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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
thousands of kilometres driven
15 000 fish dishes
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!