On 27th November, 2019 we landed in Auckland, New Zealand with a nine-month visa (extendable by three months) and we were looking forward to Christmas with Rachel's family followed by a tour of the North and South Islands. All we had to do was relax and await the arrival of the van in mid January.
New Zealand is an amazing country and Raglan, close to where Matthew (Rachel's younger brother), Rebecca and nieces Ruby & Milla live, is a great coastal town. The house isn't too bad either...
Raglan draws in plenty of tourists and a lot of surfers and kite-surfers. The kite beach is as friendly a place as you can find - it helps that a session on the water generally ends with a cool box full of beer.
We started with a celebration of Matt's birthday and then set ourselves into work mode. Matt's new restaurant and kite-surf shop was a due to open and whilst the professional tradesmen did the refurbishments around us, we painted walls, scrubbed floors and dismantled/moved the old shop's stock and fittings. Lots of hard work, but also a chance to make new friends and catch up with old ones.
Highlights of the first few weeks included, catching up with Rebecca's sisters and taking Ruby and Milla for a weekend trip to visit grandparents Richie and Janis on their farm in Fielding - feeding the cows, visiting the cattle market, lots of baking/cooking and being entertained by more of their grandchildren.
There was also a memorial lawn bowls tournament involving far too much beer, which saw me nursing my prize (a small chilli plant) at the nightclub and getting it home safely. Not to mention, an incident where I stepped off decking into mid air, landing 5ft below in native bush.
The next thing Isobar Restaurant & Bar and Ozone NZ Kite-surf Shop was open for business, in time for Christmas and the arrival of Grandma Rita from the UK. We all settled in around the excitement of the new restaurant and the girls looking forward to Christmas Day.
Christmas Day turned out to be a beautiful summer's day - a food fest, spent with family and friends.
The fine weather continued and over the next few days, it was bbq on the beach, surfing and kite-surfing, whilst awaiting the arrival of Mark, Elena, Jude, Jack and Ollie from Scotland. After a slight hiccup with flights, Rita, all her children and grandchildren were finally in one place.
The following weeks involved far too much wine, a lot of restaurant nights, crazy times in the pool, some surfing, kite-surfing, plus ice-creams and jigsaws with Grandma, followed by more wine.
We had a great four-day trip to lake Taupo, where the nieces and nephews were seldom out of the water. Also a little camping trip with other friends, on a friend's farm at the beautiful Schnackenberg Bay.
A first for me, when I helped out with the shearing of two pet llama.
Before Mark, Elena and the boys headed back to Scotland, we all enjoyed Sound Splash, the local music. Festie wear for the character that is Ollie - rocking in his pyjamas.
Christmas and New Year had come and gone, and we waited for the NZ authorities to release the van, sneaking in a classic regatta in the Hauraki Gulf with my former colleague Charlotte on her and Richard's boat, along with Tilly the dog and a few of their friends. It was a fun weekend and we got as far north as Kawau Island, with plenty of swimming, paddle-boarding, a little snorkelling and of course some time spent relaxing and watching the classic yachts racing.
Finally, on 3rd February after a few aggravating moments, we were given the van.
Time to prep and hit the road for an NZ tour.