Cycling Marlborough

Cycling the Vineyards of Marlborough, New Zealand

Two of my favorite things include sunshine and wine. Throw me on a bike on a cloudless day and give me a map of the boutique vineyards in the heart of the Marlborough wine region and honestly, it was one of the best tasting experiences I’ve ever had.

Lisa in Marlborough

Lisa in Marlborough

Tasting in Marlborough has long been on my list of wine regions to conquer. In fact, considering its remoteness in a quiet northeast corner of the South Island, New Zealand, I was starting to fear I would never get an opportunity to go. Partially because I think my appreciation for its world-renowned Sauvignon Blanc grape outwore its welcome on my pallet years ago. Secondly, it’s just not super convenient to get to.

I have a special fondness for New Zealand. I’d even go as far to say I love it. If you asked me to live there for a short while I’d be hard pressed to say no. Another reason it was crucial that I get myself to Marlborough. My favorite part about New Zealand is flying over it. With the terrain ever changing, lush green contrasted against snowy mountain peaks and azure water, it’s absolutely breathtaking. Every time, I’m reminded again of my first time, looking out of the airplane window in 2011, and it’s always equally as majestic.

North Island Volcano

North Island Volcano

In terms of getting to Marlborough my friends took the Interislander Ferry across from Wellington to Picton. At the same time I witnessed from above the stunning alcoves of the tiny islands their boat wove between while flying down from Auckland to Blenheim. Knee deep in my inflight magazine I took a quick break to gaze out of the window and my mouth involuntarily dropped. Just below the clouds sat a volcano. This was just before I passed from the North Island down to the South Island. Shortly afterward the striking coastline came into view.

South Island Northern Coast

South Island Northern Coast

My three Australian friends greeted me at the Blenheim airport with a big “Welcome to New Zealand” as if they were locals. And while Blenheim isn’t much to offer up socially, it is just on the cusp of the vineyards and has a range of accommodation and a few noteworthy bars and restaurants, such as Scotch. We stayed in a small cottage in the back of a B&B called Tresco. The owner Ian and adorable terrier Dudley were friendly and accommodating and it was only a short 10-minute walk to town. At night, the residential streets were quiet and the stars shone bright. It is true the Milky Way can be seen on this side of the world.

Drinks at Scotch: Blenheim

Drinks at Scotch: Blenheim

But enough of Blenheim (jokingly termed phlegm-em). Let’s talk wine.

Wine Tours By Bike have a great thing going. Family run by Steve and Jo Hill, they made it all so easy. That’s the thing; the day was more or less completely on our own terms. We booked in advance to be picked up from one of the three 5-hour long timeslots and were greeted with a big smile and handshake from Fred, Jo’s dad who drove us to the bike shed in Renwick. Set on a beautiful B&B property Hillsfield House, we were instantly asked to pick a bike from the lot parked out front. Told that just like a person no bike is the same, we tested them for height and seat comfortableness before analyzing how large each of our heads actually was during a helmet fitting. The award went to Rob.

Wine Tours by Bike Crew

Wine Tours by Bike Crew: Courtesy of Ceri

Steve gave us an amazingly detailed, yet brief overview of the vineyards in the vicinity of Renwick while we, along with some locals which are always a good sign, observed as he pointed them out against a white map pinned against the wall. My group then huddled together, our paper copies in hand and highlighter at the ready, mapping out how to tackle the afternoon and fit in all of our top spots. Water bottle, check. Lunch reservation, check. Social media post, check. And we were off!

Wine Tour Group Selfie

Wine Tour Group Selfie: Courtesy of Wes

Wobbling a bit when we set out, we eagerly headed to our farthest destination first, yet the most boutique. Te Whare Ra’s small quiet property impressed us with both their Riesling D (dry) and M (medium) so much that none of us left empty handed. In fact, it was my most favored tasting of the day and my only regret is not purchasing a case.

I traveled on, steadied on my African cruiser bike, with a smile from ear to ear. We dashed through the back of a vineyard on our way to another, taking shortcuts on dirt paths as we were hugged by the vines and the monstrous mountain peaks at the perimeter towered over us. The sun was hot, but in a good way. Then, the wind picked up and it was so strong, peddling against it turned our leisurely cruise into a battle of resistance.

Cycling Marlborough

Cycling Marlborough

At Giesen we had a delicious vintage platter for lunch yet an offensive wine host ruined the experience unfortunately, so much in fact I wouldn’t recommend a visit.  At Hans Herzog it was worth the cost of a tasting to be blown away with their exquisite presentation. It was the only Sauv Blanc I purchased in Marlborough, and for the cost it’s a keeper. Framingham won our hearts with free shipping to Australia so of course we bought a case between the four of us, but not without Mary Jo’s amazing attentiveness in pouring our Riesling flights.  We finished the day lounging on bean bags on the lawn at Forrest, where fellow American Katrina won me over with their 2011 Chenin Blanc.

Peddling back at the end of the day, still smiling while taking in the landscape, the pureness of the area and of the wineries really took hold. In fact, while I had a general distaste for what I had assumed was the mass production of sauvignon blanc, biking through the region and seeing the smaller farms and family vineyards gave me a whole other appreciation for it. But also, more impressive was the execution of other varieties likes riesling, pinot gris and pinot noir. I’ve done a lot of wine touring, but cycling and tasting through the vineyards of Marlborough takes the cake! Settling in around the picnic table back at Tresco later that evening we barbequed local fish and vegetables while sipping some of our favorite wins from the day.

Wine Tours by Bike

Wine Tours by Bike

Falling from the sky: Skydiving Fox Glacier, New Zealand

“I don’t feel any nerves or anxiety. Maybe it’s because I know I won’t jump, or more likely because I’m just secretly hoping the whole thing is called off due to the uncertain weather and then I won’t even have to make the decision to jump or not,” I wrote the morning of.

Of course I always prefer a good reason to an excuse. I’ve never had a strong desire to skydive, although I will admit that every time I come and go to New Zealand I always leave with a teeny tiny regret of not participating in the adrenalin-obsessed country’s biggest tourist adventure.

I woke to a buzzing alarm earlier then I would have preferred and pushed the curtains aside at Sunset Motel. In view, thick and bushy grey clouds and dense fog covered the Southern Alps along the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand. More importantly, hidden behind the haze was the face of Fox Glacier, a massive retreating icy structure I’ve yet to see in a clear view.

We arrived at Skydive Fox Glacier on time for our early morning appointment. Wes, Ceri and Rob had booked months in advance and paid up front. Backing out wasn’t an option for them, and even better the Aussie dollar was more favorable at their time of booking. A week prior to arriving I made a phone call and confirmed that putting my name alongside theirs just guaranteed there would be a slot should I want to jump, but there was no monetary obligation to do so at that time. I took that as an indicator that it was okay that I would ‘maybe’ jump but assumed the likelihood that I actually would was very, very slim.

As the gang approached the office I took a quick wander over to the small plane parked in the bunker. One glance at the size in conjunction with the modest glass door I presumed I would potentially be jumping out of and I said “nope, count me out.” At that point Francoise, a 25-year skydiving veteran and part owner, pulled me aside for a chat and before I knew it my plans for the afternoon took a very unexpected and fear-provoking turn.

Skydive Fox Glacier Plane

Skydive Fox Glacier Plane

In his soothing South African accent Francoise talked me through the process. We discussed my fears, which I couldn’t exactly pinpoint. We walked through the safety process, including the backup parachute and the probability of unfavorable events. With over 9,000 jumps under his belt I trusted his experience. We agreed that we’d go together and more importantly, we’d go first. Before I knew it I was wearing a jump suit, a silly cap and harness. Once I was fully suited up along with the rest of the group I turned to my adviser Francoise and said, “Um, I sort of have to pee”.

Lisa and Francoise, Skydive Fox Glacier

Lisa and Francoise, Skydive Fox Glacier

I sat in a corner on the outdoor wooden bench taking deep breathes and mentally battling my anxiety away as my friends sat across from me making jokes. I couldn’t quite understand how they so discreetly masked their fear. But just as I started to get used to the idea of willingly leaping from a moving aircraft we were approached and told the bad news.

In professional and honest practice we were informed that although it was safe to jump from the launch point, it was too cloudy and the likelihood of us seeing any of the beautiful landscape was minimal. We had to make a call to jump anyway, or postpone it with no penalty. We only had a few hours available before having to move on with our road trip down the West Coast to make it to our next destination in time. We took a vote and agreed that although disappointed, the anxiety and cost wasn’t worth it if we couldn’t see the glacier and decided to take some time out and see if the weather would settle throughout the morning.

In a cold and torrential downpour we walked the base of Fox Glacier and I willed the clouds away so I could grab a clear shot with my camera but to no avail. We moved on to breakfast at Matheson Café on Lake Matheson overlooking the Southern Alps and watched and waited for the clouds to shift as the sun slowly crept in between them. We headed back to the skydiving headquarters to let them know that we were closely watching the sky and would be back in a few hours. How timely as just then it cleared and they informed us that very moment was likely the most opportune time to jump. Ahhh, was it really going to happen?

Fox Glacier base

Fox Glacier base

All my anxiety rushed back and I started to have doubts again. This time, I had a belly full of muesli and a fear of vomiting onto my tandem instructor added to the list of uncertainties. My boy Francoise was there for me again, as I wouldn’t have gone with anyone else at that point and he assured me he’d be there for me throughout the whole occasion. We suited up again, much quicker and a bit more self-assured. Faster than expected the call was made. I witnessed a few thumbs up and and then oh-my-gosh it was go time.

Pre Jump Nerves

Pre Jump Nerves

Rob and I waddled to the plane as our instructors followed us, GoPro’s attached to their wrists to record the whole event. Rob and his instructor Paul shuffled themselves away from the exit through the metal passenger tube towards the nose of the small single engine aircraft before Francoise and I settled in at the door. Immediately he connected us at my lower back, then the top bit behind my shoulders and talked me through how we were safely fastened together while tightening the straps. He calmly explained that the noise was the testing of the engine and a few seconds later, take off. This was now the point of no return.

I took quick deep breaths and mentally said a few Hail Mary’s as we wound our way up. Francoise kept me distracted, pointing out the snow-covered top of Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand, the semi-cloud covered Fox Glacier and the rain water lakes Tekapo and Pukaki far below. Between the few turbulence bumps I’d receive gentle squeezes on my shoulder in reassurance that we were okay. Just when I started to relax and appreciate the fact that I’m a regular flyer, otherwise I’d really be freaking out, he gave me the news. We had reached the halfway mark. At that point I looked down and all of the uneasiness came rushing back. “We are only halfway?!”

Reaching Altitude

Reaching Altitude

Around 14,000 feet an oxygen mask appeared around my nose and mouth and I slowly inhaled. This meant only one thing; we were nearly at our jumping altitude. Luckily, the freezing cold air and slow stream of oxygen kept me very relaxed. In fact, I was surprised by how much the oxygen gave me a sense of ease. I felt Francoise do the safety checks on our straps one more time and stared at the back wall of the aircraft waiting in anticipation for the indicator light to turn from red to green. Any second now…

Francoise slid the door open and without hesitation hurled me out of the plane. I heard him later telling one of the other instructors that he heard me scream a few profanities when the door opened and just went for it, not taking the time to sit on the ledge as many others do knowing that would only increase my apprehension.

Gravity did its thing as I fell from 16,500 feet at 200 kph toward the ground below. The first ten seconds were exhilarating. I felt my heart in my throat and a high sense of fear and confusion mixed with adrenaline. For an entire minute after that, literally I free fell for over one minute, I was still falling at terminal velocity and experienced the most intense range of emotions. The air was so cold and the wind hurt like being slapped in the face a million times over. For a second I even thought my nose would bleed. I had to remind myself to take in the magnificent scenery all around me as I dropped through the clouds. I only let out a few screams and then with a massive jolt the parachute finally opened. I went from 200 kph to 10 kph in four seconds.

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I did it! I did it! The hard part was over and I looked up and there was Rob floating down not too far in the distance. How cool to see each other. Francoise handed over the parachute reigns and I pulled down with my right arm to steer us into view of the coastline. A pull down with my left arm and we were facing the mountains again. As I didn’t want to experience any motion sickness we kept it calm and left all the swirls and twirls to the more adventurous. This was the part I enjoyed the most; just calmly floating in the air, watching the sea, the mountains and lush green grass below.

Driving the parachute

Driving the parachute

It was time to land so I handed the reigns back and got into position. With my two feet stretched straight out in front of me we slowly descended and slid across the grass in a very soft and graceful motion. There was Rob waiting for me, and a big high five from Francoise from behind me. I did it! On the ground and safe with a big smile I turned to Francoise and said, “That was cool, but I don’t know if I’d do it again!”

After taking off our gear it was only a few minutes later and Rob and I looked up into the sky. Just a speck next to the sun, we could see Wes and Ceri zooming down toward the ground. Mouth dropped, we turned to each other and went, “Wow, look how high they are! Can you believe that’s where we just came from?!”

High fives all around, proud of each other for such an incredible and brave accomplishment we cheered. Throughout the entire event I never thought I was going to die, or even fathomed the thought. It was all just a big ball of anxiety and apprehension, but that’s normal of course when you’re fleeing yourself from the sky for the first time. Just like the Francoise said, if I didn’t have a sense of fear to jump then I’d be crazy and they don’t jump with crazy people. As we pulled away in our rental car from Skydive Fox Glacier we turned to each other and said, “Um, I need a beer!” So we celebrated.

Queenstown: A Solo Adventure

I intently stared out of the window, camera in position as we descended out of the cloudbank and into view of the vast snow tipped mountains called the Remarkables. This landscape is absolutely extraordinary.

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The plane began to shake as we entered the windy valley between the incredibly close mountain ranges, then all of the sudden, oomph. My head smacked the side of the window and my tray table unfastened itself from the locked position. Panic. We must have dropped a few feet before leveling out again. “Don’t worry,” said the flight attendant over the intercom. “It’s just the wind between the mountains, nothing to be alarmed about.”

Welcome to Queenstown! A buzzing town of snow bunnies crossed with adventure sports, breathtaking scenery and world-renowned pinot noir sipped against the backdrop of white capped peaks.

“Are you skiing?”  “Snowboarding then?” “So, what are you doing here?”  My reply was simple, I’m here to eat well and drink wine. Snow Sheep Queenstown In a town where every other backpacker, boys weekend or family vacation seem to hit the slopes or jump off either one of the tallest or oldest bungy’s in the world, is it possible to enjoy yourself as a single traveler not in the slightest interested in the above? Sure is. I’d even rate Queenstown as not only my number one favorite destination in New Zealand but at the top of my books all around. So what’s there to get up to?

The Bars:

I hung with the locals at Atlas Beer Café, deemed Queenstown’s home of craft beer including microbrew Emerson’s (go with the English Porter on the hand pump) along with some guest taps and locally sourced food, like the lick smacking steak with demi-glace and Café de Paris butter, served with a side salad and fries.

The Find, previously known as The World Bar, was a great place to go solo. Maybe it’s just because Queenstown, unlike many Aussie bars, actually have bar stools at the bar. There’s nothing better than saddling up at the bar for a snack staring up at the teapots which house cocktails for the backpackers who trickle in later in the evening.

And lastly, cozy, dimly lit places like The Bunker  and Bardauex offer extensive New Zealand wine collections and a soothing, chilled out atmosphere with big comfy sofas around outdoor fire pits or indoor blazes.

This is between all of the countless bars and nightclubs including Cowboy’s, Winnie’s and Searle Social Club amongst many other late night spots where you can find inebriated late teens and early twenty-something’s, and myself on one or two occasions, dancing the night away.

The Wine:

But then let’s not forget it was the wine I came for.

The Winery is a storefront that offers a taste of over 80 different New Zealand wines. Grouped by variety, the philosophy of this place is simple, yet expensive. Insert your “wine card” and choose from a taste, half glass, or full glass of some of the most desired wines in the region. At about an average of $5 a taste, I tried a few high-end Pinots then called it day.

This was after I went on my Queenstown Trail: Original Wine Tour just the day before. Lance, a 20 year wine-guide veteran led us to four different wineries in the Gibbston Valley, Central Otago. I’d rate them as such:

Best Tasting Room: Gibbston Valley Winery – set in New Zealand’s largest wine cave

Best Tasting Host: Waitiri Creek – Jason, the vineyard manager of this family owned winery passionately and simply broke down the chemistry of wine making into terms us normal-folk could understand

Best Wine: Remarkable Wines – only winery where I enjoyed the whole range; walked away with the 2009 Pinot Noir

Best Notoriety: Amisfield – while I can’t afford their both delicate and elegant vintages, Will and Kate famously made a stop here on their recent visit

The Food:

When in New Zealand it’s all about the lamb, oysters and prime cuts of beef.

I felt I was back in Melbourne while dining at Madame Woo, an eclectic modern Asian restaurant with delectable sticky pork belly dishes and thick curry’s set to tune of some of my favorite bands like the Kooks and Cold War Kids.

While Vudu Café is rated the number one brunch spot, you’d be lucky to score a seat. Instead, Bob’s Weigh Café was a smaller, simpler option serving great muesli and rumored the best coffee in town.

The Great Outdoors:

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing aside, in town there are still a few options.

While the number one activity is to ride the Skyline Gondola up Bob’s Peak, I decided to take the bolder way up: my two feet. It took an hour from the base to zig zag through the forest up the mountain following the Tiki Trail. I’m not going to say it was easy, but nothing any reasonably fit person couldn’t handle with a few huff and puff’s in between Gatorade guzzling breaks. Even better, the trail was absolutely quiet. Only every so often I’d run into another hiker passing down on the trail. The best part was finally reaching the top and the breathtaking views over Lake Watakipu. Lake Wakatipu Once at the summit there are a few options from dining, bungying, zip-lining, more hiking or the luge. And while the luge came highly recommended from a charming traveler I met, after standing in line for an hour in freezing rain sandwiched between two families with small, irritating children, my ride down the ‘scenic track’ was more of an escape effort if anything. With the rain coming down too heavy to hike back down Bob’s Peak, I coughed up the steep fair of $19 for the Gondola ride back into town. Queenstown Luge The People:

And none of my above experiences would have been so great if I was truly alone in it all. There were kind, approachable people that I met along the way. From an impromptu pub-crawl to discover the town with a friendly Norwegian, to the American and Aussie girls from my wine tour who invited me along to dinner and the handsome Irish boy who bought me chocolate/chocolate-chip ice cream. It was only on the last day as I sat in a café to escape the cold and rain before flying back to Australia that I had a sense of being alone, but luckily a book and one last English Porter did the trick.

Christchurch: The Redemption

While the weather didn’t redeem itself on my recent trip to Christchurch, the city itself did once night turned to day.

I first revisited the heavily damaged Christchurch Cathedral to take a closer look, which only created an even more eerie feeling once the level of destruction was more prominent. This motivated me to take in as much of the city as I could, and find the ‘stuff’ that wasn’t damaged.

Christchurch Cathedral DSCN5265

I strolled a short walk to the Re-Start Project – stores housed in brightly colored shipping containers, from local handmade craft wares to mega brand Katmandu. It was enough browsing to keep me busy for an hour or so. Amongst the ‘shopping containers’ and continuous construction are food trucks and coffee shops, making it the closest option to a mini market square. I heard a rumor they may even keep it that way once the city gets back on its feet.

It’s here you’ll also find Quake City, inappropriately deemed Christchurch’s Earthquake Attraction to demonstrate to tourists the reality of the 2011 earthquake. More heartfelt was Taiwanese backpacker Terry’s Smile for Christchurch campaign, a collection of smiles from around the world taken to brighten the city of Christchurch. 

Smile for Christchurch

It’s only a short walk to the Avon River, then to the greens of Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens, which apparently are even a sight in this desperate winter. For the true tourists, you can even punt along the Avon, pole to the river floor.

Avon River

I followed the city east and discovered a few more Scape Public Art exhibits; refreshing attempts to get the locals involved and rejuvenate the city culturally. The murals covering the side of massive brick buildings are a revitalizing contrast against vacant lots, concrete rumble and abandoned Caterpillars.

And finally and with much gratitude I found Cassell & Sons CBD Bar. I was told you could get a sampler of either 4 or 6 of the Christchurch brew. I opted for the four, I was on working hours after all, but what I received was not the same thing as the tasting paddles I’m used to. Instead what I got was basically 4 pot sized (small beer) of the milk stout, dunkel, lager and IPA. While listening to the funky tunes being played in the background I nonchalantly tried to pretend that the massive ‘personal’ pizza and 4 beers were being shared with someone and that my table for one was a façade.


After polishing off the milk stout and dunkel – the best of the four, I rushed out of there to make my flight to Queenstown via Christchurch airport . So this is the most interesting part. In Australia, I’m used to by now not having to show any identification for domestic flights. New Zealand, takes it up one more notch – no security screening for domestic flights. Speechless. 

When You Wish Upon A Star

It is pitch black as there is absolutely no fissure for natural light to seep through. As I look up, it appears as if the sky is filled with tiny stars; a mini Milky Way almost. The small boat I’m in glides along the river avoiding hitting the narrow walls. In the distance I can hear rushing water. The further we travel on the louder it gets. I know I’m safe but I can’t help but think at any moment we could go over the edge. Due to the darkness the only indicator that we would have reached it would be my terrorized scream, if it were even possible to get out.

It turns out to be okay though. The raft taps gently against a board of wood that was positioned deep into the cave for the very purpose of prohibiting us from travelling any further. We turn back in the direction we started and once the boat brushes against the platform I know that this short journey is over. The tiny elements in the sky are still lit though, but my turn is done. I step up onto the platform and flip on the small headlamp attached to my helmet.

It’s impossible for stars to be underground, which is exactly where I am in the Waitomo Caves in the North Island of New Zealand. In fact, with my headlamp on its clear that the millions of “glow worms” lighting the roof of the cave aren’t even in fact worms, they’re maggots. I don’t want to think about it though so I turn my headlamp off and stare at the beauty all around me while I wait for the others to complete their journey through the luminary tunnel.

The small town of Waitomo, famous for the unique underground limestone caves and illuminating creatures that reside inside them, primarily survives on caving tourism, in addition to farming, mining and forestry. Waitomo is a Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) word made up of two parts, ‘Wai’ which translates as water and ‘tomo’ which means entrance or hole. Evidently 30 million years ago the entire Waitomo region was under the sea.

Most famously many adventure seekers come to Waitomo for black water rafting trips in which they explore the caves in complete darkness aside from their headlamp, and use a rafting tube to drift through the various passageways and swim through underground holes. Others begin with a 30 meter abseil to the bottom of the cave floor, and include many other climbing, swinging, and rope oriented maneuvers.

I, however, took the cruisey tour and booked with Spellbound, who provided a relaxed look into both the geological formations and the glow worms. The first stop was The Cave of the Spirit (Te Ana o te Atua). The clearly delineated path had lights that could be switched on as we went deeper into the cave to take a closer look at the various stalagmites and other formations.  I was told that it took 3 men 7 months to carve out the section of the cave we were able to visit, although I was assured that engineers do tests often to ensure it is structurally sound. Resting amongst the beautiful natural arrangements sat several types of decaying animal bones, including those of the known to be extinct Moa bird.

Before moving on to our meet and greet with the infamous glowing insects we made a quick stop at the cafe, or to be more realistic a wooden shack sitting atop the underground world to share in some instant coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits while looking at interesting fossils found in the area. To my luck there was even a toilet positioned further away in the grassy area, and when my guide jokingly told me to not fall in, I understood why after looking down into an endless hole I was meant to squat over. Yikes.

Then it was time to put on our retched smelling, unsure if they’ve ever been washed, I hope I didn’t pick up lice, helmets before entering the second cave. The glow worms, Arachnocampa luminosa, are apparently unique to New Zealand, however not just to caves, as they typically live in forestry environments. Being a “glow worm” is just one stage of four that the fungus gnat fly completes in its life cycle.  Despite what they are, experiencing the stunning phenomenon of watching the stardom of their poo glow is quite an unforgettable experience.

It is hot, hot, hot.

Each day during low tide as the sea drifts away from the mainland masses of tourists rush to the coastline. A shovel can be rented from the small general store for the sole purpose of pitching it deep into the sand, then chucking the fine grains over your shoulder, digging deeper and deeper until the water starts to rise from the ground. When it does, watch out, because it’s hot baby!

Welcome to Hot Water Beach, located on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand. Within two hours on either side of low tide, the water beneath the sand turns into hot pools, creating an exciting phenomenon drawing tourists and local families each day.

Before arriving I wasn’t sure what to expect. Really, what was all the fuss about? But as I walked from the car park to the beach, then rounded the corner to the left passing the large rocks forming off of the cliffs I was amazed to see the plethora of people. Many had already dug their pool and were sitting soaking in the geothermal haven. Others proudly did the dirty work, connecting one pool to another then another so others could share the thrill.

Steam rose from various pockets across the small area on the beach where the inquisitive visitors gathered. We only had 5 spades between 15 of us, so I let the boys do the digging. As I stood around, feeling a bit guilty and quite lazy, a Canadian girl from the group had struck gold on the far side of the beach and was sitting in a pool abandoned by its creators. I ran over, cautious not too draw too much attention to our sweet find, but to my ignorance was shocked as I stepped from the sand into the small pool.

Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch! Perhaps they should rename the beach Really Really Hot Water Beach. Man, in mere seconds of my feet touching the water, instantaneously I pulled them back, did a bit of a hop, skip sort of dance, and rushed them into the cool ocean which was less than a few feet away. After that I had my fair share and had lost interest in actually submerging my entire body into the pool, saving the few spots that were vacated for the more eager guests.

Past the masses lay a long stretch of empty beach. Carrying my flip flops in my hands, letting the scorch simmer in the refreshing ocean I walked along, spending a few moments to myself. As it began to turn dusk a few surfers made their way down the path and geared up for the evening swim. I positioned myself on the dunes, with the geothermal chaos to my right, the surfers paddling out in front of me, and endless beach to my left. Pretty neat little place.

As Old As The Places I’ve Been

Included are some recent almost “excerpts” from my diary, excuse me, I’m a grownup I seem to forget, uh hum, I mean excerpts from my journal these last ten days traveling down to Sydney before off to New Zealand. I mean, why give you the condensed highlights when I can reveal nearly every inner thought I wrote down while it was happening. Obviously. I’m not going to lie however, it’s no Gossip Starter, but this is long.


I love the Rusty surf shop in the Brisbane airport. Every time I fly I buy something. I’m starting to wonder if I keep up the frequency if I’ll end up befriending the staff for real. Would be a funny story at least. My new bffs from the airport surf shop, ha.

I hope my roomie locks in our new roomie when I’m away. It’s nearly the end of the month. We had peeps swing by last night and there are a couple of good options. We’ll either pick M or Blondie – more or less as the wine flowed we got friendlier and their names got blurrier.


At Sydney International airport on my way to New Zealand! I’m sooo excited. Also a bit anxious and I can’t pinpoint why. Perhaps in the back of mind are the recent earthquakes in Christchurch, where I’m laying over, and the giant ash cloud traveling across the Pacific from Chile. Alas, I’m on my way baby (did I actually write that? Yes). Country number 27!!! And now, I’m as old as the places I’ve been.

This weekend in Syd was ridiculous! Friday was low key. Traveled after work so arrived and was tired. Just ate some humus and grabbed some drinks at the Clock Hotel on Crown in Surry Hills. Saturday I did lots of shopping in Paddington on Oxford Street and the weekend markets. I love markets. It was great. I freaking love Sydney! Then it was time for the Rubik’s cube themed house warming party at Stephs. Sooo fun! You’re meant to dress in all the colors of the cube then exchange with people until you get one solid. The chef’s I met the previous time over were there so it was nice to know people going in. It was so fun.  Time out – just boarded, great seat, 2A!

Oxford Street, Paddington

Then things got crazy. I think I burnt my tongue on the million mini-pies I ate fresh out of the oven, steaming hot. And who knows what the heck I was talking about the entire night, just rambling to whomever. I think I may have fallen after someone else spilled a beer. All while NOT smoking mind you. Then the boys from the Sydney Swans, professional rugby team showed up. Not too shabby.  We headed out into the Cross, my shoe broke, I was convinced by others that no one would notice the lopsided hop, and therefore would like to blame that on me being denied entry to the last bar at the early hours of the morning. Sunday was spent in a lot of pain, and a lot of hours searching the streets for a new pair of black shoes for my work week ahead. And now, I’m New Zealand bound.

Steph and I, Rubik’s Cube themed party

First time traveling on Air New Zealand. Plane = super nice. Free noise canceling ear phones, personal TV, and soothing music over the speakers. Actually just played a song by Flight of the Concords. How funny. But they made me check my bag, boo!

They must have purchased me a premium ticket because I got food and wine and not many others did. Flying in, over Christchurch, WOW, it’s beautiful. Crazy, jagged snow capped mountains and then so quickly it shifts to oddly flat terrain. Different shades of green on green.

Flying to Christchurch

Drastic change in landscape in minutes

Sitting in the regional terminal in Christchurch airport, again, no security check, crazy. I’m starved and nervous I won’t have anywhere to eat when I arrive in Dunedin – things close early, and its Monday. For reasons unknown, Monday means an extra special cause why things won’t be open. Silly. It’s dark now, and I won’t be able to see much out of the plane for this next leg.


Dunedin is an old Gaelic word that means Edinburgh. It’s also the most Victorian and Edwardian city in the southern hemisphere. It’s also freezin in Dunedin. Say that real fast and it rhymes!  I think it’s like less than 7 degrees Celsius and there is talk of potential snow. My winter has lasted for a very very long time and I’m well over it!

The city actually does remind me a bit of Edinburgh. Not like the Royal Mile or anything, but some old buildings with mountains in the backdrop. Yea, it’s sorta pretty. Unfortunately the cold and rain, mixed in with my presentations make exploring unlikely. I did manage to make it to the Otago Museum while my co-workers had some appointments to go to though. Did you know the first man to climb Everest was a Kiwi (New Zealander)? Yup.

Drinking hot chocolate now. I feel like everyone drinks hot chocolate over here all the time. Like weirdly. I know its winter and all but it’s like everyday someone asks me if I want a hot chocolate. I’ll have to take notice in the summer, but it’s a bit excessive I think. I haven’t had a HC in, I can’t even tell you how long because it’s just not common practice. Is it?

Heading out to Palmerston North soon. That’s it. In, then out in a few hours and on to the next place. A quickie New Zealand tour. Moving on from the South Island and heading to the North Island. That may mean warmth because it’s all backwards here. The farther north you go, the warmer it is.
Well, Palmerston North is meant to be even more desolate then Dunedin. Oh boy, hopefully I’ll be able to see out of the plane if it’s not too dark.

Note to self: Don’t sit in 4A on the small planes. It’s directly next to the propeller which is in the front of the plane because this plane is tiny. I just keep watching it spin round and round and can’t help thinking if it were to unfortunately fly off, well; I’m in the wrong seat that’s all.

Air New Zealand

I’ll be taking 7 flights total on 5 different days over a 10 day period. Crazy, but rack those points up! Actually, I thought that was pretty intense until the business passenger sitting next to me informed me that he’ll be on 5 different planes in 2 days so I had no choice to respond with “you’ve got me beat”.

I wonder where Matt Kiwi lives? Matt “Kiwi” from London back in 2003. He sure was cute. Or Stephen from Auckland back in Cairns in 2010. Alas, I’ll never know I guess.

It’s now late and I’ve arrived in Palmerston North. Long day of flying. In BK’s motor lodge and the owner lady is a bit strange. My room has a huge bed, but also two recliners at the foot of it facing the TV like a living room. It’s odd.

I miss traveling work trips with my homie. Getting mani-pedis and vintage shopping. It’s just not the same without her.


Flying from Palmerston North to Auckland is AMAZING. I saw a rainbow in the airport out front before I left. We’re flying low between the clouds, its lush green, and jagged and other times looks real soft.  Amazing contrast of colors. Wowza. It looks like what you would think New Zealand would look like. But I wonder what it actually looks like. From above it’s all so beautiful and picturesque but if I were standing on it, or in front of it, would it be more or less impactful? I’m wondering what is done with all this land. I haven’t seen a house in ages, although I’m low enough to spot urbanization. Did the scouts for Lord of the Rings just helicopter down in any of these random spots and say right, yup, this should do it?

Palmerston North Rainbow

Meant to have dinner in the Sky Tower tonight. Whatever. It’s cold again. I need to have some wine from the Marlborough region and hopefully make my way down there at some point.  I look forward to exploring the Bay of Islands this weekend in the meantime.


At Uni of Auckland – nice city campus. Last night we were meant to have dinner in the Sky Tower, big blue needle in the center of the city but couldn’t get a table, boo. And I said to my co-worker, but I already put it on facebook that I would be! So we had dinner at the gourmet Chinese restaurant in the building below. Does that count? People bundy off of this tower. I wish I was braver.

Sky Tower, Auckland

I finally got a good night sleep. It’s like all it took was for me to get to a city to feel more relaxed. After this next presentation I’m off on my own for the next few days. Will be nice to just do my thing.  Ooo, yes, warm sun on my toes. It’s still cold here!

Maori are the local Polynesians in this area. Typically many are in Auckland and specifically found on the North Island.

It’s now 630 pm and I’m riding solo. I did a walk up to the water… bay, harbor, sound? What the heck is it? I’m tempted to rush back to the hostel to get free pizza at 730 but then I just realized that I’m old enough and mature enough to buy my own damn meal and indulge in the 160 beers this place is known for and treat myself to a delicious meal. I’m not backpacking this time around and I’ve eaten enough toasties on campus all week to just eat something awesome. First beer, Invercargill Pitch Black Stout from New Zealand, A+.

It’s just about after work time on a Thursday and there are a lot of after work-looking men here. I wonder if it’s strange that I’m here by myself. I wish they would turn the lights up just a smidge so I can read my kindle and look like a giant dork.

Two things to note: Firstly, pumpkin is on and in everything in NZ and Aus. Like, everything. It’s good though. And even though its winter, I’m told it’s not even a seasonal thing. It’s just everywhere. And secondly, capsicums are peppers. They too are everywhere and in everything.

Next up, Grotteenbier, Belgium. It’s brewed in caves and mmmmm, yum. It’s also the local staff’s favorite as well. I’m hearing everything in this bar! Old school Killers, Beatles, Strokes, Morning Glory! Love it! Good music, good beers, and good food. All I need is some sun and I’m set.

Back to the Belgian beer. Mmmmm. Think I’ll order the mussels.

Perhaps my two beers will give me courage to go back to the hostel bar and mingle. One more, Epic Lager, New Zealand. Awesome! Bartender is cute and I fear I’m the weirdo standing at the bar, writing in her diary, excuse me, journal. Oh well.

Plan: walk back to hostel, stroll by hostel bar to scope it out, pack for tomorrow just in case, go to bar, get more beers.


Good vibes on Stray backpackers bus up to Bay of Island. I’m hung-over, but listening to Adele and looking out at beautiful country scenery with the sun shining is excellent. I’m laughing at the fact that Ab and I used to eat Kiwi’s with the skin on them.

So last night, made friends with Japanese girl at hostel bar while drinking local brew Tui – pretty good. Then I met a German girl who took me to a few local spots and I learned that she was a bee keeper back in Germany and is continuing her trade here in New Zealand to cultivate Queen bees. Very strangely interesting. The bathroom in Cassette bar – which is pretty sweet spot by the way, has cat pictures plastered all over the walls. In many bars, as in Sydney, they serve liquor drinks and shots out of tea pots. I like that. I spoke to guy named Neville and had to prevent myself from referring to him as Neville Longbottom to his face, as is, Harry Potter’s friend.

The smoke right now hovering over the mountains is amazing. Is that Mordor? Wow, I sound like sci-fi geek and I don’t even know much about that stuff.

I’m wondering if I’m too old now to do the hostel thing. I can afford a normal hotel, but once I get mingling with people I love it. I envy those who can just pick up, quit their job, and just travel. Work in hostel bars; sleep on bunk beds every night. When did I get so picky? All those who buy around the world tickets and travel alone. I’ve never been that fond of traveling alone but its easy here. I like it. But still, there’s a lot of 18 year olds too. Like Doug from Manchester, who’s sitting in front of me right now on the bus up North.  Still, I think it would be great to open an amazing hostel chain in North America.

There are 4 million people in New Zealand, and 40 million sheep.

Its 5:15 and I’m checked in to Salt Water Lodge in Paihia. It’s really nice and clean with en suite bathrooms and hot water! It’s still cold everywhere I go, no matter how far north I go. We cruised the Bay of Islands this afternoon. I saw dolphins, and baby dolphins, and jumping dolphins, oh, and some seals. The scenery and backdrop was super gorgy, and the water color was amazing. It rained toward the end though, and my camera unfortunately decided to break before I left for Sydney so that’s why all my pictures are blurry.

Bay of Islands from Paihia

There are 144 islands in the Bay. We went through the Holein the Rock. I just wish my camera didn’t suck for it. Then I started to feelsea sick.

Hole in the Rock

I’m meeting the girls from Arizona and Jeremy from Perth at Base for the BBQ tonight. Hope its fun!

New Zed greenery


Why do I always meet cute boys I’ll never see again? Alas. I had a great time up in Paihia. I went to the BBQ to meet the girls over at Base. $12 for a BBQ and a beer, not bad. Met a girl from the Isle of Man – a place between England and Ireland that I’m quite confused about the fact that I never know it existed! They’re their own entity, with their own government and currency and everything. Really?

Then I chatted with an American, Canadian and Brit. Karaoke was on in the background. I wished Emily was there so we could duet to MCR’s the Black Parade. The glow in the dark body paint came out and I’m pretty sure I looked like a fool. I lost my lipstick at some point. I saw the Milky Way later that night, I think.

My painted face


On a jumbo jet back to Brissy. What a week. Just bought a new camera at Duty Free. I think I’m broke at the moment but not positive. Just spending and not thinking, yikes. Is it safe to eat sushi at the airport? Oh well.

I hope everything is okay with the damn Chilean ash cloud as to not interfere with my flight. Back to reality tomorrow.