New Zealand 2016: week 4

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

I’m writing this at home, after a wonderful family Christmas at my brother’s. It’s a bit strange to have gone from enjoying summer in New Zealand to Christmas trees and presents in Switzerland – I almost got whiplash… 🙂 Also, jetlag, but I managed to sleep until 6:30 this morning, so hopefully I’ll be fine to go back to work tomorrow. But first, a quick look back a the last days in my second home…

As planned, on Sunday, we went to Christmas at the Bowl in New Plymouth. It was a big celebration with different musicians, carol singing and big fireworks at the end. People were holding candles, which was lovely to see as it got dark.
New Plymouth

Sadly, the weather wasn’t so great on Monday, so I just went into town for breakfast (eggs Benedict, which I wish I could get here) and walked a bit along the Coastal Walkway. I still was quite sore from climbing Paritutu on Saturday, too. 🙂
New Plymouth

Tuesday I already said goodbye to my wonderful kiwi whanau (family). They left early in the morning to pick up a Christmas surprise for the kids – their new puppy, Raro. So it was only Ellie who saw me off, and I felt quite sad when the bus pulled away. It’s always so wonderful to spend time with them and see how the kids have grown. I hope I get to see them again in the not-too-distant future! <3 The bus ride was lovely, despite the winding turns that were a bit hard on my tummy, and in the evening I reunited with my mom in our great room on the 6th floor of the hostel, which had an awesome view of Auckland's Sky Tower. On Wednesday, our last full day, we went to a French creperie for breakfast, walked around downtown a bit, and then joined a Bush and Beach tour to the nearby Waitakere Ranges. I just wanted my mother to have one last opportunity to enjoy gorgeous New Zealand forest with its tree ferns, Nikau palms, Manuka, Rata and Kauri trees, and see a proper black sand beach, which we did near the Karekare falls and at Pahia. Overall, it was a wonderful day, and we rounded it off by enjoying the evening sun with dinner at Princes Wharf.
Auckland Auckland Auckland Auckland Auckland Auckland

The trip back home on Thursday took about almost 30 hours, with the 6 hours in Singapore airport feeling almost as long as the 10 and 13 hours on the plane. But everything went well, and we arrived back in Switzerland on Friday morning. Unsurprisingly I was really tired but managed to stay awake until 7pm that night. That was really the only time I had to properly arrive before Christmas yanked back into everyday life, and I’m still reeling a bit. Hopefully work will be quiet this week, so I can acclimatise a bit more… But for now, I wish you all a happy Christmas, Hanukah or whatever holiday you celebrate!

Happy holidays 2016!

New Zealand 2016: week 3

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

Another week over, and we only have a few days left, which I’m intending to enjoy to the fullest.

The time in Wellington was simply wonderful. We had enough leisure to just take in the atmosphere of what I consider to be my second home town. On Monday and Tuesday morning I showed my mom around some more, but the rest of the time we actually split up and wander around at our own pace.

In gorgeous sunshine we took a nice walk along Oriental Parade on Monday, leaving both of us just a bit sunburned before clouds moved in and brought a rainy afternoon. After getting quite wet, I actually renewed my Netflix subscription and watched the new Gilmore Girls episodes! 🙂

But that’s windy Wellington for you – on Tuesday it was once again beautiful, so we took the bus to nearby Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, which nowadays has the much “cooler” name Zealandia but is still a simply wonderful bit of wilderness right in the city. There really is no other place where big city living is surrounded by nature in this way, with the Botanic Gardens, Mt. Victoria, Karori etc. making up a real “green belt”. We saw so many birds as we wandered through the bush – everything from hihi to kaka parrots, and even a young tuatara lizard! Afterwards we had lunch at my favourite spot on the waterfront, before mom headed off to explore the St. Gerard’s monastery. I hung out at the water some more and then walked through town to buy some fabric for my sister in law. A wonderful day was rounded off by a takeout dinner of fish and kumara chips. 🙂
Wellington Wellington

Wednesday I wanted to simply wander and revisit all my favourite places one more time, while mom went back to Zealandia (you can come back for free on the next day). Luckily we were blessed with another day of sunshine, so I spent my time mostly in the Botanic Gardens and at the waterfront, enjoying the scenery, watching people and reading. A dream of a day!
Wellington Wellington Wellington

When we left Wellington on Thursday, it was grey and raining, which suited my mood over leaving just fine. However, when it didn’t let up pouring for most of the day, a long bus ride turned a bit boring and monotonous – and I got dripped on through a leaky roof… 🙂
However, by the time we finally reached New Plymouth, it had stopped, and I was really happy and excited to see my friends Denise and Ross and their four kids (Ellie, Jack, Ben and Maddie) again. I’ve known them for 16 years, and it’s amazing to see how grown everyone is! This was brought home by our being able to attend Jack’s graduation from primary school, where he was head boy. The ceremony was pretty cool, with a great kapa haka group performing and a lot of awards being given out.

Friday was my mom’s only day here in Taranaki, so in the morning we walked down to the Costal Walkway. At first we got rained on for a bit, but then the clouds disappeared and the rest of the day was wonderful. At my request Denise took us and Maddie up Mt. Taranaki to the enchanted Goblin Forest, which has to be one of the most beautiful forests I’ve ever seen. After a short tramp we enjoyed some Dutch specialties in a cafe that offered amazing views of the volcano. In the evening we all went out for dinner in town, giving my mom the chance to see the walkway there, and then fell into bed pretty exhausted after a full but beautiful day.
New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth

Very early on Saturday mom left to spend 3 days in Rotorua, giving her the chance to see a bit more of the North Island while I get to spend more time with my kiwi whanau (Maori for family). In the morning Denise took me and Maddie up Paritutu, a steep climb first up some stairs then scrambling up the rock along a chain. Maddie was very afraid but persisted, and we all were rewarded with an amazing view of New Plymouth, Taranaki and a bunch of seals playing in the waves far below. Afterwards we went to the Gipsy Extravaganza, a fair where we met Ellie and spent some time enjoying the sun and relaxed the bohemian atmosphere. And in the evening Ross, Jack, Ellie, her friend Michaela and I went to see the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, which was great! 🙂
New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth

Today there are plans for a Christmas thing in the park, but overall I’m just enjoying being back here, with these wonderful people, thanks to whose hospitality I got the chance to fall in love with New Zealand in 2003…