Saturday, December 25, 2010

A very merry merry to one and all!

What a sunny, beachy, holiday this has been! Christmas eve was incredibly quiet in the office as everyone was already off on holiday so I "festivized" the day and put on Q107 to keep me company as I worked - lots of 'rockin' christmas tunes which got me in the spirit! Pete had the day off and surprised me with an amazing roast beef dinner. Just like home! Right before dinner, I went for a quick run along the water to stretch the legs and enjoy the beautiful day. At one point, I saw a small group of people gathered (the only remaining people in this city over the holidays!) and noticed that there were 7 stingrays all gathered right up at the shore cruising for grub! It was incredible. They're such beautiful animals and I always love watching them glide through the water (from afar!). Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me so you will just have to take my word for it!

The dinner was scrumptious. Pete outdid himself as always! After dinner, we headed down to the giant Chrstmas tree to check out the lights. It was packed with (again) the remaining people who stuck around Wellington for the holidays and we grabbed a beanbag chair and watched the amazing light show.

Christmas morning, we awoke to gorgeous sunshine and clear skies. A truly perfect day! Spent the morning opening gifties, enjoying a yummy brekkie, and relaxing. We were truly spoiled by friends and family who sent us such sweet and thoughtful gifts!

We spent the rest of the day cycling along the waterfront and tossing the disc around. At one point, we plunked ourselves down on a beach and went for a dip - something we had to do on Christmas day! :D

In the evening we enjoyed a wonderful feast with our neighbour and her lovely family. It was truly a magical and beautiful day.

It's now your turn to celebrate Santa's day back home and we are thinking of you all while you sip egg nog, open presies, and dine on feasts! We are headed to Northland for the next two weeks and look forward to reporting back upon our return.

 After work drink!

Looking through the amazing calendar from Erika! 

The biggest cracker ever!

Pete's Christmas presie! 

Holidays spent at the beach!

 Biking along the bay!

 Taking a dip on Christmas day. A first for me! 

Merry Christmas to one and all and may 2011 be the best year yet!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Santa comes to town!

Christmas time brings many traditions – decorating trees and tucking presies underneath them, setting up stockings by the fireplace and singing carols. And while we have traded scarves for sunglasses, and donned jandals instead of boots, no holiday is complete without a visit from the big man in red himself. And so, this is how we found ourselves amongst hundreds of kids and families on Wednesday evening in Waitangi Park – Wellington’s central park – singing carols and dancing the evening away to Christmas tunes.

The crowd gathering in Waitangi Park

I felt like a kid again, surrounded by all the youngsters belting their hearts out. There was a live band, treats galore, and a headbanging donkey mascot (…not entirely sure what he had to do with Christmas but he was the most entertaining of them all).

This is the Christmas tree which lights up every night. You can donate to the Children's Wish Foundation and select a colour sequence and they'll display it for you. They also have giant bean bag chairs under the tree so you can enjoy the view all evening long!

Kids lining up at the phone booth to call Santa

Then, in the middle of Feliz Navidad santa appeared waving from a red helicopter which circled the applauding crowd a few times before settling down to let him hop up on stage. The kids went wild (and the donkey went nuts). It was amazing (and the donkey was hilarious)! It still doesn’t feel like Christmas all that much but it was certainly entertaining, and a great way to spend an evening.

Feliz Navidad to one and all!

Santa's here (and the crowd goes wild!)

Santa (and his donkey) welcome the applause

Christmas time by the bay.

I didn't know the Griswolds moved to New Zealand!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Only 12 more sleeps...

Well, we’re only twelve sleeps away until Santa pays us all a visit and while I continue to hear stories from home of people donning their winter sweaters, pulling their toques tighter over their heads, and cradling their never empty cuppa hot anything in their hands, it’s not really ‘beginning to feel a lot like Christmas’ over here. This past weekend we did the routine holiday rituals of getting a tree, decorating it and hanging the stockings by the non-existent chimney with care.

Pete’s present doesn’t exactly fit under the tree but it looks pretty great next to it! Thank you to all the fabulous family and friends who have sent holiday packages our way. ‘Tis so thoughtful of you!

After decorating the tree, we went for a walk along the waterfront. It was a beautiful day and the town was out in full force. A local fisherman had pulled his boat right up to the city dock and was selling fish right off of his boat!

Further down the way, the regional water polo team was practicing right off the warf and a crowd gathered to watch them play. What an amazing and incredibly challenging sport!

We eventually found ourselves at another Kowtow sale. I’m sorry but I just can’t resist fair trade, organic clothing hand made by locals. As you know, I enjoyed a kowtow sale on one of my first week’s here. Their stuff is a-may-zing, the owner/designer is so talented and the kowtow philosophy is the icing on the cake!

So now I head to bed with only 12 sleeps till big guy in red comes to town. I am thinking of you all back home and sending a jolliest of Christmas wishes your way. Yes, that’s right. I mean YOU!

ps - sorry for the low quality pics. Camera died :(

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Mighty Whanganui

Last weekend was a weekend like no other. It was a weekend that I had been waiting for since we arrived here last June. I had been counting down the days until we were able to paddle the Whanganui River. It is the 3rd longest river in New Zealand and is the only river to be considered one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. 

Sunset at our first campsite.
Self portrait on Day 1 - pre sunburn

Happy campers!

The river is of special and spiritual importance for Maori, who regard is as taonga – a special treasure – and as soon as we dipped our paddles into the water, we instantly understood their connection. Plus, with many stretches of white water and over 200 rapids, it was the journey of a lifetime!

The Whanganui River begins at the top of a volcanic mountain called Mt. Tongariro (where Kate and Nige got engaged!). It then travels North towards Taumarunui before heading South for about 260km towards Whanganui. The river is typically paddled in kayaks but we opted for "traditional Canadian canoes". For the first couple of days, we passed through the native tree and fern clad hills of the Whanganui National Park which lead to incredible deeply incised gorges that reached over 200 feet high on either side. For four days, we were blessed with sun filled, cloudless days and we found ourselves needing to fall into the river every hour on the hour to keep ourselves cooled off.

Luckily, we threw ourselves down the river before the peak season hit and so we were virtually on our own the whole time. We rented gear from an outfitters and chose campsites over huts. Nothing beat lying in the grass hills under blissfully starry night skies!

The four days flew by but they were absolutely some of the best days I’ve had here thus far. The region was simply too breathtaking for words and so, on that note, I will stop my typing here and share some more photos with you.

Another tremendous weekend spent in the NZ wilderness…

 A little frisbee action to go with our morning coffee before hitting the river.

You can practice yoga anywhere...

 ... Anytime.

 A room with (one heck of) a view.

 Taking a break to enjoy the view (and rest the arms).


 Low water levels at certain points.

 Sunshine all the time!


Meandering our way through the gorge.  

 One of the many caves along the route. It's amazing how strong the power of water can be.

 mini waterfall.

Pete takes a dip Post 8 hour paddle (in headwind).

 Morning on the river in between rapids. Calm as glass.

 Bad day for that guy!


A forest canopy as our rooftop. 

The stunning view from my nap.

Another breathtaking morning on the water 

 The 'organ pipes' (grooves in the stone gorge walls)


The mother of all caves near the end of our journey (where's the Peter?!).

Mother Nature's spa!

My last dip before callin 'er a day.