Monday, April 24, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 37-40: Adelaide

Four whole days. Four whole days? Did it ever feel longer? After our go-go-go finish of New Zealand and excitement of arriving in Continent Number Seven, four complete days in one place felt heavenly.

Adelaide, and specifically the gem of a spot Craig found on Christie's Beach, turned out to be perfect. The beach was literally at our doorstep (or more seriously, by the end of our stay, all over and in our apartment). The water was calm, the shore sandy, and temperature well above what we'd been experiencing the last little while in NZ. We strolled the coast, lazed in the sand, swam in the ocean, and tormented Baby by getting her to try new things. Actually, after our first failed attempt of getting her in the water in New Brighton, things went very smoothly for her second attempt. Perhaps we prepped her well by all of our sunrise/sunset walks where she was intent on watching the waves roll in and out. She even smiled this time! We also enjoyed watching three dolphins play in the water just off shore.

The great thing about Adelaide is that everything is close. On our second day, we took a short drive to the Onkaparinga River National and Recreation Park. Our main focus: koala hunting. (To be clear, we were searching for one to SEE it in the wild, not capture or kill it!)

We'd barely left the parking lot when Erin quickly pointed across a field and exclaimed, "There!" It wasn't a koala, sadly, but instead, a bright-eyed kangaroo mom and joey. Our first kangaroo sighting!!!

We proceeded to have the slowest-paced hour and a half nature walk of perhaps the history of all time. There was so much to be watching for in such a "barren" shrubland. Koalas, of course, and now kangaroos, the vast variety of colourful birdlife that suddenly seemed to be surrounding us, along with some busy anthills to step over. Then add on the famously huge and scary Australian spiders and snakes (of which we saw none, thankfully). And the nature itself wasn't all to shabby, either...

It was rainy on our third day, which was fine because we'd planned a little drive into McLaren Vale to visit some wineries. We were pleased with the atmospheric vineyards and friendly staff who led us through an educational and thorough tasting at the Oliver's family estate. It was nice to have a variety of wines to try after the sav blancs and pinot noirs of New Zealand. And, it was fun to spot a kangaroo in the field across from us!

And on our fourth day, we felt energetic enough to do a bit of everything. A short morning hike led to more kangaroo and bird sightings but no koalas. That was followed by two delicious and atmospheric wine tastings thanks to some perfect recommendations (thanks Kevin, Heather, and Kirsty!). Then we still had time left to go to the beach! Adelaide really does have it all!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NZ/Aus Day 36: The Big 7

Celebrating 7
The older you get, the less "milestones" there are (that are created by society). We've graduated university, secured tenure positions in jobs, gotten engaged and married, purchased a home, and birthed a child. (We pause for a moment to acknowledge just how unbelievably privelged we are). Other than decade birthdays and retirements, what's left? Just think of the labels on greeting cards to get what I mean. Setting your own goals and establishing your own milestones becomes more important, just as it's important that you celebrate them all the same.

Today, we achieved something important to us. We arrived in Australia and have now officially set foot on all 7 continents. We've discovered the beauty of the world together, and the humbleness of humanity. We've witnessed a thousand - no, a million memorable snapshot moments of sunrises and sunsets, unbelievable animals and plants, sweeping vistas, and emotional human traditions, that have all taken our breaths away.

That being said, we're not done. Travel is more than just a checklist. There are more cultures to experience, new peaks to witness the sun rising on, further lessons to learn, and now, old places to revisit and watch our daughter discover. There will always be a new corner of the world that excites us (and many amazing places to revisit), and we are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to (re)discover them. Cheers!

In celebration, we've pulled some photos from the archives to commemorate each continent...

North America: Top of the World, BC, Canada

South America: Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

Africa: The Church of Saint George, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Asia: Taj Mahal, Agra, India 

Antarctica: Portal Point, Antarctica

Europe: Porto, Portugal

Australia: Christie's Beach, Adelaide

Saturday, April 22, 2017

NZ/Aus: Tips for Travelling with a Baby (0-6 months)

This looks like a good spot for a diaper change...
We've already alluded many times to the fact that our baby is super easy and awesome, so we are by no means experts about what works best for everyone. Every baby and family is different with its own quirks and priorities. But we thought we'd share what's been working for us because we were surprised pre-trip by how few blogs were out there about long-haul, long-term travel with an infant (it's almost like people stop travelling once they have kids, or something). ;)

Keep in mind that our babe is 3.5-5.5 months old for this trip. Things will be different for the next one when she'll be eating solids and moving around. For tips on travelling with a 6-12 month old, click here.

Packing list
We took one giant suitcase with ALL of her clothes,toys, diapers, and wipes, etc, and put the dock a tot on top which worked really well and was easy to keep her things organized. A collapsible hamper was super useful since between the three of us, laundry piled up quickly. I did laundry usually once every four days. We had to be prepared for both hot and cool weather so layers were key. I'll also note that i brought twice as many shirts as I would have normally for myself to account for spit-ups. I didn't need that many, but i always had a backup in my day pack just in case.
Throw the Dock-a-tot on top, zip it up,
and we're good to go!

Clothes for Baby
4 Short sleeve onesies
3 Short sleeve footless sleepers
4 Long sleeve onesies
3 Long sleeve footless sleepers
2 Sleepers
1 Fleece sleeper
2 Sleep sacks
3 pants: 1 thick,  1 thin, 1 with feet
3 pairs socks
1 fleece sweater
1 raincoat
1 rashguard long sleeve bathing suit (she wore the top lots just as a shirt for sun protection-I'd highly recommend this)
1 thin white long sleeve shirt (to keep covered from the sun on hot days)
1 dress
Sun hat

We recommend bringing a collapsible tub
but the froggie takes FOREVER to blow up
even with a small hand pump.
2 muslin blankets
3 burp cloths
6 face cloths
1 car blanket
2 waterproof change pads to set up a little changing station at each accommodation

Wipes container
Bouncy Chair (was great for places where the floor wasn't the cleanest)
Dock a tot
Nursing pillow
Sun bed: Kilofly Travel Bed. This was super has SPF 50 protection; great for when we were at the beach or out on a deck. We used the mat lots just to put down on hard floors at different accommodations, and even put the dock-a-tot in it for her to sleep in at places that had mosquitos. Our critique: it doesn't stay closed well. I'd recommend looking for one that zips shut.
Inflatable bathtub and small hand pump
Wet/dry bag
Medical supplies: d drops, nail clippers,  nail file, baby Tylenol, snot sucker, saline drops
Sun shields for the car windows
Baby carrier

I cannot stress enough how much we recommend taking diapers if you're travelling internationally. We ended up bringing two packs because we'd already bought them and knew she wouldn't fit them when we got back and we had the space. We were so glad we did! New Zealand diapers were terrible in comparison. Sizing was different, they didn't wick as well. We tried both brands offered, in multiple sizes, and couldn't find ones that fit. So, for the first three weeks we had enough diapers from home to put her in one at nighttime so there weren't poop explosions while sleeping. After we ran out, there was one almost every night... Take diapers.

We did not take our car seat because New Zealand and Australia have really strict regulations that are different from Canada for car seats. So we rented one with our rental car.

Toys/Books/Teething Aids
I brought WAY too much. I had this moment right before we left where I felt guilty for not bringing more things, thinking that I was depriving her of academic stimulation, so I threw in a bunch more stuff. It wasn't necessary. Our two Lamaze toys: the moose and the mermaid, are so great for encouraging different types of play as she grows, so they've been wonderful. We give her mermaid in the car and she's been happily playing with her for six weeks now. What I wish we had more of but they take up so much room and weight allowance is books. Craig has gotten really good at reading "Sleep Tight Little Mouse" upteen different ways so that Baby has variety. Another favourite is our soft picture book with real photos of our family members so she remembers everyone back home. :) I brought the blue mesh bag as a way to easily store them all in her suitacase, which has been helpful.

Day Pack
I became the queen of packing for day trips. My typical day pack would have:
3 small toys: a teething ring, her bunny rattle, and a small lobster rattle
An extra outfit for her
An extra shirt for me
Her fleece sweater or raincoat depending on weather
4 diapers, our refillable travel wipes container, change pad
1 burp cloth
Travel-sized hand sanitizer
2 granola bars, water bottle
2 hair elastics
Wallet, phone, camera, etc

Travelling Days

At the Airport
We're big fans of using a stroller at airports, especially with long-haul flights, connections, etc, because Baby sleeps well in it. She's not a fan of the carrier unless you're WALKING so we have it on hand but generally don't use it.

When arriving at the airport, you'll probably need to go up to a desk to check in so you can get a gate-check tag for the stroller, if you're taking one. Many airports don't let you gate check a stroller, so check in advance so you're prepared. Here's a list of the ones we've encountered so far:

Calgary-Ottawa (Air Canada): Yes
Toronto-Calgary (Air Canada): Yes
Calgary-LA (Air Canada): Yes
LA-Auckland (Air New Zealand): Yes
Auckland-Christchurch (Air NZ): No
Christchurch-Melbourne (Air NZ): No
Melbourne-Adelaide (Virgin Airlines): No

So at these places, we had to pick up the stroller with our checked bags, sometimes from oversized baggage, other times it was just set beside the baggage carosel.

When you get to security, you will most likely need to take everything out of the stroller, put all of it, plus your bags through the security scanner, then walk through the metal detector carrying your baby. At some airports, they will take your empty stroller and swipe it down, at others, you need to fold it up and put it through the scanner. Once, we were allowed to leave her in it and push her through the detector because she was sleeping (AUK-thanks, guys!!!). If you are carrying your baby in a carrier, same thing have to take Baby out of the carrier, put the carrier through the machines, and walk through carrying your baby. Be prepared that they may swab his/her hands and feet. ...seriously.

We've had great experiences so far at airports. We often get waved through in priority lines and have had friendly security and airport staff help us out. We've made use of the extra carry-on we get to bring with her stuff in it and of boarding before everyone else so you have the chance to get settled. I've flown alone with her and the flight attendants have been helpful with getting my stuff on and off the plane and offering to hold her if I need to go to the bathroom. Everyone loves a baby!

The crossover sweater I wore on the plane. 
Baby wore a short sleeve onesie and a fleece sleeper on our overnight long-haul flight because the plane gets so cold and she seemed warm enough. She wore a long sleeve footless sleeper for our short haul day flights which were warmer. Her "I'm new here" sleeper went over well with security and aisle-mates... it's good to break the ice and make her as charming as possible.  :)
I was skeptical about her ability to sleep in the bassinet but she did amazingly! Try to get the bulkhead and bassinet if you can for long haul flights. Even if your baby doesn't sleep in it, it's really nice to have the extra room at your feet and the ease of getting up and down, if needed.

On the plane we carried:
- Diapers (for our 40 hour journey, she used 10 but we had more with us just in case. The standard rule is one per hour of travel.)
- Wipes (I brought the equivalent of one wipes container in a ziploc bag and used about 1/3 of them.)
- Extra clothes for Babe: 3 extra onesies, 2 extra footless sleepers, her fleece sweater
- Extra clothes for me: an extra nursing tank and long sleeve shirt
*Note: For travel, I have found this old Lululemon sweater to be perfect. When nursing, I hold out one side to shield Baby from seeing people and getting distracted (giving me more privacy, too). She won't nurse with a nursing cover so this is a great solution.
- My nursing pillow. For me, this has been essential. It's something familiar and calming so Baby nurses better. She falls asleep on it meaning that I don't get "dead arm." It fits on a domestic Air Canada flight. It was tight on Air New Zealand but doable if you're sitting beside someone you know and can steal a teensy bit of their space.
*Note: I didn't worry about nursing during take off. For almost all the flights we've done, she's nursed once we boarded the plane then fell asleep as soon as the plane started moving. She's always slept through the ascent and her ears weren't a bother to her. I try to nurse during the descent when the flight attendants come through one last time to check. But sometimes Baby has been curious at this point and she'll look around and doesn't cry. So maybe she just has "good" ears or maybe it's not the big deal everyone makes of it? I think the main thing is that you stay relaxed.
- 3 small toys to provide comfort and distraction
- 1 muslin blanket,  1 burp cloth

You've likely driven with your baby, so you know what the expect. We strung up some toys for her to look at, which went over really well, especially for getting her in and occupied before we got driving. Our baby LOVES blankets..they are absolutely her favourite thing in the world. So we give her a blanket to hold on to and she's usually happy with that. If she starts crying, I reach back and shake the blanket to remind her that she has it and she grabs on and starts sucking her thumb. Problem solved. Ok, it wasn't that easy. Sometimes, I'd hand her toys from the front seat or reach around and dangle something in front of her for a minute to distract her. We also did a ton of singing, which really soothed her.

We found a rhythm that worked for us and fit with her schedule. Our preference was to wake up, feed her, get the car packed up, make and eat breakfast ourselves, then feed her again. This typically took us 1.5-2 hours. By this point, she was ready for a nap so we'd drive for 1.5 hours roughly, then take a break for her to nurse. stretch, etc. You know your baby, so do what works for you. Ours slept much better when we kept her head supported so it didn't roll around as we turned corners. This made her less cranky. And most surprisingly, even after a day of driving where she seemed to sleep a lot, it didn't affect her sleep that night. If anything, she slept more because it wasn't a truly restful sleep in the car.

Mama sleeping in the second bedroom
to get a much needed good sleep

We opted to stay in Air BnBs/VRBOs/Bookabach spots. This was the pricier option, for sure, but we are big self-caterers so we saved money that way. Baby was very happy in places that resembled our condo and she quickly adjusted. We'd arrive, I'd walk her around the place so she could see it, I'd lay her down on the floor and she'd stretch away, playing with a toy and be happy as a clam. Hotel rooms were harder because it was tough for us to have enough space to spread out or take a break, or have room to cook. This is what worked well for us, but again, everyone has their own priorities.

Spending time together as a family has been the most amazing part of our trip. Experiencing the world together, while also both getting to be there for Baby's firsts and developmental milestones is priceless. We are so, so fortunate!
I hope this insipres you and reassures you that you can travel with your baby!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Impressions of New Zealand

Our time in New Zealand has sadly come to an end. We'll certainly miss it and would love to go back someday. We've compiled some of our lingering thoughts from our time here so we can remember them.

Trying to blend in...
First: the landscape. We came here for beauty and man, did we get it! There are such spectacular and diverse sights to be seen across both the North and South Islands. Each driving day brought something new, so much so, that we frequently referenced our time in Madagascar as a comparison. It's a shame that so much is covered with tree farms and pastures so it's difficult to get a sense of the native habitat. Our favourite places were Punakaiki (for Erin) and Milford Sound (for Craig). It was also a bit different for us to not be on animal watch (except for in the water). Many places felt like they should have monkeys or something cool to be searching for in the trees. At least there were no dangerous creatures to be watching out for. The drives were engaging from the diversity of landforms but also the variety of livestock we saw. There was everything from sheep to cows to horses to sheep to goats to llamas to alpacas to sheep to pigs to chickens to... did we mention sheep? We even saw a few ostriches!

Our little kiwi!
Second: the people! New Zealanders are so friendly. We had great experiences all over the country thanks to the relaxed and gentle nature of everyone. And, of course, everybody loves a baby! So it was great to have our own little icebreaker along for the ride.

One common theme that emerged at tourist sites that we weren't big fans of was the disdain for native plant life. In Waitetapo, it was refered to as "barren native bush" while a lush rainforest of said bush sat behind the presenter. With that, like many places in the world, was the focus on European disocvery as original discovery, completely ignoring the Maori who were there beforehand. We can't judge that too much, though, as Canada has the exact same issue.

In many ways, New Zealand seems to be ahead of us in Canada. Travelling gluten-free was super easy. There is clear labelling of packaging for allergens, palm oil usage, and health ratings. Even the cafe in a one-horse town had their bakery items labelled (and there were gluten-free options!). There is a strive for enviornmental sustainability and we even noticed free coffee grounds available at gas stations for you to take home for your garden! Rarely, however, are there change tables in bathrooms and if there are some, they're only in the women's. So changing Baby in the car, in the stroller, or on any mostly flat (very public) surface became commonplace.

NZ seems to have a thriving art community with many posters for musical performances and craft shows. Beautiful town signs and murals enhanced all the little villages we drove through, making them each unique. We appreciated the excess of public washrooms, parking, and well-signed beach access roads. The downside was that it's not a requirement for restaurants to have bathrooms, so you may need to walk a bit to get to one if you're in need.

A commentary of New Zealanders would not be complete without a discussion of language. This trip had all the classic qualities of a regular trip for us: apprehension regarding social situations, bargaining who would go ask for ___, mental preparedness prior to an interaction regarding vocabulary that might be used... except that we were in a country where the population spoke English! It was so weird to feel all those insecurities when we speak the same language. There were some occasions where someone would ask us a question (at a grocery store till, for example), and we would return blank stares, having NO idea what they asked. As much as we tried to work on our accents, we just couldn't figure out those vowels.  (Except that we can both nail the word,  "tiger." Super useful in social situations...

With the amount of road tripping we did, we couldn't possibly say goodbye unless we mentioned Number Three: Driving. There are signs all over the country warning (boasting?) that New Zealand roads are different. At first, we chuckled at this. Yes, they're windy and mountainous and only two lanes, often at high speeds, but we're used to that in the Rockies. It's not like some of the countries we've travelled in where road markings are a laughable aspiration and red lights are something to consider. We tried to think of taglines for other places we've been, our favourite being: "Malagasy roads are different: sometimes they're not there." Ahh...the good old days when travelling between towns meant stacking some 2x4s on the front of your car so that you could literally build the bridge as you drove across it.

But in all seriousness, New Zealand roads are different. First of all, you have to drive on the left. We got used to that pretty quickly. But second of all, the ENTIRE COUNTRY is under construction. There were some days when we'd barely get 25m and we'd be in a new construction zone. Yet, they felt the need to raise the speed limit back up to 70 or 80 or even 100 for that tiny little stretch before it became 30 again. And don't get us started on their 30 zones...someone has a very mixed idea of what constitutes a 30 zone. It could mean that there's a bend in the road, or that for three strides you don't have a centre line, or that the road hasn't been sealed yet so there's the teensiest chance that gravel could get kicked up (this is a popular one). Or, it could mean that your road has completely disappeared and you're now being detoured down into a field and back up again. !!! And the best in all of that is the road signs. Someone high up in power has a brother who owns a sign company, and let us tell you...he is rolling in it. "Warning!...Construction," "Warning! ...Curve ahead," or our personal favourites: "Warning! ...slump," and "Warning!...Event!"

All in all, we loved our time there. It was quiet. It was peaceful. We were often the only people on the road, at a stunning lookout, or at a tourist spot (except for Queenstown... what? traffic? On our roads?!). And most importantly, the country was delicous! Maybe one day they'll figure out how to plumb houses so sinks have only one tap with tepid water rather than the choice of freezing or scalding...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 34 & 35: The Home Stretch

Our last two days in the country were spent working our way back to Christchurch via the scenic route (though it could be argued that every road in New Zealand is a part of some scenic route). Here were some highlights:

The drive from Queenstown to Wanake was arguably our favourite of the whole trip. If we were to return to New Zealand, we would spend more time in Wanake and the mountains surrounding it for sure! Hikes, please!

Is this Mount Cook? 
The moment the clouds lifted and the late afternoon sun shone onto the peaks surrounding our Holliday Park. No picture, sadly; you'll just have to trust us.

The quest to see Mount Cook on our last possible day led to many over-the-shoulder glances as we drove away from the region, along with the ongoing commentary: "Maybe that's Mount Cook?" We're certain this is it...well, one of those has to be...

And finally, the spectacular goodbye New Zealand gave us from the air as we soared over her. Now that's DEFINITELY Mount Cook!  ... right?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 31-33: Top of the Lake

The view from our Air BnB!
A beautiful drive followed. We'd saved Queenstown for the end of our trip, hoping that by the time we got there it would be abundant with fall colour. And we were right! Approaching the city we followed the lake surrounded by trees in every shade from yellow to red. The town itself reminded us of Newfoundland: colourful houses stood stacked on top of each other up the steep hillside. All with a spectacular view of the water and the ring of mountains around it. (Note: we'll leave you with a teaser for now as all of our shots of the town are in video format).

Our main interest in the area was to drive out to Glenorchy and Paradise, where Top of the Lake was shot, to take in the views. Again we were battling the weather. The forecast showed rain and cloud cover for our two days there.  We awoke to a fog so thick you couldn't tell there were mountains across from us or a lake!  When they lifted slightly, we took a chance and were off. Once again, we were lucky: the weather improved over the course of the trip and by the time we were heading back, we were treated to this:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 28-30: Marlborough Sound

The view from our cabin's porch

Mitre Peak with an endangered
white heron standing guard
After our relaxing morning at Cloud 9, we packed up again and finished our drive back to the western side of the country (I can't wait to see our map of our driving route). Craig found us a great spot outside of Manapouri with views of the lake and mountains behind. We had our own little cabin, complete with a wood stove, sink, and private deck. It would prove to be a relaxing spot and the perfect launching point for our next day's adventure into Milford Sound.

We hadn't minded the rain too much on our trip so far, but this was a day when we needed the clouds to lift. The two hour drive to the sound and the following boat trip boasted some of the most stunning views in the country, and we wanted to get to see them! We were hopeful when we were treated to a lovely sunrise as we started our drive.

A striking difference between our mountains back home and those in New Zealand, particularly towards Milford Sound, is just how steep and narrow the valleys are. That said, there are also a few spots that had more than a passing similarity to home.

Along the drive we plotted where we would stop on the return trip, there was no time for stopping as we had learned to expect a deluge of construction zones on NZ roads and we had a boat to catch.

We arrived at the jetty with only a few minutes to spare and quickly jumped aboard our little boat as the motor turned over and found seats outside. Baby peered curiously from the carrier and, perhaps picking up on our excitement, didn't cry. She stayed awake long enough to see the mountainous views unfold before us at the mouth of the sound and watch the water pour down multiple waterfalls.

The next two hours were beautiful. Our pictures don't do the scenery justice. Being out on the water with forested hills hugging tightly to either side of you was oddly comforting. The degree of steepness of this saddle was a definite highlight, as was the waterfall at its lowest point. We even got an Iguazu/Niagara'esque view from directly underneath!

After the tour, we lingered a bit longer, eating our lunch looking out at the iconic Mitre Peak. Then, with time on our hands now, enjoyed a more leisurely drive back to Manapouri with the opportunity to pull-out at a few of the lovely viewspoints we saw on our way in.

Our adventure in our cabin was capped off with us running out of propane for our gas burners while the wonderful owners were away for the night (their first night off since November). We felt like true pioneers cooking our dinner and heating water for our tea on the wood stove.

Monday, April 17, 2017

NZ/Aus Day 27: At Cloud 9

For one night we decided to splurge. Staying at "Cloud 9" was practical, we told ourselves. It broke up a long driving day and gave us the chance to see the southernmost point of New Zealand, Slope Point. But really, it was its beachside location and no cleaning necessary that were the real draw. Throw in a wood fireplace to help keep the chilly autumn breeze at bay, and we were sold. Oh, and did we mention the owners habitually see little blue penguins off their back deck?!?

In the end, it felt worth every penny. They were the most comfortable beds we'd slept on all trip, and possibly in our entire lives. We actually emailed the owner to inquire about her duvet and sheets because we were dreaming about them after our stay. It was heaven to drive up, unload, then head straight out to the beach to swim in the southern ocean for the first time. We kept our meals simple so we could just enjoy the location as much as possible for the brief time we were there, indulging in both a sunset and sunrise stroll in the surf. We waited up for what felt like half the night (it might have even been as late as 9:30 pm!) to see if any little blues waddled up to our doorstep, but alas, they remain elusive.

Baby-wearing on the Beach! 

What we were fortunate enough to see were two more yellow-eyes. This time it was Craig's expert safari skills that got us the penguin sighting: those people have all been staring in the same direction for a while... let's check it out! So, no little blues for us, but again we feel so fortunate to have seen these endangered guys in such a beautiful, natural setting. Oh, and we spotted a sea lion and a dolphin from our living room, too!