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Month 103 saw me jumping all over the place between New Zealand, Australia, and the US.
I started the month with a few more nights left at my Mum’s in Papamoa where I was visiting with my brother. We squeezed in a day trip to Mount Maunganui to hike up Mauao, swim at Mount Beach, and sample beer at Mount Brewing Co. as well as watch Christmas movies and bake Christmas cookies.
On Christmas Day we headed over to Cambridge to spend the holiday with my Aunt, Uncle, cousins, and their kids and it was a really great one.
Next up I spent a couple of nights with one of my besties and her family in Hamilton and we did a great day trip to Raglan and Kawhia.
After a quick night in Auckland, I spent six nights camping in my Dad’s campervan with friends in Uretiti, a gorgeous and undeveloped stretch of white sand beach in Northland.
We rang in the New Year there with a barefoot dance party in the rain – what a way to start 2024!
I then had five nights back in Auckland and I definitely made the most of the summer weather with day trips to Piha and Rakino Island. It was a great farewell to New Zealand, until next year.
My next stop was Sydney, where I spent a couple of nights in Coogee before heading up to the Northern Beaches to visit a close friend. We also did a little two-day road trip while I was in town, visiting Gerringong, Gerroa, and Berry on the south coast of New South Wales.
My last stop of the month was Arizona. I spent two nights at a lovely Sonder hotel in Scottsdale then the last five nights of the month I was in Avondale, staying at my mother-in-law’s.
Toby and Joni arrived after a couple of nights and it was so nice to finally be reunited after more than two months apart.
Now onto the stats!
Countries Visited: New Zealand, Australia, USA – Arizona
- New Zealand: Papamoa, Mount Maunganui, Cambridge, Hamilton, Raglan, Kawhia, Warkworth, Waipu, Uretiti, Ruakaka, Mangawhai, Matakana, Auckland
- Australia: Sydney, Berry, Gerringong, Gerroa
- USA: Arizona – Scottsdale, Tempe, Avondale, Apache Junction, Tortilla Flat
National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: None this month.
Islands Visited: Rakino Island in Auckland, Woody Island in Auckland.
Best Meals: Chicken and cashew stirfry from Ruakaka Tavern in Ruakaka; Queen Margherita Pizza from Dante’s Pizzeria Napoletana in Auckland; Baja style ceviche and corn esquites from Tacoteca in Auckland; Rotisserie chicken, corn, pumpkin, creamy garlic potatoes, and cauliflower cheese from Clem’s Chicken Shop in Sydney; Buddha’s Delight salad with tofu, crispy noodles, cashews, shredded papaya and pineapple from Banana Blossom in Sydney; Cauliflower and Pecarino pie and strawberry custard tart from Milkwood Bakery in Berry; Chicken parm from Park House in Sydney; Kounaffa (baked string pastry with custard, lemon syrup, and strawberries) from Cairo Takeaway in Sydney; Pastry covered chicken chile relleno from Barrio Queen in Scottsdale; Veggie, chicken Tinga and shrimp tacos with rice and beans from Cien Agaves in Scottsdale.
Best Craft Beer: Mr Miso Chocolate Miso Imperial Stout by 8 Wired Brewery in Matakana; Pump the Jam Jam Donut Sour Ale from Modus Operandi in Sydney.
- Mauao summit track in Mount Maunganui 2 miles
- Bondi to Coogee Walk in Sydney 3.7 miles
- Coogee to Ivo Rowe Rock Pool in Sydney 2.5 miles
Watching: Goosebumps, Fool Me Once, Starstruck Season Three, Past Lives, No Hard Feelings, Saltburn.
Reading: The Block Party by Jamie Day, A Light in the Forest by Melissa Payne, Call the Canaries Home by Laura Barrow, Weyward by Emilia Hart, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.
New Posts: No new posts this month.
Christmas With Family in New Zealand
I had such a lovely Christmas, despite it being rainy on and off all day. We spent it with my cousins, Aunt, and Uncle in Cambridge – the first time I have spent Christmas with them for many years.
We used to see them a lot when I was younger so it was great to reconnect and meet my cousin’s kids. The food was amazing too.
A Perfect Day Trip to Raglan and Kawhia
I love visiting the boho surfing town of Raglan and try to visit every time I am back in New Zealand.
Me and my friend AnnMaree visited for a swim and a look around town with her two youngest kids, then we drove the crazy gravel backroad to the tiny coastal town of Kawhia to dig our own hot pool at the rugged and beautiful black sand beach.
It was a really fun day out and it was great to see the kids experience their first hot water beach.
Hanging Out With Friends in Uretiti
Uretiti is such a beautiful and peaceful place and I loved my six nights camping there with friends over the New Year.
We had lots of chilled beach time but there was definitely also some partying (it was New Year’s after all) and we did trips into Waipu, Ruakaka, and Mangawhai as well.
Swimming in a Crazy Rain Storm
We didn’t have perfect weather in Uretiti which wasn’t ideal but after a few drinks one day, a group of us decided to go down to the beach for a swim despite the rain threatening.
It ended up being a CRAZY rainstorm that completely flooded the campground, and we were swimming in the ocean the entire time. It was raining so hard I couldn’t keep my eyes open but it was a really incredible experience and so worth it.
Dancing in the Rain on New Year’s Eve
We also had intermittent rain throughout the evening on New Year’s Eve but nothing too crazy. We were camped really close to Daddy’s Bar, the LGBTQI+ section of Uretiti campground and for NYE there was a great DJ setup with lots of colorful lights.
Dancing in the rain while barefoot in the grass with a big group of friends was one of the best New Year’s Eve experiences I have ever had.
Beach Swims in New Zealand and Sydney
Summer started out slow in New Zealand but in my last three weeks in the country it was finally hot enough to swim, so I made the most of it swimming at the beach at the Mount, Raglan, Uretiti, Rakino Island, and Piha.
I also had some excellent beach swims in Sydney and Gerroa in Australia. I love swimming in the ocean!
A Fun Night Out in Eagle Bar
Eagle Bar on K Road in Auckland is my favorite bar in the world, and not just because my best friend owns it. I always say it is like gay Cheers and I love this community and all the incredible friends I have made there over the years.
I visited a few times on this NZ visit but there was one massive night in particular that has my heart. I wanted to see a few friends that I hadn’t seen much during this time back so I went to Eagle for Karaoke night.
It turned out to be a BIG night and it felt like everyone was out. I also made a new friend and sang two duets. Definitely worth the hangover the next day.
Exploring Offbeat Rakino Island in New Zealand
I like to explore a new-to-me Hauraki Gulf Island when I am in Auckland and this year it was remote Rakino Island. It is a popular spot for Kiwi boaters but the ferry is infrequent so I had to carefully time my visit.
This small offgrid island is home to around 20 people full-time with a number of baches (Kiwi holiday homes) as well. There are a couple of beautiful white sand beaches and I walked the length of the island (1.5 miles) on the gravel main road in less than 45 minutes.
I enjoyed swimming at the beach and swimming over to rocky Woody Island from Woody Bay, walking the quiet roads, and exploring the reddish sand coastline of Maori Garden Bay.
A big bonus was seeing around 15 Little Penguins floating on the water on the ferry over too!
Bondi to Coogee Walk in Sydney
One of my favorite Sydney Walks, if I am staying in the Eastern Beaches I can’t miss walking the Bondi to Coogee Walk. It was especially spectacular on this visit with the low tide exposing super clear and turquoise tidal pools.
I was also really lucky to be able to swim at MacKenzies Bay Beach. This beach only exists for a short time every couple of years when sand is washed up into this usually rocky cove.
This is the first time that I have experienced the beach and it was so beautiful! I also swam in the tidal pool at Bronte Beach and at the rock pool at Coogee. What a perfect day of beach bumming it was.
Return to Newtown – Twice
Another of my favorite places in Sydney, I used to live in Newtown way back in 2004-2005 and always try to return to this eclectic and alternative neighborhood when I’m in town.
I ended up there twice on this visit – once for dinner and once for lunch and shopping.
A Relaxed Solo Vacation in Scottsdale
My original plan was to fly into Phoenix from LA and meet Toby there but after multiple issues with our RV, Toby was delayed by about four days so I decided to book myself into the Sonder in Scottsdale for a couple of nights of relaxation before moving to my MIL’s.
I thoroughly enjoyed my massive bed, the hot tub, and wandering around Old Town Scottsdale, my favorite place in the Phoenix area.
Reuniting With My Little Family
After nearly two and a half months, I was finally reunited with Toby and our kitty Joni this month.
As much as I enjoyed being back in New Zealand and visiting friends in Sydney, it was so great to be reunited with my little family here in the U.S. and I am looking forward to our Southwest adventures.
A Day Trip to an Arizona Ghost Town
When we were looking for somewhere to go not too far from Phoenix for a fun family day trip, Goldfields Ghost Town looked like a grea option. It was a real town once and is now a tourist attraction. The shops there were actually really good and I loved all the photo ops because the setting is just stunning.
We also visited the tiny town of Tortilla Flat, a little further into the Superstition Mountains and a gorgeous drive.
Tortilla Flat is the oldest operating stagecoach town in Arizona and it is tiny, but has a fun saloon covered in dollar bills, a tiny museum, and a gift shop so it was also a great place to explore.
So. Much. Rain
Despite more sunny days this month compared to the previous month, there was still way too much rain for my liking including over the Christmas and New Year period, and a couple of days when I was in Australia.
Humidity in Sydney
Sydney was so incredibly humid during the first half of my time there, and the sleeping pod I stayed in during my time in Coogee had no airflow so it was suffocatingly hot.
I ended up having to take a middle of the night cold shower to bring my body temp down and I had trouble sleeping for a lot of my stay.
The biggest lowlight of the month was the continuing problems with our RV. Poor Toby was the one that had to deal with it and he tried leaving Denver four times when the mechanic had supposedly fixed the problem with the carburetor, only to have to turn back before barely leaving the city.
We finally thought it was fixed when he made it out of Denver only to get to Pueblo and have the issues start up again. A mechanic there turned out to be a lot more competent and the issue seems to have finally been fixed and Toby made it to Phoenix a couple o days later.
Fingers crossed this is the end of our problems with the RV, at least for a couple of months.
I don’t include international flights in my recaps. Some of my costs are shared with Toby.
Not too bad this month although I didn’t have any big expenses other than some splurge hotels and a larger-than-average food and drink cost.
My eleven nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of six nights camping at Uretiti, two nights in a pod at a hostel in Sydney, one night at a hotel in Gerringong, and two nights at a hotel in Scottsdale.
My 20 nights of unpaid accommodation for the month consisted of three nights at my Mum’s in Papamoa, two nights at a friend’s place in Hamilton, one night at a friend’s place in Auckland, five nights at my brother’s in Auckland, four nights at a friend’s place in Sydney, and five nights at my MIL’s in Avondale.
Food and Drink $1036.50
More than I thought it would be this month but I was all over the place and didn’t do a lot of cooking. I also seem to have picked up a cocktail habit in the last year.
- Kitty socks $10.50
- Mexican blouse $28.50
- Gas $79
- Uber from Sydney Aiport to Coogee $29.50
- Return ferry to Rakino Island from downtown Auckland $41
- Public transport in Sydney $20
- Flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix $5.50 (booked on points)
- Uber from Phoenix Airport to Scottsdale $45
- U.S. Phone plan $35
- Spotify $12
- Toiletries $100
- Gifts $105
- Twinkle lights $3
- Camp shower $2.50
- Luggage storage $7
- Cactus earrings $11
- Shopping bag $10
- Going yearly premium membership $25
- Gemstone bracelet $10.50
Website Costs $12
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
Van/RV Costs $42.50
- RV and van insurance for the month $42.50
What’s in Store for Next Month
The next month will see me traveling through the Southwest including southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and Texas in our RV with Toby and Joni.
I’m looking forward to returning to Tucson and Austin, visiting some new to me National Monuments and National Parks, soaking in some wilderness hot springs, and doing some desert hikes.
To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here