Year Three

IMG_3600

Well here I am, at my three year anniversary since leaving Texas and my old life behind. I recall lying in bed in Costa Rica the first night I was there wondering how long I would last. At that time, I only planned one year ahead. I knew I wouldn’t give up for at least a year, but where I would actually be was anyone’s guess. If I would have had a crystal ball and saw that three years later I would be living in New Zealand, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, here I am, no longer moving every couple of weeks — comfortable and happy.

It’s Easter here today, but you wouldn’t have known it. I’ve been out in the vineyards before harvest takes place, trying to catch a last glimpse of the grapes. The leaves are starting to change color which makes for some fantastic photos. I hope you enjoy them and thanks again to everyone who still supports what I’m doing!

IMG_3631

IMG_3800

IMG_3783

IMG_3774

IMG_3758

IMG_3743

IMG_3734

IMG_3721

IMG_3675

IMG_3657

IMG_3650

IMG_3804

IMG_3588

IMG_3528

IMG_3637

 

Advertisements

Tuatara Heaven in Wellington

Wellington from the top of the cable car ride
Wellington from the top of the cable car ride

In keeping with tradition of taking a vacation after a vacation, we took a trip to Wellington after I got back from California. By the way, my feet still ache a week later while writing this. Walking 15 miles in one day wasn’t what most people would typically consider a vacation. The most depressing part is that it only burned about 1000 calories. But I digress…

I really liked Wellington last time we were there and didn’t get around to seeing a few things like Zealandia and the botanical gardens. We took the (far too long) trip by ferry boat across the Strait with me turning slightly green again. We had a nice hotel room across town from where we were last time and it was in a great location for shopping and restaurants.

Zealandia was at the top of the list of places to see, so we took the cable car up the hill (which I’d never done before) and thought we’d take the shuttle to Zealandia. This is where the REAL walking all started. It would be a 30 minute wait but we could walk there in 25, so we opted to do that. In hindsight that was great because there was a German bakery along the way I visited TWICE.

Top of the hill
Top of the hill

The cable car was $7.50 for a return ticket and had four stops. I never realized Wellington was so hilly until this trip. All I’m saying is that it’s worth the money. Plus you go through this psychedelic Willy Wonka tunnel which is almost worth the price of admission alone.

9:30 was a good time to get to Zealandia before the buses and people arrived. This is a large sanctuary where they protect native wildlife from predators. If you recall the place I went in the Sounds called Kaipupu, they had built a fence to protect the birds. Zealandia built a fence too and here you can see kiwi, tuatara, takahe, cuckoo cormorants, geckoes as well as a weird owl called a Morepork! I saw more birds here than I have anywhere in New Zealand.

IMG_3315
Looks like his head is in the clouds

We hit the trail first and came across this feeding station which had Kaka birds…I’d never seen them in person before. They’re a cousin to the Kea parrots and were extinct in Wellington since the early 20th century until they were brought to Zealandia in 2002.

IMG_3323

IMG_3332

As we walked the main trail, I couldn’t help but scamper toward the suspension bridge. There seem to be a lot of them in New Zealand and I’ve gotten over my fear of walking across them. Even when some wise guy decides to swing it from side to side.

IMG_3354

As we walked back to the entrance, we noticed a group with a guide peering over the fence into the bush. Finally catching on that the big cartoon pictures of tuararas stuck to the side meant there were probably some sitting on the ground, I was like a 3 year old again. It was the first time I’d seen tuatara in the “wild” even though this technically was fenced in.

IMG_3365

IMG_3386

Such beautiful little faces! But then you look at one head on and you’re reminded of a Welsh Korgi with its too fat legs and feet. Something just doesn’t look quite right. Reminds me of some bad sand sculptures I’ve done of iguanas.

IMG_3388

But hey, I still love them and saw at least 8 of them. This little hippy chick caught my eye (they were all tagged):

IMG_3396

Can you find the little tuatara in this next photo? Click on it to enlarge.

IMG_3401
Where’s the tuatara?

If you guessed top middle you were right! I’m surprised I saw it at all! Wonder how many we missed that day.

Since the botanical garden was right next to the cable car, we decided to visit it instead of coming back the next day. Huge mistake. We had a lapse of judgement and decided to walk back to the cable car instead of waiting for the shuttle once again. This was when the second stop at the German bakery occurred; this time getting lunch to take to the garden. We were practically crawling by the time we got there and found a bench to sit on to eat. We both kicked our shoes off and complained like children in the back of a station wagon as we stuffed our faces.

You want to talk hilly? The gardens were nothing BUT very steep, knee scraping kind of hills. It took about two nanoseconds to decide today was not the day and tomorrow was not looking good either. Therefore, I have nothing to report about the gardens unfortunately.

After nursing our feet back from the dead, we went on a relaxing sailboat cruise around the harbour the next morning which was great. The weather had been perfect during our stay. The sun was shining and the wind was just right to put up the sails.

IMG_3415

Wellington from the harbour
Wellington from the harbour

We didn’t see any sea critters, but it was nice to get some sun and NOT be walking. Afterward, we were attracted by the colorful flags and crowds of people along the waterfront. There was some competition between schools and they were asking for the crowd to vote on the best team.

IMG_3426

IMG_3427

Speaking of colorful, have you ever used a Gaytm before?

20160305_133015

And so another vacation comes to a close. It was great fun and we got plenty of exercise. I promise to do the botanical gardens next time!

IMG_3428

 

 

 

 

California….FINALLY

When I think of California, this is what I picture
When I think of California, this is what I picture

I took a little trip back to the states for a month and finally got to see California for the first time. I stayed with my BFF in Pebble Beach so I was living the good life! They recently purchased a home off of the famous 17 Mile Drive and close to the ocean, so I’m glad I got to see it and help around the yard.

The "Gingerbread House" in Pebble Beach for rent
The “Gingerbread House” in Pebble Beach for rent

Like New Zealand, California is also known for its wine production and we visited MANY tasting rooms and a few vineyards. I couldn’t help but notice a some similarities in the coastlines and the flora. There were a lot of those creepy trees I love so much as well as the same types of flowers and bushes.

IMG_2817

I was also lucky enough to go to the Monterey aquarium a couple of times and got in plenty of shopping (my downfall). We also hit up Big Sur and ate lots of great food in the time I was there. I’m happy to say I fulfilled my requirements for seafood, Mexican and BBQ and some stuff I had forgotten about like this cheese steak sandwich!

Mmmm Philly cheese steak!
Mmmm Philly cheese steak!

Some of the first places they took me were to the wharf and Cannery Row. I was overwhelmed with all of the free clam chowder being sampled along the walk and took advantage of just about all of them. THAT was something I hadn’t had in a while. The gigantic crab legs were hard to miss as well.

IMG_2398

We saw these great little squid air plants and I made a friend in the gift shop.

Squid air plants you soak in water once a week
Squid air plants you soak in water once a week

imagejpeg_0

There were sea lions and otters galore, like this one who found an urchin to munch on (very carefully).

IMG_2445

I was really impressed with the aquarium, so much that I went back a second time. The jellyfish and cephalopod exhibits were outstanding. I spent a lot of time staring at the flamboyant cuttlefish. There was a touch pool for skates and rays and a beautiful shallow pool with anemones.

Skate
Skate – totally looks like a scary alien face

IMG_2557

IMG_2576

IMG_2973

IMG_2684

IMG_2726

IMG_2683

IMG_2940
Pharaoh cuttlefish

The jellyfish were so mesmerizing, it was hard to get out of the exhibit! They had quite a few octopi as well.

IMG_2734

IMG_3022

IMG_3014

IMG_3011

IMG_2988

IMG_2979

Big Sur is a must do if you’re in the area, so they kindly took me on the drive and we stopped in at a nice place to eat overlooking the ocean.

IMG_3100

IMG_3088

IMG_3081

IMG_3079

IMG_3071

Closer to home, we went to Carmel Beach for some sunset shots and pictures of the infamous cypress tree. This is allegedly one of the most photographed trees in the U.S.

IMG_2842

IMG_3171adj

IMG_3165adj

IMG_3140

Another trip took us to a sunset while drinking wine and having some appetizers.

IMG_2773

IMG_2754

Carmel Beach had this one spot where the sand was pink. When mixed with the black and white sand then dried, it became purple. Of course I had to bring some home with me!

IMG_2785

IMG_2787corr

IMG_3042

While I still have food on my mind, there was some great fruit at this farmer’s market and I saw some odd cauliflower at a market outside of town. I’m also constantly amazed by the cereal aisles that I miss so much. Ours here is about 1/4 of that size and 50% more expensive!

20160131_104739

IMG_3050

IMG_3044

Thanks again, Dahnelle and Remo for making my first visit memorable and I look forward to coming back!