Saturday, March 9, 2019

Gone Summer…..Off to the South Island

The NZ summer came. We blinked and it went. On Christmas Day, it must have rained enough for a whole season cuz we have not seen rain for two months. Very unusual. Of course as I am writing this blog, it's pouring again! This summer has been hotter and sunnier than the past two. We spent many sleepless nights sweating away without AC. No central heating/cooling is becoming a problem around here as climate changes. In his continued search for body adaptation to cold water, Bill got into the habit of taking a bloody cold shower before going to bed. Me, I just soaked the sheets....

Day trip to Golden Bay and its humongous archways
For his birthday, Bill selected the Nelson region. It coincided with one of our ocean series swims, and we had much enjoyed our past trips to that region, including kayaking and hiking the Abel Tasman national park with daughter Shelby and hubby David. We made the best of the trip this time around despite limited access to tramping and mountain bike trails because of wildfires. Nelson is similar to Colorado in weather (dry heat) and land activities (biking, hiking) plus has ocean access for swimming, kayaking, and sailing. We found it to be the most bike friendly place we visited in NZ so far. The famous Great Walks have equivalent Great Cycling Trails. We biked parts of the Tasman's Great Taste Trail close by. Our butts reminded us how unusual this activity has become for us. We miss biking.  While in Nelson, we met the owner of the Eddyline Brewery. Our Colorado friends may know the Buena Vista location. He sold that location to employees and transported his entire family to Nelson to open Eddyline NZ. That was fun to exchange expat stories!

Bill before his 10k in Lake Taupo
This year's ocean swimming season has been challenging and invigorating - with longer distances and choppier seas (or lakes) than last year. We were having a lot of fun swimming alongside (ok way way behind) incredible athletes - some national champions, some ex-olympians, ironman competitors and some training to swim across the Cook Strait.

That all came to a stop late January when Bill’s shoulder decided it had enough, the day before we were due to fly for his season highlight race - a 10k in lake Wanaka in the South Island.

Roys Peak in Wanaka

We had already bought our flights and lodging for Wanaka so we decided to ahead anyway to scout the area. We LIKED Wanaka, the quieter version of adrenaline-junky expensive Queenstown, but while many told us "you'll LOVE Wanaka", the wow factor was diminished by the fact that it looked a lot like Colorado! Wanaka's lake is nice with its known Lone Tree but we have been spoiled by Annecy's lake when it comes to mountain lakes. Still we enjoyed visiting this new region for us. We got to hike the famous Roys Peak, a snaky straight up and down 5 hr trail to an iconic picture spot

And thankfully, after several weeks of PT as well as X-ray and ultrasound investigations that ended up with a cortisone shot, the shoulder is behaving again.

Stroke analysis with Swim Smooth coach

After two seasons of ocean swimming, and a shoulder injury, we needed something to stay excited about the sport. Swimming can become boring if you don't have something to focus on and keep you motivated.

So we signed up for professional coaching to learn about injury prevention and improve our swim stroke. The sessions involved in depth video analysis above and under water with insightful reviews on the computer, and detailed email follow-up. You have no idea how you swim until you see yourself on film. I swear my left hand was not doing this! Alas, pictures don't lie.

Two hours later, we left with a laundry list of super helpful tips that we are diligently practicing in pools with swim toys that will keep us busy for a couple of months!

We are about to embark on our long-planned much anticipated tour of the South Island. Timing (early NZ autumn) should mean fewer crowds (human, cars and sand flies). But it could also mean heavy rain and cold! Such is the weather in the land of the long white cloud. Seems like the only reliable month for guaranteed good weather is February. All other months have been great one year and depressing (cold and rainy) the next, but as they say here "she'll be right" (aka "it will be what it will be and we'll be fine"). Weather in itself is manageable but it can be quite impactful as heavy rains can cause massive slips that can even block roads for days. That only happened last year and then already this year so it is a real possibility!

You don't want to be driving there then!
The grand plan is to drive from Auckland all the way down to Queenstown leisurely over nine days, visiting the West Coast before picking up our son Spencer at the Queenstown airport to spend two weeks enjoying Lord of the Ring territory. You may be thinking that we'll rent one of those camper vans quintessential to NZ touring. Well.... sorry to disappoint but our aging bodies have requested comfortable beds and warm showers so we'll posh it with AirBnBs. That also gives us a better appreciation for the kiwi way of living. When we return to Auckland mid-April, we will officially be homeless permanent residents. Please don't send us mail! We'll look for life to talk to us on where to stay or more likely book an AirBnB. Sometimes we really miss having a home (with comfortable places to sit in) and sometimes we wake up feeling incredibly lucky to experience NZ.

Last month, fruit flies have officially landed in NZ. Everyday we get a news update announcing a new one found. Not surprisingly, growth is exponential. Those buggers reproduce fast! Biosecurity is a big deal on the island. Little creatures can destroy NZ’s crop exports - kiwi fruits, apples, etc...We can honestly say “we were there when the fruit flies arrived to NZ in 2019”. I can’t imagine they will be able to avoid the invasion.

Some noteworthy news… drum roll…..We will be first-time grandparents in September. Yeah! Yikes! Another life milestone. We are looking forward meeting grand-baby #1. The city of Elk Grove - where Shelby and David will welcome their bundle of joy - should have completely its twice delayed grand aquatic centre right in time for the delivery We’ll go anywhere where there is an outdoor 50 meter pool, especially when rent is free:)

After the South Island tour, the NZ winter will be around the corner and we vouched to escape any cold, rainy or snowy places so we booked flights on the last day of the NZ autumn
 to be back on US soil. We'll take the opportunity to move our beloved 13m sailboat (Alizée) out of her Maine shed where she patiently waited for us and take her sailing somewhere where there is swimmable water, no shark, jellyfish or lobster buoys. Looking at Lake Huron and its Canadian North Channel at the moment. Any suggestion from anyone?

We’d love to reconnect with friends while we are in the northern hemisphere! Send us a note (

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