Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Life in the Marlborough Sounds

Dave and I have been in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand for over three months now. I am so grateful we have been able to work here and be right on the water.  Being here has definitely been a nice change in lifestyle. Our commute consists of walking 30 seconds. We can't go anywhere on our breaks unless we take a boat. If we want to go walking, it will always, without fail, involve steep hills. If we are overheated, we can run and jump into the ocean to cool off.  If we're feeling ambitious, we can go fishing for some blue cod.  I like to think we took advantage of our free time to do as much as we could around the area.  One thing we didn't get to do was mountain bike the Queen Charlotte track, but who knows, it might happen yet!

The views here are fantastic, every morning we woke up to the sunrise - or rather it woke us up.  We also got acquainted with a lot of the local wildlife here, including wekas, cicadas, bellbirds, fantails (super cute birds that will follow you around on the trail), and huhu bugs.

We also get to wake up to mornings like this!

A cicada. They are everywhere during the summer and they're loud.  Almost deafening. Photo Credit: David Cassidy. 

One of the shags that live in the bay.  There is a huge colony of them about a 2 minute kayak away. Photo Credit: ME!

Wee Fantail following us around. It has such a unique way of flitting about!

We've also been fortunate to be able to work with a wonderful group of people and formed our own little Marlborough family.  Nick, one of the mangers, is even in the photo!

After our Lady Karen cruise, not everyone is in the photo unfortunately!

Panpan hugging me and lifting me up. 


Cruising on the Lady Karen
As Sarah's farewell gift, most of the staff were able to go on a cruise through the sounds on the boat called Lady Karen.  It's run by a Kiwi called Gordie. He is pretty much one of the nicest, friendliest people anyone will ever meet.

We got to fish for a bit, stopped for a swim, got to shoot some skeet and mostly lounged around and drank alcohol.  The chefs at the resort also made us some lovely salads and desserts for the day.

Look at how big this blue cod is! Alex couldn't believe his eyes. 

Skeet shooting. 

General lounging.

More lounging.

Visiting Lochmara Lodge
While we were here, we also spent the day at another resort on the sounds called Lochmara Lodge. It is a hotel as well as an art studio and wildlife sanctuary.  They take care of animals (mostly birds) that are injured.  We had lunch at the cafe and then walked around the resort. There were hammocks, art work, river eels, pig feeding and bird feeding in their aviary.  They even had a rope swing but we didn't have our togs with us.

Hammocks were everywhere

It's kinda hard to get out of them, okay?

Mosaic couch. Art and functional.

Feeding birds at the aviary. 

Days Off
On our days off, we would also just relax around the resort.  We would go to a neighbouring jetty and sun bathe (summer in December..what??), go fishing, or snorkel.  I honestly couldn't believe that we could just DIVE for scallops and eat them for free! One of the chefs, Bridget, taught me how to remove them from the shells. Pretty cool process, and kind of odd actually killing your own food!  When we weren't too busy at the resort, we would go kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.  If we were feeling really ambitious, we would go walk along the Queen Charlotte track, or to the look out.  You have to understand, work consisted of walking up and down hills all day.  Walking up and down hills on days off weren't exactly at the top of our list, but we did manage to get out a few times. 

Walking from Ship's Cove to Furneaux Lodge, looking out at the Marlborough Sounds.

Snorkelling with SamSam.

Paddling to a secluded beach. 

Six Course Dinner
Before Panpan and Sam left, we also got to eat at the Foredeck, the five-star restaurant on the resort. The chefs prepared a special six course degustation (meal) for us that included just about every animal you can eat (minus chicken) and a wine to match each one.  Here they are in reverse order, descriptions are quite simple, even though the meals and flavours were quite complex.

White chocolate mouse, with a lemon curd center, blueberries and a popcorn crust.

Refresher: Freeze dried lychee, vanilla, fresh passion fruit, ginger beer ice.

Veggie side of kale and carrots. 

Beef Wellington with veggies. I was so excited, I forgot to take a picture before I dug in. 

Salmon with crusted mussels

Pork belly and scallops and potato rosti. Scallops were fried in Marmite. Mmm!

Tuna (yum!), prawns (yum!), proscuitto (yum!) and cantaloupe (yum!). 

Each course came with a delicious wine match, chosen by Stacey and Sophie. Needless to say, I was very full and very drunk by the end of the meal.  

I was lucky enough to also have a friend come visit! Benoit came and spent the day kayaking and had lunch at the resort.  Hard to believe we met seven years ago in Prague!!  Doesn't feel like it was that long ago at all.

Lunch at the Bight Cafe, open to the public, and right on the water. 

Working and living in an isolated resort has been a fantastic experience. I will never forget the people I met here and I will certainly miss them and the wonderful lifestyle we had here.  I don't seem to have any work pictures, but maybe I'll post some a little later.

PS. They pronounce Marlborough "Mall-Brah" here. Took me awhile to learn that. =)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Young at heart

One of the best things about working at the resort has been meeting people from New Zealand and around the world.  Panpan is one of them! She joined the housekeeping team a few weeks after I got here, and during our work, we would talk about what life is like back home.  One of the things we discussed was how we celebrated birthdays.  For Panpan's family, birthdays aren't celebrated with parties and presents. That's when Dave decided that we needed to throw a half birthday party for Panpan.  

We baked her a cake! I baked the cake, and made the icing, and Dave decorated with all his heart. =)

Of course no party is complete without penis straws.  
Panpan was slightly confused by what they were. Natalie is trying to contain herself.

She figured it out!

Of course, no half-birthday is complete without presents! Panpan and I received matching sweaters! 
This is the dorkiest I've been in awhile!

I found candles and Sarah also bought a few. In total we managed to wrangle up 26 of them!

Little did we know, the candles we found in Bellbird were actually trick candles. They kept reigniting after Panpan blew them out. Too funny!

Happy Half Birthday Panpan!

I don't seem to have any photos of the games and food we had... but Alex and Richelle cooked up a storm for us.  Sarah went to town and bought us a pinata, balloons and Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  We also played Pass the Parcel! I think I went a little overboard with the wrapping, but in the end it was worth it. It was definitely a night to remember. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Source to Sea: Canyoning and Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park

After dreaming and scheming about this trip for two months (mainly on my part), Dave and I finally had time and money to do the Source-to-Sea trip offered by Abel Tasman Canyons and The Sea Kayak Company in Abel Tasman National Park.  

Our two day kayaking and canyoning trip started in Motueka where we grabbed our gear and boarded the water taxi in the parking lot. Because it was low tide, the water taxis needed to be towed onto the beach and dropped off by tractors.  I can't tell you how bizarre it is to be on the road, in a boat, being towed by a tractor.  

Our day canyoning was spent with two guides, two kiwi families, and a group of three kiwi men.  The canyon itself was pretty wide and mellow. It wasn't too deep but it held some really exciting things for us! We got dropped off at Anchorage Bay in the national park, a very popular spot with everyone else in NZ it seems.  It was about an hour hike to the top of the Torrent River. Our guides, carrying ropes, abseiling gear, snacks and drinks, set a pretty gargantuan pace. Pretty impressive, considering the rest of us were carrying very little and struggling to keep up!

The first half of the day was spent doing mini abseils, ziplines, natural water slides and jumps. 

Walking was the most dangerous part. 

Dave emergine after the biggest slide!

This is how your dismount from an abseil, let go and be free! 
Getting the talk about the 8 meter jump. Commit or get seriously hurt. Seriously. 
Last slide at Cleopatra's Pool.

Learning to abseil
The big zipline

The warm up to the bigger jump. Six meters

Group photo at the midway point. 

The big zipline

After Cleopatra's Pool, it was about a half hour hike back to Anchorage Beach. By this point we were all pretty exhausted.  Our path was also submerged by the high tide. Dave and I ended up taking turns dragging each other through the water. Our wetsuits were quite buoyant and we attached ourselves together with our daisy chains. 

Our next stop was the floating hostel in Anchorage Bay.  You had to stand on the beach and wave at the people on the boat in order to actually get onto it.  One of the two workers picked us up on their tender (another words for small motorized boat).  Dave and I were shown to our teeny tiny 'double' dorm bed. We acutally slept in the blue bottom part of the boat (as you can see in the picture).  We were immediately sea sick. Dave more so than me. Our dorm bed and dorm area also made us both really claustrophobic.  Good thing they sold ginger beer on the boat, because I think we both would have ended up throwing up. Despite the sea sickness, it was a beautiful night with some great food served by our two hosts on the hostel.  Definitely recommend it if you aren't prone to motion sickness.  

Welcome to sleeping on a boat!!

The next morning we were dropped off on the beach and left to entertain ourselves until noon.  We decided to soak up some sun and tried to recover from the sea sickness. We also hiked about half an hour to another beautiful beach to meet our kayak guides.  

Anchorage Bay in the morning.  Beautiful slice of heaven. 

Anchorage Bay from the hike

After lunch on the beach, we started our kayak tour. We headed to Adelle Island to see if we could catch a glimpse of the fur seals. We saw quite a few sun bathing and quite a few swimming in the water.  There were also baby fur seals that were so cute! They were also very vocal and were constantly screeching like velociraptors. It was pretty adorable.  We only had my little point and shoot camera though, so no good pics resulted from it.  After a day of canyoning, it was nice to half a calm, relaxing day on the ocean.  Our guide told us many interesting anecdotes, including one about Australasian Gannets, and about Abel Tasman's encounter with the Maori people which resulted in two of his crew members being cannibalized. 

Kayaking around Adelle Island looking at baby fur seals and shags.

What was an empty beach, quickly became crowded with about 30 people landing on it.  

Unfortunately, the second half of the three hour kayak was not as relaxing as it could have been because I had too much juice at lunch. Let's just say, this was the only time in my adult life I tried to justify peeing in my pants. Which also would have resulted in me sitting in my own pee for the remainder of the kayak.  Luckily, I was able to make it to the bathroom in time :).

This was probably two of the most enjoyable days I've ever had!! Wish I could afford to do this all the time!

If you are even in New Zealand, I highly recommend Abel Tasman Canyons and The Sea Kayak Company. All the guides were experienced and very professional.  The canyoning guides also took pictures for the group and shared them via Dropbox for free so you don't even have to worry about bringing a camera.