Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Spring is here! (Auckland escapes)

Toto at the Hot Water Beach in Coromandel!
Since our last blog, we got lazy writing blogs and fell back to weekly updates on Facebook. We aren't sure who actually reads the blog… You no read, we no feed. Ok, in all fairness we were in a funk at month 9 so we decided to punt. Who wants to read depressing blogs? Depressed in NZ? What do you mean? How can you be depressed in NZ? Well did you know that the rate of teen suicide is one of the highest in the world? Ok, we were not that depressed. Anyhoo. Apologies to those we let down, you'll get over it. To make it up, I posted most of the pictures we took so far (there are a lot!), nicely organized by region (I really should be a travel planner). Mister does not like to include too many pictures in our blogs and I can’t stop taking pictures, so here's to “the best of both worlds”... We are halfway through the spring and the summer is approaching so spirits are on the rise!
Wet flashy green winter hiking!

The winter (June-July-August) was rainy and cool, but not to the extent we feared. We mastered mud hiking (this is a seriously muddy country: just watch The Piano) and learned to just forget the weather forecast; it changes so fast that you give it a while and the sun is back on. Mostly. The spring however started very wet, even by NZ standards. We stopped counting the days with rain. It’s finally looking like fine days ahead and suncream will be needed soon!

First month of the spring (September) was national election month and it was fascinating to watch the election campaign. The good part: it only got into high gear 3 months before election day. Public debates were friendly and respectful and overall there does not seem to be much mud slinging or bad mouthing. The puzzling part: election term is only 3 years yet most of the projects cannot be realised in less than 10 years it seems. Auckland will have a light rail from the city to the airport (yeah!). ETA: 30 years (ugh). The weirdest part: the election happened with one candidate getting 46% of the votes, but because it was less than 50%, one of the smallest political parties gets to decide who will be Prime Minister by adding their votes to whichever candidate they favor (you can imagine the negotiations and incentives: cough, cough) to build an alliance and form a government. They call this little guy the "King maker". How weird is all that? And to make matters worse that small party candidate is Trump-esque. Déja vu…. It was like the big "decider" All Blacks rugby match that ended in a draw without overtime. Wah? Must be a kiwi thing. Sigh… 

Cathedral Cove in Coromandel
After exhausting all walking, busing ,and ferrying options in the city, we bought a car in June to expand our travel horizons. Toto, as we affectionately call her (from the Rangitoto volcano across the bay, and because we are not in Colorado anymore!), Toto took us to the Coromandel peninsula (Aucklanders escape to beaches, with Cathedral Cove), the Bay of Plenty (retiree heaven of NZ), the western black sand beaches (where The Piano was filmed), and many regional national reserves surrounding Auckland. Bill is doing well driving on the left side of the road, but I am not getting much practice as he enjoys having a dedicated navigator (me). He does have to put up with my choice of music. Maybe if I keep playing Adele, Whitney Houston, and Johnny Cash, he’ll let me drive more so he can listen to the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Little Big Town.

Mt Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty
When we arrived last year everyone was planning their Christmas vacations and we saw Kiwis flock away from work for 6 weeks at a time. With only a single NZ income at the time (yeah, you do need two incomes to live and travel here!), all we could do is watch in envy. As a diversion, one of us poured herself into some fake work to not go cray cray (“wanau ana” as they say here. That’s the first word they taught us in the Maori awareness week. We wondered why that word, but we are finding needing it quite often somehow). This year, Ms. planner (yours truly) would have none of that. I got it all ready for our kiddos to come visit us, each accompanied by their partner (I love the term they use here to keep it all ambiguous, especially as Auckland is an openly gay city). Sadly they both are stuck on US job leashes, so will only come for 10 days. What a shame, but hey we’ll take what we can get. We are actually very proud parents of a soon-to-be Doctor in Nursing (Shelby, assuming she survives) and a spacecraft engineer (Spencer) who is focusing on putting the right blades on the NASA Mars 2020 NASA helicopter. Or something like that. We're never quite sure what it is he does. Yeah compared to that, we are a bit boring :) We are so glad we’ll have them here soon, to show off our NZ chops.
Bill's latest crave: ocean swimming in 58F
water off Takapuna beach with Rangitoto in
the background.
Work-wise (yeah, we still have to work to fund our crazy travel dreams) Bill has been steady at Vesper Marine, his work leading to an innovation award for the deckWatch app he created.  After a hectic start, and some well-spent professional training, I am finally enjoying my agile and product management consulting stint.  

Housing-wise, we just decided to move out of our little under-dwelling to live in a beach community. Look right. That beach. Enough of the 6am wake-up calls, dog barking, and rugby fans screaming and stomping above us. We will be moving to a cute little cottage 2 min from Takapuna beach and we’ll be joining the slew of bus commuters (cuz ain’t no place to park Toto in the city). Bill is absolutely stoked to be so close to a beach to practice his ocean swims and maybe invest in kayaks to add balance to our "bike, sail, hike, kayak" mantra.  We haven't had much of any of those lately. Hiking may have to take a break for a while. Sailing? Well... That will have to wait for now, too. Make do with what you have and there's a lot o' ocean to swim around here!

Enjoy the pictures and look for a commemorative blog to reflect on our first year in NZ. Stay tuned!