Saturday, 28 June 2014

Off to New Zealand bro!

Sheep and Mountains - yep must be NZ
Our much anticipated trip to New Zealand starts today!  We had a great time although Paul was pretty crook during most of it.  We left on June the 28th and spent a couple of days in Brisbane catching up with Rosanna and Shannon and then all of us went to New Zealand on the Tuesday.  We returned on Saturday the 12 of July but Daniel and Ree stayed on for another week (and something special happened during that week - see the post later on the blog!).   Unfortunately Monica and Toby weren't able to come as they had a wedding to attend soon after we were due back and as they had new jobs they didn't have the leave to take.

Here is a little diary of our trip;

Saturday 28th of June
Monica was kind enought to take Paul, Daniel and Ree to the airport whilst Nadine kindly took Gwenny and David via mum's (to drop of the puppies!) to the airport.  The 5 of them then flew to Brisbane just after midday and caught up with Rosanna and Shannon.  Daniel and Ree stay with Ree's sister Kim and we stayed at Rosanna's.  Daniel and Ree went to some festival in the city and we had an awesome dinner with the Beath family at Mark and Tammy's house.

Sunday, 29th of June
We do a bit of shopping with the girls getting a bit of warm gear that we didn't find in Darwin ready for the bitter winter in NZ!  That evening Shannon takes us to see a dam and a mountain pass that we never found as it has been closed due to an avalanch or something.   We get some curry at the local takeaway that hits the spot!

Monday, 30th of June
Another fairly quite day chilling out - actually its pretty cold in Ipswich!  We do a bit more shopping and Paul goes to the doctor.  That night it was nice to have Paul's brother Troy and his partner Tony around for dinner.  Rosanna made a very nice lasagne!

Tuesday, 1st of July
The mob at Sydney Airport
The big day - got up early to get to the airport and we're off to Christchurch via Sydney!  Customs etc was pretty painful but we made it through.  Was a pretty uneventful flight and we were spoiled a bit as the flight from Sydney to Christchurch was via Emirates.  There was a audible "gasp" from the passengers on the flight when the awesome snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps came into view as we descended into Christchurch!  Wow what a site!

We get in around mid afternoon and pick up our hire car (a 12 seater 4wd bus) and Daniel and Ree pick up the Hyundai i30 they hired.  We settle into our motel that is on the outskirts of Christchurch.  Had a nice dinner at a nearby pub - David had about 3 boars worth of ribs!

Wednesday, 2nd of July
We're due to drive to Lake Pukaki today to a self contained farm homestay on the shores of the lake.  We're a bit concerned about the bus we hired as the tyre has gone flat overnight and there is no heater in the back!  The hire company is kind enough to give us two Suburu Outback wagons for the same price - so Paul drives one and Shannon the other.

After having breakfast at Maccas near the airport with a bit of drizzling rain around we went to a big store to stock up on supplies, as well as food we got a bit more warm weather gear.

We headed south in our 3 cars late in the morning and were pretty excited to see the distant snow capped mountains getting closer.  Dad annoyed Gwenny and David by trying to do the dwarf hum in the mountain song from the hobbit movie.  Apparently it was a pretty poor attempt.
Our farmhouse stay at Lake Pukaki

We stopped at a roadside cafe and had some lovely warm pies for lunch.  The temperature was dropping but at least the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

After seeing some amazing scenery we pulled into our acommodation for the next two nights at Lake Pukaki.  The house and the location was amazing!  We had no neighbours and had heaps of Lake shore to ourselves.

That evening we went into the little town of Twizel (we were told its pronounced twyzel "eye" not "i") to get some fresh food such as meat to cook back at the house.   The highlight of the night was Dad outbidding David's 9 hearts call in a 500 game with a 10 clubs call and winning the hand and the game!   David and Daniel were not impressed, but Dad's partner Shannon was.

Thursday 3rd of July
Early morning Gwenny and Paul went seeking nice landscape photos around the lake.  It was very cold but again we had sunny blue skies.  It took a while for the frost to melt of the car windscreen.

Our holiday house was somewhere on the far shore behind Paul

Mount Cook from the shores of Pukaki

On the road to Mount Cook (looking back)
The young 'uns kindly had breakfast cooked for Mum and Dad when they returned to the house and soon after everyone set off on the road to Mount Cook.

The drive to Mount Cook was beautiful as your follow the western shore of Lake Pukaki where Mount Cook stands guard at the north end where the lake is fed.  We were apparently very lucky to have such clear weather as we were told that often it is too clouded over to see the peak.  We discovered that there is a little village near the base and we had lunch there in a nice little cafe.

Lunch at Mount Cook Village
We then went for a walk around the base of the mountain where it was quite snowy to some historic landmark (will update with what it was).  Some of us didn't have very good snow proof boots on so it was a bit cold and wet on the feet!  To help matters more some of the fellowship thought it worthwhile to throw snowballs at other unsuspecting members or to stuff snow down their jackets.  Paul filled his water bottle from a beautiful mountain steam of melted ice.

After the walk we headed back to the holiday home at the south end of Lake Pukaki for our final night there.   It seemed like a bit of weather was closing in but it didn't get too bad.   When we looked back however Mount Cook had hid his head in the clouds.

We had another meal cooked at the house and had a fairly early night - although some of the boys stayed up to watch the soccer world cup.

Friday 4th of July
Happy 20th birthday to Ree-ann!   We had a few plans to celebrate her birthday that night in Wanaka which was near our next destination of Lake Hawea.

After Daniel spoilt Ree with a lovely cooked breakfast we packed our gear and headed off late in the morning.  It was less than 150km to drive today so it was a fairly easy day. The house at Lake Hawea was nicer than we expected (as it was quite cheap) and was right on the banks of the lake in the little town there.   We did have some challenges getting into the house as the combination lock wasn't working but it was all good after Paul rang the owner (who was in Bali enjoying some sunshine!) gave him the correct code.  The residence was actually 2 separate buildings so Shannon and Rosanna stayed in the other building.

Paul and Shannon trying to stand up straight
We still had quite a bit of the day left so we went into the nearby tourist town of Wanaka to do something things Ree was pretty keen to do on her birthday!   Firstly we went to Puzzling World for lunch and then confusion and fun!  Some of us were very slack (according to Daniel) in regards to the massive maze which they declined...  but we all enjoyed the other puzzles and optical illusions in the centre.  In particular the angled rooms where you think are level but you're not had us in fits of laughter!

That evening we went into the town of Wanaka and were surprised at how busy it was.  It really is a bustling little tourist town and it wasn't that easy to get a park.  Paul and Gwenny went looking for a chocolate cake for Ree's birthday (secretely requested by Ree-ann's mum Debra!) whilst the others looked around for a place to have dinner.

The young folks finally found a restaurant that they approved of but Mum and Dad got lost trying to follow
The chocolate cake for a special girl
their directions to it, even with the help of modern technologies such as iphones and GPS.  Daniel ended up waiting out on the main street for them to go past and then waving them in.

The place we had dinner and celebrated Ree-ann's birthday was the strangely named "The Cow" restaurant.   Most of us went for pasta dishes and it was delicious.  After the main course we had the staff bring out Ree-ann's cake and sang happy birthday to her.

After dinner we then went to Ruby's Cinema which is a lovely small cinema that make going to a movie to be a special event.  Its all done up in an old style theme (like from the 1920s) and there are fancy lounge chairs in the cinema where you can watch in awesome comfort.  There is a bar and they bring you drinks and nibbles during the intermission etc.  Was a great night - great idea Ree!  The movies we saw was Transformers: Age of Extinction.

On the way back to Lake Hawea that night we realised that there was a much shorter route home than the inland route we used to drive to Wanaka.

Saturday 5th of July

Sunrise at Lake Hawea
Paul got up pretty early as he normally does and noticed the sky was lighting up with a beautiful sunrise.  By the time he got his layers of clothing on and camera gear and hurried down along the little path at the front of the house to the lake shore the colours had all faded.  Gwenny joined him soon after and they had a nice time sitting on pebbly beach watching the sun light up the mountains over the water.  The beach was made of rounded smooth stones and they collected a few.

The view from Treble Cone
The snow season was apparently running a bit late this year but the ski fields had apparently got a bit of snow in the last few days.  We therefore thought we'd give it a go and after breakfast we drove to the Treble Cone ski field on the other side of Wanaka.  It was an amazing drive up a slippery, icey, and very steep road but the views made it worth it!   The others got sick of Dads car always pulling up to take photos and went on ahead.

Daniel and David
The snow wasn't great but David and Daniel tried a bit of snow boarding and Rosanna hired some skis.  The rest of us just watched.   David gave up pretty soon as snowboarding is hard to learn, but Daniel stubbornly kept trying and got ok at it.  Rosanna was doing very well on the skis and went up the first beginners slope lots of times and came gracefully back down.

We headed back home to Lake Hawea before it got dark (the days were pretty short there in the winter - was pretty dark by 5pm) but had to join the rush with lots of cars and buses going down the slippery moutain trail together - it wasn't too bad though.

Sunday 6th of July

Well it was time to get on the road again and change our place of residence.  Our next stop is the bustling
Our view of Lake Hawea
tourist town of Queenstown.  The drive is only a little over 100km but still over 2 hours with no stops as we had to go through a mountain pass etc.

Paul and Gwenny got up early and went down to the lake shore again at the front of the Lake Hawea house but the sunrise wasn't that great that morning.  They then went for a drive along the western shore of the lake and took a few photos of the lakes shores and some deer that they saw on farms.

Mum in our Queenstown unit
After getting back and packing up we all set off to Queenstown in our three cars.  The drive was quite spectacular but otherwise uneventful.  Rosanna was disappointed as we didn't go the long way in past the wineries where she was keen to visit for lunch - we assured her we'd do that one the way out - which we didn't!  Sorry Rosanna!

After a bit of confusion trying to find our Queenstown house where we'd stay the next 4 nights we finally worked it out.  The cleaners were still in the room but were happy for us to move our gear in whilst they were finishing off.   It was a beautiful unit up high overlooking Queenstown and it's lake.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

John Fraser back "home" for a bit

Fishing at Channel Island with Paul and Tim Cowen
Paul went into the airport early this morning to pick up his good old mate John Fraser.  They went to school together and were good mates as young adults also.  John's younger brother Graham is also best mates with Uncle Craig.   John is going to camp at the block and get a bit of work in Darwin to save some money.  He plans to stay for roughly a year.

He initially used the camper trailer and roughed it for a while but now he's in a caravan and set up pretty well down behind the shed.  Hopefully the area he is in is ok come the wet season!

Apart from missing his wife and son he seems be enjoying be back at his old hunting ground as he has a real love for the territory.

John's brother Graham and wife Denise and their girls were up for a week around July 15th

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Lily has her puppies

Not great timing as we're due to go to New Zealand in a little over 2 weeks but Lily had her 2nd litter today.   4 beautiful puppies were born - 2 boys and 2 girls.   The father was a terrier looking playboy from "down the road" whilst we were in Palmerston still.

Paul was stuck with some midwife duties for some time as Gwenny was busy when it all started happening.  The first pup was stuck half way out for quite some time (perhaps 30 minutes) and when it was born Paul was pretty sure it was dead.   However when he tried to take it away Lily being quite anxious and when it was returned she vigorously licked it etc for some time when Paul noticed it started moving and breathing!   The little puppy ended up being fine.

Paul's mum was super helpful again in looking after the puppies whilst we were in New Zealand - with some help from Nadine too.  One of the girls has a bit of a problem with her back legs - she can still run around but they don't quite move like they should - although she does seem to be improving.

We gave 3 of the puppies away to family (Mark and Kathryn Pattemore took a boy and a girl, Tahlia took a girl) and we sold the remaining brown boy (the rest were black and white) on gumtree very quickly.  We kept Tahlia's little girl puppy until mid September as she was setting off on holidays to the US before then.