Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Easter back in Q-Town


So we decided to take advantage of the long weekend for Easter and grabbed a ride with Natalie and Euan who were heading to Milford. We left after work on Thursday to join some packed roads heading south into the night. We enjoyed a nice sunset and a clear night. We stopped for a quick stop in Tekapo and did some night flying fox by the lake. We made it all the way to Cromwell going all well till we got a flat tyre. The car was completely packed with our gear so we had to unload pretty much the whole car to get to the spare. All good, it was a formula 1 speed wheel change probably only taking us 20 minutes total. 

We had made the trip even knowing that John was working every day, but at least he had the evening of Saturday off. So the whole time we were there we took it easy, enjoyed the views and headed into town for John's breaks and met and played Disc Golf and a beer. We were stumped as the Queenstown Disc course is much trickier than our usual Christchurch course, and John dominated.

The highlight of our time was getting up to the top of Ben Lomond, the 1600m peak perched above town. It was a strenuous climb, straight up underneath the gondola then just continuing up, up, up. It was a stunning day with amazing views to be had in all directions. Looking over the endless mountain tops Mt Cook was visible and it literally felt like we were sitting right on top of Queenstown. After our hike, we were looking forward to rewarding ourselves with a Ferg Burger but the queue was out of control, so we settled for a curry. Adding to our climb of 6+ hours, we had earlier walked from John's flat into town and then back home adding another 2 hours to the trip, making for some very sore legs.

Amy on top of the world
We did eventually get some Ferg's using the locals trick to beat the queue and they were as good as ever. And we would have done so again with Natalie and Euan before our journey home on Monday, but instead we settled for the lesser Devil Burger as Ferg was impenetrable.  

Thomas and Amy enjoying the view

Monday, April 27, 2015

Castle Hill-Cave Stream

Thomas and Amy in Cave Stream 

The little Barina gave us a little scare as we attempted to venture out of town, with the clutch cable breaking just as we were heading down Riccarton road. We were very thankful it decided to go then rather than as we were headed over Porters Pass. So we managed to get the car crawling home and reshuffled into Euan and Natalie's Legacy. 

We made it to Cave Stream and had a nice wee 'Devo Stylz' picnic and basked in the beautiful sunshine. We then suited up for the cool cave adventure and headed to the entrance. With only two lights between the four of us, we were breaking the rules, but Euan's dive torch gave plenty illumination, and it was quite fun sometimes clambering around barely being able to see if he shone the light away. The water was cool but beautifully refreshing and we spotted a few eels in the pools. The rock formations inside the cave are just remarkable. Imagining what the cave would be like in a powerful flood is slightly unnerving, but the result of such events create such great natural and hidden beauties.

Thomas at Castle Hill 

After our cave walk, we stopped at Castle Hill and climbed and clambered over the bulbous limestone formations. It was a beautiful day out in the mountains and it was great to see many others people out enjoying the wonders of our beautiful country. 

The gang

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Gina, Amy and Thomas
So we booked a quick getaway when Air New Zealand announced the Night Rider flights had come back on special. We managed to coordinate a few days midweek that we could boost up to Auckland, visit our friend Gina and head out to her family batch in Matarangi on the Coromandel Peninsula.  

We got into Auckland late on the night of March 16th, with the plan to get away early from the Vettoretti family household the next morning. We woke up early enough, but were slightly distracted by Gina's entertaining parents, and particularly Gina's dad's impressive drone! We had a bit of a nervous few days leading up to our trip due to the fact that the tropical storm/cyclone Irene was whipping up a fury in the Pacific, there was some terrific rainfall predicted for the Auckland area. But the entire time we were blessed with perfect blue skies and temperatures in the mid twenties. 

After our late start, we made good time and as soon as we arrived at the base of the peninsula in Themes, we went all out and stocked up on supplies at the supermarket and let's just say we did eat and drink well! It was a gorgeous drive up the west coast along the Firth of Themes and we made a few little view point stops before stopping in Coromandal Town. We had a look around the quaint little town. There were lots of people about and the sun was shinning. The entire drive right from Gina's house in South Auckland; the road took us through farmland around the Firth of Themes and up and over the Coromandel mountains of the peninsula. It seemed as if we were the only ones on the whole peninsula. It seems like going midweek is an absolutely beautiful time to be there. 

When we arrived at the batch, we spent a good bit of time just chilling on the beach and when a old school as 9ft long board was discovered under the batch, I was all over the big, but perfect Irene generated swell. Considering it was some of the heaviest surf I have ridden, made even more challenging by the often and even more sizable close out sets, and the fact that this board was a big beast that had no leg rope! I was stoked with the waves I caught, even if I had to swim in every time to retrieve the board and paddle all the way back out. 

As I have noticed girls seem really good at passing time lying on the beach. But I can't stay still, so I headed off for a run down the beach, making it the whole 5km to the estuary mouth and trudged on back again with multiple swims along the way. That evening we had a good explore round Matarangi, checking out all the housing areas, the estuary and headed up the hill right on the point for a nice unset view. 

The following day we went for a big mission right up to the end of the sealed road. We stopped at Waikawau Beach for a lunch picnic where we had the whole beach to ourselves. We stayed for quite awhile, throwing a Frisbee around and just laying in the sand. Absolute pure serenity! We continued further round the coast making a loop back to Matarangi. Back at the batch, we spent more time at the beach there, and Amy even had a turn on the surfboard this day, as the waves were cooling off after the storm. At night, same as the one before, we all contributed to making a delicious dinner, and had some drinks and played some music and games. After a few of those drinks, we opted to head back to the beach to check out the stars. To the sound of the waves crashing in the background, the three of us laid in the sand for almost an hour, totally in awe of the most spectacular display of the starts and the galaxy that we've ever seen.

Our flight on the last day was not till 9.30pm, so we had the whole day to slowly journey back to Auckland. We closed up the batch after a meticulous clean-up. We headed south down the east side of the Coromandel through Whitianga, stopping for milkshakes, on to Hot Water Beach, where to Amy's dismay we discovered our timing was off and we missed the necessary low tide to make hot pools in the sand. We made it to the Cathedral Caves and I mistakenly took my holiday 'no shoes, no problems' ideology along for the 40 minute each way walk to the bays and caves. However, it was a 'slight problem' on the gravel paths for my poor little feet, ouch! The main cave was amazing and a real awe inspiring place. A great last memory of our first visit to the Coromandel. We will sure be heading back one day!
Thomas and Amy at Cathedral Cove

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bealy Spur

Thomas and Euan stopping to take in the view
One Saturday awhile back we headed out for a nice day walk with Natalie and Euan up Bealy Spur on the edge of Arthur's Pass. It was a fantastic day, we just should have brought more water, whoops! My memory failed me and here I was telling everyone it was a chilled little walk. Even though Euan said he read it was 6-8 hours return, I was still convinced it was easy as. 

Bugger me, it took just a bit longer than 3 hours to get to the top and we had consumed all our provisions well before that point. Was bloody nice views from the top though, over the Waimakariri up to Arthur's Pass and to Mt. Rolleston and Crowe Glacier.

Its awesome that just an hours drive and a few hours walk from Christchurch can get you. Against all predictions it took the full three hours to descend too, and it was mad finding the emergency water stored in the boot of the car. Its amazing how satisfying water is when you have been without for even just a few hours!!

Thomas and Amy

Christchurch Life

We have been super busy working this summer. I thought my gig with Wigram was just going to be part time, but I've been doing 8.30-5, five days a week, and Amy picked up two jobs suddenly in February. Shes working at a new restaurant in the city called Mexico and does 4 nights a week, and also got asked to work as a full time reliever at her favourite pre-school working full time. We try to play frisbee golf every day that we can, and we've been enjoying the sunlight available over summer in the Garden City.

Being settled is working out quite fun for now. I have set up the mean wee garden at the flat and its really flourishing with cherry tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, cucumbers and peppers being prolific. I made a cool block herb garden too, and we love that fresh basil, which I have never successfully grown before. Generally, the garden is a chilled place to hang with our friends and flatmates, to have a beer and a feed and enjoy the long days of sun on our necks.

We have been going a little mad over running lately. I claim to not really like running, but I have enjoyed the competitiveness of running for PB times at ParkRun on Saturday mornings at Hagley Park and have now set a new PB and all time family record of 19mins 20seconds taking 3rd place on the day. Funnily enough, I didn't mind that run so much. I was just boggled as to why there were so few people in front of me! I also don't like to wear a watch while running,  so I just get the best time I feel I can do, so I liked the surprise of getting such a time. Amy has been doing good times too, but she isn't fast enough to beat the dude running in weight/impact vest and his 'Live Action Role Playing' armor. Maybe one day. But hes only getting better too. We hit up a nice run in the port hills one night too, just heading up after work, taking the summit track along the top. Truly magic views up there, I could run all day in such an environment.
Shapeshifter closing out Electric Avenues
We jumped out to the music festival 'Electric Avenues' with some mates in February for a chilled as day of music and a much needed boogie. With a stacked line up of local and international acts, we were stoked with everyone we saw! It was eight hours of ducking between stages to see Dub FX, Fat Freddy's Drop, Pacific Heights with MC Tali, The Corespondents, Ladi6 and finishing with an seriously legendary performance by Shapeshifter. 

Our little Weisse.
We have started fostering kittens and cats for Christchurch Cat Rescue. We have only had one kitten and one cat, but basically we just get a cat for a while and then someone adopts it once its old enough to be de-sexed. Its nice to have a cat without any real commitment, and they're pretty damn cute too. Was really sad to see our first kitten go, but we had him for two weeks so that was pretty fun. He just climbed around, went crazy for hair ties and string, and loved playing in boxes. We got to name him too-and started a beer theme!

After the kitten Weisse, we got a bit of a sad case, Barney. He has cat AIDs and and has to have medicine and green water and often scoffs his food too fast and then vomits straight after. We have managed to deal with him well and to be honest he is just a normal cat, but that does mean he's basically just a wee prick! He does like cuddles sometimes and is pretty talkative with some characteristic meows. We had him for almost two months until he ran away! After almost 48 hours of freaking out, and Amy knocking on neighbors' doors, he came back! But then he went to another foster home. 

And yes, I easily fit my gear into and on the Barina

I have been going hard on the windsurfing front, just hanging out everyday for wind, strong wind! I have got a good deal with work that if its windy I can go windsurfing! But it just needs to be windy more. I have stepped it up and go out at the harbour, so I don't have to worry about the tides there, but it still makes me a bit nervous being so far out in the big swell. I have just been blown away with this sport. I have been putting my all into it and I really get flying. And I actually mean flying! I now can ride my small wave board and that thing is so light and nimble and with a small skip on a wave I can really get some good air. I had a bit of a rough run recently, breaking gear on several consecutive outings. No dramas I just picked up some more gear and modified an ancient alloy mast and now we're back in action. The other day when I went after work and then again the following morning on a howling Nor'easter, I was the happiest man, but sore the next few days for sure.

Thomas at the harbour

Still a favorite past time of ours involves having some good food and good beer. An new treat I have been whipping up occasionally is some mini donuts, minus the hole in the middle. I see cooking as the ultimate! Its not a chore to me. You put in a little work and, usually going to plan, get a delicious and nutritious meal. Amy's gotten into cooking/baking too, and lately shes been whipping up muffins, cookies, hummus and some muesli bars from scratch! Its awesome to have good food on hand always! 

February started off the Cricket World Cup. We went to the opening ceremony here in Christchurch and got another epic performance from Shapeshifter! We watched as many games on TV as we could and even got to see a game live at Hagley Oval Christchurch which was an awesome day. Although the photo looks gloomy, it was actually a hot and sunny Saturday. We laid in the grass, brought some picnic food, and watched The West Indies convincingly outplay  Pakistan. 

During the finals, the cricket really started to heat up, the Black Caps had an absolute cliffhanger with South Africa beating them on the last ball with a 6 but were unsuccessful in their attempt in challenging Australia in the final. The rest of the summer involved attending and watching lots of Crusaders games and enjoying an a lower socioeconomic evening at the Woodford Glen destruction derby. Being happy, enjoying all that's on offer and enjoying the company of those around you, that's the good life. And we've got that going on here. 

Thomas and Simon at the Cricket

The Barina

The myth, the legend- The Barina
A few changes happened around the Christmas holiday, one including some job changes. I left the landscaping business and took a pay cut and an amazing opportunity to work as assistant Brewer at Wigram Brewing Company. No longer having a work car, I was on the lookout for a suitable ride for Amy and I. Looked for five minutes on TradeMe and found our little gem from the 80's. She is a beautiful rusty little thing, true Holden Muscle and brinking on classic status. 

Listed in Rakaia, it was perfect timing that on the day mum and dad were meant to be driving back to Queenstown, they could take a quick detour and drop us off to pick up the car. We didn't have an real plan for getting back to Christchurch if we didn't buy the car, but after a little test drive, a bit of a haggle to get the price down, and some forms filled out, we transferred the previous owner just $1,100 and off we went!! All was perfect! Well, almost as Amy just needed to learn to drive manual!

No trouble holding the windsurfer!

Turned out the car didn't pass its WOF, but with four new tyres, new windscreen wipers, and a trip to the Pick-A-Part yard for a refurbished seat belt, we were in action! We think it was a steal! Mostly its used for drives to the estuary, where it has no trouble fitting the windsurfing gear, and for little scenic drives and driving lessons for Amy. She has been practicing driving every week, and has gotten so confident, shes driven on her own and often suggests being the Designated Driver. Sounds good! 

Thanks Barina for getting us to this view point!

A few weeks back, we went on an epic little Monday night drive around the Port Hills. Heading to Lyttelton, then over to Diamond Harbour and on to Port Levy, Pigeon Bay and finally to the Akaroa Summit road making it to Birdlings Flat just in time for sunset. It was a bit of a foggy night, so we were up in the clouds over the hills and in the breezy bays below, but we were the only car on the road, and it was so peaceful and the views were spot on, as always. 

The Barina hasn't been pushed too hard, but she had been out of commission for a few weeks as the clutch cable broke on the way to Castle Hill. Luckily, we were only in Riccarton when it happened, and we've managed to get it all fixed up for just a few hundred dollars. Shes back in action and running smoother than ever. Now its time for more driving lessons, and more trips to the estuary!

The Barina at Birdlings Flat

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Devo Family Road Trip

Gran, Thomas and Amy starting the road trip in Dunedin
For Christmas we decided to treat Gran to a few days in Dunedin. She was keen on going in order to check out the Casino and the new butterfly exhibit at the museum which was the talk of the retirement village! So we packed into Gran's car with way too much luggage and a chilly bin full of Christmas food, and drove down the coast stopping a few times to look at the ocean. Once in Dunedin, we walked around a bit, Amy and Gran went to the butterfly exhibit, and got up close and personal with hundreds of butterflies. Only later did we learn that Gran killed an innocent butterfly by accident while grabbing for the handrail. Smoosh. Whoops.

Amy and Gran had an afternoon at the casino, but eventually Amy left Gran to it, and we both went to the Otago Settlers Museum, trying on 1800s couture and looking at the very cool exhibits of the early settlement of Otago. We stopped off in St. Clair's on the way out, and soon we were off through Central Otago for Queenstown.

After our 'Christmas Extravaganza', we headed off in the convoy including the three of us in Gran's car, and mum and dad in their rental, headed towards Haast. We had a wee stop in Wanaka, stopped for views around Lake Wanaka and walked to the Blue Pools. The rain was coming down hard that night, but we made it to our hotel early enough to grab dinner and a beer, and then head down to Haast beach. We popped our way into one of the many beach driveways only to surprise a woman who was standing naked by her car. It was the highlight of Haast.

Up the coast we continued, through Bruce Bay, and on to the Glaciers. Around this time, Thomas started coming down with some strange tummy bug, and the real bugs were coming out in record numbers. It became a matter of life and death how fast you could get in and out of the car, and how few sand flies would be let in. None of us succeeded very well.


We stopped at both glaciers, and did a walk up to the base of both of them as well. At the first, Thomas, Amy and Steve walked up the steep trail leading to Fox Glacier, and we were all surprised by how significantly it had receded.

We stopped for lunch at Franz Josef Glacier, but this time only Thomas and Amy continued on to walk up to the glacier. Even more shocking than Fox, the trail to the base led us over part of the ice which was covered by rocks. We tried to remember what it was like the last time we were both here in 2012, and again what it looked like back when we both originally came in 2006 and 2010. Amy had done a walking tour in 2010, and only five years later, you can no longer walk onto either of the glaciers because the terminal faces are too unstable. We were really blown away with the transformation of the once monumental 'rivers of ice', and truly saddened at the state of the glaciers, and really urge all to visit the Coast and check out the glaciers while they are still around.

Thomas walking along some ice sheet. No Big Deal.

We spent that night in Greymouth. After some pizza, and a few cheeky drinks, we all walked to the beach and threw some stones and turned a log of wood into a bat and smashed some rocks out to sea with a few good whacks.

Breathtaking Arthur's Pass
 The last leg of our Devo Family Road Trip involved a detour around Lake Brunner, then through Arthur's Pass National Park, over Porter's Pass and back across the Canterbury Plains. Mum and dad spent a week in Christchurch, where we took them around to our favourite drinking establishments, cooked them yummy meals, showed off some mad windsurfing skills and played more games. It was a fantastic way to end off 2014, and to ring in the new year.

Devo Family on the Canterbury Plains

Friday, April 17, 2015

Queenstown Christmas Extravaganza

Pretty Picturesque Queenstown
It nearly seems a bit silly writing this as most who read our blog were there with us, as we spent a few days over Christmas in the beautiful Queenstown. Obviously missing Charlotte, Mike and the little one or was it ones at that point?! We did have a jolly old time with the family over Christmas and had the inclusion of some McDs for the holiday, McDonnells that is, the only burgers that were eaten were Fergs!

Jacks Point Golf Course
We had the mad big posse so had to split up to fit in all our activities over the four nights we were all in town together. On the first afternoon, the boys- Thomas, John and Papa-Devo headed out for a round of golf and had a good old Devo-Off. I tell ya, I had John worried after the first two holes as I  was in the lead. With his knowledge of the course, he had an obvious advantage and took the win by a few shots. Thomas did take the shot of the day managing to land the ball a good 30 meters behind him after a big tee-shot/rebound off a questionably placed rock. I really enjoyed the course, definitely the most scenic I have played on and a perfect of a day for it. Dad struggled with a few shots, once again complaining about his back. Those shots he played did still smoke us in accuracy, good-on-ya dad.

Family Frisbee
Meanwhile the ladies of Queenstown had ventured off on a boat ride across the lake on the Earnslaw, the 100+ year-old, coal-steam-fired boat, which at the time we could see making its way out across Lake Wakatipu from where we were golfing. They enjoyed the cruise and an ice cream. From the middle of the lake I imagine one would feel quite insignificant, surrounded by the Remarkables, Cecil Peak,  Ben Lomond and the rest.

Tucker Beach Disc Golf Course

The bro-off continued with rounds of Disc Golf at the Queenstown Botanic Gardens and Tucker Beach courses. Some pretty epic disc golf went down. Amy did fantastically and took out the women's competition with two unchallenged victories, and the bros took one win each. John in town and Thomas out on the banks of the Shotover River. 
Christmas Morning
We had the mad chilled Christmas day. Hosted by John and Kel at their lakeside apartment. There was definitely no shortage of food, course after course to the highest caliber. Well done John and all others that contributed. We had a good wee session of presents in the morning, always good to see we're not growing out of that tradition. Mum and Dad played the cheapskate/sensible card and re-gifted us all our possessions that we had ditched on them since leaving home as well as all the remaining family nicknack sort of possessions. Pretty funny really. We had a little knock around of the cricket ball out on the driveway, until Amy played a strong defensive shot to the onside and hit the ball clean on the roof, spoil sport, great shot though. We played some games and had a good old family time really. The family portraits were taken down by the lake with the fair background of the Remarkables. 

As we did everyday while we were in town, Dad, John and myself all jumped in the lake for a bit of a swim around. Was bloody cold, but manageable and refreshing. We pulled out Johns old windsurfing board and gave it a go as a stand up paddle board. It was particularly narrow, so it was very wobbly underfoot. I was able to balance quite well on it and made it out to the middle of the lake, the others were not quite so successful.

On Boxing Day, The Bros, Dad and Amy made a cool afternoon trip up the Remarks to Lake Alta. It was a very familiar spot to us young ones but with an unusual summer twist. Last time I was up Lake Alta we were dropping cliffs and hiking through a foot of powder. Was a bit strange to see the stark opposite landscape. The beautiful water was too temping so I got my naked on and took a cool plunge. Gota bring the steeze, with an epic dive. There was still some snow around, and Amy was excited to make a snowman and have a wee snowball fight, reminding her of Winter Christmas back in the Northern Hemisphere.