Monday, December 22, 2008

Way down south...

Sunday Jayne came to stay. She was a friend of a friend of my cousins and as I'm staying at my uncle and aunts this is where she came to stay! We talked about her travelling south on the kiwi bus (she had a ticket on it already) and she asked if I was keen to go south. I decided it would be a great way to spend the week and see some of NZ that I love so much and see some great friends in Queenstown and see some new things as well! So Tuesday after having a filling put in at the dentist we headed south. It was raining as we got to the West Coast and Punakaiki was really not worth stopping at but we did anyway and got soaked in the process!! We drove on down to Franz Josef where we stayed in a backpa17122008766ckers, went to the new hot pools for a soak and then had dinner. Wednesday we went on a full day glacier hike up Franz Josef glacier. Our guide Tommy was awesome, we were in the fastest group so went more place and new places. Was cloudy and as we got further up the glacier we got right into the clouds and had heavy rain mist falling on us but the ice was awesome. A long but good day! Thursday morning Jayne got up very early and did a sky dive over Fox Glacier getting awesome views of Mt Cook and the glacier. We then walked to Lake Matheson but the famous reflections were not working that day and Cook had cloud over it too. Drove on down through the World Heritage Area that is South Westland and then across the Haast Pass to Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Stopped at Wanaka and visited Puzzleworld. Next was the short trip up the Cardrona Valley and over the Crown Range and down into Arrowtown where we just happened upon carols being sung on the village green. We bought fish and chips and L&P and sat on the grass in the sun enjoying Christmas carols. After we walked through the village and then drove on down to QueenstownKJET812190134675 where we stayed at Lakeland Park--the camp I was manager of 3 years ago. Friday we got a free jet boat ride thanks  to Kawarau Jet a company started by the same people who started Lakeland Park. I had been offered a ride 3 years ago and never took it so it was now time to cash in! 60 minutes of fun in the big boat! Famous for its 360 degree spins the jet boat is very powerful and goes up to 86kmh across the lake and then up the river. We did plenty of spins and if sitting on the edge you can get fairly wet too! I was on the side for the first half but then managed to make Jayne sit on the side and the driver got her wet on the way back. Friday nite we met up with Jan and Vicki and their girls Holly and Alice. They were great friends to m e when I lived there and was great to see them again. Holly was singing Silent Night on the town green for xmas celebrations so we listened to that--she has an amazing voice. Enjoyed a Thai dinner together and then a great evening at Jan and Vicki's house talking with them--even had a fir20122008824e going!! Saturday we got up early hoping to fly into Milford Sound but due to cloud the plane was not flying. So we drove the 4 hours to Milford Sound-the scenery in there was awesome! Huge rock mo20122008845untains with waterfalls all over them and we wind in between them on the road before  descending through the 1km Homer tunnel and down to Milford Sound. It was even snowing on the tops! Took the 90 minute boat cruise past Mitre Peak and out to the Tasman Sea and back. When we got back to Queenstown around 7:30pm there was snow on the Remarkables (now known as the Incredibles) and Coronet Peak. After dinner we met some of Jaynes friends in town for some drinks and dancing. A late nite making us rather tired Sunday as we packed up and moved out. Went to the church I attended 3 years ago and caught up with lots of people. After lunch Jayne checked into a backpackers and I drove 9.5 hours back to Nelson. Was a brilliant 6 days, laughed loads, had new experiences, saw new places and made a great new friend. New Zealand sure is the most beautiful diverse country on this planet!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Barefoot in NZ!!

Summer is starting up here and I'm loving being barefoot again! Had 2 pretty full days in Auckland with my parents, my sister Priscilla and her 3 kids, Johanna, Jacob, and Daniella (and husband Sjoerd) and catching up with Jenny. Went to Priscilla's new property where they have just built a small house which they will live in while building a bigger house. The property is 25 acres with a lot of NZ native bush up on a hill near the Hunua Ranges south of Auckland. Thursday I drove south--so nice driving the WRX again! It was a stunning day in the middle of the North Island and Lake Taupo looked awesome with snow clad Mt Ruapehu in the background. Just south of the lake I picked up a hitchhiker and got out to help load her bag in. The road was so hot it was melting and now I have black tar all over the soles of my feet!! 7.5 hours driving and I was in Wellington for dinner and then crashed over at crazee Caths! Its now Friday morning and I'm on the Interislander ferry--the Kaitaki. I haven't seen this ferry before here in NZ but its disgusting. All the seats are old and dirty--they have gone seriously backwards! Previous ferries have been modern and clean and nice but this is a dump. And internet access is only available in a premium lounge which you pay $40 just to get into!!

Sure enough as we crossed to the South Island the sun broke through and in Nelson it was a hot sunny day! I went straight to the beach and played some beach volleyball--even got a bit sunburnt! Then I had dinner with my sister Joanna and husband Frank and Nikki, Melanie and Benji. Was so good to see them all again after 3 1/2 years! I'm now staying at my uncle and aunties in Redwoods Valley.

Mosaic coincidence in LA?

After a very hectic week living in W1, London and getting everything sorted at work for my 2 month absence I caught the express to Heathrow and boarded flight NZ1 to LAX. 11 hours on a smooth new 777 and I'm in LA and finding a hotel. Sunday I decided to rent a car for the day (alternative option to be bored at the hotel all day) and drive to Mosaic Church. 30 mins drive up the 405 and into Santa Monica and I'm at Beverley Hills High School which Mosaic use for one of their church gatherings. I had heard about Mosaic in 2004 while staying LA so always wanted to attend at some time. I'm about 35 mins early and people are still setting up-being in a school they have to keep everything in a truck and set it all up every week. A friendly girl starts talking to me and then introducing me to some of the guys that run it. They are all very welcoming and interested to find out where I'm from and why I'm there etc. I didn't tell them I was a spy just checking out how they do things! So then I'm standing in the lobby as its still well before service time when a guy walks towards me and says, "You look familiar, where do I know you from?" I'm thinking he's got me well mistaken as how would anyone here know me? So I say I'm from New Zealand. He asks have I been in the USA before? I say yes, in Missouri, Ohio, ... he interrupts with "Kanakuk Kamp". I say yes and he tells me his name is Chris Houghy. WOW-Crazy!! I hadn't recognized him but I remembered Chris from when we worked together in 1999!! I had also worked with his sister Rachel and their great uncle (Will Russell) attends my church in Nelson, NZ (we had found that out back in 1999 when we first met!). I had prayed on the way there for some cool people to meet and then hang out with after church and God had sure answered! Chris has been attending Mosaic for quite a few years and helps with some of there missions work. They are very focused on being missional in practical ways and organise and fundraise for a lot of projects around the world. The service was simple and modern with a Christmas flavour. The 2 girls singing had amazing voices! After church I met Angela who plays beach vball on the AVP and so she knows a bunch of the same people I know. Then Chris took me for some mexican with his girlfriend, before going back to his place to watch American football. I'm writing this as I wait to board my flight in LA for Auckland, this is the first time I ever remember flying home specifically for Christmas! It feels good and I can't wait to see so many people, family and friends over the next 4 weeks.