I know, I know, I keep saying this as we move along in our journey but today was probably one of the biggest highlights of our trip - a day in the Southern Alps and exploring Mount Cook. Although we had another long drive, over 3 hours, it was worth every second of it. The views during the drive were magnificent but the end destination blew us away. We first made a quick stop at Lake Pukaki which was a stunning mirror reflecting the mountains. One hour from there was the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook 3700 meters. We chose the hooker valley track - 11 km round trip to get to Lake Hooker and the base of Mt Cook. The whole trek was pretty easy since it followed a gravel pathway surrounded by amazing glacier mountains, gorgeous hills and a powerful river. My goodness, where do I start. The views were amazing from every angle. While the peak was cloud covered for the majority of our walk to the base, it was splendid from every angle. We reached the lake and had ourselves a picnic, let the kids climb rocks and play, and just took in this perfect landscape. It is one of the most popular walks in New Zealand and we were there on a Sunday so it was a bit crowded. But there seemed to be a bit of respect to the mountain as everyone was very quiet and just enjoying the scene. It felt like something out of a movie.
Mt Cook location
On the way back we decided to stop by the river and admire the spectacular scenery and at one point, when Leo was jumping from rock to rock, his foot slipped and he ended up in the river, hahaha. Poor guy got so scared, he cried a little but Mila told him to shake it off :) As we were leaving the National Park, the clouds parted and we were able to see the one and only, beautiful peaks of Mt Cook. Words cant describe that unreal view, we must have stopped the car 5 times to snap photos so just look at the pictures (honestly, even pictures don't do justice!).
As we were driving back home, we made a quick stop at an Alpine Lavender Farm. It was located right off the main road, in the middle of the mountains! You could smell the lavender as soon as you opened the car door. We bought lavender flavor ice-cream and enjoyed the taste and scent of it! Mila was in heaven, after all our little tomboy loves ice-cream and flowers :)
It is hard to believe that we have been in New Zealand only two weeks and managed to do and see so much. We are once again running at a very fast pace and sometimes, it catches up with us. We’d had some very long car rides and have already driven 2,800kms here. While we are definitely tired and our tank (and budget) is running on empty, moments like this only confirm that this journey was the right decision; we are healthy, young and physically fit to do these things with two little kids, on very limited sleep : ) I really do not think we would be able to explore as much as we have 30 years from now. Therefore, we are so thankful and lucky to live our life to the fullest and get to know this amazing world!
We’re staying in the town of Alexandra, which is at the heart of Central Otago. We chose it since it was budget friendly and there aren’t a lot of AIRBnB rentals in this region. Queenstown, at the heart of exploration, can run upwards for $400, night. Alexandra has a lot of charm, it is an old gold rush town that boomed in the 1800s and now is a popular Holiday destination for its gorges, rivers, water sports, and wineries. In fact, Lonely Planet recently chose Central Otago as one of the top 50 wine destinations in the World! We have perfect views from our house, right across from the river with a mountainous backdrop.
Since the last week was very intense we decided to slow down a bit. In the morning there was no rush and craziness, we took our time with breakfast and instead of getting ready, we watched Moana! I have a feeling our Troll days maybe be fading away :-) In the afternoon we took a one hour drive to beautiful Lake Wanaka. On the way there we stopped at Dam Good Fruit Orchard where we were able to pick our own cherries from the tree. Leo and Mila loved climbing the latter, more than actually collecting the fruit :) Once we got to Wanaka, Leo and Mila ran around the playground for a while, and Rick and I enjoyed gorgeous scenery around us. Our fridge was running empty and instead of cooking dinner we decided to have a small barbecue at the park. We took another 20 min drive to Lake Hawea, another stunning place for the lovers of water sports. We have not had meat in a very long time and I must say that I kinda enjoyed the taste of grilled cheeseburger! Fitness post be damned!
Lake Wanaka Location
The following day we planned on driving to Mt Aspiring National Park and doing another 10k hike to Rob Roy glacier…but…that never happened! We were a bit tired of driving and just decided it’d be best to spend a day hanging out at our house. The truth is that the best way to see New Zealand is by camper van. This country is stunning but its also remote. The distances between different attractions are quite lengthy, plus, there are no 2,3,4 line highways but rather one way in and one way out, so very often you are driving for much longer than expected. Nevertheless, we made it a great family day. Rick went to a local warehouse store and bought a fishing rod! Leo has never been fishing (and neither has city boy Rick) so this was a perfect opportunity, especially since our cabin was right by the river. The other day Leo found a long stick and pretended he was fishing, but now he has a real fishing rod. Although we did not catch any fish and had to use youtube video for some instructions regarding setting up the equipment, it was so much fun! So far, we added a car, immersion blender, yoga mat, christmas tree stand and a fishing rod to our collection :) Hopefully we can fit it all in our two already fully stuffed suitcases. We also caught up with blog work (I’m not charging you to read this yet), naps and homeschooling for Leo. It was definitely a low key day but much needed…
The following day we woke up to grey and rainy sky. Since we already planned on going to Queenstown, after breakfast we packed our crew and headed there. Queenstown is a really cool town, right on lake wakatipu surrounded by The Incredibles. It kinda reminded us of Bergen in Norway. There is a main strip stretched along the water where you can find restaurants, bars, pubs, stores and other goodies. There are boutique hotels and high end stores. The overall vibe was hip, a young crowd, lots of families and people from all around the world. We strolled around for a bit, grabbed a delicious ice-cream at the Patagonia Chocolate Store and visited a local playground. Leo and Mila had a ball chasing birds and running around. In the afternoon we drove to Chard Farm winery, located right across from the world famous bungee jump bridge - Kawarau Bridge. The winery was ok, very busy and kinda small but the views were stunning.
It’s moving day again…after seven days spent in the Central Otago region we were heading towards the north west coast of the South Island. We had a lengthy 7 hours of driving ahead of us, so we decided to break it up with what else, a hike! Once again, we were in awe of stunning views of the west coast…it was a sunny morning with a good visibility, you could see for miles and miles beautiful mountains and mirror like lakes. As soon as we got to the other side of the mountains the landscape drastically changed. It was much more green with a wet tropical climate.
Our first stop was made after about 4.5 hours of driving, at the Fox Glacier. When we got out of the car the temperature showed 12 C, so much cooler, with a drizzle. We got our rain coats out, hats and rain cover for Mila’s carrier and hit the track leading to the glacier. Fox Glacier used to be huge…we saw few signs marking its size and in 1945 the whole pathway leading to the current glacier, used to be the actual Fox Glacier - about 4kms of ice melt in 70 years, crazy! The distance to the glacier from parking lot was about 1.6km with an uphill road for the last 200 meters, so a descent workout for all of us (well, not for Mila, since she has the best seat in the house). Once we got to the top we were about 400 meters away from the glacier - that’s where the viewing point was at. There were tons of warning about not getting too close to the glacier since it can collapse at anytime. It actually move at a rate of 5-8 ft per day. It was a quite cool experience since it was our first time seeing a glacier up close.
Right after Fox Glacier we drove to nearby Lake Matheson, which on a clear day and still mornings, reflects like a mirror Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Unfortunately, once we got to the lake (1.2 km one way), it was cloudy, however, the scenery was still spectacular. What’s even more surprising, the whole pathway leading to the viewing point stretches through a rain forest - you would never expect that in New Zealand. Leo is going to an interesting phase right now…he wants to win every hike/trek that we do (he wants to be first across the finish line). On the way back from the Lake Matheson he literally sprinted! I followed him the whole time but all I could see was his blond her in between bushes moving like a crazy rabbit, haha. Everyone I passed kept telling me that they tried to stop Leo but he told them that he was a winner and could not take a break. If he keeps improving his pace at this rate, we will qualify for the Olympic in 14 years : )
Map of our Road Trip
By 7 pm we made it to a town called Hokitika, located on the west coast of South Island. We rented a house on AirBnb for the next two nights and plan on exploring this area for the next two days. Once again, it was a long day of driving but we were able to break it down a little. Luckily, both Leo and Mila are used to this long road trips and almost never misbehave (ok, so thats a bit of a stretch since MIla is going through her terrible 2 phase) : ) Nevertheless, we were all pretty tired and after some home made chicken soup, the four of us hit the sack…
We diverted our plans for the next day. We were going to drive the Arthur’s pass through the heart of the Alps and hike at AP National Park. But after a full day driving, we decided to explore Hokitika. It’s a small village, right on the Tasman Sea, but it has a nice vibe with restaurants and bars along their main street. We walked to the ocean, and actually met our first Americans in very long time (Thailand?). It was a tour group, mostly of retirees who were on a 17 day NZ adventure. We spent some time talking to a lady from San Francisco, it was nice conversation. After town, we found a playground for the kids. Leo continued his marathon training. Instead of playing at the playground, he ran 3 laps around the track! I’m telling you, future Olympian in the making.
Afternoon naps were in the cards for all of us, then we head to Lake Kanere where there was a singing bridge over a gorge. The walk was only about 15 minutes and gave us a great view of the milky blue waters in the gorge.
Now 3 weeks into our New Zealand adventure, we’ve pretty much covered the entire South Island. It is such a beautiful and diverse piece of land, from picturesque coast views, to stunning mountain backdrops, crystal clear rivers and blue lakes, there’s a bit of adventure everywhere you turn in South Island. I met a woman from Queenstown who says, every time she travels, she marvels at the airplane ride home when she see’s this beautiful land from above. Tomorrow, we’ll drive the rest of the coast all the way up to Nelson where we’ll explore the beautiful Sounds, waterways, and beaches of the northern part of South Island.
Our time in beautiful Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula came to an end and we had a long road trip ahead of us to the Fiordland region. We turned a 4 hour car ride into an 8 hour ride since we wanted to take the coastal Catlins route. Just one hour south from Dunedin, right along the coastline, we started our exploration at Nugget Point lighthouse. Built in 1869, it overlooks a series of wave-like “nuggets” near the edge of the peninsula. We spotted tons of seals and sea lions. The views from the top were stunning. The walk to the lighthouse was about 1km but totally worth it, even on a hot day : )
From there, we continued our drive along the southeastern coast. Our next stop was at Purakaunui Falls. Leo and Mila loved climbing the rocks surrounding the waterfall, go figure :) It definitely was not the most spectacular waterfall but it was worth the stop. We also made a quick pass through the Curio Bay.
We planned on visiting a few other places but about 4 hours into our trip, we realized we only had about one eight of a tank of gas, yeah, not good…there was no cellular service in the area and once we finally got information about the nearest gas station, it was located 60 miles away…Note to self: alway have your tank full before a road trip and never wait until your tank is almost empty. Don’t worry, we did not run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and we were not eaten by local species (if that happened, you would not be reading this post). We finally reached a gas station and were saved! Our final stretch of drive took us to a small village in the middle of the South Island called Braxton. We rented an AirBnB house on a dairy farm. The living space was shared with the housekeeper, but since the house had 6 bedrooms, we did not feel cramped at all. Plus, the house keeper - Margaret, was very sweet which made our stay even more pleasant. We arrived at the house at 7:30 pm, had a bite to eat and went straight to bed.
Surprisingly, the next morning we slept in till 8:30. Right after breakfast we took a one hour drive to a town called Te Anau - the gateway to the Fiordland. The day was a bit cloudy which made it perfect conditions to explore. Rick took Leo and Mila to a local playground while I walked to the city center and searched for bikes to rent. We rented two bikes and a double buggy for the kids. The trail started on a paved path stretched along Lake Te Anau, but as soon as we left town, we were following a gravel road. It was a challenging ride winding through the woods and coming up & down mountains. I guess I should be happy that it was not me who had to pull the buggy with two little rascals - Rick got a full body workout, haha. The path was surrounded by beautiful mountains, forest and river. There were lots of hills and sharp turns and one of those turns got the best of Rick. As he was going down one of those steep hills, the speed of the bike overtook his strength and he wiped out. Luckily, the buggy with kids did not tip over and Leo and Mila were safe. However, daddy got a little banged up, ripped his pants and there was some blood, but I guess it could have been a lot worse. According to Mila, it was super fun and Leo just told dad to shake it off. At 11 km mark, we decided to take a break and have ourselves a picnic. We decided to turn around since we had to return the bikes within 4 hours. Biking back was much easier since, for the most part, you were going down hill. It was a fun and active day spent in the amazing nature of New Zealand. I still cannot get over the freshness of the air. It’s so pure and energizing, you almost want to save it in the jar and take it with you - how nice would that be?!
The following day we had an early wake up call at 5 am. We decided to head to remote fjord land, the majestic Milford Sound and put our hiking boots on ( 3 hour drive from our house). We chose to complete one of the most well known treks to alpine Lake Marian. The hike was marked as a 4 hour excursion in total, but honestly, we think Kiwis have different standards :-) The hike starts off fairly easy, you walk across a suspension bridge, then follow a gravel pathway and come to a gorgeous waterfall and some of the most spectacular scenery in fjordland. The water was so pure and clean you could see everything on the bottom. That was the easy part of this hike, I mean climb. As soon as you pass the waterfall the fun begins, or rather the real grind begins :-) You literally climb a very narrow pathway full of slippery rocks and boulders. Then you continue this exhausting fun for about 2 hours. At one point we got off the marked track and were lost. At this point we thought of turning around and going back but Rick went forward while the kids and I stayed put to find the track. Fortunately we were only about 50 meters from the marked path. That probably added a good 10-15 minutes of climbing through bushes and broken down trees. With that said, our hiking efforts were totally worth it; once we reached Lake Marian we were speechless. Right in the middle of these snow capped glacier mountains was this stunning lake. The sky was partly cloudy but you could still see the reflection of the mountains in the water, an absolutely fantastic view. We all just sat down and took it all in. The sweat, huffing and puffing were gone and we were breathing in fresh air. We soaked in this silent paradise for a good hour before heading back. Once again Leo was superman. He completed the whole hike on his own, never complained, led our family the whole time and was so into it. Looking back, almost 9 months ago in the French Alps we did our first family hike. We were so worried about Leo and his ability to finish the hike, we panicked at his every move. Fast forward to today, we don't even question his ability to do these hikes because he just does them. And he does them at an adult like pace. I guess practice makes perfect :-) Once we reached the parking lot, our legs felt like jello but we were so proud of our family. What an amazing adventure and family accomplishment!
We decided to drive another 30km to the heart of Milford Sound. The drive was awe-inspiring, huge mountains surrounded us from each side with waterfalls from the melting glaciers falling from the edges. The views were so powerful it makes you realize how tiny we are. It was definitely an intense day, leaving the house at 7am and returning at 8pm. Nevertheless, it was something we will never forget. Another priceless memory to add to our treasury box of experiences.
Our last day in Fiordland we booked a full day cruise exploring Doubtful Sound Fjord. We were up at 5 am, in order to make the drive to the town of Manapouri, where the trip started. We checked in at 7:30 and boarded the cruise by 8. First, we took a 30 minute ride across Lake Manapouri to West Arm pass. Then we had to jump on a bus ride (another 30 min) that took us to Wilmont Pass and Doubtful Sound. From there, we finally boarded a luxury catamaran and cruised around the Doubtful Sound for 3 hours. My oh my, where do we begin. The views were simply breathtaking! The wilderness and picturesque of this place was out of this world. There is no picture or video to justify the beauty of that fjord. This fjord is home to bottlenose dolphins and seals - we were lucky enough to witness a group of seals sunbathing on the rocks of the fjord. What made this day even more special was the perfect weather conditions. It was magically sunny, not a cloud to be seen and bright blue skies. It rains 250 days a year in Doubtful Sound, we apparently were in the minority today. It was so calm, the captain was able to take the catamaran out of the fjords into the Tasman Sea and do a U-Turn at sea, giving us a look back into the fjords, something he says he is rarely able to do. A highlight of this cruise was the “sound of silence” - since the water was very calm and the weather conditions perfect, once we came to a secluded area of the fjord, the captain turned off the engine and everyone had to stay quiet for 5 minutes (not easy to do this with two little kids, they were good for about 3 of it) and everyone enjoyed a magical few minutes of complete silence. The cruise was worth every penny and definitely one of the most memorable moments of our world tour. The crew had two boxes of toys for the kids as well as crayons and books, which made Leo and Mila very happy. Rick and I would take turns watching them while the other would go outside and just enjoy this stunning scenery. If you ever decide to visit New Zealand a trip to Fiordland and cruise with Real Journeys is a must. Super friendly and professional staff, could not have asked for a better experience. We are so in love with New Zealand and without a doubt, it is a special place to visit; and perhaps stay a while.
That day was also “moving” day for us. After the cruise we had a 4 hour drive to a town in Central Otago called Alexandra. It was probably one of the best drives we ever did - once we got closer to Queenstown, we drove along Lake Waikapata. It was simply stunning! I am serious when I say that pictures do not justify the beauty of these places - you really have to come here and see it for yourself to understand how magical it is. Since we did not eat much all day long, we were starving and guess what we had for dinner - Domino’s Pizza! (please don’t judge!). It was our cheat meal and as soon as Mila and Leo saw an image of pizza they were jumping around like kids who have found Nemo! We all went to bed with pizza bloated bellies : ) And let me add one more thing - our cabin rented on AirBnB is simply perfect! Cute and cozy, overlooking the mountains! I cannot wait to explore this region for the next week, yay!
We are lost in translation! Let’s rewind a bit…we spent an amazing New Year’s Eve in downtown Sydney. As you know, we are the first to celebrate NYE around the Globe and Sydney puts on the World’s most magnificent fireworks display. They are so good at it they put on 2 shows. One at 9pm for those like us with kids who stand little of chance to make it to midnight, and of course the big show to ring in the New Year. We took a train to the Central Sydney and headed towards at park on the east shore facing the Harbor bridge. It was a perfect park, not too crowded, lots of families, and literally one big tailgate party - minus the alcohol. The firework display was spectacular. We really wanted to push our limits and stay until midnight but our logical senses took over, we after all had a flight out at 6am the next morning. We were home right before midnight, just in time to have a toast, share a kiss and say goodbye to an amazing 2017. We hit the sack and woke up early to catch our flight to Christchurch, New Zealand. And here is the confusion…we’re now 18 hours ahead of East Coast of USA. We already welcomed 2018 in Sydney, boarded a plane and arrived in New Zealand. Our friends and family in Europe were about to celebrate NYE while everyone in the USA was waking up on the last day of 2017 - are you lost yet??!!! It was one of the most bizarre moment of our lives, hahaha! By the time the Ball dropped in NYC, we were sitting down to our January 1st dinner in Christchurch!
Welp, where do we start. 2018 stared a bit crazy for us . . . we were up at 4am, out the door by 5:30am, dropped of our rental car, and navigated through gigantic Sydney airport to find Emirates Airlines and our flight to NZ. Prior to departure we did plenty of research regarding visa and other requirements for entering New Zealand. We thought we were well prepared but as it turned out, we were wrong...during our check-in process the flight assistant at Emirates informed us that in order grant our tickets, we needed to show her a ticket with a departure out of New Zealand??!! First of all, we did not have anything booked after New Zealand because we are still deciding on our options. Secondly, she told us we had 45 minutes to book an outbound flight from New Zealand otherwise, we would not be able to board the airplane!!! Hello 2018, it's nice to meet you too. We were both shocked, surprised, sleep deprived, and had 2 kids running around the airport like maniacs. If we were sleeping on the way to the airport, we were up now! We had to quickly come up with a solution and it ended up being a flight to Fiji. It was the cheapest flight we could find on such short notice (more on this one later). We were able to board the plane and get ready for 3 beautiful months in New Zealand.
Well if you thought our drama was over for the day you’d be wrong. That was first bucket of cold water dropped on us. After 3.5 hour flight, we safely landed in Christchurch. We breezed through passport control, collected our luggage and headed towards sector "nothing to declare". We threw away all of the fresh fruit in our carry on, since you are not allowed to bring it into the Country. We were made aware multiple times by security to make sure you had no produce, meats, seafoods, etc on us. And here we experienced another bucket of cold water...at Sydney airport we bought a small fruit salad. We packed it away in a plastic bag in Leo’s carry on and completely forgot about it. As we were about to leave the airport, an officer came to us with a dog, who sniffed the fruit salad. As you imagine, we were taken to the side and questioned about our nothing to declare forms. Long story short, we had to pay a penalty of $400 New Zealand dollars ($300US). Talk about a rude awakening to 2018! It clearly was not our best day but hey, that's a part of travel experience.
We absolutely love our Christchurch AirBnB rental. The house is spacious, with 4 gorgeous bedroom, each one of them with a fire place, two big bathroom, brand new kitchen and amazing living area. It’s an older home with tons of character and uniqueness. It’s located only 1 mile from the city center. Since we need a car for the next 3 months and rentals are quite expensive, we decided it would be best to buy a car and at the end of our New Zealand adventure, we would sell it. Rick spent the next day and a half searching for the right vehicle and finally bought a 2006 Toyota Wish (never heard of this model but it’s a station wagon. It’s the perfect Hermanwagon for the next 3 months. It’s not Euro Vacation or Christmas Vacation but if they ever want to make a movie. . .Kiwi Vacation, we’d be the perfect fit : )
In February 2011, Christchurch was severely damages by 6.3 magnitude earthquake. They were then hit again in March 2017. Many noticeable Christchurch historic landmarks suffered extensive damages and still are closed. The most well known Christchurch Cathedral resembles a ruin. It used to be a beautiful historic church at the middle of the city and now is all fenced off and most likely, a new church will be built. We were in complete shock by the devastation. There are empty city blocks with huge holes, construction cranes starting a new, and scaffoldings to support the old buildings. It looks like a bomb was dropped and now it’s clean up time. What is kinda surprising is the fact that it has been almost 7 years and progress is noticeable but there’s still a long was to go. The city seems to be looking for an identity, hold onto the old historic past or start fresh with a retro modern look. There are parts of town that are rebuilt and look super hip and trendy, but the historic center is a ruin. We cannot even imagine what was happening here on February 22, 2011…we noticed plenty of new projects showing the new architecture of Christchurch and we do believe that once its done, it will be a cool, fun and hip city. The question is how long?
Our first exploration of New Zealand took us south of Christchurch to Pigeon Bay. It was about 1.5 h drive from our house and the drive itself was very interesting. For a while we followed a paved road but as our GPS announced to turn right, we were on the side of the mountain driving on a dirt road…the ride was bumpy and very dusty but the views were out of this world. Gorgeous hills, beautiful blue water in the bay, and a fresh crisp air. When we arrived at Pigeon Bay, we decide to do the coastal walk along the bay to the Pacific Ocean. The total walk was about 14 km and we did about 8km of it. The weather was perfect, blue sky with little cloud coverage and super hot sun. The sun here is much stronger than anywhere we have ever been. As we hiked along the coastline we passed tons of sheep and cows, who freaked us out! At one point we almost started to run since one of them stood up and started his bull charge towards us, hahaha. It was a fun day spent in the nature and it gave us a good taste for beauty of this amazing country.
Our time in Christchurch came to an end and it was time to hit the road; our next stop, charming Dunedin. The total drive time to Dunedin was about 5 hrs. We were warned at the airport that the policy is pretty strict here, even when it comes to speed limits so we made sure not to go over even 1km. After about 3.5 hours of driving we made a stop at the Moeraki Boulders - unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave-cut Otago coast of New Zealand. We strolled around for a bit, let Leo and Mila climb the rocks and when it started to drizzle, we went up to the local restaurant for a bite to eat. We enjoyed beautiful views of the sea over our late lunch. We arrived in Dunedin to our AirBnB rental. Small but cozy; a perfect pit to explore Dunedin and surroundings.
Our first night in Dunedin was a bit rough. Mila has some type of virus, keeps coughing and runs a small fever. She could not sleep all night and we did not either. The good thing is that she still is wild and crazy so her sickness can't be that bad :-) After breakfast we drove to a little Sunday market. We were able to buy some fresh produce, local raw honey (great natural remedy for fevers) and a few other local items. Then we headed to central Dunedin and strolled around this charming town. It reminds us a little of an old European town as it closely resembles the Scottish town of Edinburgh. The city has tons of character, historic buildings, and overall a very good vibe. The weather was perfect, sunny in the upper 60s, so we tried to make the best out of it. We strolled through the train station, went to St Mary’s church, pasted trough the University of Otago, and finished the day grocery shopping. As soon as you enter NZ grocery stores, you will find a basket filled with apples, bananas and peaches. This fruit is for children! What a great idea, right!? Instead of buying your kids candy or other processed food, you can grab a piece of fruit for your child. I absolutely love it! I guess it's very similar to Publix bakery and the free cookies but I must say, I much rather prefer the fresh fruit option :-)
Our last day in Dunedin, we spent exploring the Otago Peninsula, which was located only 25 min drive from our house. Originally, the day started a bit cloudy and grey but by 11 am it was sunny and blue skies. First we chose to visit the local beach which was absolutely stunning. Hidden in the bay, surrounded by huge sand dunes and gorgeous green hills - a picture perfect place. We read that very often you can spot sea lions but we did not think we will be that lucky…but we were! We walked down the pathway towards the beach and as soon as we got to the beach, we were greeted by a sea lion! How cool is that? He was wiggling his way back to the ocean. We have never seen a sea lion this close and it was definitely one of the coolest experiences ever. For the next hour we simply enjoyed this magical place. We all tumbled down the huge sand dunes, jumped around and spotted many more sea lions and admired the amazing nature of New Zealand. After a picnic on the beach, we headed back to the car…it was quite the workout climbing to the top on a super sandy pathway…
Second part of the day we spent hiking though the Sandymount track. It was only 15 minutes away and took us to the edge of the peninsula. The total trek was about 3.5km long so nothing too crazy. As soon as we started this trek, we walked through a very cool pathway of gorgeous trees. Once we passed the trees, we were out in the amazingly wild beauty of New Zealand. I cannot even put in the words and describe the views we saw. Amazing turquoise water, green hills full of sheep, ridged cliffs and the freshest air on this planet. We have seen so many breath taking places during our adventure but I have a feeling that New Zealand will completely blow us away…well, in already has. The fact that there was nobody else there was pretty special. Each time we turned our heads, we saw something more spectacular. Leo has so much fun running in between the bushes, spotting sheep and just enjoying everything that was in front of him.
I remember as a child playing this memory card game where you had to put a world map together. Back then I knew so little about New Zealand…it seemed so far away, a place that only the luckiest one will have a chance to visit. And here we are, on the edge of this amazing country, hanging out with sea lions, walking through hills full of sheep and admiring the most beautiful views this world has to offer…kinda wish we could freeze this moment forever!
We frequently get asked how we stay fit during our world adventure. We are not professionally trained fitness and diet experts. However, we are super conscious about our health and well being. Since I was a teenager, fitness has been a big part of my life. My fitness journey started way back in middle school where I ran track, played several sports and ultimately fell in love with basketball. I’d like to think Rick got serious about fitness when he met me. . .haha. . he may disagree with that! Working out on the road can be a bit challenging but the key is consistency and a solid routine. There have been times when we’ve struggle with our fitness discipline. We are constantly on the move and change homes every 4-7 days. We have kids who need 24/7 attention, and we’re still planning and living out of a suitcase. Creating a workout schedule can sometimes be a challenge but one things is sure, we never regret a good workout.
For the majority of our trip, our accommodations are made through AirBnB. Since our rentals do not have a gym, we always try to book a house/apartment close to a local park with a playground or a place with a yard and some space. In that case, we can do our workout while the kids run around and play. What is amazing is the fact that Leo and Mila observe mom/dad and quite often they want to join us during our workout sessions. The other day during our HIT workout in the park, Leo ran 4 laps of 400 meters! It was so cool to watch him do it and Mila joined him to try and catch him, haha. It’s so neat to watch your kids try to mimic you - Leo usually works out with Rick while Mila serves as my added weight during planks : ) Very often one of us goes for a long run while the other watches the kids and then we alternate.
As I mentioned before, we do not have an ability to do our workouts at the gym, but we found a solution. Rick brought with him 4 DVDs from BeachBody and mixes up his Insanity and P90X films. These workouts can be done anywhere anytime, no special equipment needed, so it definitely fits our nomadic lifestyle. I follow a polish fitness trainer Ewa Chodakowska. Originally I took with me 3 of her DVD workouts but she recently came out with her own online tv station and all of her workouts are available online! I constantly mix between high intensity cardio workouts and pilates workouts. Our goal is to workout 3-4 times a week to maintain our level of fitness. I discovered a great yoga trainer Adrienne and do her yoga sessions on my rest days. Of course, there are times when we travel all day and don’t have an opportunity to work out. In that case we came up with a little solution - each month we start a new challenge. For example, December was all about burpees - the goal was to do 50 burpees a day. This little challenge can be done anywhere and it only takes 5 - 6 minutes. January is all about push ups and the goal is to do 50 a day, so join us!
This is an example of a workout we did today:
With a 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down, this workout should take about 35-40 minutes.
When we originally planed the Countries we wanted to visit during our journey, one of the things that we focused on was weather. We wanted to follow summer/spring around the world to allow us to really get out and explore. During our global adventure, we’ve completed over 20 hikes, most of them quite intense, with a good 8-14 km distance. Rick has an added weight since he also carries Mila on his back. Everywhere we go, we try to stay as active as possible. We rent bikes, paddle boards, or try a new activity such as surfing or local yoga class. We also explore cities mainly by foot. You would be surprised but very often we do 10-15 km just by walking and sightseeing different attractions in the city. I am not saying that a city stroll is a workout but it definitely is better than sitting on the couch and eating junk.
Speaking of food, we have learned that healthy and well balanced diet is the key when it comes to staying fit. You often hear from professional trainers that abs are build in the kitchen, or that 20% are your workouts and 80% is what you eat…I guess there is a lot of truth in “you are what you eat”. So let’s focus on what we put inside of our bodies. Each morning we start with a warm cup of water with either lemon or lime and believe me, this little morning drinking routine will immediately speed up your metabolism. Next we enjoy a good cup of coffee - we are not vegetarians but try to eliminate as much meat and incorporate a plant based diet. Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day. We alternate between old fashioned oatmeal, toast with avocado and tomato, homemade pancakes and recently, our absolutely favorite - smoothie bowls. We fell in love with this delicious and healthy meal that is super easy to make. All you need is a blender (we bought an emersion blender during this trip), favorite fruit, and several different toppings - nuts, granola, chia seeds, etc. This is our favorite recipe:
Pulse mango and banana until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cut the kiwi and strawberries and put them on the top of the smoothie bowl. Top with up with some delicious granola and viola, you just made yourself a super delicious and healthy breakfast!
Our lunches are usually on the go, since we are always doing something outside of the house. Most of the time we make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Sometimes when its been available to us, I make quinoa mixed with roasted zucchini, carrots, onion, garlic, broccoli and kale. I usually make it the night before. We also pack fresh carrots, sliced cucumber and peppers with hummus as a snack. Hummus is super delicious and so easy to make. Here is my favorite recipe from Healthy Mummy.
Another great snack that we make on weekly basis are homemade granola bars (recipe from Minimalist Baker). Once again, they require minimal equipment and are very easy to make. They are Leo’s favorite snack. Last but not least are my world famous power balls! I alternate the ingredients but my favorite consists of dates, coconut flakes, almonds, honey and coco powder. I blend these ingredients using my immersion blender (food processor would be ideal) and then form them into a ball - easy, fast and healthy, perfect snack for an active family.
Dinners can be a little tricky since very often we do not return until late but I learned that preparation is the key. As soon as we arrive to our new destination, we visit either a local farmers market or a grocery store (The day before I make a meal list for the next 4-5 days and write down all the ingredients). We buy all of the necessary produce - pretty much we fill up the whole cart/bag with fresh fruit, veggies, grains, and diary. First, this allows us to buy only necessities, and secondly, it saves us a lot of time since we do not have to make extra trips to the market. If we happen to arrive late to our new house, my go to meal is whole wheat pasta with homemade pesto. Its easy and fast to make, and so is the fresh pesto. I mix fresh basil, spinach, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, almonds, parmesan, salt, pepper and olive oil using my blender. I adjust the olive oil amount to achieve the right consistency, that’s all. It’s such a delicious and quick meal, everyone in our family loves it. If I have more time, I usually prepare a greek salad with hummus and pita bread. Leo and Mila love chicken nuggets and fries so I found a healthy alternative - I baked homemade fries and chicken nuggets, here is my favorite recipe. As a side, they eat fresh cucumber, carrots and peppers, nothing complicated.
We also try to stay hydrated throughout the whole day. Fortunately, Leo and Mila like to drink tap water, and on special occasions, we buy them apple juice. Anyone who has kids knows that they love to snack so having enough of munchies is the key. During our long car rides, we take granola bars, nuts, fruit and cut up veggies. Our fitness goals haven’t stopped us from splurging on the things we love; chocolate, candy for the kids, red wines and plenty of desserts - freshly baked french croissants, delicious italian tiramisu or fried balinese banana. There is nothing wrong with enjoying sweets - everything in moderation (or in Rick’s case, thats why he works out).
Maintaining a well balanced and healthy diet with a solid workout routine is not rocket science. There are countless ways of finding the right workout, fitness class or healthy meal plan. It’s a combination of self motivation, common sense and goal setting. Preparation and self discipline are the main components of health and fitness success. So do something today that your mind and body will thank you for later. Get up, put your workout shoes on and go for a walk, run, bike ride, anything; life is too short and the last thing you want is to wake up and wish you have done it earlier…