Sunday, September 26, 2010

An urban playground (with one helluva view!)

Still sore from another weekend on the bike! After a fantastic evening out on the town Friday (yummy dinner, live music, good company), we woke early (and in rough shape!) and hit the hills with our friend, Pete**

We spent about 2 hours climbing Makara Peak and while the uphill battle was pretty grueling, the rewarding view was pretty spectacular! The best reward of all - the sky was clear enough to see the South Island from where we were resting. I’m such a sucker for a good view!
Wind turbines (North Island) and Kaikoura mountains in the distance (South Island)

Makara Peak with Windy Welli in the distance

Which way to Canada?!

Pete x 2 deciding the best route down. They picked something called the North Face... We weren't riding down Everest but it felt pretty close!

The trip down the mountain was pretty rough on me but Pete (squared) enjoyed it thoroughly.

The view on the way down.

By the time we walked through our front door, my legs could barely carry me. The next morning, I was still too sore to do much so we settled for a day of walking through the gardens, reading on the deck, and cooking and baking yummy treats.

All set for another week in kiwi land!

** Not sure why, but there are so many people named Pete over here!

Spring has sprung and all of the flowers are coming into bloom. A tui making the tree its home!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Team Panda rolls up its sleeves!

Last week was Conservation Week in New Zealand and community groups all across the country took part in various initiatives to “show New Zealand how much they love it”!

On Friday, a group of WWF’ers threw on their outdoor gear and rolled up their sleeves to help out at a local conservation project that WWF has helped fund. Five of the WWF panda crew headed to Newlands where we spent the morning planting native plants in the Kentwood Drive Reserve. Peter Gillberd, the project manager provided us with everything we needed – plants, spades, organic compost. All we needed to bring was our rain gear, our gum boots (rubber boots), and our beanies (toques)!

The weather was relatively decent and luckily held off until the afternoon. The ground was a fiesta of rocks ad clay but we managed to put 91 trees in the ground. Not quite the equivalent to my old planting days but hey – different soil, different trees, different story. Besides, it was nice to just get out of the office and give a little bit back to the local community.

Team Panda hard at work!

Taking a break

Peter - Project Manager and dedicated conservationist

Done and done. 91 plants in the ground!

A little patch of green in the middle of suburbia.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Two years ago today...

Please forgive me for this long overdue blog posting. Lots has been on the go since I last wrote but I am focusing this post on the immediate occurrences.

I can’t believe that it’s been two years since I became a Mrs with the Mr. My how time flies! And what a weekend of celebration it was. Friday afternoon, we borrowed the panda-mobile and headed to Martinbourough for the weekend.

Panda mobile!

We stayed at a gorgeous resort that had individual cabins with beautiful fire places, kitchens, and private patios.

We spent the weekend cruising the town and headed South toward Cape Palliser, the most Southern point of the North Island where the constant wind and rough weather have carved out deep crevasses into the rocky shoreline. It was truly stunning.

Cape Palliser

Some woolly friends.

On Saturday evening we enjoyed a prix fixe 6-course meal prepared by the head chef at our hotel. Everything was sourced by local farmers and fishermen and each meal was paired with wine from the local region. After 6 different kinds of animal and multiple glasses of vino, we practically had to roll ourselves back to the room!

Sunday was even more beautiful. Went for a morning run and bike ride through the wineries and then headed to a local farmers market to grab a true feast worth of produce. We then headed to the nearby in Tararua National Park and hiked into the incredible Waiohine gorge with rushing water and a beautiful waterfall. We chilled out, soaked up the sun, and had a scrumptious picnic before making our way back to Welli-town.

A cozy nook in the sun for catching up on my reading.

Cruisin' the wineries

I can’t believe that it was exactly two years ago that Mummy and Daddy Piller walked me down the aisle at the farm in front of all of our friends and family where I shared I do’s with the greatest guy ever. And now here we are in New Zealand two years later. Who-da-thunk it?!
Exploring the Waiohine gorge


A tui bird! They have two voice boxes and can mimic any sound they hear. People often say that if you hear a monkey outside your window, it means that the tui birds had recently been hanging 'round the Wellington zoo! :)

Hands up if you had a great weekend!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Getting our puppy fix!

After a few months on the other side of the world, we are quickly realizing just how much we miss our critters. If only we could have packed 'em up and brought them with us! We are truly blessed to have the best friends & family in the world. KMac is keeping our favourite feline in line and Ollie is having the time of his life at his aunt Gina's!

So now we find ourselves in need of our animal fix. And what better place to find it than the Wellington SPCA! Tonight was our first time with the puppy squad. We met the SPCA staff and other volunteers down at the waterfront after work. The shelter staff had brought down about a dozen shelter puppies and we spent an hour walking them along the waterfront where they explored new smells and exciting adventures (like bikes and waves at the beach!) Pete had an adorable puppy named Sean and I had a beautiful, timid little girl named Fee. She was extremely nervous but slowly got used to me as the walk went on.

Can't wait till our walk next week!

Pete & Sean

Me & Fee

Sean learning to sit for his treat.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A few more pics

Just a few more pics to share with you. Some of these give a good view of NZ's beautiful coastline.

Erinn conquers mini-mountain!

The descent. Way to go Petey!
Note: It was a lot tougher than it looks! Even the hardcore cyclists were walking parts of it (this made me feel like less of a pansy...!)

The coastline. Our bike route home is down there somewhere. It wasn't really a road so much as a groove in the sand.

Taking a break on the ride home.
PS - THAT's what our descent looked like...

A seal chilling solo.

Red Rocks

Woohoo – a sunny day! The weather this weekend certainly made up for last. It was absolute perfection and so we were eager to check out the bike route we had planned to do the previous week. It was a loop starting at our place and heading out along a ridgeline all the way to the coast, running along the coast and then heading back to headquarters through the city. The entire trail is called "Red Rocks" - in reference to the beautiful red rocks that burst out of the cliff faces. We’re so lucky to have these trails right at our doorstep. Amazing.

Sections of it were pretty hairy but we got through them alright. The first section of the route was called the “rollercoaster” and that’s exactly what it was! I don’t think we hit a flat section for the first hour of the ride!

Look closely. I'm in there somewhere... About 2/3 of the way and kissing my bike for getting me down that thing!

2.5 hours in. Heading toward the edge of NZ's North Island.

When we did hit the top of the mountain, though, the views were incredible. There was not a cloud in the sky, only a slight breeze, and the warm sun on our faces. We could even see the snowy peaks of the South Island!

We took a moment to enjoy the views and our incredible fortune for being here before we started our descent. This is where the tricky part started. You see the cliffs in the pic below?

Well, that’s what we climbed down…! We practically carried our bikes the whole way down the loose gravelly path to reach the beach. Pete gave parts of it a go and did really well. I decided for the less crazy option and walked my trusty bike to the ocean. Once at sea level, we got a chance to check out a few surfers enjoying the waves before making our way back to the city. Said hi to a seal en-route. He seemed to be enjoying the sunshine as much as we did. His chilled out attitude reminded me of Ollie and Tonka. Oh, how I miss our critters...

The last stretch through the city was pretty intense. Someone once told us that everything in Wellington is always uphill and this road was true to his word. By the time we rolled into our driveway, I could barely stand. Our evening was spent relaxing, enjoying the sunset and Pete’s homemade veggie chilly (yummm!). It was a perfect end to a perfect day. And after 5 solid days of rain (and hail!!), I think we deserved it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Zealand's last frontier

A great start to the week: spent two days learning about the rich diversity of a region of New Zealand that many scientists consider to be the final frontier - the Kermadecs. I got the opportunity to attend a science symposium that brought together scientists and marine specialists from around the country to share their tales of exploration of this dramatic and surprising place.

I was surprised to learn that as much as 90% of New Zealand’s territory is below sea level. This makes it the fourth largest EEZ in the world!

The Kermadecs region is situated north of the two islands and runs along the edge of two plate tectonics: the pacific ridge and the Australasian ridge. When these two plates collide, they create an extremely volatile underwater ecosystem filled with deep crevasses and dozens of volcanoes. Many species pass through this region as part of their migration route; species such as humpback whales, sea turtles, and many types of shark. At this point, only segments of this region are protected under government legislation but the hope is that increased understanding and appreciation for the region will lead to better protection. If the Kermadecs are successfully recognized by governmental bodies for the value of their biodiversity and established as a Marine Protected Area, it will become the largest MPA in the world.

Learn more about this amazing region.

I wish I could say that I took the following pics but alas, they are borrowed. Still, they give a good sense of the beauty and richness that this region holds: