How I plan our holidays

I like to think of myself as a highly organised person. Not just at work, but also in my home life. I do meal plans, write budgets and always have checklists on the go.

So I thought I would change things up a bit and write a practical post on how I plan our holidays. Hopefully this will provide you with some inspiration and guidance for your next adventure.

The Big Decision

The first decision you will need to make is where you want to go. Now, this may be a geographical location, for example, our West Coast trip earlier this year. I have been there before, but mostly passing through, with a couple of days in Franz Josef. I didn’t have particular place(s) on the West Coast in mind, but I knew it was an area that I hadn’t seen much of and wanted to explore more.

But, deciding where you want to go may be more based around accommodation. When I planned our extended family holiday to New Plymouth, I didn’t start with New Plymouth in mind. We are a large group of 13; 8 adults and 5 kids. The planning for this trip began with looking for holiday homes that could accommodate us all, then looking at the geographical location and what there was for kids to do there.

Our Queenstown trip was about the seasons. I wanted to go away for our 10 year wedding anniversary, which is in July. In the middle of Winter. I knew that wherever we went would be cold, so I decided to look for places where we could celebrate and embrace the cold.

Or, it might be activity based. A long time bucket list item for me has been an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sounds. (It has been stuck to the fridge on my ‘wish list’ for about 3-4 years) When a special came up that included a 2 night cruise in Doubtful Sounds, I knew I needed to book it. The package also includes 2 nights in Te Anau, but the main attraction to this trip was the multi night cruise. (I look forward to sharing this experience with you in late September!)

The Planning Stage

This has got to be my favourite part. I literally spend hours researching and planning. I get so engrossed in it that 2 or 3 hours will have flown by in what feels like a matter of minutes. When I am in planning stage, you will find me sitting at the dining room table, (because you can’t be slouching on the couch when doing something as serious as travel planning) with travel books I have rented from the library and my laptop. I read blogs, watch vlogs and plow my way through the travel guides, jotting down anything that sparks my interest. It might be some quirky accommodation, an activity, a location, a restaurant, anything and everything that takes my fancy goes down on a bit of paper.

If it’s a trip that involves travelling around, for example, our West Coast Trip, I also get out a map and start plotting things down, looking at the geographical location of the things that have caught my attention and deciding how long we might need in each place. We often do these sorts of trips on our motorbike, so at this stage I am also looking at driving distances to make sure it’s feasible and also routes we could take that would get us off the main roads.


Sometimes, in my research stage, I will have come across a place I would really like to stay at. Other times, I am seeking out accommodation in locations that works with the rest of the plans I have made.

What I have found works quite well for us, is booking cheaper accommodation, so we have more money for food and activities. We have no issues spending the night in a backpackers in a private room with shared bathroom facilities if it means we can now afford to do a particular activity. Don’t get me wrong, I love to stay in luxury hotels and resorts, but when we do, I want make the most of our time there, using the facilities and relaxing, not out exploring.

I like to try and find accommodation that is a little bit different or has something special about it. Maybe it’s set in a forest, or has a hot tub, or great views, but sometimes it just comes down to location and how close it is to everything. It is nice to be able to step out your door and be right in the heart of the town or city.

I do like to find a bargain, so will spend quite a lot of time online, looking at options and checking different booking platforms. I also take the time to read through the reviews before I book the accommodation. If there are a lot of negative reviews then I usually rule it out, but when a place has lots of great reviews, I will make a point of reading most, if not all of the 1 and 2 star reviews (if any,) just to see what people have complained about. (Remember to check the date of the review as it could be a couple of years old) Usually the complaints are about things that wouldn’t bother me, but it’s a good habit to get into and can be quite insightful.

Once I know what activities we want to do, and on what days, I first check out discounted sites like Book Me. Several times I have managed to find the exact activity I was planning to book on this site and been able to get it at a discounted rate. It’s also great for just getting some ideas as you can search by region. With Book Me, it does pay to book in advance. There were a couple of times I left booking an activity and then went to book the day before or day of and it was sold out. I imagine they only sell a certain amount of places at the discounted rate for each day / session.


When it comes to meals, I definately don’t pre book anything or have a plan as to where we will eat for each meal. I do however, like to make a list of cafes, resturants, take-aways etc that have caught my attention during the research stage. Sometimes it’s nice to just go for a wander and see what places you stumble across, but if we don’t see anything that takes our fancy, I know we have a list to fall back on. This can also help with budgeting. If money is tight then you can pre select places that fall within your budget. We don’t tend to cook our own meals when we are away, preferring to dine out (it is a holiday after all) so the list can be quite useful

Pulling it all together

As emails come in from accommodation, activities etc that I have booked, I ‘star’ it so I can easily find it again. Once I have booked everything, I will pull all the info into a spreadsheet and create a final itinerary. This will include things like:

  • Accommodation address and phone number, along with check in and check out time and if breakfast is included.
  • Activity address, phone number, time and any other key information, such as ‘wear closed toed shoes’ or ‘bring a towel’
  • List of recommended cafe’s/restaurants/take away’s in the area.
  • Any other activities we might like to do, time permitting, that don’t require booking, such as a walk in the botanical gardens or on the beach.
  • If we are on the motorbike, I will also include distances and approximate riding times.

When we went to Europe a couple of years ago, I used an app to store our itinerary which I really liked, however, the app is no longer free. I have tried a couple of other apps since but haven’t found anything I really like. In actual fact, I have just found typing out the itinerary, storing it my google drive and grouping all the email bookings and confirmations in one place to works very well.

So there you have it. That’s how I plan our holidays. I am sure some of you are reading this and feeling a bit exhausted or overwhelmed. Some may not have even made it to the end as it is just far too structured for your liking. And that’s ok. Everyone is different. You might love winging it, only booking things a couple of days out at a time to give you flexibility and freedom to change things up as you please. This is just how I do it, and I thrive off planning and structure. I also prefer to pre book activities so I know I wont miss out due to them being full. I know this method wont be for everyone, but hopefully some of this has proven useful.

If you ever have questions about any of the places I have visited, please get in touch, I love talking about New Zealand travel and would love to hear from you!

Where are you heading to next?

Exploring Greytown

My day starts with my morning yoga. Afterwards, I lie on the floor for a while, looking out the huge windows, up at the sky. I did some cloud watching last year in lockdown and remembered thinking then that I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that. It is one of those simple pleasures that I seldom make time for. The sky is one of nature’s stunning canvases that’s always changing. For me, cloud watching creates a place of relaxation and freedom from the mind. It allows me to escape from the tasks of the day and run away with ideas, creativity and dreams. You should try it sometime!

After cloud watching, we head out to Greytown, awarded the title of ‘New Zealand’s most beautiful small town’ in 2017. Greytown was first settled in 1854 and remains of the historical township are still present today. It’s a place I have driven through many times, but seldom looked around, making it the ideal place for day 2 of girls weekend.

If you are into shopping, you will love Greytown. There is such a selection here; Vintage shops, boutique shops, op shops and more. You can easily spend the day perusing the stores. And while we do look in every shop, the places that get my attention are the cafes.

One of our firsts stops is at The French Baker. There is such a delicious selection of sweet treats and pasties, it’s a really hard choice (I am sure there were savory options too, but I only had eyes for the sweets.) After changing my mind several times, I settle on the Almond and Pear Tart. One great decision made already for the day. It was absolutely stunning. Sweet, crumbly, melt in the mouth deliciousness, beautifully off set by the tangy yogurt. While I really only had eyes for my tart, the ambiance here is also lovely, with beautiful plaster designs on the ceiling.

Wandering down the street, I take time to enjoy the old buildings, beautifully restored with their old facades still intact. I notice some plaques on some buildings, sharing the history; when it was built, what the shop was and a little bit about the family that lived/worked there. I love this little touch, it provides a glimpse into the past and I stop to read a few. One used to be a motorbike shop, another was a bakery and there was even a boot shop. It’s an interesting read and even includes an old photo of the building so you can compare it to it’s current state.

After a few hours looking through the shops, I find my feet leading me straight into GelARTo. Once inside though, the smell of freshly baked waffles is too hard to resist. Fortunately their waffles are served with your choice of gelato so it’s a win win situation. It’s not really lunch food, but hey, I am on holiday. It has been a day filled with good food, lots of cups of tea, shops and great chats.

We visit the last few shops on the street (I think we must have gone into every single shop!) before making our way home. Dinner is at Little Square Pizza in Martinborough. The first time I had pizza from here, it was just a little ‘hole in the wall’ pizza joint. It has obviously proved very popular as they have now expanded to a small restaurant with inside seating and alfresco dining. We have our dinner outside, surrounded by apple trees, bunting and string lighting. Its a lovely relaxed atmosphere. My delicious pizza with my crisp, refreshing apple cider, is a perfect ending to a great day.

Martinborough – Girls Weekend

The sun is shining. Music is playing. Car chats are happening.

Girls weekend has begun.

I was meant to be writing about the Martinborough Fair. I booked the accommodation for this specific weekend so we could attend. I made the booking in April 2020 during our first lockdown. I was foolish enough to believe that one year on, Covid-19 would be a thing of the past. But a community case and a 1 week move into level 2, means that the fair is cancelled. Gatherings of more than 100 people in Level 2 aren’t allowed and The Martinborough Fair attracts thousands. I will have to try again next year!

Even without the fair, South Wairarapa is a pretty cool place, so we decide to go anyway. The first stop is Featherston, at, you guessed it, C’est Cheese. Unfortunately the Drunken Nanny Black Tie Cheese is out of stock. I settle for a Maasdam-Meyer Gouda with a nutty flavour instead.

We spend some time looking around the little boutique shops in Featherston. It’s changed a lot since my childhood. It used to feel a bit tired and rundown but now it is quite transformed.

We arrive in Martinborough at our accommodation, a place I booked on Airbnb and WOW! The place looked good in the photos, but even better in reality. The house is amazing, very modern, comfortable, light, bright and spacious. Almost feels a bit too flash for us!

After settling in and unpacking, we head out for some food. It’s just a few minutes walk to The Square, so we enjoy an easy stroll down the wide flat streets. The Square is busy this evening, there are a lot more people around than I am used to seeing. I think a lot of people have decided to hold onto their accommodation booking just like us, and still have a weekend away. We head to a place called Union Square. I have been to Martinborough many times but never here and I am delighted to find they have a ‘create your own Gin’ menu.

You choose your glass, then your Gin, then your mixer and lastly your garnish. I am pretty new to Gin (Thanks Wharekauhau for introducing me to it!) There is so much choice I find it a bit overwhelming! I go for the ‘Bowl Glass’ That’s an easy decision. Then I choose the Gin. I have had Martinborough’s Lighthouse before (That’s the one I got from Wharekauhau) so I choose Hayman’s London Dry. It’s just the first one on the menu. There are 14 to choose from and really, I don’t know anything about Gin. There are 10 mixers to choose from, I select a grapefruit tonic and for my garnish, I select Passionfruit and Lemon from the list of 6. The end result?

My G&T is enjoyed alongside a caprese salad in the gorgeous garden bar. We find a shady spot, surrounded by roses and climbing vines that amble up the side of the building.


After slipping into holiday mode, we make our way to Martinborough Wine Merchants. They have such a huge selection of local wines, spirits and artisan foods. It’s a great place to have a little wander round and pick up some local products. Now Martinborough produces some world class Pinot Noir’s and it is an excellent place to do some wine tastings (You can read about it in a previous post ‘Cycling the Martinborough Vineyards Part 2’) But, if you are short on time, you might like to check out Wine Merchants (for retail) or if you are wanting to taste a variety of wines under one roof then head to Wine Bank. (I am yet to give this place a go)

Dinner is a delicious selection of local cheeses, breads and spreads, which we eat in the sun room, watching the day fade into evening. I love Martinborough, it’s one of my favourite places. It’s boutique shops, artisan foods, crafts and relaxed country vibes. Every time I come here, I just end up thinking how much I would love to live here.

Planning your West Coast Itinerary

Initially I thought I would write a post called something like ‘The Ultimate 1 week West Coast Itinerary’. Certainly I have come across many similarly titled blogs. But the more I thought about it the more I realised that the components that make it the ‘ultimate Itinerary’ for me, won’t necessarily be the ultimate for you.

I was in Italy 2 years ago and while I liked Italy, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. This has nothing to do with Italy, it’s an incredible place, but more to do with the activities I planned. We did all the art galleries and historical sites, you know, all the things that you do when you go to Italy, but the truth is, art galleries are not really my thing (although seeing the statue of David was quite an experience). I like a bit of history, but I’m not a history buff.

Then we got to Slovenia and we fell in love. The crystal clear waters, snow capped mountains, rolling hills. That’s my thing. If we had spent our time in Italy in the Lake District and Dolomites Mountains, I am almost certain that I would have also fallen in love with Italy.

So I wanted to share our West Coast itinerary with you, but also leave you this piece of advice, this is by no means the only things you should see and do, pick and choose from it, the parts that get you excited and give you wonderlust. Craft your own epic adventure.


Here is the route we took.

  • Day 1: Wellington to Picton by ferry, then onto Punakaiki via Nelson
  • Day 2: Short day trip up to Charlestown with a side trip to Westport
  • Day 3: Punakaiki to Frans Josef
  • Day 4: Day in Franz Josef
  • Day 5: Franz Josef to Hokitika via Okarito
  • Day 6: Day in Hokitika
  • Day 7: Hokitika to Mt Lyford via Lewis Pass
  • Day 8: Mt Lyford Lodge to Wellington via Kaikoura and Picton

Wellington to Punakaiki

Ferry Crossing: The first part of our journey involved crossing the Cook Straight. As we had a vehicle (our motorbike) we had 2 options, Bluebridge or The Interislander. If you are a foot passenger, Bluebridge may be a better option for you as it is located across the road from the train station so is really convenient. I have also found that Bluebridge tends to be a little cheaper. The reason we have used The Interlslander the last couple of times is because of the Plus Lounge, a fully catered, adults only lounge with guaranteed seating. It’s a really relaxing way to start or end your journey and your meal, drinks (and snacks) are taken care of.

The Route: We didn’t take the most direct route to Punakaiki. Being on the motorbike we always look for the scenic coastal routes and twisty roads, trying to stay of big main highways. I would highly recommend Queen Charlotte’s Drive that starts in Picton, taking you around some gorgeous coastline with stunning views, taking you all the way to Havlock.

Food: We carried on to Nelson and stopped for a bite to eat at Burger Culture. Simply scrumptious food. If you’re in the mood for a sugar overload, they have a delicious selection of donuts. And milkshakes, topped with donuts!

Accommodation: We stayed at Te Niaku Lodge which was gorgeous. Our lodge was nestled into the forest, our windows looked out across the canopy. You feel like your in a tree house here. There is also easy access down to the beach where you can watch the setting sun.

Link: Check out this post I wrote, ‘Heading for the West Coast’

Tip: Check your map for directions. We didn’t, we just assumed we were on the right track and ended up taking a rather large detour that added on a fair amount of time.

Charlestown & Westport

The Route: After a long riding day the day before, I had scheduled in a late start. I spent the morning down on the beach, breathing in the fresh ocean air before we made our way to Charlestown for our activity. It’s only a 30 minute drive but the road is sensational. We pretty much had it to ourselves, twisting and turning along the coast enjoying the incredible views. After our activity, we headed another 20 minutes north to Westport to get some petrol before enjoying the great drive back.

Activities: We headed to Charleston for a caving, tubing and glow worm experience with Underworld Adventures. This was a 4 hour tour that was super fun. Caving is such a unique experience and this cave was particularly special, being very much in it’s natural state (no built walkways, hand rails, lighting etc) It also has the most incredible glow worm colony I have ever seen. Honestly, words can’t do it justice, it was out of this world mesmerising!

Food: We loved The Punakaiki Tavern, we had breakfast and lunch there. The hosts were really friendly. The food is what I would describe as simple, hearty, home cooked meals and the outside garden is the perfect place to enjoy the last bit of warmth from the sun before it says goodnight. In Westport we popped into Jimmy’s Restaurant and Bar expecting to grab a quick bite to eat but ended up staying for a couple of hours chatting to a local over some good food and drinks.

Link: Check out my previous post ‘Caving in Charlestown’

Tip: Be sure to keep an eye on your petrol. There’s a station in Westport and Greymouth but nothing in between. They are an hour and a half apart. If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself out of gas!

Punakaiki to Franz Josef

The Route: We headed from Punakaiki to Franz Josef, initially along the stunning coast and then through some beautiful rainforst. We made stops in Punakaiki and Hokitika for some activities.

Activities: We didn’t have any planned activities for the day as it was a riding day, but it was a leisurely ride so we were able to make some spontaneous stops along the way. The first being a walk at Pancake Rocks. The rock formations are quite unique as well as the blow holes. We also stopped at Hokitika Tree Top Walk and experienced the forest from birds eye view. In Franz Josef I also managed a short walk along Terrace Walk track which is through some lush, green glacier rainforest.

Food: We had a rather nice dinner at Monsoon Restaurant & Bar located on site at our accommodation. The buffalo cauliflower was delicious and even my carnivorous husband loved these.

Accommodation: Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef has been on my bucket list for a long time so I was really pleased to finally stay here. They have a range of accommodation options to suit every budget. They are in some beautiful grounds – lush rainforest, and centrally located. We also were given a room upgrade when we arrived which was a lovely surprise.

Tip: The blow holes at Pancake Rocks is tidal. If you can time your trip with high tide you will see it in it’s most impressive form. But, even if you can only visit at low tide it would still be worth checking out. At the time of writing, Hokitika Tree Top Walk is on Book Me, so if this is something you are able to book in advance then you should be able to get it at a discounted rate.

Link: You can read more details in this blog ‘Franz Josef Bound’

Franz Josef

Activities: It was a last minute booking through Book Me but we were able to spend the afternoon quad biking through some rainforest, sand dunes and across rivers. It’s a great wet day activity. We did this through Across Country Tour.

Food: The power was out for a while so we weren’t sure if we would be able to get brunch anywhere, fortunately SnakeBite was well prepared. They have a really cool atmosphere, mouth watering counter food and an extensive menu. A great place to sit and watch the world go by when it is pouring with rain (or the power has gone out)

Tips: Even if you are traveling in Summer, go prepared for rain. The West Coast is a very wet place (but it makes the rainforest smell incredible) If your looking for a deal in Franz Josef, be sure to check out Book Me. Or you could even just go for a stroll along the main street, I saw a lot of different deals being offered.

Link: Check out ‘Quad Biking in Franz Josef’

Okarito and Hokitika

The Route: We started heading back up the island, again through the spectacular forest and later along the coast, heading for Hokitika. It’s simply stunning

Activities: Okarito Kayak has been on my bucket list for a long time so I made sure to plan in this little detour. It did not disappoint. The lagoon was mirror like, reflecting the glacier forest and mountains. It is also the breeding site of the Kotuku (White Heron) It was a privilege to get so close to these majestic birds. In Hokitika, take some time to have a wander around the town, check out the beach and take a look at the Hokitika Driftwood sign down on the beach.

Food: We were rather famished after our 3 hour kayak trip so we made a stop in Harihari, a small, rural settlement. We had lunch at the Pukeko Store and Cafe. Filled with some deliciously tempting home baking, pies and friendly service, this was a delightful little stop.

Accommodation: In Hokitika we ended up staying at Mountain Jade Backpackers. I couldn’t find any accommodation that wowed me, at a price I was happy to pay, so we went budget and central. It was a great location, clean tidy facilities and perfect for our requirements.

Tips: Take insect repellent if you go to Okarito Lagoon. They will attack you in thousands!

Link: Kayaking with Herons


Activities: Of course you could buy your own greenstone souvenir, but why buy a pre made one when you can carve it yourself. At Bonz ‘n’ Stonz you create your own piece to take home. Everything you need it provided and there are excellent tutors on hand to help you every step of the way. This was a most excellent day.

Food: If your a pizza lover like me, head to Fat Pipi Pizza. Fresh, simple ingredients, delicious food and a lovely outdoor courtyard. Also try Sweet Alice’s Fudge Kitchen if you are craving a sugar hit.

Tips: Make sure you allow time to sit and watch the sunset. Hokitika is famous for its gorgeous sunsets. Even on an overcast day like we had, it was still a beautiful sight.

Link: Read more about my greenstone carving experience here.

Lewis Pass & Mt Lyford

The Route: This is where we left the West Coast. We could have gone back up country through the West Coast but it would have been a lot of back tracking. Instead we headed over to Canterbury to My Lyford, via Lewis Pass. Its a pretty well known route and a nice bit of road.

Activities: Check out Hokitika Gorge before you leave. You will be wowed by the incredible colours of the water. Its an easy walk too, suitable for all fitness levels.

Accommodation: We splashed out a bit here and stayed at Mt Lyford Lodge. Nestled into the mountains with a couple of spa pools, it was the perfect place to soak away the aches of being on a motorbike for a week, while breathing in the fresh air, watching the sun slip behind the hills and enjoying a drink or 2 at the bar.

Tip: Just be alert on Lewis Pass. It’s a popular road with tourists (along with many other South Island roads.) We drive on the left hand side. There are instances where tourists will get confused and drive on the wrong side. Or sometimes just stop on a blind corner to take photos of the beautiful scenery. A lot of our highways are not like highways you may be familiar with. Narrow, single lane and twisty. Make sure you allow a lots of time.

Link: Turquoise Water, Swing Bridges and Pool.


The Route: First you will do the inland route to Kaikoura. If your on a bike, just watch out for gravel, there was quite a bit on the road when we did this ride as well as a year ago when we were down that way. From Kaikoura to Picton you get to enjoy more coastal road, this time along the East Coast. Keep an eye out for seals which you can easily spot from the road while driving (Only do this if your a passenger! Eyes on the road driver.) You will see them on the rocks or frolicking about in the ocean.

Activities: If you are in Kaikoura and an animal lover, Kaikoura Seal Swim is outstanding. Don’t go near seals on land, they can be very aggressive. But in the water, just wow. I have heard them be described as dogs of the ocean and they really are. They are playful, curious and so much fun to watch. This experience was a real highlight.

Link: Want to know more about swimming with seals? Read my previous post here.

A few other things

There were a few activities we didn’t get to do on this trip for various reasons, but I want to still mention them here as I think they would be activities that are well worth while.

  • The Wild Kiwi Center in Franz Josef. We ran out of time for this one. Here you will be able to see Rowi, the worlds rarest kiwi, and tuatara, often described as the oldest living dinosaur.
  • Lake Matheson – a glacial mirror lake that is picture perfect. But you want to see it on a nice day to get the full impact of the lake. I have tried to get here twice now. Hopefully it will be third time lucky.
  • In Franz Josef we were booked in for a glacier nature tour with Glacier Valley Eco Tours. This was unfortunately cancelled due to the weather. We were prepared to get wet, but DOC had closed the walking track. We were in the West Coast back in 2012 and were able to do a tour of Fox glacier. It was such a unique experience and I am definitely keen to do something like this again. The difference being that now, if you want to walk on the glacier, you need to do it by helicopter, you can no longer walk in. The tours with Glacier Valley Eco Tours don’t go on the ice but do offer views of the glacier, along with expert knowledge of the area.
  • I was hoping to book in a nighttime kiwi spotting tour with Okarito Kiwi Tours. We unfortunately missed out as they closed up from 2nd Feb, but they reopen again in October so make sure you check them out.
  • At the top of the West Coast is a place called Karamea, home to the Oparara Basin Arches. These natural limestone arches were formed by the Oparara river and sound really impressive. The main reason this one didn’t make it onto our itinerary is because access is down 13km of gravel road. Gravel road is not fun when your on a sports bike.

So there you have it. Some suggestions on how to spend your week on the West Coast. I am sure that you will, like me, fall in love with this part of the country. The people, the forests, glaciers, wildlife, it feels pure and untouched. The glacial rainforest had me captivated. They made me swoon. The vibrant colours, the ancient feel from moss covered trees, it’s unlike any other forest I have experienced before. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Planning a West Coast itinerary? What parts will you be including in your epic adventure?

Discovering Hokitika


A coastal town in the West Coast of the South Island with a population just under 3000.

We didn’t really know what to expect when coming here. I booked us a couple of nights because it was a convienent stopover point on our way back up the country and I found out you could do greenstone carving here which I thought would be fun.

What we discovered was a delightful town with lots of crafts, great sunsets and fun activities. It’s a place we would both certainly visit again and I feel this town deserves it’s own post

Here are 10 activities we really enjoyed while here:

Greenstone Carving

This is the reason we came to Hokitika. Although a rather pricey activity, Bonz ‘N’ Stonz was a really cool experiance. You begin by selecting your stone and drawing out a design and work through all the different processes, carving, contouring, sanding and polishing to create a unique piece to take home. It is very hands on with excellent tutors to help you along the way and give guidance on how to use the machines and tools. I wrote a whole post on this activity which you can check out here if you would like to know more.

Art Galleries

Turns out, Hokitika is a bit of a crafty town. I had an afternoon free so I took to the shops to check out the local talent. Of course, there is a lot of jade, stone and bone carving jewellery which you can buy if you don’t have enough time to do a workshop like mentioned above (or if crafts are just not your thing.) But there is much more than just this. There are beautiful artworks, lots of painting and photographs of gorgeous West Coast scenery. Hokitika Glass Studio is also a great place to visit and watch the glass blowers in action. It’s a fascinating process to watch.

Fossic for Stones

At fist glance, this may not seem like the most exciting activity, but I probably spent a good hour (a very enjoyable hour I might add) doing just this. Greenstone, while precious, is also quite common. You can find it down on the beach or along the river banks. Take a stroll along the shore and keep a look out for any interesting stones, you never know what you might find. Once you have collected your treasures, you can take them into Bonz ‘N’ Stonz and they will identify them for you.

Hokitika Sign

No trip to Hokitika is complete without a visit to the beach to get a snap of the famous Hokitika driftwood sign. This huge sign perched right on the beach is made entirely from driftwood. It’s creator, Don Neale, made it a few years back as an entry into the town’s Driftwood and Sand competition which happens every January. It has been a permanent feature ever since. With the mighty Tasman Sea as it’s backdrop, make sure you check it out at different times of the day as the light changes behind it.

Watch the Sunset

Hokitika is pretty well known for it’s epic sunsets. Head down to the beach, pack a picnic and watch the sun slowly slip down below the big blue ocean. After a day of fun and excitement, it’s nice to be able to sit back, relax and marvel at how awesome this world is.

Go to the Flicks

I am not usually one for suggesting you spend your time shut away inside, but if the weather is bad or you are wanting a relaxed evening, why not check out the local cinema. It’s in the center of town in a beautiful heritage building. It was built and opened in the 1930’s and still oozes the charm of the art deco period. It seats nearly 400 people and when we went, we nearly had the place to ourselves.


Did someone say fudge? Yes please. Yes, I have a rather sweet tooth and just couldn’t resist making a stop at Sweet Alice’s Fudge Kitchen. It is bright and colourful, the cabinets lined with an assortment of tempting treats. (So hard to choose) So why not grab yourself a slice (or two, you naughty thing!) to enjoy while you walk on the beach or wander around the shops.

Mamma Mia Pizzeria

I do love a good pizza. If you do too, then head to Fat Pipi Pizza’s located pretty much on the beach. Dine inside and enjoy the ambience or outside in their delightful courtyard. Or get take away and have a picnic on the beach or enjoy in the comfort of your accommodation if it’s been a long day. Wherever you dine, their freshly made pizzas are sure to be a delight to your taste buds.

Hokitika Gorge

You will need a car for this one as it’s a bit out of town, but if you want to go exploring and stretch your legs, it’s a really great walk. We did a loop walk that took us about half and hour (wearing bulky motorbike gear) along a well maintained, easy walking track. There are lots of viewing platforms looking out at the gorge and your eyes will be treated to some amazing milky blue and turquoise water.

Hokitika Tree Top Walk

Get up high into the canopy and experience the forest from a different perspective. Enjoy walking along side giants and looking down on canopy, experiencing the forest with a bird’s eye view. Walk along 450 meters of platforms, 20 meters up in the air. For those who are brave, climb the tower, 47 meters above the forest floor or head out onto the cantilever and sway in the wind like a tree. You will need a car to get out to Hokitika Tree Top Walk but its a lovely way to spend an afternoon. We did this walk, you can read about our experience here.

Whatever you decide to do in Hokitika, I am sure you will find the town just as delightful as we did. Did I miss something? What have you loved doing in Hokitika?

Swimming with Seals

It’s the final day of our trip. Tonight we will be sleeping in our own bed again with our 2 dogs snuggled up next to us in the blankets. But it’s not over yet! We have one more activity planned that I am feeling incredibly excited about (and slightly nervous)

We pack up the bike one last time and take the inland route, heading to Kaikoura. We arrive a couple of hours early so we pass the time with coffee, lunch and a walk on the beach.

And then, it’s time for our seal swim! Last year we did a dolphin swim but unfortunately we only saw Hectors Dolphins (which was amazing) but they are protected and you’re not allowed to swim with them. That’s just how it is with wild animal encounters though. It’s never guaranteed, but when it does happen, it’s pretty special.

When I told Daniel I had booked us in to go swimming with seals, he wasn’t impressed. He said, ‘aren’t they super aggressive and don’t they bite? And I don’t want to get wet and cold. I’m not looking forward to this.’

I have grown up knowing that seals can be pretty aggressive and that you should never approach them. But that is on land. On land they pretty immobile, I have always thought they look pretty awkward. Their immobility on land makes them very vulnerable, which is why they can be so aggressive, especially if you get between them and the water.

But in the sea, you are in their world. They are fast and agile and not at all aggressive toward people (so we are told.) They could out swim us in a second if they wanted to so we are no threat.

Today we are joining Seal Swim Kaikoura for this experience. Like most of our tours on this trip, we are the only people. We have definitely witnessed the impact Covid has had on our tourism industry. I hope the industry can re-emerge stronger and even better when our boarders eventually open. New Zealand has so much to offer the world!

We have our safety briefing and get kitted up in all the gear, including a wet suit hood in thick neopreme. It’s all so snug and hard to get on but no doubt will keep us really warm. (Daniel will be pleased) We are also given a mask, snorkel and flippers. They even had prescription masks for Daniel to use which was amazing. I had never really considered his limited visibility without his glasses.

We waddle in all our gear out to the van and take a short drive down to the jetty while Vanessa shares some history of the New Zealand fur seals with us. These seals have very thick, warm fur, which means when settlers arrived, they were heavily hunted. Before being hunted, there were said to be around 1-2 million, but nearly became extinct. Fortunately they became protected in the mid 1900’s and today, the NZ population is around 100-300k. I had no idea they had been hunted so fiercely. I have seen seals in many place in Aotearoa and had never considered them an animal that had been endangered.

We get onto the boat and head out into the ocean. There is a bit of a swell and the boat bumps up and down a bit on the waves. I am the first to spot seals. Two of them. We watch them for a while to see if they are feeding or chilling. They look pretty relaxed, fins flapping about, rolling around in the water. But they are in open water so we move on. Our guide wants to try some other spots to see if we can find some that are closer to the rocks.

Seals spend a lot of their time out in deep water, fishing and feeding. They will stay out there for ages until they are completely exhausted, then they come back to the rocks to rest. Because of their thick fur, they overheat easily so will pop back in and out of the water to cool off on sunny days. Today is cool and overcast so the seals are hanging out on the rocks more than they normally would. We are told we need patience and persistence on this tour.

After visiting a few spots, we find an area that is reasonably sheltered with good visibility in the water, seals on the rocks and one in the water. Perfect. We slip into the water quickly and as quietly as we can, although in all that neoprene I still make a bit of a splash.

We swim out slowly towards the seal, I put my head under, and, AMAZING!

I am looking right at this seal in front of me. What an incredible experience. Another seal gets into the water, then another and at one point there are 4 in the water with us. We spend a lot of time watching each other, checking each other out, the seals getting comfortable with our presence. Then they begin getting curious and swim closer and closer (We are told not to swim closer than 1 meter to them, but if they swim up to you that’s fine) I have the most amazing experience, looking at a seal that is so close and we just hang out in the water, staring at each other for ages. It has such big beautiful eyes and its fur is so sleek. They are such graceful, playful, agile creatures underwater. Nothing like the awkward blobs that sit on land. The ocean is their territory and the own it!

Our guide is floating close by, watching and telling us where to look. A couple of times he calls out, ‘to your left’. I turn my head and there is a seal right there, so incredibly close. A couple of times they swim right under me. I do get slightly nervous at one stage, hoping the don’t decide to have a little nibble on me (after all, they are wild animals), but they are just curious. We spend ages in the water with them, it’s such an unreal experience.

After about an hour in the water, it’s time to head back. I have loved every minute of this, witnessing these beautiful creatures in their natural environment. I awkwardly climb back onto the boat, thinking about what a special experience this has been and then look up to see a pod of dolphins in the distance. What a fantastic trip!

And Daniel, he absolutely loved it.

We make it to Picton and board our ferry. We are in the Plus Lounge again. Now we have discovered it, it’s the only way to travel! We are on an evening ferry so I decide to pop out for a bit and watch the sunset. Even in the open water of the Cook Straight, the water is so flat. I have never seen it like this before, it’s a perfect crossing.

The South Island is a layer of silhouettes. The setting sun has blushed the sky pink with golden highlights that spill out into yellow and indigo water colours behind a dark marbled sky.

What an extraordinary sunset to end an extraordinary trip. Surely I live in the most beautiful place on earth.

Turquoise Water, Swing Bridges and Pool

It’s a riding day today. We need to get from Hokitika to Mt Lyford. It’s a 4 hour ride, but as we only really need to get from A to B, we decide to head to Hokitika Gorge for a walk.

It’s an easy 30 minute walk, along a well maintained path, through forest, with lots of viewing platforms to stop and admire the view. The track snakes it’s way along, following the gorge. Not long into the walk, we get our first proper look at the gorge from a viewing platform.

It’s stunning. The water is a gorgeous, milky, turquoise blue. I am sure it’s probably quite fast flowing, but the water isn’t wild and raging like I had expected.

It feels peaceful.

Kereru (native wood pigeon) are swooping through the gorge, birds are chattering away and I can hear the sounds of the leaf litter and gravel beneath my feet. The sounds of the forest.

Along the walk we come to two swing bridges. The first holds up to 6 people at a time. It crosses over the gorge and swings about a bit in the air, but not too much. I am ok with this height. My knees aren’t buckling and I am able to get some excellent, uninterrupted views out across the gorge.

The second bridge is much newer. It can hold up to 20 people and doesn’t really move around. Daniel pauses for a while to admire it’s structure and foundations. I am sure if left him to take all the photos, the majority would be of structures, cranes and fancy cars. (We have a lot of motorbike photos from our Italy trip, and Daniel’s photo of the Colosseum is actually of some construction work with the Colosseum in the background!)

It’s quite a warm day. The downside to travelling on a motorbike is having to do the walk in all our protective gear, along with carrying our helmets, as we don’t have enough luggage space to store it with the bike. It’s a rather sweaty walk. But soon enough we are back on the bike and that cools me down pretty quickly. We have a long ride a head of us so we jump back on the motorbike and make our way to Greymouth for lunch.

It’s amazing the difference that weather makes to a place. The last time we stayed in Greymouth, the weather was very dreary, grey and bleak. I didn’t think much of the place. Today the sun is shining, Greymouth is sun kissed and seems rather nice.

We continue our journey, we are heading East, taking The Lewis Pass to get there. We travel through forest and I can smell it. Damp, earthy and fresh. Amazing. I love the way travelling by motorbike allows you to interact with your surrounding and environment, much more so than in a car.

We follow the river for a while and then the road turns up into the hills. Its a really quiet road. It’s normally quite a popular one I believe but with no international tourism at the moment, we have the whole road to ourselves! It’s nice not having to worry about meeting other vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road (which does seem to happen a bit in popular tourist destinations here.)

We arrive at My Lyford, a lodge nestled into the hills. 5 minutes later I am in the spa pool, soaking away the aches from a long ride. Dinner is at the lodge but we decide to have a few pre-dinner drinks over a few games of pool. We are both as bad as each other but it’s an enjoyable and relaxed way to spend the evening.

Greenstone Carving in Hokitika

Today we are stepping out of the box and doing something a bit different.

Greenstone carving.

The Te Reo name for Greenstone is Pounamu. It’s a beautiful stone, found in the South Island. It is highly valued in New Zealand and carvings made from Pounamu play an important part in Maori culture.

I am really looking forward to carving my own stone today which I can take home with me.

We arrive at Bonz ‘n’ Stonz and I take a quick look around the shop at the pendants on display for some last minute inspiration. I have been thinking about this for a while and know I would like to keep it simple and make a drop pendant, but even then, there are so many options it’s a bit overwhelming. Daniel hasn’t given any thought to what shape he will make.

We are introduced to Steve and Niko who are our tutors for the day. The first task is to draw out our shape and choose our stone. These two tasks kind of work simultaneously. The other guy in our class has a picture of what he wants to make. We are not so organised. Both Daniel and I begin flicking through google images to try and decide what we are going to make – it’s a big decision!

I settle on a tapped, rectangular shape which I later am told is called Toki and symbolises strength, determination and courage. (Pretty awesome!) Daniel decides to carve his pendant into the head of a spanner.

There are a couple of containers filled with bits of pounamu so I start looking through it, picking out stones I like the look of and finding the ones that speak to me. It’s quite different to what I am use to seeing. The finished products are always so vibrant and glossy, in it’s natural form it is quite dull and unassuming. There are quite a range of shades, from light green through to very deep, green. There are even some in various shades of brown. It’s hard to choose when they are looking so dull, but if you wipe it with a damp cloth, you get a good indication of what it will look like when it’s polished.

I find a beautiful dark green piece with dark, almost black lines running though it with some lighter highlights. This will make a nice feature. Daniel selects one of the brown stones.

I draw my shape out on paper – a few times. I want to make sure it is symetrical, but also testing out different sizes. I draw it out on the stone in pencil and once I am happy with it, I commit and draw in the line with a marker. One of the tutors then roughly cuts it out, chipping away the stone closer to our drawn line.

Then it’s tool time. We are given aprons and ear muffs and given a quick demonstration on how to use the first tool. It’s like a belt and we have to use it to cut away the stone to the shape we want to make. Some of mine chips away (I am told the stone I picked is very hard) but it doesn’t matter, these will get smoothed away later in the process. Once we have the basic shape, it’s time to contour it. It’s challenging to get it all even, but after some time and perseverance (and some help from Niko) I get it looking pretty good.

The next task is to drill in a hole and make some indentations in the top to make room for the twine to sit. A new tool is required to do this with (a bit like a drill) so again, I am back to learning how to use it. Starting very slow and getting a bit faster as my confidence grows. There is lots of chiseling to do, bit by bit, slowly taking away bits of stone. It’s intricate work but slowly it starts to take shape.

Next it’s time to start sanding. At the start, our tutor told us that he probably spends just as long sanding as he does carving. When I see the 7 sanding blocks in front of me with their various grains, I know I am going to be here a while! I work my way down the blocks slowly so I can get a beautiful finish. Daniel is still carving his spanner – I know we will be here for a while longer so I am in no rush. I think I actually spend more time sanding than I did carving. It’s a slow processes. The stone needs to be wet to sand it, but the scratches and imperfections are easier to see when it is dry, so it’s a repetitive process of wetting, sanding, drying, inspecting then repeat. It’s a mindless task, but I am enjoying seeing the colours and lines start to appear more vividly in my pounamu. It’s getting smoother and smoother beneath my fingers and is starting to look quite stunning. Daniel and I both have trade backgrounds. He was a welder, now mechanic and I was a pattern maker and seamstress. I am really enjoying working with my hands again.

At one stage during the sanding process, a small part chips off. Steve is quick to the rescue and with his masterful skills and 20 years experience, he is able to fix it for me.

After 2 hours of sanding, I decide it’s time for waxing. I move onto the next machine that buffs the stone with wax. I thought it was looking pretty good after the sanding but wowzers! The wax transforms it again. It’s a pretty exciting process to watch.

The next task is to give it a gentle scrub with a toothbrush and some detergent to remove any wax build up and then it gets a quick dip in some baby oil. The twine is added next. It’s a very intricate and complicated processes, wrapping it, weaving it. It needs to be wound tightly and accurately so Niko does this part.

Then, Voilà!

My gorgeous toki pounamu pendant is completed. What a special souvenir to be able to take back home with me. I love the colours in it, and the best part is that I created it. From start to finish, a labour of love. Daniel has done an excellent job with his spanner, shaping it and contouring it, it wasn’t an easy project.

This has been such an amazing and memorable experience. It has taken us 5 hours, but 5 hours well spent I say. If you are ever in Hokitika, make sure you book in a carving workshop with Bonz ‘n’ Stonz. It’s been a real highlight of the trip!

Kayaking with Herons

The mist is hugging the hills. The lush green forest flowing out from beneath it. Once again, I feel like I am on the set of Jurassic Park.

There is no rain today. There is even a patch of sun breaking through the clouds, beaming down on a snowy mountain.

Surely I live in the most beautiful place in the world.

A short, 30 minute drive and we are at our next stop.


I have wanted to come here for a long time. Finally we are here. Today, we will be kayaking on the lagoon, which is home to the Kotuku (White Heron)

We are warmly greeted by our hosts. Again, it is just the two of us on the tour. They have kindly allowed Daniel and I to have single kayaks! Whenever we have been on kayak tours we get put in a double kayak, it’s so nice being able to have our own for a change. I have never seen kayaks like this before though. They have a small rudder at the back with pedals in the front that you control with your toes. I’m potentially going to be going round in circles. It might take me a while to get the hang of this!

Before long we are out on the lake, with a million sand flies. They are everywhere and feasting on my ankles for breakfast! Our guide, Gemma, assures us that they only hang out at the lake shore and will leave us fairly soon. Thankfully they do!

Once we are free from the hungry mouths of sandflies, I am able to start enjoying the perfect conditions. There is not a breath of wind. It’s a bit misty and drizzley, but really, this just adds to the atmosphere. The lake is so flat. It’s like a mirror, beautifully reflecting the land.

Absolute magic!

Not far into our expedition, we spot our first heron. It is magnificent standing there on it’s long, slender legs. It launches into the air and flies right past us, so silently, so elegant and graceful, until it open’s it’s beak. The honking, squawking sound it makes does not match the gracefulness of this bird!

The lake is so silent, the stillness is unreal. I am so used to city noise, but here, there is nothing. Peacefulness washes over me.

We continue our journey up river. It’s very green here. The native forest is filled with rimu, kahikatea, vine rata, wild orchids, flax, manuka. Gemma is very knowledgeable, pointing out all the different trees and answering my many questions about native flora and fauna. I love learning about my country, it’s history, wildlife and plants. This is why I often opt for guided tours over self guided. It costs more, but the experience is so enriched with the knowledge of a local guide.

Paddling further up river I spot little fish hanging out among the river plants. There are kereru (wood pigeon) and the gorgeous, cheeky little piwakawaka (fantail) that flitter about in the low tree branches. This is so incredibly peaceful and I delight in just floating along, listening to all the birds. In the distance I can hear the roar of the ocean.

While paddling back, we spot 2 more herons. They aren’t bothered by kayaks so you can get quite close. Gemma takes us on a different route so we can get closer, but warns us that the water here gets pretty shallow and we might get stuck. Worth the risk I say. The water does get shallow and in the end it is far easier to push yourself along using your hands against the mud bed rather than the paddle. We then run aground and have to get out and drag them. It’s kayaking at it’s finest!

We do manage to get pretty close to the herons though. They are not bothered by us so we enjoy watching them for a while. Totally worth getting wet feet!

Okarito is a very small settlement, a place probably not many people have heard of. I imagine so many would just drive straight by and not even know it was there. They are missing out. This kayak trip was all I had hoped it would be; peaceful, magical and so very special. If you are in the area, make sure you check out Okarito Kayaks.

It’s a breathtaking experience.

We have begun making our way back up country now. Tonight we are staying in Hokitika. It’s 2 hours away so we saddle up and carry on, driving through some splendid rainforest.


Lunch is in a small rural settlement called Harihari at the local cafe. For such a remote place, I am pleasantly surprised to see they have a vegan kumera and cashew pie on the menu. I also couldn’t resist sampling one of their homemade yoyos. I have to say, it was all pretty delicious.

We arrive in Hokitika, check into our accommodation and then I am straight out to explore the town. There are a lot of art and craft shops, particullary ones selling New Zealand Jade which is quite abundant in the area. I then head down to the beach – I want to see the Hokitika Drift Wood Sign.

A stroll along the beach is next on the agenda. Its a long beach, the sand seems to stretch on for ages. The sand is dotted with many fascinating stones. I collect a few to take home. You can even find pounamu (greenstone) right here on the beach. I pass quite a lot of time, fossicking about, looking for anything that might be greenstone.

I make sure I am on the beach for sunset. It’s not as spectacular as images I have seen of this beach, but it is a bit overcast today. Regardless, it is still lovely to sit on the beach and watch the fading sun as I reflect on the awesome day I have had.

Quad Biking in Franz Josef

Call us lucky, or maybe we are just foolish, but the last few times we have gone away, we haven’t taken wet weather motorbike gear. That’s pretty risky for the West Coast.

Today we have woken up to a wild, wet storm. But it’s not a riding day, so maybe we are lucky. Our room windows look out into bush and I am enjoying watching the storm from the warmth and comfort of our bed.

Today we are booked in for a Fox Glacier Nature Walk and Lake Matheson Walk with Glacier Valley Eco Tours. Unfortunately, due to weather, DOC has closed the Fox Glacier Track. And Lake Matheson, well, that’s famous for being a fabulous example of a mirror lake, but in this weather, it wouldn’t be worth viewing. So sadly, our tour today has been cancelled.

Not wanting to spend all day sitting in our room, I jump on line and have a quick look for some suitable wet weather activities. There is the Kiwi Center (slightly regret not visiting here) but we do decide to go quad biking. We have done quad biking before in terrible weather and it was super fun. The rain means big puddles to splash through and actually, it’s meant to be way better in the rain. When it’s dry, you just end up getting covered in dust!

The tour is not until the afternoon, so we decide to venture out in search of some breakfast. The power has gone out so we are not sure if anything will be open. We are hoping at least one place has a generator. We are in luck, SnakeBite Brewery obvously has a generator, the power outage hasn’t effected them. They are packed and serving up hot, delicious looking food. Breakfast sorted.

There are a lot of delectable looking treats in the cabinets, but I must resist. I almost don’t fit my motorbike jeans anymore! Sweet treats aside, its the perfect place to sit, relax and watch the stormy outside weather.

After a lazy start to the day, it’s time to go quad biking. Today’s adventure is with Across Country Quadbikes. We are the only ones on the tour, I guess no one else is crazy enough to do this in heavy rain, but I know it makes it more fun! We begin with a rather strict health & safety briefing, before getting kitted up in full wet weather gear and helmets. We are then shown how to operate the bikes (I am relieved that they are automatic) and are sent off around 2 different test routes.

Phew, I pass the test!

The first is easy, just going around in a circle and weaving in and out of markers. The second, I guess, prepares us for the type of terrain we are likely to expect – sharp turns, big slopes and a huge puddle. I am actually surprised at how deep it is, the water comes right up to my ankles. Fortunately we are wearing gumboots!

And then we are off! Its a 2 hour track along a variety of terrain – a road, glacial river beds, grasslands, rivers and the most stunning rain forest. At each section, our guide stops us for a quick chat about what type of terrain we are approaching and how to handle it. Each section seems to get a bit harder.

The first section, along the road, is rather challenging as we are in full wind and rain. I am driving in an open faced helmet, straight into the weather and can hardly see! Fortunately this doesn’t last long as we soon reach the forest. This section offers some tight turns and lots of puddles, some pretty long and deep. I love splashing through the puddles.

The next section is a narrow path with tight corners, among tall grasses. It’s along sand though, which is easy to ride on, which means, more speed!

Then we get to the riverbed. There are lots of hills, some quite steep, with plenty of river crossings. As I cross my first few rivers I am very much aware of the strength of the current as I push across on my bike. Its take me a long time to find the right speed, not too fast, but also not too slow that I get stuck.

The bike is heavy and powerful, it has no issues navigating the rocky terrain – it’s just my steering that’s the issue. I have to say, there are many occasions where my handle bars are going in every direction as I bump along over the rocks. My muscle lacking arms are getting a real workout trying to keep the bike on course.

We make a stop to get some photos while on the riverbed. On a clear day we would have been able to see Franz Josef Glacier, but today, it is hidden in a blanket of fog. Our guide explains that the area we are currently in, many thousands of years ago, would have been a glacier. From this perspective I am able to get a really impressive sense of just how big, deep and wide it was.

We start making our way back retracing our path. My favourite section is through the rainforst. It is warm, misty and covered in moss. I think from my previous posts you must be starting to get a sense of just how much I am in love with the West Coast Forest. It is making me swoon. We learn that this is called temperate rainforst and that it is very unique. It’s where glaciers meet forests and is only found in 3 places in the world. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers in New Zealand and Patagonia in South America. This rainforest is also home to our little Rowi kiwi which is the world’s rarest kiwi. There are less than 600 left in the wild. You can see them at the Kiwi Center.

We make it back to base, soaking wet, dripping head to toe on the outside but completely dry underneath. The wet weather gear was excellent!

Apologies for the quality of photos this week. They are still taken from our GoPro video. The rain was so persistent that the lens constantly had droplets of water on it, making everything a bit blurry.