Archive for the ‘Lodging’ Category

Before we use this forum to focus entirely on the present and future, we want to make sure we don’t overlook the cool sights and experiences we had on our journey to Queenstown. Without further ado, here’s a glimpse into the rearview mirror from our South Island road trip.

Cook Strait route

Interislander route from Wellington to Picton

We met my mom in Wellington and boarded the Intersislander for the three-hour Cook Strait crossing. At its narrowest point, the Cook Strait is 22km. I know. How can the ferry ride last longer than a Tarantino movie? For one, the Strait is regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous and unpredictable bodies of water. Its ferocious swells have claimed many a ship, including a 1961 passenger ferry. Fortunately we crossed on a perfect day. The other reason the trip is so long is because the ship crawls through the winding Queen Charlotte Sound. Unless you’re in a rush, this is a good thing. The views are unbeatable and every turn seems to reveal a distinct and perfect landscape.

Kiwis spend billions every year to keep their water this blue

Kiwis spend billions every year to keep their water this blue


Known as the gateway to the South Island, Picton has a small year-round population that balloons in the peak months of January and February. We used airbnb  to find a place to stay. (Airbnb is a vacation rental service that helps you find houses or rooms to rent. Sometimes you’ll have the place to yourself, other times you’ll stay with the owners.) Our first airbnb experience was an amazing one. We stayed with Beth, an expat from Chicago who is doing a similar  year-long trip. She was a gracious host and even organized a dinner party on our last night. We ate fresh grouper that Beth had caught and met a couple of her friends, including one who looks exactly like the actor Damien Lewis (aka Brodie from Homeland).

the resemblance is uncanny, right?

the resemblance is uncanny, right?

Picton also has a range of hiking trails, so we made our first foray into “tramping” with a mild three-hour hike up the Snout Track.

thanks to frauleins Gretchen and Sigrid for snapping this picture

we met a couple nice German girls at the top who snapped this photo for us. thanks Gretel and Sigrid!


We picked up our rental car in Picton and headed south-west towards Greymouth. On the way out of town we made a slight detour in Marlborough wine country.

Fromm Vineyard - we promise it wasn't 11:00am

tasting at Fromm Vineyard – we promise it wasn’t 11:00am (we can’t promise it wasn’t 10:45)

When we pulled into Greymouth and checked into our hostel two things became obvious. One: Global Village Backpackers is the nicest hostel we’ve encountered in New Zealand.

clean, cozy and affordable. what more do you need?

clean, cozy and affordable. what more do you need?

Two: Greymouth is the arm pit of the South Island. Industrial, dark and dreary. It does have a long coast line filled with scenic trails and views, but we were excited to depart for a livelier destination. En route to Fox Glacier we stopped at the Hokitika Gorge (thanks to Kathy Bliss!), which is a bit off the beaten path but well worth the detour. Glacial runoff mixes with earthy minerals to give the water a milky turquoise color. And the suspense bridge is straight out of Indiana Jones.


Fox Glacier

In case you missed it.


According to all people, road signs and navigational systems we consulted, the drive from Fox to Queenstown should take four-hours. It took us closer to seven. Granted, we got distracted by some worthy pit stops:

there we go with those waterfalls again

there we go with those waterfalls again

Our four day stint in Queenstown was a mix of business and pleasure. My mom treated us to a stay at the Heritage Hotel–a nice change of pace after hostel living–and Meg and I pounded the pavement to hand out resumes in hope of lining up jobs after our road trip. Of course, we gave ourselves plenty of time to relax:

this ones for the mixologist on Keene Street

this one’s for the mixologist on Keene Street

And explore some of Queenstown’s scenic tramping:


At the top of the Seven Mile track


I will forever link Dunedin with disappointment. And not in any way because of the destination. Dunedin is a hip, vibrant–if somewhat meteorologically bleak–college town. It just so happens this is where we watched the Patriots lose the AFC championship game. Fortunately Meg knew the perfect way to cope with the defeat.

a tour of Speights Brewery concluded with 30 minutes of unlimited access to their six taps

a tour of Speights Brewery concluded with thirty minutes of unlimited access to their taps

Despite Dunedin’s reputation for grim weather, we lucked out with two days of sunshine. This allowed us to visit the nearby Otago Peninsula where we met a Department of Conservation agent named Jasmine, caught a glimpse of a yellow-eyed penguin, and ran down this epic hill:

the walk back up was not as enjoyable

the walk back up was not as enjoyable


A massive earthquake in February 2011 destroyed the center of Christchurch. People told us that it was formerly the heart and soul of the South Island; perhaps New Zealand’s most beautiful city. But two years have passed since the quake and the city still lies in ruins. Comparing it to a post-war European city would not be hyperbolic.


Many businesses have closed with no intention of re-opening. Just trying to find a hostel we noticed that several of the ones in our travel books were gone. Residents have departed in search of brighter futures and tourism has dried up. The rebuilding effort is underway, but it is slow and deliberate. The residents who have remained are hurting but (in typical kiwi fashion) are far from defeated. We thought this uplifting poster captured the city’s fighting spirit:


Many of the merchants are determined not to let the disaster force them out of Christchurch. They have opened temporary stores in old shipping containers. The ad hoc marketplace is called “Re-start Village” and it’s an inspiration.


Sydney, Australia

Nothing fuels culture shock like leaving a country with a 20:1 sheep-to-person ratio and arriving in Sydney on Australia day. January 26, the Australian July 4, was a perfect day. We took advantage of the weather and treated ourselves to our own walking tour of downtown Sydney. Highlights range from the obvious (Opera House, Government House, Botanic Gardens) to the obscure (free smoothie samples in Hyde Park, antique automobile show aptly named “Car-nival”).

It looked a lot bigger and whiter during the opening ceremony for 2000 olympics

It looked a lot bigger and whiter on TV during 2000 olympics (we suspect China was involved)

Unfortunately the weather for the rest of the week was wet and grey. Sydney is famous for its beaches (Bondi, Manly) and we were determined not to let the forecast dictate our trip.

we don't believe in the phrase "not a beach day"

we don’t believe in the phrase “today’s not a beach day”

We also heard great things about the Blue Mountains and decided to make the two-hour drive to hike them rain or shine. We lucked out with a couple hours of sunlight and had a lovely afternoon tramping through the foothills and making a picnic on the porch of a chocolate shop.

in front of the "Three Sisters" rocks at the Blue Mtns

in front of the “Three Sisters” rock formation

It’s tough to judge a place when it’s raining for ninety percent of your visit. (I remember looking at colleges and ruling them out because it down-poured on the tour. Shallow, yes. But what 17-year-old is capable of seeing the big picture?) So our perception of Sydney was skewered by the weather and we didn’t catch it on its best week. Having said that, Meg and I were ready to get back to New Zealand and we probably would have felt this way after a week of sunshine. The traffic, lines, $9 beers and abrasive bus drivers reminded us why we wanted to leave the last big city we lived in. Like New York, I suspect Sydney is fine when you’re visiting for a week, but living there is a whole different ballgame.

While it was sad to say goodbye to my mom after such a great month, we found a silver lining in returning to a place that we are excited to call home for the next six months.


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The “Southern Hemisphere’s premier four season lake and alpine resort.” As Eliott noted in his last post, we settled into Queenstown last week and we plan on being here for the long haul- well at least until our visas expire.

To help you get your bearings and understand where we’ve chosen to settle, here are some basic stats. Queenstown is nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. It is bordered on its other three sides by the Southern Alps, so basically it’s picturesque from every angle, including ours.

We'll let you know if waking up to this view ever gets old

We’ll let you know if waking up to this view ever gets old

For you cartographers, we’ve also mapped it out here. Queenstown was originally settled by Europeans in 1860, but it was traversed by Maoris in search for pounamu (or sacred greenstone) for many years before that. The local population is roughly 29,200 so while it’s only twice the size of my quiet hometown, Duxbury, MA, it’s still considered a major city on the South Island. This odd statistic is a testament to its vibrant tourism industry.

Some people refer to Queenstown as the “adventure capital of the world” because of the many activities you can enjoy here which include: skiing, snowboarding, heli-sking, jet boating, whitewater rafting, bungy jumping, mountain biking, skateboarding, tramping, paragliding, sky diving and fly fishing. Whew, deep breath. For after hours entertainment Queenstown offers a bevy of bars that provide the answer to our longstanding question, “where are all the young people at?”

World's most dangerous cartwheel- only in Queenstown

World’s most dangerous cartwheel first attempted in Queenstown

So I guess I’d now pose the question to you all- why wouldn’t we want to live here? Queenstown has always piqued our interest, but the truth is we finally pulled the trigger on QT because I was able to get a job. One of our goals for January was to find some work and settle down for a few months. We enjoy our roadtrips and sightseeing, but staying in hostels can get old and quite expensive.  On our latest road trip, with Eliott’s mom, we stopped in Queenstown for a few days and pounded the pavement hunting for jobs. We passed out a lot of resumes and got passed over even more. So at the end, when I thought I couldn’t handle any more rejection I decided to hand out one last resume at a seafood restaurant called Fishbone.

I got a call back that night and after a stressful trial run the following day I received the offer. And today, I’m happy to announce that  Eliott was offered a job at a clothing store called Wild South. We are now both happily and gratefully employed locals. While traveling New Zealand we’ve found the job search to be somewhat challenging, but it mostly boils down to timing and persistence.


Oh wait, did you guys ask for a closer shot of the view from our balcony? Here you go

Oh wait, did you guys ask for a closer shot of the view from our balcony? Here you go

A few quick tips for any backpackers that are looking to get some work on the road:

  • Don’t look like a backpacker because everyone knows they’re unreliable…
  • Change your resume to fit your situation. Our engineer flatmate is working as a dishwasher and he didn’t get that job listing his GPA.
  • Be bold. Always ask to speak with the manager and be quick to explain why you’re a good fit.

It’s a squirrel-eat-kiwi world and there are only so many jobs and so many months in the tourist season. You have to pounce on any opportunity, but luckily in a busy place like Queenstown there are a lot of chances to hone your craft.

Once landing the job we started to look for housing the next morning. Similar to the job hunt, the apartment search is all about timing and persistence. We were very selective about the location, setup, and price of the apartments that we pursued so while trademe.co.nz was filled with options we had to look hard for the right fit. Luckily we found Pete and Sophie offering their room in a large house on Queenstown hill. It was the perfect fit- private bath, private deck, huge living area, a ping pong table, walking distance to town, and most importantly AWESOME roommates! Pete and Sophie are moving to Whistler to catch the North American ski season so we slipped into their room at the perfect time and may, if we’re lucky, be able to swap back with them during the NZ ski season. If you couldn’t tell, they’re big skiers, something we’ll be getting back into this winter too.

Boozey brunch with the new flatmates! Reminds us a lot of our weekends in NYC

Boozey brunch with the new flatmates!

So we are now officially moved into our new flat in Queenstown. We kicked off the first weekend with a goodbye bbq for Pete and Sophie, which reminded us a lot of the shenanigans we used to get into at home.  We’re really looking forward to staying in one place for a while. I think it’s an important part of the travel experience. We spent the first four months of our trip wandering across the country, but you only see so much as a tourist. Now we’re ready to experience the kiwi lifestyle first-hand. And as always, we’ll be sharing almost all of the gritty details with you back home!

Climb every mountain, ford every stream....

Climb every mountain, ford every stream

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The kiwi capital has been a gracious host, but after spending nearly seven weeks here it’s time for us to move on. In two days we’ll hop a ship and cross the Cook Strait en route to the South Island. Before we do, however, we share with you the best and worst of Wellington.


  • Public transport: while we can’t fault the city government for not having a train/subway service (geography makes it impossible), the bus system is a poor excuse for public transportation. A one-way ride to the center of the city is just under $4. Multiply that two rides a day, five rides a week and it’s no secret why most Wellingtonians opt for cars.
just another empty bus in Welly

just another empty bus in Welly

  • 20-26 Demographic: the age-group is largely unaccounted for in Wellington. Most young kiwis have flown the coup to Australia or the U.S. to pursue better employment opportunities. This didn’t shock us since Auckland was similar, but once again demographics were cramping our social style.
  • Cost of living: unfortunately this has been getting higher every day, thanks to our politicians in Washington. When we arrived the kiwi dollar was just under 0.79USD and it’s currently sitting around 0.84 (though we’ve seen it spike to 0.87). Like all cities, Wellington isn’t cheap. And like all islands, you pay a premium for everything in New Zealand. Especially food and beer.


  • Weather: maybe the seven-plus weeks we’ve spent here have been an anomaly. But our experience refutes all the warnings people offered ahead of our arrival. Sure, “Windy Welly” has some gusty days. But it’s a port city on the Pacific Ocean! The sun’s been out and blasting 80% of the time and we got scorching sunburns on Christmas.
December 25, 2012

December 25, 2012

  • Urban planning: big thumbs up to the civil engineers. Wellington’s CBD is extremely walkable and easy on the eyes. Lots of scenic lookouts over the harbor and enough green space to forget you’re in a major city. Yesterday we napped on bean-bag chairs overlooking a canal filled with kids racing paddle boats.
  • Coffee: no shortage of cafes and they all brew a high quality cup of Joe. Franchise roasters (cough, Starbucks, cough) are the minority, and that’s a good thing. Each cafe has it’s own taste and identity. One of our favorites is Fidel’s on Cuba street.
  • Botanical gardens: walking through here felt like we were visiting the secret garden. Granted I’ve visited more beer gardens than botanical ones, but Wellington’s park made my day and blew my mind. It’s a mix of wooded trails, carefully manicured bushes, a handful of monuments, and a very English rose garden.
how'd they make the water look like a Van Gogh painting?

how’d they make the water look like a Van Gogh painting?

  • Te Papa: the national museum and art gallery rivals any of the Smithsonian addresses. Five floors of history. You could spend a week there and still not even see everything. (And it’s free!)


  • Hobbit Premier: on one hand, standing along the red carpet at a blockbuster’s world premier was a once in a lifetime opportunity. On the other hand, waiting three hours to catch a 7-second glimpse of Peter Jackson sweating through his suit was something my sunburnt face could have done without.
at least we saw James Cameron

at least we saw James Cameron

  • Hostel scene: pretty lackluster. Lonely Planet’s pick is the YHA, which is a large international hostel chain. The Wellington YHA felt more like a hospital than a hostel. And smelt like one too.
  • Beaches: to put it this way, Silvershell, the puny beach from my hometown, offers a much nicer experience than the Wellington beaches. The sand is dirty, the water is cold and dog poo abounds. But viable beaches in a capital city? Not many U.S. capitals can boast that. So we won’t complain about it…too much.

Up next:

Kia Ora, Lisa! My mom landed in Auckland yesterday and is spending two days there to see the sights. We’ll rendezvous with her in Wellington tomorrow and spend a couple days here before setting our bearings to the South Island for another epic road trip.

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After a one-month respite in Wellington, we recently hit the road for a 2-week trip covering several of the North Island’s major destinations. We finally welcomed our first visitor when Broghan landed on December 4. Although we considered spending the majority of her trip in and around Wellington, we quickly came to our senses. When a best friend travels across the world for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation there is only one right way to ensure you make the most of the visit….ROAD TRIP!!!

our trusty steed

our trusty steed – The Erl of Wellington

What follows is an overview of each stop we made along the winding “highways” of New Zealand; highlights, lowlights, and lots of pictures. As always, you can re-trace our footsteps here.

New Plymouth

The coolest thing about NZ’s west coast, in my opinion, is the black sand that covers every beach. It’s as fine and smooth as typical white sand, but it comes from volcanic sediment, hence the black.

someone got some air

someone got some air

New Plymouth is a small city (closer to a large town) known for its proximity to Mt. Taranaki, an active yet quiet volcano. Hiking Mt. Taranaki was supposed to be the highlight of our two days in New Plymouth. But here’s the view as we drove up the mountain:

ideal trick or treating conditions

has anyone seen the movie “The 13th Warrior”?

So we didn’t hike Mt. Taranaki. In fact, we didn’t even see it. But we did visit a bizarre contemporary art gallery and spent lots of quality time in our hostel, Ducks and Drakes, which we give two big thumbs up. We met two young Americans and a handful of other colorful characters who we stayed up late playing a NZ version of monopoly with. Needless to say, Meg won.

We left New Plymouth disappointed in our failed hiking expedition. However, one thing we’ve learned is the importance of never passing up a spontaneous opportunity, which led to the highlight of the first leg of our trip. On the way out of town we passed an unassuming sign for “the whitecliff walkway.”

this isn't instogram

white cliffs, black sand, red jackets

After a worthy detour along the scenic white cliffs (we also passed fornicating cattle, which was interesting) we drove two hours north to our second stop.


This is one of those places that would be insignificant if it didn’t have a MAJOR tourist draw. Waitomo is famous for deep underground caves that are illuminated by glow worms. In truth, the glow worms are a marketing ploy. The caves are lined with decaying maggots covered in glowing feces and fluids, but that doesn’t make good copy for a brochure. Nevertheless, our three-hour journey floating through the caves on inflatable tubes was worth every penny.

3 israelis, 1 brit, 1 swiss, 3 y

4 americans, 3 israelis, 1 brit, 1 swiss miss

The caves are dark, wet and cold. The company we toured with provided soup and hot showers after the trip. We enjoyed socializing with a highly international group and met another American (the bearded beast in the front row) who was heading to the same place as us. So we gave him a lift- our very first hitchhiker.


By far our favorite stop. It helps when the sky is cloudless and the mercury is pushing 80 degrees, but I suspect we would have loved Raglan in a blizzard. It’s a sleepy surfing town peopled with a mix of hippies, foreigners and young families.

cooling off with a New Zealand Lager

cooling off with a New Zealand Lager (the unofficial sponsor of the brogtrip)

The Raglan Backpackers is the town’s most popular hostel and it’s not hard to see why. It’s situated on a tranquil estuary next to the center of town and features a green courtyard with a large hot tub. Fortunately we booked ahead because our hitchhiker friend was turned away at the door. Our first night we stayed up late yarning with a crazy but endearing older lady who was visiting Raglan for a 7-hour hike. We think her name was Varushka. On our second day we hit the beach.

blue crush the sequel

blue crush the sequel

Later that night we brought America to Raglan. We made hamburgers the size of mangos and tested the elasticity of our stomaches. Then we scoped out Raglan’s surprisingly vibrant night life at a watering hole called Yot Club and watched a talented kiwi rock band.


Arguably the adventure hub of the North Island. While Broghan is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Meg and I are a bit more timid. So we didn’t sky dive or bungy jump, but we made sure to try some new experiences.

real life mario kart - meg was throwing banana peels

meg was throwing banana peels like Bowser

Rotorua is famous for its preservation of Maori culture and infamous for a loitering sulfur odor. It’s actually nicknamed Sulfur City, but it’s not a totally undesirable trait. While the odor is the most obvious indicator of Rotorua’s geothermal activity, we managed to enjoy some additional evidence.

soaking in a thermal pool at the polynesian spa

soaking in a thermal pool at the polynesian spa

After three relaxing days in Rotorua – including 3.5 hours watching the Patriots dismantle the Texans at a local pub – we headed south to our last stop before Wellington.


The Hawke’s Bay region is known for its fertile soil and chardonnay grapes. Napier, the region’s primary city, is famous for its architecture and bills itself as the art deco capital of the world. A massive earthquake leveled the city in 1931 and the rebuilding efforts mimicked the style of the era. We could have paid $40 for the deco walking tour, but we opted for a more alternative self-guided tour.

8 wheels beat 2 feet 7 days a week

8 wheels beat 2 feet 7 days a week

The lowlight of this destination (and quite possibly the entire trip) was our hostel. The Sleepy Sheep was cheap, filthy and loud. Fortunately we didn’t spend much time there so it wasn’t a game-changer. During the day we roller bladed along the Napier boardwalk, explored the beaches of Cape Kidnappers, and best of all, sampled the finest of Hawke’s Bay viticulture during a 5-hour wine tour.

perfect day for a wine foray

we solemnly swear this background is not fake

At night we avoided spending time in the hostel by sitting in the town square and passing a bottle of wine around like it was our freshmen year of college. After an action-packed stint in Napier we loaded the car and returned to where it all started.

Wellington (take two)

We can’t say enough about our 2-week “Brogtrip.” It was actually so inspiring that some hot-shot producers want to make a movie about it.  And we had so much fun with Broghan – ate well, drank well and shared so many new experiences and laughs – that we’re already having withdrawal symptoms as we return to a slower, more sedentary pace.

The silver lining is that (at least for the next 3-weeks) we aren’t spending every night in a hostel. We’re currently house sitting for a Wellington family we met last month and have a spacious 2-bedroom home to ourselves for the holidays. The best part is that we have two new companions to celebrate with.

seasons greetings!

seasons greetings!

Speaking of celebrations….today is Meg’s 24th birthday!!!

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Before we jump headstrong into Wellington we thought we’d share our thoughts on Auckland. We were only in town for a week, so our impressions were probably a bit skewed, but nonetheless here they are. Hopefully it’ll provide a bit of perspective for our adventures in the capitol.


  • Queen Street: Have you ever heard a New Yorker rave about Times Square? Then you get the idea, I don’t think many Aucklanders go off about Queen St either
  • Ponsonby Shopping: Was actually amazing (think Urban Outfitters but the clothes are actually from local and vintage shops) but I’m giving it a Rain because I wasn’t able to buy anything and the temptation was cruel #poverty #backpacking

Tempting windows. Heavy bags



  • Happy Hours: Fatboy Fridays and $5 drinks at bars all around Ponsonby, and even one downtown, made drinking an easy choice
  • Ponsonby Cuisine: Plenty of variety and again some good deals meant we dined like kings
  • Gallery & Museum: Well you guys read about these already, and if you didn’t- caught ya! Here’s your second chance
  • Hostel Mates: Cool locals and visiting Aussies made our hostel feel like a college dorm- pre-gaming, movie nights, and all
  • Hostel Gossip: For as many cool people, there were a few nutters as well, but they provided some good stories for dinnertime chats

Fatboy friday specials at Degree on the Viaduct



  • Corporate Auckland: Those suits look just as miserable down undah as they did in NYC
  • The Sky Tower: Rather phallic. We’re over it
  • One Tree Hill: We got lost on the bus ride over and didn’t care enough to find our way, so we figured you wouldn’t either. JFGI


A bit over the top right?


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A visit to the kiwi capital is preceded by the city’s reputation of combative weather, but not in a negative way. New Zealanders endearingly refer to it as “Windy Welly.” Whenever we told someone we were headed to Wellington, they’d often shiver and say something along the lines of: “Good luck! Actually, I love Wellington. Peter Jackson’s based there.”

PJ’s headquarters – shrouded in a cloak of secrecy

By the numbers: Wellington is the second largest city (Auckland is #1) and its population of 400,000 is spread over 290 square-kilometers. Roughly 62,000 work in the CBD and most people live in one of the city’s 60 suburbs. It’s been the capital since 1865, when Parliament re-located from Auckland, and is at the southern point of the north island. The three-hour ferry between the two islands crosses from here to Picton.

view across Wellington Harbour

As far as our current accommodation, loyal Sheap followers will recall Karen from our plane ride. Karen’s daughter is visiting her brother for November and needed someone to house-sit and watch her cat for the month. Karen put us in touch and as a result we are writing to you from her daughter’s two-bedroom home in the Miramar suburb. Not the same Miramar as Top Gun; though that would be cool. But this Miramar is also significant to the film industry because it’s home to Peter Jackson’s production company.

Meg claims she’s not becoming a cat lady – Coco would beg to differ

An extensive bus network makes downtown Wellington easily accessible from the suburbs. The city center is extremely walkable albeit a bit hilly. Courtenay Place is the main drag for bars and restaurants, while Cuba St. is known for its bohemian shops and funky street performers. As we walked around we were struck by Wellington’s similarities to several American cities. Some of the quiet cafe-lined side streets felt exactly like Providence, while the townhouses sloping up a hill on the next street could have been in San Francisco.

One city Wellington does not remind us of is Washington, which is odd since it’s the capital. You’ll hardly hear people discussing politics on the streets or in the cafes; and the only evidence we’ve seen of a political environment is Obama signs hanging outside a handful of bars and shops. The Prime Minister’s office and Parliamentary building is located at one end of the city and is not hard to miss. Primarily because it looks like a massive beehive. (It’s actually called The Beehive).

maybe we should call our Capitol “the wasp nest”

Next up: A very Hobbit Thanksgiving. We may be 10,000 miles from home, but that won’t stop us from celebrating our favorite holiday. If anyone has suggestions for delicious and not-too-difficult recipes, please share in the comment section. Rich, we’re still waiting for your grandmother’s sausage stuffing.

The Hobbit is premiering in Wellington on November 28, so although we’ll be far away from football we won’t be lacking in the entertainment department.

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Eliott and I were apprehensive before arriving to Gisborne. We didn’t know the specifics of our work/stay, just that we’d be on a farm. I imagined docking sheep in a mud pile, while Eliott saw himself riding a motorbike across fields herding a flock. We were surprised and relieved to discover that the “farm” was actually just a lifestyle block with chickens and fruit trees. Lifestyle blocks are common in NZ. It’s basically a family home with a patch of land, a few animals, and a larger-than-normal garden. The “fruits” of the farm are used primarily to sustain the family. The idea of self-sustainable living is popular in NZ and while it takes a bit more effort, we’re finding it also has many perks.

These hills are alive with the sound of music

The family that we’re staying with have been fantastic hosts. Greg and Sue have taken “wwoofers” for many years now and also travelled the world in their early years. They moved to Gisborne because of the amazing surf and it’s sunny disposition. They have three wonderful kids, Jaques (14), Charlie (12), and Eva (6).

Damn vagabonds

Now to business: what are we doing to earn our camper van and 3 square (delicious) meals? Just some good old-fashioned housework and a hell of a lot of gardening. We’re growing quite the green thumbs on this trip. The day’s chores range from dusting and scrubbing to weeding and mowing. Every morning we also feed the chickens and collect the eggs. We then take it upon ourselves to consume a majority of those eggs. Waste not, want not as they say. The lifestyle block is a very comfortable way of living. There is always fresh produce and meat around the house, and yet the family is not required to labor in the yard tirelessly. We enjoy ripe fruits, fresh eggs, bacon (RIP Wilber), and the other night rooster meat (thus quieter mornings)! We were also able to witness the miracle of life this week. Nine adorable chicks were born in the coop. The alpha male and mother are white, but a couple of the chicks came out dark brown. Eva most eloquently explained the different pigmentation to us, “Another rooster must have had a twinkle in his eye…” Which goes to show that the the lifestyle block can also teach us some valuable life lessons.

Curious colors here…

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