sisters. The walk was beautiful and serene--there is something almost spiritual about being amongst this kind of nature.

We were enamoured at this point and decided to continue on our journey to see Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest), the world's second tallest kauri. This is not it's most impressive claim to fame, however. Te Matua Ngahere is the world's oldest (2500 to 3000 years old) and widest living kauri tree. Kevin had just finished commenting on how yeah, these trees are big, but like, we lived in Canada and there are some big-ass trees there too. And then two steps later, we turned a corner and HOLY CROW. The photo definitely does not due it justice. This tree is over 5m in diameter and 29m tall. Big friggin' tree.

We hopped back in the car and were now really keen to check out the next stop on the kauri expedition, to see Te Mahuta--the tallest kauri tree in the world. At 51.5m tall, this tree is really tall. However, we were less impressed than we were of Papa kauri.

The weather was not cooperating for us on Day 1, so we took advantage when the rain stopped for a few moments to take rest at Pakia Hill in Omapere. There were some pretty wicked swells coming into the bay and a few roosters trying to catch a ride in our van.

We decided to stop at Shipwreck Bay in Ahipara, which is the base of 90 Mile Beach (which is actually only 55 miles long, or 90km--go figure!). 90 Mile Beach is considered a public highway and, if the tides (and your 4WD vehicle) allow, you can drive the entire 90km beachfront up north.
 The weather was terrible and the wind was gusting, but we were tired of driving and needed to set up camp for the night. Funny enough, the shipwreck of Shipwreck Bay is barely visible and almost completely under sand. And despite the wind and cloud, the view was stunning. We attempted to drive along the beach for awhile but backed out after realising we were in a rented vehicle, without 4WD, and hadn't read the tidal forecast. Bugger!

Day 2 proved to be yuck weather again. So much for our anticipated tropical holiday! We decided to drive all the way up to the northernmost tip of the country and see if the rain would disappear behind us. We stopped for a quick scenic stretch-of-the-legs at Houhora and continued driving north.

We got all the way to the top of New Zealand to the foggiest conditions we had ever seen. We could barely see 3m in front of us! We had been regaled with tales of seeing the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean crashing together at the top. Instead, we saw white. The ocean was nowhere in sight.

A bit bummed out, we drove all the way back down the Aupouri Peninsula and decided to find a place to retire for the evening. I had read about Matai Bay, dubbed "the most beautiful beach in Northland", and wanted to check it out. We found a nice DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite overseeing the large bay and crossed our fingers for good weather. The next morning the meteorological gods must have listened because we woke up to an absolutely stunning day.
We spent most of the day lounging on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and exploring the turf. This was the kind of holiday we were hoping for!

By the afternoon, we were sun-drenched and ready to continue driving. We made our way down the east coast to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. This is definitely more a touristy/beach town, reminding us of Kelowna or Penticton if they were on the ocean. We walked the main strip and spent a bit of time hanging out by the beach before realising that it probably wouldn't be the best place to find a camp for the night.

So once again, back in the van. We drove south, through Whangarei, and rolled into Uretiti Beach. Another unreal beach that goes on for miles (kilometres?). I absolutely love living in a country that is almost entirely coastal.

Unfortunately we awoke to some more cloud and light rain. I think we were being punished. We had a flight to catch in Auckland in the evening and wanted to spend some more time in the sun, so we decided to chase some rays.
We finished up our journey at Takapuna Beach, on the North Shore of Auckland. It was jam-packed with people but the water was warm and the sun was hot. It was a lovely way to end our holiday. Despite the weather being unpredictable and uncontrollable, we made the best of it and I can check off yet another region off my "Places to See in NZ" list!