May 032011


About a week after we had arranged the date, we realised that we were moving into the house in Queenstown exactly one year to the day we flew out of Scotland.

So here’s the year in statistics :

11 countries
8 flights (9 including a scenic one)
5 ferry trips
5 train journeys
1 commercial fishing boat trip
372 non-paid days (+9 more) for Darren (i.e. not employed)
…and in NZ :
2 new house moves
12,000km around NZ’s South Island
2 mountain season passes
2 heli trips (scenic)
1 joint residency application
1 tenancy lease signed
2 bikes purchased
2 boogie boards purchased (only one used…both travelled 11,000km on the roof though!)
1 cheap $2 shop ratchet strap frayed by 3 months of UV light, holding said boogie boards
2 fishing rods purchased
1 fishing licence purchased (but only one fekin’ fish caught…in the sea, where no licence is required!…despite about 40 salmon jumping in front of me in Diamond Lake while the sandflies attacked me and Ciara laughed from the van as I walked through the bog) 
1 van bought
2 small souvenir parcels sent home that we don’t know when we’ll see them again
7 interviews
3 earthquakes felt
35 times in “The Warehouse” saying “jeez that’s bloody cheap”
32 times at home saying “god some of that stuff from The Warehouse is sh!t”
209 (ish) curses of the price of “stuff” in NZ
2 sets of skis, boots and poles purchased
1 order of firewood for the logburner next week!
1 (probably) record breaking amount of stuff stuffed in a Toyota HiAce, and still keeping it liveable in

So that’s about it!

3 months travelling around Central Asia (“the ‘Stans”), Mongolia and China, after starting off at my sister’s old place in Oman.  We landed in New Zealand at the end of July, and intend being here for quite some time longer.  We are waiting for a “Work to Residency” permit (a longer process due to Ciara not working when it was processed), and are about to move into a house in Queenstown.

NZ’s been a very interesting time, from seeing our (and more so Ciara’s) change in attitude towards wonderful Wellington, leaving there with loads of stuff not done as we “knew” we’d be back to live….but it never worked out like that.
After almost buying a few different vans we definitely made the right choice for our road trip – it’s been amazing (although we’ve never required the 4×4 really) and we’ve never once got bored of living out of a van.  We have a record amount of stuff in it now, which we’re looking forward to emptying out into a living room and being able to pack it away.

We’ve had an amazing road trip of several parts : Phase 1 before my mum arrived, Phase 2 with them, Phase 3 before we landed in Wanaka for 2 months doing a HelpX scheme in Wanaka (which was “interesting”), then Phase 4 between that, and moving back to Queenstown.

In all phases it’s been great.  We’ve not done as much walking, climbing, swimming, fishing, kiting, cycling etc that we hoped, but we’ve had a fair stab at each of them.  Everything we’ve done has been the pick of the bunch or weather – from our wonderful one day walks, to out 1hr scenic mountain flight, 1 hr scenic mountain heli (a freebie!), to swimming with dolphins and everything inbetween.


It was always going to be extremely difficult to get something skilled in Wanaka but we’ve been so lucky (we hope!) to be able to move just 1hr away (or “over the hill” as us locals say, or “Southem Wanaka” as the main tourism Wanaka guy called it!) to Queenstown.  It’s hopefully going be out near perfect balance of a small, but very busy place, although we’re 180km from the nearest city, which just happens so sit at the very Southern tip of NZ’s South Island!  We’re looking forward to our first full winter in a ski resort town.

Although our road trip is ending for now, our little trips will continue right on our doorstep and around.  There’s almost everything you can do outdoors within a few kilometres of the house, including non active things like the best wine in New Zealand being grown on our doorstep.  There’s also 2 ski resorts within 15km of the door which we hope to explore extensively between July and October.  I should be getting my stand up paddle board delivered to the house shortly.

If we can stand the cost of living, it’s going to be a great next adventure.  The cost of living will be the subject of a post soon….the price of living in “playtown” as a friend called it and the harsh realities of living in NZ’s fastest growing town.

After reading that post you may never complain about a heating bill again… doesn’t help when you are placing an order for firewood and the person on the other end asks where about in town “Oh, that’s the cold bit” she responded!

Aaaaah Queenstown, it all sounds so good.

Oh bollocks……….I just remembered I’m gonna have to start working in a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PS : The pictures in this post are the views from the lounge of the house. The top left of the 2nd picture is the top of one of the local ski resorts which is on the other side of the mountain – The Remarkables.  Time will tell whether we went against the advice of a local builder friend and got seduced by the view or not!

 Posted by at 10:39 am
Apr 202011



Apologies, I ‘borrowed’ this picture from a Queenstown council job advert….but I thought it was appropriate to the current move to Queenstown.  With a bit of luck, and the additional purchase of a “fresh tracks” pass for me, hopefully I’ll be able to do this before work sometime as well.

 Posted by at 8:06 am
Apr 202011

I’ve added another pic of house at the bottom of the Quenstown Calling post – a view of the lakeside “back” of the house, taken from the street below…..  from there you can see the massive double height window, similar up in the loft (accessible by dodgy ‘stairs’), and the baclcony with the BBQ on it  Smile

We’re all signed up and moving in on 3rd May.  We’re back in Wanaka to see Ciara’s cousin tomorrow night, and we did an amazing walk up Roys Peak today.

From there we’re heading up the West coast across the Haast pass, up to Franz and Fox glaciers and we’ll see on time after that.  We may just head back the same way, or less likely, come back over Arthur’s Pass and the long way round via Christchurch. We officially have 12 days left on the last leg of our road trip!

 Posted by at 6:51 am
Apr 202011


Its crazy. We’ve been in Wanaka for 8 weeks pretty much and only today did we manage to walk up Roy’s Peak…which was top of our list.  We were greeted with a superb view, and it may show why we love it here so much.
Lake Wanaka. At least its only 1hr from our door!

 Posted by at 2:11 am
Apr 192011


In 14 days between us we’ve had 2 interviews, 12 house viewings, 1 job acceptance, 6 hill pass crossings between Wanaka and Queenstown,2 mountain season passes bought, 1 lease acceptance and today we topped it off….
Ciara, after a mere 1 days skiing, bought her first skis and boots.  Today I bought my first pair of ski touring skis and boots, and my first skis for about (eek) 23 years.
It looks like my snowboard and ice axes may hit a ship over soon …if my mum doesn’t go demented with my packing requests first (thanks mum!)

On top of all that my 12 foot Starboard stand up paddle board I won in Wellington with a photo at a coastal cleanup should be winging its way to Queenstown in 2 weeks time! (The fact that its too big for the van can be worked out later!)

 Posted by at 7:50 am
Apr 152011


Jeez it’s been a busy couple of months for us.  I can’t believe that I’ve been so lax in blogging, yet we’ve been staying at a luxury 5 Star B&B/Lodge…with free WiFi. 

Out time there ended last week a few days prematurely due to our circumstances (more later).  It was a crazy 6 weeks there trying to give someone guidance on their business, that for many reasons wasn’t quite ready to move at the same pace as us.  At times it was frustraing, other times funny, and other times it created so much anger in us, we realised our lives were being consumed by someone else’s issues, so it was time to move on.

It was a hard call to move – we has initially wanted to stay long term, and it was a potential avenue for us to stay in Wanaka, whilst doing work we were really enjoying initially.  It looked promising for a while, but for many reasons wasn’t likely to be a viable option….a real shame as at one point we thought we could have landed onto something that would have kept us busy and satisifed for a few months.

We haven’t managed to do too much in Wanaka of the things we had hoped to, but that is slightly less of an issue now which you’ll understand soon.  Several afternoons were spent climbing, we only managed to bike in the forest on our doorstep once, I managed to do some stand up paddle boarding (and met one of the female champions…who was a right rude bugger), many swims in the lake, and was just slowly getting into the habit of a morning run.  If anywhere was going to get me up in the morning, it was Wanaka – a run along the lake and river in stunning scenery.   Ciara however didn’t find it that stunning as to get up and run Winking smile

But we have great news!!  I somehow have managed to get a full time IT job as a Software Development Manager in Queenstown (which some people have got me to refer to it as “South Wanaka”)….  If you think of NZ’s as one of the world’s adventure playgrounds, then Queenstown is the commercial heart of it all. 

The company provides photo souvenirs to attractions around the world (which includes Edinburgh Castle and Fife’s Deep Sea World) and I’ll be managing the software team that writes all their stuff (that’ll be 2 of them then).  It’s a bizarre marketplace to be so successful in, but it also combines my interest in photography…  the software transfers photo and video across wireless networks, allows people to share them online in social media an much more.

We’re still pinching ourselves – there must only be one or two other jobs like this in Queenstown, if that.

In the last 10 days, I’ve had one interview, accepted the job, we’ve left the lodge, looked at 10 apartments/houses in Queenstown, applied for one of them, been down at not managing to sneak in a trip home, bought 2 winter ski/snowboard season passes at “early bird” prices and ”planned” a couple of weeks more touring in the South Island to complete the circuit!!  PHEW!  It’s been exhausting….and I haven’t even started work yet (in one week it’ll be a year after I left my last work).

We just heard today that our dream house has been secured as well, with a move in date at the start of May.  It’s bigger than we need, but it’s pretty lush……  and has a log burner, panoramic windows, and views across the lake to die for.  We can walk to the town centre as well which is a bonus, and we’ll get fit in the process as it’s up a steep hill.  The photo at the top is the view from the living room!

We’ll have 2 ski resorts within 15km, and 2 more within 45-90 minutes.  There’s everything on our doorstep from bungy jumping, jet boating (Shotover jet less than 10km away),  parachuting, paragliding, kitesurfing, fishing, world class mountain biking, some diving, 4×4 driving, some of NZ’s best vineyards,  and amazing trekking…..its tourist prices for most of those but we’ll survive with our own toys!

For visitors, Queenstown really is in the heart of where the majority of tourists want to visit.  You can fly to Milford Sound from here (or drive), the lakes and glaciers are just around the corner or on the doorstep, and the mountains are all around.  It’s only 200km from the coast, but the lake is huge anyway.

Queenstown, adventure capital of NZ, here we come!    In the meantime, here’s some pics of our new (rental) house!  Yes, that’s a log burner….and check out that view  Smile

(in the run up to the move in date, we’re in Wanaka as a write this on a campsite by the river, we’re back to Queenstown on Sunday for Ciara’s interview for the same company, then heading towards to West Coast and glaciers for our last part of the road trip, and the last roads to cover in this South Island mission)






 Posted by at 7:04 am
Mar 242011

Hey folks, it’s been a loooong time yet again.  I know you’ll have been checking it out daily (ahem) but there’s just not been enough hours in the day. 

We arrived again in Wanaka just over 3 weeks ago and have been taking part in a ‘HelpX’ scheme working for food and accommodation.  It’s a superb place – luxury lodge, one of the top 4 or 5 in Wanaka (but that’s quite a wide price bracket), but definitely unique in town, maybe even in New Zealand.  The lodge is built in an all wood alpine chalet style, a full on eco and bio friendly house with indoor chemical free pool, outdoor spa, fruit and veg garden, and what must be some of the best views in Wanaka from the lounge and Sky level.


Anway, what have we been up to?  Well the hours have been way longer than we expected as we’ve been doing housekeeping, but also helping out with marketing and IT work. I’ve been trying to get online booking up and running for them, an in-house property management system, and getting the data out to various websites for booking.  Ciara’s been trying her hardest to formulate some kind of marketing plan for them.  I’ve spent the bulk of the last week comparing a couple of systems and we’ve just confirmed which one we’re doing, so it’s full steam ahead…or maybe a little simmer, as that’s about the pace it seems to happen here Winking smile  It has sometimes felt like we’ve not sat down until after 10/11pm as we usually end up doing the dinner as well, which is never just a straightforward stir fry.

It’s been a bit of a battle with our time – we’ve been a bit too soft and it’s felt like our life revolves around the place sometimes and we hardly escape, but it is a very interesting project for us both…..if a little frustrating at the lack of progress sometimes, but hey this isn’t the place to write about that.  It often appears hard to escape the building….there’s always stuff to do, we’re probably too soft at sticking with times to go as we have got too stuck in the ‘project’ for our own good.  We’re sure we can make a big difference, but there are too many distractions taking our focus away from what needs to be done, and we’re not really getting a decent reward for the amount of care and the endless talks we have about the place.

The host is amazingly generous with us though and we’ve probably been eating the best we’ve ever eaten in our lives!  Fresh fruit and veg, salads, venison steaks and mince, organic produce, and the best muesli and home made yoghurt ever.  The hardest thing is trying to balance the housekeeping side of things, and trying to make a difference with the business building stuff which we feel we can make a huge impact with.  We’ve had some very interesting chats with him, visited some of his friends, and taken him out climbing.  It could prove expensive for us in the long run though as we’re starting to appreciate expensive cuts of meat and fine wines (he’s a winemaker by profession).


DCRAIG_20110306_878_webThe downside about this is that although we’ve been out climbing a few times, we’ve not done as much as we’d like locally, and not had many opportunities to try and network.  The realities of getting suitable jobs for our visa is unlikely in Wanaka, and it would truly gut us to have to leave this place.  Wanaka’s slogan is “Life the way it should be”…..and it’s hard to argue with that.  You’re away from the madness of Queenstown (although only an hour away) but you have many similar activities to do, and with less commercial pressure.  There are more local, quality climbing crags here than anywhere in New Zealand, we can swim at a pebbly beach 200m from the door, run/walk/bike on lake and riverside trails from the door, mountain bike from the door to the trails in the forest up the road, fish just down the road, and loads more.  We can see the local ski hill (Treble Cone) from the window, and there are 2 other ski fields just along the road, and we’re on the edge of the Mt Aspiring National Park.  We’ve even managed to get out on some borrowed inflatable stand up paddle boards on the lake which has been great. I actually won a board like this just after we left Wellington, but we can’t get it in the van.  As we’re basing ourselves here for a while I may get it sent to me if possible though.

We’ve only had one night out on the town since arriving this time which was with a couple of American’s we met in Queenstown who came back to Wanaka.  We’ve went to the cinema once since we started to get some space, and that’s about it!

You can probably tell though.  We. Love. Wanaka.  And we don’t want to leave.
(especially just before the winter season which is 3 months away….arg, I had to miss out on early bird season passes last week).

We are going to be here for at least another three weeks, hopefully longer.  There’s been mention of a couple of things in the offing, but I doubt they are going to materialise.  I’m waiting to hear about another local job application, but there seems to be a flood of Christchurch people applying for jobs around the South Island so it’s been a very popular job and it’s an extremely rare opportunity.

The 'dungeon'The weather has been superb this week, but it’s been frustrating sitting in the lodge, watching the morning clouds burn off leaving stunning days, whilst we stay in busting a gut doing professional stuff for little reward, but hey ho, it’s a great place to be around.  We are staying in what we now call ‘the dungeon’ – its a small self contained apartment style but it’s so dark it’s been a chore getting up for the early morning exercise we keep promising.  The most active it’s been before I’m online and working has been a stroll to the beach with a coffee in hand about 8.30am.  I have been swimming daily this week just before the sun goes down, after the water has had a chance to warm up in the lake.

That was a usual waffle after a few weeks so I’ll leave it there for now.  We have our case office for our residency application, but we have to get relevant jobs for it to progress….. we’ll have to see what happens over the next few weeks.

Hope everyone is well.

 Posted by at 9:10 pm
Mar 032011

That’s us based in Wanaka again for a couple of weeks.  We are taking part in a ‘HelpX’ scheme and working in exchange for accommodation and food at Wanaka Lakehouse.  This is the first time we’ve done anything like this although we’ve talked about it for ages.  If you know about ‘WOOFing’ on organic farms, it’s similar, but not restricted to organic farms and stuff.  We have started this scheme at the top though – take a moment to check out the link and you’ll know what I mean!

We arrived yesterday and there are 4 others here helping out which has been a nice intro for us, and we sat and had a bbq with them last night.  It’s going to be an interesting two weeks – most of the time will be spent gardening and housekeeping, but will likely get involved in other aspects of running an upmarket B&B like marketing, social media etc.  The owner appears to be pretty flexible although there is loads to do.  We hope to be able to go climbing, biking etc in our downtime.  The river is out the back of the property as well so no doubt I’ll make another failed fishing attempt as well!

The place is almost like my dream house.  It’s on the edge of Wanaka, with killer views over the lake and mountains, and built in an alpine chalet style with an extremely strong emphasis on being an eco lodge.  There are luxurious features around like an indoor small swimming pool which links to the lounge area, a games room, and guests use the place like their own house.

The other HelpX’ers leave on Saturday and the place is quiet on the booking front, although a big promo is being launched today.  I’ll let you know how we get on…

 Posted by at 7:24 pm