The Big Trip- Month Fourteen Round Up - The World on my NecklaceMuch like month thirteen, month fourteen was mostly spent in New Zealand, lying low and saving money, so there isn’t much excitement in this edition of my monthly round ups. Sorry. I promise things will start getting a lot more exciting next month with lots of new places and fun activities on the cards.

I started month fourteen in Auckland. It was my last weekend house sitting on the north shore, looking after two gorgeous kitties. My Mum and Step Dad were visiting from Tauranga and we walked around the lovely Victorian suburb of Devonport and North Head, a dormant volcano overlooking Auckland city and harbour. On the Sunday we met my Uncle for lunch at a waterside Restaurant in the Viaduct Basin. Then I was back at my Dad’s place in the city.

Auckland architecture - The World on my Necklace

It was my last week working at BR and Associates as a temp Receptionist so I had a quiet week just working and hanging out with Dad in the evenings. We headed to Matakana for the weekend for the Saturday market and to visit my Aunties and we also managed to fit in a trip out to Leigh for a local craft beer at the Leigh Sawmill Cafe, coffee in the lovely town of Warkworth, and a beer at the Matakana Pub.

With my Aunties living there as well as my Grandma before she died and my Dad for a number of years, Matakana is like home for me, one of my many homes around the world. I always love returning there, especially on Saturdays for the excellent market.

Back in Auckland for two more weeks before I was due to fly back to the US, I was hoping to get some more work through one of my Temping Agencies but unfortunately nothing came up, so I spent time writing a Guide to Auckland for the well-known Travel Blog – NOMADasaurus, working on my own blog, doing my online work for Birdy Told Me and Globetrotter Girls, and hanging out with friends as much as possible.

I also fit in a lot of walking and hiking in and around the city including two Mt Eden summit walks, hiking in the Domain and walking around Parnell and Hobson Bay. Auckland really is a beautiful city and one of the best ways to enjoy its natural beauty is by walking. I even discovered a new place that I have been wanting to visit for a while, the historic Symmonds Street Cemetery which was sprouting with early spring daffodils.

Symmonds Street Cemetery in Auckland - The World on my Necklace

Despite not making an extra two weeks worth of money temping, I ended up being thankful for the two weeks not working as I got to spend so much more time with close friends than I would have been able to had I been working. I don’t get to spend enough time with friends with my current lifestyle so I really cherish the time I do get with them.

In the middle weekend I caught the bus to Hamilton for the night, a city I lived in for three years before leaving New Zealand in 2004, and home to one of my closest friends, Ann Maree, and her lovely family.

Although I am pretty sure I don’t want kids of my own, I love hanging out with her three and over the weekend we watched her eldest, Cleo, at dance practice, rode small trains in a local park and visited a 1950’s style diner. As always, I loved my time in Hamilton.

Auckland Domain - The World on my Necklace

My last weekend in New Zealand before flying out early on a Tuesday morning, I met a blogging friend, Liz from Passport Packed, for drinks in the city, met up with my cousins at the excellent La Cigalle French market in Parnell, and had delicious craft beer at Brothers Brewery in Mt Eden with another group of friends. A great way to farewell Auckland.

After three flights and too much time in transit, I finally arrived in Denver and back into Toby’s arms. It was amazing to see him again and to be back in the US while it’s still summer – it’s so nice to be warm again!

The first half of our last week of month fourteen we spent in Denver, visiting Toby’s family and having lunch at one of the house’s we will be house sitting at, in the mountains south of the city. Then we spent the day driving to Ogden in Northern Utah via Rock Springs in Wyoming for an awesome Diner lunch. And that’s where we are now, house sitting a sweet black Lab, Lexie, and exploring the area. It’s been awesome so far.

Now onto the Stats:

Countries visited: New Zealand, USA

Places visited:

  • New Zealand: Auckland, Matakana, Hamilton
  • Colorado: Denver
  • Wyoming: Rock Springs
  • Utah: Ogden

Islands visited: No islands this month. Damn, I miss islands.

National Parks and Monuments visited: No National Parks this month either.

Best meal: The glorious flaky pastry fish pie at Matakana Farmers Market – the pie stall is the first place I head when I visit the market. I had an excellent vanilla custard filled cannoli there too. Big shout out to the vegetable pakora’s at Mukunda’s on K Road in Auckland – still the best pakora’s in the land.

Worst meal: Pho Ga from Brisbane Airport. It was completely tasteless and so disappointing.

Best craft beer: Chocolate Stout from the Sawmill Brewery in Matakana. So exciting that New Zealand is slowly but surely getting in on the craft beer trend that is thriving in the US.

Hikes:

  • North Head from Devonport 2.5 miles/4km
  • Mt Eden Summit via the Domain 5 miles/8km
  • Parnell and Hobson Bay loop 4.65 miles/7.5km
  • Willard Creek Park towards Willard Canyon 1.5 miles/2.4km

Hiking to Mt Eden Summit - The World on my Necklace

Reading: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. Wow, this book was incredibly well written and just beautiful as well as being heart-wrenchingly sad. I don’t want to give too much away but I will say it about a lighthouse keeper, who has emotional scars after the horror of World War One, that takes a remote lighthouse keeper position on a small island far off the west coast of Australia, along with his wife. After enduring some tough personal tragedies, one day a boat washes up on the island with a dead man and a tiny baby, that is very much alive. I will leave it at that. The movie is coming out soon but I highly recommend reading the book before watching it.

Watching: I completely fell head over heels in love with the Netflix show ‘Stranger Things’. Set in the 1980’s and inspired by a plethora of classic 80’s movies (including one of my favs – Stand by Me), ‘Stranger Things’ is set in small town Indiana in 1983 and follows the search for a young boy that goes missing. There is a big supernatural element to the show, the character development is extremely well done (just like the master: Stephen King) and overall, it is just fucking awesome. One of the best TV shows I have ever watched and I am crossing my fingers that they will bring out a second season. Seriously, watch this show NOW. You will thank me.

Listening to: Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood.

Highlights

Booking Flights to a dream destination

So Toby and I were originally planning on travelling to either Patagonia or India for our next big trip, but then a deal came up on Secret Flying for flights from Fort Lauderdale to Barbados then Dominica then back to Fort Lauderdale and I couldn’t resist booking it. I have wanted to go island hopping in the Caribbean for a while and Barbados and Dominica are the islands I have wanted to visit the most so it just seemed destined. So – WE ARE GOING TO THE CARIBBEAN!! We leave for Barbados on 1st December for 2 weeks then have a month in the nature paradise of Dominica. From Dominica we will probably take a ferry to one other island, either Martinique or Guadeloupe. So much excitement about this trip!

Re-visiting one of my favourite museums in the world

I love the Auckland Museum. My granddad used to take me there almost weekly when I was a kid and it holds such fond memories. But it isn’t just about the memories – it is an excellent museum and one of the most well-regarded in the southern hemisphere. There are a variety of different displays including an interactive volcano exhibit, detailed information about New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna, interesting displays about World War One and Two, a mummy (this was my favourite exhibit as a kid), a fantastic Maori and Pacific Island Culture Exhibit and a great exhibit about growing up in New Zealand. Even the building itself is beautiful – a neo-classical white monolith sitting on top of the remains of a volcano with harbour views, in the middle of one of Auckland’s oldest parks. I always love returning there.

Auckland War Memorial Museum - The World on my Necklace

Attending the Matakana Farmers Market

I am a sucker for farmers markets (I know – I am such a white girl) and have been to many around the world, but the Saturday Matakana Farmers Market will always be one of my favourites. I have talked about it before and why I love it so much but to recap, it has a great selection of stalls with delicious local food and produce, live music and a fantastic setting in Matakana Village, right by the river. Dad had told me that the pie guy wasn’t there anymore and I was gutted, luckily he was wrong and I got my favourite fish pie as well as an awesomely delicious cannoli from a vendor I haven’t seen there before. I’m looking forward to going again when I am back in New Zealand again in February/March next year.

Hanging out with friends and family

Even more so than last month, month fourteen was all about spending quality time with friends and family. Pizza and movie nights at Kurt and Eddie’s, helping Krystie sand boards to paint on and staying over for movies and dinner, hanging out with my Auntie’s in Matakana and my cousins in Auckland, drinks and dinner with friends at different places around the city, having Mum and Robbie visit me at my north shore housesit, visiting Ann Maree and family in Hamilton, and spending lots of time with Dad at home. It was all wonderful.

Reunited with Toby

Despite all the priceless time with family and friends in New Zealand, it was hard being away from this guy for seven weeks so needless to say I was ecstatic to see him again finally when I returned to the US this month. And now we have six months together before I head back to New Zealand again. I am a happy girl.

Historic 25th Street in Ogden

Our Ogden house sit has been awesome so far and one of my favourite things about this city in northern Utah is historic 25th Street in the downtown. With beautiful restored brick buildings, lots of interesting shops and so many choices of places to eat and drink, this attractive street is perfect for wandering. We plan on exploring a lot more of the restaurants during the rest of our time in the city.

Historic 25th Street in Ogden, Utah - The World on my Necklace

Drinks and dinner at our new house sit with Flip

I finally got to meet Toby’s youngest brother Flip, who lives in Salt Lake City, when he came to visit us on our second night in our Ogden house sit for dinner and drinks. We had a BBQ and then played cards and drunk beers until late. It was a lot of fun and was great to finally meet someone who is so important to Toby and who I have heard so much about. Flip was a travel blogger in the past and travels a lot for work now so it’s always great to meet another traveller.

Tubing in northern Utah

Despite being quite hung over, I really loved the two hours of tubing we did on a river east of Salt Lake City with Flip. The water was blissfully cool and it was relaxing floating down the river, admiring the towering mountains surrounding us on both sides. There were a few small rapids along the way too which were a lot of fun to tube through.

Lowlights

Bad weather in Auckland

I know that you kinda have to accept that the weather will most likely be bad when it is winter, but the constant rain and grey clouds in Auckland during my time back in New Zealand was just ridiculous. It was even worse than a winter in London (although not quite as cold). I feel like it really started messing with my mood, which was already not as bright and sunny as usual as I was missing Toby. I love going home but I am so happy that the next time I will be back will be during the New Zealand summer. Rainy, grey winters can kiss my ass.

Not getting more work in New Zealand

I was pretty bummed out that I wasn’t able to secure any more work for my last two weeks in New Zealand after my four-week Reception placement finished. The money wasn’t crucial to my budget but it would have given me a nice cushion and I will have to be a lot more careful now with my spending over the next six months. I managed to keep myself busy for the two weeks but the extra work would have been nice.

Battling Jetlag

So it definitely wasn’t as bad this time around – when I first came over to the US this year in March I suffered BAD – but it was still a bitch. I resorted to taking sleeping pills to realign my sleep cycle with my new time zone and that worked great but did leave me feeling a bit groggy the next morning when I did wake up. After a few days I stopped taking the pills and really struggled to go to sleep for a couple of nights but luckily now I am pretty much in sync although I am still sleeping in later than I would like. Someone really needs to invent a jet lag cure.

Ebook dying

Because I am a cheapskate, I have never bought a cover for my Kobo (ebook). My first one died because the screen was pushed in or scratched by something and then this month my second one died from the same reason. Such a waste of money and I felt like an idiot for making the same mistake twice. It is an expensive mistake to make when you only have a meagre budget. I just bought a new Kindle Fire and I didn’t make this mistake again – it has a lovely blue leather cover to keep it safe.

Computer Issues

My Macbook Air has been playing up for a couple of weeks now, not letting me open certain websites as well as annoying pop up ads opening whenever I clicked on a link in a website. I had tried to fix it myself following instructions online, but the problem has just been getting worse. I am planning on taking it into the Apple Store in Salt Lake City so fingers crossed that it can be fixed.

Willard Canyon in Utah - The World on my Necklace

Spending:

Total: USD$559

One of my lowest months to date due to much hibernation in New Zealand with only a small amount of travel.

Accommodation $0

No accommodation costs this month as I stayed with friends and family in Auckland, Matakana and Hamilton in New Zealand, with Toby’s family in Denver and then we started our housesit in Ogden, Utah.

Food and Drink $286

Pretty low due to the fact I was cooking most of the time in New Zealand, with Dad paying for the food shopping, and only eating out a few times to catch up with friends.

Clothing $72

  • Exercise top $13.50
  • Retro Skirt $36.50
  • Jandals (Flip Flops) $22

I hadn’t bought new clothes for a while and I definitely needed more jandals as mine had just about worn straight through. The retro skirt was an impulse buy – I love it –  and you can never get enough exercise tops, especially if you are a keen hiker like me.

Transport $38

I do not include long haul flights in my monthly totals

  • Train $2
  • Bus Auckland to Hamilton return $22
  • Flight taxes from LA to Denver $14

As I mentioned last month, I was rewarded with $400 of Southwest credit due to giving up my seat on my Denver to LA flight and taking a later one, so I booked my flight from LA to Denver with some of this credit, just having to pay taxes. Score!

Activities $0

No activity costs this month as the only real activity I did other than hiking was visiting the Auckland Museum, and I get free entry as an Auckland local.

Other $163

  • Lonely Planet PDF Guide – Caribbean $2.50
  • Toiletries $20
  • NZ Monthly Phone Plan $17
  • US Monthly Phone Plan $30
  • Book $15.50
  • Currency Change Fee $7.50
  • Kindle Fire and case $70.50

Toby walking Lexie - The World on my Necklace

What’s in store for next month:

The first week and a half of month fifteen will be house sitting in Ogden where we plan to visit the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, the Wasatch Mountains and more around the area.

My friend Sarah arrives on the 29th August then Toby leaves for a week working an event the day after that. Sarah and I will travel to my next house sit in the Pike National Forest south of Denver on the 2nd September with an overnight stop to soak in the hot springs at Glenwood Springs.

The next sit is remote and nestled in the mountains so there will be a lot of hiking, as well as soaking in the hot tub under the stars – I can’t wait!

Toby is back for a couple of days on the 6th before heading to another event, taking Sarah into Denver on the way, so I will have two nights by myself in the mountains – luckily there are two dogs and a hamster to keep me company.

Then on the 11th it is my friends Pete and Venessa’s wedding in Littleton which we are very much looking forward to attending. It is being held at a botanical gardens so fingers crossed for sunshine.

The last week of the month we will be sitting three kitties in Wheatridge, a suburb of Denver close to Arvada and Golden, two of my favourite places in Denver and both of which we plan on visiting.

We may be house sitting for pretty much the whole month but with lots of day trips planned, I think it’s going to be a pretty fun month full of adventure.

To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here

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