Our Easter in New Zealand

Easter in New Zealand tends to be a much quieter, less commercial affair than it is in North America. That being said, Andrew and I had intentions of still having our normal traditions and Easter. Life, it seems, did not cooperate this week.

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We ended up both scheduled to work for most of the weekend, making Friday our only day to celebrate and enjoy the Easter festivities. Andrew and I also set up our own Easter egg hunt in the house, with everything kept well out of reach of the cats!

Easter chocolate!
Easter chocolate!

Our landlord’s daughter invited us to their section to join them and their family in their festivities; we were quite looking forward to the lunch.

Easter Breakfast
Easter Breakfast

Unfortunately, near the top of the hill on the way to their place smoke started to issue from the engine and our van stalled. We sat in the middle of the highway with our hazard lights on in the rain (a tropical cyclone had hit Thursday) until a nice group of ladies stopped to help us push the van up a hill to a nearby pullout. Very grateful for their help!

Looking out on the rainy bay where our van stalled
Looking out on the rainy bay where our van stalled

Our landlords son-in-law came to get us once we managed to find cell phone reception and we arrived as everyone was finishing lunch. We dried off and came up with a plan.

At Shelly's Section for lunch
At Shelly’s Section for lunch

Our landlords took us back to our van, refilled the radiator, and we tried to start the van. No luck, unfortunately. We called the AA (New Zealand equivalent of the Alberta Motor Association, or AMA) and they decided to send a service vehicle out. They also asked us to wait where we had reception in case the driver got lost, which meant 45 minutes standing in the rain and wind.

Tow Truck in the dark
Tow Truck in the dark

Once he arrived, he looked at the van, tried to start it, and ordered us a tow truck…which meant another hour of standing in the rain. The tow truck arrived, loaded our van, and offered to drop it off at the mechanic.

Andrew making S'mores
Andrew making S’mores

We got home very cold and wet, built a fire, had a hot shower, and spent the rest of the night before bedtime trying to figure out how much we could afford to spend to fix the van. In an attempt to salvage the day, we also finished the day with s’mores in the fireplace 🙂

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The mechanic was closed until Tuesday, which for us meant riding our bikes in the remains of the tropical cyclone. Lots of rain, wind gusts, and some surface flooding. It also meant spending each day at work in cold, wet shoes. Not a fun way to spend Easter!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Andrew fortunately had Monday off so was able to cook us our own Easter dinner . He also had a nice cozy warm fire ready when I got home. My pants were wet enough that they started steaming as soon as they were hung by the fire! We had roast chicken and pumpkin with mashed potatoes and wine. I also made hot cross bun cheesecake for dessert, which was delicious.

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There were certainly bright moments to the weekend, but most of it was quite stressful and miserable. We were quite glad for the assistance and support that we got over the weekend and are hoping that next Easter is nowhere near as stressful!

New Zealand Rugby

Rugby is huge in New Zealand. It isn’t uncommon to see kids playing rugby in fields at a very young age and people tossing a rugby ball around on the beach. It is actually more common than basically any other sport, with the possible exception of cricket and skiing.

Kiwi’s are also quite fanatical and proud of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s rugby team. It probably helps that the All Blacks stand largely undefeated, with Australia and South Africa being their largest opponents.

Forsyth Barr Stadium Field
Forsyth Barr Stadium Field

We’ve been learning the sport slowly, and discovering the differences between league, union, super, 7’s, 10’s, and all the other numerous variations. It is quite a lot of fun though! I have always enjoyed watching the CFL and rugby is basically like football without breaks every time the players get tackled.

For Christmas, Andrew and I got tickets to see the British and Irish Lions vs. the local Dunedin team of the Highlanders in June. We tried to get tickets to the All Blacks, but they are popular enough that ticket sales are generally by ballot/lottery to be able to purchase them. The last time the Lions faced off against the All Blacks was back in 2005 and it was quite the game!

Andrew and I had the opportunity to see a Rugby league game when the Warriors came to town. Usually league games don’t come to as small of a town as Dunedin, but we got lucky since the Adele concerts forced a change of venue.

Almost a try.
Almost a try.

Andrew’s boss’s boss had corporate tickets in one of the boxes and invited both of us to join him. He had initially invited only Andrew and Andrew’s boss but one of his coworkers passed up the opportunity so I got invited as well.

It was so much fun! We had watched rugby on TV in the Octagon, but this was our first live game. It surprised me that there was no commentary in the game, which made it a little bit more difficult to figure out what was going on.

Rugby!
Rugby!

Thankfully I don’t mind playing the part of the ignorant girl, so I kept asking the guys questions on the game. Towards the end of the game I was starting to understand the rules.

It also looked like a fair bit of fun. Andrew and I have both been missing playing sports. He had been looking into hockey, but it doesn’t make sense to\buy all new gear or ship gear here until we know whether we can stay. So…we decided to join a rugby club in the area. We are both Pirates now!

Final Score
Final Score

Our first practice went well and we have been invited back to play. I’m on the women’s team and Andrew is on the seniors team (basically the non-premiere less competitive league). I have realized that I have lost a lot of endurance since being a part of the awesome Flux gym in Regina.

Warrington Domain Freedom Camping

Ah…free. Those words are some of the best words when you are looking for somewhere to camp. New Zealand has an amazing tradition of freedom camping, allowing people to find a beautiful location and stay the night.

In recent years it has become slightly more regulated since, with a rise in popularity, issues were starting to arise in popular locations due to the number of campers and potential cleanliness.

Warrington Domain
Warrington Domain

Rules for Freedom Camping

  1. Campers and Caravans must be certified as self-contained or park in areas designated as free for non-self contained units (defying this will result in a $200 fine!)
  2. Campers must park in designated self-contained areas. If in doubt, as locals or check with the regional council.
  3. Most locations limit stays to 2-3 nights in a 30 day period.
  4. Pack in, pack out! Please don’t leave a mess as this will limit the possibility of freedom camping in the future.
Our cozy little camper
Our cozy little camper

Camping in Warrington

Warrington, NZ, is a small community located about 30 minutes north of Dunedin. Perfect for a weekend escape, there is a nice surf beach and day-use facilities, as well as a large field, dump station, drinking water, and outhouses available for both self contained and non-self contained campers.

You can rock up on your bike, pitch your tent, and have a free night! Or in your campervan or caravan as well. All are welcome at the domain.

Eowyn trying to catch the Frisbee
Eowyn trying to catch the Frisbee

It was a lot nicer than Andrew and I expected. We had visited Ocean Grove, the other free camp near Dunedin, since it seemed to be closer to town.

The camping area can get crowded, so it is best to arrive early. In summer (December-February) you would probably need to arrive before 2pm to get a decent spot, whereas in the off seasons there are still spots available around 5pm. Andrew and I noticed that cars coming in after 7pm had a slightly more difficult time finding space to park, but there were still a few spaces left when we went to bed. Parking is open, first-come, first-serve, but try to make sure you leave some space between your unit and the ones next to you.

The cat's back room
The cat’s back room

The beach itself is fantastic. The ocean is starting to get a bit chilly for surfing without full wetsuits (around 10C in March), but on a good day Warrington is a pretty good surf beach. It is also great for shell collecting and relaxing in the sun with bright blue water, local birdlife, and soft white sand.

Nearby there is also a small inlet that opens up onto a broad bay that is teeming with native birdlife. During breeding season (January-ish) it is also relatively common to see seals and sea lions on the beach. Keep pets on leash and away from wildlife at all times.

Sleepy kitty
Sleepy kitty

We did take our kittens down to the ocean. They were fine in the tall grass leading up to the ocean but were quite uncertain about the big open space that the beach presented. We eventually coaxed them out and Tauriel promptly decided that the ocean waves required attacking. We dried our kitty back at the campsite, saved a lab from Eowyn (who thinks she can take on dogs, apparently), and made our dinner.

Losing a game of Stratego to Andrew...again
Losing a game of Stratego to Andrew…again

Andrew and I then settled down to an evening of board games and chatting with the other campers in the domain.

Forest in Warrington
Forest in Warrington

Camping in Warrington turned out to be a much better experience than we expected and one that we are certainly planning to repeat on nice weekends! I wish we had discovered it before summer was nearly over!