Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dirty 30!

Woo Hoo! Mick succeeded in throwing me the best New Zealand birthday party ever! We hiked 2 and a half hours out to a Aspiring Hut in the mountains along with 20 friends (unbeknownst to me!) and celebrated Lord of the Rings Style! What an awesome time with amazing people. Just a taste of some of the photos to come!

My actual Birthday was yesterday and I couldn't have asked for a better day. It's been a late winter here with snow coming non-stop in the mountains. Yesterday was the only break in the storm, and I had an epic bluebird powder day for my Birthday! How cool is that? Amazing when things work out that way. Thanks mother nature!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fun and Games!

Well, well. Where do I begin. Life here in Wanaka, New Zealand has been everything I've dreamed of and more! So much has happened in the past few months that brief list of highlights will have to do!

I've been extremely busy working both jobs, both at Treble Cone as a "cafe assistant" and at Lone Star as a Maitre'D. Let me run you through that real quick. The job at TC is pretty cruisy. 3 days a week I basically serve, smile at, and clean up after skiers and their families on their holiday can imagine that can go both ways. Some days it's really fun, and others you marvel at how people can be so ignorant and messy. 3 evenings a night, I work as a Maitre'D at Lonestar. That's been pretty fun, and we are like a little family there. Lots of hugs and Hi 5's. I get really well taken care of there, and have been given the added responsibility of Events Manager (for which I've been through a 2 day course). I hosted my first event, The Burton (Snowboards) Open Party almost a month ago and it went off without a hitch! It was great fun, and I have a few more events to plan before I return home for the holidays. Between the two jobs, I'm getting to know most everyone who's anyone around town pretty quick. It's such a small town, that it's not uncommon for me to serve someone coffee or share a chair lift with them during the day and show them to their table at Lonestar at night! Pretty funny.

We've been making some really strong bonds with our friends here. Jess and Pip (above) are two of my best girl friends you can see, they're pretty fun! It seems like we have had pot-luck parties and costume parties galore lately. It's rare that a week goes by without a gathering of some sort which involves a costume or home made goods! Right up my alley! You all are aware of my love for making things and getting dressed up! Speaking of parties, Mick had his 30'th birthday party. My friends and I threw him a surprise party and, man was it fun. It was hard to hide it all from Mick, but of course I pulled it off! I managed to even sneak upstairs and make him a costume in between jobs and while he was sleeping! The theme was "under the sea" since he is such an ocean baby. I dressed as a Sea horse and Mick was an Angler Fish (see above photo! It's a scary looking deep sea fish with a light-like antennae attachment...can't you tell?) All of our guests got dressed up as well. Now you know who is going to be turning 30! Where has the time gone?

So between parties, (that there's a photo of me from my TC staff party dressed as a Tui, a native NZ bird), management classes, art auctions, work, and a whole lotta snow sliding, we've been pretty busy! Mick's been keeping himself occupied with lots and lots of paiting and has been brewing his own beer too! Yummm. Our lease is up at the end of October, and we are trying to figure out our next strategic move. There is talk of returning after the holidays and staying around for the long lazy days of summer, however we haven't set anything in stone. Next step, get through the rest of the season and get home for the holidays. I don't think Mick will be accompanying me to the US this time, as funds are tight, but I'll be there for sure. Wouldn't miss it!

I love love you all and miss you to bits!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's Snowing!

The view from half way up Treble Cone
The view from the top of the hill in our neighborhood!

The road to Treble Cone...I'll be driving this 6 days a week!!

Yes, that's right. Winter is near! The snow has begun here in New Zealand and I couldn't be happier about it! Let's back up though, I think I need to set the scene!

Mick and I are getting nice and settled into the hobbit house. Did I mention that I'm in the midst of reading "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy? What an amazing feeling it is to read those books whilst living here in New Zealand! Where we are living actually corresponds with where I am in the book right now, which is too cool!

We have secured room mates that are moving in on the 11th! They are a really nice couple from the UK and Canada and we think they'll work out great. For the meantime though, we are enjoying the house to ourselves while they travel around the South Island! We swung a deal with them to pay 1/2 the rent for the month and it's worked out great for us to have the place to ourselves for a bit! Much needed!

I have secured two jobs for the winter! I'll be working up at Treble Cone Ski Field 4 days a week which will get me a season pass and will get Mick a partner pass as well. I will also be working 4 nights a week at a restaurant called The Lone Star Cafe which is an American style restaurant that is a franchise here in New Zealand. They've been great to work for so far and it seems like they will be willing to accommodate my other work schedule. I'll be a busy, but hopefully happy girl! I just need to make sure I have enough time to snowboard!

Well, that'll do it for now! We'll be having a look around this weekend so I'll try and get some new photos for you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

No Longer Homeless!

The Lake and Mountains at Wanaka
Our living room!

Woo hoo! We have landed! Mick and I are proud renters of 9 Kowhai Drive, Wanaka New Zealand 9305. It feels so good to cook in a kitchen, wash dishes in a sink, do the laundry in a washing machine and take a shower in your own bathroom! Not to mention sleeping in a proper bed again! These are the things that you truly appreciate after 5 months on the road! I'm sure some of you can sympathize!

The house is exactly what we were looking for in the cutest little ski town I have ever been to. Tahoe was my first love, and I think Wanaka will be my second!The job search is still on. I'm interviewing for a position at Treble Cone Ski Field on Monday and Mick is doing some labouring work building a school within walking distance from our home. So all is good in Hobbitland. Oh yeah, I took it upon myself to start reading "The Lord of the Rings." I figure, what better place to read it than in New Zealand where the movie is filmed, right?

So we are happy frappy living a life of real adults again. We will be here until the end of October, so if anyone is in need of a snow-fix this winter, we've got 3 spare beds ready and waiting for you!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kaikoura = Paradise

And we have officially arrived. I can't even tell you, our timing couldn't have been better! We are currently in Kaikoura, a name that means "lobster ocean" in Maori, and we have finally scored some of those little buggers! But let's back up a second here.

Our first priority after finishing the apples was to head for the coast. We couldn't have landed in a better spot than Kaikoura. The day after we got here, a huge swell came in making for epic waves for Mick to surf his little buns off. It had been nearly 2 months since his last surf, so needless to say, he was ecstatic!

The point break (surf lingo) is surrounded by beautiful mountains with a dusting of snow and the ocean is filled with beautiful seafood. What an abundance! Paua is the NZ version of Abalone (the shell is where mother of pearl comes from and lots of popular jewelry is made from) and the snail like creature that lives inside is so incredibly tender...especially when you pound the heck out of it and fry it in beer batter! And then there's Lobster!

Mick's been up to his survivor-man antics again making a hand spear out of straightened fish hooks, a bit of straight willow branch and some bungee rubber. He's made a makeshift diving weight belt out of rocks and socks. Don't worry, I've been filming it all for the documentary that I'll make on backpacker survival skills someday. He went free-diving yesterday right next to a seal colony (where the lazy little fella you see below lives) and caught a few lobsters!

YUM! He fashioned a crude BBQ grate out of some chicken wire that we found on an abandoned campfire and we had a feast! Watch our Bear Grills, Mick Coonrod is hot on your tail!

Did I forget to mention that I've had a video camera this whole time? I've gotten some awesome and selected footage so far. We'll have to have a little premiere when I get home!

So that's the hap's on the craps. Next we are heading to Christ Church which is the nearest big(ger) city. Stay tuned and enjoy the photos! I'll be enjoying the lobsters!

Friday, April 16, 2010

On the Road Again!

That's right. No more apples! We were able to bank around $5000 in a month so we are cashed up again and ready to go! . If you check the map above (click on it to enlarge), you'll see where we are and where we're heading. Right now we are in Nelson at the top of the south island. We will be heading over to the Kaikora coast (which means lobster in Maori!) and then to Christchurch and over the Queenstown from there! Should be one helluva trip over the next 3 weeks. We are in queue to see some beautiful things including 2 glaciers, a famous mountain pass and of course miles of virtually untouched coastline! I can absolutely promise some photos in the very near future from some of these beautiful places so stay tuned for those.

I must say, over the past month whilst picking apples, we learned quite a bit about being "homeless" or as they put it in New ZEaland "freedom campers". For example, since we were living in a "van down by the river" we didn't have access to a shower. In lieu of showers, we bathed in the river every day, which got a bit cold in the end, with biodegradable soap! When we really wanted to splash out, we'd drive to nearby Nelson for a $2 hot tub and shower at the local public pool! Never underestimate the power of public facilities! I know, most of you are thinking public showers, yuk! But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! And we did it well! I never thought I'd be proud of being homeless, but NZ is a great place to do it!

Happy Earth Day and feel the hugs!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Horrid Little Things, part Deux!

Yep, so it's starting to sound like a bit of a trend us going back for a second go at picking fruit. That's right. We are officially apple pickers once again. Without boring you with variety types, quality control and good stem samples, I think I'll digress into some of my favorite New Zealand and traveling in a van nuances. It's about time I got a little personal, eh?

Mick has discovered that the feathers and yarn that I use to make my beanies and headbands work extremely well for making flies for fly fishing. Crafty little bugger!

Dr. Bronners (smuggled in from America!) works really well for everything. At current, we are washing our bodies, dishes, hair and sometimes clothes with it. Can't beat all natural bio-degradable soap! We're almost out!

We love camel toe. For those of you who aren't familiar, socks and flip flops. Need I say more?

We now have a homemade art easel. It lives strapped to the Oh Sh*@ handles in the back of the car along with our 3 fishing rods and 2 head torches.

We have a totally of 5 cds in our possession, which is not nearly enough considering the fact that in any given rural town (most of NZ) there may only be 2 stations that come in loud and clear. Ali, Doug and Jena's mixes all make the list. And a 2nd hand Amos Lee cd we got at the op shop.

The outdated National Geographic count is up to about 10 now. We scored some for 30cents a piece the other day. Great reading and easy to tote around! And pass on!

Auntie Liz's envirosacks serve one heck of a purpose. One is my "purse" and the other is a tote all for our weekly shopping! Thanks Auntie Liz!

I hold three letters in my "purse" that I read from time to time when I'm missing home. One is from Auntie, one from Ali and one from Nancy. These words are priceless. Thank you.

The list goes on and on, and from time to time I'll include a few others. Just to give you an idea of what life inside the van/house looks like.

All is good. Making money and living life one apple at a time! Misses and Kisses to you all!

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Forbidden Fruit!

Now that we've finished picking those horrid little things (actually, they were quite good, I should be nice) we are off to the South Island! Marlborugh County here we come!

We plan on picking grapes for a couple of weeks and then heading down to the southern alps to look for jobs and accommodation. The south island is meant to be much more beautiful and even less people live there than they do here on the north island, so it's gotta be gorgeous...literally! Fiords and snowcapped mountains everywhere and endless treks and beaches. Ooooh, I can't wait!

We have a 3 1/2 hour ferry ride tomorrow where we'll take the van and all of our belongings with us. Today we will be staying in Wellington for a night with some friends we met along the way. Not a bad place to have a friend since it's a pretty big city!

Friday, February 26, 2010


Here's a few photos to start. The top is our new friend Billy. He lives right down the road in that little goat house. Poor thing. He loves a scratch between the horns!

The second is an iconic Koru. This is the baby form of the tree fern which is everywhere in NZ! I actually did a painting from this photo and I must say, it came out pretty damn good!

The third is, you guessed catching a fish.

We've got jobs and a place to live again, so life is good! We've landed jobs as apple pickers :)  in Hastings. Along with the job comes a share house complete with our own caravan (a bit mildewy but roomy just the same!) not to mention a full kitchen, hot tub and would you believe even a sauna? Oh, we've also got all the modern convieniences such as television and a washing machine! Woo hoo! Super score. 

We are sharing the house with 7 other international backpackers. We've got 2 French, 2 German, 1 Brit, 2 Czechs and 2 Norwegians just left, so it's quite the hodgepodge of nationalities! The work isn't too hard other than the fact that you have to climb up and down a ladder all day with 7 or 8 pounds of apples around strapped to your belly like a pregnant lady! We're already the 2nd best pickers next to the Czechs who have been doing it for a month now! So we're pretty good. I'm just waiting for one of the apple trees to turn on me and throw an apple at me like in the Wizard of OZ! The best part  is that we'll make enough money in the next couple of weeks to get us by as we get situated on the South Island. I don't mind a bit of hard work, especially when we can eat well and watch the Olympics at night time! It's quite funny with all of us internationals sitting around the tele watching our respective countries competing! I'm proud to be an American for sure! Go USA! I've been thinking about introducing the idea of an Applympics next weekend. I've already come up with a few good ideas like apple bobbing and lawn bowls with apples! Should be a good time. 

We're off for the weekend, and it should be good fishing so we'll see if we can't get down to the beach and catch a couple of fishies to keep us going next week! That's it for this one, stay tuned!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Change in Plans

Change in plans: So I kinda failed to remember that I tweaked my knee on the last trek therefore making it hard to do a 3 night 4 day trek 2 weeks later. So, we started on our wonderful excursion, and had to turn around an hour down the track. So disappointed...

Don't worry, I'm fine. Just need a bit of downtime for a while that's all. I didn't want to chance it with my knee and be sore for ski season, so we turned back. The trek was meant to be amazing, and we got to spend a bit of time in the area otherwise. The good part is that we had a really nice time in Mahia where the surf was going off, so Mick was stoked. And, once again, met some amazing people!

I failed to mention last time that I'm really getting back into a creative phase in my life. I've started painting again, have been knitting and crocheting my buns off and have been writing a bit more as well. It's nice to always have a project going, and I've been really enjoying the creativity of it all. Being creative just increases your self worth a bit!

So we are hoping to find some work for the next couple of weeks doing some harvest work aka fruit picking :( but I don't mind doing a bit for a few weeks if it will help us on our way. I'll keep you posted once we find some work!

Sorry, no pics this time...damn library computers!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ah, the People!

I've said it before and I'll say it again...the people you meet when yo travel are what really makes the trip. Here we are again, in a beautiful house, warm, clean and welcome in the home of some folks we've met along the way. Actually, they're quite the interesting gang! Himali is a doctor, Ian is an aid worker (shipping out to Haiti next week!) and his twin bother Jim is a studying Theologist. Kind of reads like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it? You can just imagine the conversations we've had since we've been here. The three are such a wonderful combintaion of human beings. As Ian put it last night, they all help people in some way or another. Ian the mind, Himali the body and Jim the soul. They've got all the angles covred!

We feel so lucky to have met them as Ian and Himali have allowed us to stay in their home for 3 nights in a super comfy guest bed with access to the internet, shower and washing machine! All much needed after nearly a month on the road. Ah, the comforts of a stationary dwelling! Now we're cleaned up, recharged and ready for a few more weeks on the road. Oh, I forgot to mention that Ian just 'happened' to have a full snowboard set up the fits Mick perfectly that he has given us to take n our journey. That doesn't happen every day! Man, we must be doing something right! Someone loves us up there becuase our prayers have been answered!

Now we are heading west to Ragaln, a legendary surf break and then over to a place called Waikaremoana Lake for another 3 night 4 day tramp (aka hike) around the scenic lake staying in huts along the way. You can bet on some sweet photos from that trip so stay tuned. Remember, we met this group of wonderful people on our last tramp!

In closing, I'll just say that if you ever find yourself in the position to help out a traveler and give them a place to stay and a shower for an evening, please do it! Pay it forward. It will all come back to you when you need it. This is how the traveling community works, and you have no idea how much it's appreciated!

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Zealand Tramps

Okay okay, it's not what you think! A "tramp" is actually the kiwi word for a trek, or a hike...pretty funny eh? Mick and I just banged out our first "tramp" in New Zealand :) We did a 3 day/50 kilometer (30 mile) hike around the Northern Circuit on the North Island. We saw 3 volcanoes on the hike, one of which starred as Mt. Doom on Lord of the Rings! Mt. Ngauruhoe was just as spectacular as it was in the film....sans the hobbits. New Zealand has a wonderful tramping policy whereby they offer back country huts as an option to overnight hikers. Man, what an experience. The first night, the hut we arrived at after 8 1/2 hours and 22K's of trekking was full...which meant we had to spend the night on the floor sharing a single mattress while the 26 other bunks were full! Only one snorer in our room, and a few jimijias (that's for you fam!), but it was enough to keep up both awake nearly all night. We met some amazing people who were part of a "tramping club" hee hee... and scored some local knowledge about free hot springs, which we hit up last night and today.

Prior to our 3 day excursion, we have been enjoying NZ to the fullest. So far we have camped with gypsies (like a dream come true!), made friends that were staying at one of the swankiest hotels (Hilton) in Lake Taupo, found some amazing secluded camp spots next to world class fly fishing and tramped through some beautiful lush landscapes. As far as dining goes, the "green lip" NZ mussel is a local favorite (and fits our budget perfectly at less than $1 a pound) Mick's prized rainbow trout and "pipis" or clams have been on the menu.

The van is running famously and we are very much enjoying our trip thus far. Now we are in Rotorua, the tourist capital of NZ. There are tons of geothermal activities here and thrill seeker activities, but we're on a bit of a budget, so we're opting out of the expensive stuff, which is fine by me. Which reminds me, we need to get some jobs soon!

Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On the Road Again!

The van is ready to hit the road! We spent the last 2 days designing and building a bed frame with built in storage in the back of the van, and by golly, we've done it!

Now it's time to head back out on the road again. From Palmerston North, we'll head north towards New Plymouth, over to Lake Taupo and then to the east coast before we make our way down to the South Island! I love road trips! Bust out the rod and reels, it's fishin'time!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sick with Excitment to be in New Zealand!

Well, we arrived in Wellington on the North Island of New Zealand on Monday evening after a long and tiring day of travel. Chock full o luggage and nearly 4 kilos over the limit, we managed to get everything (except for some fishing line that Mick had to unwind off his reel) into NZ.

We were greeted at the airport by Mick's dad and his wife Evie. It took about 2 hours to get back to their place in Palmerston North and the drive was fantastic. Driving at twilight along hilly pastures covered in lush tones of green speckled with woolly puffs of white, I thought to myself that so far, New Zealand was exactly how I'd pictured it. I rejoiced in the fact that I was really here! I've dreamed of traveling here for years!

When we got home that night, my belly was feeling a bit uneasy. It may have been a bit of air sickness or perhaps the spicy Italian subway sub I had for "dinner", but the second I sat on the couch, I jumped up and ran to the bathroom to spew my supper. YUK! Kind of an embarrassing start to our stay with Mick's family... no matter.

The next morning we got up and had a quintessential Kiwi day. We went river trout fishing! And, surprise surprise, Mick caught one. Of course he did. He always does, doesn't he? It's a good thing we got a fishing license too, because the game warden checked it! It was such a beautiful day. The weather is perfect here right now, just around 75 to 80 degrees. It reminds me a lot of the weather in Tahoe in the summer and spring. The fishing spots were so pristine and extremely peaceful. There are so many beautiful sounds in the NZ bush. Unfortunately, our camera battery wasn't charged so we didn't get any photos, but don't worry. There will be plenty of that to come!

Since we've been here, Phil and Evie have been really doting on us. They've insisted on taking us to look at vans (2 hours away in Wellington) to help us on our way. We almost got talked into buying an overpriced van that we didn't really even want yesterday, but through a long serious of perfectly coordinated events, it didn't work out. And now we know why.

Tonight we found a perfect van for what we need. She's a 1992 Toyota Estima (or Previa in the US) and she's a proper grocery getter. Totally decked out for family traveling. She comes fully equipped with sunroof, moon roof (for supreme night sky viewing), dvd player (yep, one of those cool little screens that drops down from the ceiling!) curtains and oh yeah, 4WD! Perfect for the snow. Too cool. We really were lucky to have stumbled on it and it seems that all of our stars have aligned. She's a Yoder (Toyota) so she shouldn't be too much of a trouble maker. We're hoping to pick her up in the morning provided the safety check all goes according to plan. If we get it tomorrow, then the master plans will begin for the bed and storage space. It's time again, to PIMP our ride! It's all just so exciting!

Today was Phil's birthday so we made him and Evie dinner and brownie sundaes and waited on them a bit! Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well with the van tomorrow! We're not sure if we'll head to the South island next or if we'll continue exploring the North, but we'll keep you posted.

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes according to plan tomorrow! We may have a new family member tomorrow! Now we just need a name... Maybe we'll do a name contest and you all can help us come up with a good one!

Ciao for now!