These past 5 months have been very busy! As many of you know, I have started using Picasa to store/display photos from my adventures. I have been kayaking, working, laughing, and using my DIY skills as often as I can. My ex-co-worker, Joya, was promoted to Manager of the South Auckland shop which means I get more hours and Russell has been teaching me more and more skills so I can be self-sufficient in the shop as much as possible, including all the previously "Russell-only" jobs like kayak repairs and permanent roof rack installation. It's actually quite exciting! I have also started going through our "Winter Training Programme" which means that I will get my NZKI One Star qualification by then end of the winter and be able to lead kayaking trips on my own.
In January I made a low rolling table with plants and a solar light for my front porch area. It turned out really well! I also had an excursion to the Auckland Art Gallery with Isabelle and Joel, which was interesting considering my views on art. Joel is very realist and it's difficult getting him to appreciate anything else. And of course, Isabelle being a 10-year-old, only wanted to look at the interactive exhibits (not that I blame her, they were awesome!). Lol.
My kayaking has taken me on many adventures as well! In January I did Brown's Island and Hadfield's to Wenderholm. Both were Beginner's level trips, but they were beautiful and perfect for getting my skills up and enjoying the New Zealand summer.
At the end of January, Joel and I had our 2 year anniversary. Can you believe it's been 2 years since I first came to New Zealand!?!?!? I can't. I still feels so new and wonderful. Anyways, to celebrate we went on a hike in the Waitakere Ranges to Fairy Falls with a bottle of champagne, and then got lost coming back, lol. It was a lot of fun just being us and being active and silly all at the same time. A perfect celebration of our relationship and my relationship with New Zealand all in one.
In February I kayaked St. Helier's Bay to Okahu twice, once on my own and once with a Beginner's group. We also visited the Lantern Festival in Auckland Central, and I practiced my kayak surfing skills.
March was an amazing month. Extremely busy (of course), but amazing. First of all, I was busy preparing to be a Henna Tattoo Artist at WOMAD in New Plymouth (the coolest music festival I have ever been to). In addition to that, Jacquie and I won a free trip for her to come to WOMAD with me! So she took a week off of university to spend in New Zealand with me. It was her first time here and I wanted it to be special. On the first day she got here I took her to Waiheke Island for a wine tour (which I have never done either!). We drank a lot of wine, enjoyed the hot sun and the scenery, and then came back to Auckland in the evening for a quick pop in to club night at the shop and then a welcoming party (prepared by Joel) at our place. And that was just day 1! The next day we got going on our road trip and stopped for lunch at a Blueberry Orchard with a cool little cafe/restaurant on it. We continued on our journey to Waitomo Caves and spent 5 hours rafting, caving, climbing waterfalls, gazing at glowworms, and having an amazing time! (Thank you mommy for paying for us both to go!) That night we went to our campsite, set-up camp, and then walked down the path to the Otorohanga Kiwi Reserve where a guide took us to the nocturnal viewing house for the kiwis! We sat in the quiet, mostly under the ground, eye-level with the 3 kiwi birds who would come to feed less than 3 meters away from us. One of the birds (Kevin) got curious and ended up sniffing it's was to Jacquie and poking it's nose into our hideaway! I have the cutest image in my mind of Jacquie with her hands clasped over her mouth, trying not to laugh or smile or breathe too deeply, and Kevin's incredibly long beak inches from her making cute little sniffing noises. It was amazing. Until this point, the closest I had come to a kiwi was seeing a furry sleeping mass in the corner of a glass exhibit stir a little. This was like something out of Animal Planet. :P Unfortunately, no pictures were taken as I didn't want to scare them away!
Days 3 to 5 were spent at WOMAD. Joel and Ray met us on the way there and helped me set up before whisking Jacquie off to see world bands, dance, eat awesome food, and meet cool people. I did really well as a Henna Artist, although it was very stressful and tiring. Jacquie took care of me and trained the boys on how to be my assistant so that they could all take turns making sure I was fully stocked on supplies, food, and cider. We stayed in the glamping (glamour camping) accomodation that came with Jacquie's free ticket and it was absolutely beautiful.
On our way back up to Auckland we detoured to the East to visit Hobbiton and Rotorua. We did all the touristy things! Posed with hobbit-holes and signs, had a pint in the newly reconstructed Green Dragon Tavern, went Zorbing, smelled the smells of bubbling hot pools and mud, and finally soaked in hot mineral pools at our campsite while the rain started down around us, just talking. :D Then we made our way up to the Coromandel where we spent WAAAYYYY too much time at Waterworks, having an absolute blast! And then just made it to Cathedral Cove for a sunset visit to the famous rock formation. Unfortunately, after spending so much time at Waterworks we didnt' get to Hot Water Beach in time and the tide had come in... but that's okay, we had a lot of hot water pools in Rotorua. We spent the night driving back to Auckland so we could spend Jacquie's last full day in NZ kayaking. We wanted to go to Rangitoto, but the weather was not cooperative so instead we did a Waterfront tour from St. Helier's to Okahu and beyond to Judge's Bay where Jacquie and I swam out to docks and I let her push me off way too many times. (Don't worry, I got pay back in Hawaii...) Then we said our goodbyes and barely had time to pause for tears after such a whirlwind trip.
As soon as Jacquie left I went into panic mode because Joel's birthday was in two weeks and I had nothing planned!!!! Luckily, being the over-achiever I am, I managed to pull off an outdoor-themed surprise birthday BBQ with games, prizes, water balloons, drinking games, and flower leis. Yup. :P He was super surprised too!
In April things calmed down again and I got to focus a bit more on my kayaking and work. With Joya gone, I had lots of hours and lots of things to focus on at the shop. I did one sea kayaking trip from Eastern Beach to Whitford Cafe with Alistair and then a white water kayaking weekend in Taupo! It was amazing fun and I'm a little addicted now, but there just isn't as much opportunity for White Water kayaking as there is sea kayaking. Russell and Larraine went on their two-week holiday to Abel Tasman on the South Island which meant I was working 14 days in a row. And then, at the end of such a busy time, I went on my 10 day holiday to Maui, Hawaii!!!! Mom, dad, and Jacquie all flew in from Canada and we had a great time! We learned to paddle board, went swimming, I found some kayaks and taught them how to kayak surf, we went snorkelling, hiking, jumping off waterfalls, played games and ate waaayyy too many corn chips. I discovered that running into someone on a stand up paddle board with your kayak after they have been splashing you makes them fall off. (Hehe.) We celebrated my birthday by going to this amazing restaraunt called Mama's Fish House.
When I got back to Auckland, Joel took me dancing for my birthday, and then the next night Courtney, TJ, Joel, and I went out on the town and to a comedy club for my birthday. It was great fun! We went to this little bar in the city that has "teapots" which you pour into shot glasses to drink. :P Also in May I completed one of the roughest trips I've done so far: sea kayaking from Army Bay around Tiritiri Matangi, and yet it seemed so much less stressful than my first big trip to Kawhia! (This means I'm improving!) It's getting much colder here now that it's winter-timre. It was higher winds and more chop than I had ever been out in a sea kayak, but I still enjoyed myself even though it was challenging.
Finally, if you would like links to my photos on Picasa (so you can see them ALL) let me know and I'll send you the link.