Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We'll Be Parents In Days

Saturday is the due date! We're just sitting here. Waiting. Watching TV. Enjoying the quiet and our time together as a couple. The baby has dropped and Mary's a little dialated, but we're not on high high-alert, just regular alert.

Mary's kind of on maternity leave already (the University is shut down this week and she's not going back).

This Christmas season has been a blur. If we're not busy decorating or buying gifts, we're finishing house projects and buying things for the baby. The good news is we have the nursery is done, the car seat is installed, and the boppys have been covered.

It's been great seeing and hearing from all of you this past month. I'm sure we'll be calling you soon with great news!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

5 Weeks To Go

The bump is getting bigger and the nursery is getting closer to being finished. The crib is here (and put together) and the closet is near completion. There's been one hiccup, though - our dresser is on backorder and may not arrive before the baby. After talking with the customer service representative, Mary emailed a harshly-written letter to the company; they fell over themselves apologizing to her for the delay and offering her 5% off. But, the long and the short of it is that we're in the market for a different dresser.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tina and Nate's Wedding

Photo Dump!! Tina and Nate had a great wedding, but Daphne and Bridget stole the weekend :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm A Lucky Guy

A younger, smarter wife.

"According to a British study, marriages involving women at least five years younger than a husband and with a higher educational level fared the best in the British study."

Mary doesn't have a "higher" degree than me, but she is definitely smarter :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rob's Baby Abby

I've been doing an experiment for work: I've been carrying around a high-tech doll for three days; a Baby Think-It-Over. Her name is Abby and she cries, coos, gets hungry, and poops (imaginary poops).

The experience has been interesting. It's hard to get much done because as soon as I start a project, the baby needs to be fed. As soon as I get in the car, it needs to be fed. As soon as I walk into a restaurant, it needs to be fed. And I feel like a dork changing a diaper in Menards. It's a little embarrassing (because it's a loud plastic doll) and the amount of work is a bit of a wake-up-call.

But the Baby Think-It-Over is like a Wii. At first you wave the controller around like crazy; then you learn it's all in the wrist. At first, with Abby, I was carrying her around like a real baby, feeding her with one arm while I attempting to get things done. Now I've learned how to lay the doll on a table with the bottle propped on her chest - and I leave the room to do whatever I want.

I promise when we have a REAL baby, I will give it 5000% more attention.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weekend Apart (by Mary)

This weekend Rob's sister, Tina, is getting married in Geneva, NY. The wedding is going to be absolutely beautiful, in a castle (!!!), Rob is the minister; however, I'm going to be missing out.

Once Rob and I found out I was pregnant, we knew the wedding would come in the third trimester of my pregnancy. After some research, we learned that pregnant women can safely travel up to 36 weeks, and even later with a doctor's note. This is true for normal fliers, but I'm a high-stress, anxiety-prone flier. Because I have had panic attacks while flying previously, my practioner informed us this stress could cause early labor, and the thought of going into early labor makes me more anxious. It is even more complicated that the closest airport to the event is a small airport, which means small, propellor planes get you there.

So Rob is leaving early Friday morning for a romantic weekend without me, and I'll be at home for some true "me time." Maybe I'll be really productive, start some early nesting, and organize our closets or something.

I think it is more likely that I will spend the weekend reading reviews for baby products and online shopping :) Anyone in CU feel free to text and get me out of the house!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rob on TV

I made an appearance on the local news to talk about country music news. I totally have a spare tire; if I do it again, I'm wearing black. And to think, you could have seen this live in high def.

Click here to watch.

4 Ways Married Life Is Different (rob)

I was ironing one of my t-shirts when it dawned on me how different my life has become as a married man.
1) T-shirts are hung instead of laying in a pile on my floor.
2) I don’t watch the same Will Ferrell movie over and over.
3) Vegetables.
4) Bed before 10pm.
I don't know why some guys “dread” getting married... it's such an improvement!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bad Boat Luck (by Mary)

I have not posted nearly as frequently about my pregnancy as I would have liked, but better late than never, right?

I am now 28 weeks pregnant, and for about 8-10 weeks now, I've been feeling really great. I've had a "healthy" appetite and I can tell Peanut is getting really strong. He/She has been very active and Rob and I can often view the activity from the outside. Of course I'm tired, not sleeping well, and have my aches and pains, but I think these discomforts are just part of the journey.

Peanut has accompanied us to many great events that I didn't get to post about individually. We went to the cabin in Minnesota over Labor Day, and it was nice to get away from our stressors. Unfortunately, that was six weeks ago, and we feel like we're due for another vacation! During the trip, I read the first books in the Twilight series, we grilled out, shopped at local boutiques, and did attempt to go boating one day...and we should have known better.

Rob and I always joke that we have bad boating luck. Our first boating excursion together was the Houseboat trip in Summer 2006. Rob and I both got pretty beat up- I scarred the sides of my thighs attempting to go down the waterslide while I was dry, and Rob took a beating on the kneeboard. Lesson learned: My thighs are too large for houseboat waterslides. Rob would repeat his kneeboarding experience in a heartbeat, and since I didn't directly witness it, I don't think I could stop him.

In February 2007 we took our first trip down to the condo in Miami. We booked a casino cruise that sounded like a blast. After eating the worst buffet EVER (which says so much since Rob is a buffet-hater), while the ship was still in port, we contemplated exiting the cruise ship at that point, but decided to stick it out and play slots. That lasted about 10 minutes. Because this wasn't exactly a high-end trip, the boat went out to international waters where gambling is allowed, then simply put the ship in neutral so the passengers could feel every swell in the water. Rob quickly got sea sick and we spent the remaining FOUR HOURS "getting air" on the top deck anticipating vomit at any moment. We were desperate for any relief, so we spent $10 at the vending machine on pressure point wrist bands. Lesson learned: Rob needs to take dramamine, we're not big on gambling, and we still really hate buffets.

Our five-day cruise to the Caribbean for our honemoon in February 2008 was a wash. I was extremely anxious because I was experiencing chest pain without a diagnosis and was on a heavey dose of steroids. We definitely had some enjoyable memories from this trip, though, so we're glad we went. Lesson learned: We just like to lay on the beach, so no need to spend the extra money for the ado of a cruise ship.

During a long Fourth of July weekend in 2008, we went up to Minnesota and used the smaller boat to go out fishing. Unfortunately, the boat had not been used much that summer, so when we tried to idle the boat between the lakes (there are these small channels that are no wake zones), the boat would die, then not start up again. Rob had to row us out of the channel three times. About 20 other boats all offered to give us a tow, but we were definitely too proud to accept. Lesson learned: take the bigger boat out on the lake next time we go up to the cabin.

During this same trip, we hired a sailboat owner to take us out on Leech Lake for a cruise. Believe it or not, it was too windy for us to go sailing! The water was so rough that Rob started to get nauseous and I was sure Captain Tom was going to tip the boat over at any minute. Lesson learned: I'm too chicken to go sailing, and once again, Rob needs dramamine.

There was an awkward canoe trip in New Zealand, which is so awkward, I won't even post about. There was a definite lesson in that story though. We didalso go boating with Steph and Lance in New Zealand, which was awesome and we did not have any techinical difficulties.

In order for us to take the bigger boat this year in Minnesota, we needed four-wheel drive to launch the boat into the lake. This is the first time either of us have done this, but Arnold wrote out thorough directions for us. There was a lot that could have gone wrong launching and starting the boat, but we made it out on the water! Then, we decided to "open it up" so we could idle down the channel between the lakes and the boat would be peppy enough to make it all the way through. However, Rob turned the steering wheel left, then right, and the boat kept circling left. I frantically shouted, "I'm scared, turn it off!" I'm certainly no expert on boats, as evidenced by this post in so many ways, but I can tell when you turn a steering wheel one direction and the boat actually moves the other direction, something is not right. Once we got moving again, the boat was working fine, but then it happened again. The steering cords were no longer wrapped about the steering column (is that what it's called?), so we called it quits. We returned the boat to the dock at this point, after Rob had to manually steer the boat in. Lesson learned: Maybe boating just isn't for us?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Both Cars In One Accident (by Rob)

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid...

I was backing Mary's car out of the garage and never looked in the rear-view mirror. Boom! The back corner of Mary's car collided into the front corner of mine. The worst part is that Mary said to me, as I walked out the door, "are you sure you can back my car around yours in the driveway?" to which I replied "it's easy. I'm an expert at it."
Famous last words....

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peanut Met Kenny Chesney

Last Thursday, Kenny Chesney played Bloomington; tickets sold out in three minutes. We bought floor seats and went backstage. It's kind of a big deal because he's not going to tour next year.
Mary's camera was the star of the show: Backstage, Kenny's road manager used her camera to take our photo. As he pushed the button, the battery died. So I made chit chat with Kenny while she swapped out the battery. Then, a security guard came up during the show and tried to confiscate the camera because it has a detachable, telescoping lens (but everyone else in the building can take high quality pics and video!?!?)
The show was great - we got back to Champaign at 12:30pm. Rather than go to bed, I stayed up all night; I went in to work early. I ended up being awake 32 hours straight!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Back to the morning show

It's official. I'm waking up at 3:45 each morning to be on the morning show permanently. I was asked if I would be willing to return a few weeks ago but took three weeks to consider the change.

Pros: Done with work around 1 every day
We might be able to do a half-day of daycare

Cons: lack of sleep
My alarm wakes Mary every morning.

It was waking Mary that I was most concerned with. So far so good - as long as I don't hit the snooze button, Mary falls right back to sleep.

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Ultrasound (Rob)

Today, we had our first ultrasound! It lasted a lot longer than I thought it would, but, at the same time, it didn't last long enough :)
They measured the size of the head, zoomed in on the kidneys, the heart, the leg bones, arms, feet, hands... everything is completely normal.

(click pics to enlarge)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Where To Bathe Baby

I took last Monday off and surprised Mary with a new sink, complete with new faucet and garbage disposal. She had no idea it was coming; the parts had been hidden beneath my mess in the garage. Why a new sink?
1) Mary's wanted a garbage disposal for some time.
2) The sink is deeper, an ideal place to bathe the baby.
3) The faucet has a detachable hose - good to get into those hard to rinse cracks (if you catch my drift).
I finished the project Monday (same day), but not correctly. The first day, we could only use the left drain. Tuesday night after work, the right drain was cleared for use.

I'm not saying it's "up to code" but it works!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pregnancy Update

Saturday is a big day! Mary will be 20 weeks along. That's halfway!
The baby is the size of a canteloupe. The belly is starting to get a little bigger. And, Mary's been feeling kicks!

We're anxiously awaiting our first ultrasound on the 24th- still a week and a half away.

There's still 4 1/2 months to go, which is a long time, right?

Meet Ellie Wallheimer!

Rob and I had the privilege of meeting Dot and Brian's baby girl, Eleanor Anne, last Saturday. She was just five days old, and she is absolutely precious and adorable! Here are some pics I took from the weekend, but you can see more at their blog (link to the right).

Baby's First Concert

Luke Bryan came to CU on August 1st and we got to go backstage and meet him. So here's the deal - we all line up along his bus. Luke's manager tells us the two rules - 1) no touching Luke's butt and 2) have your camera ready. Mary and I were last in line.

When we got to the front, Luke's manager took a picture with our camera. He forgot to push the button halfway to focus. You can almost make out the baby bump; actually, all you can see are Luke's teeth!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh Crap! (by Rob)

About every three days it hits me - I'm going to be a Dad! When I look at Mary and her bump, I recognize that she's pregnant. But every couple of days, the meaning of it hits me - "We're going to be parents! Life is going to be completely different!"

It's equal parts scary and exciting.

Unlike other journeys we go on in our lives (work, education, etc), this is the one journey you get to share with your spouse. I think that's the most exciting part - becoming the father to Mary's child (and watching Mary become a mother).

Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to sink back into denial for a day or two.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Boy or Girl? (by Mary)

If you know me, you know I'm not very patient, so therefore, am not a huge fan of surprises. I did not feel strongly about finding out the sex of our baby, though, but Rob felt strongly that it should be a surprise. I have agreed, and since he doesn't think I can keep a secret, the sex of our baby will be a surprise to both of us. (I think he just didn't want me to torment him with my exclusive knowledge!)

When we tell most people that we are not going to find out the sex, the response is usually, "Good for you- that is the best way to do it!" While I totally understand the reasoning for finding out the sex, I have calmed my impatience by reminding me of these facts:
-I have heard of a few stories lately when the parents were told it is a girl, and it ends up being a boy!
-The neutral baby gear will be able to be used for future children

I also wanted to share that when I first found out I was pregnant, my instinct was that I was carrying a boy, but now I have a hunch it's a girl. The old wives' tales are providing us with conflicting answers as well. I'm told the nausea is a sign of a girl, but the Chinese birth chart says a boy. I seem to be carrying low, which would mean a boy, but the higher heart rate in one of the wives' tales indicates a girl.

I also have been slightly convinced that I'm having twins. Twins don't run in either of our families, but I believe I was twice as sick as the average pregnant woman (if you were present during a vomit session, you would agree). I also have a friend who dreamt I was having twins, even before she knew I was pregnant! How creepy is that? Even though only one heartbeat has been found at our last two prenatal appointments, only the ultrasound can give us a solid answer. Plus, the nurse's assistant at the last appointment just globbed gel all over and did not have any true searching mechanism ;) Our ultrasound is scheduled for our next appointment on August 24th (easy to remember, because it is my brother's birthday). I look foward to sharing pictures at that time!

How are you feeling? (by Mary)

Rob talked a bit about it in a previous post, but I thought I'd update everyone on how I'm feeling- since this is the most common question I've been getting. Weeks 8 through 15 were definitely rough, but I've had some glimpses of being truly hungry this past week. There is a hope that I will be comfortable soon, now that I'm almost done with my fourth month.

Our Baby's Journey in the Womb (by Mary)

I still have 5+ plus months left of pregnancy, but our little peanut has already had fun experiences. Here are some highlights of his/her journey:
- Janice & Tim's wedding
- My 26th birthday. Jill and Josh surprised me from Chicago, and we went to a tapas restaurant for dinner.
- A handful of water aerobics classes, and I can tell peanut is going to like the water!
- Ray & Colleen's wedding, and since I was a bridesmaid, peanut had a big day!
- Fireworks in Buffalo Grove on the 4th of July and in Champaign on the 5th of July
- Spending an afternoon at Kickapoo with Dot and Brian, including a hike where I spotted all the wildlife (a turtle and dozens of bugs)

I'm looking forward to taking peanut on many other trips, but I have noticed that my body is working overtime taking care of him/her, so it does exhaust me more than pre-pregnancy. We always have an open door for visitors to our home, though. Just keep in mind this could be the last time you stay at our house without a baby waking you up in the middle of the night :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Baby's Heartbeat

We had our third doctor's appointment today (at 16 weeks) and the first thing we did was listen to the heartbeat. It took about a minute for the nurse's assistant to find it. I was a little scared something might be wrong! I think this means we're not having twins (as Mary's convinced we are); I think it would have been easier to find a heartbeat if there were two of them in there...The heartbeat was a health 150 beats per minute, and I think I may want to purchase one of the at-home baby heart monitors, because it such a joy to listen to.

We didn't meet with our nurse midwife; we met with her partner. They rotate weekends and the midwife we met with could end up being the woman who delivers our baby. She was nice and we felt comfortable with her.

She delivered good news - Mary's nausea should be gone soon (some women have "morning sickness" all pregnancy and it never lets up. Those that find relief as the 2nd tri starts will find relief.) Plus we got the good news that I can cut the umbilical cord if I want (which I do)!

We have new glasses!

My frames broke a few weeks ago. Mary's sunglasses have been chewed on by a friend's dog. And it was time for our eye exams. And today, I picked up a new pair of glasses for both of us and a new pair of sunglasses for Mary.

All of the glasses are chunky; they're plastic, dark, and thick. It's a whole new look for both of us that we can't wait to show off in person!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bump #1

The baby is the size of a navel orange.
Mary's baby bump is a small cantaloupe.

Friday, July 10, 2009

We're Having A Baby!

As we announced this morning on WIXY, Mary and I are having a baby! (audio) Our due date is January 2nd.

In Mary's first trimester, she felt fine until the day before her birthday. That was her first true "morning sickness" day (she has morning sickness worse in the evening). She's had food aversions and nausea, so we've been eating a lot of comfort foods: mac and cheese, pizza, mashed potatoes, and breads (not that I'm complaining).

Now that she's in her second trimester, Mary's appetite has started returning. She still has morning sickness and nausea at times, but not as bad as before. She's more willing to eat and is more willing to eat non-comfort foods. But Mary still refuses to eat chicken; for some reason, chicken grosses her out.

We've met with our nurse/midwife twice. Last time, we were able to hear the baby's heartbeat with a fetal dopplar. In August, we'll have our first ultrasound.

We will not be finding out the gender of the baby. We want it to be a suprise.

We'll be sharing pregnancy news on our blog. I'll also be "twittering" about it for work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NZ Kiwi Experience #4: Taupo

Taupo is an amazing city. It's right on the largest lake in NZ - Lake Taupo. The lake is so big, Singapore could fit in it. If you had a string and pulled it tight from one side of the lake to the other, it would be 15 feet below water in the middle because of the curve of the Earth. The lake is actually a volcano. It erupted back in the day (Romans documented seeing the red ash when it happened) and filled with water (like Mount St. Helens).

We had planned to go back to Rotorua to complete our trip, but we stayed here until the day of our flight back to America for a number of reasons.
1- so beautiful
2- great shopping
3- had to wait for perfect weather to hike Tongariro Crossing
4- the hostel was 1000x nicer than the one in Rotorua

On our first day, we shopped and relaxed.

The second day happened to be Ironman New Zealand - and it was held in Taupo. It was really cool to watch! The competitors swam in the lake, which was a block away from the hostel. They biked and ran at the end of our street. We couldn't be at a better spot to watch them swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles. It was the 25th anniversary of the Ironman in NZ. We were cheering on Jo Lawn, a NZ woman who had been champion for 6 years in a row. She lost. We did see American's competing, which is crazy. They had to bring their bikes with them on the plane!

While these people were running, we got massages.

Day 3 - We hiked the Tongariro Crossing (more on that to come).

Day 4 - We went to a thermal pool. Because the Earth's crust is so thin, water is heated by the core of the Earth and it comes out warm. We went to a YMCA-like place that had hot baths - it turned out it was lukewarm water in hot tubs. Luckily, there was a natural hot spring three blocks away.

The hot water poured down a waterfall and into the river. It was wild to be at the spot where the hot and cold water met - there were hot and cold pockets. But where the water poured over the waterfall - it was scalding hot! Of course, while at this park, Mary wished we had the camera - it was two miles away back at the hostel. Luckily her husband enjoys running (and was looking for an excuse to get in a run). Mary read some chick-lit while I went back to get the camera to catch some great shots of the area.

It was such an enjoyable place, it's where we would move if we could. Only two complaints about Taupo - our room at the hostel was above a bar that partied until 3am and I did laundry and turned everything pink.

NZ Taupo

NZ Kiwi Experience #3: Waitomo

Waitomo is famous for their caves. Basically, all that's there are some caves for you to explore. A couple different companies offer caving experiences. We went all out: We went on "The Black Abyss" with the Black Water Rafting Company. It was as cool as it sounds.

After suiting up in wetsuits, we were taken by van to the entrance of the cave. We practiced abseiling (rappelling) on the side of a hill before abseiling about 100 feet into the cave. The opening into the hole was just larger than my shoulder width. This was the part of the tour that really worried Mary. There are no lights in the cave. You wear a helmet with a little light on top, but as you abseil, you can't see anything beyond your light. It was quite a rush.

Once at the bottom of the cave, we moved to the next feat - zip-lining in the dark. All headlamps were turned off. One guide strapped you in. The next caught you at the end. There were no indications of how far it was, how high you were, how dangerous it was. The guides had a little fun. They yelled things like "Send him over on the right." Then, when a guy ziplined, the guide at the end yelled "The other right!" and screamed.

Once everyone was done zip-lining, we moved to the end of a cliff and sat down. We drank tea and ate cookies while the guides prepared the rest of the tour. The plan was to jump off of the cliff into the river that runs through the cave below and tube for a while. We had to jump and land on the tube, since the water was so shallow. This actually scared Mary more than the abseiling! You could hardly see the water it was so dark and you had to be precise when jumping. The water was freezing, even with the wet suit.

We pulled ourselves upstream with a rope attached to one of the side walls of the river running through the cave. After a few minutes, we killed the lights and floated back where we came from in the dark - enjoying the main attraction of the cave - glowworms.

Glowworms are worms that attach themselves to the ceiling and walls of caves in NZ. They basically vomit mucus strings that dangle down like fly traps. Then, from the center of their body, they emit a light that attracts bugs and then catch them in their mucus. They reel up the bugs and eat them. The worms do become flies, but they're born with no mouth and no stomach. They live about 3 days before dying. They're purpose is to procreate, lay eggs, and create new worms.

We walked down the rest of the river; it was shallow. We stopped to cannonball into a deep side pool. We rested and drank some warm orange drink while checking out an eel living in the water. Then came the most fun part - we climbed out of the cave up a waterfall. As the water waspouring over us, we climbed up and out of the cave through a hole about the same size as the one we came in.

Total trip time was about 5 hours. It was totally worth it. We ended the night at a clean hostel. We had dinner at a bar nearby. I had a burger called the Clyde, as I recall. It was a burger, with a steak on top of it, with bacon on top of that. DELICIOUS.

The final activity in Waitomo was the next day on the way to Taupo. We stopped and watched angora bunnies get sheared.

NZ Black Water Rafting

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NZ Kiwi Experience #2: Rotorua

Rotorua (row-toe-roo-uh) is the cultural capital of NZ, and also the stinkiest place in the country. There are many Maori (indigenous people) cultural shows and museums throughout the city. There's also a lot of geothermal activity because the Earth's crust is thin here which gives the city a sulfur/rotten egg smell. Some people call the city Rotten-rua.

Our first stop was a Maori Museum/Georthermal Park. They demonstrated how the Maori people carve and weave (it's actually a school for Maori people to learn). Then, the guide took us to see some geysers and a boiling mud pool. We wrapped up the tour with a kiwi bird exhibit. It was the only time we saw a kiwi bird while in NZ. They're actually quite rare and slowly becoming extinct because of possums and rats.

Stop two was our hostel. By far, this was the worst of all the hostels we stayed at. A freshman dorm Sunday morning after a night of partying would have been cleaner.

Stop 3 - The Luge. You ride a gondola to the top of a huge hill/small mountain, strap on a helmet, and ride a little cart down a cement path. At the bottom of the hill, a ski lift takes you and your cart back to the top.

Stop 4 - A Maori Cultural Show/Dinner. A Maori village has been recreated in the woods outside of Rotorua. While on the bus there, the bus chose a chief of our tribe/bus. It was his job to approach the chief of the village and show no fear while the Maori chief put on a show of strength. the Maori custom is to dance, stick out your tongue, and try to instill fear others to prevent an attack.

After the chief allowed us to enter the village, we were treated to a musical show of traditional Maori songs, then we ate dinner. The meal is called a Hangi; they dig a big hole, put in the food, and cover it with hot coals to cook (kind of like a Hawaiian luau). The food was terrible. But the dessert was great.

We went back the hostel afterward. We started the next day with s sheep-shearing show. It sounded a little lame, but ended up being fun because of the announcer. There was one of every type of sheep on stage (merino, leicester, etc). the announcer energetically introduced us to each one, then brought out a separate sheep to sheer. It took him about 3 minutes to watch him sheer the whole thing. Next up, he brought out his sheep dogs and demonstrated how they direct sheep just by using their eyes (demonstrated on ducks). Outside, we watched a dog move three sheep through an obstacle course to end the event.

We got on the bus and made our way to our next stop: Waitomo.

NZ Rotorua

Monday, May 18, 2009

NZ Kiwi Experience #1: Whitianga

We started the Kiwi Experience in Auckland atop a dormant volcano, and made our way to Whitianga (pronounced Fit-e-anga). It's a town on the northeast side of the island with beautiful beaches. It was a good introduction to the Kiwi Experience - the first clipboards came around. We signed up for a hostel and for a kayak trip through a marine reserve.

The kayak trip was a two-parter. Kayak to Cathedral Cove, get out and have hot chocolate and tea, and kayak back. When we got to the cove, our guide literally busted out a backpacker stove, filled it with water, and took our drink orders. It was the most beautiful beach we visited all trip.

NZ Kayaking Whitianga

The NZ Adventure

We left Steph and Lance's farm to spend a little over a week touring the country. NZ has a "backpacker" bus called Kiwi Experience. It's a "guided bus tour" of the entire country on your time schedule; the bus drops you off and picks you up when you want. Ex. when the bus gets to Waitomo, you can stay the night there, or stay a week. When you're ready to continue the trip, hop back on.
The bus also helps with accomodations and activities along the route. The driver passes along a clipboard so you can sign up for rooms at hostels (you don't have to book anything in advance, you're guaranteed a night's stay). And, the driver passes along a clipboard to sign up for skydiving, caving, etc (they make the "reservation" for you but don't cover the cost.
The bus and hostels were full of "backpackers;" recent college grads exploring the world on daddy's dime with backpacks. We didn't quite fit in with our roll-ie luggage. We chose to go to bed around 11, not stay up until 3:30 running the halls and partying at the bar. And, we weren't on a fied budget trying to travel the entire country, just the northern half to see glowworms, hot springs, and do 1/2 day hikes.
So, as we leave the farm, our adventure truly begins.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

NZ Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand. Reinga means underworld. The Maori people believe this where your spirit goes when you die - it leaps off the land and either ascends to the afterworld or sinks.
We took a day-long bus trip to the Cape - there were three highlights. One was the view walking to the lighthouse on the cape. You can see where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific.

Another highlight was driving down 90 Mile Beach (it's really only 60 some miles long). It's a national highway; the bus literally drove on the sand!
But the big highlight was sandboarding. We walked/hiked to the top of this huge sand dune with a boogie board, laid down on the board, and road it to the bottom. At the bottom of the dune was a lot of water - when you hit the water, you hydroplane because you're going so fast.
I took some pics of Mary coming down the hill, but they don't do the thrill-of-the-hill justice.
From NZ Cape Reinga