Disclaimer: We take no responsibility if, upon viewing this post, you immediately go and book a trip straight to New Zealand… it would actually be completely understandable!
We spent 10 days exploring South Island and every location seemed to be more beautiful than the next. The pictures don’t even begin to do it justice. Every time you opened your eyes, it was hard to believe you weren’t staring at a large painting.
We had fantastic weather and packed our time in Kiwi-land with some great activities – a bit of wine tasting, kayaking, cruising with dolphins, horse trekking, whitewater rafting, helicopter touring and a whole lot of scenic photo stops. So here we go…(video highlights still to come)
Christchurch -> Lake Pukaki/Mt Cook -> Queenstown
Queenstown -> Te Anu -> Milford Sound
Milford Sound -> Queenstown -> Lake Wanaka
Franz Josef Glacier -> Arthur’s Pass -> Back to Christchurch
When a public holiday falls on a Tuesday, what better reason than to take Monday off and enjoy an extra long weekend? So we rallied some good company and headed 3 hours outside of Melbourne to Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Since Ben we generally aren’t ones to pitch a tent and rough it in the outdoors, we rented a house outside of the park and ventured in each day for exploration. Lots of credit and gratitude going out to our friend Marie for planning and preparing loads of delicious food ahead of time to make the weekend easy and hassle free.
It was the perfect way to appreciate what we believe is the best part of Australia – its natural beauty. Ben and I may get into our moods and are too often guilty of complaining about some of the [often petty] frustrations we have living in Australia. However, while we might have complaints about work or over-hyped and under-delivered festivals or the lack of ANY decent Mexican food… the one thing that this country has NEVER disappointed us with is breathtaking holiday locations.
Wilsons Prom brings you to tidal rivers that cut through lush valleys and mountain ranges that open up to stunning beaches. Walking trails range from scenic boardwalks that hug and connect different beaches to hikes that take you through rainforest covered mountains. And if the scenery isn’t enough, the animal encounters take it over the top.
A subset of us decided to use one of the days to get out to Sealers Cove (Thadius unfortunately couldn’t get the day off so worked remotely from the house as his loyal better half stayed to keep him company). Sealers Cove is a beach that can only be accessed on foot. The walk out to the site is described by the park as a “moderate” 10km walk one way… so yes, that’s a 20km return trip. There is no other way there or back and you have to make sure that you return in time to catch a bus at the entrace of the trail to take you back to the visitor centre.
Having had a delayed start, we wanted to make the most of our time on the beach and agreed to keep a brisk pace. Surely if the sign recommends 3 hours for the walk then we could do it in 2 hours without much trouble, right? We’re fit and still young (sort of) … We did in fact finish the walk in 2 hours but not without pain. This was NOT a moderate walk! This was, by all definitions, a hike through the rainforest and up and around mountains. Plus all the way there, you keep thinking, ‘I have to do this all over again in just a few hours to get back!’
Was the walk beautiful? ABSOLUTELY. Was the beach stunning as described? ABSOLUTELY. Would I recommend it as a must-do if you are in Wilsons Prom?…. I really want to say yes but I’m a bit torn. If you like to camp then I would highly suggested putting on a pack and spending a couple days out there so you can truly relax on the beach without worrying about the imminent trek back. If you simply love to hike then start early, take a leisurely pace and you will be well rewarded all day long with a range of different scenery, treating the beach as a secluded rest stop that feels like only a lucky few earn the privilege to see. If you are just looking for a beautiful beach to laze the day away then there are several easier to access – Australia is in no short supply of amazing beaches even just within Wilsons Prom.
With all that said, I’m very happy we did it. Not only did it feel good to be active but we were all proud of the pace we accomplished. More importantly, I never want to feel like I possibly missed out on something wonderful just because it might have required some extra time and effort to get there. So cheers to Australia and all its wonders!
It’s a brand new year. We’re back at work with a few more memories and a few more pounds [to be shed]. We decided that we wouldn’t go back to the states for Christmas. It was the second Christmas in a row (and ever) that we’ve spent away from family and while still sad in ways, we had a wonderful time with friends exploring more of this country – that was the whole point of coming out here right?
So what did we do?… A long weekend of wine tasting in Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale (South Australia), another Aussie Christmas with friends waking up to presents and spending the afternoon at the beach, Tasmania with a couple old friends visiting from the states and topped everything off with a spontaneous afternoon cliff jumping into beautiful clear Aussie water. We continue to feel grateful for all we have and are determined not to waste these moments.
Now, let’s get to what you really want…the pictures!
Ben and I recognise and appreciate the fact that we live very fortunate and privileged lives. We have had so many wonderful opportunities and are surrounded constantly by amazing and generous friends. The past few months we have had some pretty rough events transpire and have relied on one another more than ever before for support. I am so very lucky to have found a partner who I can trust and rely on absolutely. I love him more with every passing day.
I think that it’s often easy to give thanks when all is well but more important to appreciate blessings when they are not. For this very reason, we pushed forward and invited all of our friends over for another American Thanksgiving in Oz. We were overwhelmed by the turnout – 32 people for dinner to be exact. I’ve never cooked for that large a group before!
Our friends Ray and Annie were visiting from LA and we got to enjoy a long weekend with them as well. We put them to work chopping and peeling along with a few other helpers that we could cram into our very small apartment until we were able to access the event space and kitchen we booked in our building.
It was a great evening stuffing our faces and putting aside any worries and stress to enjoy the moment. We are thankful more than ever for the friends we have made here in Australia who have helped us through some rough waters and have ensured that we are well taken care of despite being so far from family and friends in the states.
One of our “Meet Up” group couples got married this weekend and the lot of us had the honour of attending the beautiful event. And what better reason than traveling up to Queensland for a wedding than making a holiday of it and spending the next few days hopping around the Whitsunday Islands?!
The wedding took place in Airlie Beach and was a beautiful evening. The ocean setting was almost as stunning as the bride Hannah. After the ceremony, cocktails were served on a sunset cruise followed by dinner and dancing back on dry land. We were so happy to be able to share in Hannah and Simon’s day and wish the happy couple so much love!
The rest of our holiday was spent sailing through the Whitsundays with a subset of our group. We chartered a sailboat for 3 days and I can’t imagine how it could have been any better. We filled our time with beaches, paddle boarding, snorkeling, sailing and at night, star gazing on the deck of the boat watching shooting stars fly across a stunning starlit sky.
I think it’s safe to say that Whitehaven Beach is the most beautiful beach I’ve visited and the snorkeling off the coast of Hayman Island was definitely one for the books. The endless variety of coral and fish were amazing. I was absolutely heartbroken when having to leave and return to reality and work… countdown to our next vacation begins now!
Now, for those that know me reasonably well, that’s not exactly going to be my first, second, third or whatever choice to go out in public wearing or even wear while running. Especially not in a country that doesn’t really go wild and crazy in costumes for races such as this one. This had more to do with me remembering a friend and the type of personality he would bring to any and all situations. This was me upholding a promise that he was meant to keep.
Several weeks ago while having drinks after work, Chris and I were talking about my upcoming half marathon that was only a few weeks away. I had been training over the past several months in the hopes of achieving my last remaining goal as a part time runner. I wanted to run the half marathon in under 2 hours. I’m not a fast runner and this would be the last big hurdle that I saw as attainable for myself. Chris, not being above opening his mouth and inserting his own foot, stated that without training he could show up day of the event and beat my time. Now Chris was not some out of shape slob. He was a regular in the gym and fairly fit. However, there’s a big jump from being in shape and running 13.1 miles21 kilometers. Therefore, a bet slowly started to form but those around that heard his accusation wanted to make it more interesting so we started thinking of creativeembarassing ways he would have to dress up to run in the race. These ranged from a tutu and fairy wings to ankle weights to a pregnancy belly to a diving flippers. We even wanted to hook up a GoPro to him so that we could watch and rewatch the hilarity that would certainly ensue when he did the race. Chris never backed down though. He thought all of the ideas were great and wasn’t going to welch on this bet. That’s just the fun attitude he would bring. It was infectious.
Well, fast forward a few weeks and it’s early Sunday morning. May and I were waking up to watch the Georgia game when we realize we have several missed calls. I call our friend Rachel to find out what was so urgent and that’s when everything changed. I was given the news that my friend was gone. Gone in a way that I struggle to even believe to this day (more than a month removed from his passing). A friend that only a few hours before I had been texting and joking with that I was going to wake him up at 2AM so that he could watch football too (he didn’t like the waking up idea). A friend that was my confidant at work. A friend that I had barely known a year but was someone that had already left a strong impression on me and will continue to do so.
Fast forward again to beyond the logistical and emotional nightmare that is trying to return him home to his parents and friends who knew him better. Beyond the pain, the grieving, and struggle for finding the new normal. Back to reality that I still had this race looming ahead that was going to serve me so much fun by laughing at a friend struggling just to win a stupid bet and now was just going to be a difficult reminder of my friend that I miss. Thankfully (sort of) his girlfriend Paige made the first suggestion. “Well, if Chris isn’t around to do it, then you [Ben] have to do it. He’d want you to take his place.” Awesome I thought. Now while dealing with my own grieving I have to find some semblance of strength to embody the courage and “who cares” attitude of Chris to do something that is definitely outside of my comfort zone. She was right about Chris wanting someone else to do it (so that then he could laugh at them) and continued to remind me of it with more texts or pictures of tutus she found online. Then his dad joined in on the urging and I realized there was no way out. I was going to be dressing up for this thing whether I wanted to or not. With my training falling off and my ultimate goal no longer a possibility, at least I would have this dedication to drive me.
So now you understand the clothing choices somewhat. Chris was known for his American pants that he would wear often so I went with that theme. Then came the easy part thanks to some friends visiting from the states and willing to bring along a few online orders. Pictures probably don’t do the overall look justice (which many of you are probably thankful for). As I shaved my beard the night before the race, even I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous I looked. I essentially became a different person for a day. Someone without a care in the world. Someone that could have been maybe 10% (if that) of Chris’s fun, engaging, and hilarious self if only for a few hours that Sunday in October.
I want to say on race day I was embarrassed, but I wasn’t. I was proud. I knew this had nothing to do with me and therefore could just enjoy it. During the race, it was an interesting feeling that was so different from any other race that I have run to date. These races, for us normal people, are essentially just us racing against ourselves. However, for me on that day, it was me racing against a friend that wasn’t present. I found myself feeling like there was a ghost runner on my tail pushing me to go farther and longer than I had before. Someone making sure I didn’t take any of this too serious and I knew it was Chris. During those moments, I just smiled and thought “I can’t believe you got me to do this Chris. How did you sucker me into this?”. I’m pretty certain I heard his laughter at a few points in the race as he enjoyed just how ridiculous I looked.
In the end, I finished the race with a personal best (2:03:09) and the longest consecutive running I’ve ever done. I am upset that I missed my ultimate goal by such a close margin but it doesn’t matter. It only matters that a friend got me to look like an idiot for laughs. I still miss you Chris.
And a few extra pictures from the race team photography. I might end up buying one this time.
This post is a little late. It’s been just over a week since Ben’s parents took their leave from us to explore the Western side of Australia with their friends. We had a wonderful time hosting them and getting to show them some of the areas in and around Melbourne. Ben took some time off work and a friend generously loaned us his car for a few days so we were able to drive out to see some sights.
Some highlights of their visit…
We spent a nice day having lunch at St. Kilda beach and then made our way back into the city for afternoon desserts at Hopetoun Tea Room which has been operating since the 19th century. The next day we had breakfast at one of our favorite spots – Chez Dre done properly with dessert – and took off for Mornington Peninsula. We stopped at a couple wineries, the strawberry farm (complete with jam purchases of course!) and then headed to Phillip Island for the penguin parade. Unfortunately, I did not come home with a new pet wallaby but it wasn’t for lack of effort!
No trip is complete without a drive down Great Ocean Road to see the 12 Apostles! Along the way we spotted some koalas and drove through Otway National Park to take a tour through the Rainforrest Treetop Walk. Once we got to Port Campbell, the wind had picked up quite a bit and it had gotten cold so we decided to leave viewing the Apostles and other stack formations for the next morning.
Thankfully, the temperatures picked up a little the next day but the wind was still pretty fierce and… “the sea was angry that day my friends!” I thought the experience might be a bit spoiled without the beautiful weather we had back in December but it was still just as spectacular. The storm-like weather conveyed the sheer power of the sea crashing into the formations and it took your breath away.
The final outing was a trip to Healesville Animal Sanctuary about an hour outside of Melbourne. Here, we got to see some of the same animals we had encountered throughout our travels – just closer up – as well as others native to Australia that you may not see – and may not want to see – on your average excursion. Admittedly, all of us were most excited about seeing the duck billed platypus which did not disappoint but was much smaller than we had imagined.
Alas, it was time for the parents to depart Melbourne for adventures out west. Fortuitously, the night before their departure, the skies lit up with fireworks which we all enjoyed from our apartment balcony. Ben and I have learned that there is no shortage of fireworks in Melbourne over the summer and it’s something we’ve come to enjoy. I think these in particular were for the Moomba Festival but we’ll all just say that they were arranged special for Ben’s parents 😉