Friday letters – the autumn weather edition

Aaah, it’s that time of the week again… the day that I bombard you with mini letters to the universe and you pretend you find them entertaining.

Shall we get started?

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Dear clocks. I hear you’re going back this weekend. That always feels like the beginning of the end of the year. To be honest, I’ll be quite pleased when it’s over. Not because of all the celebrity deaths… I’m just hoping for good things in 2017.

Dear nuthatch. That’s twice I’ve seen you on my balcony now and both times I was nowhere near my camera. Come back soon, okay?

Dear tree by the balcony. Was it really only two weeks ago that I was praising the beauty of your yellow leaves? They’re almost all gone now and you look so sad with only mostly naked branches t show for yourself.

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The last few leaves are still just about clinging on

Dear rain. I blame you for making all the leaves fall off so quickly. The poor things didn’t stand a chance with you bucketing down on them for 2 whole days!

Dear winter reading challenge. You’d think I’d be all challenged out by now, but I can’t wait to get stuck into you!

Dear comfort food. Your time has come! Now that it’s not too hot to cook I can make soups and curries and chillies to my heart’s content! Hurrah! Also, this is the perfect time of year to drink all the hot chocolate!

That is all. I have work to do! Have a great weekend, dear readers.

Friday letters

Oh, hey! So apparently it’s Friday already? This week has gone far too fast!

Let’s have some letters:

Mail box

Dear trees. You’re so pretty right now! I love walking into my living room and seeing yellow beside the balcony, or looking out of my office window to see orange and red. Do you think you could maybe stay like that for while instead of rapidly going from colourful to naked? Thank you!

Dear birds. Now it’s getting colder, you can have some seeds again. Enjoy!

Dear Christmas. I see you lurking, but this year I shall be prepared! No stitching cards until midnight the night before we’re due to go away for a few days!

Dear November. You seem to be filling up rapidly. Visitors, Christmas markets, birthday celebrations. I feel tired already and you’re not even here yet! (It’s all fun stuff though, so no real complaints).

Dear bed. Let’s spend some quality time together this weekend, okay? (Despite going by in a flash, this week has also managed to seem like a lot of very long days and short nights. Time is a funny thing).

That’s all I’ve got today and I need to get back to work if I actually want to finish at my normal time tonight.

Have a fabulous weekend, bloggy friends!

Friday letters

Once again Friday has come around incredibly quickly… it only seems like a few days since I was last writing these letters! And this time next week it will be the last Friday in September! Time is really flying… the dreaded “C” word will be here before we know it… I really need to start figuring out what gifts to buy for the people in my life! (Apart from Jan. I have his gift already. Shh… don’t tell him that!)

For now, though, let’s just have some Friday letters.

Mailbox

Dear autumn. You are officially here now… even in astronomical terms, so nobody can argue any more (even though it’s warmed up again here after a cold and rainy start to the week). Apparently here astronomical autumn started at 4:21pm yesterday…. I had no idea it came down to the minute!

Dear pumpkins. Why can’t you be available for me to eat all year round?! Now I have to gorge myself on you for the next few months while I still can!

Dear authors. Could you please stop releasing amazing sounding books on a regular basis? My to-read list  keeps getting longer and longer… and that’s just with the books that are already available!

Dear crows. You are very cool birds, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t make an awful racket outside my window early in the morning! (Hopefully this will stop now it’s no longer light at 5 am…)

That’s all for today. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend! I’m off work next week – not going anywhere, but trying to use up some holiday – so this weekend is the start of what will hopefully be a nice long stretch of relaxation.

Last day in Auckland

Okay, I’ve been home for over three months now so it’s about time I wrote my final New Zealand post!

On our last full day in New Zealand, we decided to actually stay in Auckland. It also turned out to be the only day of our entire stay that we had rain! Oh well 🙂

We started the day with a harbour cruise. There are two per day, and we chose the morning one. With your ticket you also get a free return ticket to Devonport and the price also includes a free cup of tea/coffee and a muffin on the boat. The cruise takes about 90 minutes and includes a stop at Rangitoto islandl. You only get about 10 minutes there, which is just about enough time to walk up and see some of the historic baches (pronounces batches, what New Zealanders call their holiday homes), but we saw a Fantail there, which was pretty fun since the room we were staying in at the B&B was called Pikawaka, which is Maori for Fantail. The commentary on the cruise was interesting at the time, although I remember nothing of it now! Oh well, you only come here for the pretty pictures, right?

After the cruise we met my aunt for a drink – she managed to pop out between meetings to see us – then we decided to use our free ferry tickets to go back to Devonport and buy some chocolate for me to take to my colleagues. Then we took another ferry back to Birkenhead where we had parked the car. As we went under the Harbour Bridge we actually saw some people bungee jumping!

My cousin had recommended Mount Eden as a nice place to get a view over Auckland and its surroundings. Mount Eden or Maungawhau is a dormant volcano and the highest natural point in Auckland. There’s also a crater, approximately 50 metres deep, which is where the volcano erupted from.

It was chucking it down by the time we got up there so visibility wasn’t the greatest, but luckily we had already seen the view from the Sky Tower the day before. It’s difficult to get a sense of the depth of the crater from photos, so you’ll just have to trust me that it was deep 😉 Also notice that someone had been down to the bottom and arranged stones to say HI!

By this time my feet were soaked, so we headed back to the B&B for some dry clothes. We had planned to meet my cousin for dinner again, but she had a headache so we ended up just going to a place near where we were staying, The Good Home in Birkenhead. I chose fish and it had its head still on! I was brave though and ate it all.

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The next morning we drove around looking for a place to post some postcards (the stamps we had were for a specific type of post box, not the normal NZ post) then ended up at some bay that I don’t know the name of but it was pretty and we saw sea birds there! On some grass near the bay we then saw a Pūkeko (a kind of swamphen). I had been trying all week to get a photo of one but they kept running away so we parked the car and stalked this one until I kind of managed to get a photo 😉

The afternoon was spent with my cousin, watching her boyfriend’s football team play in their first match of the season. Then it was off back to the airport  where we had dinner and waited around for a while before catching the looong flight back.

On the way home, we had a ten hour layover in Dubai so I shall leave you with the one and only photo I managed to take there before my camera battery died. At least it was a half decent  one 😉 (We went up the tower but Jan has all the photos from there)

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And that’s it! I can’t believe my New Zealand tales are actually over! To sum up this epic series of posts I have only four words to say: Go to New Zealand!! (I promise you won’t regret it)

Auckland beaches

Okay, enough politics for now. Let’s get back to New Zealand (which, by the way, is increasingly feeling like an appealing place to move to, away from all the violence and insanity on this side of the world. If only it wasn’t so hot there…).

To finish off our New Zealand trip, we had two and a half days in Auckland. On the first of those days, we headed North to visit some of the beaches in the Auckland region. Our first stop was at Piha beach, which my cousin had recommended. A sign warned us not to get to close to any penguins… but again we were lied to, not a penguin in sight! Oh well, the beach was beautiful.

We walked all the way down to the end of the beach – and yes, it is as far as it looks in the second photo above! It was worth it though… while climbing around on some rocks at the end of the beach, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye then spotted some crabs hiding in the gaps between rocks. Not quite a penguin, but wildlife is wildlife. I’ll take it 😉

Crab in the rock

Next, we drove to Maukatia (Maori Bay) and walked a little way along the Takapu Refuge Walk to see the gannet colony. For those that have never seen gannets… they are loud! Pretty cool to see so many of them in one place though. Looking down the other way, towards Muriai Beach, I saw a black bird with a bright orange beak walking around on a large rock. Any guesses what he is? I have no idea! (Look at the last two photos in the gallery below).

We could have followed the refuge walk round for half an hour until we reached Muriwai Beach, but it looked busy down there and it was lunch time, so instead we headed back to the car and stopped off to buy drinks, snacks and sandwiches at a little convenience store before driving around to the East coast. Our final stop before heading back to the city was at Orewa Beach, where we watched the kite surfers for a while.

On the drive back, we realised it was still pretty early, so we parked the car in Devonport, took a ferry into the city and went up the Sky Tower. In case anyone doesn’t know, at the time of writing this the Sky Tower is the tallest building on the souther hemisphere, at 328 metres (1,076 ft) tall. You can jump from the tower if you feel that way inclined (attached to a rope, obviously!) but we just went up to the top. Sky jumps would have to be booked in advance anyway 😉

Back down on the ground, we returned to Devonport on the ferry and met my cousin for dinner… which I again failed to photograph. I had bangers and mash, in case you care. By the time we returned to the car – which we had parked by the Devonport ferry terminal – it was dark, so we finished the day with a photo of the Auckland skyline.

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And that’s it for today. Only one more post on New Zealand to go!

*New Zealand was my March 2016 trip for #Take12Trips 2016*

Canyon swing, canyon jet and Queenstown

I am going to use this post to tell you about our final day on New Zealand’s south island and also for some general photos of Queenstown that I took on various evenings throughout the week.

As you may know, Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Actually, they claim to be the adventure capital of the world… If you’re interested in bungee jumping, paragliding or white water rafting (to name just a few examples), Queenstown is a pretty good place to be!

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Paragliders over Ben Lomond

We decided that we should partake in some adventure tourism before leaving the south island, so we booked the Shotover Canyon “Double Shot”, which meant the canyon swing and canyon jet for a special price (cheaper than booking each thing separately). We were told to be at the Shotover Canyon shop half an hour before our booking, which we did. There, we were weighed and waited around a bit for the rest of our group to arrive before being driven up to the top of the cliff that we would be swinging from. Jan and I decided to do a tandem swing and I’m a wimp so we chose the least scary version, The Cutaway, where they lower you over the edge of the platform and then pull the pin so you fall down (the next least-scary option is jumping forwards). Neither of us wanted to go backwards because we actually wanted to see the view as well as having the adrenaline rush.

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The above photo shows the platform you swing from with the canyon below. We couldn’t take a camera with us on our swing (you are allowed a GoPro if you have a proper wrist strap for it, but neither of us own such a thing), but after our swing I took some photos of other people from our group. I think it’s okay to use them here since they’re too far away to be identifiable.

The initial freefall is 60m, but it seems much shorter… it was over so fast! I didn’t even scream when they let us go because my breath was literally taken away! After the freefall, you swing around at the end of the wire for a bit before being brought back up. Various jumping methods are available, including diving head first or going down a slide. For a small fee, you can do a second jump, but we chose not to since we had already spent a lot and had a whole week of north island to go!

Once everyone in our group had finished their jumps and purchased whatever photos/videos they wanted, we headed back to the van. Everyone else went back into town while we were dropped off at the canyon jet. Again, we couldn’t take any photos – all our possessions had to be placed in lockers so they wouldn’t get wet or fall out of the boat! But here are some photos of where we went and of one of the boats:

The jet ride was really fun! The driver (captain?) of the boat stopped a few times to tell us where we were and give us some information about the area and the views down in the canyon were absolutely spectacular! I so wish I could have taken photos. The only annoying part was that we had a lady behind us who would not stop screaming and carrying on! The driver used hand signals to indicate when he was about to do a 360° turn because we were supposed to hold on and brace ourselves at those times, and every time he did the signal the annoying woman would start screaming before we even started the turn (he gave us plenty of warning). Gah!! I thought the turns were fun. The worst part for me was when we went over huge rocks  because there wasn’t much warning there. We were right at the front of the boat and I got jolted around quite a lot! I can definitely recommend the Shotover Jet though.

After our jet ride, we took the free bus back into town where we decided to have a relatively relaxing afternoon. We went for lunch at an organic café called Rehab then went to play Frisbee/disc golf in Queenstown Gardens. We then took the gondola up Ben Lomond for some evening views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges.

I also found some more of my little friends the Paradise Shelducks. These ones were much easier to photograph than the ones in the Gardens and I spent ages trying to get a shot of them that I was happy with.

After taking the gondola back down, we tried to go to the Queenstown Birdlife Park to see the Kiwis, but it turned out to be closed (Good Friday!) so instead we went for dinner.

And now, as promised, some of the photos I took of Queenstown at various other points during the week:

Photo overload! Gallery two below:

Finally, I shall leave you with a photo of the full moon… which from our point of view was upside down!

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As you can hopefully see, despite being incredibly touristy and not really feeling “real” (I would like to know where the actual residents live/eat/shop!), Queenstown is a beautiful. There aren’t many of the original buildings left, but the builders have done a pretty good job of making everything feel quaint and not too modern. As a base for exploring Milford Sound, the Central Otago region and other parts of southern south island, I can definitely recommend Queenstown!

That was the end of our time on the south island. The next day we returned the rental car and then spent most of the morning at Queenstown airport waiting around because all flights in and out had been delayed due to fog! Watch out for my north island posts coming soon…

A trip to Paradise, New Zealand

(Really the title should be to Paradise and beyond, but I didn’t like that as much.)

On our second day in New Zealand, or first full day, we got up early to return to Auckland Airport, where we got on a flight to the south island – specifically to Queenstown. Once there, we found our rental car, drove into town and checked into the hotel (we ended up at Novotel because literally nowhere else had a room available for the entire time we were there and we didn’t want the hassle of changing hotels after 2 days!). We had nothing planned for the afternoon, so we decided to just get in the car and take a drive. A map I had picked up from the airport recommended driving towards Glenorchy, so that’s what we decided to do.

After a drive involving many twists and turns, as well as fantastic views of the lake, we reached the tiny town of Glenorchy, where we parked up and got out to take some photos (along with all the other tourists!)

The map suggested that, if we had time after visiting Glenorchy, we should “drive on and find Paradise”. We did have time, and so on we drove. About 20 minutes later, after driving down some rather bumpy gravel roads and crossing a few fords, we spotted the sign for Paradise.

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Cue Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise”

There are a lot of sheep in Paradise! Also, toadstools, which I couldn’t resist taking way too many photos of.

We drove on for another 10 or 15 minutes, then we reached a ford that we thought looked a bit too deep for our car to cope with, so we stopped the car, got out to take some photos and then drove back the way we had come.

Our next stop was at Diamond Lake, which is back down in the direction of Glenorchy. My photos seriously can’t do the stunning scenery justice, so you’ll just have to go to New Zealand and see it for yourself 😉

Jan also spotted a cricket in the grass and, just as we were about to get in the car, I saw some birds in a tree above us. Yay wildlife! (Click to see bigger photos)

Once we got to Glenorchy again, instead of driving straight back to Queenstown, we decided to drive around the top of the lake. The original plan was to go to Kinloch, but one road was closed, so we turned a different way and ended up in the Routeburn carpark, at the start of the Routeburn track, so we got out and went for a short walk. The trail we took follows the Routeburn track for a little way (the entire track is 33 km!) then turns off onto a small nature loop. Our entire walk took roughly an hour, which was perfect – long enough to stretch our legs without being too strenuous. We saw lots of little birds, but none that would stay still long enough to have their photos taken! So you’ll just have to make do with more scenery, and random plants that I thought looked interesting.

After our walk, we got back in the car and drove back to Queenstown for dinner, having got an excellent first impression of what the south island had to offer!

I’m linking this post up for Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey.

Packing my Suitcase

New Zealand is also my March trip for 2016’s redo of Take 12 Trips, a linkup started by Clare from Need Another Holiday.

Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

I’m back! And that means it’s time to bore you all with tales from my New Zealand trip. Sorry, not sorry 😉

We landed at Auckland airport at around 11 a.m. on 20th March, but by the time we’d got through passport control, collected our bags, done the security thing and my cousin, who had come to pick us up (so many thanks for that!), had driven us into town, it was afternoon. We quickly showered at the hotel then walked down Queen’s Street (the main shopping street) to jump on a ferry to Devonport, where my cousin lives.

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On the ferry to Devonport

Originally a fishing village, Devonport is now a suburb of Auckland city. It’s located on the North Shore, so to get there you either have to drive over the harbour bridge (incredibly annoying at rush hour!) or take a ferry. I certainly wouldn’t mind using the ferry for my daily commute!

While we waited for my cousin (who had gone to her boyfriend’s while we freshened up), we had a walk around the wharf area and watched the seagulls and other birds that were gathered around.

Once my cousin arrived, she took us for a drive around Devonport, up the various hills (which are actually volcanoes) and then for dinner at her local pub, The Patriot. I can’t remember which photos were taken from where, so here are just all of them. Views from North Head and Mount Victoria:

At dinner, we had our first taste of Kumara, the New Zealand sweet potato that the Maoris brought with them from Polynesia, and also tried our first New Zealand beers. At around 9 p.m. we decided it was probably time to get moving since my cousin had to work the next day and we had another flight to catch – to the South Island, where we would be spending the next five days. After a ferry ride back to Auckland City and a walk up Queens Street that felt much longer than the walk into town we were finally in bed, where I at least fell straight to sleep.

^ terrible attempts to get a night shot as we were coming in to Auckland city harbour!

Next up is South Island. Stay tuned!

* New Zealand is my April trip for 2016’s take 12 trips retake! *

Friday letters

This week has confused me by being both really slow and really fast at the same time! I’ve spent most of it completely confused about what day it was. I’m not confused today though… it’s most definitely Friday, and that means letters!

Friday letters

 

Dear birds. I’m glad you seem to like your feeders and the seeds we’ve been putting out for you. It’s cold out now, so eat up!

Dear cactus. Sorry I over watered you yesterday. My hand slipped. Please don’t die!

Dear new cabinet. I can’t wait to fill you up with all my cross stitch supplies!

Dear Dylan Moran. Our tickets have arrived and we shall be at your show on 30th January. Woo hoo!

Dear boyfriend’s work. Hurry up and approve his holiday so we can book flights. Don’t you know we’re planning the trip of a lifetime? 😉

Have a great and hopefully not too cold) weekend everyone!

 

Friday (the 13th) letters

Good morning! Today is Friday the 13th, which is my favourite date! I’m not sure why – maybe because everyone else hates it? In fact, I was just lamenting to Jan last night that I won’t get to have a Friday the 13th birthday for aaaages! It should have been next year. but I am to be foiled by the stupid leap year. Gah! He then suggested that I could celebrate my 32-and-a-quarter birthday today 😉 I wouldn’t though. Or would I…?

letters

Dear birds. We still haven’t bought you a feeder. I’m so sorry! But at least it’s currently still unusually warm and you are hopefully able to find food elsewhere.

Dear scales. Finally the number you’re showing me is lower! Not as low as I would like, but we can’t have everything. At least I’m now back below my highest ever weight!

Dear vegetables. Healthy eating would be so much easier if you were as addictive as cheese!

Dear readers. I’m sorry I’m making you wait so long for the reveal of my cross stitch guessing game. I didn’t expect it to take so long to finish!

Dear self. When the DHL man makes a comment that there’s “always something for you” it’s probably time to stop ordering random stuff from the Internet!

Dear Jan’s mum, my cousin and my first cousin once removed (that’s you, Anna!). Happy birthday to all of you for tomorrow! Apparently 14th November is a popular date to be born 😉

Right, that’s all from me. I do actually have to work you know 😉 Have a good Friday and a fabulous weekend!