The Blonde Runs

Colorado lovin'

1 Comment

…New Zealand, the North Island


After a glorious week on the South Island, we continued our brief tour of New Zealand on the North Island.  Yes, two weeks is brief, should you be planning your next holiday there. To be consistent, this will primarily be a “postcard post” with captions as needed. Sunrise ferry from Picton (South Island) to Wellington (North Island).  Also top photo.


Wellington is infamous for the gale force winds that blow through thanks to the Cook Strait, but it wasn’t too terrible that particular morning.  The city is trendy and a haven for foodies and the artsy type.  We loved it.




From Wellington, we drove north to one of New Zealand’s better known wine regions:  Hawke’s Bay.  Below is Mission Estate Winery, NZed’s oldest winery with some pretty amazing wines.


The nearby coastal town of Napier boasts black sand beaches. Camping there, listening to the crashing waves as we fell asleep and awoke, was bar none.


At the recommendation of a sommelier, we opted for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing; a 19k trek that traverses three volcanic peaks in New Zealand’s oldest national park. Certainly a different look and feel from the South Island.  It was a little bit cold, a little bit hot, and the trek ended with views of volcanic vents before ending in rainforest terrain.  It’s a point-to-point trek, but you can arrange with various bus companies to pick you up at the car park finish (where you’ve dropped your car) and take you to the car park start, all before beginning the trek.  Convenient.






Seeing as we were in natural hot spring territory, it made sense to end the day by sitting in one. While there are plenty of pay-to-get-in options, we wanted a more authentic, raw experience.  After a little bit of research we found a gem.  And we enjoyed some Colorado beer that had been sitting in our Aussie fridge since Christmas, that had also traveled in our bags all this way until a divine opportunity presented itself so they could be consumed.

If there were ever a perfect moment in time that you’d want to pause, this was ours.


We hit some rain the following day, so we headed to Auckland where we spent a couple of days before heading back to the States, and ending one amazing year.




Below is our route.

Screen shot 2015-07-06 at 10.53.12 AM

And there you have it.  Some of the most gorgeous, diverse landscape I have ever seen.  Certainly one of our favorite places to have ever visited!  After exploring a tiny bit of both islands, we have a better idea of where we would want to go/what we would want to do if we are lucky enough to travel to New Zealand again.  Which we hope we are!  And next time, we will give ourselves more than just two weeks.


1 Comment

…New Zealand, the South Island


I’m going to continue living in the past, as I take you on our little journey through New Zealand this past April…

After departing Hobart, Tasmania, Nick and I flew to Christchurch, New Zealand and picked up our home on wheels (above). It would take us snugly around both islands for a couple of weeks. Note that two weeks is NOT enough time.  We could easily spend a month on each island.

Amazing. Stunning. Gorgeous. Any other broadly descriptive adjective can be used to reference New Zealand. It was scenery overload at ever turn. We stopped constantly for photos. I have thousands! And even though I whittled them down for TBR, you will be scrolling. A lot. I’m sorry.

I could easily give a good commentary on every photo you’re about to see, but honestly, it would mostly consist of the location followed by, “ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL?”  “IT’S BEAUTIFUL!” “I TURNED AROUND AND SAW THIS!” “THIS IS AWESOME” “GORGEOUS!” “WOWZERS!” “JUST STUNNING!” And the like…

So, instead, I’m just going to tell you to GO!  My lousy comments should not convince you.  My lousy photos should. Because New Zealand’s scenery makes any level photographer a “grood” (good and great) photographer.

Lake Tekapo sunset


So many fluffy low hanging clouds!  Everywhere!


Lake Pukaki-The lakes have this amazing turquoise tint to them.  So hard to capture on camera, looks unnatural, but it was just beautiful.


Hooker Valley Trail-Mueller Glacier (Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park)


Hooker River (Aoraki/Mt Cook)


Aoraki/Mt Cook, Hooker Glacier, Southern Alps


Tasman Glacier/Blue Lakes Trail


Classic NZ trail companions (Devils Creek Trail-Queenstown)


Queenstown (Southern Alps in background)


17km kayak tour of Milford Sound




Sunning fur seals


Sammy the baby fur seal




Wanaka (Aoraki/Mt Cook)




Track to Fox Glacier


West Coast views


Marlborough Sound-Drive to Picton ferry terminal


Dun Mountain Trail-Views of Tasman Bay


Sunrise ferry to the North Island


Here is the route:

Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 10.22.23 AM

Of course, if you have any questions about our adventure on the South Island, ask away.

Next up, the North Island!


1 Comment



Going back in time a bit to share our exit strategy out of Australia.

When Nick and I knew we would be returning to the States after one year, we wanted to make the most of our departure from Down Under. We still had a few places that we were anxious to visit, and while we had considered axing one or the other with the intention of a return trip at some point, we weren’t quite ready to completely bypass either in the event we were never able to plan that return trip. Therefore, we planned another multi-week holiday, taking the long way home:

Canberra > Melbourne > Tasmania > South Island, New Zealand > North Island, New Zealand > Los Angeles

Nick had some work to do in Melbourne, so we really just played around a bit over the course of a few days. I was dying to see the fairy penguins come into the pier in St. Kilda, and one night, around dusk, we watched and waited. And waited. And waited until the point of saying, “should we just go now?”



Finally, they started to arrive. Sporadically. One by one. A quiet bark. Making shore. Nesting in the rocks. And then they came in packs. Louder. Making themselves known, only as the dark was closing in on the spectators, vying for a good view and poor quality of photos. The volunteers at the pier will gladly shine a red light on the little ones, but no flash photography or lighting is allowed. It was pretty amazing to be a part of their nightly ritual. They didn’t seem to be too nervous around all of the humans, and some even came quite close as they burrowed in the rocks. Forgive the final photo.




From Melbourne, we flew into Hobart, got our rental, and started to make our way around the island (a lot easier than you might think). It was rainy, windy, and cold, so I didn’t get quite the views or ambiance I was hoping for along the east coast in Freycinet Peninsula and Wineglass Bay. In general, the east coast reminded us of the mainlands east coast: beaches, bays, coastal towns, etc.



Due to the weather, we didn’t spend as much time as we anticipated on the east coast, and the area we had intended to be, so we headed inland toward the mountains on the west coast.

Primarily farmlands with rolling hills, Tasmania’s inland was quite beautiful, if even a little raw and untouched.



Toward the west coast, we stayed at a resort in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. A mix of rugged landscape, mountains, grassland, rainforest, and glacial lakes, this area is a true mixed-bag for the senses. Here, you can take a multi-day trek on the Overland Track, but we opted for the shorter 1/2 day Dove Lake Circuit.



And once completed, I insisted on a visit to the local Tasmanian Devil sanctuary. They are endangered, so a sanctuary is really the only option for viewing. I’ll just come right out and say that they are disgusting. And they smell. But when in Tasmania…




We continued farther toward the west coast and stayed in quaint little Strahan, where we took a river cruise through Macquarie Harbour, along the Gordon River, and disembarked for a history lesson on Sarah Island; all part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Hell’s Gates – the narrowest entrance into the harbour from the Southern Ocean, marked by a single lighthouse

Along the harbour and the Gordon River – the “cleanest air on earth” due to the easterly flow of undisturbed air that comes from the Southern Ocean.


Sarah Island – dreaded British penal colony and largest boat building site for the British colonies


On the drive down to Hobart, we saw some beautiful waterfalls.


Once in Hobart, we got up high at Mount Wellington, and took some cloudy shots of the town, harbour, and bays.


We also saw some of the massive research ships that leave port for Antarctica.


We were pretty happy about Hobart (despite the awful restaurant service, everywhere) and our time in Tasmania. Glad we didn’t pass up the opportunity for “maybe we’ll see it on another trip.”



Our final night in Tasmania happened to be the night of a lunar eclipse, so we stayed up late for some photos, but clouds came in so we opted to practice night shots instead.


Here is a look at our loop:
Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 1.11.36 PM



…around the sun again!

34Yesterday, I said “goodbye” to what has been my favorite year yet!  I raised the bar fairly high for 33!  While I know this next year may not include the same experiences, whatever adventures come my way will be accepted with gratitude and hopefully a little bit of grace.



…One journey’s end


Coming home is a tricky thing.

We are sorting through a lot of feelings and emotions as we leave behind our life in Australia and transition to creating a new normal in the US.

I’m having a hard time properly describing this past AMAZING year in another country; equally struggling to articulate what it feels like to be back “home.”

Being patient as I work through all of this. Knowing it will get easier. Knowing I will never be the same person.


Leave a comment

Aussie East Coast Road Trip: 12 Apostles and Melbourne Loop


After sitting around Canberra for a day, Nick and I decided to take advantage of our last fleeting moments of holiday and get out of town. Again.

It seemed only reasonable to head for the south coast, drive the Great Ocean Road, and see the 12 Apostles. We made our way to Melbourne (about 7 hours), enjoyed the deliciousness of Mamasita‘s (the only halfway decent Mexican food I’ve had in Australia), and enjoyed a bit of the downtown area.

We had a travel-heavy day planned on the 16th, so we woke early for the 3 hour drive to the 12 Apostles. We took the most direct route, as our plan was to drive the Great Ocean Road back to Geelong, outside of Melbourne.

The 12 Apostles (though not really 12 limestones stacks), is such a magnificent sight. There are a few different viewing locations, including an area where you can walk down a decently steep staircase to the shore. It was incredibly windy, and I’m thinking this is expected for the south shore, as the surfing in several towns along the Great Ocean Road are fairly popular.





The drive back to Melbourne takes a bit longer on the Great Ocean Road, due to the winding around and the driving through the small coastal towns. They majority of the road hugs the coast and it’s just gorgeous.


By the time we got around to the east side of Melbourne, it was late afternoon and I still wanted to make one stop. Mornington Peninsula (“su” pronounced like “shoe”). I had been dying to see the colourful bathing boxes that run along the coastline. (See what I did there with the “ou” in colourful?) So, with much confusion as to where exactly they were (no website actually spells it out for you, like “go to _____ beach to see the bathing boxes”), and only a little frustration on my part, we found some. Finally. And I loved them. And maybe wanted to live in one. It’s the perfect tiny house.




We hadn’t yet decided where we wanted to stay that night. We wanted to head into Wilson’s Promontory National Park, the farthest southern point on Australia’s mainland. So, we kept driving east. And just when we thought we found a little city so stay in, we just kept driving. Finally, we stopped just outside of Wilson’s, pulled into an overnight caravan park, and set up for some makeshift car camping. Luckily we had brought pillows and blankets in the event we did just that. And while it wasn’t the most comfortable nights sleep, we could lay the seats down and “mostly” lie down flat. Before sleeping, we made some decent attempts at taking night shots of the stars with our camera. It was a bit tricky for us amateurs, but with a few turns of the dials, a click click here, and a click click there, we took a few that we were somewhat happy with. So happy, I’m pretty sure I deleted them. We are on a quest to learn, so that we can take some glorious photos on our next holiday (coming soon, now).

Early the next morning, because we were car camping, and you can’t really sleep-in all that well, we drove into the park as far as we could. There are trails aplenty that will take you to the proper most southerly point of Australia’s mainland, but we figure we got pretty darn close.


And Nick was pretty giddy. Probably, because at this point, we were so tired of being in the car driving. Or me, passengering.


We had considered driving all the way around the southeast coast and back up, but like I said, we were tired of being in the car at that point, after nearly 4 weeks of on-and-off traveling. Plus, we have done most of that coastline, so we cut up to Canberra in Cann River and finally wrapped up our holiday.

15 January to 17 January
This Stretch- ~2168km/1347m
Total- ~7712km/4792m

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 11.37.08 AM

When you consider the overall route we took (granted, the mileage below is inaccurate since it doesn’t include the back and forth we drove the Brisbane and Sydney), it’s impressive to see how big Australia really is. Australia, at 7.62 million square miles, and the US, at 9.16 million square miles. It’s still a bit hard to fathom unless you are actually spending time in the country and driving around. I certainly knew it was big, but couldn’t put it into my own terms until I was here. On a map, it seems everything is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from each other.

Screen shot 2015-03-24 at 11.20.57 AM

And then, when you compare the overall mileage (4792m) we put in for this Aussie east coast trip, to something we are more familiar with in the States, you might come up with something like this (though I wouldn’t recommend this route as it seems there is a lot of construction going on):

Screen shot 2015-03-24 at 11.17.41 AM

We are so happy that we were able to take the time to see so much of Australia. And although we were exhausted at the end of the 4 weeks, we wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. A lot of pictures. A lot of memories.