• Rarotonga roundup: Post-holiday thoughts

    Our tropical getaway feels like so long ago. Lucky then, that I’ve only just got around to going through our holiday photos! I took a lot less than I anticipated. Firstly, I didn’t bring my SLR (too bulky, though the images would have been amazing; also, I bought it secondhand, so if anything went wrong insurance would probably be a real hassle to deal with). And neither my iPhone nor point-and-shoot could quite measure up. Secondly, I wanted to really enjoy being in the moment. Something that’s easier said than done for me.

    It was Wellington-windy when we touched down at midnight. Also, a live performer, and an actual sniffer dog

    It was Wellington-windy when we touched down at midnight. Also, a live performer, and an actual sniffer dog

    I still can’t quite believe we left the country and made it back without any major hassles. I mean, the landing at Rarotonga was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced; my head felt like it was in a vice of pins and needles and about to explode for about 15 minutes straight. I was literally frozen in place, tears running down my face, praying for it to stop. And the time difference had me a bit bamboozled – we could well have missed our return flight, were it not for T. But all in all, there were no major hiccups.

    Crab racing at the resort; Trader Jack's seafood platter, show at Te Vara Nui, the view from our garden room

    Crab racing at the resort; Trader Jack’s seafood platter, show at Te Vara Nui, the view from our garden room

    Stepping off the plane in Rarotonga, we were given bottled water and an ei (lei) of fresh flowers, before hopping onto the bus. My first thought was that surprisingly, the heat was comfortable – not oppressive! And that’s how it stayed for our entire trip. (Bear in mind I was born in the tropics, but I could never again live in 30-degree temperatures). It was bliss. I hate extreme weather, and I would really like to retire somewhere warm and mild; somewhere like Rarotonga, or at least Rarotonga in July. Actually, T and I talked a fair bit about that, but I think the plumbing and healthcare would be a bit of a concern.

    The hut boats at Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruizes, and views from our resort

    The hut boats at Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes, and views from our resort

    Unbelievably, I was sitting on the beach with a cocktail on my birthday, followed by a languid swim. I could get used to summer born days. And a couple of days later, we were snorkelling in the bluest waters I’ve ever seen in my life. (Note to self: follow T in the future, because he always finds cool things that I don’t. Like blue starfish, and poo-ing sea cucumbers). Also, did you know squid ink looks like blood?

    One of our hilarious tour guides in action, plus the view from the boat

    One of our hilarious tour guides in action, plus the view from the boat

    The Captain Tama’s crew also double as the local entertainment; we first saw the band at the Whatever bar, and they serenaded us again before we set out to the marine reserve…

    Sweet sweet music, and the sparkling waters of Muri

    Sweet sweet music, and the sparkling waters of Muri

    THEN they whipped up the most delicious BBQ lunch of fish, fried bananas, fresh fruit and coconut, plus some potato salad, before demonstrating how to scale a coconut tree (upside down, no less).

    The little Muri island, firing up the cooker, and our intrepid tree-climber

    The little Muri island, firing up the cooker, and our intrepid tree-climber

    Oh, the food! So fresh, so light. I had a tiny appetite while over there; I think letting go and not having my brain on full tilt for 8-10 hours a day was responsible for that. Instead, I did a pretty good job of embracing island time. Like everyone else, we hooned around on scooters, taking in the sights. We bought a beautiful ukulele from the prison craft shop (the place to go for ukes, we’re told) and saw countless amazing gravestones (it seems family members tend to be placed to rest out in the yard rather than a cemetery as we know it).

    Leaving was definitely bittersweet, and it’s lucky we got out on time. People, check your dates and times carefully! I was so paranoid about making our flight out I didn’t think much about our return flight; luckily T got antsy about the time difference and upon digging out out itinerary I realised we had a full day less than I thought.

    I prefer not to think too much about how boring waiting in airports is (travelling consultants, how do you do it?) or the surprisingly high departure tax (again, complacent about the NZ end, I didn’t think about leaving Raro) or how many forms there are to fill out (note to self, bring many pens when flying in future).

    Instead, I’ll recall sitting in the outdoors restaurant watching the sun set, sipping on mocktails – we cut a bit loose that evening – and slowly savouring our last island dinner.

     

  • Well hello, 2011…

    Happy New Year!!!

    {photo}

    How did you see in the New Year?

    I spent mine battling my sinuses for control, out at a house in Glen Eden bush. There were fireworks. There was music. There was Circle of Death, in which I promptly lost my glass of Coke – no, I’m not ashamed to partake in drinking games with a non-alcoholic drink – to a bourbon and coke (which is fine, that was once my beverage of choice), then to a tequila and juice and the dregs of a beer before my glass was returned to me.

    T and I also made it up north to Pakiri, and down to the Coromandel. I missed my weekly Link Love for the first time, and had a couple of days away from the internet. Blissful. Initially I was worried about how I’d fill my eight days off, but with half of those spent travelling, that wasn’t much of a problem at all. In fact… the time flew by. Now it’s time to deal with the crap that comes along with Christmas – gift bags which need storing for reuse, unwanted stuff to donate or regift, etc. And getting back into a semblance of routine; holidays are the enemy of healthy eating, sleep patterns and balance in general.

    Mostly from up north; I didn't snap many pictures on the second trip

    Mostly from up north; I didn't snap many pictures on the second trip

     

    There really is nothing like friendly small-town service. Or a country night sky, literally full of stars. And anti-abortion billboards planted firmly into farm paddocks along the open road. And making the half-hour trek over the rocks and through bush to New Chums Beach in only jandals and a bikini. Or sleeping in a car, the squawking of peacocks faintly audible in the distance.

    I love getting away from the city. But returning to Auckland is just as sweet – to plentiful hot and cold, even drinkable water, to showers, to toilets. Remember my campervan idea? Nix. I’d already kind of decided that when we replaced our old car, but observing the slowness first hand and hearing of the inability of certain toilet facilities to handle number twos definitely hammered that home for me.

    Also, you may inadvertently have seen an old post or two in your Reader. I have no idea why, and apologise for the confusion.

    Finally, thanks to my top referrers for the year!

    Jessie’s Money

    Sense to Dollars

    Serendipity

    Girl with the Red Balloon

    And thank you to every single one of you who keeps on reading. While in some ways I think I need to draw back a little from blogging and online pursuits this year, I just can’t imagine not doing this. Google Reader was, amazingly, my second biggest referrer. So that means at least some of you really, honestly, give a shit. You rock. You. Yes. You.

  • Our weekend on Waiheke

    Last week we escaped the city for the tranquillity of Waiheke – the island known for its beaches and vineyards (pity I detest wine).

    We…

    lounged on the beach and went for numerous swims, and a snorkel

    …went on little adventures around all the rocks and cliffs at each beach

    … did heaps of driving around – I love the fact that you never have to go far before catching a glimpse of the ocean, although some of the best views are now held on private property :S


    ….enjoyed a spa at the lodge, along with homemade afternoon teas – slices, biscuits, and scones with fresh cream and jam, not to mention fresh muffins every morning


    ….ate breakfast for lunch, along with a very pretty flat white, at the Lazy Lounge cafe

    …had fish and chips for dinner on the beach, where a seagull proceeded to crap on me
    …made a new friend, Tom (aka T’s brother’s GPS, who proved invaluable in getting around the island) …saw an old, naked guy on the beach
    … used a longdrop public toilet
    …watched Up, which had us both in tears
    … and finally, I read A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman. Beautifully written and absolutely heartbreaking. Worth a read.

    Cost: $365 for two nights at Punga Lodge – HIGHLY recommend it – including breakfasts and afternoon teas.

    Just under $140 for all our other meals and snacks (two lunches, three dinners) plus an overpriced tube of sunblock ($20!!!)

    And approximately $30, or a half tank of gas.

    I don’t think I’ve ever come back from holiday feeling so good about the cost!

  • New Year’s recap

    I’m proud to say that I’ve already ticked one of the items off my travel list, by staying in a spa room at the Duxton! Granted, this was on New Year’s Day – T was offered a last minute job doing security at Matakana Dub Conspiracy which was too good to pass up – so we celebrated the next day. A little extravagant, for sure, but he wanted to do something nice after working something like 15 hours straight. He’s been snowballing everything towards his car loan (which by my calculations should be down to $700ish – can’t wait for the next statement!) and the plan is to put the remainder after paying for the hotel towards that too.

    Like a true bargain hunter, I searched a bunch of last-minute hotel deal sites and ended up  booking through ratestogo.co.nz and earned $3 towards my next booking.

    But I’m starting to think that hotels never actually pay any attention to the deals advertised on second party sites. For example, when we stayed at SkyCity during Easter, our chocolate eggs weren’t in the room (part of the package) and we had to call down to get them. Neither was the PS2, but we couldn’t be bothered chasing that up. This time we were supposed to have two free house drinks waiting for us, but guess what, they weren’t. I’m not a big drinker though, and figured the odds of them being anything I’d actually want to drink were too low to bother with the hassle.

    The room was AMAZING – everything we wanted and more. You can bet we made the most of the spa!

    Blissful spa bath with jets

    Blissful spa bath with equally blissful jets

    No, it's not a freaky blue sex toy, it's a back massager

    No, it's not a freaky blue sex toy, it's a back massager

    Looking down on the outdoor pool....

    More of the view from our balcony

    But seeing as it was kind of a last minute decision to stay here, it was a mission trying to find a place to go for dinner – so many places were closed, and we didn’t want to go somewhere where they’d be charging 15% holiday surcharge. Eventually  we settled on Chinese (one of the worst I’ve ever had :S) and settled in with Sky Movies. (Australia – ridiculously long winded. I Am Legend – heartwarming, yet heartbreaking. Caught the end of the creepy Vinyan, which looked terrible. ) And finally, the next day we had a picnic breakfast at Rocket Park where we fed pigeons and marvelled at how the sparrows deftly outsmarted them every. single. time. Yep, easily amused – that’s us.

  • Thwarted

    So, our midweek getaway didn’t quite work out as planned.

    It started off well. We got into town a tad early, so drove over to the Domain and decided to check into the museum. I haven’t been there in years, and because NZ has such shitty museums, am not generally a fan of them. I think they’re dark, musty and not that interesting. But Sue the Great T Rex was in town, so we paid $21 to get into that exhibition (and of course looked around the rest of the sections. I really liked the freaky birds. And the giant moa. And the intricate and not so intricate Greek Vases we studied in Classics back in the day…and yes, the dinosaurs were cool. Amazing that they didn’t all have heinous back problems. It must have been really uncomfortable to live in their bodies).

    We checked in our bags, got up to our room, fell in love with it. (BF hugged me, exclaimed “I love it!!” and jumped on the bed). Ran a bath, went up to the rooftop pool (an outdoor one, supposedly heated, but felt barely lukewarm and tasted super thick and chloriney). Back into the room. Started to get ready for dinner, and later the casino. Couldn’t find BF’s shirt.

    “Didn’t you pack it??? Where is it??? Don’t tell me it’s still at home???!!!!”

    “….I think so.”

    Not pleased. Why couldn’t he just have WORN it in? Why did he have to come in his raggedy smelly old singlet?

    Ran down, asked the valet for our keys, and hoped to God there was a nice shirt in the clean laundry we’d picked up on our way over.

    Nope.

    Just as well, since BF picked that exact moment to start feeling sick. After a few minutes in the toilet, he declared himself a victim to the latest tummy bug. Dinner abruptly cancelled.

    I ended up going out to get Thai takeaway from across the road while he lay in bed.

    Casino was off.

    I would still have gone anyway, but the friends we were going to meet changed their minds, and I sure was not going in there alone. I’ve never been before and going in by myself is not how I want to do it. I did go down for a looksee, and it simply annoyed me that there we were in the middle of town, staying in the most central, buzzing hotel and not making any damn use of it.

    BF puked a lot. I felt really bad for him and tried not to feel like everything was ruined. Like he said, we saved a bit by him not eating, and us not going gambling.

    The hotel was really nice. The shower/bath was a bit weird, in that there was a lever type thing that switched up whether you wanted the bath or the shower to run. It didn’t seem to work all the time – it was really niggly. Also, we were meant to arrive to two free easter eggs, and the room was meant to have a PS2. Neither of which was a big deal but BF insisted we paid for it and should get it….

    So he rung. And a nice guy came up to give us our chocolate (and I couldn’t work out how to open the door to him; I thought we were locked in, but the doors are just insanely heavy). They insisted that none of their rooms had game consoles, however (oh yeah? why do the TV instructions say otherwise? And your website?) Not that we would probably have used it, but I emailed them a brief feedback email anyway. Because the thing that was the worst, was the fact that instead of keys, they use swipe cards. Not just for the room, but in the lifts as well.

    We ventured out to find the pool and sauna. Our card wasn’t working in the lift.So we tried the stairs.

    Only, we couldn’t actually get OUT of the stairwell, because none of the doors opened from that side.

    It wasn’t fun.

    Eventually we made it down to the ground floor and thankfully escaped through there, but I could have done without those five panicked minutes…

    But the bathroom was amazing, the location and views and the facilities were good (I mean you’ve got restaurants, cafes, bars and the casino, just IN the building). And the bed! I looooove hotel sheets. I must find out where they get them.

    And our free breakfasts included in our Easter package (along with valet parking and a book of vouchers) weren’t too shabby. BF wasn’t up to eating, so I packed what I could in our bags.

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    I just….get so annoyed when things don’t work out as planned. I guess that makes me inflexible. Like, I get set on going to a certain place one weekend. And then maybe someone’s car breaks down, nixing that idea. Then I’ll get upset and rail about things, do a spot of comfort eating, and sulk. I wanted this to be, well, not perfect, but NICE. Stupid stomach bug.

    And I guess that’s why I dislike planning things, as they inevitably fall apart. Valentine’s was a nice exception. We didn’t end up going to the restaurant I booked, but got room service (and it was divine). And birthdays are always pretty crap. I think I’ve cried almost every year on my birthday in the last four or five years. It doesn’t really help that it falls in the depths of winter, when it’s cold and dark and damp – not exactly cheer-inducing weather. I don’t like to hype things up. I usually get let down.

    Okay, end self pitying post. Tell me to shut up!

  • Forced leave

    I’m currently researching travel deals, flights and cheap getaways, as well as campsites and cabins.

    Why?

    We’re all being forced to use up our annual leave during the next three months. As a part timer I expected to be  exempt, but no. Being part time also makes it much harder to actually get the time off and do something with it.

    I planned to take my leave at the end of year and escape to some tropical Pacific idyll. Not anymore….

    I don’t want to take leave and spend it sitting at home. That’s my holiday leave and dammit I want to use it to travel!

    So, because I need to decide when to take this leave by tomorrow, I’m in full tilt researching mode.

    I’m hoping I’ll be allowed to take it in chunks, say 4-5 days, because it would be ridiculous for me to take six months off (or whatever it comes to, because I only work 15 hours a week and if I only used 15h/wk in leave that would take a bloody long time to use up 9 days). Plus this way allows me to actually go somewhere! If plans fall through, well I’ll save the money and relax at home and maybe even find a random one-off type job.

    I just resent being forced to take leave before I want to, and I absolutely REFUSE to waste it cleaning the house, doing assignments and generally doing the usual.

    The problem is timing. I have mid semester break in just over a week, and intersemester break in July. I cannot organise any road trip of any sort with friends by tomorrow. I’m just going to have to pick a week and hope it works out. BF should definitely be able to accompany me during April.

    Options:
    Cheap flights – where? Wellington, and just soak up the city? Tauranga, go to the Mount like I’ve always wanted? (Probably better just to drive, we would need to get around somehow and it’s not a long trip from here). Maybe in July we could fly to Queenstown for skiing, but I gotta focus on the April break first.

    Road trip: BF gets his full licence end April (AFTER my break, grrr) and we don’t really want to drive far in his car. But we can’t rent one until September when he turns 21. Possibly somewhere close by, maybe around Orewa, Pakiri – we could get a cheap cabin or camp out.

    Stay local: We could do another night or two in a city hotel. Or we could do a midweek getaway to Waiheke Island or Great Barrier. I still have my printouts sitting on my desk from when I was looking at them for Valentine’s Day.

    GAH! The pressure! Obviously I don’t need to finalise everything TONIGHT, but I do need a rough idea of when we’ll be doing these things BY tomorrow (although not necessarily even locations). Do I ask for the first week of April off or the second?

    Please God, let me be allowed to take 5 days at a time.