Happy 2018 everyone! I hope you all had a relaxing holiday and are feeling ready to take on the new year.
This year I kicked off my holiday celebrations with Pete’s family in Wellington. We flew in on the Thursday before Christmas and let me just say, flying in New Zealand is so different from flying in the States. After years of stressful TSA lines, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that you don’t go through security on certain domestic flights (it depends on which plane you’re flying on). Not only that, New Zealand is a relatively small country which means it took less than an hour to fly from Christchurch to Wellington. During my brief time in the sky I enjoyed my Cookie Time treat and took in the Southern Alps below us. Yep, I think I can get used to this.
After dropping off our bags we decided to spend the afternoon driving around Petone and checking out the beach. We stumbled upon a bike rental shed and the next thing I knew we were biking to the Pencarrow Lighthouse. With the wind at our backs on the way out it was an easy ride to the lighthouse. Once we parked our bikes against the lighthouse, we found some rockpools to explore and naturally, Pete found a nice big rock to climb.
I was less prepared for the ride back and quickly understood where the phrase “Windy Wellington” comes from. We spent the next hour and a half in first gear with the wind pushing against us with every pedal. The beautiful scenery was totally worth this unexpected cardio workout and we made sure to stop Days Bay Pavillion for a well-earned ice cream.
While Pete worked on Friday, I had some time to explore the city. I spent the morning browsing the shops on Cuba Street and the afternoon at Te Papa, New Zealand’s National Museum. The Mana Whenua Exhibit was a fascinating window into the richness of Māori culture. You aren’t allowed to take photos in that exhibit so all I can say is make sure to check it out when you’re in Wellington. It’s worth it.
Knowing how much food was coming on Christmas Day, we managed to squeeze in an 8km hike to the Korokoro Dam on Saturday. I love that you can find beautiful hikes just about anywhere in this country. This hike literally started in the parking lot of an industrial complex and in no time we were in a beautiful valley on our way to a lush, secluded dam.
On Sunday we went over to Pete’s mom’s house to help decorate the Christmas tree. I’m not saying we should win any tree decorating awards…I’ll just let our work speak for itself.
I loved celebrating my first proper Kiwi Christmas Day with family. The punch was flowing, the Christmas music was playing, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my life.
Helen, Pete’s mom, is the sweetest. She had read my Thanksgiving blog and incorporated some Turkey Day cuisine into the holiday meal. She made the most delicious roast turkey, corn, potatoes and there was even pumpkin pie for dessert (a huge deal in a country that believes pumpkin is an exclusively savory ingredient). We also went around the table and shared something we are thankful for, one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions. I made an Israeli couscous salad that I think would have made my mom proud and of course, we ended the meal with a double-decker peach and passionfruit pavlova. Pete and I ended up walking around his neighborhood after lunch just to try and feel human again.
After an amazing time in Wellington, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Christchurch on Boxing Day. One of our Christmas gifts was a wasgij, a 1000 piece puzzle where the picture on the box is only a clue of what your puzzle will actually look like. We learned an important lesson about ourselves when working on this puzzle over the holiday break – we should never start a puzzle if we have anything important or time-sensitive going on. We got just a teensy bit hyperfocused and finished it in three days with only one session lasting until two in the morning. I’m sensing a Christmas holiday tradition in the making…
New Year’s Eve was perfectly low key. After a fun adventure getting more gas for the bbq, we cooked up some steaks and sausages and had our friends over for game night. We even managed to make it to midnight!
On New Year’s day, we packed some sandwiches and drove three hours South to Lake Tekapo. One of the best things I’m discovering about New Zealand is that even on a sunny summer holiday there won’t be any serious traffic and you will almost never have to fight for parking. It made for a stress-free day and a beautiful (sometimes very vertical) hike up Mount St. John and around the shoreline.
I’d be lying if I said that the holidays arrived just in time for a much-needed vacation. As it stands, I haven’t really had a proper job since August and I haven’t had to set a morning alarm in months. This year the holidays seemed more like a fun farewell to my nomadic life of the last several months. I may kick myself in a few weeks when that changes, but right now I’m feeling very ready to get back to work and take on 2018.