Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hello from New Zealand (finally)!!

It has been much too long since I have written.* I wish I could say it was due to the lack of anything worth writing about. But that never seems to be the case when we're traveling. There is always something new, different or beautiful to share. And sometimes, more often than I'd like, there is something crappy to laugh about. Rather than focus on the downer side of the equation, below you'll find some tid bits from our recent day trips in and around Nelson.

*Note: it's not exactly true to say I haven't written, because I have been writing. I am working on my first novel for National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as it known). So far I've written over 30,000 words and hope to make it to 50,000 by the end of the month. But this fictional narrative has gotten in the way of me writing the nonfiction that is our daily lives and, for that, I am sorry.

Nelson is a cute town of about 60,000 people on the north coast of New Zealand's South Island. It is a sunny spot when there are clouds and rain all around and there is plenty to do within an hour's drive or less.

Tahunanui is a lovely beach right in town. It has soft sand that stretches for a long way (longer than I could walk with my limping foot) and the sand wraps around a little point that sticks out into the Tasman Sea. Kiteboarders can be seen playing in this shallow sandy shoal on windy afternoons. And plenty of dogs are keen to play in the small waves. One day we even saw a dozen or so brave souls in wet suits practicing their paddle board rescue skills -- either that, or they were awful surfers.

On a sunny day, the water in Nelson Bay is a lovely sea green, that color of Crayola crayon that never looked like the sea back home. In the distance are the blue mountains of the Able Tasman National Park. And on the water is the occasional bright red barge providing a highlight amongst the cool blue green hues that roll towards the horizon. It is truly breathtaking, even on rainy days of which we've had only a few.

Our first real outing from Nelson took us to the east about a half hour to Cable Bay. Again the water here is spectacular and the adjacent hillsides are green and covered with sheep that look like cream puff dotting the landscape. On the slightly rocky beach are piles of drift wood, including several pieces that function nicely as impromptu benches. Josh and I had a sit, and then I continued sitting as he strolled to the top of a hill and looked over into the bay beyond.

Our second big adventure took us up into Takaka Hill, about an hour's drive to the west. We stopped off for a short, ten-minute (even with my limping pace) walk to the Riwaka River Resurgence. The Riwaka River, like most of the rivers in the area, has significance to the original people of New Zealand, the Maoris. And the Resurgence is held particularly sacred. The pool of clear blue-green water that marks the Resurgence is quite stunning, especially when the clouds let the sun peek out. Josh and I were curious what lay beyond the pool as we speculated it would be a good size cave, but we didn't get to check it out. And no, we didn't swim in the water as it was frigid!

Further up on Takaka Hill we came to Ngarua Cave, a commercially operated cave tour. We've been on several such tours this year in South Africa and Oregon and possibly others I'm forgetting. This one was very cool, albeit half as long as it should have been. The cave is wet so a lot of the formations look like bumpy coral, which I know is special but I honestly find a bit boring. Luckily for me, there were also stalactites, stalagtites, straws, flow stones, and bones from the extinct Moa (an ostrich-like bird with no wings whatsoever). It was very pretty and I wished I had brought my headlamp and also could have ditched our tour guide who rushed us through the cave so he could get back in time for the next tour.

Having had our caving fever reawakened by Ngarau Cave, we took our rental deeper into the Kahurangi National Park along a gravel road. Knowing that our car rental insurance wouldn't cover us on thus road, Josh drove extra carefully. On the way in, we'd spotted several wild rabbits, a couple flocks of sheep and a herd of very hairy cows. After about 10km of slow going on the mostly flat road, we emerged at the trailhead. There I plopped down at a picnic table surrounded by grass to work on novel and Josh set off into the forest in search of Harwoods Hole.

Harwoods Hole reportedly drops some 183 meters from the surface into the first of many rooms that lead deep into the mountain. From the trail, you can barely see into the hole. Still, Josh enjoyed the opportunity to stretch his legs and enjoy the view.

We've have so many adventures in the area, with so many lovely photos to share, that I'm dividing this post into few shorter posts. Enjoy!


Monday, November 3, 2014

By the numbers...

This post was inspired by my good friends over at An Exposition who reported on some interesting stats for their first six months of travel. I was so excited to see my love of words and numbers come together in their thought-provoking and laugh-inducing post, that I decided to copy it. Or at least make our own version of it as Jane Austin isn't part of our adventures and we haven't been weighing our luggage... So far.


Days on the road: 294

Nights spent outside the USA: 163

Nights spent on a boat: 34

Nights spent in a spaceship (campervan): 8

Nights spent in a hospital: 1

Nights spent in a fire station: 1

Cities, towns and rural outposts we've slept in: 51

Anchorages we've slept in: 14

Where we are now: Ubud, Bali (Indonesia)

Where we're headed next: New Zealand!

Countries we've visited: 13 total

  • Australia
  • Burma (Michelle for a quickie visa run)
  • Canada
  • Fiji
  • Hong Kong (Josh, long layover)
  • Indonesia
  • Netherlands (Josh, Amsterdam layover)
  • New Zealand (Michelle, one-night layover -- so far)
  • Republic of Georgia (Josh work)
  • South Africa
  • Thailand
  • Tonga
  • USA

Planes boarded: 25 (Michelle); 30 (Joshua)

Motorbikes rented: 5

Cars rented: 4

Spaceships rented: 1

Scuba dives taken: 47 (total)

Paragliding sites flown: 12

Boats slept on: 3

Blog posts written: 79

Most popular blog post: An unfortunate series of events (or "how I broke my feet")

Second most popular blog post: This I believe...

SIM cards purchased: 12

Defective items, returned and replaced: 1 SteriPen

Epic camera fail: broken, machine washed, replaced, dropped from scooter and found, dropped from scooter and lost permanently (with 1,500,000 IDR tucked in the case)

Transportation modes: airplane, paraglider, bus, train, taxi, taxi van, taxi motorbike, tuk tuk, scooter, wheelchair, walker, crutches, kiteboard, fast dive boat, slow dive boat, jetboat, sailboat, ferry, outboard skiff, kayak, tandem sailing kayak, canoe, stand up paddle board, walking, hiking, 4WD truck, safari jeep, rental car, spaceship (campervan), SWAT armored truck, sherriff's patrol car, ambulance


Favorite places:

  • Ubud, Bali
  • Kruger National Park, South Africa
  • Pak Nam Pran, Thailand
  • Applegate Valley, Oregon
  • Sigatoka River Valley, Fiji

Least favorite places:

  • Hospital in Thailand
  • Layover in Brisbane
  • Nusa Dua, Bali

Classes taken / Skills learned:

  • Basketweaving
  • Batik
  • Silversmithing
  • Fruit carving
  • Yoga (Yin, Acro, Morning Flow, Iyengar)
  • Tai Chi
  • How to drive a stick (kinda)
  • Sailing (a little)

Purchases abroad:

  • 1 roll of pandanus leaves for weaving
  • 1 small tapa artwork
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 pairs of capri-length pants
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 sports bra
  • 1 rash guard top
  • 1 nalgene water bottle
  • Headlamp and batteries
  • Lots of conditioner, shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and tampons
  • Fine-tip colored markers
  • 5 notebooks

Things I haven't used but am still keeping:

  • 1 snowsuit for paragliding
  • 1 pair of warm gloves
  • 1 beanie
  • 2 long-sleeve polypropylene tops
  • 4 pairs of warm knee-high socks
  • 7 bangles
  • 1 silk sleeping bag liner
  • Car2Go membership card
  • 2 American SIM cards

Items lost: 1 fitbit, 1 tank top, 1 t-shirt, 1 snorkel, 1 shower head from a boat (recovered by Captain Jeff)

Number of times I tossed my cookies on said sailboat: 5

Rolls of fruity mentos consumed: more than 30, but less than 100

Favorite meal: Raw vegan lasagna with vegan chocolate tart in Ubud, Bali

Least favorite meal: Peri Peri chicken in South Africa

Number of massages: 11

Best massage: Thailand

Worst massage: Thailand (Shannon, you remember?)

Hair cuts: 1

Broken bones: 4

Metal parts added to fix said bones: 10

Days spent hobbling about on one foot: 83

New favorite booze: Somsung Mineu (Thai rum with lime soda -- thanks Matty!)


Favorite places:

  • Kruger National Park, South Africa
  • Porterville, South Africa
  • Pak Nam Pran, Thailand
  • Pemberton, Canada
Least favorite places:
  • Lautoka, Fiji
  • Nusa Dua, Bali

Favorite meals: Indonesian set meal at Bumbu Bali in Nusa Dua and dinner at the Long Table in Bangkok

Least favorite meal: the one that made me sick

Best meals cooked (according to Michelle): canned corned beef hash with sweet potatoes and cassava, vegan chocolate mousse

Least edible meal cooked: super spicy green curry

Longest paragliding flight: 116 km (in Thailand)

Longest scuba dive: over an hour

Deepest free dive: 35 feet

Items purchased:

  • Delorme InReach
  • Computer mouse
  • Hard drive
  • Goal Zero battery pack
  • 1 t-shirt
  • South Africa plug adapter

Items lost or broken: 1 hat, 1 camera, 1,500,000 IDR (about $125 US), 1 snorkel, 1 computer mouse, 1 printer at a hospital

Things in my bag I haven't used yet: antibiotics

In-flight movies so bad I couldn't finish them: Godzilla, Transformers

Hours worked: 615

Men seen in stirrups while treating cancer: 13

Diarrhea-free countries: 6 out of 11

Hair cuts: 5

Bottles of sunscreen consumed: 4

New favorite booze: Pinotage (South African red wine)