Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Embrace the Fear

One month ago yesterday, I grew wings. On the courage of those wings, I jumped out of a plane from 15,000 feet and I flew. I felt absolute exhiliration, freedom and joy. And when I landed…the adrenaline!! Can’t even describe it but it lasted for hours and hours and even just thinking about the jump brings a bit of it back. What a rush! It was the most amazing feeling and I loved every single second of it! Since that jump, I have been dreaming of my next one…

During the 1 minute (10,000 foot) free fall, the wind is roaring past your ears and it is very loud. The second the parachute is pulled, you are surrounded by the most profound silence. Complete peace and quiet. It was actually a very serene experience (I know, you can’t fathom how jumping out of a plane could POSSIBLY be even remotely serene…but it was!).

Check out the views…honestly, absolutely breathtaking!


Flying! Well, technically falling...but I felt like I was flying!

Coming in for a landing...

Maybe this will be the next thing to try?!?!


I haven’t done a very good job at blogging during this trip and to be honest, I’m not at all sorry. I’ve been too busy enjoying myself and experiencing everything possible, completely. Seeing things and enjoying them in the moment instead of worrying about capturing them in photos or stories. The past weeks have been a welcome reprieve from the internet, cell phones and constant contact.

What a Night!

Last night was complete insanity in Auckland! Watching the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup at home; nothing like it. This country is mad for rugby and the atmosphere last night was indescribable. After a nail-biting, nerve-filled game, the party erupted as the final seconds ticked off the clock officially crowning the All Blacks Rugby World Cup Champions.

Before the game

Along the Fan Trail on the way to Eden Park

Fan Trail Auckland

Victory Party

Today, we continue celebrating the fantastic victory as we head to the Victory Parade before I board a plane destined for the Cook Islands where I’ll spend the next week relaxing and catching some rays.

Rapids, Waterfalls and Geothermal Wonderlands

Aratiatia Rapids – Taupo

Aratiatia Rapids releases water from the Waikato River into Lake Okahuri. Mighty River Power releases water down the rapids several times a day and people flood the bridge to watch it happen.

Aratiatia Rapids (before the dam was opened) - Taupo

Aratiatia Rapids (2 minutes after the dam was opened) - Taupo

Just down the road from Aratiatia Rapids…

Huka Falls – Taupo

Huka Falls

The geothermal area of New Zealand is interesting…you feel as though you’ve stepped into Jurassic Park!

Craters of the Moon – Taupo

Craters of the Moon - Taupo

Craters of the Moon - Taupo

Whakarewarewa Village – Rotorua

There is a village within Rotorua where a small group of Maori people still live. They guide visitors through their village (guiding is a longstanding tradition for the Maori women) and show how they have historically used the geothermal activity in the area to live (cook, bath, etc.) and still do. It was very interesting. Imagine having a natural hot spring in your backyard to use as your bath and for cooking in; electricity bills would be significantly cheaper…

Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

Hangi (earth over) where they cook meat, vegetables and pudding

Cook corn, green veggies, etc. in this pool

Wharenui (Maori meeting house)

Pohutu Geyser

Lady Knox Geyser – Rotorua

Lady Knox Geyser was discovered by some prison inmates when they were out clearing bush and decided to take a bath in the natural hot spring that runs through here. The geyser erupted when one of the inmates dropped the soap…

Lady Knox Geyser before eruption

Lady Knox Geyser - after the soap has been dropped...

Geothermal Wonderland – Rotorua

Devil's Bath

Mud Pool – Rotorua

Bubbling, spurting, gurgling mud…hilarious!

Mud Pool

We arrived on the south island yesterday by way of Wanganui, where we had spent two days on a new friend’s sheep farm. Stories and photos from our time there next time I can find unlimited internet access to upload some photos!

Wellington to Auckland via Hastings, Napier, Taupo, Rotorua and a load of small towns and villages

Too much to do, not nearly enough time to write. I have spent more time in McDonalds so far on this trip than ever in my life. McD’s here are nice, clean and offer free Wifi!! And their coffee is good…

I’m falling more in love with New Zealand the longer I’m here. We’ve done some good back-road tours and have also hit all the big cities on the north island. This weekend we’re heading to Auckland for the weekend to visit a highschool friend of Noah’s, catch the England vs. France quarter-final game (we have sweet seats!) and check out the city. Next week, we’re south island bound by way of Waitomo caves to do some caving under the light of the glow worms (riverfloat but underground, lit by glow worms? Paisley gang – I’ll be thinking of you all!).

Camper van living is hilarious and must be the best way to explore. We’ve mostly been doing freedom camping and staying in free spots. There are public bathrooms and showers everywhere here making it very easy to survive with just our little van.


They really know how to do museums here. Both the Wellington Museum and Te Papa (New Zealand National Museum – crazy high-tech, loads of fun and free!)

Te Papa

And because we’re both geeks, we spent a good part of a day at the New Zealand Parliament. They built an addition to the building and call it the beehive. This building mostly houses offices but we weren’t allowed cameras actually inside the Parliament buildings. Their debating chamber is considerably smaller than ours but generally laid out the same way. They also have beautiful committee rooms (The Maori affairs one is stunning!).

Beehive - New Zealand Parliament

East coast of the north island is cool; we got off the main route and drove a load of back roads and found some beautiful scenery and random locations.

Longest Place Name - Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu

Crazy winding highway through a canyon (posted speed limit was 100 km/h!! We definitely drove slower than that in our old van...)

In Rotorua, we rolled down a hill in a big inflatable ball filled with warm water. Again, very random but it was hilarious and fun!

Rolled down the hill is this thing. Ogo - giant inflatable ball filled with water.

Yup - pretty random

I’ve run out of data in three different locations now…free wifi only gets you so far. I’ll post more pictures tonight!

Taking on The All Blacks in Wellington

Guest Post

By: Noah Arshinoff (

After taking 2 days to drive down the south island, we arrived in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, a few hours before Canada vs. New Zealand rugby watch.  While this was the last game of the tournament for Canada, it was a chance to see the legendary All Blacks play a game at home and an opportunity for us to get decked out in Canada gear.

The lead up to the game was already proof that rugby in New Zealand is equivalent to Hockey in Canada.  The entire town was out in pubs and wearing their team colours.  Flags of all 20 nations competing in the tournament have been flying all over town.  Most of all, the competition has brought out a sense of healthy sportsmanship.  Kiwis and South Africans drink alongside each other before matches, and the masses dressed in black to support the home team embraced us openly.

After a number of drinks it seemed as though the entire city was walking to the stadium grounds.  We were rushing to get to our seats in order not to miss any of the opening spectacle.  One of rugby’s finest traditions is the Haka performed by the All Blacks before each one of their games.  It is a call to battle and surely must have been intimidating to the Canadians already outmatched by a rugby powerhouse.

Our video of the Haka (click to view)

Team Canada thanking the fans

The start of the game was the highlight for Canada. Having scored first, it was the first and last time Canada would lead in the game.  Being so badly outmatched however, made for an incredibly fun atmosphere.  With no Canadian in the crowd expecting their team to win, it turned into a social gathering of 40,000 people.  We befriended a number of Kiwi’s who offered us places to crash throughout the country.

The only time Canada would lead the game (take note of the elapsed time...)


Canadians and Kiwis Unite

After the game, we met up with Greig, a buddy of mine (Noah’s) from High School.  While next weekend in Auckland will be the true party, it was great to catch up after so many years.

Our overall impression of Wellington is that it is a fantastic city and great capital!  You can walk anywhere in about 30 minutes, the streets are littered with cafes and bars, the people are generous and hospitable, and the narrow winding streets offer a charm with European flair that simple isn’t found in North America.  Tomorrow we leave the city and head north.  We don’t know where we are stopping or what we are going to see.  If the trip so far is any indication of what lies ahead, I’m sure we will be impressed by the countryside and the people.

Kindness of Strangers and Highschool Reunions

After being delayed in LA due to a broken plane (another plane backed into ours and busted it up!) for two days, we finally arrived in New Zealand late Friday night (a mere ½ hour after the END of the South Africa vs. Samoa game to which we had tickets – bummer!). The second we landed on the ground in Auckland, our luck seemed to drastically change. We were picked up at the airport by a friendly couchsurfer ( named Carolyn who put us up in her home for the night. Saturday morning we picked up our campervan, our home for the next three weeks, ( and hit the road heading south with no real plans.

Our Spaceship

First hurdle was tackling driving on the left hand side of the road and figuring out how to drive a car where everything is the mirror image of what we are used to in Canada. Luckily, Noah has driven on the left hand side of the road before and quickly adjusted to the change. We drove straight down highway 1 heading for Wellington (the location of the Canada vs. New Zealand game) and were immediately amazed at the stunning landscape. Every 15 minutes the land changes quite drastically and every change seems to present scenery more stunning than the last.

Part way through our day on the road we decided we should really try and sort out a place to crash for the night. I had been in contact with Nicole, who was a few years behind me in highschool prior to coming over, and she offered me a ton of advice on what to see and do.  A last minute Facebook message to her resulted in her generous offer of putting us up for the night. We arrived in Palmerston North and to her home and just after we cracked our first beer, an old highschool friend named Scott showed up on her doorstep as well. Scott is currently living in Australia and was over in New Zealand traveling with his brother, sister, father and a friend and just happened to be passing through Palmerston that night as well. I hadn’t seen Scott in ages so not only was it great to catch up (in NZ of all places…) but I think all three of us enjoyed having a little taste of home!

Nicole, Scott and Jacqui

After a hot breakfast (Nicole is such a lovely host – seriously, such an amazing girl! Thank you for everything!!) in Palmerston we were getting ready to finish up the final leg of the trip down to Wellington when Nicole’s roommate’s Mom (follow?), who happened to be there due to the very unfortunate circumstance of her daughter  having been in a motorcycle crash, asked us where we were staying in Wellington. Turned out that she actually lives in Wellington and very generously offered us her flat if we were willing to help her out by finishing up her laundry that was stuck in the machine after her speedy departure a few days prior, and taking out the trash. Thanks to the incredible generosity of a stranger, we have had a fantastic home base for the past couple of days while we have explored the spectacular city of Wellington (and cheered on Canada as we were clobbered by the All Blacks and enjoyed our second highschool reunion of our first week here when we met up with a friend of Noah’s from highschool named Greig and his wife Justine with whom we will be staying when we head back to Auckland this coming weekend).

The most striking thing we have noticed since our arrival here is how truly amazing the people are. Kiwis are incredibly friendly, kind and helpful. We have been offered hot showers, warm meals and places to stay by so many people. We have received an offer to visit a family on their sheep farm and a promise to teach us how to sheer a sheep. We have received another offer to bring us hunting and fishing (I have contact information so I can bring Lee back to spend time with these amazing people – they made me promise I would bring him over and hand him over to them for at least a week of hunting and fishing adventures). We have a date for pints with a couple in Christchurch when we travel through there later on this month. We have places to stay all around the north island. The Kiwis offer a wonderful example of how we as global citizens should treat one another.