Whirlwind West Wend Around the South Island

Despite being quite different in many ways, my husband (who I’ve affectionately nicknamed Grumpy) and I share a great many interests and passions.  An example of this is our Love of New Zealand.

After a magnificent tour around South America late 2012 – early 2013 we had a discussion and decided that we were going to try and stay put a bit more and explore our own back yard for a change.  And for the past year, we more or less have.

Our annual family Christmas vacation was spent cruising around New Zealand and then over to Australia with all three kiddies, one people parasite (I was in my second trimester with our fourth child) and mother-in-law in tow.  It was an excellent trip.

And after re-affirming our Happy Hobbit commitment to each other on Valentines day at a re-wedding party, we thought it would be fitting to take a quick honeymoon together (no children).

We chose to go to Christchurch, as Grumpy had not been there since he was twelve years old when he was flown down for winning a mathletics competition.  I’ve been down half a dozen times, for various reasons.  So we booked our seats, packed our bags and away we went.


Luckily, you can fly domestically pretty much up until your due date (if you are so inclined) so being 35 weeks pregnant was not going to impede our plans.  We would not have been able to go any further afield at this point anyway as you are not generally allowed to fly on any international route after between 28 and 32 weeks, depending on the carrier’s policy.

So here’s what we had planned:


Wait, that isn’t entirely true.  We had booked a rental car.

We’ve had terrific luck and numerous adventures just flying by the seat of our pants when we travel, and maybe, to a lesser degree, through life in general.  We don’t make a lot of plans, and when we do, they change frequently.  Not planning and letting things like; the weather, our budget at the time, our mood, and now our smart devices, help us to decide where and how we spend our vacations is pretty much how we roll.  Not for everyone, but it has served us well.

We’d made loose plans to visit some people in Christchurch.  However, when we landed, the weather was astoundingly clear and crisp and we decided then and there to head inland.  We popped in to Riccarton mall and picked up a grocery bag full of supplies (grain waves and water basically) and were on our way.

Once we were out of the Canterbury plains and into the foothills of the Southern Alps, we felt quite free and very pleased with ourselves for being so adventurous.  We arrived at Castle Point rocks, and I asked Grumpy if we ought to stop, by he opted to take a picture from out the window instead and said we’d stop on our way back through.  That proved to be a mistake, as we didn’t return to this iconic natural wonder on our return to Christchurch.  We’ll stop another time and clamber over the interesting formations with our children, one day in the not too distant future.


Whilst driving, we decided we’d aim to get to Greymouth that evening.


Greymouth is a lovely little West Coast town, where mining has historically been the major industry of note.  What we noticed, is that there was no shortage of interesting and eccentric characters, an abundance of local pride, and, it just so happens, really good food.


We let trip advisor suggest to us where to stay, a lovely farm/homestay called Oak Lodge Homestay and were pleasantly surprised with the results. The hosts were very friendly indeed, and we had a self contained cottage with lovely rural views.


Our hosts recommended we eat at a place called Ollys’ (yes, the name is grammatically accurate as it shows that more than one Olly owns the restaurant apparently).  The smoky stuffed mushrooms were delicious, the plating was impeccable and the dessert was divine.


And the whole experience cost us just over $50NZD after our tourist discount.

That night, Grumpy fell to sleep at a completely uncharacteristically early 10:00pm and we woke up at around 9:30 the next morning.

We had a delicious (and reasonably priced) breakfast at Maggie’s.  Again, we ate really good mushrooms (calling card of this quaint little town perhaps?) and perfectly acceptable coffee, even by our undeniably demanding standards.

We also got a call from our hosts to let us know that I had forgotten my spectacles.  They say spectacles.  Not sure why this is noteworthy, but I liked that they called them that.  So while Grumpy returned to the Oak Lodge Homestay to collect them, I went shopping on mainstreet.  I picked up a hand knit sweater for our current youngest son Adam (about to be dethroned of this title once his brother arrives) and a kiwiana charm for my Pandora bracelet.  Steve was given some fresh baked muffins for our trip, and then we were off again.


We were going to head up to Pancake rocks, but opted instead to drive South toward Glacier park, as we had been assured that the forecast was going to be clear and calm, assuring us glorious views of some of our natural wonders.

Low cloud rolled in about the time we had driven through Hokatika, and stayed with us for the rest of the trip through Glacier National park.




After a very brief stop we got back in the car with the intention of making it to Wanaka that evening.  We happened across a lone hitchhiker and picked him up.  He travelled with us until we got to Lake Hawea where we dropped him off at a very nice campground there.



After dropping off the German at the campground, we stopped to take this picture of the hills at dusk coming into Wanaka.


That night we stayed at the second most highly recommended accommodation on http://www.bookings.com.  The room was $260.00 per night with a King Sized bed, and no tea or coffee making facilities.  The hosts were very friendly, and the other guests provided excellent breakfast conversation the next day.

That morning we set off on the 5+ hour trek to get back to CHCH for our dinner reservation with our friend Erin.


We stopped at Lake Pukaki so Grumpy could have some Sashimi from the Salmon farm.  I of course could not partake as raw anything is a no-no whilst gestating.  Sigh.

It was a slightly hazy, but overall very clear and settled Autumn day and we got to take in gorgeous views across the lake and over to Aoraki/Mt. Cook.



Sometime later, I decided I was hungry, so we stopped in Fairlie in Mackenzie County for a cuppa and a bite.  We happened across some signs on the road as we arrived into the town and followed the short metal drive down to a gorgeous restaurant called The Red Stag.

The staff were friendly, the food was good, the decor was lovely, and I got to have cuddles with a 6 month old Jack Russell named Charlie.  Yet more fabulous to add to our already abundant supply.

We arrived back to Christchurch a little after 4:00pm on Sunday.  We’d decided not to book accommodation, but to stick with our winning strategy of arriving at the second most highly recommended establishment according to booking.com. This happened to be a luxury self contained apartment called Sumner Re Treat for $195.00 per night.  Well, let me assure you, we will be returning to Christchurch in short order, and this is where we shall stay.

The landlady was out when we arrived, so the pub downstairs gave us a hot drink while we waited for her to return and let us into the apartment.  She ended up taking us upstair to a tastefully decorated second floor apartment that would not have been out of place on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The linen was gorgeous, the kitchen was amazing, the lighting plan throughout was fantastic.  Being seasoned travellers as we now consider ourselves to be, we can honestly say this was one of the most luxurious and best valued nights we have spent anywhere. Ever. I’m not kidding.

That evening we ate at a restaurant in Riccarton called Dux Dine with a menu designed perfectly for Grumpy’s dietary requirements and peculiar tastes.  The establishment serves no meat, only vegetarian and seafood.  It also recently went through renovations to become more wheelchair accessible, which was great, as our dinner guest Erin is not only in a wheelchair, but an active accessibility campaigner (among other amazing achievements).

Dinner was divine, although dessert was more than a little disappointing.  Grumpy ate so much he suffered a food hangover that lasted two days.

The next morning we had excellent coffee and went for a drive to the top of a hill in Sumner.  Neither of us had been out to this coastal suburb since the earthquakes of September 4th, 2010 and then the big one on 2/22/11.  It was wrenching to say the least.  Three years on from the event, and houses still teeter on the edge of the cliffs.  Swaths of the neighbourhood sit dark alongside perfectly safe and populated houses as a reminder of mother nature’s immense power and indiscriminate destruction.


So, in a little more than 72 hours, we managed to get a small taste of what is referred to by the locals as “the mainland” of New Zealand.  We will absolutely be back for more, and intend to take all four Hobbit children on a 18 day road trip from the very tip of the North Island to the very bottom of the South in our long range Electric Vehicle, the Tesla Model S.  We’ve been waiting on delivery of this family friendly EV for nearly two years now, but that is a story for another day.

Thanks for tuning in.






Ten Years Down the Road – Part ONE – The Hobbits Meet and Marry

So I had a number of options for this.  A teeth-itching and overly sweet homage to the many things I Love about Grumpy.  Erm.  Nah.

Then I thought I could do a nice cheesy “Secrets to a successful marriage” thing for you all to read.  Upon reflection, I realized that our marriage is not always a raging success, and what works for us could very well be just the thing that ruins a different couple’s union.  So no, I won’t do that either.

What I will do is tell you how we met, what it is like being a part of team Happy Hobbit, tell you what works for us and why, and then share with you some pictures of our first wedding.  Like these ones!


This is going to take two, possibly three instalments to get through, but if nobody reads the first part (How the Hobbits Met) then perhaps I won’t bore you with further insight into the intimate workings of Hobbity Happily Every After…  We shall see.

On with the story of how we met.

Way back in what our children refer to as “the olden days” or, sometimes also known as “the time before time” I had an amazing job as the sales and marketing manager for a small but mighty ISP.

About this same time, Grumpy was enjoying the momentum of releasing his first successful commercial product, and working on making some new fangled DJ stuff that would revolutionize the music industry (or so I’ve heard it said).

He and I lived and worked in the magical city of Auckland New Zealand.  We shared many of the same interests, even a handful of mutual friends; yet, until one fateful phonecall in 2002, our paths had never crossed (that we know of).

Steve’s good friend and flatmate Blair was interested in starting a web hosting company.  So, being the renowned persnickety geek that he is, he offered to do some research to help Blair source the best possible co-location and hosting solution he could get for his money.

Little did our grumpy protagonist know that this search would lead him not only to a fast, friendly, fully redundant, and exceedingly well priced network; it would also lead him right into the waiting arms of fate and the rest of his life.

I answered the phone, in my usual enthusiastic manner.  After several dozen months of intense training (drinking Guinness with the system administrators and learning about how the Internets work) I had gleaned enough information on “getting the packets through” to hold my own when conversing with potential clients of various technical knowledge and ability.

Steve Hoek was my most formidable challenge to date.  He wanted to know everything from SLA (Service Level Agreements) to uptimes, to latency, to costing, to contracts… Whew.  What a royal pain in the ass he was.  But he was nice, and openly impressed with my knowledge and the non-salesperson approach I took to dealing with him.  I was not pushy and I didn’t make things up, and if he asked a question to which I had no answer, I’d go and call Sneep (the network administrator) and get the answer before responding.

Hmmmm. I wonder if I should mention I kinda had a boyfriend at this point.  Nah, that just makes me sound like a bit of a jerk, and probably make this story extra long and confusing.  (Besides, I always kinda had a boyfriend.)

On with the story.

So the day came for a network tour.

No big deal.  I did these all the time.

Off to the NOC (Network Operation Centre) I went to await the arrival of a potential new co-location customer.

Steve was accompanied by his business partner AJ, and his good friend Blair.

He drove up in an RX7.  I was duly unimpressed, and assumed that this (VERY attractive man) was a total douche.  He had a goatee (yuck, I hate facial hair) and drove a red rocket sports car.  Not at all the stock standard aloof-kindhearted-train-wreck- of-a-man I tended to go for.

I didn’t think much of our meeting.

Steve, on the other hand, was deep in the throws of lust at first sight.

So, he asked me out, I did not disclose the fact I had a boyfriend (in my defense, because I knew that relationship was doomed anyway). And to be fair, he didn’t ask me out, so much as ask me to his flatwarming. And I stood him up, dealing with soon-to-be-ex boyfriend dramas.

Around this time both Steve and I had independently reached the conclusion that relationships weren’t for us. Too much drama, too much stress.

There was much to-ing and fro-ing between us, but long story short, we couldn’t stay away from each other.  I tried to fight the urge to fall into a relationship with this tiny but terrifically toned man.  At this point, I had already laid down the law and told him that no matter where we were heading, there was no point pursuing a relationship with me unless he could accept the fact I DEMANDED children one day.  That chat occurred on our second “official” date.

We’d been dating for a few weeks at this point, but he hadn’t “put out” as it were by then.  A new and strange concept to me entirely.  We spent a great deal of time together, and slept in the same bed frequently either at his place or mine where we would watch movies and chat until the wee small hours of the morning.

His father died on Boxing day 2002, and we had already planned a road trip together for New Years Eve to the mountain as I was going to teach him how to ski.  I was invited to the funeral.  And that, was the day that I fell absolutely, undeniable, irrefutably, completely and eternally in Love with him.  It had been coming on for a while, but seeing how he was with his ex-girlfriends, and his mother that day.  Well, that sealed the deal and both of our fates for eternity.

He read “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” for his father who had so loved the sea.

We spent our first road trip away together at The Hobbit motel in Ohakune.  We ate a nice dinner, and the next day I abandoned him completely to figure out on his own how to ski (“make wide turns!”) and headed off on my own to carve up some runs.

A few weeks later in January, he had to go off with his silly little company Serato to a trade-show in Anaheim California to demonstrate a new DJ product he’d been working on for some time.

He came home, got dropped off on my doorstep, and just never left.  He proposed in March, and we were married on January 24th 2004.

And that… is the story of how we met.

Tonight I will type out some details about how I figure it is we’ve weathered our storms and still rather like each other (most of the time) and you may or may not find it helpful.

Thank you so much for tuning in.

Looking forward to sharing more of our story with you soon.

Off to the Science and Technology Museum with our eldest son now.