There are so many things we weren't able to include in our blog about our time here. We thought we would close this adventure with our top 25 favorite pictures. Enjoy.
By Liz (Deep thoughts on the last day of our time in New Zealand.)
We have gotten used to moving. The first year of our marriage we moved from Missouri to California and worked as interns in a church Jared’s brother Matt helped start. After that our relocating was due to Jared’s medical school and training. Four years in Columbia, Missouri for medical school (where Elias was born), four years in Ann Arbor, Michigan for residency (where Cohen was born) and one year there while Jared worked as an ER attending physician. Next we had our first stint in New Zealand. That was 2012, Elias was five and Cohen was two years old. We were excited to move closer to family after that, so in 2014 we moved to Louisville, Kentucky. In late January of 2017 we moved back to New Zealand for another three month stint. The only reason I share all this is because there is something about packing up, saying goodbye, and starting over that can get almost addictive.
There are so many emotions involved, as many of you know. It’s terribly hard to say goodbye to friends that have been like family and become your community for that season. It’s challenging and overwhelming to pack up a house and wonder how possessions accumulated so easily and quickly. (Jared always claims to want to give everything away as he loads and unloads another truck with our things.) At the same time I enjoy looking for a new place to live and thinking about décor and learning about a new part of the world. The more we move, the more I realize there are amazing people all over.
It’s freeing to not commit to things because I know I’m leaving soon. It deepens the relationships between the four of us in our family because we experience all these changes and challenges together. (I know we also miss out on what it’s like to live in the same town with friends and forge relationships built on decades spent together.)
We all have different preferences and priorities in life. My parents for instance still live in the house they built when they were first married and that I grew up in. They have lived in that same spot for almost fifty years! Needless to say they think we are crazy and don’t understand why we enjoy continuing to uproot our lives. Adventure and exploring seem to be a part of the way Jared and I both operate.
The danger in all this is, it’s so easy to look forward to the next thing and miss the present. It’s easy to focus on the downfalls of that house, the hurt feelings that happened in that place, the restlessness I felt there, and look to the next phase to make me feel better or think I will be happier moving here or living there. I am reminded again and again that Jesus alone can satisfy my heart and give me meaning and purpose.
I see it played out in a familiar way through my kids. They earn an allowance and have learned to save and give, but of course love spending. They just need that one more Lego mini-figure to make their life complete. Days, or sometimes hours after receiving and playing with it, they are telling me about the next great thing they need. I roll my eyes at them and tell them to be content and enjoy what they have. How often I fail to hear my own advice?
I have been working through a Bible study on my own while in New Zealand these last couple months. It has once again opened my eyes to how I try to fill my heart cravings in ways that don’t satisfy. The study is called No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. I highly recommend it. We are easily deceived by thinking just one more thing , person, craving etc. will bring true joy. We have lived in 11 different homes during our 14 year marriage. All of them have led to various challenges and adventures, both inside our family and with people whom we had the pleasure to do life with during that period. But none of those experiences, adventures, or friendships has completely satisfied the deep cravings in my heart.
One of my favorite verses I worked through in the study is Psalm 146:5-6. The message is simple but profound. “Joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” Jesus loves us so much and gave up his life so that we can live and enjoy him forever! He created each of us and calls us by name. He gave us our talents and weaknesses. He directs our steps and delights in the details of our lives! He has designed each of us for something special that will bring glory to His name. He is our helper and friend. He will not hurt our feelings, or lose His temper with us, or speak harshly; he calls us beloved. Turn to Him, look to Him, abide in Him and He will fill your heart with a peace and joy that cannot be taken away no matter your circumstances or where you live! You can safely place and find your contentment in Him.
I have to daily remind myself of this truth when I find myself unsatisfied by the things and the people in this world. If my hope and joy are found in Jesus and who He claimed to be and the incredible love He freely gives me, then it won’t matter if I live on the beaches of New Zealand, or in a pretty cardboard box on the side of the road. I can still experience true joy and find contentment.
Guess who it is again? Yep, it's Elias. I'm here today to talk to you about volcanic activity in our area in New Zealand. We have visited three major geothermal areas close by. Craters of the Moon in Taupo, the Waimangu Volcanic Valley outside Rotorua, and The Buried Village in Rotorua.
My favorite part is that these places have big craters and steam vents. A steam vent is when there is water underground that is heated by magma deeper underground. The steam gets trapped and builds up pressure underground. Then it finds a way to burst through rocks and comes out hissing and sometimes shoots up pretty high. You can see lots of steam in these photos. It's so thick it starts to look like smoke. There were signs posted around to not get too close because the steam can cause burns. While we were at the Volcanic Valley, one tourist didn't pay attention to the barriers and slipped in the mud and received really bad burns on his leg! I like to read all the signs we pass, including caution signs. My mom says I pay better attention than she does.
One of the streams we passed in the Volcanic Valley was so hot it was boiling and there was a lot of steam coming off it. In some places we had to walk on a boardwalk. We also saw boiling and bubbling mud pools. Craters were formed when steam made the ground unstable and it caved in, NOT by asteroids like on the moon.
In 1886 Mt. Tarawera erupted and destroyed nearby villages and buried a town called Te Wairoa about 5 kilometers away in 10-15 feet of hot heavy ash and mud. It destroyed a beautiful natural wonder called the Pink and White terraces. There were formed by geothermal silica build up. We visited some of the original buildings that had been buried for decades. Over 100 people died in the eruption. Although volcanoes and geysers can be awesome, they are also extremely dangerous so we have to be careful and respect them.
Tararua Peaks Traverse, New Zealand (translations and unit conversions for American readers provided)
I’m a subscriber to Backpacker Magazine, and generally, I’m a fan. But every now and then, I think they understate things a bit. When I found the description of the Tararua Peaks Traverse last October, it said “the exposure is not for the faint-hearted, and the area is plagued by bad weather.” That seems generous, considering the summit ridge has thousand foot drop-offs either side and it only sees about a hundred days of clear weather each year. So of course I texted Tony and we started making plans. Apparently poor judgment runs in the More genes, as his brother Richard was keen (willing) to join us. This would be Richard’s first, and potentially last, backpacking trip.
The trail is located just north of Wellington in Otaki (also home to the Icebreaker outlet, currently featuring a hooded full body merino wool onesy for $125). It is about a five hour drive from our home in Rotorua to Wellington where we stayed at Rich’s house the night before we began. Final gear sorting was completed, dinner plates were cleaned, and we were off to bed early. Next morning we packed our backpacks, and drove to the trailhead.
The trip is a loop, starting and ending at Otaki Forks. We left the ute in the car park (parked the pickup in the parking lot), shouldered our packs, and were off. Crossing over the Otaki River is via a long, and rather high, swing bridge. We walked through native bush for about four hours, then a lunch break at Waiteweawea Hut. After lunch the real ascent began. Emerging from the tree line we had a grand view of about a 50 meters (165 ft). Every now and again we got a little break in the clouds to see the ridges, but mostly we could only see the next peak ahead. That was for the better, though, because if we could have seen how far we really had to go, it would have been a bit demoralizing. As it was, we just kept ticking off of the distance and elevation, one peak at a time. Just a short six hours later, we reached Anderson Memorial Hut, and not a minute too soon, as I had about all I could take by that time. We had covered about 19 kilometers (12 miles) and were at 1140m (3740ft) above sea level, but had racked up 1900m (6200ft) of total elevation gain. Anderson is my new favorite hut, well tucked into the surrounding hills, sheltered from winds, with just six bunks and a wood burning stove. Curiously, an abandoned pair of boots were left at the door; makes you wonder what happened to that guy. Warm, dry, and finally off our feet, we tucked into dinner and were then quickly in bed for a restless night of sleep.
According the topographic map, the next day was a little shorter, and we had done the big climb the day before, so we expected a cruisy day on the ridgeline. We were so wrong. The topo didn’t really convey the extent of the up and down we faced. The exposure on the ridgeline certainly lived up to the hype, as we spent most of the day on a trail (loosely defined) that was six inches wide with a drop off of hundreds of meters to right or left, or sometime both sides at the same time. There were a few sections with fixed chains to hold onto so as not to fall off. Most of the trail would forgive one misstep , but not two in a row. Aside from just the distance and elevation, there is another level of fatigue that develops, both physically and mentally, from making sure that every step is a stable one. We had another little break in the clouds, just enough to snap some pictures, and then within minutes were being rained on, sideways. We reached the lunch hut, Maungahuka, and warmed up over sizzling sausages. We were wet and cold, but happily sheltered and fed. I even found an abandoned fleece blanket and wrapped up for a five minute little snooze.
I would have been more than happy to stay there, but our day was only half done. An hour after leaving the hut we reached the bottom of a ladder. Not a regular ladder, a 40 meter (130 ft) steel ladder going up a vertical slot between two rocky outcroppings. A little terrifying, but sturdy enough, and certainly memorable. Surviving that, we scrambled our way up and down for another four hours, then stumbled over one last ridge into Kime hut. While Anderson Memorial Hut was small, protected and warm, Kime was big, drafty and cold. But it was dry and empty, so a welcome refuge nonetheless. Once again Tony whipped up dinner, then I passed out in my sleeping bag, having laid down “just to warm up”. Day two’s totals were 16km (10 miles) and 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) of total elevation gain.
After a drafty night listening to the wind howl and sleeping a little, we ate a hot breakfast and reluctantly put our wet clothes and boots back on. The wind continued to blow at about 100 kph (60mph) as we struggled to stay upright while walking. Gradually the winds died down as we began our long descent off the tops and toward the valley. And after two days in limited visibility and near continuous cloud cover, we finally got the views we had been hoping for: ridges, valleys, streams, and in the distance the Tasman Sea. Our last lunch was at Field Hut, built by hand in 1924 by Joe Gibbs, who was apparently about as tough a man as you could find. Another couple of knee hammering downhill hours and we were finally back at Otaki Forks.
All totaled we did 48 km (30 miles) and 4,656 m (15,275 ft) of elevation gain in three days. Rich’s feet still have yet to recover, and my left knee may never quite be the same. Tony was limping a little at the end, but somehow seemed otherwise unscathed despite carrying an enormously heavy pack. I can’t remember a more demanding walk than this, and for Rich to do it as his first ever, without a hint of complaining, is admirable. I promise to make the next one easier, mate.
Is this thing on? Good. Hi, my name is Elias and I am going to tell you about what we did on Friday! We went to Dive Tatapouri along the east coast close to Gisborne. At Dive Tatapouri we saw wild stingrays and Kingfish! Our tour guides, Mike and Alex, gave us all waders and the adults bamboo walking sicks (but not the kids.) Next, we all walked about 50 meters (150 feet) out on the shallow reef. the water was about up a little higher than my knees. Soon, there were about 5 stingrays and 10 kingfish swimming around our legs! it was the coolest. We saw two kinds of stingrays: the eagle ray (about 3 feet across) and the short tail ray (about 5-6 feet across). They still have their barbs, but they won't use them unless they feel threatened. Since we had food and they were used to people it was pretty safe, but still a little scary. I tried to feed a short tail that swam up on my feet, but a greedy kingfish named Jerry snuck in and nipped the food away!
I took the photos myself, and that's my hand in the video petting the huge short tail ray!
(Sorry this is belated. It has taken awhile to figure out how to post videos. I wrote this on Vday.)
Enjoy our first video from New Zealand! Jared worked at 1p today so we headed to the Redwood forest for a little family Valentine's Day celebration in the morning. It was an overcast day and felt mysterious under the cover of the towering trees and lush ferns. It smells so rich and good in the forest. We packed up some plum scones I baked earlier this morning and filled a thermos with hot tea. We hiked on a short trail and took a break at a picnic table where we enjoyed morning tea. (I love hot tea and baked goods so this was a huge treat for me.) The cicadas are super loud, so enjoy the sounds of the forest. We are alive and well!
Last weekend we packed up and drove to one of our favorite places on Earth, Taupo. We lived and worked there for six months at the end of 2012. It was the first place we lived in New Zealand and is home to a great many memories. It is also home to some of our greatest friends.
Our first stop was to meet Tony More, my “best mate” here in NZ. We took his boat out to a spot on the Waikato river for some waterskiing and a ride on “the biscuit” with Liz and Elias. We tied up the boat at the river edge, and Tony guided us up a stream of warm water, through suck-in-your-gut narrow rock walls, finally arriving at a waterfall of thermal hot water. This was one of the most incredible, unspoiled true Kiwi natural wonders we’ve seen. Liz and I are pretty sure Tony is trying to convince us to move back to Taupo.
After dinner (which is always spectacular) with Lou and Rich Russell, Tony and I drove down to Turangi, a tiny town built around trout fishing. We met up with five of Tony’s friends at a holiday park for a catfish spearfishing event. I’d never been spearfishing before, so I didn’t really now what to expect, but I knew enough to have low expectations of myself. We were up early the next morning for the orientation meeting, and it was clear that I was in a bit over my depth. Some of these guys (and ladies) were obviously serious about their spearfishing. I was using borrowed fins, mask, and a rainbow-sparkly kids snorkel.
Before you can actually think about spearing a fish, you have to figure out how to snorkel and dive. We cruised our boat to a location that was about twelve feet deep. Diving below about six feet put serious pressure on my ears, which took about an hour to final equalize. After that I could pretty comfortably dive down to look for fish, but only saw a couple and didn’t spear any. But I got some cool underwater video (thanks GoPro!). Altogether our group got about thirty-five fish, which was up from the total of six from last year, so we felt pretty good about that. Until we went to the weigh-in and a young lady who said it was her first time showed up with 101 fish by herself. So yeah, low expectations were appropriate. Still, a sunny warm day in a crystal clear lake with a fun group of guys wasn’t the worst way to spend a Saturday.
While I was out pretending to spearfish, Liz and the boys spent the day catching up with old friends. She met up at the lakefront with the Russells, Goddards, and the Meikles. I met back up with them at Tony and Jo More’s for dinner. Elias and Cohen played with Matt and Dan More and George and James Russell, until Dan got smashed somehow on the trampoline, resulting in a broken distal radius and ulna. A quick trip to the Taupo ED, and Dan was back shortly with a cool new splint.
Next day we went to one of our favorite spots on Lake Taupo. It’s a short little hike to Whakamoenga point, a rocky outcropping with spectacular views toward the mountains. Despite the cold waters, Liz was determined to have a swim, and Elias was excited to snorkel a bit. We spent the rest of that afternoon with Graeme and Susan Smith. Their middle daughter Grace is Elias’s age and they have kept in contact via skype over the years. Their youngest is Calvin, who is Cohen’s age. They were all fast friends, as if they had never been apart. Graeme has gotten into leather works, and had my birthday present waiting for me: a Smith Brothers original designed leather jacket that Liz ordered for my several month ago. I feel like I’m ready for a bar fight now.
I had to head back to Rotorua so I could be at work early the next morning. Liz and the boys stayed another night at More’s. We were all exhausted by the end of the weekend, but it was great to catch up with old friends making new memories.
We wasted no time in shaking off the winter blues of Louisville, Kentucky by going to the beach two days after arrival here in Rotorua. Our nearest sea coast is just an hour north in Tauranga, so last Monday we took the short drive up for a day in the sun!
We went to the beaches of Mount Manganui, just outside Tauranga. It was a public holiday, so it was more crowded than we’ve ever seen it there. Still, we had plenty of space to play. The weather couldn’t have been better. Clear skies, low wind, and warm-ish water temps.
It’s funny remembering how small Cohen was when we were here four years ago. The first time we took him to the beach he didn’t want to stand on his own because the sand felt weird. Now he absolutely loves digging in the sand and charges straight out into the water. Check out our turtle sand sculpture and buried children.
Also, next day we saw a hedgehog wandering through the yard. He was super cute and the boys loved following him around and even got to touch him. Turns out they’re nocturnal and if you see them in the day they’re probably sick. So, maybe touching the ill and dying creature wasn’t the best idea…
Rotorua, New Zealand is famous for a few things. One is its notorius sulfur smell that comes from the many volcanic steam vents scattered around the town. Fortunately, we live on the “non-stinky” side of the lake, so we only really notice it when we go to the city center. Another is the redwood forest.
The forest was planted about a hundred years ago as a test lot for commercial forestry. The idea was to plant a bunch of different species of tree and see which grew best for harvesting and export. It turns out the trees which would normally take forty years to mature will do so in only twenty because of the rich volcanic soil. One of the test species was the redwood. They weren’t the best commercial trees for harvesting, but as a unique forest, it became more valuable as a tourist attraction. Today the forest is home to six walking trails ranging from two to thirty-four kilometers in length. Perhaps even more famous are the hundreds of kilometers of world-class mountain bike trails. Since we don’t have bikes (yet), we went for a hike.
We chose the Pohuturoa Track, which is a 7.5 km (4.7 mile) loop. The weather was perfect, just shy of hot in the sunshine, and refreshingly cool in the shade. We started in the redwood forest, then climbed up onto the adjacent hills overlooking the city and lake below. As you’ll see in the pictures, some of the redwoods are truly massive. The four of us tried to hold hands and wrap our arms around one, but barely made it over halfway. Many are well over two hundred feet in height.
We’ve been to the Redwoods a couple of times previously, and it’s become our tradition to build a fairy house at the base of a tree. We try to find them again when we visit the next time. I think this tradition came to us from the Palmbos family, good friends from our Michigan days.
Cohen somehow managed to get a cicada onto his walking stick that hitchhiked for about a mile before finally falling off. Cohen was very proud.
We passed a shallow pond completely covered in tiny green leaves. The covering was so thick that it looks as if you could walk straight out onto it. When we stirred up the water, something began moving just beneath the surface, creating eerie ripples and splashes that you can see on the video below. If anyone knows what this is, please let us know in the comments. (We might need to load it on FB, not sure we can load it here. Stay tuned...) We weren’t sure if it was fish or insects or eels or tiny Loch Ness creatures.
The boys did really well on the walk; we finished in about three hours, including a stop for lunch and fairy house construction. I’d say surprisingly well, but in truth they have always been strong hikers for their age, I think. They make me optimistic that we can take on some even bigger challenges once we’re all a little more fit.
*Disclaimer: Yes, we are all wearing sun huts. While this is acceptable and even cute on children and women, it is undeniably dorky on a grown man. However, I cite New Zealand’s world leading rates of melanoma due to the intense UV rays as justification for the somewhat ridiculous hat. I’m going to wear it proud and let everyone else deal with it. So there.
It feels different coming to New Zealand this time. Partly because we've actually been before so it's not all unknown, but we also have friends we have kept in touch with and cannot wait to see again. I am very relational (this is Liz writing) which you know if we've met before:) Knowing we have friends here takes away many hesitations that a huge trip like this can sometimes bring.
The first kindness we experienced came in an unexpected place, a taxicab. We strode up to the first cab in line outside the Auckland airport. Our instructions were to take a cab to an short interview Jared needed to attend, have the cab driver wait, and then proceed to our hotel. The slightly awkward part of this is that the boys and I waited in the taxicab during Jared's 15 minute interview. The driver was kind right away and we found out he is from India. We chatted a little and discovered he has two kids and recently travelled to India to attend his brother's wedding. I commented how much Jared and I like Indian food. He quickly pulled out some homemade treats he had brought with him from India. The boys and I all accepted one and then he proceeded to put the bag with the rest of them in my protesting hands. I gratefully accepted. He then asked me if I would like a cup of hot tea. (One of the things I love so much about NZ is all the hot tea drinking.) I curiously said "sure" wondering where he would produce hot tea in the midst of a parked taxicab. He walked around to the truck and pulled a large thermos out of the back. The only cup he had to offer was his own thermos cup and I felt like I was in too deep to refuse at that point. He shared with me one of the most delicious cups of authentic chai tea I have ever had. He told me how his wife prepares it with boiled milk and ground up cardamon and other spices I can't remember. It was piping hot. Jared was baffled when he arrived back at the car with me drinking a cup of tea. I shared it with him.
When the driver (his English name is Singh) dropped us at the hotel a bit later we were very appreciative. We told him we were going to take a cab again in the morning back to the airport and he offered to meet us out front at 6:30am. As he promptly pulled up the next morning and we started chatting, he shared that it was actually his day off! He shared that he would be back home before his kids were awake. The first person we interacted with in New Zealand showed us incredible kindness.
One of the sweet friends we made in New Zealand last time is Frances Goddard. Her and her husband Andy have ten kids. We met them in the Taupo homeschool group. They live an hour south of the town we are going to live in this time. She told me that their family wanted to greet us at the airport as we arrived. We were thrilled. I didn't realize at the time that Andy was traveling with their oldest to college in the South Island. So lovely Frances met us at the airport at hour from her home with nine of her kids in tow! They transported some of our luggage and had homemade cookies, fresh plums, and tea and milk for our new home. The kids instantly started playing and she gave me a ride to the grocery for the first time, then took Jared to the hospital to receive the car we would use. We have been very challenged by this family since we met them last time. They are so thoughtful, hospitable, love the Lord, and others so well. It is a joy being around them. Their kindness made our hearts happy right away.
Jared and Liz Bayless