Last Summer was a pretty hectic one. It started in November with Ben and I heading off on our first road trip for a while :0) We went down to the Taranaki region, which is the bit that sticks out on the west of the North Island, and really the last part of New Zealand that we haven't explored at all.
We started with a few days in New Plymouth, the highlight of which was doing some hiking on the mighty and picture perfect Mount Taranaki. Even in Summer the extinct volcano top is covered with snow and you can see the majestic peak for miles around. We camped in a gorgeous spot over-looking the sea and relaxed in the sun.
We then drove around the 'Surf Highway' exploring the wild, deserted coastline and ended up in the city of Whanganui. After that was the big adventure where we headed off on a three day canoeing trip through some of the most unspoilt rainforest in New Zealand. We hardly saw another soul the whole time and canoed by day and stayed in huts built by the side of the river by night. One night was spent alone in a Maori marae, in the middle of nowhere, which felt like a real privilege.
The whole trip was a fantastic experience, but I must admit we were pretty happy to see the guy who came to pick us up waiting on the side of the river on the end of the third day, and even happier to be driven back to civilisation for a hearty pub meal.
The next exciting even was the arrival of Ben's sister Zena, her husband, Ian and their kids; Freya and Charlie, to stay for Christmas. they had a fantastic time exploring the North Island in a campervan and we loved having them to stay. It was a fun, chaotic Christmas, with much laughter shared by all. The kids best bit seemed to be hanging out with Twpsyn (our dog). He followed them around the whole time and they all fell in love with each other :0) I think the kids loved body boarding on the beach nearly as much though!
Shortly afterwards my folks arrived and again the dog was centre of attention! It was lovely to have Mum and Dad see our new house and for us all to relax in the garden in the sunshine. One family outing was a trip to the local horse races, which is called "the trots". The horses pull their jockeys in little carts and are not allowed to run - only trot. We put on lots of one dollar bets and it seemed that Mum and Dad won every time, whilst the rest of us came away skint!
We're definitely more settled now and have made some wonderful friends. Erin and Rebecca are particularly close and have both come to live with us at various times, so we've all spent a lot of time together. Some of the fun stuff we've all been involved with include; a big music event, a trip to Auckland to visit Maree and an agricultural fair (they're a big deal over here!), where I fell in love with the piglets even though Ben wouldn't let me bring one home :0( We went to a particularly tragic festival, which despite our best efforts to have fun just couldn't live up to the 'Smoothie Summer'. Also we've taken the dog away camping a few times and have been on countless 'pack walks', with as many friends with dogs as we can muster!
Mind you, when it comes to Twp it hasn't been all fun and games. Unfortunately he's got problems with his joints (trust us to pick a defective pup!) and had to have an operation to put some pins in his knee to stop it dislocating. He may need to have the same op on his other back leg at some point, but hopefully not until we've had time to save up for it! He's still a happy, bouncy, not-so-little fella and we love him loads. He's grown into quite a handsome dog, although he does have a grumpy old man face :0)
Dotti the cat has got a bit braver and will at least occasionally walk past the dog, or will sit half way up the stairs and glare down at him whilst he whines at her. But despite Twp's best efforts they're a long way from being friends. Maybe in another year or so!
Unfortunately we received some very sad news at the beginning of the year that Ben's Dad was unwell. Ben was able to fly back to the UK for a few weeks to spend time with his Dad and the rest of his family, before Peter passed away. We are very sad to have lost him but grateful that Ben had the opportunity to say goodbye and to pass on our very happy news, which we know meant a lot to him.
Our happy news being... We're having a baby :0) So it's all change from here. She (yes, we know that "she" is a she!) is due on the 28th November 2011, which makes me six months pregnant and getting bigger by the day. We've been gradually acquiring everything we need including a bigger car so the dog has been demoted from backseat to boot travel and I've become a second-hand-baby-stuff bargain finder extraordinaire! But most importantly we've been getting used to the idea of becoming a family. Ben is very excited and now I seem to have passed through the denial and terrified stages, with the assistance of my happy hormones, am really looking forward to meeting our daughter too :0)
I've only got 12 weeks (and counting) left in work and am taking a year off. In fact I may not go back at all as my only option may be to go back full-time. But that's a long way away yet so we'll see what happens. Nancy, a good friend from work is also pregnant and we'd like to go back on a job share, but who knows.
Ben's postcard business is going brilliantly and his images are for sale virtually all over the North Island now and soon to be expanding into the South Island too. He's worked incredibly hard and it looks like it's starting to pay off. Plus he's got some geek work for a local web development company, which is great as obviously my income is going to come to an end soon.
Pikitia Postcards - New Zealand Postcards and Photography
We've got lots to look forward to, including another visit from Ceri for the Rugby World Cup next month, and we've all got tickets to go and see Wales play. Then of course we'll be caught up in the whirlwind of new parenthood, followed by the next round of visitors. So I'm sure 2012's blog updates will include plenty of photos of the little one (one of the advantages of having a photographer on hand!) and we look forward to sharing some of the highlights of the next chapter of our lives with you
Photo can be found at the following links...