Monday, December 19, 2016

Happy Holidays

It’s that time of year again, where our birthplaces are covered in ice and snow and we’re going into summer break. It’s been a great and busy year, starting with an end to our trip with my parents, Betsy and Bill, and a beginning of our trip to Fiji with friends Helen and James. In Fiji we spent a few days diving, went kayaking, and drove around the island. One of the great highlights was seeing a police foot chase right in front of our car. Guy ran out of the police station, which we were parking in front of as it seemed like a safe spot, with 2 policemen close behind. The criminal gave us a cheeky grin as he ran right in front of our car. Kaleb later spotted him in police custody again. Guess his escape plan was foiled despite the obvious lack of conditioning of the police. Despite diving with sharks, we came back alive from Fiji.

At the end of January, we were lucky enough to go diving at Whakaari/White Island, an active volcanic island. This was some of the best diving ever! We once again ran in to our friend Paul on this dive. He gets around to different dive sites as well. We swum through kelp forests, dove on shallow reefs with volcanic bubbles bubbling from the bottom, and did a night dive with countless eagle rays. The dive company wasn’t great and the boat was barely seaworthy, but there was great diving.

February, we went to India to see our friend Shiv (now a Kiwi) get married to Ravneet. Kaleb worked with Shiv back at the council in Thames. We flew into Delhi and headed to Karnal, our first stop for wedding festivities. After a great deal of food and celebration, we headed to Chandigarh for more festivities. Shiv’s sister and sister-in-law were nice enough to take me shopping so I had appropriate wedding wear. There was so much tasty food, we were never hungry. Shiv’s family was awesome and so hospitable. Kaleb even got to go see a wheel of death with a motorcycle rider and a car at the local fair. I’m not sure we can ever attend another wedding, as everything will pale in comparison to the 5-day Indian wedding. After the wedding festivities were over, we visited the sights of the Golden Triangle, including the Taj Mahal in Agra and Jaipur. We also survived a death defying bike rickshaw ride through Delhi with Dave and Sarah, before leaving for the now-seemingly excellent driver filled roads of New Zealand.

We started March by volunteering for Ironman New Zealand, held right here in Taupo. We were kayak marshals and herded the swimmers along the correct course. As we were on the water, my friend from Minneapolis, Angi, was landing in Auckland and coming to Taupo via bus. After she recovered from the flight for a bit in Taupo, we headed to the South Island, driving from Christchurch to the West Coast, down to Queenstown, and back up via the Eastern route. We stopped whenever we saw an interesting hike and had a great deal of fun.

In March, we joined the ninjas for a 4-day canoe trip on the Whanganui River for just over 100 kms. Kaleb and I paddled our kayaks, while the other 6 ninjas took up paddles in canoes. The water was higher than normal, as it had rained a lot in the previous weeks, and most of the nights we were on the river, though luckily it generally started after the tents were up. It was great fun and we managed to only have one canoe swamping, on the very last rapid. I think next time, we will look for better canoe parking spots so we don’t have to carry our gear barrels up cliffs.

Easter weekend, we hiked the Abel Tasman Great Walk (55 km). This time it was just the two of us, camping, rather than utilizing the huts, along the way. It was a beautiful walk, though a slow one as I was recovering from a hip injury and Kaleb an ankle injury. We made friends with a curious weka (native NZ bird), who hung out with us at our private campsite. We even had the beach to ourselves for a wonderful sunrise.

Over the winter months (summer for you Northern hemisphere dwellers), I did a lot of trail running and Kaleb did a lot of mountain biking. I ran a race in pouring sleet and decided to skip any future races where hypothermia is a guarantee. We did a few weekends away over the winter, but nothing major. One of the weekends away included a night trail run down in the bush of Wellington. We also did 2 fun relay races with the ninja team and even squeezed 15 ninjas in one house. A few of us joined forces again to run in the annual Lactic Turkey P6 Adventure Race.

On Thanksgiving we went to Hawaii to visit my sister and her family. My mom was also there, overlapping with our trip for a few days. We spent some time on Oahu and then traveled over to the big island of Hawaii. We were able to see some of the volcano, a green beach, and a black beach. We also went diving and saw some octopus and sea turtles. We even manage to sneak in a quick run on Ali'i Drive.

In March I left my job at Datamine seeking anything else. I worked on getting clients for my own business, 3 Sheep Analytics, and lifeguarded on call for the Taupo pools for 6 months. In October, I accepted a position as Chief Data Scientist for Quotable Value, headquartered in Wellington. I’ve traveled to Wellington and Auckland for work a few times, but will not expected to be in the Wellington office full time until February or March of the new year. Kaleb is still working for BCS doing BI development.

This month, we are heading to the South Island once again to meet up with my parents and do a whole lot of physical activity. The plan is to first do the Milford Great Walk (53 km), a 4 day hike through mountains and rain forest. After a day of rest and travel, we will start the Raikura Great Walk (32 km) on Stewart Island. After that, we head a bit north again to do a 3 day bike ride on the Otago Rail Trail (150 km). My parents will then head back to the states, no doubt needing a vacation from their vacation, and Kaleb and I will continue our insanity. Kaleb plans on running the Routeburn Great Walk (32 km), which he missed out on last year due to injury. We will then both do 2 days on the Kepler Great Walk (60 km). After this trip, we will have 8 of the 9 New Zealand Great Walks done. The last one on the list is Heaphy, which is a logistical nightmare because the end points are not connected by road. It is also a dual purpose trail outside of the summer season so Kaleb wants to ride it.

We’re loving life here in New Zealand and have only 540 days until we are eligible for citizenship. We welcome any visitors to our house and will show you around as much as we can. Hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday season and will have a happy New Year!

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