This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.
Also, we are living in strange and unsettling times so please make sure to check local guidelines before traveling to this destination, as I haven't updated individual posts with current travel information because this changes so often.
Month Twenty Nine was another awesome one, spent in three different countries, and involving lots of time outdoors – just how I like it.
We started the month still at our Morrison housesit for three days before moving to stay with Toby’s brother Fo for my last five nights in Colorado this year.
I ticked off a few more things from my Denver bucket list including dinner at Linger, drinks at the speakeasy Williams and Graham, ice cream from Little Man Ice cream, and hitting up a few new breweries.
We also went out to see a possible wedding venue in Genesee Park (spoiler alert: we booked it!), I did a hike in the foothills and we had an awesome Halloween weekend that included brewery hopping, karaoke, a slightly drunken brunch and a kick-ass Halloween house party. Good times.
But the best thing I did in Denver in month twenty nine – go see Arcade Fire at the Pepsi Center! More on that in the highlights below.
And then it was time to say goodbye to my guy and my American family, and jump on a procession of flights to get to Sydney, where I was staying for four days before flying back to New Zealand.
I enjoyed my time in Sydney even though the weather didn’t cooperate, hitting up a few of my favorite places from back when I used to live there, but the best part was spending time with one of my besties, Beck, and her awesome boyfriend Jonny. I love these two and we had fun eating pies and binge-watching Stranger Things Two together.
From Sydney I flew to Auckland where I only had three nights, which I used for catching up on work and hanging out with my Dad, before flying to Queenstown for a little mini adventure for my birthday.
After a night in Queenstown, I was up early to catch the bus to the Divide, meeting up with my friend Kurt in Te Anau on the way. Our plan was to hike the three day Routeburn Track but things didn’t quite turn out as planned – see lowlights below.
We did have beautiful weather for the couple of days we did hike and then we were back in Queenstown – one of my favorite cities in New Zealand.
I loved just chilling out in Queenstown and eating all the amazing food there, but I did squeeze in one adventure: hiking to the Ben Lomond Summit on my 35th birthday, and it sure was a birthday treat!
Then it was back to Auckland for a few days where I was mostly laying low, working and chilling out, although I have been walking and hiking a lot as I want to lose a bit of weight while I am in one place for longer than three minutes.
I headed across to Papamoa for three days with my brother Robbie to visit Mum for her birthday – she was stoked to see us both at the same time, the first time in a couple of years as Robbie is always on the road too as a Tour Guide.
We took her out for dinner, walked along the beach, and walked around and up the Mount – must dos for any visit home for me. And we lazed around the house a lot too. It was really nice.
Then on the last day of the month we headed back to Auckland again, where I am now.
Now onto the Stats!
Countries visited: USA, Australia, New Zealand
- Colorado: Denver
- Australia: Sydney
- New Zealand: Auckland, Queenstown, Routeburn Track, Matakana, Papamoa
Islands visited: No islands this month
National Parks and Monuments visited: Sydney Harbour National Park in Australia, Fiordland National Park in New Zealand
Best meal: A couple of stand outs this month – one from each country I was in. I loved the Kadai Paneer and garlic naan from Yak and Yeti’s in Arvada, Colorado, the spinach, cheese and corn pie from Paddy’s Pies in Mona Vale, Australia, and the panfried snapper with green salad and Dixie rice from Dixie Browns at the Mount, New Zealand.
Worst meal: I’ve had a few disappointing meals this month – from the Tempeh Burger from The Burger Shed in Sydney that nearly made me crap my pants (I think it was the super creamy coleslaw in it disagreeing with my stomach) through to the weird tasting non-dairy Horchata ice cream from Little Man Icecream in Denver, and the soggy vegetable tart I got at La Cigalle French Market in Auckland. Not the best food month ever.
Best craft beer: I really enjoyed the Apricot Sour from Dry Dock Brewing Co, Aurora – one of my go-to Colorado sours.
- Beaver Brook and Chavez Loop Trail in Genesee Park, CO 5 miles/8km
- Section of Clear Creek Trail in Wheat Ridge, Colorado 3 miles/5km return
- Balmoral Beach to Taronga Zoo – Coastal Trail in Sydney 5 miles/8km one way
- Mt Eden Summit via the Domain in Auckland, New Zealand 5 miles/8km
- Queenstown Gardens loop in Queenstown, New Zealand 1.25 miles/2km
- The Divide to Lake MacKenzie Hut with detour to Key Summit on the Routeburn Track, Fiordland, New Zealand 16 miles/25.5km return
- Ben Lomond Summit in Queenstown, New Zealand 9 miles/14.5km return
- Base and Summit tracks of Mount Maunganui in Tauranga, New Zealand 4.5 miles/7.2km
- Hobson Bay Walkway and Parnell in Auckland, New Zealand 5 miles/8km
Reading: The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World by Torre DeRoche. I have been reading Torre’s blog, Fearful Adventurer, for years now and I love her witty and self depreciating writing style. After reading her first book, Love with a Chance of Drowning, I was very eager to read The Worrier’s Guide, which sees her break up with the guy that she thought was the love of her life and lose her Dad to cancer, then meet a kooky Russian American who is completing a range of pilgrimages around the world.
The book covers Torre’s experience doing two of the pilgrimages with her, through Italy and India. It is a funny, beautiful, painful book and one of the best travel memoirs I have ever read – you should definitely check it out.
Watching: Stranger Things Two. I love Stranger Things so much, like SOOOO much. It is my favorite TV Show of all time so needless to say I was counting down the days till season two came out then binged the shit out of it when it was finally released.
Season One is still my favorite but Season Two was still so, so good. I also convinced my Dad to watch it even though he said it’s not the kind of show he is interested in. He ended up binge watching both seasons in a week.
We Found our Wedding Venue!
I am not one to mess around and I don’t like wasting time on things when I don’t need to. I looked at a few wedding venues online, saw one that really stood out to me and ticked all my boxes, Toby and I went to see it, loved it, then went home and booked it. Yep, we are getting married at Chief Hosa Lodge near Golden, Colorado on 20th September next year!
It is a historic lodge with beautiful stone work, lots of wood, multiple fireplaces, and a large balcony with mountain views. It allows us to bring our own catering in (pizza food truck!) and there is even a camping ground across the road which we want to reserve for guests on a budget.
It really is perfect for us and I am so excited to get married there! I have also already found a caterer I want to go with (once I do a tasting with them to be sure), and a dress. Who said this wedding planning thing is hard? It is coming together so easily, so far at least.
Seeing my Favorite Band Live
When I saw that my favorite band in the whole world, Arcade Fire, was going to be playing in Denver when I was there, I just had to book it. As no one wanted to go with me, I ended up paying for Toby to come.
Even though it was quite expensive on my meagre budget to pay for two tickets, it was 1000% worth it – Arcade Fire were beyond amazing live! I actually cried when they played ‘The Suburbs’ – my favorite song – because I was so overwhelmed.
I was super impressed by the sound quality, the lighting, the enthusiasm of the band – just everything. It was a dream come true for me to finally see them live and they just blew me away. It won’t be the last time. These guys (and gals) are my idols.
To make the night even better, before the show Toby and I went for dinner at Linger, a Mortuary turned Eatery with great views from the roof terrace and a menu of delicious small bites, and to Williams and Graham, a cool little Speakeasy that you enter through a book shelf. Such a great night all around.
Halloween Weekend was four days for us this year and included Halloween themed Karaoke on the Thursday night, dressing up and brewery hopping on the Friday night, the annual Chavez Halloween Bash on the Saturday night, then a hungover turned boozy brunch to celebrate Toby’s cousin Nate’s birthday on Sunday.
So much fun with friends and family, and a perfect send off from the US for me, as I flew to Sydney on actual Halloween.
Revisiting Some old Favorites in Sydney
During my four days in Sydney on the way back to New Zealand, I made sure to hit up a few of my Sydney favorites, including beach time in Mona Vale, hiking through National Park bush between Balmoral Beach and Taronga Zoo, and walking from Paddington into the city via lots of gorgeous flowering Jacaranda Trees.
Sydney is such a stunning city and even though the weather wasn’t great during this visit, it reminded me how much I love it there.
Being Back in New Zealand
It feels so amazing to be back home, especially after being exposed to all the issues in the U.S. during the past few months – from mass shootings through to their corrupt government. It makes me feel luckier than ever to be a Kiwi.
New Zealand isn’t perfect but we have got so many things right here, and it is a very progressive, safe country on a world scale. It is a particularly special time to be back, with a recently elected Prime Minister (a 37 year old woman!) who gives me a whole lot of hope that things are going to get even better for New Zealand.
I am also enjoying eating all my favorite Kiwi foods, hanging out with friends and family, and soaking up the spring sunshine.
Perfect Day on the Routeburn Track
Even though things didn’t work out so well with our attempt to hike the Routeburn Track (see lowlights below), the two days we did spend on the trail were great weather-wise, particularly the second day where we were blessed with perfect weather. Basking in the sun while we hiked was fantastic after freezing overnight, and the mountain views were spectacular.
We loved the majesty of Earland Falls, the symphony of birdsong, eating lunch by picturesque Lake Howden and the short and punishing detour to Key Summit rewarded us with even more beautiful views of the Hollyford Valley – we even got a glimpse of the sea in the distance which we were surprised to see considering how far inland we were. Such a fantastic day.
Kea Spotting in the South Island
I have only ever seen a cheeky kea once before – when I was road tripping the South Island in winter 2009. During the five days I was in the South Island this month I saw five! Keas are native to New Zealand, are the world’s only alpine parrots and are one of the smartest birds in the world.
One approached us when we were dropped off at the Divide at the beginning of the Routeburn Track, keen to steal our food, then I saw another four at the summit of Ben Lomond, also scrounging around for food (they do that a lot). They really are such beautiful and interesting birds, and it was a great birthday present to be in their presence.
Summiting Ben Lomond
I had only planned to hike to the saddle of Ben Lomond but once I reached the saddle, I was so pumped up and happy from how beautiful it had been so far that I decided to keep going the extra hour to the summit – and I was so glad that I did! The first hour and the last hour of the hike up to the summit from Queenstown were quite tough and steep, but the whole thing was just a joy.
At the summit there were keas and astounding views over the lake and the surrounding mountains, and I felt so fit and healthy for having completed it – it was definitely not an easy hike but I killed it. It is honestly one of the best day hikes I have ever done.
Enjoying Life in Queenstown
I love Queenstown, it is one of my favorite cities in New Zealand and somewhere I am hoping to live one day, so I was excited to be spending my birthday there this year with one of my best friends. I ended up spending four nights there after finishing the Routeburn Track early and it was really nice to spend time just hanging out in the city, as if I was a local.
I ate out at a lot of different restaurants, drunk at lively pubs, strolled the gardens and by the lake, worked at cafes, and sat in the sun by beautiful Lake Wakatipu. It was glorious.
Long Flights and No Sleep
Every month that I have to take a long flight across many time zones, it ends up on my lowlights list – and this month is no different. This time around I had to fly from Denver to LA to San Francisco to Sydney over about 30 hours including transit time.
I didn’t sleep and it felt like about 30 days. I really hate flying and we had a lot of turbulence which left me feeling strung out and stressed. Not fun, but it is a necessary evil with my lifestyle.
Bad Weather in Sydney
For all of you that think that Australia is always hot and sunny (aka people that haven’t actually been there), let me tell you, the weather can actually be pretty shit, and quite often. I had cloudy skies and rain every day that I was back in Sydney, although luckily not all day, which put a dampener on some of my plans. Obviously sunny skies would have been better, although I still had a fun time anyway.
Not Being Able to Complete the Routeburn Track
I just haven’t had any luck when it comes to the Routeburn Track. I first tried to do this three day hike back in November 2015, but we had to change our plans and do the Kepler Track instead due to an avalanche.
And this time around there had been late season snow a few days before we got there, causing the Department of Conservation to close the section of the track that we were meant to complete on day two.
We decided to still do the first day of the track, hoping that the track would re-open in time, but the snow was still too deep and unstable so we had to turn around and hike back after a night at Lake MacKenzie Hut. Oh well, one day I will get to do the whole track, although I won’t try to do it again in November.
Knowing that I won’t see Toby for at least two months and that I wouldn’t be back in the US for at least five made it hard to leave. I may have balled my eyes out at the airport (OK, I did) and I have had a little ache in my heart since leaving. I can’t wait to see my old guy again, hopefully early January if all goes well.
Terrible Traffic Leaving Papamoa
Due to an accident, Rob and I ended up being stuck in traffic that was barely moving for an hour and a half when we were leaving Papamoa to head back to Auckland – it was excruciatingly slow and really frustrating as I had wanted to stop in Karangahake Gorge on the way back to do a hike, but we had to go a different, and more boring, route back instead. Bummer.
I was expecting this month to be a reasonably expensive one as I had my South Island trip so this total isn’t too surprising. Next month will definitely be a cheaper one as I am mostly just going to be hanging out in Auckland, getting work done and saving money.
My paid accommodation this month consisted of two nights in a hostel dorm in Queenstown, one night in a hut on the Routeburn Track and two nights in a Queenstown Motel (which my friend Kurt covered most of the cost for).
The rest of the month I housesat in Morrison for three nights, stayed with U.S. family for five nights, two nights were spent in transit between the U.S. and Australia, four nights were spent with my friend in Sydney, and the other twelve nights I spent between my Dad’s in Auckland and my Mum’s in Papamoa
Food and Drink $541
Pretty average month in terms of food and drink costs. I was pretty good at cooking (or being cooked for) for the time housesitting and staying with friends and family, but during my time in the South Island of New Zealand I was eating (and drinking) out for three meals a day. This should definitely be lower for next month.
- Dress $14
- Singlet $17
- Taxes for flight Denver to LA $5.50 (got flight on South West points)
- Public Transport in Sydney $42
- Airport Bus in Queenstown return $16.50
- Return Flight Auckland to Queenstown $103
- Return bus from Queenstown to The Divide $110
- Gas $10.50
I don’t include International Flight costs in my Round Ups
- Two tickets to see Arcade Fire in Denver $105
I absolutely couldn’t miss seeing Arcade Fire when they played in Denver, even if that meant having to pay for Toby’s ticket to make him go with me.
- Toiletries $23
- Monthly Phone Plan $18
- Friendship Bracelet $11.50
- Kindle Books $16
- Drink bottle $4
- Gift $9
- Hair cut $25
What’s in Store for Next Month
I will most likely be spending all of month thirty in Auckland.
To be honest, next month is going to be a pretty boring one for you guys to read about, although I am really looking forward to being in one place for most of the month and actually slowing down.
I am usually really bad at slowing down as I suffer from a little thing called FOMO – it keeps me out and about doing stuff and seeing new things a lot of the time – but the last couple of weeks I have actually been embracing the quiet life so we will see if that continues.
Although I will be in Auckland for the whole month, there are a lot of cool things I want to do while I am here and I’ve got lots of friends I want to catch up with, so maybe it won’t be such a boring month after all.
To read additional Monthly Round Ups, you can find them here