A Day Trip to Remember

The Beginning of Weekend Adventures

We have had a home and wifi dwelling within it for several days. Joel and Brandon have been able get to work a bit now, and we’re becoming more settled with each passing week. We’re catching a glimpse of our new normal.

I’d like to find some work while I’m here- not only to help out with living and adventure expenses (my coffee habit should be sustained with some sort of income, too), but also to get out of the house and start making connections.  I’ve only just started browsing and hope to keep an eye out for shops and community work that might be available for a few months. Early days, I suppose.

With work on the go and in the wings, we are hoping to establish a habit of weekend wandering. No time like the present!

First stop- Food Truck Friday

On Fridays in the Mount, there’s a small gathering of food and coffee trucks that park outside a local clothing shop. I’d been browsing for different activities to partake in on event finda (yes, many of the websites and companies we’ve come upon encourage the kiwi accent), and the poster for the food trucks caught my eye. SO, we made a trek.

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Even though the gluten free options were sparse, we found a couple treasures. I had a nice miso ramen soup, Joel had a tasty sandwich inspired by Peruvian street food and we shared some loaded fries (aioli, parmesan and other such additions adorned those bad boys). It maybe wasn’t the vast lot of trucks we’d envisioned, but the event got us out of the house to do a little something different.


Saturday started with pouring rain and a mighty wind blowing off the sea at home. We had plans to go up island a ways to enjoy some touristy things, and just hoped the weather would improve as we drove. Thankfully, the sun started to peek through the grey as we made our way North.

We were about 40 mins away from home when we noticed a bakery that boasted gluten-free options. We had been fooled by such signs before, but felt it necessary to give the place a shot. We were not disappointed!


Stacey found a whole case full of delicious treats. There were all the things New Zealanders love (pies- savoury and fruity) as well as many things Stacey loves- ha! We will definitely make another stop soon.

In order to take in our experience and enjoy the trek, we stopped a couple more times as we travelled. The next stop included farm animals and cheese samples. The Cheese Barn at Matatoki was a quaint stop off the highway. We had fun greeting the creatures that lived there and trying some cheeses made on sight. I would definitely venture back for a cheese board another time- they looked fabulous.

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Coromandel Peninsula

We continued on to our little passenger train ride. I had been looking at things to do in Coromandel, and after we had decided on the Driving Creek Railway and Potteries I realized it was a stop some friends had made on a trip here several years ago- which is neat.

We wound along roads that didn’t quite seem wide enough for two vehicles. The road was a beautiful one, no doubt, but something to get used to for a car full of Alberta drivers. We weaved our way up the Coromandel peninsula driving as near to the ocean as one can without the need of a bathing suit. There aren’t shoulders on the road and at times, it felt as if one gust of wind would push ol’ Crumpy right into the mighty waves!  Occasionally we would come across a tree growing from the bank toward the ocean, and the road was so close to it, the line painted on the edge of the road would bump over the roots penetrating the pavement.

Thankfully, we made it to our destination in time to catch the train right away. We made the stop on the off-seasonal, so they weren’t busy enough to fill all the seats on the train; although, we heard during the summer break the train will run- full- from 9am to 5pm daily.

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The story of the Driving Creek Railway is an interesting one. There was an artist who was hired as the Science teacher in Coromandel, who quickly realized he didn’t want to be a Science teacher, but he had already purchased land in the area. In the 60s or 70s, he decided he would instead work with ceramics, and became the first kiwi-born and based potter in New Zealand history. He eventually acquired more land to dig out clay to use in his studio, and made a small train that would scoot up and down the hill on his land to bring clay and materials easily from point A to point B. News spread, and soon the townspeople were showing up at his door to see if he wouldn’t mind taking them on a tiny train ride.

Over time, the train became a full-blown tourist attraction that still operates today. The track has been added on to and modified over the years, but the land is for tourists to enjoy. Artists still come to use the studio space, clay and many kilns to create their work. You can purchase pieces there as well as enjoy the views from the train and have a wander around. A cute stop, indeed!

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The 309

The 309 is the route we took after the most quaint tiny train ride and our next point of interest- Hot Water Beach.

Joel has since researched this road, as we were unaware at the time. We followed the trusty Google maps and were lured there by it’s predicted faster arrival time.

We left the paved highway (and even turned around to be sure and catch this short-cut) and started up a windy path that seemed have more twists and turns than you can count (although, we discovered later you can count them! There are 309 turns- as it’s name implies) we went up hills and down. We drove on paved roads, partially paved roads, and dirt roads that were so narrow- if you crossed a truck coming the other way it would result in a deadly game of chicken.

There were no pictures of this route, since most of us were concentrated on the safety of the crew and not tossing our cookies. We have since felt a little more kiwi, as several websites have noted warnings about tourists avoiding this road entirely and that it has been the demise of many unprepared tourists over the years.

Cold Water Beach?

As we approached Hot Water Beach, we calculated we should have time to see Cathedral Cove before we dig ourselves a natural hot-spring tub on the beach at low-tide. We continued on the few extra kilometres and got out to explore.


We were greeted by pristine waters and the most clear sky we’d seen in days. We thoroughly enjoyed the viewing deck and started the hike toward the beach itself.

…but then.


We saw the hike-time. We didn’t realize the trek was an estimated 1.5 hour roundtrip. Whoops! With all our planning, we hadn’t come across a note about the suggested time allowance for Cathedral Cove. We didn’t have enough time to hike down to the beach and still catch Hot Water Beach at low tide.

We will return! No doubt. In fact… folks planning to visit us should put in their orders. We would be happy to take you to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach while you’re here, if you desire. We’ve worked out the bugs!

We headed to Hot Water Beach and were hoping to dig ourselves the most lavish sand-made hot tub anyone had ever seen! The beach boasts the rare quality of geothermal springs that can be accessed at certain parts of the day. Dig down and build some walls to enjoy the warmth.

Sadly, by the time we’d arrived- most of the hot spots (literally) were claimed. We dug around for a while, made ourselves a nice hole… but the heat wasn’t really part of our experience. Haha… We had fun anyway, and next time we will arrive earlier.

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We did find a couple springs that could have been used, but the tide was already heavily infringing on the space, so it wouldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes.

Thankfully, it was a really fun day with beautiful weather! Our evening was rounded off with another windy road home and a satisfying supper at our local brewpub.

We are learning the ways of the land and look forward to feeling more like locals soon. Until next time!

A Home & A 4-Wheeled Friend

Our Smelly Safehaven

We thoroughly enjoyed our little spot in Rotorua. We were able to have a base to watch so many movies, explore and start to put down roots. We were in the area for 8 days, and still had things to discover! We were able to soak in the therapeutic hot springs, travel around, visit museums, and walk amongst giant Californian Redwoods.


The more we stayed, the more we appreciated Rotorua. We tried to get outside for a little while each day, we discovered cafes with great gluten free options for Stacey and the best wifi hotspots. We even had the privilege of taking in a night market.

Each week for a few hours in the evening two blocks of downtown Rotorua shuts down to host a village of tiny tents all brimming with cultural and culinary treasures. It was so much fun wandering around, listening to live music, and eating amazing food – like the awesome dumplings I snagged from the vendor pictured below (yes, those are all trays of dumplings, steamed pork buns and more), or the waffles Joel fell in love with at first sight and again at first bite or the amazing kebabs! It was a great evening to hang out.


One of my favourite days in the area was a very rainy one. We suited up in hiking boots, wool socks and rain gear to explore the Redwoods just outside town. There’s a forest that boasts massive California-imported trees with an extensive trail system throughout. You’re able to choose a hike that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours+! It was a magical place where I was certain a T-rex lived, simply by it’s lush, tropical surroundings. We will be back! If you come to visit, bring your walking shoes- we’d love to tour you around.


The rain persisted, so we decided to head indoors for our next activity, the Rotorua Museum. We took the guided tour, and were drawn into the history of Maori people, and specifically the people of the area as our guide shared with us her own lineage. The building that now houses the Museum was once a bathhouse that drew tourists from all over the world to soak in it’s mineral-heavy waters and from there, turned into everything from a restaurant to a cabaret and nightclub! The building undertook a great restoration and is now representative of what it was meant to be when it was first constructed. Very beautiful.


Our evening was rounded out with a visit to Abracadabra Cafe. A sweet little spot for coffee, cocktails and tasty treats. We indulged in warm beverages and a tableful of small plates. The food was delightful, service friendly and well.. as you can see, I was quite taken with the decor- specifically, the light fixtures!


Feeling Settled

We’ll always have happy memories of Rotorua. It was such a cute little spot, but it was also a place that made us feel stable enough to do the work of settling down.

While in Rotorua, we made friends with the ladies at the bank- who despite being a bit confused about how to process our bank info worked tirelessly to be sure we had bank cards and access to our NZ dollars. We also were given the space to research rental houses and subsequently found our dream ocean-front home!


We are still continually on the hunt for libraries and cafes to fulfill our wifi fix (more importantly, a chance for the guys to get connected and work a bit) but, we are hopeful that soon we will have all we need to start working from our slice of heaven.

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We also found our newly-named 2000 Honda Stream- Crumpy- while staying there! Our little 4-wheeled friend (that was named after the author who wrote the novel that was adapted into the film “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” ) has been a dream.  It’s already proven it’s worth on an (accidentally extreme) trip back from the coast!


We feel truly blessed and have seen God’s work as He’s really opened doors for us being here. We have felt mild- struggle and stress as we have tried to find a home and start to make our mark in the country- but each time He has reminded us He is in control!

We had been waiting for bank approval and started to feel the headache of jumping through policy hoops when (with the appearance of a dove) we received our approval email and an invitation to finalize our banking as soon as we were able to get to the bank!

We were waiting and waiting for our realtor to contact the home-owner to allow us to get into the house we were smitten with, and the realtor ended up working Sunday of a long weekend so we wouldn’t have to look for accommodations in between moving in & moving from our AirBnB. Again and again we’ve had some really amazing experiences. We can definitely see the affect of the prayers here and at home. Which is really cool. We are very much looking forward to finding community here and making the next several months a time to remember!

New Adventures. New Zealand.

Hello New Zealand!

We are officially in the land of kiwi fruit and delicious dairy!

Our first couple days in the country were spent in Auckland. Joel & I arrived early and were going to just hang out around the airport before meeting up with Brandon & Stacey on their afternoon arrival, but ended up being able to get our rental car early, so we went exploring.

We loaded up our right-side-drive RAV4 and attempted to navigate our way around the city. To avoid some rush hour traffic, we decided to walk around the Auckland Botanical Garden to take in some of the fresh, humid air. It was wonderful to trade the stale airplane air we’d been breathing for 13 hours for the fragrant aroma of blooming flowers and monstrous trees!

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We soon discovered that our SUV would be too small for moving 4 people and all their stuff, so we ended up weaving our way through the city to drop off our bags at our hotel before circling back to the airport.

With time to kill, we decided to test our marriage at the mobile phone kiosk! More than an hour later we had SIM cards, kiwi phone numbers and our second round of Macca’s (McDonalds, lol) as we waited to greet our frienz, already feeling like we’d conquered the city!

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We arrived back at our hotel able to officially check-in as well as have a bit of a breather after lots of driving and an already long day.  With a quick refresh we headed out to explore around our hotel and ended up grabbing a pizza dinner at Hell Pizza (which ended up tasting far more like heaven then the underworld).  Upon our return we toasted L&P (world famous in New Zealand) to our grand adventure and made it about 20 mins into a movie before completely crashing.

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Auckland CBD

Our second full day was spent in the city’s downtown or CBD (Central Business District) which we accessed via ferry just an 8 minute walk from our hotel. First stop was Espresso Workshop (which I’d learned about on my last trek here) and our first round of flat whites and long blacks!

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We were able to enjoy the sun while wandering through the CBD streets, hitting little shops that caught our eye, walking around Albert Park before grabbing a fabulous Japanese lunch at Kushi!

Unexpected Delights

We wanted to grab a little dessert as the afternoon rolled on, and took a stab at finding an ice cream place featuring New Zealand dairy (which is fabulous, if I haven’t already stated about 17 times), we did a quick search of reviews in the area and found a place called Giapo. Giapo is like… oh, man…the best. Heavenly! Delectable! The front case has a gold film blocking your view of the creamy delights- as the shop believes customers should make their choices based on description and flavour rather than appearance. The eager scooper working the front was both informative and loose with her ice cream samples! We went through a handful of varieties before each choosing our handcrafted wonder in a cone (or cup).

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The ice cream was topped with whatever was previously curated by the chef for your flavour choice. Joel and I both got Australia hazelnut which was coated in some kind of golden flakes and speared with milk chocolate shards. Brandon’s topping was finished with a blow-torch and Stacey was thrilling to have a GF chocolate chip cookie and puffed rice pieces enrobing her dessert. A.Ma.Zing.

Our second surprise of the afternoon was seeing “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”, which became the catalyst for each of us to practice our kiwi accents, while becoming a fast favourite. We’ve been quoting it and continue to giggle over different moments even now, several days after our first viewing (pretty sure there will soon be a second)!

Heading East

After enjoying our hotel-provided breakfast once again, on Saturday we headed out to Rotorua where the cutest little AirBnB awaited us for an 8 day stay. On our 3 hour drive, we took in scenic look-outs and lots of the hilarious charm the area offers.

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We quickly realized corrugated metal is a popular (and economical) way to advertise, and many local business use it to make funky signs and structures!

Rotorua has been lovely. We have enjoyed our little home (despite daily having to head out in search of free wifi elsewhere), and continue to get ourselves settled. We have been trying to work towards a balance of work and enjoying the area. In between bank visits and emails to realtors and folks selling vehicles we have managed to enjoy some of the unique geo-thermal elements around us.

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We stopped at Te Whakarewarewa village where many Maori people still reside within the city. We were toured around and treated to a culture performance while taking in the unbelievable geothermal activity throughout. We loved seeing the steaming heated lakes, gurgling mud pits and geysers!


Lots done and so much more to see and do yet! Can’t believe we’ve only been here for just over a week. Been fabulous so far!

California Dreamin’

The First Leg

We packed up our house in a whirlwind and have safely arrived in California for the first stretch of our trip. We had a dedicated crew of family and friends who we literally could not have gotten here without! Wisdom teeth recovery has been more exhausting than anticipated; I could only do so much before having to rest and recharge, so our little army was integral in packing us up and clean our house. We are so grateful and blessed!

The supplies for the next 8 months have been reduced down from a house to: 1 backpack, 1 carry-on suitcase and 1 large suitcase each.



We had the cutest little welcome wagon once we arrived at LAX (another thank you to family members who delivered us to the airport and picked us up on the other end). Our first day included wandering around Santa Monica before resting up in preparation for  lots of lovely California sights and activities.


My cousin and her family are hosting us a for a few days and have been the best hosts. We had 2 tiny tour guides at Disney on our second day here.



Joel had lots of fun re-discovering some of the rides and activities he loved the last time he was at Disneyland as a kid. Uncle Joel enjoyed all the tiny attention and getting to go on lots of rides with a couple of hilarious kiddos.





We have had so much fun so far! Truly blessed to be able to spend time with some favourites.  Along with Disney, we’ve had a tour around the area, tried coffee served in miniature gourmet ice cream cones, had a fabulous French homestyle meal at Petit Trois, hit a show at The Comedy Store and have been able to celebrate Mother’s Day with one of the greatest little mamas I know. Just two more days until we swap the animatronic kiwi birds and Maori culture from ‘It’s a Small World” for the real deal!!