Monthly Archives: December 2016

Christchurch and Wanaka, South Island

**Please post on our blog if you get a chance!  I would love to know that someone is reading it!


Finding a car in Christchurch started out difficult.  We saw some really crappy ones.  Some were so dirty, had dents, or were just not trustworthy.   Then we upped our price range a bit.  We figured we would rather have a reliable car that wouldn’t break down on us that we could resell not just to backpackers, but to anyone in NZ.  So that is what we did.  We bought a decent car.  Hopefully, we will be able to sell it when it is time to head to SE Asia.  Heck, I would take it to the States but the steering wheel is on the other side!  😉

In Christchurch, we found a very nice house to stay in.  We were only there for three nights, but the house was quite comfortable, and was a nice place to come back to after we searched for cars or went out exploring Christchurch.  Here is the place we stayed:

Our Vacation Rental in Christchurch

Christchurch was an interesting city; it is still rebuilding after the 2011 earthquake.  And yes, this part of New Zealand had another earthquake quite recently (while we were sailing to Australia), but Kaikoura (north of Christchurch) suffered the most damage in the most recent one.  Christchurch, while still showing the signs of the earlier quake, was spared during this one.  The city is rebuilding in a very artsy way, with shipping container shopping malls, a “dance area” in the middle of the city, and unique buildings being constructed.  At the same time, some buildings are now gone, or in significant disrepair, so the sights are both enlightening and sad at the same time.

While in Christchurch, we went to this amazing free museum there and we also joined a walking tour of the city.  Christchurch also has a beautiful botanical gardens that we walked through while we were there.  Below are some pics:

“The Chalice”

Canterbury Museum.  This couple turned their whole house into a gigantic seashell display.  They became quite famous in the country.

The Christchurch Cathedral–its fate is still undecided.

A Memorial for the People who were Killed when an Entire Building Collapsed During the 2011 Earthquake.  Each white chair represents a person who lost his or her life…

The Restaurant at the Botanical Gardens


A Staircase to Nowhere in the Botanical Gardens

Tired Children?

I love this photo. I love all of the flower petals and the bench.  

“Rock” Climbing at the Botanical Gardens


We drove for about 5 hours to go to Wanaka, towards the center of the southern part of the South Island.  On the way to Wanaka, we stopped in Lake Tekapo as well, which was quite beautiful.

Wanaka was amazing!  We stayed in a small, two bedroom apartment that was just a few streets walking distance to the center of the town.

In Wanaka, we went for a hike, visited “Puzzling World” which was a cool museum of illusions, puzzles, etc., we had a “date night” while the kids went to the movies, we went paddleboarding, set out for a day hike outside of town about an hour, and generally just enjoyed the scenery. Wanaka reminded me a bit of Lake Tahoe, and I love Tahoe!

Lake Tekapo Area


The View from Rippon Winery, Wanaka

    Rippon Winery Tasting Room, Wanaka

   Our View on Our Wanaka Hike (Overlooking the Town)

      The Lake in the Morning (Paddleboarding Time!)

    Ariana on her Paddleboard

    Apparently, this is a famous tree in Wanaka…

Puzzling World Museum and Maze

The Puzzle Ariana was Able to Solve (and Later Dan)

The Puzzle I finally Solved…

Dan in a Medieval Bathroom

The Super Difficult Maze at Puzzling World.  I think it took us a couple of hours but Dan and I did finish before the kids!

Illusions are Fun.  Or maybe I had a tipple too many…

Even the bathrooms there are unique.

The Beautiful Scenery on our Day Hike.  Car Bridge.

Why does my family always make me cross suspension bridges?

“Blue Pools”  They really are this blue (below).

Next up:  Dunedin!  We are currently still in Dunedin pet sitting for a woman named Lindsay who is back in the U.K. visiting family.  We are taking care of Libby, a very sweet dog…



Update Regarding our Plans and New Zealand: Whiritoa, Lake Mangakino, and Auckland

Well, Do Over is sold, although we are still dealing with incompetent banks that can’t handle International Bank to Bank wire transfers.  Alas, it never ends…

Currently, we are on a month-long pet sit in Dunedin (the southeast corner of the south island) and we are taking care of Libby, a medium to large sized mixed breed dog.  She is quite cute, and I will post another photo of her when I update our time in Dunedin.

The kids with Libby in front of our Live Christmas Tree.  It is very hard to find a live tree here.  We bought this little, but fragrant, one for the equivalent of $7 dollars U.S.!

You may be wondering what is next for the Gabier clan.  We are going to continue traveling throughout New Zealand until the beginning of March, and then we are off to SE Asia to travel for a few months.  We haven’t pinned down exactly where we will go, but it will be some combination of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  If you have any suggestions of the best four, we would love to hear them!

After that, we are flying back to the west coast of the U.S. and traveling for a month or so to find out where we want to live next.  We are narrowing down our choices, and really looking forward to seeing them in real life.  We could also use some input there…we want:  good schools, moderate housing prices, a very walkable quaint town with character, good community theater, bike trails, an hour or so from skiing, and not too far from a decent airport.  Have any ideas?  Please share them!  We have some thoughts; so far they are:  Steamboat, Fort Collins, Boulder, Dillon/Frisco (Colorado), Boise, Flagstaff, and for a while, Bozeman was on the list too but I don’t think I can handle that kind of cold for that long each year!  We really do welcome your ideas/suggestions of places to check out.  Post them on this blog, please!

Back to New Zealand…

So what happened when we hit New Zealand running?  Well, first, we CRASHED at an apartment hotel.  We didn’t get there until about 4:30 in the morning by the time our late flight arrived, and Dan had to leave the next morning to pick up our rental car.  BTW, we found out BEFORE our flight that Dan’s dad could not come to NZ just yet.  As luck would have it, he arrived at the airport with a very recently expired passport.  Good news though.  He has a new one and will be visiting us as of January 3rd.  And maybe everything happens for a reason–we were so busy getting a car, getting our extended visa applications, trying to get Do Over’s paperwork and survey, etc. that it would have been less relaxed if Gabe had come as originally planned and we wouldn’t have been able to explore as much.  Quite frankly, we were exhausted and had many tasks to complete.  Also, now Gabe is flying into Dunedin here on the south island, so we will be able to take him to some of the more fantastic scenery New Zealand has to offer prior to heading back to the North Island.  We have another pet sit set up in Taupo for 10 days after Gabe’s visit, and then we have 10 days to explore on our own, and we then have John and Corinne (Dan’s mom and her husband) visiting after the first week in February.  We are so excited to have family coming to visit and we have a lot planned!

After our first night in Auckland, we had a vacation rental set for 4 nights in Whiritoa, which is in the very southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula on the north island (about 2.5 hours away from Auckland).  It was a modest, small three bedroom home, but it had a very nice view and was within walking distance of a pretty beach (not that we were about to go swimming in THAT water–too cold!).

Our rental:

Here are some photos of the place:

The “Bach” in Whiritoa



Getting ready for Badminton!


The backyard covered patio and pretty views.  We saw sheep, cows and horses!  We celebrated Thanksgiving in this house.

Next, we had a vacation rental at Lake Mangakino, which is only about an hour away from a popular destination in New Zealand:  Lake Taupo.  Again, we were still just happy to be chilling a little bit, which was good, because here the weather was rubbish.  It rained quite a bit, but we managed to go on a lovely walk in the neighborhood along the lake and the golf course and it was quite a pretty view despite the crap weather.  We probably wouldn’t have bothered keeping this reservation with Gabe not with us (given it took us a few hours to drive there), but unfortunately, I had already booked this one on “bookabach” and they are VERY strict about refunds.  Basically, we wouldn’t get one, so since we needed a place to sleep, we decided to just keep the reservation.  It was a nice house with a beautiful view.

Here was our view:

Next, we were heading back to Auckland so Dan could get a flight out to Sydney.  He needed to return for the boat survey, so the kids and I were on our own for two nights.  Strangely, we had no place to stay and I hadn’t prearranged anything.  I did try, but the place I attempted to book did not confirm, so we were back to square one.  We had just gone to the camera shop to pick up my waterproof replacement camera that was stolen in Tonga (Yeah for the new, upgraded model of the SAME camera!), and we just sat there in the parking lot with me on my Smart Phone trying to find a place to sleep.  And of course, the kids decided to fight in the back seat while I was looking.  That’s always fun.  Finally, I was able to book a one bedroom apartment in a suburb of Auckland that was the basement apartment in a very nice family’s home.  It turned out to be just fine and the price was right.  I truly felt a bit homeless though at that moment!

We stayed here, thanks to willingness of the owner, Bronwen, to prepare for us to arrive in only one hour!

The kids and I spent the next day at the Auckland Zoo and then we went to Hell.  It’s true.  It’s a pizza place; we picked up our dinner there.

It was cold in Auckland that first night.

At the Zoo.  Me in my native habitat, alongside Marmosets and Tasmanian Devils…

Wait, these are my kids, not Tasmanian Devils or Marmosets…

THERE’S the marmoset!

And the Tasmanian Devil.  He has a face only a mother could love.

This is a Kea.  It is the only high altitude parrot in the world.

This bird is a Takahe.  I am not sure why the Kiwi gets all the street cred; this guy was awesome!  He is flightless, has some bright colors, and quite frankly, beats out the Kiwi in my eyes…

Well, Dan was coming back from Sydney, and once again, we were moving around.  We stayed at a “budget” hotel at the airport that still cost almost $200 a night.  Auckland’s pretty pricey.  The kids and I checked in there, dropped our luggage, and returned our rental car, and when Dan flew in, he just walked over to our hotel.  It felt like we had just flown in, but we had recently agreed to take a pet sit down in Dunedin and it started in a week.  It made more sense to fly to Dunedin rather than drive all the way down to Wellington, take the 3.5 hour ferry (that would cost about $300 or so NZ and then drive the many, many hours down to Dunedin.  Flying is so much easier…We planned to fly to Christchurch and then buy a car.  We were successful!

We are the proud new owners of a Bento Box.  That’s what Dan calls it, and it just fits SO WELL.  The car is a 2005 Toyota Sienta (not Siena, Americans, but Sienta, never before to set foot on U.S. soil).  It had only 79,000 miles on it and was in great shape.  It just looks…well…rather ugly.  There is one plus though.  She speaks to us in Japanese every time we turn on the car or when she thinks we are passing a famous Japanese landmark.

She is a seven seater which we definitely needed that with our family of four and family on the way to visit.  Here is our new car.  We paid $3,800 U.S. with a registration and a year long WOF, and she is in really nice shape:

The third row seats actually fold down under the second row seats when not in use.  The sliding door is automatic, and there is a camera for reversing.

Okay, I will write about Christchurch and Wanaka tomorrow.  I am tired.  Good night!

Now what?

Geesh, it sure has been a long time since I have updated this blog (well, aside from the post I just completed prior to this one about Fiji).

Here is the deal.  We sailed to Australia.  Our boat is listed.  Actually, as of now, Do Over is under contract, money is in escrow, and I’m happy to say she may well be going to Sam (who visited the boat while we were in Fiji), his wife, and his daughter!  I really hope she goes to them, as they plan to move onboard and cruise with Do Over eventually.  That is cool.  Dan especially did not want to see our former home sit in a marina disintegrating.  She is meant to be on the water–even if I’m not!  Hee, hee, hee.

When we arrived into Port Macquarie, Australia, we had very little time.  We had to clear out Do Over completely, finish cleaning/staging her for sale, and prepare to fly to New Zealand.  Dan’s father was meeting us in New Zealand in less than a week (or so we thought), and we had A LOT to do!

We managed to get all of our personal items off of Do Over and into a vacation rental.  We stayed here:  at Shelly Beach Bungalow and it was great!  This place gave us enough space to unload and organize all of our personal belongings on our boat.  We ended up with several piles of things:  (1) send home to the States, (2) a gift for the Salvation Army, (3) trash, and (4) things that make the cut for New Zealand.

I love Airbnb.  Now that we are off the boat, I plan to continue to update the blog with the places we visit, our experiences, the places we stay, etc.  And a lot of these places will include properties on Airbnb, Bookabach (very popular in NZ) and also, we have a few “pet sits” set up during our time in New Zealand as well!

The four days and nights we had in Port Macquarie were long, and our kids really had to hang in there.  This is Ryan, at about 11 p.m., after a VERY busy and long day.  He fell asleep on his knees, on top of an ottoman!


Well, we finally managed to get all of our stuff either to Salvation Army, to the trash, or packed into boxes that we had to buy from a storage facility.  We were down to the last hour of getting packed up, etc.  Then, Dan and Ariana had to sail/motor Do Over down to the Pittwater area of Sydney where our broker, Anna, was.  It was an overnight sail and proved to be difficult for them after about the first 5 or 6 hours.  The wind was with them initially, but once again, Australia proved to be a bugger with headwinds making the trip south a horrible one.  Dan and Ari also had to take all of our NZ-bound suitcases and the kids’ books onto Do Over, because they certainly weren’t going to fit in the minivan with everything that was being shipped home–which is what Ryan and I were charged with.

While Dan and Ariana were sailing, Ryan and I had to take the loaded-up minivan about 3 hours each way from Port Macquarie to Newcastle, because that is where the shipping place was.  That was quite the process.  I had perfumes in one of 13 boxes, but I couldn’t remember which one.  Perfumes cannot be sent to the States–at all.  So, I had to find them.  Guess where they were?  Yup, that’s right–the LAST box I rechecked!  We also had to have every box with a battery of any kind labeled.  It took an hour and a half working with the nice man at Pack N Send just to get our boxes sent!  Then Ryan and I drove back to Port Macquarie because there were NO minivans in the whole town that we could rent one way to Sydney.  And then I started thinking…I had rented the only thing I could get one way from Port Macquarie airport to Sydney airport, which was a compact car.  No company would let me take an SUV or a minivan on a one way trip to Sydney.  I forgot that we would still need to load up this (compact) car with our luggage in Pittwater and take it to the airport.  It was not going to work.  Plus, I was not looking forward to the 5 hour drive and then another hour from Sydney airport to Pittwater if I had to exchange the car (especially after the 6 hours Ryan and I drove the day before to Newcastle and back), so I looked into flying.  Ryan and I decided to fly to Sydney and rent an SUV there, and the difference was less than $100 versus driving.  I’d much rather sit on an airplane reading a magazine than driving six hours!

Plus, extra bonus:  before we had to go to the airport, we had a few hours to finally do something in Australia for fun.  We went to the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, and saw several adorable koalas.  Most of them had had chlamydia (very common in koalas) and lost their eyesight as a result by the time they were found.  Others had been hit by cars and I think one was attacked by a dog.  Interestingly, Port Macquarie is one of the few areas where koalas still live in the wild in Australia.  They had koala crossing signs around the town, but unfortunately, we never did see one in the wild!  Good thing, I probably would have wanted to take him or her with me!  🙂

Ryan and I finally got to the Pittwater area, and we met up with Dan and Ari.  In another half hour, Sam (prospective buyer) and his wife were to meet us at the boat, along with our broker, Anna, and her partner, Martin.  We ended up having champagne and enjoying the beautiful Sydney weather.  After that, Sam and his wife left to go on a dinner date, and Martin and Anna invited us to go out on their 50 foot sailboat to an island in the area.  This island had wallabies roaming freely so we were in.  We were both truly exhausted (especially Dan who had not slept much on the passage the night before), but we could not turn down an offer to spend time with Anna, Martin, and Martin’s two sons Tom and Sam.  We had such a good time, and ended up having dinner and wine on their boat, while Martin’s son Tom played guitar and sang songs.  It was a beautiful night with beautiful scenery and beautiful people.  Can you really beat that?

Ryan taking the wheel of Martin’s boat while Martin’s son, Sam, looks on

Dan, Martin and Tom on Martin’s boat

My Standoff with a Wild Wallaby

A Wild Wallaby

Ariana, Anna and I on Martin’s boat

We ended up crashing on Do Over for the last time, and the next morning, we moved Do Over to Anna’s mooring and headed to the airport.  We had learned that day that Dan’s dad was not going to be coming to NZ; he got the airport in the States and his passport had recently expired!  But, we already had our flights and we had reservations to stay at a hotel that night, and a vacation rental the next day two and a half hours from Auckland.  I won’t go into all of the details, but we had SO many issues with our flight!  We got stuck in traffic and arrived to the airport late, we learned that we could not fly to NZ without a visa (which was quite the process) or a flight out of the country within three months, our luggage was overweight, etc.  So, I had to get on my computer and book us some refundable flights out of NZ for the end of January, knowing we would have to apply for a Visa extension (we are planning to be in NZ for 3.5 months but you’re only allowed 90 days).  Then, Dan and I had to rearrange all of our luggage so each piece wasn’t too heavy, and finally, we were allowed to get on a later flight (that we had to pay the change fee for).  Getting through security took nearly an hour as we were selected for increased screening.  The culprit:  Ryan had a museum replica of a bullet in his backpack!  Geesh…but they let us keep it.  We finally got through security at nearly 9 p.m. and we had not eaten since breakfast.  All of the restaurants were closed by our gate except McDonald’s so that was our fantastic dining experience.  Spicy grilled chicken sandwiches with jalapenos and french fries.  We were SO happy though, because one bar was still open, so we were able to get some wine!  Yippeee!  After such a long day, all we wanted to do was exhale.  And it got better from there, if you can believe it.  The Air New Zealand flight was FANTASTIC with free and free-flowing drinks, our own personal entertainment center in front of us so we could watch great movies, and you could even order more drinks right from your entertainment screen on your seat!  We had a flight delay but we didn’t care.  I think we could have stayed on that flight forever…

Update re: New Zealand to come next!