Koalas, Kangaroos and Summer

Alright, so we have been in Australia now for a while.  Living life and trip planning (Dave’s mom meets us in Barcelona in about two weeks and my parents are meeting us in Italy in April) has postponed my ability to blog.  Maybe I need to make a New Year’s Resolution about blogging once a week.  I will do the best I can.

We hated to leave New Zealand, but Australia continues to be a great trip down under.  We really love it down in this part of the world.  There are very few billboards on the roads, there’s barely even any freeways until you get to major cities.  And there are no strip malls that are so prevelant in America.  Each city and town feels like you are going back in time.  The people and the vibe is very mellow.  You can’t help but to relax and enjoy your time down here.

We got to Australia via a long couple of days of travel from Christchurch, NZ.  We endured our first cancelled flight and got put up in a motel by Qantas – they made it easy with shuttles, free dinner, etc., but two days of travel takes it out of you.  We had boarded the place in Christchurch only to be told that a window had shattered in the cockpit and of course the part couldn’t get delivered and installed in time.  So it adds to our adventure.  The girls actually got to spend a few minutes looking in the cockpit and talking to the pilots, so that was cool.

Once we made it to Brisbane, we got back to summer, and I mean shorts and tank top, swimming summer.  New Zealand’s summer was more like a nice fall day in San Francisco – sunny and beautiful, but definitely pants and sweathshirts.  Took a bit to get used to the hot weather again, but I think we have managed.

Brisbane was a good stop.  We were only there a few days, but in that time we were able watch some tennis and visit a Koala Sanctuary.

Let’s start with some tennis.  Dave was very happy to find out that when we were in Brisbane, the Brisbane Invitational tournament would also be there.  I think he secretly planned this 🙂  He got tickets for a night match and we luckily were there to watch Victoria Azaranka – who went on to win the tournament – and Roger Federer, who unfortunately lost in the Finals.  The venue was the perfect size so that even though we had seats towards the top, we were actually fairly close and able to see.  This was good practice for the Australian Open coming up in Melbourne at the end of the month.


We were also lucky enough to go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  After a rough start to the morning – it’s never easy driving in a car with these girls – we made it there and stayed until it closed.  We were able to hold a koala bear, which can only be done in certain areas of Australia.  A highlight for sure.  We also fed kangaroos in an open paddock.  There were probably 50 kangaroos that we were able to just walk around, pet, feed, sit down with and take selfies 🙂  What an amazing feeling to be there with them, with no workers.  They were super relaxed and if they didn’t want to be fed or have you touch them, they just hopped away or turned their head.  Not once did we feel unsafe.  We went back twice and in the afternoon the kangaroos were just laying down and you could actually just sit with them for as long as you wanted.

By Claire – The koalas felt like wool and were heavier than I expected, but was still lighter than a bowling ball.  The koala we held was named Nivea.  We also got to feed and pet kangaroos in a free range field.  They felt silky and their face felt like velvet.  There was even a joey we got to see in its mommy’s pouch.  This was super cool and I recommend it.



From Brisbane we rented a car and traveld north to Sunshine Beach.  There are so many places to go in Australia and we can’t reach them all, so we chose to head here.  We were so happy with our choice.  It was super mellow with just a small beach town with a beautiful beach that connected to the Noosa National Park.  Loved the stairs up to the park that I took many mornings – reminded me of the Lion Street Stairs in San Francisco.  We didn’t do much here but relax and enjoy some down time.  We ventured out one day to the famous Australian Zoo, which was a highlight and deserves its own post by the girls – coming soon…..I hope.


Paddle boarding on the Noosa River on the biggest paddle board we’ve ever seen.

We have been so fortunate to meet some great people on this trip and we had some friends we met in Vietnam that live in Brisbane.  Nikki and her daughter, Phoebe, drove up for the day to meet us for lunch.  I think this is one of the best things about travel – meeting new people all over the world.  We also met a family once Dave posted a picture on facebook that said we were in the area.  My friend, Leo, messaged Dave and put us in touch with a girl who had lived with them in San Francisco for a few months this year.  We met Brittany and her parents who were kind enough to have us over for dinner while we were in Sunshine Beach.    How lucky we are!


So how is it going?  Much better than when we first got to NZ.  We have our moments.  Something still happens when you get in a car with the girls – they go at it and it isn’t pretty.  Let’s hope they get that under control before we are driving though Italy with my parents.  We take days off where we do nothing but read, watch TV, play minecraft, etc.  It’s hard not to have all of the girls “things” from home.  They are really left to a deck of cards, books, some art supplies and their devices.  And while we think that they should be able to entertain themselves for hours on end, it’s not that easy.  So, that is a balance we are always working on.

The main thing we have figured out traveling with kids for this amount of time, or really of any, is that you can’t make them be on and do something every day.  They don’t want to tour everyday, they don’t care how pretty things are every day.  They are kids.  They need down time.  So, we have learned to balance it and add days for just relaxing and doing nothing.  We like to spend more time in places so that we can do that.  We will not see everything on this trip.  A year is not long enough.  Even a month in NZ and a month in Australia was not enough to see everything.  People will be shocked when we say we didn’t see this or that, but we are okay with that.  It’s not about checking the boxes, but just experiencing this as a family.

Wow – that took on a life of its own 🙂  We have much to tell you about our time in the northern part of Australia.  We are now in Port Douglas and have been to The Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.  Hopefully some of my sidekicks will add to this blog and help me out.



Our time in New Zealand comes to an end – by Kelly


Before I delve into our travels in Australia, I do want to mention Christchurch – a cool city that is still building itself up after the devastating earthquake 4 years ago.  Like the other cities in NZ, it’s super chill and has a good vibe.  It was our last stop before we went onto Australia.  We stayed at a great hotel – The Hotel Montreal -which was a nice place to relax near Hagley Park and the Botanical Garden. Great trails to run on in the morning.    It had a kitchen, which is always a plus when traveling with kids.

We didn’t do too much in Christchurch- it was more of a relaxing time, but we did go to this great museum called the International Antarctic Centre.  Definitely worth going if you ever get to NZ.  It might be the closet you get to being in Antarctica – although now that I have been to the museum, I have to say that Antarctica might be on my bucket list.  Anyhow, I digress.

The cool thing about this museum is how interactive it is.  You get to take a ride on a Hagglund, which is the vehicle used by scientists in Antarctica to cover the rough terrain.  At the museum they take you on a ride over mounds and hills – one two stories high and into a deep lake so you can experience a little bit of what it might be like to be in Antarctica.


The other great experience is the Antarctic Storm.  Heavy coats with hoods are provided as well as covers to put on your shoes before you walk into a room that was roughly 14 degrees Farenheit to begin with.  Once the storm starts and the winds begin to blow, the temperature drops well below zero and you are experiencing what it would be like to live through a storm on Antarctica.  There was even an igloo you could run into to get out of the storm.

The museum was well done with movies showing you what a beautiful continent it is and how much work scientists are doing down there.  We even got to see the blue penguins of New Zealand, which the girls loved.


Well worth the time and will definitely make you think about making the trek down to Antarctica.  Of course to get there I have to go to New Zealand again 🙂



Holidays in New Zealand – By Kelly

Happy New Year!!! It’s crazy to think we left 19 weeks ago!  We made it through the holidays and have come out on the other side ready to go to Australia and onto Europe.  The holidays were good.  We were sad not to be home with family and friends, but we enjoyed our time in Wellington, NZ, where we spent Christmas.  We opted for a hotel – the Intercontinental – so that we knew it would be decorated for the girls.  They were even kind enough to help me get a Christmas tree in our room, which made the holidays that much more special being away from home.


And Santa found us all the way in New Zealand!!!!  Thank goodness!  Christmas Eve day we went to see Star Wars – not traditional, but a great way to spend time as a family.  Then I wrapped presents.  Never left it all til Christmas Eve, but it all worked out okay.  Being away from home, gifts were small that could be carried with us.  Christmas morning was amazing and after presents and brunch at the hotel, we walked the waterfront and went to the Te Papa Museum.  So amazing – well thought out, peaceful, pretty – so different from what I feel I experience at home.  We went to the Dreamworks exhibit, which was amazing, and also saw the star of the museum – a giant squid!  We capped off an amazing Christmas watching Sound of Music and all in all we were pretty happy and had a nice Christmas.


Walking the Wellington waterfront in new Harry Potter sweatshirts 🙂

We left Wellington and headed to the South Island – took us 3 hours on a ferry – very cool and beautiful.  Spent some times in a few cute towns – Picton, Nelson and Blenheim.  The best place we stayed was St. Leonard’s Cottage in Blenheim – a cute farm in the vineyards of Marlborough.

The girls were thrilled to be around animals again – sheep, chickens and even deer.  We stayed in the cutest cottage – the Shearer’s Cottage – that used to be where they actually sheared the sheep.  Wish we could have stayed there a month!!!

There was a grass tennis court where we spent two days playing as much as we could.  Michele and Marcus, who owned the cottages, said they had never had anyone play as much as we had.  It was a fun way to spend a couple of days.

New Year’s, however, wins the prize!  We woke up in the cute town of Blenheim in the South Island and drove about 20 minutes to Picton – the town where we landed on our ferry ride from the north to the south island.  We had an incredible day – crystal clear with calm waters.  We put on our wetsuits and got on a boat of about 15 people with Eko-tours.   We were searching for dolphins and if we found them, we would have the opportunity to swim in the wild with these amazing animals.

It took about 30 minutes for us to find a pod of dolphins.  I was a little worried – all I wanted was for the girls to at least see dolphins – swimming with them would be an added bonus that I was of course hoping for.  Once the dolphins were spotted, we had to be quick about getting in the water.  This was no ordinary dolphin encounter since we were looking for them in their wonderful, beautiful habitat of the Marlborough Sound, we were not sure how long they would hang around, if at all.  We didn’t really have time to think.  Claire went down the ladder and then I did – wanting to be in the water before the twins.  Next thing you know, you look down with snorkel masks and the dolphins are zooming underneath and around you.  It was truly amazing!!

These dolphins are native to New Zealand – Dusky Dolphins.  They are the most acrobatic dolphins in the world besides the spinner dolphin.  What a once in a lifetime experience!  Once we got out of the water, the captain and first mate were so excited for us – they said it was the best swim they had seen in 3 months!!!!  Welcome to 2016 – I was so thankful that the girls and Dave and I were able to experience this!!!   Really to experience all of this.  I sometimes can’t believe what we are doing and how lucky we are to have this opportunity.

We then spent about an hour cruising around trying to find pods to watch and we were spoiled with what we saw.  All Grace said she wanted to see were dolphins jumping out of the water and we got a show from one dolphin that jumped along the boat for a few minutes.  Plus they were swimming so close to our boat, you just had to look over and there they were.

I am amazed at the experience and so thankful it worked in our favor.


Here’s a GoPro Video. When we got in the water we were told make as much noise as possible so the dolphins would be curious and find us interesting, so excuse the annoying noises.

We have now reached Christchurch after a beautiful 5 hour drive along the coast where we stopped to see a seal colony lounging in the rocks hear Kaikoura.

Something to see since in San Francisco we are so used to seeing them on the docks at Fisherman’s Wharf.

We hate to leave the amazing country in a couple of days, but know we will return someday soon.




Balls, Birds, and Ropes-New Zealand Fun by Kelly

We have done so much in this beautiful country!  We really love it here. It is very chill and relaxed.  We are already talking about what we will do when we come back since we won’t have time to see all that we want in the South Island.  I think if we didn’t have tickets to head to Australia already, we might just stay 🙂

We aren’t always on the go even though it may seem that way with what we post.  But in between all the fun activities, we have down time just like at home.  We spend days cruising the towns we are staying in, hitting the stores and reading our books, going to the movies.  But there are amazing things to do here in New Zealand and I want to catch you up on a couple more things we did in Rotorua after the others went Zorbing.

Zorbing Video!

I actually did something I was so terrified of, but had a amazing time – I went zip lining – and it was awesome!!  We all loved it!  We did it with a company called Rotorua Canopy Tours.  This is actually the only zip lining you can do in a native forest in New Zealand.  You are jumping out of platforms and walking on bridges way above the forest floor – the tallest jump was from a 500 year old remu tree –  72feet high!!!  It was good that we were in the canopy and could only see tops of trees – couldn’t really see the bottom of the forest floor so I didn’t know how far I really had to fall.  The longest zip line we did was 721 feet long from that same tree!!

I have always been slightly terrified of ziplining for the obvious fear of falling, but this outfit was legit and I felt really safe.  So safe that by the end I was hanging upside down on my last run – of course no pics of me, but I have one of Claire.  Dave attempted upside down, but only made it about half way.  It helped that my girls were jumping off no problem and having a blast!

In addition to the zip lining, this company is also a conservation program that has been working since they opened to help save birds native to NZ that are in danger of becoming extinct.  They work to trap the rodents that are killing them off and have seen great progress in the birds and sounds they see in their forest each day.  The guides actually go with the group (10 people max) and tell you all about it as you go.  It’s very cool addition to ziplining.

Another cool thing we did was visit a place called Wingspan National Bird of Prey Center.  This is another conservation program in the area.  This one works mainly with the conservation of the New Zealand falcon.  It rehabilitates falcons as well as other birds, like owls, and when possible release them back into the wild.

We got to see the birds up close and watch an interactive flying display.  Very cool!  These falcons are the fastest birds in New Zealand.  They were beautiful to watch.



Caw Caw!!!!


We have realized that what works with us on this trip is anything having to do with animals or art.  These are the things that most interest the  girls.  This particular day we learned a lot about the falcons and what they do at Wingspan.  They put the falcons though training each day to get them strong enough to go back to the wild. What they basically do is certain Falconry techniques that have been used for thousands of years. They use a long lure with wings on the end and the trainers swing it in the air. The falcons, thinking it is a bird, follow it and try to capture it.  The trainer continues to whip the lure around and around while the falcon tries to catch it.  Eventually the trainer lets them so that they can get their “reward” – typically raw chicken.

These birds are threatened for a variety of reasons – they breed on the ground and that makes their nests with eggs and babies easy targets for those animals that prey upon them, shooting from humans, electrocution from wires, just to name a few.  It’s good for the girls to hear about this and realize that there are many different ways they can make a difference in the world once they decide what they want to pursue.

So many great things to learn here in New Zealand! Caw Caw!!!

Rangitikei Farmstay – By Claire

Hello World!

A little while ago, my family and I stayed at Rangitikei Farmstay in New Zealand.  It is a sheep farm run by Andrew and Kylie who have two daughters.  The grounds are beautiful and huge,  (did I mention huge?!?) and are filled with sheep, around 4,000 actually.  The farm has been in the family for over 100 years!!



While we were there we watched a sheering and mustering demonstration. To those who don’t know what those are, sheering means we got to see the sheep actually getting their fur taken off.  Weirdly enough, they didn’t even mind it.  It took the shearer about 3 minutes per sheep.

Mustering the sheep was really cool.  Andrew took one of his working dogs, Tek, and showed us how they round the sheep up into the pens.  Tek was awesome. It was so funny because he literally ran on top of the sheep at times trying to get them to go where he needed them to and the sheep also ran on top of each other.  I definitely recommended both. It was very entertaining to see the sheep “frolicking” about.

Mom and Dad also went shooting. Daddy was pretty good, he hit almost all of them, and mommy was… close.

Even though that was fun, my favorite part was the animals. Along with the 4,000 sheep, they have one goat, 4 working dogs (Tek, Molly, Frizz, and Clyde), 2 pet dogs (Porky and Barney), a small flock of black pet sheep that are actually Kylie’s pets, 2 ponies (Bo and Dude), 3 chickens (who don’t actually have names, but I call them Snap, Crackle and Pop), cattle, and one particular cute cow named Daisy.


I had two favorite animals – one was the brand new puppies. The puppies were born two days ago, and their mother, Frizz, is staying in a small area near our hut. The puppies are super small, and very cute!!!

My very favorite animals are…can you guess?…The horses!!! They have three horses on the farm. One is a stock horse named Charlie Brown, that Andrew uses on the farm when out with the sheep and cattle.  One is Kylie’s personal riding horse named Tussock, and the other is a Clevesland named Tucks. They are all gorgeous horses.

We got to feed the animals, collect the eggs from the chickens.  Hold the little puppies and ride the ponies.  I was a little big for the pony, but it was still a horse, so I was happy 🙂

And each night we got to roast marshmallows by this great out door fire pit.  We even got to help them decorate their Christmas tree which was awesome since we weren’t going to be home to decorate our own.


Anyway, we love it here and can’t wait for the day we can come back.