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Driving through New Zealand in 9 Days (Part 1)

Driving through New Zealand in 9 Days (Part 1)

In October of last year while I was busy studying for final exams, Tra had an opportunity for an adventure. A few other Americans invited him on a road trip through New Zealand. All the way from Dunedin to Mount Maunganui and back. They packed five people (with all their luggage) in a tiny Fiat. 

Tra took amazing photos on his trip and I just had to share them with you. I loved editing this crazy New Zealand landscape that I hadn’t seen in person for myself. Even though I was born in New Zealand and hold a NZ passport, I’ve really only seen a fraction of the country. Although after looking through these photos with Tra I feel like I was on the roadtrip myself.

This is part one of the trip from Tra’s perspective:

The first stop on the adventure wasn’t a particularly tourist heavy location. Mount Sunday sits in Central Canterbury and is most well known for being the filming location for Edoras, the capital of Rohan, in The Lord of the Rings. Mount Sunday is only accessible through a gravel road which guides you down into a valley. In the middle of the valley lies a giant rock, seemingly placed there intentionally. The walk to the summit is not long or difficult, but the view at the top is gorgeous. Because it is situated in the middle of the valley, you have a spectacular view of the whole valley all while being blanketed by the much larger mountains surrounding you. 

While driving to the west coast of the South Island the group made a quick stop near the beginning of Arthurs Pass to visit Castle Hill. When I looked at the hill he imagined that a Titan carrying a bucket of gravel tripped and spilled the vehicle-sized boulders all over the hill and didn’t have the patience to clean up the mess. The landscape is littered with giant rocks just waiting to be climbed and explored. Climbers could visit Castle Hill every weekend for a lifetime and not climb the same route twice. 

Before we made camp at Abel Tasman we wanted to visit Paparoa National Park and the Pancake Rocks. This was my first opportunity to see a Weka up close, which is a flightless bird that kind of looks like a cross between a chicken and a kiwi. While the locals view Wekas as pests, to someone who had never left the Pacific Northwest they were fascinating. The landscape of the park itself reminded me of Jurassic Park. The entire Northwest coast of the South Island felt like an entirely different island to someone who hadn’t spent much time out of Dunedin. It almost felt like a tropical island.

music pick

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from a Portland-based artist, Esmé Patterson. Give it a listen and maybe consider following her on Soundcloud.

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Morning Rituals + Pancakes

Morning Rituals + Pancakes

Breakfast is the perfect meal for people who love routine. For some reason natural social conventions dictate you cannot eat the same foods for dinner every night. If you eat spaghetti seven nights a week, you’re crazy. That rule doesn’t apply to breakfast however. I...

A Spring Afternoon in the Gardens

A Spring Afternoon in the Gardens

I’ve experienced so much winter that I think I’m starting to develop Stockholm syndrome. I find myself justifying the value of winter whenever friends ask if I miss spring and summer. Why would I want summer? You can’t cuddle up on the couch with your boyfriend, a...

48 Hours in Wellington

48 Hours in Wellington

The events of my life are almost always determined by routine. As our time in Dunedin was winding down I felt a need to shake that routine up a bit. I felt like I was growing tired of looking at the same buildings and walking the same route to school. I just wanted to see something I’ve never seen before. So, I booked two roundtrip, Jetstar tickets on a one-hour flight to Wellington.

Exploring a brand new place is just kind of magic. We drank great coffee on Cuba Street, walked along the waterfront and met up with a couple of friends. This was the first time I’d stayed in an Airbnb and it went way above my expectations. Our hosts supplied us with a cozy studio below their Mt. Victoria home, along with a bottle of wine, fresh bread and an occasional visit from their sweet cat.

For me, the highlight of our trip was certainly the Te Papa Museum. We were able to see Gallipoli, a war exhibit created by Peter Jackson. It was made a bit more meaningful to me when I learned recently that a relative of mine died at Gallipoli.

Wellington is a beautiful (and incredibly windy) city that was quirky like Portland but in a Kiwi sort of way.

Although it was a short trip it was refreshing to break our normal routine to enjoy a new city and check some things off our NZ bucket list. Flying to Wellington meant that we were able to make new memories together in a new city. In a way, it marked the beginning of the end of our time in New Zealand. That weekend will always stand out to me as I remember our short, sweet time in Wellington.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from the Copenhagen-based group, My Bubba. Give it a listen and maybe consider listening to them on Soundcloud or giving them a like on facebook.

Back to Long Beach

Back to Long Beach

As this jet-lag is wearing off from my trip back home, I thought I’d update the blog with some adventures from the past three weeks. I traveled home for a wedding. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Kamille, was married on June 25. But the day before the rehearsal I was able to sneak off to Long Beach with Tra’s family.

While I was only there less than 24 hours, it was the perfect time to unwind and catch up with Tra’s dad and his two sisters. I drove up in my Subaru along with their beloved dog, Patton (named after the general… of course).

I listened to some great podcasts on the drive and when we arrived we played volleyball on the beach, which I don’t think I’ve played since high school! I bravely dipped my toe into the ice-cold water and we ended the night playing unexpectedly competitive board games.

Tra and I have had some great trips to Long Beach in the last two years. We love exploring nearby Oysterville and on the drive there and back, Astoria. The beach itself always seems really private. Maybe it’s the quiet area we’re in, or that we usually go in the off-season, but I just love how secluded it feels.

I had so many great moments with Tra’s family I wish I captured. Mia and I hunted for deals at Goodwill, we had a lovely lunch with Tra’s mom and grandma, at Tra’s dad’s house we went through old family albums and he told us stories from his childhood. It felt great to be around them and to get to know them a bit better.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song I stumbled upon on from Apartment 5A. Give it a listen and maybe consider giving them a follow on Bandcamp.

Exploring Dunedin (Part 1)

Exploring Dunedin (Part 1)

People ask me all the time: Emma, how can I ensure that I won’t get audited by the IRS? I always just shrug my shoulders.

“Why are you asking me?” I tell them. “I don’t know anything about the IRS.”

It’s a constant struggle.

Okay, people don’t actually ask me that. What people do ask me is how I like New Zealand, and more specifically how I like Dunedin. I was brought up in a culture where the go-to answer to the common and amazingly broad question ‘how are you doing?’ is almost always ‘good.’ It doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life, if someone wants to know how I’m doing, it’s always good. Imagine the odds! So of course I tell them that Dunedin is good.

Dunedin is a fantastic temporary home. In some ways it feels like a small European city with grand old architecture and a pedestrian friendly city center. Although Dunedin has a population that is slightly smaller than Vancouver, WA, the town has a greater ‘buzz.’ Downtown Dunedin feels busy, but not in an unhealthy way, without losing the sense of community that is often lost in larger cities.

Dunedin’s also similar to home in many ways. The weather is very much like the Pacific Northwest. Cold winters and warm summers. We can definitely experience all four seasons in one day. New Zealand is similar to the States but rooted in British customs. So Kiwi’s drink a lot of tea. But it also has a uniquely Kiwi culture which I love and will miss when I move back home. I will especially miss how friendly and easy-going the people are.

For the next couple of weeks Tra and I will walk around different parts of Dunedin and share our photos along the way. This will give our friends and family a chance to see a bit more of the city we live in.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music email me.

This week I’ve chosen this smooth instrumental from the Vancouver producer Pace Moccasin. Give it a listen and maybe consider giving him a follow on soundcloud or twitter.

Our Waiheke Island Pit Stop

Our Waiheke Island Pit Stop

As Tra and I were walking up a hilly road on our trip back from swimming in the ocean we were talking about our short stay on the island.

“They are so great!” we kept saying. “There must be a catch, right? Am I missing something? Nobody can be this nice.”

I was worried that on our trip to Waiheke I would feel like an intruder in somebody else’s life. It was the middle of the week after all. From the moment I stepped off the ferry I never had a chance to feel that worry. Brodie and Sam went above and beyond to make us feel at home and make our short stay special.

When Tra, Grandma and I were planning our holiday break we made sure to fly back through Auckland so that we could visit my cousin Brodie on Waiheke Island. It’s not often that I get to visit a place like Waiheke. Sometimes New Zealand can feel like a tiny continent. When you look at a globe you might feel a bit confined, but it still feels big. You could drive through either island for weeks and still have places to explore. Waiheke feels like an island. The roads are small, fresh green life covers every square inch that isn’t holding a building and around every corner there is a new beach to explore. When I try and visualize my time in Waiheke everything is so bright. Brodie told us stories about celebrities and rich technology executives that purchased holiday homes on the island. Visiting the island felt exclusive yet cozy.

I hadn’t seen Brodie since I was 14 and I was dying to meet her partner Sam and their adorable little girls I had only seen through social media. Brodie is a natural mom. She’s what I imagine my favorite mommy bloggers to be like in real life. She is the queen of multitasking. She can hold a full conversation with me while feeding the baby, preparing for dinner and cleaning up after her toddler. Brodie is three years older than me and doesn’t own a cell phone by choice. When people say “oh I’m not on my phone that often and I don’t really use social media” I don’t really believe them. Brodie walks the walk. Although, she does make sure to post adorable photos of her girls on Instagram.

Their house is stunning. It sits high above the water and only a 10-minute walk from the nearest swimming beach. In the morning you can watch sailboats from the couch in the living room while drinking your morning coffee. We were lucky to catch the tail end of New Zealand’s summer so Tra and I took every chance we got to swim in the ocean. The water was the perfect depth and you could swim out 30 feet and still touch sand. On the edge of the beach where the surf hits the land the water was so clear you could watch groups of tiny shells being dragged by the waves. Also the waves were perfect for body-surfing; not too strong that they pulled you under and not too mild that you felt like you’re in a wave pool at an amusement park.

Brodie’s oldest daughter Bali is really cool. Not in a 2-year-old Fonzie kind of way, more like T-Swift cool. So cool, in fact, that I guarantee she’s too cool for you because most of the time she was too cool for me. She spends her days how I imagine a retired 2-year-old would: lounging on a beautiful tropical island, watering her vegetable garden, swimming in the ocean, making art and dancing to Justin Bieber. When I hung out with Bali she only gave me the illusion that I was in charge, everyone knew that in reality she was the one calling the shots.

Brodie and Sam used to live in Sydney where they owned a beautiful espresso shop right on the beach. Sam is more knowledgeable about coffee than anyone I’ve ever met, so I was excited to pick his brain. One day Sam made us some fantastic filtered coffee in a V60. They are always ordering new coffee online from all over the world. Sam happened to been waiting on beans from Portland when we arrived.

Brodie exposes Bali and India to the widest variety of foods I could ever imagined. Bali was captivated by foods I barely even knew existed. She ate avocado with organic herb paste on spelt bread and then asked for more. Brodie’s pantry was enough to make a hipster vegan Portlander gasp.

Even though in a lot of ways our lives are very different to Brodie and Sam’s we got along so well. They treated us like real adults. Spending the weekend with them was a breath of fresh air and a warm welcome back to New Zealand. It gave Tra and I and glance at where we could be in a few years.

At this point in our lives Tra and I are torn between two homes. Home will always be with our friends and family in the Pacific Northwest, but at the moment home feels like the place where we spend our days and rest our heads. The transition process from one home to the other has been tough and filled with emotion for both of us. Our time in Waiheke with Brodie, Sam and their beautiful girls refreshed our spirits and filled our minds with excitement for the rest of our New Zealand journey. It’s not every day that you feel like someone really gets you, and Brodie and Sam certainly made us feel that way. Tra and I loved every part of our stay and we can’t wait to return.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music please email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from the Seattle-based dream pop band Lofty Stills. Give it a listen and maybe consider giving them a like on facebook or downloading their album on Bandcamp.