Life in Sydney

Sydney in miniature
Darling Harbour in miniature

I think it’s finally safe to say…we’ve settled in to daily life in Sydney. We’ve lived here for 7 months now (landed on Oct 17 2014), so you might say “well yeah, of course you’ve settled in”, but here’s what the first 5 months of our time in Sydney looked like:

  • Land in Sydney and move into temp housing
  • After 2 weeks we switch temp housing
  • Pam goes to Korea for a week for work and the day after she comes back…
  • We find a permanent apartment and the day after that…
  • Nick goes back to Ottawa for 3 weeks and the day after he comes back…
  • We move into our permanent apartment, and the next weekend after that…
  • Nick and Pam go to Vegas (Pam for work), SF, and home to Ottawa for Christmas.
  • Two weeks after we get back from Ottawa we go to NZ to visit my grandma.
  • The week after that Pam goes to San Jose for work
  • A month after that Pam goes back to Korea for work

So after all of that, it really feels like we didn’t really start to put down roots here until March or April!

But, at this point, we’ve explored our neighbourhood, hung our pictures and set up our place. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while and reflecting on how to best portray life in Sydney to our family and friends back home. One of the things that I don’t think we realized until we lived here is just how ubiquitous the Harbour Bridge and Opera House are. They’re almost always in the background somewhere, and so iconic that I can’t help but take a million photos.

THE OPERA HOUSE

Fun fact: most people think that the Opera House distinctive shape is meant to evoke sails. Actually, that wasn’t the intention – the shapes are simply parts of a sphere. You can read all about the Opera House at the Wikipedia article, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Opera_House

Opera House on Australia Day with a ton of ships in the harbour
Opera House on Australia Day with a ton of ships in the harbour
on a sunny day in February
on a sunny day in February
at dusk
at dusk
at night
at night
on the ferry ride to Manly
on the ferry ride to Manly
in the background of photos
in the background of photos
before we attended a symphony show
before we attended a symphony show
up close at night
up close at night
it's so ubiquitous it even gets boring :)
it’s so ubiquitous it even gets boring 🙂
Inside the Opera House.
Inside the Opera House.
A pop up bar at the Opera House this summer.
A pop up bar at the Opera House this summer.

THE HARBOUR BRIDGE

Fun fact: the Harbour Bridge is sometimes called “the coat hanger” due to its shape, and always just called “the bridge” by Sydneysiders. You can read about the Harbour Bridge at the Wikipedia article, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Harbour_Bridge

The bridge on a run in Pyrmont.
The view from Pyrmont.
The view of the bridge from the Opera House
The view of the bridge from the Opera House
Cuties at night + bridge
Cuties at night + bridge
With a huge cruise ship in front of it
With a huge cruise ship in front of it
Said huge cruise ship passing underneath the bridge - and seemingly barely making it!
Said huge cruise ship passing underneath the bridge – and seemingly barely making it!

Here are some other photos of our day to day lives here in Sydney:

It's getting into winter - drizzly and cloudy days, good for curling up with a hot tea and a good book.
It’s getting into winter now – drizzly and cloudy days, good for curling up with a hot tea and a good book.
It's always a good day for a BBQ :)
But, it’s still always a good day for a BBQ 🙂
Art in Pyrmont - funky stuff like this is all over Sydney.
Art in Pyrmont – funky stuff like this is all over Sydney.
Fireworks - there are always fireworks.
Fireworks – there are always fireworks.
And always beautiful sunsets...#1
And always beautiful sunsets…#1
Sunset #2
Sunset #2
Sunset #3
Sunset #3
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Favourite Sydney Walks (so far)

Sydney is a stunningly beautiful place and one of the best ways that Nick and I have found to explore it has been via the many walks Sydney has to offer. We thought we would share some of our favourites!

For reference, here’s a list of the ten best coastal walks in Sydney from Concrete Playground, which we use as inspiration.

Spit Bridge to Manly Cove

A map of the Spit Bridge to Manly walk.
A map of the Spit Bridge to Manly walk.

This is our definite favourite of the walks we’ve done. It’s a decent workout (10km with some ups and downs), it’s fun (at high tide you might have to swim part of the trail near Forty Baskets beach, or take a pretty significant stairway…we opted to wade), there’s lots of friendly native wildlife (water dragons and golden orb spiders abound), it ends at Manly Cove (my favourite swimming spot – and steps away from a local brewery, 4 Pines), and taking the ferry back to Sydney is always a pleasure.

The beginning of the walk, just under the Spit Bridge.
The beginning of the walk, just under the Spit Bridge.
A tiny water dragon - we saw so many of these I stopped taking photos of them.
A tiny water dragon – we saw so many of these I stopped taking photos of them.
Interesting corn cob-like vegetation.
Interesting corn cob-like vegetation.
The walk passes by many beautiful, secluded beaches like this one.
The walk passes by many beautiful, secluded beaches like this one.
Aboriginal engravings on a section of the walk. There were several engravings enclosed within beams, including whales, a shark and other fish, a kangaroo, and human-looking footprints.
Aboriginal engravings on a section of the walk. There were several engravings enclosed within beams, including whales, a shark and other fish, a kangaroo, and human-looking footprints.
This way to Manly!
This way to Manly!
Gorgeous panoramic lookout about halfway through the walk.
Gorgeous panoramic lookout about halfway through the walk.
Happy Canadian walkers in the March sunshine :)
Happy Canadian walkers in the March sunshine 🙂
Yet another gorgeous, utterly deserted beach.
Yet another gorgeous, utterly deserted beach.
This is one of a few sections of the walk that are under water at high tide.
This is one of a few sections of the walk that are under water at high tide.
More friendly wildlife - a golden orb spider. Nick's trying to get his hand in the shot for scale, but doesn't want to get TOO close...(these spiders are harmless, just big!).
More friendly wildlife – a golden orb spider. Nick’s trying to get his hand in the shot for scale, but doesn’t want to get TOO close…(these spiders are harmless, just big!).
Rewarding ourselves with a sampler of 4 Pines beer after a fantastic 10km hike and a bit of a swim.
Rewarding ourselves with a sampler of 4 Pines beer might be the best part of this particular hike.

Bondi to Bronte (ok, Coogee)

So, technically this walk is Bondi to Coogee, but Nick and I have only made it to Bronte. We couldn’t figure out how to stay on the trail (and not walk through normal town streets) and get to Coogee from Bronte. Granted, we didn’t try very hard as it was an extremely hot day and we wanted to go for a swim in the gorgeous Bronte ocean pool.

Trail map
Trail map of Bondi to Coogee. Bondi to the Bronte Ocean Pool will take you to where it says “Waverley Cemetery”.

The Bondi-to-Coogee walk begins at the Icebergs in Bondi, which is a cool combination pool club/restaurant/bar. They bill themselves as “The Home of Winter Swimming”. From there, a cliffside path wanders along the edge of beautiful rocky cliffs looking down at the gorgeous ocean below.

The Bondi to Bronte walk is about 4km long (with some ups and downs so it can be a bit of a workout) and to hit Coogee will take you another 5km (same), which is why we opted to stay at the Bronte pool on a 30 degree day in January.

Cliffside walk.
Cliffside walk (and a patrolling surf rescue helicopter).
Looking back at Bondi Beach.
Looking back at Bondi Beach.
More gorgeous views.
More gorgeous views.
The Bronte ocean pool - amazing for swimming.
The Bronte ocean pool – amazing for swimming – where we thought the trail ended.
Super ready to dive in!
Super ready to dive in!

Manly Beach to Shelly Beach

OK, this is a totally short walk, but it’s great for strollers or if you’re not super fit, and bonus! you can hang out at gorgeous Shelly Beach and escape the Manly Beach crowds.

Map of the Manly Ferry Terminal to Shelly Beach walk.
Map of the Manly Ferry Terminal to Shelly Beach walk.

From the Manly ferry terminal, which is likely where you’ll be arriving if you are based in Sydney, it’s just a short 20 to 25 minute walk (depending on your pace and the crowd) along a lovely scenic walkway peppered with sculptures, water dragons, and amazing views (Weekend Notes has a more detailed recap).

A water dragon, just hanging out by the path from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach.
A water dragon, just hanging out by the path from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach.
Looking back along the walkway - I guess we need to go again, to get more photos!
Looking back along the walkway – I guess we need to go again, to get more photos!

Pam’s Daily Commute

I know, a bit funny to include this one, but I just love my daily commute! It’s a 15 minute walk to the office through a leafy pathway, across the Pyrmont “town square”, with a stroll beside pubs, shops, cafes, and restaurants, and finally across Darling Harbour on the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge.

I most enjoy the commute in the early morning, when I’m on my way to the gym around 6:15am. It’s so quiet and there’s almost no one else around (although there are always at least a few other people around – I mean this is Sydney, after all), and I’ve seen some lovely sunrises.

Sunrise over the leafy pathway.
Sunrise over the leafy pathway.
Crossing Darling Harbour at 6:25am on my way to spin class.
Crossing Darling Harbour at 6:25am on my way to spin class.
Westfield Tower in downtown Sydney, again on the way to spin.
Sunrise behind Westfield Tower in downtown Sydney, again on the way to spin.
The leafy pathway itself!
The leafy pathway itself – rocky cliffside, palm trees, grass, lights – I love it.

Dinner at momofuku seiōbo

Warning: this post contains a lot of photos of food! So don’t bother reading farther if that sort of thing annoys you 🙂

Momofuku, which means “lucky peach”, was started in NYC in 2004 by David Chang, as Momofuku Noodle Bar. The Noodle Bar began as a typical ramen restaurant but soon exploded in popularity when Chef Chang gave the team of cooks permission to use whatever ingredients they liked and cook however they wanted. You can read more than you ever wanted to know about Momofuku at the Wikipedia article – but suffice it to say there are now 12 Momofuku restaurants worldwide, each with a different theme or specialty, along with several “milk bars” (bakeries) in NY.

Momofuku seiōbo was the first Momofuku restaurant to open outside of New York, in 2011, right in our very own backyard (it’s about a 10 minute walk away from our apartment), and we were very excited to check it out.

We made a booking for Feb 19th, the 5th anniversary of the first night we went on a date. BTW, you can only make bookings online, and only about 3 weeks before the date…needless to say tables book up quickly!

The big night arrived and we got dressed up and headed over to the Star, the casino where seiōbo is located. The door to the restaurant is extremely well hidden, but the staff inside was extremely warm and welcoming.

The well-camouflaged door to seiōbo
The well-camouflaged door to seiōbo

There is no menu at seiōbo, you hand over your dining experience to the wonderful chefs, who serve something different every night.

Busy kitchen.
Busy kitchen.

We started our night with five “bar snacks”. Right away, we were blown away with the first standout being the little zucchini gems on top of black garlic.

Crab & chickpea; zucchini & black garlic; carrot & mullet roe snacks.
Crab & chickpea; zucchini & black garlic; carrot & mullet roe snacks.
parson's nose and roe, and a busy kitchen.
parson’s nose (aka, chicken butt) and roe, and a busy kitchen.
cep (porcini) & hazelnut
cep (porcini) & hazelnut snack
kicking it off with
the snacks were paired with a glass of mauzac (white wine)

after snacks, the meal really got started: 9 courses with the full wine pairing:

wine
wine #1 – Nick and I did not recognise a single one of the wines we had.
"scallop", in a gorgeous ravioli with combo and duck broth. this was an early favourite.
“scallop”, in a gorgeous ravioli with kombu (edible kelp) and duck broth. this was an early favourite.
wine #2 - my wine scanner app had no hope with this one.
wine #2 – my wine scanner app had no hope with this one.
kobe beef with radish and fermented black bean. another early favourite, even though by the time you were halfway through it looked rather unappetizing...
kobe beef with radish and fermented black bean. another early favourite, even though by the time you were halfway through it looked rather unappetizing…
(halfway through the course, the bean powder and beef mix together to form something that looks like wet soil...but was still delicious, and I would not have thought to pair radish and beef!)
(halfway through the course, the bean powder and beef mix together to form something that looks like wet soil…but was still delicious, and I would not have thought to pair radish and beef!)
wine #3
wine #3
marron tail with burnt apple and ajwain (an herb). my question to the server: what's marron?)
marron tail with burnt apple and ajwain (an herb). my question to the server: what’s marron?)
the server's answer to my "what's marron?"
the server’s answer to my “what’s marron?”. verdict: fishier and chewier than lobster. not my favourite.
wine #4
wine #4
john dory (a fish) with broccoli & lemon. a lovely fresh and light intermission.
john dory (a fish) with almonds, broccoli, & lemon. a lovely fresh and light intermission.
wine #5
wine #5
maitake (a mushroom) with parsley and walnut
maitake (mushroom) with parsley and walnut. another favourite.
starting to feel very stuffed...
starting to feel very stuffed…
wine #6
wine #6
duck with rye and swede (turnip/parsnip type vegetable)
duck with rye and swede (turnip/parsnip type vegetable). this was amazing, but I was getting so incredibly full by this time I was struggling to take another bite.
wine #7
wine #7
ewe's curd (aka, goat cheese), choux pastry, and rose syrup. OK, now this, I can do.
ewe’s curd (aka, goat cheese), choux pastry, and rose syrup. OK, now this, I can do.
the goat cheese inside was absolutely amazing. I could have eaten 13 courses of this.
the goat cheese inside was absolutely amazing. I could have eaten 13 courses of this.
wine #8
wine #8
on the copy of the menu they gave us, this one is called "corn, chervil, and anise". it's a bit of meringue, over top of some green ice cream (the chervil - an herb) and yellow custard (anise & corn). this dessert was not my bag. another goat's cheese cream puff instead, please!
on the copy of the menu they gave us, this one is called “corn, chervil, and anise”. it’s a bit of meringue, over top of some green ice cream (the chervil – an herb) and yellow custard (anise & corn). this dessert was not my bag. another goat’s cheese cream puff instead, please!
the ice cream and custard underneath.
the ice cream and custard underneath.
wine #9
wine #9
cherry, pistachio, and gin dessert. not bad, but the whole savory dessert thing isn't really my bag.
cherry, pistachio, and gin dessert. not bad, but the whole savory dessert thing isn’t really my bag.
these little cakes came after we thought we were finished - they were honey/beeswax/vanilla - and delicious - but I could not fit another bite in.
these little cakes came after we thought we were finished – they were honey/beeswax/vanilla – and delicious – but I could not fit another bite in.
cake detail
cake detail
Nick had a gin and tonic to finish the night off, and I had a cup of the Momofuku brand tea - which was lovely.
Nick had a gin and tonic to finish the night off, and I had a cup of the Momofuku brand tea – which was lovely.
the menu, & two packets of momofuku tea to end the night.
a souvenir menu, & two packets of momofuku tea to end the night.
...and two very satisfied humans!
…and two very satisfied (and over-full) humans!

Sydney’s Rainbow Mardi Gras

A few weeks ago, Nick and I were at our favourite local pub having a mid-day pint (as one does) and discovered brochures for something amazing: a gay & lesbian Mardi Gras! It’s effectively Sydney’s gay pride festival, stemming from protests in 1978 (homosexuality was still illegal until 1984 in New South Wales). You can read more about the history here at the Wikipedia article. Nick and I learned that Mardi Gras is Sydney’s second-biggest tourist even of the year!

The celebrations began on a Sunday with Mardi Gras fair day – a day of live music, food, and drinks. Next year we will stay for the whole day as we were having a lovely time, but we had a Chinese New Year parade to get to later in the evening.

Live music & comedy at Fair Day. Next year we will stick around - but we had a Chinese New Year parade to catch!
Live music & comedy at Fair Day. Next year we will stick around – but we had a Chinese New Year parade to catch!
Proud to support our LGBTIQ friends.
Proud to support our LGBTIQ friends, family, and coworkers.
Giant sausages abounded at Mardi Gras Fair Day.
Giant sausages abounded at Mardi Gras Fair Day.

The following weekend (actually, last night) was the parade. Nick and I were super excited for this event and it did not disappoint. The floats, costumes, and dancers were amazing.

Mer-queens!
Mer-queens!
:D
😀
Qantas' "rainbow roo" float / I prefer the "Gay380" :-)
Qantas’ “rainbow roo” float / I prefer the “Gay380” 🙂
Qantas' "rainbow roo" float / I prefer the "Gay380" :-)
Qantas’ “rainbow roo” float / I prefer the “Gay380” 🙂
Qantas' "rainbow roo" float / I prefer the "Gay380" :-)
Qantas’ “rainbow roo” float / I prefer the “Gay380” 🙂
We saw lots of amazing outfits among our fellow spectators.
We saw lots of amazing outfits among our fellow spectators.
Adonises
Adonises
Sydney lifeguards
Sydney lifeguards
The police even showed up...with their police-Porsche.
The police even showed up…with their police-Porsche.
Amazing costumes.
Amazing costumes.
All business in front...
All business in front…
...party in the back.
…party in the back.
Weapon of mass destruction.
Weapon of mass destruction.

Chinese New Year & Lunar New Year

Happy new year! Nick and I celebrated Chinese/Lunar New Year in style this year in Sydney, which seems to celebrate everything in style!

First, there were fireworks to kick off the two weeks of celebrations for the New Year. I went with some friends – Nick missed out on this one as he was stuck at home with a very bad cold.

Fireworks over the opera house to kick off the celebrations.
Fireworks over the opera house to kick off the celebrations.
Paper lantern terracotta warriors.
Paper lantern terracotta warriors.
Paper lantern terracotta warriors.
Paper lantern terracotta warriors.

However, the following week he was back to himself and we spent the day wandering around the festival in Darling Park…

A beautiful New Year's Day :)
A beautiful New Year’s Day 🙂
Gate to the festivities.
Gate to the festivities.
Nick and I rode the merry-go-round in Darling Harbour.
Nick and I rode the merry-go-round in Darling Harbour.

After riding the merry-go-around (we asked, and the woman selling tickets assured us that we can never be too old!), it was off for dinner at Din Tai Fung in downtown Sydney, a world-famous dumpling chain. They had these adorable sheep dumplings for dessert, and we couldn’t pass them up…

It's the year of the sheep, so the dumpling place we went to for dinner had these sheep dumplings filled with molten chocolate.
It’s the year of the sheep, so the dumpling place we went to for dinner had these sheep dumplings filled with molten chocolate.
Delicious, delicious sheep.
Delicious, delicious sheep.

After dinner, it was off to find a good spot for the parade – which we did, right up against the guard rails! We had a great view of all of the floats and wonderful costumes.

Dancers.
Dancers.
A sheep-shearing float.
A sheep-shearing float.
Year of the sheep meant many sheep in the parade. They were super cute and furry.
Year of the sheep meant many sheep in the parade. They were super cute and furry.
Ferocious sheep-dragon thing.
Ferocious sheep-dragon thing.

The parade ended late, so we missed the closing fireworks show in Darling Harbour (which I’m sure was spectacular!), but opted to walk around the paper lantern display in Darling Harbour. The lanterns were beautifully aglow, it was a lovely way to end the evening. Happy new year, everyone!

Paper lanterns at night in Tumbalong Park.
Paper lanterns at night in Tumbalong Park.
Paper lanterns lit up at night in Tumbalong Park.
Paper lanterns lit up at night in Tumbalong Park.

30 before 30: Final Update

Back in 2013 I shared my 30 before 30 list on this blog, separated into 2 posts of things I had done, and things I still had to do:

I turned 30 in September of 2014, and as I predicted, definitely did not achieve all of the items on my list! I did have an amazing time checking off the ones I did complete, and checked off a few other things that weren’t on the list in the meantime.

Of the items left on the “Still To Do” list in September 2013, here’s what I did manage to accomplish:

Take A Course On Wine Tasting: Nick and I attended a one-night seminar at J Lohr in San Jose and learned a lot about what makes a wine sweet vs tart, what gives it that viscous mouthfeel, and how to spot different scents (J Lohr set up about 50 wine glasses with berries, fruits, nuts, coffee, etc mixed in with the wines to help with this – so cool!)

The lineup of scent-enhanced wines.
The lineup of scent-enhanced wines.
So many glasses!
So many glasses!

Run a 5k in under 30 minutes: After posting last time that this was a goal I really just needed to suck up and check off, I started a running program and signed up for a 5k color run (that actually turned out to be a grueling 5 miles), and I’m happy to say achieved my goal!….and then promptly abandoned running 🙂

Before
Before
During
During
After...through the lens of my iPhone camera which would never be the same after this.
After…through the lens of my iPhone camera which would never be the same after this.
Colourful!
Colourful!

Visit Australia: OK, so even though I technically completed this one a month after my 30th birthday, and technically relocated to vs visited, I’m calling this a win 🙂

2014-10-16 15.41.54

So, to recap, here’s the full list, with completed items in bold. Hey, 20 out of 30 ain’t bad!

  1. Skydive (Abel Tasman, NZ, 2012)
  2. Wine tasting tour in California (Sonoma, Napa, Livermore, Paso Robles…you name it – 2012 through 2014)
  3. Visit New Zealand with my brother & sister (2011)
  4. Learn to snowboard or ski (Calabogie, 2011)
  5. Shoot a gun (Stittsville, 2011)
  6. Bungy jump (Queenstown NZ, 2010)
  7. Visit Paris (2009)
  8. Visit London (2009)
  9. Visit somewhere surprising (Tokyo, 2010)
  10. Fly first class (2010)
  11. Get a tattoo (2011)
  12. Visit Vancouver (2012)
  13. Visit Las Vegas (2010)
  14. Take a course on wine tasting (2014)
  15. Run a 5K in 30 minutes or less (2014)
  16. Visit Australia (2014)
  17. Learn to sail
  18. (Re)learn a language
  19. (Re)learn a musical instrument
  20. Stay in a presidential suite
  21. Visit Hawaii
  22. New England Road Trip
  23. Visit every continent (except Antarctica)
  24. Take a last-minute trip
  25. Lose 30 lbs
  26. Be making some progress on some sort of formal education (MBA, Bcom)
  27. The last four are goals that I am not comfortable sharing publicly, but I have achieved them! Yay!

Next up…move some of these to the 40 before 40 list! 🙂

Quick Jaunt to New Zealand

One of the first things on our Australia bucket list was to visit my grandmother in New Zealand. I am very close to my grandmother, and Nick loves her as well, so it was a pretty high priority for us to go and see her as soon as we could. That plan came together during the second-last week of January.

Just to show you how amazing my grandmother is, here’s a picture of her in her heyday as a go-go/cage dancer, after she had given birth to 4 sons:

Grandma is on the right with the big white feather headdress.
Grandma is on the right with the big white feather headdress.

And without further ado, we were off to the airport!

In the airport, looking forward to a 3 hour flight...as opposed to the 30 hour flight from Ottawa to New Zealand!
In the airport, looking forward to a 3 hour flight…as opposed to the 30 hour flight from Ottawa to New Zealand!

The first thing we did upon arriving, after settling in, was visit the bustling downtown of Oamaru, which is where my grandmother lives. Oamaru is an adorable Victorian heritage town in the South Island, about 3 hours drive south of Christchurch. It has a stunning, bright blue harbour, gorgeous buildings made from limestone (or “Oamaru stone”), and a Victorian-inspired bustling tourist industry.

Lovely Oamaru harbour. I can't get enough of the colour of the water.
Lovely Oamaru harbour. I can’t get enough of the colour of the water.
Beautiful downtown Oamaru. http://www.visitoamaru.co.nz/
Beautiful downtown Oamaru. http://www.visitoamaru.co.nz/
Interesting carvings we saw in the harbour district.
Interesting carvings we saw in the harbour district.

There’s also quite the “steampunk” presence in Oamaru – in fact they label themselves as SteamPunk World HQ. If you’re not familiar with the steampunk thing, my understanding is that it’s sort of like Victorian-era machines – more info at the Wikipedia page. Regardless, there’s a steampunk showroom, which we visited, and which has lots of machines you can play around with and climb on:

Nick's new steampunk ride :)
Nick’s new steampunk ride 🙂
Nick loading a (non-functioning) steampunk cannon.
Nick loading a (non-functioning) steampunk cannon.

During our visit, in addition to hanging out with the awesome lady who is my grandmother, we also wanted to do a bit of exploring. Given the short amount of time we had (about 5 days total), we opted for a short road trip down to the Catlins.

Road trip!! Old school (paper) GPS due to poor cell phone service in the rural areas.
Road trip!! Old school (paper) GPS due to poor cell phone service in the rural areas.
Road trip selfie!
Road trip selfie!

The Catlins are a district of NZ on the southeastern coast of the south island. They have the reputation of being isolated, wild, and beautiful, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

Florence Hill Lookout - Catlins NZ
Florence Hill Lookout – Catlins NZ – with our Jucy rental car
Tautuku Beach - Catlins, NZ
Tautuku Beach – Catlins, NZ
A random drive on a back country road - Catlins, NZ
A random drive on a back country road – Catlins, NZ
The road less travelled in the Catlins
The road less travelled in the Catlins
Curio Bay - the Catlins
Curio Bay – the Catlins
The view from our guesthouse in the Catlins...this is at breakfast.
The view from our guesthouse in the Catlins…this is at breakfast.

There are also many waterfalls – one of the key activities touted by the Catlins guide is to hike to all of these waterfalls:

A typical hike (more like a lovely forest walk) to a waterfall
A typical hike (more like a lovely forest walk) to a waterfall
Mate Falls in the Catlins
Matei Falls
Horseshoe Falls in the Catlins
Horseshoe Falls
McLean Falls
McLean Falls
Papatowai Falls
Papatowai Falls
And the most majestic of them all....Niagara Falls...yes really :)
And the most majestic of them all….Niagara Falls…yes really 🙂

The last one – Niagara Falls – must have been named by some homesick Canadian, because they are hardly a waterfall and more maybe more of an eagerly bubbling creek?

Nick and I stopped for dinner at the Niagara Falls Cafe, which calls to mind the words “touristy” and “overpriced”, but was actually really lovely, everything there is home made (I had the salmon, which they smoke in-house!).

Also, one of the daughters of the owner won Bronze, Silver, and Gold in the London 2012 Olympics, and the medals and several photos are on display in the restaurant:

London 2012
London 2012

Next up, the petrified forest at Curio Bay. This forest is 180 million years old, and incredibly historically significant as it is one of the most extensive and least disturbed petrified forests in the world.

Can you see the petrified logs?
Petrified logs

Then, we headed off to Slope Point, which is the southern-most tip of New Zealand! The South Pole is only a mere 4,803km from where we were standing in the picture below. We could certainly feel the antarctic winds!!

The walk to Slope Point is through someone's sheep pasture...typical NZ
The walk to Slope Point is through someone’s sheep pasture…typical NZ. By the way, there were no yellow markers – just a path worn through sheep poo and the grass.
Chilly but happy at Slope Point
Chilly but happy at Slope Point
Nick and another chatty tourist walking back from Slope Point
Nick and another chatty tourist walking back from Slope Point

We then went to check out “Jack’s Blowhole” (ha ha). A blowhole is basically a hole in the roof of a sea cave. Jack’s Blowhole is a 55m deep hole 200m inland from the sea, which sounds pretty cool, but in actuality the best part of this little excursion was the beautiful hike there. The blowhole itself was not very special to see.

Warning: Jack blows
Warning: Jack blows
Jack's blow hole - can't see much other than hole.
Jack’s blow hole – can’t see much other than hole.
The path to Jack's blowhole
The path to Jack’s blowhole
Along the path to Jack's blowhole
Along the path to Jack’s blowhole

And one final stop, at the Flying Gypsy, which had been recommended to us by the waiter at dinner the previous night. The Flying Gypsy is an emporium(?) of sorts, full of lots of inventions and machines cobbled together from shells, scrap wood, old toys, etc. It was a very cool place and I would definitely recommend paying the $5 for admission into the “theatre” which is more like a little maze of inventions and machines.

Gypsy Theatre
The Winding Thoughts Theatre at the Flying Gypsy

We then made our way back to Oamaru, where we had just one more day trip up our sleeves before we headed back home to Sydney. My grandmother has a ritual of sorts whenever people come to visit her. We always visit the Moeraki Boulders, the town of Moeraki for lunch, and then the ancient Maori Pā.

The boulders are perfectly round huge rocks that emerge out of the cliffside and move down towards the ocean over time on a beach near Moeraki. It’s quite amazing to see and I don’t mind making a ritual of it either.

Moeraki boulders.
Moeraki boulders.
Moeraki vista
Moeraki vista

And lunch in Moeraki is always lovely, as long as you get the fish – it’s a fishing village and the product is always fresh and perfect.

Ladies who lunch in Moeraki
Ladies who lunch in Moeraki
Lunch in Moeraki
Lunch in Moeraki

And finally, it was time to close our visit with a trip to the ancient Maori Pā, located in the hills near Moeraki. A pā is a fortified Maori settlement, usually found on a hilltop or headland. It is holy ground and one must be very respectful – no food or trash or disrespectful language is allowed on the pā, and she always gives a respectful greeting before we step onto the holy ground.

I really love visiting the pā, not just because it is truly beautiful, but also because there is amazing wildlife there – lots of birds, sea lions, dolphins, and endangered yellow penguins.

Pā vista
Pā vista
Herro penguin - you are not supposed to come this close to them, but we were standing still and he was the one who was on the path.
Herro penguin – you are not supposed to come this close to them, but we were standing still and he was the one who was on the path.
Sea lions and gorgeous blue water on the pā
Sea lions and gorgeous blue water on the pā
Grandma and Nick having a serious discussion on the pā
Grandma and Nick having a serious discussion on the pā

And with that, we dropped grandma off at home in Oamaru, and we headed to Christchurch to catch our flight back home to Oz.