Category Archives: New Zealand

A Day in Banff, Canada

Banff, a town name that has confused many tourists with its strange sounding pronunciation. It sits at an elevation of 1400m and is located approximately an hour drive away from Calgary, the nearest major city.

Banff also sits in the stunning Rocky Mountains as part of Banff National Park and is surrounding by stunning vistas, amazing ski fields, and a quaint tourist town.

The Road to the Hot Springs

The best way to appreciate the area is to get a good birds-eye view. There is a walking path that departs from the far end of the Banff Upper Hot Springs parking lot. It is a decent 2-3 hour climb to the summit that is possible to do on most winter days. Caution is recommended since the gondola path is also a possible avalanche path, so avoid the trail when the avalanche risk is high.

Taking the Gondola Up

Of course, if time is short or you don’t feel like walking…take the Sulphur Mountain Gondola up! The ride takes approximately 10 minutes and deposits you at the teahouse and interpretive centre at the top of the mountain.

Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station

From the interpretive centre, an easy boardwalk path winds its way to the summit and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray station. There are some phenomenal views along the way! The path is fairly easy, with many small children making their way along it when we were there.

Looking towards Banff

Of course, if you get too tired, you can just pull up a chair and take a break.

Taking a Break

The interpretive centre has some great snack and meal options to warm up after your explorations. The interactive area includes information on the history of the area, geological formations, and local wildlife. There’s lots of activities for kids and adults alike!

Glass Polar Bear

On warmer days, there are also some nice firepits with chairs to enjoy the view with your tea. During December, there are also daily activities for the kids, where they can interact with Santa at the North Pole and, on special days, play with the reindeer!

A nice cozy fire to sit beside

There’s no better way to warm up after a day of exploring Banff than a visit to the Banff Hot Springs. Also located on Sulphur Mountain, it can get a little bit crowded, but the line moves quickly. There is a dedicated shallow children’s area, as well as a deep end for adults to fully immerse and relax.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

For those concerned about the sulphur smell of the hot springs (it isn’t called Sulphur Mountain for no reason!), it is usually fairly mild, if it is noticeable at all. The minerals in the natural hot spring water are fantastic for relaxation. If you have a bit more time and a larger budget, splurge for the Hot Springs Spa, which is great for your stress levels.

Enjoying the Hot Springs
Share

2018 – New Year and New Adventures!

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on how far we have come and make new plans for new adventures in the new year.

Celebrating New Year's eve with my mom
Celebrating New Year’s eve with my mom

At the end of last year, Andrew and I received our New Zealand residency! It was approximately 2 years and nearly $10,000 in the works, with lots of emotional and stressful moments, but we got there in the end. Lesson learned – never give up! You never know when the next attempt, the next piece is going to fall into place.

We also spent New Year’s in Canada, experiencing a white Christmas for the first time in 3 years…more about that to come!

Speaking of things to come, there are some exciting new projects to look forward to in 2018 including:

  • The first adventure e-book in the Miss-adventures series
  • New blog topics including travel fitness, solo adventuring as a woman, location guides, and more!

If there are any subjects that you have been curious about, then feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

Share

Immigration Challenges

Immigration is a lengthy, expensive, and complicated process. Trying to talk about it with those who haven’t gone through it and aren’t familiar with it tends to lead to blank looks and confusion.

It is, however a process that tens of thousands of people go through each year in an attempt to come to New Zealand. Last year saw approximately 60,000 immigrants come to New Zealand. By comparison, Canada sees around 250,000 immigrants every year.

The decision to immigrate is a challenging one for many people. For some, it makes sense to leave home in pursuit of better jobs, a higher quality of life, less risk of crime or war, or other such reasons. For those of us who come from beautiful countries like Canada or the UK, many people ask…why would you leave one beautiful country for another? I’ve discussed our reasons in  previous post, so I won’t go into it here.

So where are we at in the process?

Working Holiday Visa

Our working holiday visas expired on August 24, 2017; 23 months after our first entry into New Zealand. Those 23 months have been absolutely amazing and have led us to fall in love with the country, share some breathtaking experiences with each other, and make some fantastic new friends.

Unfortunately, once you have had this visa once, you aren’t permitted to apply again. Only one working holiday visa in your life for each country, and only when you are under 30 (or 35 depending on the country).

So what next? This is where it gets complicated!

Essential Skills Visa

Under the current rules (August, 2017), I applied for an essential skills visa based upon my current employment as a mechanical engineering and test technician at Escea.

I submitted my application on the 24th of July and was approved on the 11th of August after a phone call and brief discussion with an immigration officer. I am now permitted to live and work in New Zealand temporarily, but only in my current job.

The rules for visas change regularly, so for official immigration advice and current visa’s, check the immigration New Zealand Website.

Partnership Work Visa

At the same time that we submitted my essential skills visa application online, we also submitted a paper partnership work visa for Andrew with a cover letter asking them to refer to my Essential Skills visa application.

We were advised that this was the only way to submit his and have it considered before mine was officially approved. We are still waiting on approval for this one and, last we heard, it still hasn’t been assigned to a case officer.

But his visa is expiring, so what now?

Interim Visa

They really like to keep you waiting….

If you have applied for a temporary visa but it hasn’t been processed yet, an interim visa may be issued by an automatic system 1 week prior to the expiry of the current work visa.

It is rather complicated to understand exactly what the interim visa is, how it works, and what you are and aren’t allowed to do since there is really very little information on it. The one thing that is consistent is that travel is not permitted on an interim visa. If Andrew leaves the country, his visa is void and he is not permitted to return for a specified time period (as far as we understand).

The chart below provides some detail. It also specifies that Andrew isn’t permitted to work on his interim visa, even though he is going from one temporary work visa to another.

immigration-chart

As you can imagine, most employers are rather upset with this. “Hey boss…so you know that work visa? Well…they haven’t processed it yet so I need some time off…up to 2 months apparently…starting next week.”

We are hoping that Andrew’s bosses are willing to let him return to his job once his Partnership work visa is (hopefully!) granted.

Skilled Migrant Visa

Still waiting….and waiting….and waiting….

We have been requested to submit additional paperwork. And the case office who was working on our case is no longer employed by immigration.

We have been requested to provide additional proof of:

  • My husband’s employment that he held when he was 14 (a letter from both him and the lead pastor/manager at the time is apparently not sufficient proof)
  • Proof of all of my applicable engineering experience (tax records, employment contract, and a letter on company letter head for each job)

As well as re-submitting our marriage contract, etc.

We will submit the new paperwork, wait for a new case officer to be assigned, wait for them to check all the paperwork, wait for an interview with immigration, wait for a second person to check through everything, and, hopefully, be awarded residence at the end!

In Summary

So essentially, I hold a temporary work visa while we wait for our residence visa to process and (hopefully) get approved. Andrew holds a temporary temporary visa while he waits for his temporary visa while we wait for our residence to (hopefully) get approved.

 

Share

Women’s Rugby Finals – Pirates Win!

In a wonderful women’s rugby final, the Pirates faced off against Varsity. Previously in the season, the Pirates had lost to Varsity with a score of Pirates: 7 to Varsity: 31. We had also beaten Varsity in a very close game of Pirates: 31 to Varsity: 29. What would the final bring?

Scrum Time
Scrum Time

A dry, sandy field in St. Clair and a very strong wind changed the Pirates strategy on game day. We had planned to run a kicking game, which Varsity wouldn’t expect from us. Unfortunately, whenever the ball got kicked, the wind gusts would push it unexpectedly! We had the wind with us for the first half, which helped, although a few random gusts did send the ball backwards a few times.

Push Varsity Back!
Push Varsity Back!

Varsity played a strong offence, forcing the Pirates to up our defensive game. We certainly did! Although Varsity managed to keep possession of the ball for approximately 70% of the game, Pirates held them in mid-field, allowing us to score most of the time when we got the ball.

Nice Pass
Nice Pass

This was a game where I really saw all of those little tricks and techniques that we had practised so much come into play. Forwards run the ball up a few times to draw their team to one side, then shoot it out to the backs where there is now a gap in their defence. Get the ball to the far edge and just keep knocking it up with two pods of 3 ladies running pistons. So great to see!

Time to Celebrate!
Time to Celebrate!

After 80 minutes of well-played rugby where both teams kept fighting right to the very end, Pirates won 37-10! There was much celebrating for the night and for the entire week. I am so proud of everyone that I’ve played with, all of the support that they gave me as a new player, and all of the encouragement after I got injured.

Share

And Now for a Brief Cat Interlude

Cats! The internet is full of cats and Andrew and I have our own two sweet little kittens. They have grown incredibly but are still our sweet girls.

Eowyn with her box.
Eowyn with her box.

We got very lucky to end up with two little cuddle cats. It has been fun watching their little personalities develop as they’ve gotten older.

What is this new chew toy?
What is this new chew toy?

Teething was definitely not fun, however, although the pet store found us a little bit odd, a small puppy kong did the trick!

Bringing the kittens home.
Bringing the kittens home.

Tauriel, our little black cat, is quite the cuddler. She likes to curl up directly on our chests and sleep. She will also come ask for kisses and bump her face against ours.

Tauriel with the computer
Tauriel with the computer

She also likes to ask for uppies by stretching against our legs to ask to be picked up. She quite likes jumping and will beg for the tap in the bathroom to be turned on so she can drink from it.

Eowyn and Tauriel obsessed with the tap.
Eowyn and Tauriel obsessed with the tap.

Tauriel is also quite fond of licking both me and Andrew, especially when I am wearing a fuzzy hoodie!

Andrew with the cats as kittens
Andrew with the cats as kittens

Eowyn, on the other hand, is a much more independent cat. She likes to come curl up beside us or on our feet.

Kitten Eowyn
Kitten Eowyn

She also quite likes my mouse pad. She likes to perch on Andrew’s shoulder as well. She doesn’t meow…she chirps like a bird most of the time.

20170215_142813

They also get along quite well with each other and will come report to us if the other has gotten locked behind a door or in a closet.

We are getting a cat! It was fun shopping after we had decided
We are getting a cat! It was fun shopping after we had decided

It isn’t uncommon to see them curled up with each other and licking each other.

Eowyn wanted away from the scary ocean
Eowyn wanted away from the scary ocean
Walk time at the beach
Walk time at the beach
Eowyn perched on top of her scratching post
Eowyn perched on top of her scratching post
This is why we call Eowyn 'Holepunch'
This is why we call Eowyn ‘Holepunch’
Eowyn trying to catch the frisbee
Eowyn trying to catch the frisbee
Their first journey to the beach
Their first journey to the beach
Eowyn on Andrew's computer
Eowyn on Andrew’s computer
Tauriel after her bath
Tauriel after her bath
Eowyn after bath time
Eowyn after bath time
Eowyn and Tauriel obsessed with the tap.
Eowyn and Tauriel obsessed with the tap.
Andrew watching outside with our girls
Andrew watching outside with our girls
Tauriel wanted a nap...I didn't disagree
Tauriel wanted a nap…I didn’t disagree
Share

Highlanders vs. the British and Irish Lions on Tour 2017

Andrew and I both turned 30 over the last year. For our birthday’s, Andrew’s wonderful sisters got us tickets to see the local provincial team, the Highlanders, take on the British and Irish Lions in their 2017 tour.

Yes, Andrew and I have become quite passionate about rugby. I’ve always quite enjoyed football (aka american/Canadian football, aka gridiron), and Andrew has always enjoyed hockey. The hockey isn’t quite as relevant, although he was largely just missing playing a sport. Rugby though…it’s like football if they didn’t stop the play every time someone touched the ball and fell down.

Andrew and I at the game
Andrew and I at the game

Andrew and I had fairly good tickets for the game. Right at the try line (aka the goal line for those who don’t know rugby), close to the front.

We were both quite glad that it is a covered stadium. The game was only a week from the winter solstice and, while the weather had been fairly nice for the weeks leading up to the game, that day dawned cold and wet. In an uncovered stadium it is likely that the game would have been cancelled with how wet and muddy all the fields were.

Maori welcoming to the Lions
Maori welcoming to the Lions

Andrew and I dressed quite warmly thanks to jackets that we brought from Canada. I was asked more than once where I’d gotten my jacket actually! We also brought a light blanket to keep our legs warm. While it is easy to stay warm while walking and moving, it’s quite different sitting on cold seats for 90 minutes!

Almost at the try line!
Almost at the try line!

What a game it was too! I honestly wasn’t expecting much. The British and Irish Lions are the national team and are going to be taking on the All Blacks later in the tour. Considering that the Highlanders are a level lower and are sitting at the bottom of their league, I was expecting to see some good, but not exceptional rugby.

Some good tackles
Some good tackles

The Highlanders certainly played well! The game was tied at half time (10 all), with the Lions pulling ahead in the second half. A few fans actually started leaving when the Lions managed to pull ahead to 22-10 within the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Highlanders fought back though, scoring their final try with minutes left on the clock, and then defending well to finish with a final score of 22-23 for the Highlanders.

Final score of Highlanders vs. Lions
Final score of Highlanders vs. Lions

So much fun to watch!!

Share

The Pirates Rugby Season to Date

So, as I’ve mentioned…Andrew and I joined the Pirates Club Rugby this year. It’s been a bit of a crazy hectic season with both of us new to the sport, but we are loving it.

Pirates Prem 2’s

So, like all sports, there are different levels. For men, there’s the normal community touch, recreational leagues that you find everywhere, but there are also the official club leagues.

Andrew running
Andrew running

Andrew is playing on the premier 2 rugby team. This team feeds into the premier team, which feeds into the provincial teams (such as the Highlanders). There’s some quite competitive guys there!

A lot of them are surprised that Andrew is completely new to the sport since, like hockey in Canada, most of them have been playing rugby since they were 3-5 years old.

Andrew is doing really well and is usually playing most games (there are enough guys that they tend to put the newer players on for substitutions so that they can watch and learn more). He generally plays as a #14 winger. This means he is the back row defence; if he gets the ball he is supposed to take it and run as fast as he can up the sideline. It’s also his job to catch any of the opposing team’s offensive players if they manage to get a breakaway.

Andrew going for the ball
Andrew going for the ball

Unfortunately the men’s rugby team is struggling a little bit this year and has lost every game so far. They are getting closer though!

Pirates Wahine

Also know as Pirates Women. Wahine is Women in Maori. I’m learning!

My rugby team has done amazingly well this year. Although we officially lack a coach, I have learnt a great deal from the senior members of the team. While it is difficult for them, wanting to train with the team, but being forced to coach as well, I have been quite grateful!

Time to Tackle
Time to Tackle

One of our ladies has just gotten called up to the national rugby team (the Black Ferns), which says a lot for the quality of women’s rugby in Dunedin. Go Angie!!

The position that I play is #1, or the loose-head prop. It is my job to take a short pass and do my best to gain a couple of meters by charging straight into and through the opposing team. During a line-out, I’m in the front lifting our jumper, then driving forwards once we have the ball. During a scrum I am in the front row, binding onto the opposing team and trying to gain control of the scrum.

Lineout Lifts
Lineout Lifts

One of the best parts of being a forward in rugby on a cold or rainy day is the scrum…cuddle party!

Thus far, we have only lost one game, although we did draw with North Otago the second time we played them.

Pirates vs North Otago
71 0
Pirates vs Alhambra Union
103 7
Pirates vs Varsity
7 31
Pirates vs Southern
103 0
Pirates vs North Otago
34 34
Pirates vs Varsity
31 29
Two of my team-mates after the game
Two of my team-mates after the game

We have two more rugby games before the semi-finals and are hopeful that we can bring home the banner this year!

Rugby Injuries

Of course, you can’t play a full contact sport like rugby without a couple of injuries. Luckily, having a free and dedicated physio and clinic is part of being in the club!! Andrew’s injuries have luckily been quite minor, limited to a grade 1 hamstring pull and a few bruises and scrapes.

I, unfortunately, haven’t been quite so lucky. With only 3 minutes left in our game against Varsity I took a bad tackle from one of their props and felt my knee snap to the side, out of joint, and then back in. I then decided that it would be a very good idea to just lay on the field for awhile.

Owie...well taped up knee!
Owie…well taped up knee!

I was apparently quite concerned about where my mouthguard had gone since I lost it in the tackle (I got hit HARD). I mainly remember a lot of ouchie.

I am exceptionally grateful to my amazing team, from the opposing team’s physio who checked me out at the field (our physio was playing), to the manager who helped me off the field, to my awesome team-mates who took me to the sports clinic, took me to get crutches and dinner, and helped take care of me until Andrew could get off work. I couldn’t have done it without them!

As for rehab…it’s going…slowly…

It’s only been 4 weeks (I keep reminding myself). I have/had a grade 2 MCL sprain (the ligament on the inside of the knee) and possible/probable damage to the meniscus (which is the cartilage in the knee joint). The sprain is healing quite nicely, but I haven’t yet managed to regain mobility in the knee. It will bend from 0-90 degrees and simply refuses to bend further. I shouldn’t be able to put full weight on it, but I can. I can also manage all of the physio exercises without any difficulty…apart from my knee not bending. So it is probably off to the MRI to figure out exactly what is going on and why it won’t bend.

Share

A Quick Update!

Life really does get in the way sometimes! But they do say that time flies when you are having fun.

So…what’s been going on? Just a quick update for today, but look for posts on each topic in the coming weeks!

RUGBY!!!

Pirates Women Take on North Otago
Pirates Women Take on North Otago

Rugby may or may not have consumed our lives. That’s a good thing though! Andrew and I have been having a great time playing for the Pirates club in Dunedin, New Zealand. Andrew is playing for the Prem 2 team, whereas I am playing for the women’s team. More on this to come!

Pirates Men take on Taierie
Pirates Men take on Taierie

Unfortunately, I also sprained my knee during one of our games so I am somewhat out of action. Grade 2 sprain to the MCL with a possible torn meniscus. More on this later too!

Highlanders take on the British and Irish Lions
Highlanders take on the British and Irish Lions

Andrew and I also had the wonderful opportunity to watch the Highlanders take on the British and Irish Lions in the Dunedin leg of their tour. What a fantastic game!

WORK CHANGES!

Laundry Mountain!
Laundry Mountain!

I have a new job! NO MORE LAUNDRY MOUNTAINS! Instead, I will be working as an R&D Lab technician for Escea Ltd. They manufacture some pretty cutting edge gas fireplaces.

VISA UPDATES!

Visas are ridiculously complicated, time consuming, mind numbing beasts. This will simply have to be its own post.

So…as you can see, lots has been going on, I just haven’t had time to write about it!

Share

GoFundMe Campaign

Sorry for the lack of updates these past couple of weeks. As you can probably guess from our struggles mentioned in the last post, Andrew and I have been a bit busy trying to get things sorted out.

We have finally gotten a quote for our van…$5000! Apparently it needs a new engine, installation, a new thermostat, to have the windshield removed and rust fixed, and to have rust fixed on the side panel before it will again pass inspection that will make it driveable. While I appreciate the NZ transport agency requiring each vehicle to have a warrant of fitness and thus ensuring that every vehicle on the road meets minimum safety standards, it is a bit of a pain in the butt sometimes.

Well, one of the downsides to awesome adventures is that we have very little in terms of emergency funds to handle this large of an expense. We did look at just scrapping the van and buying something cheaper, but the van is worth around $12,000 and the cheapest reliable car we could find was around $4000…so we might as well fix it.

We would really appreciate the help and support of our readers: if you have enjoyed the blog or have found any of my tips, tricks, and time or money-saving advice helpful, please consider helping out with a dollar or two!

https://www.gofundme.com/bebop-the-van-needs-a-new-engine

Hopefully we will be back on the road soon and providing you with more valuable and informative posts about travel and adventure in New Zealand and around the world!

Share

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.

Share