The Dream.

It honestly feels like our time in New Zealand was a bit of a dream. As I sit in a familiar, cafe setting (this time in Calgary)… my hours spent at Henry & Ted are dusted in a golden cloud of memory.

Walking home in the sunshine (sometimes having to call Joel to save me from a sudden downpour), and cutting in to walk along the ocean on my way back seems far too lovely to have been real life.

We’ve settled back in at home, organizing our home in new ways. Making it better than we left it all those months ago, and spending as much time as possible with family and friends (new and old).

Canada is home, I even love the frosty mornings and freezing days we’ve had since being back. However, I’m happy to slip back and rewind this afternoon… thinking back on our trip with our parents and Evan (because I can’t believe I haven’t written through the rest of that trip yet).

SO, here we go…

Rewind to Wellington

When last I posted, we had just visited the West coast and were leaving New Plymouth, and on our way to Wellington. With just minutes before closing, we enjoyed a pit-stop at an awesome Indian food place in Whanganui. We’d stopped there before and enjoy ‘the best’ butter chicken in a lunch combo that can’t be beat.

We ordered with haste and bribed the owner with tips and compliments in order to sit and scarf down the deliciousness.

With daylight to spare, we found our way to our Wellington accommodation and soon became enamoured with it. Our container house was a feat of modern architecture, design and engineering… and, I mean – it was just really cool.

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The house was built up on 3 shipping containers, with parking underneath. The parents each had a bedroom and bathroom on the second floor, the first floor held a functional kitchen, record player, lounge, an outdoor eating area, a bathroom and outdoor bathhouse. The young ‘nes were all on the top floor. Joel and I had a small balcony off our portion of the space and Evan was kind to sleep in the theatre room (where the guys had an evening of video games and we watched a movie one night, too) on an air mattress.

Having had the better part of the day dedicated to driving, we kept our evening plans local. Pizza from Hell (just a 5 mins drive away for pick-up) and the most interesting round of mini golf at a course, just ten minutes walk up the road.

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The course seems to have been built by an artist who just liked playin’ around with material. There were lots of metal work, welding and weird little obstacles throughout. Mostly… it was a disaster for keeping score, but a lot of fun to just be out and about.

City Slickers

The next morning, with a little rest and some coffee sustaining us, we headed for the CBD. With a sizeable earthquake causing some parking restrictions (as many of the underground parkades were still closed to the public), we circled for quite some time before finding a spot to take in the downtown.

Eventually we found a spot and headed towards the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

If ever you’re in Wellington, be sure to invest a few hours here. The exhibits are free to visit, and simply exceptional. Ever since stopping here with friends in September, I had been eager to show my dad the Gallipoli display. Powerful, indeed!

He loved it (obviously), and we all enjoyed a stroll through Te Papa.

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From the museum, we headed to Cuba street to take in some shops, and grab lunch at Olive (as per Ashley’s recommendation- we were not disappointed)!


Once we’d been nourished, we split up for some speed-shopping before heading up to the Mount Victoria Lookout for a 360 view of the city. We kinda did a condensed tour of the downtown area on our way, stopping quickly at Oriental Bay, too.

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From the lookout we meandered around, first stopping to see Smaug at the airport and then going for a leisurely drive around the Miramar peninsula before grabbing appetizers and taking in a movie at the historic Roxy theatre.

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City adventures continued the next morning, as we again started downtown and spread out from there. We hit a favourite breakfast spot and fuelled up for our adventures around the city centre.

We took in some interesting architecture, the cable car, botanical garden and parliament buildings before heading to Miramar to meet up with old friends and to do the Weta Workshop tour 🙂

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We were excited to share the Weta workshop with our visitors, and were curious to compare our 2 experiences. It’s always interesting to go back to such a creative space, and Joel and I loved learning different things on our second trip back as our guide focused on a completely different media then our first tour guide; in an active workshop- there are always new things to take in. Really neat.

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We were so pleased to be able to meet up with an dear Red Deer friend and his family following our tour. We met up and enjoyed a great supper together with a view of the ocean at Spruce Goose before splitting ways for a little bit.

My parents were hoping to see some rare eels (although, sadly the earthquake seems to have changed their habitat a bit when they went for a hunt with our Red Deer pal), and the Klettke’s and Evan went back to the Roxy for an evening Christmas market!


Our time in Wellington was so full! We loved the food, people, weather and the vibe of the capital city. Our funky house for a few days left us all with lasting memories and we had taken in enough to feel ready to move on to our final North Island stop as a group of 7.

Ugh, Napier… You Beauty, You

With a new day came a new city. One of our favourites. Napier.

Napier is simply beautiful. There’s often lots of sunshine, unique beaches, amazing architecture and tasty, tasty wines. We loved our big, beautiful, antique house on the hill and were grateful for so many days in this art deco town.

While Joel and Evan found the tickle trunk the house didn’t even know it had… we all enjoyed the view from out Airbnb and I had a soak in the fabulous claw-foot tub!

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We all loved this house for different reasons, but one really cool thing was it provided the best home-base for wandering. We were so close to downtown we were able to break off in any sized group we wanted and tour at our own pace. Often folks would be here there and everywhere. The first evening, me and my parents walked down the hill and grabbed a few essentials to make some tasty nachos for supper.



Once rested up, we had a morning to enjoyed the sun, some friends, the farmers market and DONUTS in the city.

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While Joel, Evan and I met up with Aaron and Britt for a walk in the city, the parents prepared themselves for our evening at a winery with Ben Harper.

Charles found one rockin’ outfit:


Soon enough, the afternoon was pushing towards evening and we were truckin’ towards Church Road Winery to see one pretty fun concert. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful setting, better weather, tastier wine, or lovelier company.

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Our last couple days on the East side were spent hiking, enjoying friends, food, and sights. Joel and Evan were able to do at hike out to Cape Kidnappers, the younger folks did a hike near Hastings while the older ones took in an architecture walking tour!

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Our last day in the Hawke’s Bay region was used up taking in one of New Zealand’s oldest prisons, wandering in the rain a bit, and finally enjoying some lunch at one of NZ’s oldest wineries (this is where I had one of the best red wines I’ve ever tasted)!

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The prison tour was really interesting, but left us all in a bit of a funk. There seemed to be some darkness lingering there… so we were happy to wander the beautiful grounds at the Mission Estate Winery to switch gears before unwinding in the evening.

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And just like that our North Island tour was through! We got ourselves together and by mid-morning were on the road again. This time headed to the Auckland Airport to fly South.

Queenstown was next on the list!




Jump Back

Where were we… the last chronicled blog series I was working through involved the parents, Evan, Joel and me. Ah, yes…

The Great Divide

After having a few days together in Auckland, Joel and Evan went off to do some adventuring on their own. They did some really cool hikes, met up with our Tauranga crew, explored White Island and eventually made their way to Waitomo where they did a full-day caving epic, before reuniting with us.

While the boys were being boys, I took the parents up to the Bay of Islands to do some serious relaxing. After Charles’ spill particularly, we were all game for a little slower pace to catch our breath.

The parents and I were spoiled with a really lovely house up on the hill in Opua that boasted some killer views as well as both basic amenities and some added extras – like kettle bells (which were fun to use, but my dad insisted he wasn’t allowed to use them without his trainer present *eye roll*), a hot tub, and a great barbecue.

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When we were around our holiday home, we spent lotsa time lounging, reading and chatting together. We made a few great meals, we watched several episodes of ‘This is Us’ (making a couple reluctant fans) and the dads tried not to dress the same (which they failed to do most days).

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Friggin’ Tourists

When away from the house, we found lots of fun and fabulous things to do.

One of our first evenings in the area, we headed to Paihia (just up the road about 10 mins from our place) to grab some supper. We wound up at Alfresco’s, a quiet little spot right across from the water. We were quite pleased with our meals there and had to take lots of pictures of the impressive presentation.

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Having been thoroughly plumped, we wandered along the beach for a little while after dinner. It was fun to see the moms collecting different beach treasures as we strolled, and neat to have some memories of the first time I was in this area all those years ago. The little kayak rental shack pictured below is where Allison and I rented kayaks when visiting with her sister, brother in law and a few friends.

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Another day of touring landed us in Russell. We took a short passenger ferry ride over to this quaint town and the first capital of New Zealand. We wandered the historic streets with a literal boat-load of other tourists (folks who had arrived via cruise ship that morning), taking in all the sunshine, hand-painted signs, affogatos and charm that we could handle.

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We headed to KeriKeri one afternoon for some more historic buildings (one notable structure was a still-operational store house built in 1836), as well as a stop over at Rainbow Falls and some great food (indulging in lunch at the Wharepuke Restaurant and stopping at a chocolate factory on our way back to Opua).

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We all had such a wonderful time up North, in fact… I wouldn’t mind a quick, magical transportation over that way about now (maybe that’s the -30 degree weather talkin’). After a few shorts days, we were back on the road… headed North to meet up with the guys.

We had a stop-over in Hamilton, where we didn’t do much more than walk a little and eat before resting up for yet another day of driving.

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The next morning, we continued on towards Waitomo to meet the guys – becoming a group of 7 yet again. We had a sweet reunion over an early lunch at Huhu to squeezed in some nourishment before the Lindoff’s went to tour the glow worm caves and we toured some stores.


Joel got up to some monkey business at a souvenir shop by starting a mannequin trend, and it resulted in Charles chuckles for hours to come… like, he thought of it at supper and got the giggles all over again 🙂

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After our Waitomo pit stop, we were ready for Taranaki! Just like every other time we’ve been in the area, we stopped to admire the first accessible black sand beach. When Allison and I stopped, the weather was great and the other 2 times it was exceptionally windy with a very angry ocean. Beautiful on all 3 occasions!

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Carrying on, we accidentally timed our trip to Three Sisters and Elephant Rock perfectly. As we drove by the exit, we realized it was low tide and an excellent time to explore the rocks. The weather was wild and windy, but this was one of my favourite memories of our time together. The black sand was in full glory, the weather shifted to a sudden downpour and we had to run for shelter to the caves. Too fun.

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Once we’d explored the beach and been properly wind-chilled we headed on towards New Plymouth. Riding on reviews, we landed at Social Kitchen for supper and were not disappointed! The restaurant had a fairly industrial, yet welcoming feel and featured an extensive menu of family-style meals. We took advantage of their Sunday evening special with a chef’s choice of meat and sides, we enjoyed rotisserie chicken, fries, roasted root veggies and asparagus.


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Once we had warmed up and filled up, we went to check out our accommodations. Stopping to grab some essentials at our fav, PaknSave, we indulged in the Southern Hemisphere original, pavlova, that evening, too.

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We stayed in a quirky little house with an incredible view. Despite the pink-carpeted bathroom with steps leading up to the tub and the funny little additional accessible only through the garage… it provided all we needed to recharge.



New Plymouth New Discoveries

Joel and I were reminded of how much we love the Taranaki region. We revisited several of the spots we appreciated on our last visit, and added some fun activities, as well.

Our first full day in the area started with the Len Lye Centre, where there were a couple new exhibits for Joel and I to admire. We then grabbed a coffee at Ozone before enjoying lunch at Federal Store – all good things.

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After lunch, several of our crew went biking along the Coastal Walkway. Joel and I had walked the path a little bit the last time we had visited, but biking was far too lovely. We started off in downtown and went all the way to the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge (about 10 kms).

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That evening our lovely Canadian friends were beyond gracious to invite our full tour to their place for dinner.

Yet another trip highlight, we loved having such quality time with these pals before heading back to Canada. We enjoyed curry, followed by fresh strawberries on ice cream with tea. Ashley and Jonathan had invited us into their NZ lives with open arms both times we were in Taranaki, and we are so blessed to know such great people!

Before heading to Wellington, we spent our morning wandering around Pukekura Park – yet another new experience in the area. We had fun checking out the ponds, waterfalls, fountains, water wheel, chatting up some locals and playing at the park.

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Fuelled by fresh air and Indian food we went from the West coast to the South – next stop, Wellington!

North Island Before the True North

Well, here we are in the our last 10 hours of New Zealand life. So much to digest and think through, with countless days of processing ahead as we reflect on our time.

I will need to work backwards a little bit with some of my posts, but thought on such a significant day… I should share our adventures from our final few days on the North Island – our kiwi home.


The Tongariro Alpine Crossing for years has been considered one of the top day hikes in New Zealand. Joel and I had heard about it even on our first trips here all those years ago, but neither of us had had a chance to walk it. Due to altitude and the danger factor, the trail in winter can be treacherous and is recommended only with a guide, so we wanted to book our crossing with optimal weather conditions.

Weeks ago now, we had booked our accommodations when I found a place that bundled our hiking needs – it included a couple nights stay, breakfasts, wifi and a packed lunch – and since we would be coming from the airport essentially, I felt this was a good option for us. We booked and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, as we checked the weather forecast in the days leading up to the hike, it became clear our planned hike day would be less-than ideal. In the end, the trail that day was closed and no shuttles were operating due to the risks involved with weather – which was great in the end, because the forecast included rain, snow and gale-force winds.

So rather than hiking in the rain, we wandered. We went to a great cafe in Turangi, meandered around Taupo, did a couple mini walks around Whakapapa and just sort of rested up and got ourselves ready for the next day.






The Crossing

The day after our hoped hike was the day we were actually able to walk, and we could not have asked for a better day. The sky was clear and blue for the better part of our trek, the temperatures were ideal and despite having 2 days worth of foot traffic (that was painfully obvious at moments) on the trail we had the best day!

The track is just over 19 kms long, and our bus driver said he figured it’s actually closer to 21 with your hike out. It typically takes about 7-8 hours to walk and you do as the name implies… cross alpine terrain. There are options to drive yourself and simply arrange a ride back, but you basically get dropped off at one side of the trail and get picked up on the other – whether by bus of car or whatever.

Joel and I packed our bags with a load of stuff (maybe a little too much, but I was able to use all but the gloves and spare socks that I packed) and were on the bus at 6:30 to get going.



The trail starts with a zoo of people and a boardwalk that follows a valley up towards a little waterfall and some springs. The landscape is impressive even at the beginning. Huge, unusual rock formations and evidence of volcanic activity surround you.





From the base of the springs you start your ascent and for someone recovering from a cold like myself at the time… it had it’s challenging moments.


Thankfully, within 2 hours you’re at the top and along the way there are so many spectacular views (and vegetation that look like alpine hedgehogs) to reward you.















We stopped at Blue Lake to have our lunch and re-sunscreen before starting our descent. We could have stayed at the top and taken pictures for the full day – there were not shortage of views or stunning surroundings. The colours were simply something else.

The last 8 or so kilometres were pretty easy with the biggest challenge, mentally, coming in the last kilometre or so when you really couldn’t believe the trail through bush hadn’t ended – it messed with our minds a bit as we expected to see the carpark around each bend… with continued disappointment.

Fortunately, the majority of the descent had more of the same incredible views. There were geothermal hotspots we could see steaming, lakes and unbelievable colours reaching in every direction.












Tired, but feeling happy and accomplished we boarded our bus, then loaded our car and headed toward Papamoa for our last couple precious days with friends.

Our Home

Joel and I kept commenting how comfortable it felt to be back on the North Island, we’ve spent so much time and so many miles exploring that it’s really started to feel like home. Specifically the Tauranga area.

These are some hills on our way East that have always reminded Joel of Mario, it’s fun to have revisited so many cool spots in our months here.

We were thrilled to be travelling back to our little piece of New Zealand before venturing towards Auckland for our flight to Canada. We had less than 48 hours in the Bay of Plenty, but we loved every minute.

We had a chance to go back to Henry and Ted before meeting the owner of our beach house. She was sweet enough to invite us over for tea and snacks, we chatted for two hours and loved hearing more about the lady who provided our piece of paradise while absorbing that time in what became our home, too!



Here’s Joel on our beach for the last time… well, until we’re reunited one day!

Even though we were pleased to soak up all we remember about the town and natural beauty of the place… our favourite part of our stay was seeing our friends.


Since arriving, I’d prayed for good community and meaningful connections.  Our friends were the truest answer to those prayers. We didn’t make a load of friends, but we certainly made the best ones.

We met Jason while touring some churches in our area, and became fast-friends. We loved how inclusive he was and how good he was (and is) and coming up with fun ways to spend time together. We spent late nights watching obscure Japanese game shoes on youtube, going for desserts and ‘tight ass Tuesdays’ for burger… really whatever we did together was fun and full (thanks also to him for this great photo)!


Jason introduced us to our pals, Aaron and Britt who were part of the church we attended for most of our stay in the area as well. We were continually inspired and in awe of their generosity and thoughtfulness – always including us in plans, up to hang out and making some unforgettable New Zealand memories with us (from Thanksgiving here, to barbecues delivered to our door, longline fishing and walks around the Mount area). Legends!

We took in meals together and hung out while we were in Papamoa and we got to take Aaron’s parents’ boat out one evening which will forever be a special memory. The day we met Aaron and Britt, they mentioned how much they would love to take us to Lake Rotoiti to boat, go to the hot springs and wake board. On a whim, as we reminisced about our time together, we realized we hadn’t made it out on the lake, and rather than forgetting the idea as an “oh well” these guys made it happen.

We couldn’t be more grateful! In a rush and a great team-effort, we were able to eat quick before heading out to Te Puke to grab the boat and onward to catch the last hours of daylight.

A few of us were able to wakeboard – which was so dreamy for me as it’s been too long and exceptionally cool for Joel as it was the first time he was able to get up on a wakeboard- and he totally rocked it – before heading to the hot pools on the lake to unwind. So, so, so amazing. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been the addition of Brandon and Stacey!







Forever in my memory is me and all our NZ friends cheering Joel on. He was tired from the crossing and the water wasn’t the most warm…but after only a couple attempts he was up and rockin’ the wakeboard!!



Here we are at the Hot Springs, just on the dock as you can only boat or kayak to visit (I have crazy wakeboard hair, lol).



Such wonderful friends we have! They were so kind to take us out, and dedicated to making the most of our evening as we used the last bits of daylight soaking in springs before having to go back and load the boat up in the dark.

Words cannot describe the blessings here!


The next morning, we organized the last of our stuff and we headed out for our final moments in the area. Despite busy schedules, Britt and Aaron made the time to meet up for lunch. How sweet it was!


Despite being happy and full our hearts were sad to break from our crew. It’s amazing the bonds that can be built in a short time. We are so grateful for you guys!! Thanks for being all we could have dreamed of and more.

After lunch, Jason was able to hang out for a little while longer. We had some quiet time in a park by an inlet before hopping on the bus Auckland-bound.

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Now, here we wait… just a few hours before we go to the airport and countless hours ahead trying to unpack the impact of these 8 months. Simply unforgettable.

New Zealand made an impression on us all those years ago when Joel and I separately visited and fell under its spell. We thought nearly a year here would somehow cure us of it’s wonder, but it’s done the opposite.

Time will tell the things that we remember and hold most dear, but it’s an understatement to say it’s been the trip of a lifetime.

The Beat Goes On

Beyond BOP

Once we rolled out of our Papamoa driveway, we set our sights on the many adventures ahead. Knowing we had to meet up with Evan who was arriving in Auckland after the weekend, we mapped our route based on that.

The first stop was in the Coromandel. Our Airbnb was a beautiful spot that had a lot more in store than we could have imagined.

We wound our way up and around to the Eastern side of the Peninsula to Pauanui – a sleeping town with some stunning views. Our holiday home had one wickedly steep driveway, with something we’d never seen before – a car carousel (which in theory is fabulous, but the parking on a little wooden lazy Susan to be twirled around in close quarters can be a bit ridiculous).

The driveway was one story-making experience that this steep Peninsula town offered us, providing all sorts of insight like: how to keep calm when your car is rolling backwards into trees and fence despite giving it gas in gear, how to somehow us a pedal e-break to stop such rolling to commence, how to park your car with only 3 wheels touching solid ground and how to do some sick burnouts in a Nissan Tilda. All in all we figured out the parking situation with only a few raw nerves.

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As we enjoyed the deck and some had a round of tic-tac-toe, I did a little research to figure out dinner plans. To my surprise, during my internet perusing, I found a 100% gluten free restaurant just down the road and eagerly made a call for reservations!


Things were pretty sweet. As we were organizing ourselves with trips to the cars for luggage, we began a different experience. Although most of the property couldn’t be faulted… it did have one terrifying death trap.

The garden steps that lead from the deck to the grassy parking area.

They were overgrown and unkempt and as Charles was going down to retrieve some things from the car, one loose step unexpectedly gave out and put him in a tailspin. Grasping for something to stop his fall, he reached for the only thing around- a post likely left over from some sort of railing, and instead of helping it just caused more trouble!

Sadly, this split-second tumble had us making a hasty phone call for medical attention which lead to a frantic 1 hour car ride to a clinic we hoped would still be open when we arrived, a sprained ankle and several stitches.


Ugh. What a time to be had! We had such high hopes for our stay, and though our trip wasn’t ruined, it really put a damper on things for a couple days. We had a sympathetic host who didn’t offer much more than an apology, but this incident lead to a very different few days as sprained ankles don’t tend to like hikes and strain.

Thankfully, we’re a crew of people who aren’t willing to let a rough start ruin an amazing country. A country that covers a large part of medical costs associated with accidents, a place that offers diverse landscapes, fabulous coffees, kind people, wonderful meals and generally allows you to enjoy your stay.

SO having met some of the most lovely medical professionals, we were on our way back to Pauanui for a GF feast.

The Lime Room is a 100% gluten free restaurant set on a picturesque golf course. The food is fabulous. The owner is thoughtful and kind (extending concern for Charles as soon as we arrived- having heard of the ordeal while the rest of the crew was there in time for the reservation). If ever you find yourself in the area, do give the place a try- whether or not your gluten intolerant… you’ll love it. Fresh, tasty, local and all around fab.

Day 2 in Coromandel was filled with all the touristy things. On a sunny Sunday, we weren’t the only ones with the idea and had trouble finding parking to hike down to Cathedral Cove. Instead of hiking, in the end we all went on the water taxi and were able to take in some of the beauty from the ocean.


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Once through with the cove, we headed to the Pour House for our last meal with just parents and us. Having been diverted on our tour of White Island, my dad and I were to head back towards Whakatane for the night before our tour while everyone else went up to get settled in our Auckland Airbnb before Evan’s early morning arrival.

As we parted ways, Joel was able to make a quick stop on Hot Water beach for the moms to invite themselves into other people’s pools 😛 and dig around with their feet for springs along on the beach. I think they had fun!


Whakatane and the Island

My dad and I had been hoping to visit White Island for some time. It’s an active marine volcano that we could often see pluming from our Papamoa house. We hit a bit of a speed-bump with our plans when we weren’t able to do the tour on the day we’d planned (due to conditions) or our 1 flex-day (due to a fully booked tour), so it took a little maneuvering to make it work.

Thankfully, we’re travelling with flexible people who are so sweet and encouraged us to find a time to go. Both my dad and I were really happy to have made the trek.

We arrived on Sunday evening, and went up to a look out to take in the view and have a fast food picnic.

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With confirmation from the tour company, we were set to depart the next morning at 9:30am.

We packed up our supplies, loaded up the car for a long drive post-volcano, grabbed a quick breakfast and a few seasick prevention items before checking in… with the 25 Junior High kids on our boat. Ha…


We left the dock on a catamaran headed for the smoking mass and thoroughly enjoyed our ocean voyage. Dad was eager to chat up the skipper, who had some Canadian connections and I appreciated the sight of the island slowly becoming more clear as time passed. The anticipation was mounting!

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It’s pretty incredible to come upon such a force of nature. This was something on my NZ bucket list, so I was thrilled to have had the chance to set foot on the island.

We were transferred from the catamaran onto an inflatable to taxi us to the island, and it’s tough to describe the sights. It was otherworldly, surreal and beautiful all at once.

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We were assigned a guide and instructed to follow closely in their footsteps as part of the land’s crust is deceitfully thin, and could easily result in your foot boiling off. The colours were remarkable and the history of the place- having housed a sulphur mine year before, where workers signed on to 3 month contracts where they were required to camp on the island- was intriguing.

We were given hard hats, gas masks and ‘lollies’ to keep us safe and to appease our hacking lunges as we breathed in hell’s exhaust. Real cool.

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Once we’d taken in all we could, we had a bumpy trek back to the main land where a hefty drive awaited. We broke up our trip with mixed-berry ice cream at a fruit stand (fresh and fab) and an impromptu stop at a little big market event at the Mount.

They had set up food and craft stalls to celebrate the arrival of the first overnight cruise ship (a ship we ended up following as we met up with them again in the Bay of Islands a few days later), and I took the chance to introduce dad to Johney’s dumplings (a BOP must).

Once refuelled in every sense of the word, we headed towards Auckland to meet up with the now 5 others. Exhausted, we arrived to our odd little Airbnb to explore the largest city in the country.

Aca-Awesome Auckland

Joel had retrieved Evan the morning dad and I were on White Island, and was a fantastic tour guide, showing off some of our favourite city spots- many that have become tradition: One Tree Hill, Mt. Eden, Giapo & Kushi Japanese Kitchen.

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Once we were all together again, we had some warm days to enjoy together. We were able to hang out on Takapuna Beach, rock jumping, beach-combing and finally enjoyed a lovely lunch break on the patio at Takapuna Beach Cafe.

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My dad was really pleased to have a view of military ships coming into port as we had lunch, too (it’s like they knew he was gonna be there).


From the beach we headed to Takapuna’s strand of cute shops and cafes. We parted ways for a little while to allow for some shopping and wandering, we enjoyed the eclectic vibe of the neighbourhood as well as some treats at Bluebell’s cakery.

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We then revisited Mt. Eden so my dad could check it out, and finally we headed to Achilles Point for a view of the city from high atop a cliff (which somehow I didn’t get a picture of, but here’s my dad posing with some Maori carvings at the point- he thought they were pretty great).


Our time in Auckland was rounded off with the memory of some incredibly hard beds, sunshine, traffic jams and going to see “Arrival”. We packed up the cars to go 2 separate directions yet again!

Joel and Evan went to see White Island for themselves before circling back for a caving epic in Waitomo. Me and the parents went to enjoy the Northern sunshine in a really lovely bach overlooking the sea. We all planned to meet up in Taranaki after a few days.

I think I’ll leave those adventures to another post, though 🙂



Family Reunion

It’s Gonna be a Good One

The second week of November brought with it two sets of parents from the other side of the world. Joel and I ventured Auckland-way to fetch our newest Canadian arrivals, and began to introduce them to ‘our’ New Zealand.

We had spent the night before their planes touched down at a hotel near the airport, to be as fresh as possible for our 5 am wakeup call. We were particularly grateful to be close for this early morning, since our previous nights sleep was interrupted by a tsunami threat and a 2am evacuation (thanks again to our friends who woke us up and rushed us to higher ground for the night).

The Lindoff’s were the first to arrive and after a little refresher, we were back at the airport to retrieve the Klettke’s.

Knowing we’d return to Auckland for several days, we decided to start towards the Bay of Plenty. As we travelled, we made a number of stops.

Maccas for coffee (we figured we’d have lots of opportunities yet to enjoy some of NZ’s quaint cafes, and found it more important to be quickly caffeinated), Paeroa for some monkey business and Katikati for our beloved, Busy Baker to stock up on all the gluten-freedom treats.

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We had a quiet, rainy afternoon in Papamoa and tried to keep everyone awake long enough to fight their jet lag… but that didn’t last too long. After a quick supper, the crew was mostly out by 8pm! Recharging for the busy days ahead.


Welcome to the Bay

Wednesday morning started with a barbecued breakfast to fuel our days activities.

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Despite the grey weather, Joel and I were determined to show off the things we love about our area. A natural place to start was walking around the Mount. We chanced the rain and were pleased to have a break enough to explore – stretching the legs and taking in the ocean air.

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We think they liked it!

Once we’d toured the crew around downtown a little bit, we headed for Fashion Island for all our bargain shopper moms, and came away with a load of Cotton On clothes (those sales tags, though).

We came back for a light lunch on the patio in the sunshine before piling in the car once more. #selfiequeen


Rockin’ Rotorua

We didn’t have too much planned for Rotorua, but thought it would be a fun stop for the parents. We were able to get to Te Puia geothermal valley with a couple hours before closing, and were content to wander.

The parents dropped in with a guided tour (my dad seemed to find a couple he was interested in joining, really) and we wandered around for a couple hours taking in the sights and trying not to be annoyed by the other tourists 😛 (we’re still getting used to the increasing crowds as the weather warms).

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Once we’d had our fill of thermal wonders, we headed for supper at a Thai spot that’s impressed me with it’s amazing lamb curry in the past and it didn’t disappoint on a second trip! We feasted and then headed towards the Polynesian Spa to enjoy the therapeutic spring water for the first time in the daylight.


Having walked, eaten and warmed ourselves… folks were feeling pretty cozy and it didn’t take long after we’d arrived home to have everyone in dreamland once again.

The Third Day

Thursday was supposed to be the day my dad and I had our White Island tour, but it was cancelled due to weather and sea conditions.  It took a little wiggling to figure out an alternate day, but we got it sorted. SO instead of being awed by volcanoes, we enjoyed indulgent Southern Hemisphere coffees and celebrated Papa Chuck.

Our day started slow and grey, chilling out around the house and catching up on our electronics.

By lunch time, we were ready for something more stimulating. We grabbed a cafe lunch at Tay Street where the eggs Benedict made a lasting impression on the birthday Charles.


From there, we drove out a little ways to bask in the beauty of McLaren Falls. The parents seems quite impressed, and we enjoyed some time rock jumping and strolling along the stream-side pathways.

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With our walk done, we headed back to town for some birthday joy – Charles chose a Swanndri for himself and we got some lamb to BBQ for supper. Another quick stop for coffee at Pacifica brought us back home to rest up and have some food before an evening out.

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Joel was hoping to share his love of BBQ lamb leg steak, and we were able to give Charles a pretty reasonable birthday dinner in the end 🙂


Even though the birthday boy continued to insist it wasn’t really his birthday, and the following day, his Canadian birthday, would be the more acceptable time to celebrate…we got him out of the house for some dessert.

We were especially pleased to have Britt and Aaron join us at the Mount. We bundled up to check out Moturiki Island. Even though we didn’t see any little blue penguins like I was hoping, we spotted a Tui and were able to again enjoy a little more of the great NZ outdoors.

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We wandered a little ways before treating ourselves to dessert at Dixie Browns and finally heading home for some R&R.


We had just one full day left before our great exodus, and the weather seemed to cooperate. The morning was used to do laundry, basking in the sun, catch up on work for Joel and for everyone to start setting their minds on the road ahead.

Joel and I had some packing and downsizing to do, and we had some decisions to make about what items go where, so it was nice to have some down time to figure that out.


The first time we met Aaron, he mentioned he worked in kiwifruit and anytime we’d like to come tour an orchard, he’d be happy to have us! For a fresh group of Canadians, we really thought that would be a cool experience. Sadly, Brandon and Stacey had to leave before we were able to coordinate a time for the 4 of us, so thought we should try to fit this in for the parents.

We set a time with Aaron, and while we waited, we had some mean burgers at James St.

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We love kiwifruit.

Aaron was very sweet to take us all around a couple different orchards and our parents Loved. It. We found it really interesting to hear about the growing process, and especially fun listening to such a passionate tour guide!

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Our last evening at the beach house was bitter sweet, and still quite busy as we continued to get ourselves packed and sorted. I am so grateful that Joel slowed us down a little bit to enjoy the sunset and to just be in our place for the last time.

Our beach house was the perfect spot for our first seven months, and it really ticked all the boxes. We couldn’t have asked for a more lovely home to recharge in every evening, and it provided just what we needed for our kiwi adventure.

We ended up living in our beach bach for as long as we’ve lived in our Calgary house, which is crazy to consider. It will certainly hold a special place in our hearts!

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Saturday morning brought with it a boatload of chores and last minute errands. Our friends were so helpful to not only house our largest bags for us while we’re on the move, but also to help us use up the last bits from our fridge.
Our parents were simply wonderful to help us do a final clean of our house, and they’ve volunteered to take back random bits of baggage that we’ve had trouble fitting in our luggage – which is sweet as. The rest of Saturday morning was spent signing papers, doing a walk through with our realtor, dropping stuff by Aaron and Britt’s and making a final run to the transfer station to be rid of our last bag of garbage and bits of recycling.

After packing a couple of vehicles full, we left Papamoa with mixed emotions. Saddened to be closing such a powerful chapter in our lives, but excited to see what’s ahead on the journey.

Ra Ra Raro!

It All Started with a Surprise

We kept hearing about Rarotonga (the largest of the Cook Islands) here in New Zealand as it’s a very popular vacation spot for kiwis.  iIt’s an easy 3 hour flight and their currency is still mainly NZ dollars, more importantly… it’s a really beautiful place. The entire island is surrounded by a reef, making the shoreline calm and crystal clear (mainly shark-free, too- which is a bonus for this prairie girl).


Joel had a plan to surprise me with a getaway, as a kinda celebration trip for my birthday and our anniversary. He had been working on an end-of-October deadline so, despite having to be away when Brandon and Stacey flew home, Joel booked for a time he knew he could be away from work and an internet connection (which is tricky to find on the island).

On October 31st we headed for the airport, saying goodbye to our sweet friends/housemates and readied ourselves for some killer downtime in paradise.

Friggin’ Buses

We arrived in Raro after dark, and therefore, weren’t able to form an accurate judgement of the place.  Mainly flying by the seat of our pants, having put very little research into the area – we had few expectations. We were greeted by the hotel shuttle and ushered around part of the island to our resort where we settled in and rested up for our official introduction.

We eagerly slid out of our beach bungalow the next morning, ready to see what the fuss about this place was. It took no time to jump onto the bandwagon.

We had breakfast on the beach, with sand beneath our feet and sea breezes sweeping through our… my hair. With one look at our infinity pool, we set plans for our first morning.

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We took things fairly easy for the first part of the day, with a plan to head into town, maybe getting a scooter license and wheels for the afternoon. We stopped for more sunscreen at a nearby store (getting our first glimpse of the Rarotongan coins that supplement the New Zealand change circulated), I started reading ‘The Hobbit’ (like a good little New Zealand tourist), Joel was reunited with his true love- salt water pools and I discovered the need to have a chat to him about not looking dead when he practices holding his breath underwater (although, I suppose I’m fairly lost to the world in the photo below as well).





Eventually we headed to the reception desk to to receive instruction on catching the bus. A helpful staff member explained how easy it is- having a stop right on the main ring road at the end of our hotel’s laneway! We were waiting at the ‘stop’ (although, we didn’t notice any marked pull-outs, so simply set ourselves up in a visible area) and waited. The bus came around shortly after it’s expected time, and with our exact change in one hand, we gave a little wave to indicate our hopes to board with the other… and the bus zoomed past us!

Strange, but we took it in stride- taking the opportunity to walk across the road to ask a rental company the licensing requirements for a scooter- discovering our need to stop at the police station for the proper qualifications. Cool, we thought, we’ll do that when we take the bus to town!

Back to our hotel we went to grab some lunch and await the arrival of bus #2. More sun, some food and quiet time passed before we got ourselves together once again waiting by the main road for our ride. Again, prepared we were now- with the correct fare in one hand and our (grander) waving arm at the ready. Here comes the bus again, fairly close to on-time.

We waved politely. We both wave our hats at the bus, that again doesn’t appear to be slowing… and once more watched as it zoomed by us! Now having only seen our resort all day and the time now nearly mid-afternoon. Ugh. Annoying. We went back to chat with the receptionist to be sure we weren’t somehow missing the trick to catching a bus, but with her confusion and apologies, we ended up leaving the front desk and venturing across the street yet again- this time for a car rental.

Melting, annoyed and hoping to just be slightly mobile, we ended up getting ourselves a little Toyota for the remainder of our trip.

We ventured into the nearby town and walked around a bit before deciding to drive around and see what’s to be seen. One interesting view we caught was that of an old shipwreck just off the existing harbour. Kinda neat to even see from land, but there are lots of boats and snorkel tours that will drop you off near the wreck to have a look.


It didn’t take long before we’d reached our hotel again (it takes about 40 mins to drive the whole island) with several ideas for stops over the coming days.

That evening, we checked out a beachside bar and enjoyed some cold drinks as we watched the sunset. After which, we were thoroughly tired out and grabbed some great takeaway pizza to enjoy before crashing.

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A Magical Mystery Tour

Tuesday morning we planned to join several other hotel guests (the average age being about 65 and again reminding me how much my activity choices are more suited for such a range) on the manager’s **Mystery Tour** (OooOOOooooo).

This tour consists of a van full of either pale or burnt tourists that squeeze themselves together and sweat along the countryside admiring the sights with the appropriate insertions of “Ooo” and “Ahhh” and “Oh Sue, you hilarious vixen, you”.

This tour was actually fantastic, we had a chance to hear stories of the area, we drove by the jail and the hospital and moved on to some more exciting stops- a spot serving snacks and coffee, a coconut oil company (run out of a fellow’s garage essentially), and then Muri beach- where 13 boats left for New Zealand, 7 made the entire journey and were able to set themselves up there.

It was a good day and it allowed us to gain a better understanding of the island- which was great.

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Once back from our tour, I was able to start my afternoon routine of enjoying a coffee or tea on our porch and reading for a spell. I started craving that quiet time with the shade a cool breeze rustling the green around me- quite peaceful and lovely!


That evening, we caught our first glimpse of the hotel restaurant in the evening, and planned to come back. The night we were able to eat at our hotel was really lovely- the lights created a whole new ambience and a local artist construction some really beautiful music with just her voice, a guitar and a loop pedal- it was wonderful.


But back to Tuesday night, when we decided to put our car to use and went to town for supper. We ate at a place right on the water and enjoyed ribs for Joel (we’d been told the pork in the area is exceptional) and fish for me while listening to the water gently lap against the beach. Great food and atmosphere overall 🙂


Muri Beach and the Fish Sandwich to Remember

Wednesday we had booked ourselves in for a night Stand up paddle board (SUP) tour in the Muri Beach Lagoon. We had been told that depending on conditions we could be shuffled to another evening to ensure a good experience, so we decided to head over early, wander the area and check in on our booking so we could save everyone a drive later on.

We started on the Northern point of Muri beach, and stopped for a while to admire the breathtaking water- for as long as we were there, the colour of the ocean continually impressed me.

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Our tour continued on to The Mooring Cafe, which is notorious for pretty mean fish sandwiches and fruit smoothies. The cafe has some amazingly fresh fish; also running fishing charters and serve their own catch. We weren’t quite ready to commit to the sandwich on our first stop in, but had an amazing vanilla-coconut milkshake and travelled on, promising to be back once our appetite caught up with us.


We stopped in to check on our SUP booking and found not only were we the only ones signed up for that evening, but the water conditions didn’t seem like they’d cooperate. We happily switched our booking over to Friday and hoped for the best!

Further on down the road, there was a local brewery who we’d heard offered some very interesting tours that run twice most days. My beer-loving husband and me, the seeker of all speakers sharing their passion, were eager to check this out.

We found the Matutu brewery with ease, tracked down some lush grass to park our wee Toyota and waited with the handful of other tourists who’d found their way there. It was funny, as this was the first time we started to see the same tourists doing the activities we’d chosen for the day- that’s what ya get on an island destination with an area of only 26 square miles 🙂

The tour was an hour long, set in a tiny brewery where we sat in one spot and could see the full production. The host was one of the 2 owners who had come from New Zealand with his family several years before, originally moving to continue as a teacher (my kinda guy). He says the brewery came about after his wife would comment how teaching had driven him to drink.

Matutu has been successfully running as a always-fresh, preservative-free micro brewery for over 10 years now. We learned a little about the owners, the history, some of their struggles and all about the depth and thoughtfulness that surrounds their design and labelling.

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They’ve overcome some interesting bumps along the way, but have since gained recognition and seemed to have found their niche. We were able to sample all 3 of the beers they craft, and enjoyed not only the brews, but the story of this quaint stop. We had fun, and were even treated to a couple labels with our niece’s name on it! Maeva is a Maori word for celebration, and we noticed it a couple more times before we left, although in the Cook Islands it’s pronounced MY-va


With full hearts and empty stomachs we trekked back to the Mooring for lunch. We were completely blown-away. Fresh, fabulous, filling…FISH (ha).  What a win. Crumbed Mahi Mahi with lime mayo on the fluffiest bread around- delish.


We had a little visitor at lunch and I didn’t mind a bit- look how cute! There are lots of roaming dogs on the island, but few that captured my heart like this guy:


Then, away we went! Back to Joel’s happy place:


All the *Culture*

Thursday I woke up already a bit sick of our hotel’s continental breakfast, so we went on a coffee expedition! We had heard that one of the best coffee spots on the island was Cook Islands Coffee Company, and we went to find out for ourselves.

The cafe could easily be missed, in fact we drove past it on our first go-around. There’s a little coffee-themed road sign and a pylon to mark the entrance, and the coffee is roasted and served from a tiny little counter off the owner’s main house (which is a pretty sweet gig, if you ask me). I appreciated the charm of the place, but kiwi coffee has definitely spoiled me and though I enjoyed our little trek, I wasn’t wild about the brew.

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Most days the coffee spot also serves fresh croissants, but not on Thursdays. Sad. So after our beverages we headed for breakfast and found a spot with fruit smoothies and eggs- all ya need, really 🙂 we ended up sharing the patio with a women’s rugby team- there for the International 7s that were running while we were in Rarotonga- kinda neat.

Once properly fed we were up for yet more culture- this time… mini golf (woot!).

There’s a mini golf course located just up the road from our resort, and we thought it would be fun to check it out. The place seemed very new and well-kept. We had a great time enjoying the tropical air and working our way through the course. Mini golf is one of those things that just makes me happy- we discovered this on a particularly grumpy day on our honeymoon (good to know).


We went back to our hotel for more beach/pool time, and eventually got ourselves freshened up for our evening out at Te Vara Nui village for a buffet dinner and a show.


Our evening was planned for us, but we figured we would check out a few places on our way to our reservation. We took our time as we drove towards the village, and had a walk on the beach part way. We ended up being early still, so we drove on and stopped by a cool looking church. We took pictures and enjoyed the scene that was enhanced by a choir practice happening across the road.

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We looped around, scoped out an ideal parking spot and headed in to find our table. The village was built up atop an old taro swamp and the show took place on an overwater stage set in the wetlands, creating a very interesting ambience.

The show was a true tourist spot- maybe a bit kitsch, but we ended up having a fabulous time! The food was great, we had lovely company sharing our table, the music was live and vibrant and the dance was really entertaining. The whole production was clearly a well-oiled machine and it provided a fun night out for us.

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Onward We Wander

By Friday we had only a couple days left and just as many plans for our time left. We had fully immersed ourselves in vacation mode and didn’t feel any rush to get anything done.

It was rainy and grey, so we headed to town and walked through some shops and a cafe. There was a record player in the corner of the cafe where you could freely choose an album to enjoy. There was a book nook, with my lady, RGJ, represented and they had a lovely covered patio that allowed for fresh air and shelter from the tropical rains all at once.

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We drove for a while, checked in with our SUP booking and found our way back at a mini golf place. This time we tried Coco Putt, which has great food/drink and golf combo deals. We were soaked a few times as we completed our 18 holes with the rain coming in waves, but we had fun just the same. We compared and contrasted, and figured our first putt course was our favourite!

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We had planned on grabbing some dinner at the night market right near our SUP spot, but when we arrived in the evening we discovered it didn’t run on Fridays! Too sad… although the burger joint we ended up at wound up being a gem. Both Joel and I refuelled to prepare for our evening on the water with Muri burgers, which had pineapple among other tasty toppings.


We were grateful to have had such a great meal, because our next activity was just about too cool to handle!


But, really. We were finally able to night SUP and it was SO. AWESOME.

The boards are each equipped with LED lights on the bottom, you can choose different colours and as you paddle you’re able to see all sorts of interesting corals, sea cucumbers (which actually should be called sea poos), puffer fish, needle fish, star fish (you know… a variety of fish and such fine sea critters). We had a real small, chill group and we all had a blast!

We didn’t want to bring our cameras along- to be cautious, but here are some photos that were shared on their Facebook page- so also… Kite SUP in Muri Beach is a great place and highly recommended if you ever find yourself in the area (also JUST in case the fella on our tour isn’t into being on my post I fuzzied his face out, ha- he was great fun, though).

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Saturday in the Park

Saturday we hadn’t planned much apart from soaking up our last bits of Rarotongan sunshine. We got our bags somewhat organized before going for breakfast and planned to hit the Punanga Nui market where we’d been told most of the island shows up to each Saturday.

We had some amazing weather for our last day and enjoyed our time strolling up and down the stalls at the market, wishing we had more of an appetite to sample the amazing looking food that surrounded us- fresh fruit, hot waffles, made-to-order crepes, all sorts of fish, and more things than I would have imagined in one spot. We ended up soaking in the atmosphere and then chilling in the shade with some homemade ginger lemonade before driving around the island one last time.

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Joel was hoping to take our time as we drove and was great at taking pictures of those things that we had thought were really cool, but hadn’t actually captured in photo evidence. It was a lovely little scavenger hunt and we were able to remember quite a few neat sights to re-visit.

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We topped up the gas tank in our little Toyota and made our last trip before returning it.  We found ourselves back at our top choice mini golf course. I kept thinking it was kinda like when you have 2 kinds of pizza and you have to have one of each, but once that’s through and you’re still hungry – you go back to your favourite to let that taste linger. Yep, that’s what we did. Snacks and golf at the course!

We dropped our car off, walked back to our hotel and spent our last few hours before our flights poolside. We swam and chatted with the other guest, read, relaxed and finally enjoyed a delicious supper before flying back to Auckland.

What a lovely surprise. I feel blessed to have such a thoughtful husband who is dedicated to sharing such memories and experiences! We were happy to have that holiday time as well, even though we came back to a quiet, empty house as our friends had gone back home while we were away. We also came back to some loose ends needing to be tied in our last 2 weeks in our beach house.

This time next week, we’ll be visiting with our parents! Both Joel’s parents and mine will be visiting and travelling with us for a month. And then, before you know it, we’ll be sitting on a couch trying to fight the jet lag as our hearts are filled with joy and our Canadian Christmas commences. What a wild ride. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just a Couple Canadians Left

BFF-NZE [Best Friends Forever- New Zealand Edition]

As I sit to type out this post here, Joel and I are in the Auckland airport, awaiting our flight to Rarotonga for a belated anniversary/30th birthday trip. We were up early this morning to get ourselves sorted so Brandon and Stacey could drive us to the bus.

That was our last road trip (teeny as it may have been) as a kiwi family of four.

By the time we’re back in Papamoa, Brandon and Stacey will be visiting with family and revelling in an Alberta autumn.


Not even a year ago we started dreaming of an extended vacation on the other side of the globe, and were thrilled at the thought of our friends being able to join. We all four committed and bought our tickets and so began a pretty unbelievable trek.


No one could have imagined the things that this trip had in store. Our housemates and ourselves have lived a lifetime in the past 6 months, having sorted out buying vehicles, groceries and rent together. Finding a dream home by the ocean and living each weekend with the goal of seeing more and more of this beautiful country.

We had a lot of happy times and some tough ones, too- but we are beyond grateful to have been able to weather the storm with these two incredible people.


Sayin’ See Ya

Our last full weekend together was one we tried to make a bit special. Stacey’s friend Justayne had been visiting in the week+ leading up to it, and their little crew of 3 were able to see some great things and check a few more ‘must dos’ off their list- which was great.

So as they were off in Queenstown, I started doing a little research about how to spend our time. We ended up trying to book some last minute hotels, which was a bit tricky as that weekend was New Zealand’s Labour Day long weekend, too. Things were booking up quickly in this bach nation.

We decided to check in with our number one kiwi couple-friends and were able to combine our weekend fun as we were invited to hang out together in Hamilton and later stay with Brit’s parents in Cambridge- which was amazing. We all thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

We headed out on Saturday, hoping to catch the tail end of he Cambridge market (where donuts, gluten-free treats and all sorts of treats await), but unfortunately arrived soon after it had been packed up. Instead of market treats, we headed to downtown Hamilton to get our second taste of Vietnamese food since arriving. It’s certainly not as common here as it is at home, but that didn’t stop this restaurant from impressing us thoroughly.

When downtown we were able to learn about the Rocky Horror Picture Show/NZ connection as a big Bronze statue of Rif Raf (design by the great Weta Workshop) sits in a spacious square in front of a theatre. Apparently in the theatre (watching late-night movies and such), the Rocky Horror playwright was inspired to create Rif Raf and there came the show’s start. Interesting!


After a hurried attempt to hit the elusive Swandri outlet store (which evidently no longer exists- or is only operational when surplus is available?), we finally made our way over to the Hamilton Gardens to scope out a popular spot and to meet up with our pals.

The Gardens were quite beautiful and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sun was shining and we were able to see loads of different things there before having an ice cream break 🙂

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When our garden adventures were complete, we headed back to Cambridge to meet the most lovely family and to enjoy a feast for the record-books. I’m pretty sure Brandon is still having vivid dreams about the barbecued meat prepared for us that evening. We ate well, visited, played some fun games and rested up so we could have breakfast all together before church duties early the next morning.

Rollin’ On

Brit and Aaron needed to be back to our church to organize set-up, etc. and we were headed the other direction to see what the fuss about Raglan was.  Grateful to have had such quality time together, we parted ways.

We had heard a little buzz over Raglan- which is a little surf town that’s quite popular with Aucklanders and Hamiltonians largely due to it’s famous surf break and nearby location (just 30-ish minutes from Hamilton and just shy of 2 hours from Auckland). We thought we’d check it out.

It was soon obvious, even at 9am, that we were not the only crew to descend on this quaint little slice of heaven. We spotted at least 2 walking tours- little herds of grey haired folk and visor-clad explorers- and saw more and more people fill cafes and restaurants in the area as the day went on. Though the town was busy, the charm was not lost.

We had a wander downtown, checking out cute shops, had some great roasted-daily coffee, stopped for a little bite and asked where the best spot was to see the surfers doing their thing.


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With some new knowledge and appreciation for this west coast town, we headed across the estuary to see the surf. We were again greeted by the others who had ventured out for the weekend and sun, but found ourselves a spot to spread our towels and chill as we watched the experienced surfers show off their skills.

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Our next stop was Bridal Veil Falls, which we meandered our way to through backroads, as the crowds had started blocking the main access points. After some unsealed roads and lovely farmland views, we arrived.

A short walk brought us a to a beautiful outlook and we were able to walk all the way down to the bottom- gaining different vantage points as we went.

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After the day on the coast, we ventured back East and were able to catch a little food festival/family activity day at the Hamilton Gardens. They had a whole bunch of food vendors available, and we partook in some amazing wood-fired pizza, Vietnamese salad rolls, one real sad venison burger, and the redemption of real fruit ice cream-yum. Again, we couldn’t have asked for a better day and atmosphere, although… the 90s cover songs performed left something to be desired.


Final Days

Our last days together were graced with sunshine and sheep costumes.

The Saturday before Joel and I departed for Raro, we wanted to be sure Brandon and Stacey could soak up all the bits of NZ sun possible- so we started the day with a BBQ breakfast on the patio (which is always a house favourite), then headed to a new beach (with some of the most powdery sand) and on our way stopped for some wonderful real fruit ice cream (once you start, you can’t stop).


That evening, we had been invited to a costume-mandatory Halloween party. We had run through some different ideas. Joel and I had hoped to do something ‘Back to the Future’ themed, but in the ended started brainstorming as a group. We thought through Canadian themes and ran through several ideas before deciding upon something a bit more kiwi.  Sheep.

We all played our part as we shopped for supplies (individually and together) and we each added different elements of flare as we went.


Several bags of cotton balls, a couple headbands, some felt, 2 shower caps and a couple bottles of glue later… we were a herd.



We had fun chatting with friends new and old, and we had to stop the dog from eating all our cotton balls while trying to clean up after ourselves as our make-shift costumes were obviously not meant for the long haul!

Sunday was a busy time of getting our house closer to it’s original state- working as a crew to remember what we could. We went to church, then enjoyed poutine and burgers at James St. Burger (a local fav).


Joel and I had to work on our packing for our trip, as our bus departed the Mount at 7:30 Monday morning. It came down to the wire a little bit. Thankfully our thoughtful friends pulled us away to celebrate our last evening as a NZ family.

We made dinner, watched Mad Men (as per tradition), the guys shared a fancy beer and we went out to Post Bank to enjoy dessert, drinks and fellowship. What a time!

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6 Months- Added Up

Together we shared:

1 perfect beach house,  the meanest Honda Stream on the road and the arrival of 1 niece and 1 nephew

2 explored islands (and 2.5 if you count Moturiki-which we probably should) and 2 new tires.

3 lighthouses

4 anniversaries and the creation of 4 of the funniest sheep costumes

the discovery of a handful of beaches, caves and marvellous sea creatures

7 days a week of grand adventures

8 Canadian visitors

9 (at least) small-scale model ships

10 waterfalls

thousands of kilometres driven

15 000 fish dishes

Countless hikes

Some of the very best cafes, one killer gluten-free bakery and the trip of a lifetime.

It’ll be weird going back to the house- that was once bustling with bloggers, artists, videographers, designers, chefs, BBQ masters and copywriters- to see it in a new light.

We are certain that our last weeks here will fly by, but we also know they’ll feel oddly hollow as we think of the couple who made this adventure complete.

Thanks, Brandon and Stacey for putting up with me and Joel. We know we have our ugly moments. We’re grateful for you both, and that you reminded us to be kind, made some amazing food, lifted us up, prayed with us and, in general, that you were the cherry on top of this time down under.

New Zealand won’t be the same without you two, and we’re already looking forward to our Canadian reunion.

Lots of love- see ya soon!


A Little Here A Little There

Well, it’s been a few weeks since my last entry and my mom texts me every few days to ask where my next blog post is, so I’d better get to it 🙂

A 1 Year Old Klettke

October 17th was Joel and my anniversary. We have been married one full and fabulous year, and I figured it’s only appropriate to reflect on this a little bit-particularly as we’ve given nearly half of this year to New Zealand.

Just over a year ago now, the Friday before our wedding- in and amongst moving my stuff to Joel’s house (soon to be ours) and trying to get as organized as possible for our big day- I was blessed to have been treated to nails and some quiet time with some of my favourite ladies.

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Allison, my sisters in law, my mom, mother in law and Oma were all getting their nails done, too (though not pictured) and it was a grounding time to enjoy.

Being nearly 12 000km from some of my biggest supports has been tough at times, but having technology to bring them into our living room via FaceTime, SnapChat, Instagram and Skype (and even just flipping through old photos) have all been true blessings.

Both Joel and I had such a fun time on our wedding day, and it was largely due to our amazing family members, friends and especially-our wedding party. We didn’t raise a finger unnecessarily that day. We had decided- hey, today is not worth the grump and freak-outs… we can’t do anything about it now, so let’s just roll with it, and our crew rose to the occasion and made sure things were stress-free.


Now, the day wasn’t without fault, of course- but much of it was shielded from us, and honestly… I feel it was also covered in prayer.

The morning of our wedding I woke up with a pinch in my back that grew to a bigger problem- I had tried to stretch it out and then attempted to walk around the block to loosen up, but quickly realized that wouldn’t be happening.

For maybe the second time ever in my life, my back was completely out. I couldn’t walk without my leg buckling. I cried-despite holding it together *fairly* well before this, I let is allllllll out.

My cousins and friends who had stayed over with me the night before went into Mama Bear mode and made sure I had everything I needed- massages, back pain pills, coffee, food, a hot bath, prayer… anything necessary to get through the day!

That morning also included 1 particularly grumpy flower girl (G and I attempted to cheer her up by singing “The Wheels on the Bus”) and forgotten flowers, but we were all able to make it to the church in time for another round of prayer before a few deep breaths and a walk down the aisle.

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The day was beautiful, warm (which is crazy, because there was snow on the ground this year) and full of the best kind of support. We are grateful to have laughed a lot on that day and were blessed beyond words to just… be. What a gift!

I always say that I knew Joel was sweet before we were married, but somehow afterwards I got to see a whole new level of this. Joel is extremely caring, very loyal, funny, sometimes inappropriate, but always a great teammate to have (whether you’re a family member or friend- I’m sure you’ve gotten to see his phenomenal character).

Bringin’ Folks Together

One of the coolest things about this year has been watching two families form one.

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I grew up with 2 of the best big brothers anyone could have asked for, and this year I got 2 sisters that I couldn’t have dreamt to be better. I’ve gained so many more aunts, uncles and cousins, a perfect niece and some exceptional in-laws.

In laws who actually like hanging out with my parents, and both sets of parents will often text me pictures of their shared adventures (out for dinner, plays or concerts together). Both Joel’s and my parents will be coming to New Zealand, when we- all together- get to adventure for a month, pretty sweet.

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[The Lindoff’s got a  formal shot here because this is the only time we’ve all been in one place for maybe 2 years now]dsc_9845

Here’s Uncle Joel in action:

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Whatta Year

It’s been amazing to see the things you can fit into a year.

We were able to chopper over the Jurassic Park Falls in Kauai *while listening to the theme song*


Joel and I both learned that feeding mouldy bread to goats brings him great joy (we’ve since learned that feeding New Zealand chickens has the same effect)


Joel’s face forever changed when he had to get glasses (the blurry vision wasn’t just from swimming with eyes-open too often in the saltwater lagoon at our hotel in Hawaii like we thought, ha)


We were able to attend a couple’s retreat within our first 2 months of marriage- probably a record 😛


We have already accidentally dressed the same


We’ve gone to some hockey games and figured out how to live together having been raised a Flames fan for him and an Oilers fan for me…

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We had birthday parties at our place…


And watched our house come together for Christmas


We even hosted some special guests for the holidays, and they gifted Joel with his first pair of all-his-own skates!

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I got to teach some grade ones about my (new) family


We made our very own gelato flavour (My Chubby Valentine was the stuff of dreams)


We discovered the diner in Austin, TX that ruined all other breakfasts for us


We saw some of our besties get married AND we were both part of the wedding (ah… fun!).

[Bonus: I got to re-use my wedding headband]

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I lost some teeth and gained extra respect for my husband who took care of me while we were trying to pack up and move 12 000km away

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And then, well I mean… we moved waaaaaaaay far away with a couple of real cool people.


Where some friends came to visit


Joel started shaving his head


I learned to crochet some silly little baby booties for our niece


We’ve met some wonderful friends (who Thanksgiving-ed with us)


And we have just been having lots of fun exploring.


A Spring Anniversary

It’ll likely be the only time we will celebrate our anniversary in the springtime, and we took advantage of the weather and sunshine!

Our anniversary ended up being a real low-key weekend at home while our housemates were on the South Island.

Sunday morning we were up early to take half our group to the bus, so we decided to hit the beach to watch the sun come up. We then grabbed some breakfast, walked around the mount and hit the early service at church.

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We ate well (and oh, so German) that evening and walked on our beach…




…before having our first taste of the classic kiwi, ‘jelly tip’ ice cream treat [it’s essentially a Revello, but the top half-ish of the bar is made of berry jelly- very tasty]. Soon after we feared we would have to eat the whole box as our house lost power for several minutes.


The next morning Joel gifted me with a lovely necklace and we made a big breakfast before the loooooooong walk to the mount for lunch.

Ever since we moved to our Papamoa house, we’ve looked over to the Mount and figured it would be a good idea to walk there some time- all along the beach. So Monday, mid-morning, we headed out!

We started out with big smiles and high hopes… that after about hour 3 started to fade a little. Haha… thankfully we persevered and Joel has had a year to figure out how to manage my grump 😛



It took us 4 hours of walking and we travelled an estimated 17 kms that morning. We were blistered, exhausted and a bit sunburnt by the end of it, but were able to re-charge on burgers and shared a milkshake to recover.


Just like on our honeymoon, our anniversary was spent sharing ice cream (here’s us then)…


…and buying matching shoes. In Hawaii, last year, we both bought some Nikes; this year we got some NZ kicks- Allbirds! I think we’ve started a tradition 🙂

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It’s been a full year. Lots of ups and downs, but I’m grateful to have my teammate, Joel, to weather the storms and celebrate the sunshine with.

Sands Through the Hourglass

The Canuck Waves Continue

We have truly been blessed with a (near-literal) boatload of visitors who have gifted us with their presence.

The last crew to have found their way to the Southern Hemisphere were Steve and Danielle (who-like us, Brandon and Stacey as well as visitors, Jamie and Michelle-were able to celebrate an anniversary in NZ).

Steve and Danielle landed early one Monday morning, fell into the same Macca’s trap we did upon arrival and boarded a bus to meet us at the Mount.

We were so excited to greet them, we arrived a half hour early- giving us a chance to enjoy the sunshine (one of the only clear, warm days Steve and Danielle had on their entire trip- whoopsies…sorry about that, guys).


We dropped bags off in the car and had a wander around downtown before grabbing a cheap burger at Astrolabe (something that seems to be part of our visitor’s welcome-pack). The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent recouping and refreshing following a whole lot of hours en route.

Rain, Life and more Rain

The day after the fresh Canucks arrived was a day of rain and errands. We had all decided Crumpy would have to see a mechanic for some precautionary work before taking him- brimming with people and packs- around the North Island.

Tuesday morning, I got up early to drop him off and wandered around the mount for a few hours before going back to pick him up. A wave of unfortunate news awaited me, Crumpy needed MORE work and we were left questioning our safety driving much further than the Mount… SO our low-key time commenced: World Cup Hockey and grey, rainy days helped us hunker down and chill.

Wednesday I had made an appointment to go wild and colour my hair. Having a long, loooonnnng line of hairdressers in my family, I have never had anyone other than family so much as wash my hair… like, ever. SO I did my research, had a consultation and set the date! To my surprise my wonderful sisters and mom-in-law treated me to my 30-year-old-gone-wild hairdo 🙂 Thanks again, ladies!

Just over 4 hours and several chapters in my book later… the transformation was complete! My wonderful pal, Becky got pink hair for her 30th and so we were kinda twins for a bit. Our wild and fun hair- might as well, right?!

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Thursday the rain continued and our car went back to the shop for its necessary repairs. We all went into town, and as life is… our plan of venturing out and walking/bussing to a breakfast spot ended  in a very soggy, itchy speed walk to the closest place that served food!

Thankfully that close spot offered great coffees and an open fire- so not as bad as it could have been! We bussed home for more rainy day hockey-viewing as we waited for the freedom of our 4-wheeled friend.

By mid-afternoon we had Crumpy and a plan to head toward Rotorua for some geothermal fun, a nibbles-dinner at the night market and the Polynesian Spa (another visitor-tradition).

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On the Road Again

I admit once more that I am not the biggest Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fan. I should probably give the books a read, too- but fantasy, generally, isn’t my genre. BUT I did my best to plot out a bit of a vacation including LOTR stops for our super-fans 🙂

We ended up having a pretty impressive survey of the North Island in just 5 days.


Friday we started our trek, and made our first stop in Waitomo (where Stacey discovered there were LOTR recordings made in one of the caves, oooooo). We were also completely dazzled by the glowworms and breath-taking caverns!

Cave of Wonders

Both Joel and I had done Waitomo when we were first in NZ all those years ago… but more of the adventurous side of the caves (Al and I did black water rafting, while Joel did a day-long epic which included abseiling and loads of cool things like that), so neither of us had done the more common tour. We were really impressed! Our guide even sang a beautiful Maori song while in the giant open space in the main cave known as the cathedral.

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the caves, so here we are disembarking:

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Once our spelunking was through we went to check out our Airbnb for the night. It was wonderful. Everything from the history of the place, to the design elements, the magazines and movies in the house were amazing. I told the owner I’m pretty sure we’d be BFFs based of the house alone (style and film taste), ha.

The house we stayed in was built by the owner’s grandparents who once ran the General Store in the village, the store has since changed hands, but the house is still in the family. It had lovely windows, lots of space, fresh farm eggs, and a cozy, wood-burning fireplace to enjoy.

Though difficult, we pulled ourselves from the house long enough to check out some more of the Waitomo area. Hoping to find somethings outside the typical, Stacey and I both came across Marokopa Falls. The falls are about 20 mins beyond the village, and just a 10 min walk in from the main road.

It was really mucky and muddy, so we weren’t able to get our usual close-up view (despite Stacey’s best efforts), but we were pleased with the perspective from the main platform!

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Once we’d seen the Falls, we decided to allow ourselves to be distracted by other roadside turn outs. We were able to go down into a big cave (after yet another 10 min hike in from the main road), which was kinda cool. Then Joel saw a sign for a ‘nature bridge’, which frankly sounded suuuuuuper lame- BUT I’m working on being a good sport, so away we went.

We parked again, off the main road and a short walk led us to the Mangapohue Nature Bridge. Joel really has a keen eye for finding some pretty incredible places (I know I shouldn’t doubt this fact), and the bridge was no different! It’s actually a land bridge that hovers over a stream. Really stunning atmosphere, but also a unique stop along the way.

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The pictures don’t do it justice… but if you find yourself in Waitomo, I’d suggest going to check it out.

The rain started up again, just in time for us to be back in our cozy accommodations, we suited up to walk across the road for a fabulous dinner at Huhu (another recommended spot). We were pleased to find this busy little restaurant with lots of gluten free options and local beer on tap.

The rest of our time in Waitomo was spent by the fire, with good coffee in the morning and a necessary viewing of “What We Do in the Shadows” (way-to-go Taika).

Whakapapa and Mt. Doom

After a little re-charge with a slower morning, we were off again to hike around Tongariro National Park. Mount Ngauruhoe is one of the gorgeous peaks featured both in the park as well as in the Lord of the Rings films (where it’s known as Mount Doom, *dun, dun, duuuuu*).

We chose a small hike to do in the area and ended up tramping to Taranaki Falls while enjoying some fab views of the Mount- even catching a glimpse of the top near the end of our trek (rare and wonderful)!

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It was great to stretch the legs and after some fresh air (and more Gravol) we were back on the road South.

We stayed at another historic home, which is clearly the owner’s passion project- the interior was all chosen to accentual the fabulous 1960s architecture. We played games, ate a lot of Pizza Hut pizza… which probably lead to the toilet problems that first caused Joel and I to hunt for a plunger at 8am on a Sunday morning and eventually to us loosing the battle and moving onward to Wellington (don’t worry, we were responsible about our departure and the owners of the house were impressed with us- we didn’t leave ’em in the lurch).

Well. Wellington Once More

Sunday we headed to Wellington for our second visit and Steve & Danielle’s first. We were able to get into our accommodations early and chatted to the owners a little bit before watching the last period of the hockey game and then headed out to the city.

We wandered around a while near the harbour and were able to take in the last hour of the markets on display before FINALLY (we’ve been encouraged to go by several people since arriving in NZ) checking out the Te Papa museum- which was all together spectacular. We will definitely be back to check out more exhibits, but were grateful to have been able to see a couple anyway- including the phenomenal Gallipoli display (created by the Weta Workshop).

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From there, we headed to Courtenay place to grab some sushi and craft beer. We were glad to take in the city centre a little bit and enjoyed playing games at a quite pub before tracking down the mysterious *french toast sticks* at Burger King.

The next morning we hit the city early for our favourite breakfast at Ti Kouka. We avoiding looming devastation by identifying the rosti in the house hash browns and were able to get our fill before moving on to coffee and soda at Six Barrel Co.(this is also where Joel modelled his attempt at starting a 3 musketeer’s trend-valiant effort, my love).

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Continuing on from the CBD, we drove around to Miramar for: some light Peter Jackson stalking (it was very innocent- we just drove by his house and he happened to be looking out his window), lunch with a view at Maranui cafe (I had a killer turmeric chai latte there which was both curious and delicious), a Gandalf/Smaug visit (at the Wellington airport), hunting for sea-glass and blue penguins, then a stop off at Weta Cave-where most of the crew went on a studio tour. Joel and I just hung out and watched the documentary about Weta as well as enjoyed a little walk around the neighbourhood- knowing we’ll be back to Weta again in December with our parents.

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Having thoroughly explored the city in our very full day, we retired for the evening, enjoyed some snacks and yet another Taika Waititi film- this time, Eagle vs. Shark. With a low-key evening and early bed time we were ready for a day of hiking the paths of the dead.

Take a Hike

Tuesday morning we were up and out of the house with our Airbnb hosts, ready to wind our way through Wairarapa towards the Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve which was used in LOTRs for the paths of the dead.

Along the way, we found the tiniest town to stop for fuel (both for the car and to create odd little gas-station lunches for ourselves), and quickly realized that one wee shop along the way is clearly a place for the locals to mingle. Everyone seemed to know everyone else (except us, of course).

Peter Jackson had visited Putangirua Pinnacles as a kid, and we could see why- a rugged coast line lead us to really unusual land formations. Run-off and erosions has eaten away at the gravelly soil and left beautifully haunting cathedral-like cliffs. Really cool area to see!

We hiked along the creek bed for just over an hour and admired the uniqueness of the landscape as we went, again reminded of this country’s vastness and diversity.

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I was clearly quite taken with our surroundings.  When you walk beside these giants, you’re warned to be careful of falling rocks and the cliffs seem to only be held together by malleable, blue-grey clay.

As we walked back, Stacey pointed out the sedimentary rock along the creek that feature loads of seashells, and well… I thought that was pretty neat. We both stopped several times to snap photos.


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Further on down the road we found Cape Palliser. The Cape offers a couple interesting attractions- the first being a large seal colony, the next is a fabulous lighthouse.

I was reminded of Kaikoura on the South Island, but the seals here seemed to be more camouflaged. We parked the car and started to hike around some of the rocks- hoping to give the seals lots of space so they felt comfortable with us being around. We quickly realized that the seals could really be anywhere! I cautiously toured the area to be sure I wasn’t going to step on a basking seal- which seemed to be around every corner.

At one point I was admiring the coastal rock and after a while, I realized there were a handful of seals on the rocks I’d been checking out. I started counting and found there had been nearly 20 seals in my eyeline the whole time!


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A short drive and a gentle steam ford from the seals was a real lovely lighthouse… with the staircase from hell. We climbed to the top for some exercise and a magnificent view- thankfully we were able to fight the wind’s attempts to blow us off the hilltop.

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From the lighthouse we headed to PaknSave for some dinner staples (don’t worry- we didn’t eat staples for dinner) and continued toward Eketahuna for a rural retreat and a surprising gem of an Airbnb.

We found ourselves at a little country house off the beaten track and we loved it! The place was newly renovated, it had an impressively stocked kitchen, 2 fireplaces that quickly warmed the entire house and provided a quite, quaint stop for us to rest up. We made a feast and enjoyed tim tam slams while sharing all the jokes we could collectively think of.

Wednesday morning we loaded up the car and braced ourselves for a long day of driving.  Just to really get our money’s worth… we had a stopover in Napier to share this beautiful city with friends. Our whirlwind tour included a wander downtown, Mr. D’s donuts, lunch and a chance to watch Canada play in the World Cup (thanks to a friendly barman who allowed us to watch in a quiet pub).

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Once we had had our fill of Napier, we headed back to Papamoa and all by collapsed upon our arrival. What a road trip!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Not to waste any time we had together, we were off again the next day for our Hobbiton sequel. There were rainfall warnings in the Bay of Plenty, and we were all a bit wary about going all that way just to be walking around the countryside looking and feeling like drown rats, but… we had already purchased our tickets and didn’t have much option for refund or time to squeeze in the set before Steve and Danielle headed back to Canada. SO with rain gear and hopeful hearts we drove towards Matamata.

The really amazing thing was that because of the rain, every other person who was originally part of our 1:45 tour had cancelled, leaving us with a private tour! This was really cool and even though we’d been before, it gave us a completely new experience.

We were able to take pictures of the landscape without hoards of people in our shots and we interacted more meaningfully with our tour guide (who seemed to be really impressed with Steve and Danielle’s LOTR knowledge).

We even got to see Peter Jackson again!

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September 30th this year was my 30th birthday!! Pretty cool.

I had been a bit sad about being here for my *royal birthday* without many friends and family around to celebrate. I’m not usually too big on birthday, really- but this one seemed significant.

I always tend to get a big weepy around my birthday, and this year was no exception.  I ended up having a particularly rough evening and Joel felt like he had to tell me part of his plan so that I didn’t feel like everyone had forgotten me.

Joel really did quite a bit of secret planning, and I am so grateful that he did- what an all star!

He had arranged for family and friends to send me postcards (cards and parcels ended up being a part of the surprise, too) hoping to have 30 arrive for me by my birthday. Even today pieces of mail that arrived and at last count I was at 35 notes/treats/etc!!


Wow, what a blessing I felt so, so loved. Thank you again to all those folks who participated. It really meant the world to me <3

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After opening some of my mail, all 6 of us went out to breakfast and Steve and Danielle treated us to our meals (so sweet).

Fun fact- I only just got my ears pierced before my birthday, so it was really nice to get some earrings in some of my parcels (which I continued to open over breakfast)!

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Later that day even more fun things arrived in the mail- like my de-constructed birthday cake… macarons!  Joel had ordered these delicious treats to enjoy straight from Christchurch.  Not only are they scrumptious, but don’t they look lovely?!


After a bit of downtime, Joel surprised me by making dinner reservations at a chic spot in the Mount called Postbank. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal- Joel had this really cool cocktail that came covered in a dome filled with Manuka smoke and we loved trying so many different flavours throughout our meals: venison, pork croquettes, beetroot gnocchi, pork belly.

It was a lovely evening out and I am so blessed to have such a thoughtful husband! He went above and beyond to make me feel special and loved. Thanks, punk.


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This year has been a great one- our wedding, moving waaaayyyyy over here and my 30th have all been real milestones and I can’t imagine what the next year may hold.

Steve and Danielle left the day after my birthday and were able to regroup a little bit in the morning before Brandon and Stacey took them to Auckland for ice cream and their departure. It was a pleasure to have them here, and we hope they had the best time!

Whatta month. Can’t believe we’re less then 3 months away from home now!


Saunter on South

Just over a week ago we go back from our first experience on the South Island. Even though the majority of New Zealand’s populace is on the North Island, the South boasts the greater land mass and hosts some spectacular natural wonders.


Catching Pals from Home

One of the reasons we ended up booking our Christchurch flights initially, was because a dear friend and former roommate of mine, Hannah was planning a snowboard trip and we were hoping to meet up. Hannah’s been working on her PHD in Tasmania and we hadn’t seen her since her going away party in Calgary about 6 months ago!

Hannah’s dates had to shift a bit, but we were so thrilled to be able to have a good, full day exploring together before she headed back for a conference in Hobart.

After a long drive to the airport from Papamoa, a flight, figuring out this weird manual-automatic combo offered by our rental car, weaving our way to our airbnb, and an over-complicated time trying to sort out the wifi situation for Joel’s early-morning business call the next day- everyone was pretty wiped.

We met up with Hannah and tried to catch a later dinner (which in NZ, we’ve found is pretty iffy after 8pm, let alone, 9pm-which is what we were searching for) with no avail… we were left with Maccas, a slightly depressing, yet grateful-for-any-sustenance option.

Our First Glimpse

Having arrived late on Tuesday evening, we hadn’t yet seen Christchurch- we didn’t know how to orient ourselves or what the city looked like. We had heard a lot about the re-building process after several massive earthquakes that rocked the city just a few years ago, but the sight introduced by the morning light was still a shock.

Our plan for the day was to head out of the city, but thought it would be a shame to leave without at least a taste of our surroundings. We wandered our quiet neighbourhood a bit and took in the quaint buildings in every direction before moving on toward the CBD.

We parked alongside Cathedral Square, and were immediately greeted by the huge restoration project in process. The Christchurch Cathedral is a once-magnificent structure that often had crowds and city events bustling outside its doors, and despite having been through numerous quakes throughout its 100+ years of existence, the sequence of earthquakes five years ago proved especially destructive.

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Repair had initially begun after the September, 2010 shock, but has since halted as at least three other earthquakes since have caused its spire and tower to crumble leaving little money or structural strength left to build on.

Everywhere you look in the CBD there’s either destruction or construction. Roads are diverted in every direction and buildings are either left as they await evaluation, in a state of demolition or attempting to be pieced back together. It’s a remarkable sight.


Despite the awful reality of what that city has faced, there’s a beautiful sense of pride and hope left still. Street art is everywhere- graffiti fills countless walls all through the city, and even more permanent public art works have been established- seemingly to boost morale amongst such haunting memories.


This hope through colour, art and innovation is seen again at the Re:Start mall in the city centre. Established as a response to the February, 2011 earthquake that left few usable buildings, including most of the city’s downtown shopping area, Re:Start was a temporary solution to a city in need.

The mall is built using heaps of colourful shipping containers, linked together and built in a town-centre style with loads of interesting shops and food stalls. We took some time to wander and grab some fuel for our day.




Our first taste of the city itself was eyeopening, yet short and sweet. With a little fuel for our day and a renewed collection of conversation topics, we left the CBD and headed for the Southern Alps.

Alps, Spas and Togs

Something the whole big group was eager to see was Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools.  We piled in our weird little rental car and headed ninety minutes North of the city to soak for a few hours.

The drive reminded us all of Alberta. Stretches of beautiful farm land that all leads up to the snow-capped peaks of rocky mounts. I figured if I were to live here long-term, I’d have to book a few trips South for my fix of home.


The pools were really impressive, about a dozen different hot tubs to choose from- sulphur pools, spas with jets, and a variety of temperatures awaited us. We had a beautiful, sunshiney day to wander from pool to pool and thoroughly enjoyed the time to catch up.

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We grabbed another mid-day snack at Hanmer Springs, and headed back to the city to drop Hannah off for her evening flight back to Aus. We shared just a little time together, but it’s always so sweet to spend time with great people- thanks for hangin’ out, Hannah!

The Alpine Call

Touring the city wasn’t our strong-suit for the first couple days.

We had checked out some weather conditions, and having already decided on a collective hatred for our rental car… we chose to do our mountain pass drive with optimal weather conditions (we also reluctantly concluded that an attempt to ski would result in certain death as we all envisioned ourselves strapped in our little tin-can car toppling down a rocky cliff-face), and headed inland the next day to check out Arthur’s Pass and the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls (a Pinterest location both Stacey and I had flagged in our research).

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Although our destination was spectacular, we loved drinking in the beauty along the highway, too. The first stop was Castle Rocks- an unusual roadside attraction with wonderful rock formations along rolling hills. We had to stop for a quick wander en route (to take a million pictures).

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We eventually found our way to the car park and caught our first look of the magnificent Punchbowl falls! Although… it didn’t take long before we were more distracted by a kea bird that was nabbing snacks from tourists nearby.

We climbed for a a short while amongst majestic trees and lovely views to the falls look out. Impressive, but we went beyond to get as close to the falls as we could. We had a blast climbing up rocks and skipping over streams, but a picture is worth a thousand words… so here are 18 000 words (thanks to Stacey for our fab little portrait at the bottom):

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Really cool. We loved the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, largely due to their secluded nature- the weather was still cool enough that we didn’t see many other tourist, and we just had the freedom to explore and do our own thing. Love it!

We made a quick pit-stop in Arthur’s Pass on the way back to the city, and learned a bit about the many (often illusive) native birds that are found in the area. Including the mighty kea- it’s a bit of a problem in the area, but I’m sure it’s partly due to the kea’s adaptability- nabbing snacks from restaurant goers as well its adapted taste for bits of car (antenna, the rubber lining around doors, etc.).

We think this kiwi parrot is pretty cool!


Springfield had an unexpected treasure as we headed back to the city. We slammed on the brakes (which a lovely older lady decided to submit a criticism about) to be sure and not miss our photo op with this marvellous donut!

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Our day trip rounded itself out with a fun stop for mini golf (where the course cat followed us around and attacked Joel’s ball having just putted) and a fabulous Mexican feast at Mexicano’s- delish!


Baby Break

Early Friday morning we awoke to a blast of texts informing us of a couple exciting developments- the first being concern over a 7.1 earthquake that was recorded off the east coast of the North Island (big rating, but many in our area didn’t even feel the shake), the other was the standby notice that our niece was on her way!!!

Our Friday could not have been better as we officially became auntie Courtney and uncle Joel. She was born on our Sept. 2, but truly the 1st of September- we share birthday months 🙂 so sweet, so special.

The distance between us and home felt a little further that day, but we travel on!


With our hearts full of baby love and our bellies full of toasties and coffee, we hit the countryside again!

We headed North once more, but stuck to the coast to check out a couple of recommended spots- a confusing trek to see the Cathedrals at Gore Bay (where I had read there’s a great little walk with a ‘well-marked’ pathway, but really we just got hangry from looking and took a picture from the observation nook on the side of the road instead), and a gem of a spot- Kaikoura.

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Once the fog of confusion lifted about our would-be hike in Gore Bay (even though the look-out ended up really being worthwhile), we continued North toward our final destination. Joel’s parents had visited Kaikoura and suggested we make a stop if we found ourselves in the area. We’re so. grateful. we did!

Our first stop in the area was at the Ohau Stream Waterfall just past the town centre. The waterfall is quite pretty itself, but the truly awesome thing is that after a 10 mins walk in from the main highway there are a bunch of little seal pups that use the seclusion of the waterfall to hone their swimming skills before venturing into the wild oceans where sharks and orcas threaten their wellbeing. At certain times of the year, you can see hundreds of pups. We saw about 10… and it was awesome.

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From the falls, we crossed over to see the adult seals hanging out in the open ocean. If you look closely you can see dozens of little brown blobs along the shore- seals, loads of seals! We sat for a while watching them swim and bask in the afternoon warmth while listening to the heavy rocks on the beach clack together with the returning tide.

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Not only did Kaikoura have some sweet as wildlife to gawk at, but it had some stunning views of the alps. Much of the farmland surrounding Christchurch reminded me of home, but it really was amazing to see the mighty mountains right next to lovely rolling hills and the gorgeous aqua sea.

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What a lovely, lovely day trip. After a bit of a hustle and a fascinating podcast we were back in the city for some cider and bangers & mash. Cool.

Saturday Sun

Saturday was our last forecasted day of warmth during our stay on the South Island, so we took advantage. Joel had done some research for us and was our tour guide for the day.

We ventured toward the Banks Peninsula and set out to explore the beyond charming, Akaroa- a town that’s nestled amongst lush inlets which provide beautiful, tranquil, turquoise water and the most quaint little village centre you’ve ever seen.

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We strolled in and out of precious shops and stopped for some lunch at a little cafe with a generous patio before treating ourselves to some fudge and souvenirs.


Once we had thoroughly taken in the village, we decided to check out a couple more spots before heading back to the city. We first went to the cute little light house on the far end of town and eventually made our way to the other side of Bay Peninsula.

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On a whim, we decided to race the sun and see if we could take in more of the peninsula; we ended up experiencing some pretty intense roads along the way. Thankfully the road we wound up and down on wasn’t busy, but it was very high… and largely guardrail-less. Thankfully, Brandon had our little rental Fiat under control and was able to tour us around without incident- and bonus, the views were spectacular.


We made our way over to Okains Bay which had… well, a whole lot of nothing. BUT the journey ended up being an adventure and we were able to see something new 🙂

Supposedly there’s a very interesting museum there- but it was closing by the time we rolled in. We jetted outta there with some photos and a mission for sushi supper (which was delish, by the way).

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Sunday Funday (as they say)

Sunday was our last full day on the South Island, and we figured it really was time to settle into Christchurch- learning a little more about this recovering city.

I love brunch. This is no secret, and something I always try to do (at least once) while in a new city is find a killer brunch restaurant and indulge. SO, that’s what we did. I read a few reviews, and we set out toward Black Betty. We were not disappointed.

We were lucky with our timing and were able to split our group as some stood in line to order and others snagged a table right before the place burst at its seams!

Great coffee, inventive menu items AND glorious gluten free treats for Stace. Joel’s French toast was lovely and balanced in flavour, and my crumpet French toast was pretty much heaven on earth- bacon, grilled banana, pecans…yum.


As we headed toward our next, Riccarton Market, destination (a massive market with every kind of vendor and more than 300 stalls) we ran into this glorious ice cream and definitely needed a picture- just one example of the awesome street art scene in the city.


We were freezing, so the market was a quick stop. We were there long enough to buy some handmade soap and Stace nabbed a really cool antique bottle.


Our day continued with several little stops and a chance to learn more about the city. From the market we stopped at a grand Kiwi bushman institution- Swanndri. Established in New Zealand over a hundred years ago, we had heard of the company, but had yet to visit a store. So we did. Joel bought a souvenir (and whatta sharp one it is).


A quick re-charge was necessary before moving onward into the CBD. Macarons were the key- we even found a burgeron (burger-lookin’ macaron 😛 )

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Quake city

Anytime we’ve checked out a GeoNet website it’s been made clear how often New Zealand experiences an earthquake (whether felt or not), and Christchurch/Canterbury is no exception. Christchurch has a major fault line essentially running through its middle. There’s constant movement and the city (well, country really) seems quite used to feeling the shakes. Between 2010 and 2011, however, there were a sequence of devastating tremors that rocked the city and changed it forever.

At the beginning of this post I shared a picture of the Cathedral, well- even though it was the location of many city events, it was also a working place of worship. So when the church was wrecked in the quakes they were eager to have a sanctuary yet again- which resulted in some unusual materials used to quickly get back on their feet. Therefore the cardboard cathedral was erected.

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The church is an impressive little structure designed to last about 50 years with the hope that by the time it’s no longer structurally relevant, another, more permanent cathedral will be ready for use- built again in Cathedral Square.

The sanctuary is highlighted by beautiful columns of cardboard and light. The massive coloured glass window actually has images printed on it from the magnificent stained glass rose window that was in the original cathedral (the original was destroyed by a retaining wall that pushed against it in a quake. The wall was intended to save the window after the first structural instability of the church during one of the first quakes).

A very cool spot to visit, and we were treated to some stories from a volunteer inside the church- letting us into the humour that’s used now, aiding in the surviving spirit of the area.


We were able to see more public artwork yet. This suspended sculpture lives in the park across from the cathedral and just behind the church there’s a powerful installation, “185 Empty White Chairs” which is dedicated to the victims of the quakes.

Each person who lost their life in the natural disaster is represented by an empty chair and visitors are encouraged to choose a seat that speaks to them to sit and reflect. Amazing to have such a memorial and to have seen it.

As most things in the city at the moment… the installation is temporary.

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The rest of our afternoon was spent in the CBD, and finally at ‘Quake City’ which is a museum set up right near the Re:Start mall which tells the city’s story. The museum takes you through stories of survival and strength in an unbelievably tough time.

We were a bit reluctant to go, but also eager to know more of what makes Christchurch the city is it today. We weren’t disappointed and beyond the tragedy, Quake City really leaves you with the sense of hope and resilience the people of Christchurch seem to have as they continue to grow and rebuild.

We had such a full experience in Christchurch and area, and were blessed (as always) to share that time with such wonderful friends! We had time to rest Sunday evening, walked to a great Italian restaurant for a NZ’s Father’s Day dinner and rested up for our return trek the next day.

Thanks for showing us so very much, Canterbury!