2021!

I don’t know about you, but I have been enjoying dreaming up all the places I want to see this year, adventures I want to go on and experiences I want to have. There is so much to see and do here and everyday I am so grateful that I get to call this place home.

I am very fortunate to work for a company that gives us 6 weeks of annual leave, but even with all those days, I think I might be pushing it to do all these things. (And I am sure the credit card will have something to say about it too!)

So, without further ado, here are my travel ambitions for this year:

Explore the West Coast of the South Island. Its a pretty rugged place. Untamed, natural and gorgeous. Mirror lakes, glaciers and rainforest. Its also the wettest place in New Zealand. We drove through the West Coast about 8 years ago when we explored the South Island on our Motorbike. It rained the whole time we were there. When driving through Arthur’s Pass, we reached the sign that said ‘Welcome to the West Coast’ and right on cue, it began to rain. The itinerary is planned, our leave is organised and the pet sitters are locked in, I just need to actually book it all! This time I am hoping we will get to experience some sunshine. I have some pretty awesome activities planned out for this one. And of course, we will be on a Motorbike!

Wine! Last year we made a trip to Martinborough and cycled around the vineyards. We are only an hours drive away from here and I am super keen to do this again. However, this time, I want to pre-plan it (more so than last time) so we can visit the boutique vineyards that are only open for tastings by appointment. I am really interested to see what some of these vineyards have on offer and to hear their stories.

Go on the much delayed, Covid interrupted trip. My mum and I are both April babies. Last year, we were meant to have a birthday weekend away in Greytown. This was cancelled due to Level 4 lockdown. I then rebooked it for August but we had another outbreak which saw Auckland go back into Level 4 and the rest of the country into level 2. I booked it a third time for December and the host cancelled it as she had international family staying in the Airbnb for the foreseeable future due to the covid situation in their country. So, I am really hoping that this year we will be able to get our birthday trip in. Maybe to Greytown, or maybe Whanganui. Perhaps we can do both!

Take the dogs on holiday. For so long I have wanted to take a little holiday with the whole family. I have been pondering the idea of camping but all the ‘dog friendly’ camp sites require the dogs to be on a lead at all times. And we don’t have a tent. I have looked at lots of properties that say they are dog friendly, but then I read the small print and in some cases, the dogs aren’t even allowed in the house. My dogs are small, non shedding and are allowed on the furniture at home and sleep in our bed (yes, I know, spoilt) so it wouldn’t really be a holiday if I had to spend the whole time keeping them off the furniture. But…I have recently found an Airbnb in Otaki Beach that not only allows small non shedding dogs in the house, they are also allowed on the furniture and the bed! I can’t wait to do this! I am hoping I will be able to find some more dog friendly places so we can have more adventures together.

An adventure trip. I would so love to Kayak Able Tasman in a guided tour but it is pretty pricey. Definitely one day, but for now I have my eye set on the 3 day self guided river canoe down the Whanganui river. Being self guided it is much cheaper. There are cabins along the way so you don’t need to take tents and you can stop at your leisure to enjoy the surroundings. I am trying to convince my dad that this is a trip he should do with me.

Family holiday part 2. Last Spring, I spent a weekend at Waitarere Beach with my mum, dad, brother, sister in law, nephew and niece. We had so much fun and decided there and then that we needed to make this a seasonal trip. We are now half way into Summer so need to get cracking on this one! Lake Taupo sounds like a possibility. I am really keen to get my nephew out on a kayak or paddle board! The plan is to also have an Autumn, Winter and Spring trip. Watch this space.

Anniversary Trip. Last year, Daniel and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary in Queenstown. I had no intention to mark this occasion annually with travel, but we had such a great time, so why not. This time I am thinking maybe the Northern Explorer train journey with a few stops on the way. Maybe the Chateau in Tongariro. Hubby doesn’t know about this yet and he would rather be at work than on holiday so this one might be a bit of a challenge!

My annual ‘holiday on my own’. I have done this twice now. At the end of the year. An opportunity to get away on my own for a couple of days and recharge my batteries. So far I have been to Waiheke Island and Marlborough Sounds. I have no plans of where for this year, but Akaroa has crossed my mind.

So that’s my list! I am sure there will be more dreams and travel inspiration that pop up during the year, as well as unexpected adventures that present themselves. Will just have to wait and see.

What are your travel aspirations for 2021? Where in Aotearoa are you hoping to visit?

http://www.backpack-newzealand.com/mapofnewzealand.html

Reflecting on 2020

Happy New Year!! and Happy 1st birthday to my blog! A whole year of blogging, it’s hard to believe really. Thanks for coming on the journey with me.

2020 is a year that I’m sure no one will be forgetting anytime soon. As the year came to an end, I began reflecting on the year that has been. I am so proud of my country, for the massive effort we all put in, our commitment to sticking to lock downs and supporting one another. Because of this, life here in Aotearoa has looked quite different to the majority of the world.

I count myself very fortunate to be in the position I have been in. While international travel has been off the cards, I have been able to do a lot of travel around my own backyard this year. (And lets be honest, New Zealand is a pretty spectacular country to have as your travel playground)

I wanted to do a post on my top 5 experiences. Those WOW moments. The ones that stop you in your tracks, make time stand still and take your breath away.

It’s hard to choose, I have had many incredible experiences this last year, but I am making myself pick.

So here it is.

My top 5 WOW moments.

1 – Glamping on Waiheke Island. This was my first time glamping and I absolutely loved it. Falling asleep to the soft pitter patter sound of rain on the canopy of the tent and waking to the sounds of the birds, absolutely magical. Stripping back the busyness of life and getting back to nature, it certainly recharges the batteries. You can read about my full glamping experience here.

2 – The drive to Glenorchy. We did this road twice in 2020. Once on our motorbike, the second time in a hired Mercedes-Benz CLS 55 AMG. Maybe it’s because it was the first time, but I way preferred the trip on 2 wheels. We had bright blue skies, a dusting of snow on the mountains and instagramable moments around EVERY corner. Around every bend I would find myself gasping at the beauty before me. Not only does this rate in my top 5 moments of 2020, it also rates in my top 5 motorbike rides. Ever. The road to Glenorchy.

3 – Trust the Chef Meal at No. 5 Church Lane. It was a spontaneous dining decision. I found them on line, they had some good reviews, so we decided to give it a go. When we saw a 7 course, Trust the Chef option on the menu, well, we just had to try it. It surprised and delighted me far beyond what I was expecting. Every serving was creative, delicious and left me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would be next. This was a culinary journey that left me wanting more. Dining in Queenstown.

4 – Kayaking in Wanaka. Kayaking (and now also paddle boarding) will always end up as a top experience for me, I just love it so much. The stillness, the quiet and being surrounded by all that water, it’s so rejuvenating and refreshing. Throw in crystal clear water and views of mountain peaks covered in snow and you have one very happy kayaker. Lake Wanaka is the perfect place to get out on the lake and experience some stunning New Zealand scenery. Chillin’ in Wanaka.

5 – Playing in the waves at Waitarere with my 4 year old nephew. Sometimes, it is the simplest of things that bring us the most pleasure. This was one of those experiences. It had been so long since I walked bare foot in the sand and felt the waves tickle my ankles. My nephew’s delight in jumping over waves and playing in the sand, so carefree, was contagious. We spent ages having childish fun and it was brilliant. A weekend at the beach

So there you have it. What was your favorite travel moments of 2020? Drop me a message, I would love to hear from you.

Walking Queen Charlotte Track

New Zealand has many amazing walks all across the country. There is even one called Te Araroa that goes from Cape Reinga at the very top of the North Island where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide, all the way down to Bluff at the very bottom of the South Island. Queen Charlotte Track is a multi day walk that can be accessed from Lochmara lodge, so today I go on a walking adventure.

But before my walking adventure begins, the day starts with some kayaking. Another early start, but I like it that way. The water is so still first thing in the morning and I have the inlet to myself. I don’t see any seals or dolphins but there is other marine life to spot. The Marlborough Sounds are rich in wildlife. I spot a nesting seagull perched in the rocks. She keeps a beady eye on me. The water is incredibly clear, there are lots of shell fish including the biggest mussels I have ever seen. Some of them are the size of my forearm! I also spot some moon jellyfish. I find jellyfish mesmerising, they way they dance through the water, my eyes are fixed on them. I follow the coastline back and get to hear all the birds singing away.

Back on land I have a quick breakfast, pack my bag, lather on the sunscreen and by 8:45am I am on the track. From the lodge, it’s about an hour’s walk to get to Queen Charlotte Track. I am heading to Onehau Lookout. A couple of sections of the track are quite steep, but for the most part it is reasonably flat and easy walking. I make it to the lookout, 360 degree views of gorgeous turquoise water, golden sandy bays and forest. I didn’t realise just how much coastline there is in The Marlborough Sounds. So many little coves, bays and inlets to be explored.

It’s only 10:30am, I am not ready to head back so I decide to walk on further to Mistletoe Bay. The tracks leads me down, then further down and down some more. It makes sense, I was at the top of a lookout and now I am heading to a bay, so I need to go down, but all I can think about is how I am going to have to come back up!

The track opens up and I am wowed with a beautiful outlook over the sounds. I think this view is even more striking than from the lookout. I get out my phone to take some photos and notice that I have wifi reception. For some reason, the network connection with my provider is almost non existent at the lodge, but from here, in the middle of nowhere, I have great reception. So I video call my parents, my husband and grandmother from Queen Charlotte track and show them all the views.

I keep making my way down and after what feels like a really long time I make it to Mistletoe bay. I find a nice grassy area to eat my picnic lunch which I had prepared for me at Lochmara. I take my time to enjoy the view, refuel and take some pictures of a duck.

As I make my way back, I find the uphill isn’t as bad as I was expecting. I manage it fairly well. Sometimes the down hill is actually harder. I start looking for reference points that I recognize, places that I remember, to try and gauge how much further I have to go. I’ll confess, the last hour I was definitely feeling it in my hips and legs and all I can say is that I hobbled back to my room, very much aware of the blisters that had formed on my feet. I was out for 6 hours. I am pretty pleased with how far I managed to walk. I am also feeling rather pleased with myself for thinking to pre-book a massage for this evening.

If you are needing time away, time to escape and relax, come to Lochmara. Get lost, and there, amongst the bird calls, the stillness and the peace, you will find yourself.

Chillin’ in Wanaka

We still have the Mercedes, so we take it for a spin. Over The Crown Range to Wanaka.

Twisting, turning roads, hair pin bends, gorgeous scenery. It’s a road that’s definitely worth a drive. We stop at a lookout to check out the view and take some photos. We only last a couple of minutes. We are at pretty high altitude and it is freezing! Back into our warm car with it’s heated seats.

This view point is as far as we came back in summer, but today we are carrying on over to Wanaka. Along the way we pass through Cardrona township, past the iconic Cardrona hotel and a gorgeous little church. I’m regretting not insisting we stop to take some photos and have a look around, it was just gorgeous.

We then make it to Wanaka. I have done quite a bit of travel in New Zealand, but this is a place I have never been before. I am instantly wowed by how clear the water is. The South Island lakes are always stunning. They are brilliant jewel colours, quite often framed by snow capped mountains.

It’s a perfect winters day, bright blue sky, not a breath of wind and snow on the mountains. It’s the sort of place I could sit for hours, enjoying the scenery, watching the birds and thinking about life.

But then we spot some kayaks for hire and can’t resist.

I love kayaking.

Previously when we have been in kayaks, it has been on a tour and we always get put in a double kayak. I always get put in the front, (apparently it is good practice to have the lightest person in the front) I will be paddling away, thinking it’s a bit hard, only to look back and see that Daniel is busy taking photos, not doing any paddling! And Daniel thinks that I don’t now how to steer. I can see why double kayaks get called marriage breakers.

So we opt for 2 single kayaks. A much better idea! We can each go at our own pace. And yes, I do know how to steer a kayak! The lake is beautiful from above the water (it’s beautiful from the shore too) but being surrounded by the lake is very tranquil.

We paddle out, following the shore line, spotting birds and paddling past boats bobbing up and down. I think this is my favorite experience on this trip. There is just something so magical, so peaceful, about being out on the water. The sound the water makes against the paddle, the stillness, the scenery. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life. A chance to slow down and take it all in.

Back on shore, we grab some lunch before going to take that iconic photo. You know the one I am talking about. #Thatwanakatree. A twisted, lone willow growing out of the lake. It’s probably one of New Zealand’s most photographed trees. With the Southern Alps in the background, it’s certainly instagram worthy.

The Bucket List – North Island Edition

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called The Bucket List, my 5 top New Zealand experience I want to have. After writing it, I realised that every item on that list was in the South Island. Correction, I mean the South Island and Stewart Island.

What I am getting at is that there were no North Island experiences on my list, and it’s the Island I live on. Shame on me!

Te Ika a Maui, aka, The North Island, has some stunning beaches, natural hot springs and some interesting Geo thermal areas. It is certainly a place worth exploring.

So, without furthur ado, here is my top 5 North Island Bucker List items:

Staying a night at Wharekauhau Lodge

This one has been on the bucket list for 11.5 years! An Edwardian style lodge, set up on a hill, it looks out towards stunning views of Palliser Bay and farm land in the Wairarapa. I first came here in 2009. It is where Daniel and I got engaged and has always held a special place in my heart. We visited again late last year, again just for lunch. When Daniel proposed, he had looked into staying a night, but at over $3000 a night, it was off the cards. A bucket list item for sure, but perhaps more of a dream.

Not anymore. In September we are making this dream a reality. I managed to grab a bargain when they were offering a ‘Back your backyard – NZ residents special’. It was too good to pass up.

Wharekauhau is luxury at it’s finest. The food is exceptional, the location stunning and the staff are so warm and welcoming. To say I am excited about staying here is an understatement.

Tongariro Crossing

I actually had plans to do this walk in March with my sister-in-law. The trip was all booked and then Covid-19 happened. The first weekend we spent in lockdown was the weekend we were meant to be hiking this trail.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in the Tongariro National Park, located in central North Island in the Manawatu-Wanganui region. The walk is just under 20km and is often described as being NZ’s best day walk. The walk is said to be challenging but incredibly rewarding. The trail takes you past craters, lakes and landscapes like no other.

I am yet to rebook this one but will need to do some fitness prepping first. I will confess that I didn’t do much exercise during lockdown and took up the hobby of baking. Needless to say, I have put on a bit of lockdown weight.

Northern Explorer

One of New Zealand’s great train rides. This journey goes between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at some great locations along the way. The journey takes around 10 hours, but I would take the opportunity to get off at some stops along the way to further explore.

Fancy staying in a Chateau or visiting Hobbiton? Black water rafting at Waitomo or a trip to Kapiti Island? These are all locations that are accessible from the stops it makes along the way.

The Northern Explorer is not currently operating, I am waiting for that email it’s back up and running and then (if I haven’t already spent all my money on other trips) I will make a booking.

Camping with the pups

I have wanted to do this for a while now, what’s stopping me I hear you ask? Well the main thing, I don’t own a tent. An essential piece of equipment for this adventure.

I have always loved camping but haven’t done it in ages. I would love to take Frankie and Eddie camping with me too. There are a few campgrounds around that allow dogs.

The other issue stopping me is that Frankie and Eddie, AKA The FrEddies, although small and cute, are very vocal. The love to alert us of people arriving, birds on the porch and neighbors turning on their lights. We would need to trial the camping somewhere close, like Wainuiomata, so if The FrEddies felt the need to alert us to everything going on at the camp site and we needed to make a quick exit in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t need to drive too far.

First thing I need to do is locate a tent I can borrow. I don’t want to invest in one if it’s going to be a disastrous family outing.

Wanganui River Kayak

I have a thing for kayaking, I am certainly no pro and I don’t do it very often, but given the chance I love to jump in a kayak and go exploring.

This Wanganui River tour is a multi day tour, I think actually in canoes, rather than kayaks. I haven’t done too much research into this, so I don’t have a tour company picked out, yet.

This would be a tour with stunning scenery and informative local history in a area that I am not too familiar with.

What’s on your bucket list?