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Home Sweet Home…Now What?

We are back! Actually, we have been back in the states for a little over a month now, but it’s been nonstop go-go-go. Honestly, it feels a little surreal to be back in Brooksville, Florida….definitely a good feeling though. So let me catch you up on what have been doing since we left New Zealand!

Michael and I finished our employment at the end of September with the Dairy Farm (Michael) and The Green Room Cafe (me). We both learned heaps in each of our respective jobs and will miss the people we worked with.

On Oct 3, after packing up our suitcases, we embarked on our 9 day road trip through the South Island to see what we missed. I will have to post some of our road trip pictures on a separate post because there are literally enough to crash the internet…

Once we said our goodbyes to all our new friends, we flew out of Invercargill to Christchurch, then on to Auckland, and caught our International flight from Auckland to Houston. That was Friday, October 13 and we landed in Houston about 10 minutes later on the same day. Time travel is fun! We spent a few days in Houston catching up with one of Michael’s older brothers and his family, plus it was our “jet lag recovery” location. It turned out, we hardly had any jet lag at all! There was one night we were awake at 2am Houston time, but we fell back asleep and were fully functioning human beings from then on. Knowing we survived 16 hours of fly time makes international travel a little less daunting for the future. A real treat was checking out the NASA Space Center in Houston. We would love to go back and see what we missed because it’s hard to see it all in just one day.

After Houston, we flew to Ohio to catch up with my family and friends. We made sure to stop back in to see our friends in the Kenton congregation, but it’s never a long enough visit to be satisfied when we are in Ohio! Who knows….one day we may finally get sick of Florida and move north.While we were in Ohio, we spent a day at the Circleville Pumpkin Festival with family. I’ve always wanted to take Michael there and he was impressed at how many pumpkin-flavored foods there were. Way more than just pumpkin-spiced lattes! Our favorite were the donuts, which we made sure to get early because later in the afternoon the line for donuts was down the street!

We flew back to Florida on Saturday, Oct 28 and the next day was our Circuit Assembly in Plant City. So glad we didn’t miss it! Not only did we enjoy a ‘spiritual banquet’ but it was a way for us to catch up with our friends from multiple congregations.

Then, after only being home for less than two weeks, we took off again for a 7 day trip to New York to see our good friend Robert in Patterson, NY. What was really insane was that on our way up to the dining room at the Patterson Bethel, we bumped into a friend from Auckland NZ who was also in NY visiting! We literally had not seen her since last October when we were in Auckland just starting our adventure. Definitely a nice surprise to catch up and give her a big hug!

What a nice surprise! Xairah and Me

So for now, we are back home (for good this time) and happy to be settled back into our congregation here in Brooksville, FL. Focusing on our ministry and reaching out to people in our community is our main priority, but we are also diligently job hunting and sending out or resumes…along with a few prayers!

Excited for the next step, whatever it may be for us. We have a couple of business ideas up our sleeve that we may explore as a way to work for ourselves…but it’s slightly terrifying to take that leap. Sometimes too many choices is a bad thing, but as long as we put in the effort along with a little bit of faith and a lot of trust in God, we know He will shine some light on the way He wants us to go. We just have to be sure we are paying attention!

Thanks for reading!

The Good, the Bad, and the Weird…Foods of New Zealand

Friday marked my last day of work at The Green Room Cafe. Can’t believe 10 months went by that fast, but it was great work experience and I feel confident working with a legit espresso machine now. I really enjoyed working with the ladies there while getting to know the locals and each one’s “usual coffee.” It’s surprising how many individual coffees one brain can memorize if you give it enough time!

We have enjoyed the opportunity to try news foods during our trip and I have plenty of recipes coming home with me to add to my collection. This post is all about the foods and drinks we’ve tried and what we thought of them.

Up first is our favorite Kiwi dessert: Pavlova! New Zealanders and Australians still debate on who can stake their claim on creating this delicious dessert, but if you ask me, the word ‘Pavlova’ sounds Russian. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was named after a Russian Ballerina who visited NZ and Australia back in the 1920’s…either way, it’s a giant meringue that you will want to eat all by yourself. Crunchy on the outside, marshmallow gooeyness on the inside. YUM!

My first authentic Pavlova

Afghan biscuits (or cookie for the U.S. folks) is a chocolate crunchy cookie that is a favorite down here. I was going to include Tim Tams (cookies) in this post, but technically they are Australian in origin so you will just have to try them for yourself. For my Florida readers, I’m pretty sure a few Publix grocery stores carry Tim Tams in their International section! The recipe for Afghan biscuits actually uses cornflakes to get that satisfying crunch in every bite. They are fairly easy to make so I’m looking forward to whipping up some when we get home.

Cheese Rolls. New Zealand kids (and adults) are obsessed with these things and I’m not really sure why. It’s like half a grilled cheese sandwich but with a few very important differences. First, the cheese sauce in the middle is a mixture of cheese, evaporated milk, and usually dry onion soup mix. That mixture is spread on one piece of bread and then rolled up and cooked in a sandwich press. New Zealand has some pretty awesome cheese, but I don’t understand why they insist on adding all the other stuff. They’re ok in regards to flavor, and I can see the convenience of them, but I’ll stick to my Colby Jack grilled cheese sammies along with some tomato soup.

L&P Soda is one thing we will miss. We do not indulge in sugary soda often, but this was a nice treat every now and then. L&P stands for Lemon and Paeroa and got its start around 1908.  It has a light, lemon flavor and was traditionally made by combing lemon juice with carbonated mineral water from the town of Paeroa on the North Island. It’s now owned and manufactured by Coco-cola unfortunately, but not sure if we will be able to find it in the U.S. I do love their comically pretentious advertising slogan though, “World famous in New Zealand.” 

Whitebait fritters. Michael didn’t care for these much, but I thought they were pretty good. We shared a whitebait fritter for lunch on our trip to Arrowtown to pan for gold. Whitebait are juveniles of five species of native fish that are considered endangered as adult fish, which is why the Department of Conservation has strict regulations on how much fisherman can collect. It’s considered a delicacy and the collecting season only runs from August-November. A whitebait fritter is basically just whitebait, a little flour, egg, salt and pepper fried until golden brown.

Green-lipped mussels. This is another one that I loved and Michael didn’t care for, but he is not the biggest fan of eating bivalves anyways. On our last day trip to Dunedin to see the albatross we stopped for dinner at a Thai restaurant. Michael ordered his favorite, Pad Thai, and I ordered a delicious seafood soup that had these mussels along with octopus, prawns, and fish.

Marmite. Either you love it or you hate it…there is no middle ground on this one. Marmite is the NZ version, Vegemite is Australian. This stuff is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. To describe the taste, imagine yourself eating a beef bouillon cube. Yep, very salty and very potent stuff…a little bit goes a long way! I had it on toast with slices of tomato, which made it edible. Loaded with B vitamins and iron it’s actually quite good for you, and the locals swear by it to keep the sand flies away. They say it works by just eating it on your toast, but this stuff is so potent I bet if you slathered it on your skin it would stop a charging bull elephant in its tracks!

Thanks to my wonderful chef friend at The Green Room Cafe, Michael and I had the opportunity to try another NZ delicacy: Pāua. In the U.S. and Australia it’s known as abalone and most commonly known for their beautiful iridescent peacock-colored shells often used in Maori art and sculptures, and contemporary jewelry. Pāua (pronounced Pah-wah) is a large sea-snail and the meat is actually black. This can be a little off-putting for some, and the texture is quite chewy. The most common preparation and best way to eat Pāua is minced and formed into small fritters. Michael didn’t care for them but I would eat them again if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, unless you can go out free-diving and collect your own, the meat is very expensive (around $70 per kg(2.2lbs)). There are strict regulations to protect them from being over-harvested or harvested as juveniles, but there is an extensive black market for their meat that keeps fishery officials busy.

 

Overall, I’d say we’ve had some tasty cultural experiences over the past year here in NZ. We are looking forward to some of our favorite foods back home, like a Publix sub or an actual iced coffee! This is the one area that NZ is lacking…and if they DID decide to make a proper iced coffee then I definitely would never leave.

Anyways, this weekend we are getting ready for our congregation barbecue on Sunday, and then heading out on our 9-day road trip around the South Island on Tuesday. We will both be busy packing and preparing for the road over the next couple of days. Still heaps of pictures to be taken between now and the time we leave the country, so I will try to post again before we take off 🙂

Thanks for reading!

A Convention, A Few Cookies, and Heaps of Calves!

We can’t believe we’re in September already. The temperatures are slowly warming here in Southland as spring arrives. Farmers are busy with calving season in full swing and lambs just beginning. Flowers are starting to bloom which is a promising sign of warmer days. As our time here ticks away, many of our friends ask if we have started the “countdown” for our return journey. Honestly, no we haven’t. We aren’t jumping for joy about leaving next month, but it will be nice to have the familiarity of home and being near to family and friends again. We will be leaving behind many new friends who feel like family to us and I’m going to try my hardest not to “ugly cry” when my husband is dragging me through the airport. No promises though.

We are especially thinking of family, friends, and everyone in Florida right now as Hurricane Irma moves closer. Thinking of you all and praying that you stay safe no matter what path the massive storm takes. I know as Floridians we tend to joke about the severity of anything under a Category 3…but it’s time to put our serious pants on and keep our loved ones and pets safe! We have learned that one of our friends had to take a stand against their employer because management doesn’t want to close up shop until the last minute, even though many people are evacuating statewide. Not much time is left to prepare yourself for a Category 5 hurricane if you are stuck at work! Hoping no one ends up losing their job because they put their safety first and got out of harms way.

The month of August flew by but it was a special month with our 2017 Convention in Christchurch. This convention was for all Jehovah’s Witnesses on the South Island! We are so used to having our convention venue within a couple of hours drive back home. Michael and I took a couple extra days off work to have a long weekend to account for the long drive ahead of us. It’s roughly a 7 hour drive up to Christchurch and wanted to take our time. Hate feeling rushed. On the way up we took a more inland route and we are so glad we did! Stopping for a picnic lunch north of Twizel gave us some amazing mountain views over Lake Pukaki and could spot Mount Cook in the distance. We will be exploring this area more in October while on our 9 day road trip.

View from our roadside picnic north of Twizel

Our drive back to Gore was down along the east coast through Dunedin which was familiar to us from our many day trips there…but it’s still a 6 hour drive going that route. We loved every minute of our convention, with the theme “Don’t Give Up!”, but all that sitting along with the sitting in the car was rough. My bony butt can only take so much. If I could get away with sneaking a stationary bike into the convention I would!

On the way home from Christchurch Michael made sure we stopped at the CookieTime Factory Store. The man loves his sweets. These are NZ made cookies that are a national treasure here, and we now understand why. Totally delicious! Needless to say my husband bought a LARGE bag each of broken triple-chocolate chunk cookies and brownies to bring home. Since I have a small amount of self-control I bought a couple of cute magnets as souvenirs that will not add to my waistline! I really liked the CookieTime GM’s parking spot sign…if only we could all be that awesome.

Another nice treat we enjoyed while on our trip to Christchurch was our favorite bubble milk tea! We didn’t think we would find any on the South Island, but we managed to track it down in a tea shop and also found it in the Westfield shopping mall. Surprisingly enough the bubble milk tea in the mall was better tasting! Taro and Honeydew are our favorite go-to flavors.

September is our last full month here and we only have a few weeks left of work (woohoo!)  Michael has been enjoying his work on the dairy farm and I even got to join him for one day helping out. So many baby cows! While Michael was mainly focused on working in the milking shed, I helped Lisa with feeding calves and cleaning pens. Looking forward to hopefully helping out again before we leave.

Our last day of employment will be Sept 29 and shortly after that will be our 9 day road trip around the South Island to see as much as we can before heading back home. All of our accommodations are booked and confirmed; staying at Airbnb’s and with friends along the way.

The planned itinerary includes the following sites and stops:

  • Queenstown
  • Wanaka + Blue Pools Walk
  • Fox Glacier
  • Hokitika
  • Greymouth + Pancake Rocks
  • Arthur’s Pass National Park
  • Castle Hill
  • Christchurch + Akaroa
  • Ashburton (where we would have gone if we hadn’t stayed in Gore)
  • Mount Sunday (Edoras in LotR)
  • Twizel
  • Mount Cook National Park + Lake Pukaki + Lake Tekapo
  • Dunedin

Planning on taking loads more pictures during the trip around the island. We are actually hoping we get one more chance to witness the Southern Lights…the next few days should be active thanks to some major solar activity. This might be our last chance!

Next weekend we are taking a day trip back up to the Royal Albatross Center in Dunedin to see this year’s albatross babies take flight. For their size they are surprisingly graceful and masters of the air. We can’t wait to see the babies test out their wings!

That’s all for now. I’ll post pictures of the Southern Lights if we have clear skies and conditions are right. Hopefully the upper Northern Hemisphere puts on a good show for our family and friends living there.

Thanks for reading!

Day Trips to Dunedin

It seems it takes a moderate chest cold and sore throat to keep me still long enough to write instead of going off exploring outside. Technically I was supposed to work at the cafe today, but no one wants their scone and latte served with a side of chest cold cooties, so I had to call out. And of course, its a beautiful sunny day. So instead, I’m cocooned in blankets with a steady intake of hot tea and cough drops pining for the sun.

On a lighter note, yesterday we took another day trip up to Dunedin. It has become a favorite place of ours even though it’s about a 2 hr drive away. For all of our NZ readers, there is a Dunedin FL that is a fascinating little beach town. Fun fact: The name Dunedin comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. With there being such a rich Scottish heritage in the southern part of the South Island many towns and cities are named after people or places in Scotland. The remaining towns throughout NZ have Maori names in the native tongue. Some are tricky to pronounce!

Dunedin was New Zealand’s first “city” and sits on the east coast nestled at the base of the Otago Peninsula. This area is known for some amazing natural seascapes and cliffs. The Otago Peninsula is also home to the Royal Albatross Center. We visited here back in May to see the little Blue Penguins coming into their burrows after sundown. They are a beautiful slate blue color and move fast! It was difficult to get a good picture since no flash photography was allowed. But we did manage to get some great audio of the absolute racket they made! Check out the video below to hear for yourself…

We are planning on going back to the Royal Albatross Center in early September to hopefully see this year’s Northern Royal babies take off on their first flight. This colony of Royal Albatross are the only mainland breeding colony in the world! They have a live cam on their website, so even if you can’t visit Dunedin in person, you can catch a glimpse into the life of these majestic seafarers. Check it out on their website here. *Note: the center and webcam are closed at the time of this post due to extreme rain and flooding in the area. But be sure to check back soon!

Dunedin is home to University of Otago and definitely has a “college town” feel to it. A large chunk of the population is university students, so the city center is bustling with stuff to do. Yesterday we spent most of the day at the Otago Museum. It has a great variety of exhibits, free admission, and has a decent cafe if you are planning on exploring all day. We decided to see one of their planetarium shows and glad we spent the extra $10 to do so. Essentially an IMAX dome, it was interesting to learn about what the Southern Hemisphere sees in the night sky. We also found out that the southerners have a much better view of the Milky Way in their night sky compared to the northern half of the globe. The museum also has an indoor butterfly conservatory and botanical garden but it had just closed last week due to renovations and won’t reopen until December. But there is a dinosaur exhibit starting in August and everyone knows that dinosaurs are cooler than butterflies anyways.

After the museum we were both pretty tired but we decided to take our planned trip over to Tunnel Beach. This is one of the many natural wonders of the Otago Peninsula. The hike down to the lookout was muddy in places due to the heavy rains, but thankfully no washouts or land slips which are common in NZ with heavy rains. Another place we checked out on a previous trip to Dunedin was Sandfly Bay. Thankfully the name came from the wind-swept sand dunes and not the actual pesky sandfly!

If you go to Dunedin you have to go on a tour of the Cadbury Factory. Its a great way to spend a couple hours learning about the history of Cadbury and eating all the free chocolate they give you. The day we did the Cadbury tour, we also walked up Baldwin Street…the steepest street in the world. In July, during the Chocolate Carnival there is an event held that involves rolling little candy-coated chocolate balls, called Jaffa’s, down this street. Waste of perfectly good chocolate if you ask me.

In May, we drove up to Dunedin to spend the day at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary. This is a must do for nature and bird-lovers. The ecosanctuary is a protected area for many native and endangered bird species. Along the walking paths are a few feeding stations that make viewing the birds a bit easier. We saw Tui, Bellbirds, Kereru (NZ pigeon), a Kaka, and a group of Takahe, which are extremely endangered. The ecosanctuary is also home to kiwi, freshwater eels, ancient tuatara, and the tallest tree in New Zealand. I think the Takahe were our favorite with their beautiful blue feathers and funny noises while walking through the tussock. Reminded us of big fluffy blue chickens!

There are a few other places in Dunedin worth mentioning if you plan to visit. The Dunedin Railway Station is a fascinating piece of history and an iconic building in NZ. There are scenic trains rides available from this station that travel across the rugged interior of the South Island but we decided not to squeeze the budget too tight. We are hoping to check out the building on our next visit.

We also want to go on a Speight’s Brewery tour before we leave, so we will see if we can fit it in somewhere. Larnach Castle is known as New Zealand’s only castle, even though it’s more of a grand country home built in the 1870’s made to look like a castle. We skipped this one since admission prices were a little silly for something that could be easily toured in an hour.

With only a few months left before we depart, I expect us to make one or two more day trips back to Dunedin…there is just so much to see! We are really happy we ended up in Gore since it central to alot of fascinating places in the south. Within only a couple hours drive is Dunedin, Queenstown, Alexandra, the Catlins scenic area, and Fiordland National Park. Dunedin is one of the last planned stops on our road trip through the South Island in October so maybe we will save the brewery tour for last. We both might need a beer or two after 9 days of driving all over the country!

Thanks for reading!

 

Kiwi Talkin’ and Middle Earth Walkin’

I realized today that we have approximately 3 months and 2 weeks left here in New Zealand! The 8 months we have spent here has flown by and I’m not looking forward to when our time comes to leave this place. It has been amazing to think back to all the things we have experienced so far, the breath-taking landscapes we have seen, and all the new life-long friends we have made. At least we still have a few more months to enjoy. We know our parents are eager to have us back in the same time zone, and it has been wonderful to Skype and Facetime with them. Michael’s parents even sent us a care package with yummy hot chocolate packets to get us through the winter 🙂 It will still be very difficult to leave this place…Michael will have to drag me onto the plane.

Hot Chocolate for daaaayyyyssss

In the time we have been here we have picked up some new words and lingo. We will probably utter a few of these phrases or words when we come home, so to prepare yourselves, I’ve compiled a list so you can interpret and speak “Kiwi.” You’re welcome 🙂

Kiwi – common term for New Zealanders; a green fuzzy fruit; the native flightless bird of NZ
“She’ll be right” – It’s ok/No problem
“Sweet As” – Really cool; adding “As” to the end of a word emphasizes the meaning. “It was cold as out there, make sure to wear a jacket.”
“Ta” or “Cheers” – Short version of Thank You
“Choice” – means awesome, cool, great, or thanks
“Yeah…nah” – A nice vague way of saying “no”
“Brah” – Brother/Good friend
“Cuz/Cuzzie” – Same as Brah
“Wop-Wops” – in the middle of nowhere; “We were tramping out in the wop-wops”
“Do you want a cuppa” – short for “a cup of tea/coffee”
Jandals – Flip-flops/Sandals
Togs – Swimsuit
Long Drop – A primitive toilet we experienced while tent camping in NZ. Very primitive.
Dairy – Another name for a convenient store
Chips – French Fries, as in “fish n chips”
Tomato Sauce – Ketchup
Biscuit – Cookie
Lollies – Candy
Pavlova – a delicious, giant meringue dessert commonly topped off with whipped cream and fruit. Australians and New Zealanders dispute who started the traditional dessert, but all I know is that it’s amazing.
Capsicum – Bell Peppers
Chilly Bin – ice cooler
Tramping – hiking
Gumboots – Wellingtons/rubber boots; a staple of every New Zealanders wardrobe
Takeaway – Fastfood
Bach – Pronounced “batch”, refers to a vacation home

I’m sure we will learn a few more before October arrives. Unfortunately, a Kiwi accent has not been as easy to learn. Fun fact: A sure way to distinguish between an Aussie accent and a Kiwi accent is to have them say “fish n chips.An Aussie will say “feesh n cheeps” and a Kiwi “fush n chups”…not that extreme, but the trick is all in the vowels. It’s a fun accent to try to learn! Check out this video to hear what I’m talking about.

It’s been fascinating to see some of the quirks that New Zealanders share with the “Motherland” (Great Britain) but also how different they are on their own little island paradise. Being so far away from the hustle and bustle of the world NZ is often forgotten on world map pictures and some people don’t even realize there are two big islands, plus tiny Stewart Island! I like how the Queen is on all the currency, and their currency is waaay prettier than ours! Plus, they took 1 cent and 5 cent coins out of circulation a long time ago and I love it.

Anyways, Michael is done milking for the season and it won’t get busy again for him until August when calving begins. This will give us some more time to spend out in the field ministry and allow us to take a few days trips to Queenstown, Dunedin, and other hidden gems in Southland. One place we checked out recently was Mavora Lakes. All I can say is wow! There are alot of beautiful places in New Zealand, but this place takes the cake. Quite a few LotR movie scenes were shot in this area, including the end scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring and some long shots of Fangorn Forest. You honestly feel like you stepped into the wilds of Middle Earth!

Dunedin has quickly become one of our favorite day-trip locations because there is so much to see and do in this coastal city and adjacent peninsula. In an upcoming post I’ll tell you all about the many things to do in Dunedin, like the Otago Museum and Butterfly GardenThe Royal Albatross Center, Orokonui Ecosanctuary, where to see Blue Penguins, and more! Queenstown is chock full of things to do, but you can easily become distracted and stare at the surrounding mountains all day. I’ll tell you about the stuff we got up to during our last few trips to QT.  I’m also going fill you in about the food here in NZ….the good, the delicious, and the just plain weird.

 

My first attempt at Pavlova! Yum!

We have also been busy planning our Last Chance Road Trip 2017! It will be our last opportunity to tour parts of the South Island that we haven’t seen yet…and may never see again! This 9 day road trip will happen in October right before we leave. Here is a sneak peak at some of the stops on the itinerary: a day in Christchurch, Mount Cook National Park, Gemstone Beach, Hokitika Gorge, Pancake Rocks, a few Lord of the Rings Films locations, and more!

So stayed tuned…the weather is getting colder, which means I will be staying inside by the cozy fire and writing 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Working For Milk Money

Michael has worked as a relief milker since late December for a family in our congregation. Even though Michael didn’t grow up on a farm and has zero milking experience, they offered to train him. He has caught on to the job fast and is really enjoying it. It’s been a nice change for him from sitting at a desk everyday in a credit union dealing with frustrated customers. If it were me, I think I’d rather deal with the back-end of a cow too!

As a relief milker, he works shifts to give the dairy farm manager some breaks, or “relief”, from the every day grind. A working dairy farm is a non-stop job and requires very early mornings and long days. When you aren’t actually milking cows, you are monitoring pasture quality, machine maintenance, caring for any sick or injured cows, moving cows around to different paddocks for different nutritional needs, and much more. One cool thing we learned here is that dairy farmers turn their cows out on to turnip greens for a few hours every day to help boost milk solids. And boy, do the cows love the turnips! The cows also get a dose of apple cider vinegar and magnesium in their water.

Healthy cows are happy cows, and happy cows make tastier milk. 

New Zealand dairy farms tend to use more Jersey, Jersey/Friesian, or Jersey/Holstein Cross to yield higher milk solids instead of milking for just volume alone. Although, there are some pretty high producers here in NZ. That Supreme Grand Champion Friesian we saw at A&P Show back in February produces around 10,000 liters a year! You can definitely taste the difference in the milk here compared to US milk. New Zealand dairy is often used to make high quality cheeses, so they aim for higher milk solids in their product. Fun fact: Jersey cows here are lovingly called “yellow bellies” because of their color and not because of a lack of courage 🙂 but they can still get up to mischief.

Not just a pretty face…

In a nutshell, as the cow walks on to the platform, there is a feeder of tasty grain waiting for her. Once she is locked on, Michael hooks up the “cups” to the udders. If a cow has a “dry quarter” then that teat is not hooked up to a cup. He is also checking for any signs of infection or injury. There is a simple test for mastitis that can be done on suspected cows. Any cows that have mastitis or are on antibiotics are clearly marked with paint. These cows still get milked but their milk is disposed of and not mixed in with the main supply since their milk will have too high of a white blood cell count and the antibiotics will show up in the milk. There are HUGE fines for dairy farmers who send out milk with antibiotics found in them. So all that “anti-biotic free” labeling on your dairy products is pointless because by law it isn’t allowed in there in the first place. On a daily basis, an acid wash is run through the entire system to clean out any mineral build-up and dirt. An alkali wash is done every Tuesday and Friday, and that cleans out any residual fats and proteins.

At the moment, there are only about 400 cows getting milked, which is about half the size of most dairy farms here in NZ. Michael works in what’s called a rotary shed, which is best described as a big merry-go-round for cows 🙂 There are also Herringbone sheds that are straight and narrow, but you are at a higher risk of getting pooped on in there. Sometimes I’ll go and help out when Michael is working in the afternoons. I basically hang out on the other side of the rotary platform making sure the cows get off. On cold or rainy days they want to stay on there as long as they can. I also attempt to keep everything clean with a giant fire hose. Of all the farm animals, cows are the messiest. There is a reason you practically dress up in a hazmat suit. Two words: splatter radius.

Things are slowing down a bit this time of year since the cows are now being milked once a day from their usual twice daily milking during peak season. Some cows are in calf and will be having their babies right before we leave (yes, I will post baby cows pics!). Some of the older girls who are not pregnant and have decreased in milk production will be sent off to the Freezing Works a.k.a turned into McD’s meat.

“I’m getting turned into what?!”

Overall, it’s been a fun learning experience for the both of us and has given us some insight into the NZ dairy industry. Our super-sexy, figure-flattering overalls will come home with us (thrift shop finds for under $20!) to use for various future outdoor projects. But sadly, no yellow bellies will fit in our luggage to bring home. Sorry Mom!

Having some fun down on the farm!

Thanks for reading!

A Super Exciting Post About Apps…

Living in the tech-dependent-world of today, everyone seems glued to their devices, whether it be a smart phone or a tablet. Even though Michael and I are trying to limit our time spent on our devices, they have been very useful to us on this trip. I use an iPhone 5C and an older generation iPad, while Michael has a Windows Samsung phone and an iPad mini. Here are some of the apps that have come in handy on our trip:

NordVPN

A VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another server over the Internet. This is SUPER important if you are using free public wi-fi in cafes, airports, or anywhere else that prying eyes may be lurking and waiting to hack into an unprotected device. All data traveling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this “VPN server” is securely encrypted. We installed NordVPN on most of our devices after we did some shopping around and it only costed us $40 for a year subscription. Another cool part is that you can connect to different servers around the globe and can actually “geo-spoof” your location that will allow access to services (like Netflix or Vudu) that we couldn’t get to being connected to the NZ server.

Campermate

This app was recommended to us by a couple from Holland whom we met at a holiday park on the North Island at the beginning of our trip. Thank goodness we did because this app has saved us a lot of frustration and money! We used it to find unique and affordable campsites during our road trip through the North Island and South Island and continue to use it to plan little camping side-trips. Michael likes how it provides a “comment section” for each location and can read tips or warnings from previous campers. It’s very user-friendly and allows you to filter your search based on different amenities or features you are looking for. At a quick glance, the icons of each campsite are color-coded based on price, so it makes it a breeze to find one that fits your budget. The only downside is that the app is only for Australia and New Zealand 🙁 Hopefully we can find an equivalent back home.

Instagram

Don’t laugh or roll your eyes, I know many people think Instagram is a life-and-time-sucking-black-hole app. Myself included. But after meeting new friends who use it instead of Facebook (another life and time sucker) I finally caved and installed it on my smart phone. It has been a great way to share our pictures and memories with friends who don’t use Facebook and stay connected. Our Instagram is linked to our Facebook page so whatever we share on Instagram also posts to Facebook instantaneously. Plus, it’s a great way to keep you all entertained in between our blog posts 🙂

MyTime

We use this app to stay organized with our ministry work. Still using scrap paper and random notes that you can never find again? Seriously, if you haven’t downloaded this app, you need to do it right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It keeps track of your ministry calls and allows you to sort them by name, date last visited, city, or different Bible studies you have going. It also makes it easier to count your time spent in the ministry, keeps track of your literature/magazine placements, and tracks your stats month over month to see your progress. If you are not a Jehovah’s Witness and a little confused by this paragraph, it’s totally ok! This app helps us stay organized with our ministry work and keep you on track for pioneering (reaching a certain amount of hours in the preaching work in a year).

Star Chart

This is an app I’ve recently added to my iPad. When you are camping out under the stars you want to know what you are looking at! Michael and I love learning more about space, our galaxy, and the universe. The app uses your location and displays the different stars, constellations, and planets on your device when you hold them up to the sky. I only have the free version, but you can add little upgrades that can help you track coming meteor showers, comets, and satellites. I’m still playing around with it, but I recently learned that there is giraffe constellation by using this app. Pretty cool!

Quake Feed

Michael has this app on his iPad and downloaded it specifically for this trip. It keeps us up to date on seismic activity around the country. New Zealand has a lot of earthquakes. Around 20,000+ a year to be exact. In 2016, they had a record year and had over 32,000 recorded earthquakes. Check out the stats here. Only 150 or so are strong enough to be felt by people each year. Some of them are major quakes that rock the country, like the 6.3 quake in Christchurch in 2011 that killed 185, and more recently the 7.8 quake in Kaikoura in late 2016. The Kaikoura quake was strong enough to cause extensive damage to roadways, railways, and even the ferry docks in Wellington and Picton. It was strong enough that the South island is now 2 meters closer to the North island and 1 meter higher in some areas. The reason for the insane amount of activity is the fact that New Zealand is split between two tectonic plates (Australian Plate and Pacific Plate) and has a major fault line (Alpine Fault) that runs through it. Where we are in the Southern part of the South island rarely experiences seismic activity, so we are pretty safe. Although it would be pretty cool to feel a little baby quake….just joking Mom. Or am I?

WhatsApp

This one is an honorable mention. With the wimpy 8 Gigs on my iPhone I don’t have the room to install this app, but I know alot of people who use this app to keep in touch with friends and family around the world. It allows you to make calls/text without tapping into your phone minutes or text allowance. We have T-mobile which actually uses the Vodaphone cell towers and our plan includes free text and data. Calls to a NZ number are .20/min but we can call US numbers for free if we are on wi-fi, so we decided not to buy a prepaid phone since ours seem to work just fine over here.

 

Are there any apps that you just can’t live without while traveling? Let us know in the comments!

Take A Hike – Part 2

Continued from Take A Hike – Part 1

Iris Burn Hut (right) and Ranger Hut (left)

Day 3: The next morning (Friday) we awoke around 6am to the sound of fellow hikers packing up their gear for an early start on their last day. Also at this time, the gangs of juvenile Kea were coming down into the valley to antagonize the campers outside. When people asked why we got in so late, they were surprised that we had done the Brod Bay to Iris Burn section in one day. It’s not impossible to do, many people just don’t decide to tackle all that at once because of the climbing. Once we discussed it, we decided to stay a full day at the hut and rest, even though it added an extra day to our trip. After a satisfying breakfast, I relaxed out on the porch of the hut like a cat basking in the sun, while Michael busied himself with recharging our mini solar panels.

Relaxing in the warmth of the sun

It was nice to have to whole place to ourselves once the other hikers had gone. We talked to the ranger, Rose, and found out more about the trail, Kea, and her job as a ranger. I’m glad we spent the day there because we were able to check out the Iris Burn Falls, and later in the day we spotted a rare Blue Duck, called Whio. Fun Fact: This rare breed of duck lives in fast moving rapids and uses the rubberized tip on their bills to scrape small insect larvae off of rocks.

The Iris Burn Hut is tucked away in a large tussock clearing surrounded by beech forest which made for a beautiful place for birdwatching. The sandflies were pretty thick here too, but we managed to keep most of them at bay with the eucalyptus and citronella oils we had brought. We paid the ranger for our last night which would be spent at the tent campsite. That evening we set up our tent in the camping area about 200m away from the hut among some old beech trees. The ranger told us we would be safer from the Kea in there than in the open grass. Kea can destroy a tent in a matter of minutes with their beaks and inquisitive nature. She also recommended we hang up our packs out of reach from Kea in the camp shelter nearby. We slept better that night which made it easier to get an early start for our last day.

Check out the video below that we took of a juvenile Kea trying his hardest to steal a cleaning cloth from the outdoor kitchen at Iris Burn Hut!

Day 4: We were up a daybreak and already the juvenile Kea gang was coming in for their daily barrage on the campers. They have this cackling-laugh call that is the warning for “Here we come to break your stuff and annoy the crap outta you!” Since I own a parrot back home, their mischievous behavior is nothing new. Michael went off to get our packs and I had the tent gear on the picnic table ready to be packed away, when two Kea approached from different angles like little feathered bullies. They hop in a comical way, but they don’t go very far if you try to shoo them away. Once they realized I wasn’t going to play, they hopped over to a neighboring tent and started pulling at the tent stakes and playing with the zippers until the campers inside woke up.

We were on the trail by 8:30am on our last day with 22.2km (13.8mi) to tackle before dinnertime. At this point, we were physically humbled from that hard second day hike but we were also excited and motivated to finish because dinner that night would be an authentic Italian pizza and gelato in Te Anau. The morning was misty and there were Kea flying over us as we walked past a massive landslip that had occurred in the 1980’s. It was a completely different world from the one we were in just 2 days before. Most of this last day was downhill after we managed to climb up and over a small gorge and followed the Iris Burn River to Lake Manapouri.

The last hut, Moturau Hut, sits facing the shore of Lake Manapouri and is a popular spot for day hikers to have picnic lunch who come the other direction. We stopped for a quick snack and to take our packs off. We pretty much felt they were the bane of our existence and could not wait to chuck them in the back of the car. But the car was still 90 minutes away and our feet were really starting to ache. So we ate some of our chocolate for a sugary boost and pushed on. Even though we were practically shuffling, at least we were moving in a forward direction. When we finally caught sight of the giant suspension bridge we had come across on that first day we felt immediate relief. It was 3:30pm on Saturday and we were finally finished. Our shoulders were bruised, our feet ached and had grown a few blisters, and we probably smelled terrible since we hadn’t had a proper shower in over 3 days, but we did it. The physicality of it was quite humbling, but the landscapes and wildlife sightings were totally worth it. Quite often on that last day I kept thinking about the main character in the book Wild. My mom gave me the book to read while on our trip and it’s about a young woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone with a pack so heavy, she nicknamed it “Monster.” It’s an excellent book, and it was my driving force on that last day because I knew that woman suffered way worse on her journey than we did on our measly 3 day hike.

Would I do it again? Meh, probably not. Once we were back in the car I told Michael that I would rather do another 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon than carry that pack again. We were too tired to take a picture of ourselves at the end, we were more focused on our pizza dinner and gelato! The drive home was cold and rainy, so we couldn’t have timed it any better. After a hot Epsom salt soak and a day or so of rest we felt like our normal selves.

Did you make it all the way to the end? Thanks for reading all the way to the end! We hope you enjoyed it and had a few laughs. We are planning on taking some short day trips in the future back, including going back to Te Anau to check out the Glowworm caves and do some horseback riding (finally!). For now, we are keeping busy with work, our ministry, saving up some extra cash, and preparing for the cold winter temperatures that are just around the corner.

Take A Hike – Part 1

Since this post ended up being longer than I anticipated, it will be broken up into 2 parts. Once I started typing it just kept getting longer and longer, so hopefully it’s not too much of a beast and you get some laughs out of our misadventures on the Kepler Track

Ok, so we technically weren’t planning to do any multi-day hikes when we originally planned our trip to New Zealand. But we caved to temptation. It’s hard to resist when you are in a country that in itself seems like another world entirely. That’s how we ended up hyping ourselves into hiking the Kepler Track in 3 days. The mileage seemed doable, we had pretested the weight of our newly borrowed packs, and we were no couch potatoes. We felt ready. Just a preface here; even though it was only an “intermediate” level track, it wasn’t necessarily a stroll through the park, and 3 days turned into 4. Oh, and it’s only 60km, not 67 km, but I’ll explain that later.

Here’s how our trip went:

First, we drove further north to check out Milford Sound. It’s perhaps New Zealand’s most iconic natural wonder. We go there early after camping one very chilly night at a campsite about an hour away from Milford Sound. Our advice, try to book the first boat going out for the day, usually a 9am departure depending on which tour company you go through. The reason to get up at the butt-crack of dawn and catch that first boat is because it’s less crowded (who wants to wake up that early?) and some of the tour boats offer free breakfast with your ticket. We are all about free food and fewer people, so we booked the 9am tour with Go Orange. Check out what they offer here

We enjoyed a 2 hour boat ride through the Sound with plenty of room to move around on the boat while we listened to the boat captain tell us cool facts about the area. For example, he told us that they get so much rain throughout the year that they don’t measure it in millimeters or centimeters but in meters! They get on average over 15 meters of rain a year! That’s around 50 feet a year for those of you still using the Imperial System 😉 Since the mountains over on the west coast are sheer rock with little vegetation, all that water cascades off into myriads of rivers and waterfalls back into the ocean. A bonus was getting insanely close to some of the waterfalls while on the boat and he stopped near a huge boulder where fur seals were taking a snooze.

After Milford Sound we drove down to an area called Manapouri to stay at a tiny cabin we booked through Airbnb. The cabin was at a small campground called Possum Lodge and gave us the chance to sleep in a warm bed and take a hot shower before embarking on our trek. Besides the tiny cabins, there were also powered sites for small RV campers and plenty of tent sites. Like most campgrounds, there was a kitchen and lounge area with free wifi, and the bathroom/shower facilities were nice and clean. Definitely a cool little campground to check out if you travel to the area.

Ok, now on to the good part…

Day 1: After having a bit of a sleep in on Wednesday, we packed up our stuff into the car and headed off for the Rainbow Reach carpark. We arrived around 10am and triple checked that we had everything we needed, locked the car, and started walking. It was a chilly morning until the sun was a bit higher, and when you are carrying a heavy pack you warm up pretty fast. Leaving out of Rainbow Reach gives you the chance to walk across the Waiau River on this long suspension bridge which was cool. Our first day was a 15.1km (9.4mi) hike through mostly flat forest along the river to the Brod Bay Campsite that sits on the shore of Lake Te Anau. Shortly after a lunch of apples and trail mix, we passed through the Kepler Track Carpark which is a more common place for people to start/end their hike. It was here at the Kepler carpark that we noticed the discrepancy in kilometers between our trail guide and the signs posted. Apparently, back when the trail was newly built there wasn’t an accurate way of measuring the distances up in parts of the alpine section. In addition, parts of that section of the trail would change due to rock slides and avalanche activity. So it wasn’t until somewhat recently that the actual kilometers were accurately measured, making it a 60km loop instead of the 67km that it said on the Kepler Carpark sign.

Our first day was fairly easy-going, except for the nagging discomfort starting in our shoulders, but nothing we couldn’t block out mentally. We reached Brod Bay campsite by 2:30pm so we had kept a pretty good pace on that first day. After setting up camp in the treeline we went down and lay out on the beach fully clothed to relax. I say fully clothed for 2 reasons. First, because it was still chilly to us and definitely not “beach weather” despite it being a beautiful, sunny day. Secondly, us and the other campers hanging out on the beach kept our clothes on, unlike the 2 girls from France who thought it was totally fine to strip down and go skinny dipping in broad daylight. Talk about a culture shock! Anyways, after taking a nap in the sun we finished setting up camp, had an early dinner so we could get to bed early and escape the sandflies. We brought natural bug repellent but they can be persistent and their bites itch worse than mosquitoes. Poor Michael didn’t sleep well that night due to little mice climbing on our tent trying to get to our food. The park rangers advised us to keep food and trash in our tent to prevent rats and mice eating our food. Ha! Michael ended up throwing our trash bag outside the tent to appease the mice.

Day 2: After a not-so-restful nights sleep, we got a slow start on our longest day of walking. All the other campers were getting an early start, but most of them were stopping at the next hut, Luxmore Hut, 8.2km (5.1mi) away. We would stop at Luxmore Hut for lunch, but our final destination that day was Iris Burn Hut 22.8km (14.1mi) away. Not only that, but this section has the most altitude change and can take hikers 8-10 hours to complete. I tried to get Michael to move with a little more urgency, but he hates being rushed, so we didn’t start walking until 9:30am. Once the trail turned inland from Lake Te Anau it started going up. And up. And up some more. We steadily climbed for the first 2 hours taking small breaks to gain 700m (2300ft) in altitude in the first 4.1km (2.5mi). One of our breaks was at the end of a particularly steep climb under limestone cliffs and I spotted a lone walking stick. I already had one, but Michael didn’t. Many of the hikers had their fancy trekking poles for the steep climbing sections, so I figured we may need them sooner than later. After the limestone cliffs we had a nice surprise on this part of the trail. We came upon two juvenile Kea parrots trying to destroy a bit of drainage pipe. Kea are large alpine parrots that are unique to the South Island and can be quite destructive. They are not scared of hikers, very curious, and will not hesitate to destroy whatever they can get their powerful beaks on. So after snapping a few pictures we left them to their destructive activity and kept walking. At this point, our backs and shoulders were really starting to feel the bite from the straps on our packs.

The #1 rule when hiking with heavy packs is to make sure you have the weight distribution packed in your bag correctly, with the heaviest stuff up against your back and the middle of your pack. Also to have most of the weight on your hips and not on your shoulders. It’s important not to over pack when you need to be self-sufficient on a multi-day hike, but you also need to be prepared for all weather conditions in New Zealand, which meant we shoved our heavy winter coats into our packs. And no, we never used them once. We made sure of all of this, yet no matter how I adjusted my shoulder straps when I would tighten them they would bunch up, creating a fold in the straps. This fold, along with the terribly placed plastic D-ring, would dig into my shoulders, especially the left one. I shoved Michael’s beanie hat under the left shoulder strap to ease some of the pain, but it never went away completely.

We made it to Luxmore Hut around 12noon to have a hearty lunch of tortellini pasta. How good it felt to relax and stretch our strained muscles! Most hikers were stopping there for the day and would check out the Luxmore caves, which we had to skip since we still weren’t even halfway to our final destination. It was beautiful up there above the tree line and we made sure to take it in and enjoy as much of it as we could while walking along.

We left Luxmore Hut at 1:30pm. The second half of this second day was probably the toughest thing we have ever done. After leaving Luxmore Hut, we walked along ridgelines and mountain saddles exposed to sun and wind. Thankfully, we had amazing weather and the winds weren’t strong. At times, the wind speeds can reach hurricane force and blow you right off the trail. Parts of the trail were pretty sketchy with loose slag rock and uneven terrain, and this is were those walking sticks came in handy to steady ourselves. Up there in the alpine crossing is where we met our first adult Kea. Adults don’t have any yellow around their eyes or beaks we found out later, so it’s easy to tell the adults apart from the juvenile delinquent teenage parrots. We stopped and entertained him for about 10 minutes but since it was already after 4pm we needed to keep pushing on while we still had daylight.

There are 2 emergency huts up in the Alpine crossing section, but they only offer a long-drop toilet and a place to get out of the elements if the weather turns. We used them as checkpoints because when you are walking for hours along mountaintops you need that checkpoint to keep you moving forward. With such strenuous terrain, you can’t hold long conversation so you are mostly left with the string of thoughts running through your head. At some point on our alpine crossing we hit the highest elevation on the track of 1400m (4600ft). We met a few people up in this section walking the other way to make it to Luxmore Hut before sundown, but it always a brief friendly “hello” before setting your eyes to the trail again and pushing forward.

We were starting to get a little worried at this point because we had run out of water, even though we had refilled back at Luxmore Hut. There weren’t any streams near us at this point. It was after 6pm, we knew we still had a good 3 hours of hiking left, and stopping for dinner wasn’t even on our minds. We were looking for the treeline, which meant we would have descended low enough to reach the series of switchbacks that we knew would take us to Iris Burn Hut. Thankfully, the treeline wasn’t much farther which renewed our hopes that the Hut wasn’t too far off. We were wrong. The thing with ascending/descending is that it totally screws with your concept of actual distance covered. So even though we were walking down switchback after switchback for what seemed like forever until our knees were screaming at us, we hadn’t gone far. One good thing is that we managed to find a fresh stream to get a drink of water, and boy was it refreshing! Once the sun went down behind the mountains it became increasingly dark as we kept walk/running down the switchbacks. It finally became dark enough that we put our headlamps on. Thank goodness we brought headlamps! When your shoulders, back, calves, knees, and feet are screaming at you it becomes increasingly difficult to block it out. But I was able to block it out enough to notice how profound the silence was around us as we kept descending looking for the lights of the hut. It was kind of cool to be alone on the trail in the dark and not worry about being stalked by a panther or stepping on a snake in the dark.

It was finally around 9:30pm that we saw the light of Iris Burn Hut. We had prepaid for our tent sites but we wanted to see if we could upgrade to bunks since we were exhausted and just wanted to stop moving. Luckily we caught the ranger before she went to bed and after seeing us in our pitiful state let us do a last-minute upgrade. Why not just get bunks from the beginning, you ask? Because it’s $54 per person per night for a bed compared to $18 per person per night for a tent site. But at this point we were desperate to just throw down our gear and sleep. So Michael paid for our bunks, we washed up real fast, and I grabbed my sleeping bag while Michael made himself a late dinner. The beds are literally vinyl covered cushions inches away from each other, along with a few bunk beds for the lucky ones. Yep, $54 for no privacy and a crummy mat. The silver lining was that Michael and I ended up on the top bunks of two beds at the end of the upstairs room. Amidst the snoring, the farting, and the incessant rustling of some idiot in their sleeping bag who couldn’t hold still for 5 seconds, we were able to get a little sleep. I’m naturally a light sleeper so it was a challenge to fall asleep. I’m not even joking about the farting part by the way. 

Hanging up our boots for the night

Check out Take A Hike – Part 2 for the rest of our Kepler Track misadventure!

 

 

Over the Hills and Far Away…

If you know me, you know how much I love Led Zeppelin. Michael tolerates it, and I love him for that. My all-time favorite song is also the perfect title for our next adventure here in New Zealand! Taking a boat ride to view the beautiful Milford Sound and then our 3-day hike over the hills and far away into Fiordland National Park on the Kepler Track.

So feel free to rock out to a little Zepp for us…that’s what I’m doing while writing this post 😀

Milford Sound is one of those places that you actually want it to be raining when you visit. Why, you ask? To see all the ridiculously beautiful waterfalls! It is perhaps one of the most picturesque places in the entire country…so you will just have to wait and see for yourselves when we post our selfies on Instagram. We are planning a morning boat ride in the Sound and exploring the area before heading south to Te Anau and the Fiordland National Park.

By the way, did you know Fiordland can be spelled either with an “i” or a “j”, as in Fiordland or Fjordland? I just learned that today! Anyways…

The Kepler Track is one of the Great Walks here in New Zealand and most hikers can get the 60km (37.2mi) done in 3 or 4 days and is graded as an intermediate level trail. It is recommended to complete the hike in the months October-May, can be hiked in either direction since it is one big loop, and has two points of entry/exit. This area of the park has complex avalanche terrain and it is not advisable to hike the track it in winter, which is why we are doing it at the tail end of summer. With short daylight hours, freezing cold, and icy, snowy conditions, hiking this trek in the winter is only for professionals. Plus, who seriously wants to hike for 7 hours a day freezing their butts off?! Uh, not us. The Department of Conservation is serious about keeping people safe and making sure it doesn’t get too crowded on the trail or at the campsites, so you have to book tickets for the campsites ($18/person per night). There are slightly nicer huts to sleep in, but they lack privacy and at $54 a night per person, we decided that was a bit steep for a lousy cot. But you kind of want a place to sleep after hiking all day, so we opted for the comforts of a simple campsite and the $18 price tag.

Day 1 we are starting out at the Rainbow Reach carpark and hiking to our first campsite at Brod Bay. Day 2 will be checking out Luxmore caves while on our way to campsite #2 at Iris Burn Hut. Day 3 will be all downhill hiking back to the Rainbow Reach carpark. This will split the mileage up somewhat evenly throughout the 3 days.

I’ve included some nifty maps and track elevation profile below so you can see the layout of the land.

We will be keeping an eye out for the world’s only alpine parrot, the cheeky little Kea. These large parrots can be entertaining for tourists, but can also wreak havoc on camping gear, car windshield wipers, and pretty much anything they can find to destroy. I’ll try to snap a picture of one if I see it.

As with any big trip, if you fail to plan ahead, then you had better plan to fail. That’s why we have done our homework for this 3 day trek through the mountains. There are 5 main things to remember:

  • Plan your Trip: Seek local info on what to bring, the best route to take, and allow enough time for the journey.
  • Tell someone your plans: Safety is our #1 priority…we would really, really like to not have to use our Int’l Health Insurance or the SOS on our Delorme GPS. Our host family knows about our trip and where we will be, and we plan to check in with them throughout the week.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions: New Zealand weather can never seem to make up it’s mind. Kind of like what Ohio weather does for the entire month of March. Plan for the worst, expect the best…but also expect it to go bipolar on you in the next 5 minutes.
  • Take sufficient supplies: That being said about the weather, you need to pack for sunny, rainy, and frigid cold weather. Layers are your friend. We did manage to stuff our big, puffy winter coats into the bottom of our packs along with camp necessities, an extra day’s worth of food, first aid kits, and waterproof rain gear. You can pack alot into a 80L and 75L pack without it weighing a ton! With a 3 day trek through the mountains, you need to be self-sufficient in all areas. And yes, we will even have to poop in the woods like the bears do…if they had bears in New Zealand.
  • Know your limits: The track requires about 5-7 hours a day of walking, depending on your fitness level. Michael and I are not too proud to realize when something might be above our skill-level to tackle. We have completed a 3.5 hour test hike with our packs just to make sure the weight distribution checked out and that we could physically handle scrambling over rough terrain with them on. If we run into trouble, stick to the STAR method. Stop/Think/Assess/React.

On this trip, I remembered to bring our coffee, tea, and yummy superfood greens! Lots of trail mix for snacks along the way too. Fiber is important if you’re going to be doing as the bears do 😉

If you want to know more about the Kepler Track or the other Great Walks in New Zealand click here!