Where am I now?

Near Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

Mar. 9 – 27, 2017

Our final house sit of this trip brought us to a suburb of Rotorua. Perched in the hills north of of Lake Rotorua, we have the best of both worlds: a quiet, rural location with breath-taking views, just a short drive to the city. With the company of two gorgeous dogs, we’ve been very happy here.

 

Bess is a ridiculously happy puppy. It’s hard to get a picture of her without her tail wagging! Going for walks, chasing teddy bears in the yard, and getting her belly rubbed are all high on her priority list, but everything comes after food!

 

 

Brac is the older of the two, and he is my cuddler. He spends even more time enjoying the views than I do. He can rip the stuffing out of a teddy bear in the blink of an eye. In addition to looking handsome, teddy destruction seems to be his speciality.

 

Rotorua was founded in 1883; however the area had been settled by the Maori long before the Europeans arrived. Tourism is the major industry, with both kiwis and foreigners flooding to the city of under 58,000. Like so much of New Zealand, the natural wonders specific to the area are the big draw.

The geothermal activity were the stuff of legend for the Maori & it’s easy to see why ancient people would have believed that the erupting geysers and hot, bubbling mud pools were the work of angry gods.

If the stench of sulfur and the boiling hot water proved the gods were displeased, surely they must have been happy when they created Hamurana Springs.

We walk the dogs here regularly, enjoying the crystal clear waters that are home to ducks, geese, and black swans.

In 1919 someone had the truly brilliant idea to plant redwoods, native to Oregon and California, along the banks of these springs. The towering trees of the Redwood Grove are still just babies (redwoods can grow for 2,000 years), but they are absolutely beautiful, providing shade and a very peaceful feeling.

At this point in our trip, we’ve been away from home for four and a half months. A slower pace and a peaceful environment suits us just fine, thank you.

As I update this page, we’re getting ready to leave this home and start our final two weeks of travel before returning to Canada. I have mixed feelings; we’re enjoying where we are, but we have a little more time to get out there and explore. We’ve got one more week in New Zealand, then another in Australia, and we’ll be homeward bound. If any of those Maori gods are listening, please do what you can to melt the snow at home!


Near Pahoia, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

Feb. 10 – Mar. 2, 2017


We are happily back to house sitting on a kiwifruit orchard about 20 minutes outside of the city of Tauranga. The harbour city of about 125,000 on the Bay of Plenty was discovered by the Maori in the 13th Century. The name Tauranga means ‘the place of rest or anchorage.’

The city boasts beaches, bars & restaurants, an arts scene, and more. At some point, we may hit the bright lights to explore, but for now, we are quite happy in our own place of rest, looking after animals & gardens, and experiencing a slice of real life, kiwi style.

Visible from the highway, the orchard, initially, looked like a vineyard. Kiwifruit vines are supported in a similar way to grapes, but with an overheard canopy developing. The fruit hangs down, which looks like it might be easier to harvest than grapes. Migrant workers are employed during the harvest. Unfortunately, this won’t happen until almost a month after we leave, so we won’t get to witness the harvest, and we can’t eat the fruit in our backyard!

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Every day, we take the dogs for a walk or two around the orchard. It’s quite funny to see how excited they get at walk time, because they’re free to roam anywhere they want, all day long!

tauranga-bear Bear is a lovely old dog with a sweet temperament. He’s some kind of Heinz 57 who loves nothing more than to hop in the vehicle to go for a ride (and does not wait for invitations).

He doesn’t stray too far from us, keeping us company whether we’re weeding the gardens, feeding the chickens, or hauling water to the 50 or so baby trees in our care

Toss a tennis ball for him, or rub his belly, and he’s pretty much in heaven.

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Who knows what Miss Possum gets up to all day?

She is very clear when she wants to be fed, does have her favourite chair at the table, and even decided my lap was suitable for cuddling on one occasion. Other than that, she’s enjoying her freedom, thank you.

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Look at this face!  Peppe le Poo is a wild child Wheaton Terrier who takes off for hours at a time, and regularly comes home looking quite proud of herself, covered in mud and burs. We don’t even want to know what she gets up to!

This is such a regular occurrence, you’d think she’d put up with being hosed down a bit better than she does. Try to gently remove a bur or two and she cries like she’s the victim of some kind of torture!

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Looking after the chickens (chooks) is my job, and they sure are happy to see me when it’s time to be released.  They reward us with a steady supply of fresh eggs and entertainment. Karen supplies them with a steady source of weeds, as she tends the productive herb and veggie beds.

There are flower beds that I tend; although, I can’t seem to find a good pair of secateurs, so haven’t been able to properly dead-head. Quite disturbing to this anal gardener.

You can see that we aren’t suffering here, and we aren’t bored. As I’ve said before, each stint of ‘home life’ is a welcome break between the touring bits. We have plenty of activities, we’re providing a service to other travellers, and we have time to catch our breath and plan the next jaunt!


Masterton, North Island, New Zealand

Jan 19 – 27, 2017

So, this is embarrassing. We leave tomorrow and I’m only now updating this page. Oops!

After a speedy road trip from Aukland to Wellington with stops in Taupo and Napier, we made our way to another house sit.

We are sharing a very comfortable house with a couple of sweet kitties, Portulaca (the little grey girl) and Chicken (big ginger boy). The home is in a blessedly quiet neighbourhood (pro tip: get a house sit next to a seniors’ housing development) and has views of the beautifully landscaped yard from every window. We are here to relax, and it’s working out well for us!

With just over 21,000 people, Masterton is the largest town in the Wairarapa region. It is 100 km north of Wellington, separated from that city by the Rimutaka mountain range. Founded in 1854, the town has a strong agricultural history and, to this day, agriculture is the main industry.

Masterton is home to the cute Wool Shed Museaum (New Zealand’s national museum of sheep and shearing) AND the annual Golden Shears Championship! I am not joking when I say that I wish I could return in March to see this!

We’ve enjoyed walks in the country (with me talking to the sheep and the cattle as we pass farms along the way). We’ve also strolled along the river, through the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park, and through the busy downtown (where a couple of quilt shops were calling my name).

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We’ve enjoyed a very relaxing week here, we’ve done some planning for our trip to the South Island, and it’ll be off to the train platform for us tomorrow morning!


Mount Eliza, VIC, Australia

Jan. 7 – 14, 2017

Mount Eliza is another seaside town in the Shire of Mornington Peninsula. A move of 11 kms was required to get from one house sit to the next; what can I say, we call this slow travel for a reason!

Originally a holiday spot for well-healed Melbournites, it’s now a suburban area with a mix of older homes and very large, modern ones. Downtown is small but full of restaurants, cafes, and shops. The bus service is good, and it’s a great home base for us.

We’re lucky to have a large, peaceful yard with a shaded deck where we enjoy Happy Hour with Lucifer most evenings. We also share the yard with a couple of chooks (egg-laying hens) who contribute to the household in their own special way.

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Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia

Dec. 10, 2016 – Jan. 6, 2017

We have landed at our latest house sit in Mt. Martha, a suburb of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. We are pretty close to being at the most south-eastern tip of Australia.

For three weeks, we have the privilege of, once again, looking after a family’s home and beloved pet.

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Watson, the Spoodle, may have a little grey in his hair, but he is very happy being chased around the back yard with his frisbee in his mouth, and escorting us on long walks.

Here we are enjoying the boardwalk along Balcombe Creek, a great walk to the beach (5 km round trip). Plenty of new things for Watty to sniff!

One of the area’s earliest European settlers, Alexander Balcombe had 100 acres of vineyards in this very neighbourhood in 1876. What’s that you say? Vineyards? That’s right, my friends, we have landed in one of Australia’s many wine regions (how did that happen?). We’ve begun to visit some of the cellar doors (tasting rooms) that are very close to home. It’s all about educating ourselves, don’t you know.

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There are also farmers’ markets, restaurants, and beaches just waiting for us. We won’t run out of things to do while living on the Peninsula.

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Glenbrook, NSW, Australia

November 13 – 30, 2016

Jacki & Bindi are two lovely dogs who need some company while their people are away on holiday; fortunately, we were chosen for the job. House sitting brings us to New South Wales, Australia for a couple of weeks!

Jacki & Bindi enjoying some shade in the park.

Jacki & Bindi enjoying some shade in the park.

We walk the girls in nearby Knapsack Park with many shaded trails in the woods, take them to an off-leash park for exciting rounds of ball throwing, and spend time relaxing in the shade with them. When we aren’t doing our job (tough work, but someone’s got to do it), we are close to the beautiful Blue Mountains and Sydney, so we do some touring.

Hiking in the Blue Mountains

Hiking in the Blue Mountains

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View of Sydney Harbour while walking across Harbour Bridge


At Home!

April 14, 2016 until my next trip.

The suitcases are unpacked, and the jet lag has passed.  We are at home in our little house near the big lake.  Our village on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg is where I garden, cook, quilt, and plan for the next big trip.

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Conil de la Fronterra, Spain

April 6 – 12, 2016

With a population of about 22,000, Conil de la Fronterra is a pretty happening place. With 14 km of beach (actually 6 beaches, but who can tell one from another?) along the Costa de la Luz, Conil offers more shops, bars, and restaurants than we could ever visit, a cute little museum, and the narrow, twisty turny streets we like to walk.  We found a little apartment with fantastic views and decided to stay put.

It’s no shocker that Conil plays host to countless tourists from around Spain, Germany, and to a lesser extent, England, especially in the summer months.  Water sports are a huge thing here; it’s great fun to watch the wind surfers, and kite sailers, and surfers.

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The serious business here is fishing.  Since the time of the Phoenicians, tuna has been caught just off the coast using the Almadraba method.  We can see the process every day from our window and while we stroll along the water’s edge.

Several stalls at the municipal market sell the day’s catch including tuna, sea bream, snapper, sea bass, anchovies, shellfish, squid, and things I have no hope of identifying.

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Once our time in Conil is up, we’ll begin our journey home.  We’ll fly from Málaga to London, where we’ll spend the night where we started, with our feline friends, Hamish and Isabella and their people, in Mile End.  On the 14th, we fly to Winnipeg, and then back home. We’ll have been living in different homes, communities, and countries for five months.  What a winter!


Los Caños de Meca, Spain

April 2 – 6, 2016

After our final house sit for the winter, we decided to go on holiday.  We didn’t go very far for our first stop in Estepona.  We wanted water and sun; we got both, along with a beautiful paseo (promenade or beach front walk), but there was still something missing.

We moved on to Zahara de los Atunes for two more nights.  With a population of 1,200, Zahara certainly offered the quiet we were after, but since we’re still in the off-season, it was possibly a little too quiet.

On to Los Caños de Meca, still a little sleepy at this time of year, but with plenty of restaurants, stunning beaches, La Breña y Marismas (Nature Park) on our door step, and a cheap and cheerful hotel, we are happy to stay here for a few days.  There are also other towns and villages to explore from here.

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We have no idea where we’ll be off to next.  Somewhere else in Andalucia.


Alhaurin el Grande, Spain

Mar. 16 – 29, 2016

A journey of 2,784 km, almost straight south from Wales, got us to Alhaurin el Grande, in the province of Malaga, Spain.  It took a taxi, three trains, a plain, a shuttle, and a car ride, but we made it.

For two weeks, we are sharing a home with a cat, three dogs, and two fish.  Following the natural order of things, Tango the cat comes first.  This ginger loves his food and tolerates the lesser beings in the house.

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Honey is the senior lady in the group.  She’s a Spanish Mastiff, the large, sweet caramel coloured sweetie in front of me.  Max is the white heinz 57 looking over my shoulder. George is the Lab mix.  They are Hell on Wheels when they walk us.  It’s quite the spectacle as they drag us around the neighourhood.

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Alhaurin el Grande is a town of 25,000 people on the northern slope of the Sierra de Mijas mountains. It is busy and full of life.  The daily rhythm in Spain includes afternoon siesta time, when many shops and businesses shut for a few hours. It also includes late evenings. The siestas come naturally to us.  The late evenings don’t.  We’re trying, but I don’t see the day coming when we go out for dinner at 10pm.

Our house is just down the street from Ermita de San Sebastion, home of the Hermanidad de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (roughly: The Brotherhood of Our Father, Jesus of Nazareth).  where alhaurin 20160317_171626-1

This church is also where all of the local Samana Santa action will begin.  There will be holy week processionals going right past our front door for a few days over Easter weekend.  It’ll be loud.  It’ll be totally new to us and quite the show.  It’ll be loud. This is what we’ve told to expect.

There are shops, restaurants, cafes, and tapas bars within easy walking distance. Once we’re out the door, we easily spend hours wandering around the narrow, winding streets, walking up and down alleys, soaking in the architecture, the sights, and the sun. Of course, there’s always a bit of wine to soak up, too.

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Rhyl, Wales

Feb. 15, 2016 – Mar. 16, 2016

We have left England and moved on to Wales.  Neither of us has ever been to this country, so we have no idea what to expect.  How different or similar will it be to other areas of the UK we’ve visited?  What will stand out as quintessentially Welsh?  We know there will be new places to walk, and castles, museums, and towns to explore.

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Of course, new food and drink always feature high on the list of experiences we look forward to. Not big meat eaters, we won’t be searching out lamb, I’m afraid.  Seafood should feature prominently, since we’re still within spitting distance of the Irish Sea. Cockles, anyone?  Apparently, the leek is the national vegetable (does Canada have a national vegetable?  I’ll have to look into that another time, but I can’t imagine).  The leek is all right, nothing scary about that.  Welsh rarebit… let’s see, meltie cheese sauce poured over toast.  Yeah, I can get behind that.  Perhaps a month will be just enough time to sample this a few times.

Here’s a newsflash: Beer is the national drink of Wales.  Well, now we’re talking.  I have my work cut out for me there!  According to the good people at Wikipedia, Welsh ale can be distinguished from ‘fine ale.’  I had best look into this.  While there are more than 20 vineyards in the country, I just don’t hold out much hope for wines coming from this region.  If I run across any, I’ll give it a go.  It’s all in name of research, right?

Now for our newest side-kick.  I am pleased to introduce HRH, Ozzy, The Prince of Wales.

HRH, Ozzy, The Prince of Wales

Move over, Charles, this adorable West Highland Terrier is the only prince in our lives! I’m sure his people will be thrilled to learn that he’s been given this new title and will be expecting proper royal treatment upon their return from their travels.  Speaking of royal treatment, someone wants to go for a walk.  We’re house sitting, and Ozzy’s needs come first; good thing we all share this favourite past time.

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Heysham, Lancashire, UK

Dec. 8, 2015 – Feb. 15, 2016

We are house sitting in beautiful Heysham, UK for about 2 1/2 months.  Heysham is a village in the county of Lancashire.  The views are spectacular and they are right outside our window.  Literally.  The house we are lucky enough to be living in looks out over Morcambe Bay on the Irish Sea just past this open field.

My little buddy, Angel, and I both enjoy the views.

My little buddy, Angel, keeping me company as I figure out this blogging thing.

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The views of Morcambe Bay change with the tide and the weather, and they are beautiful every single day.  On these rare, clear days we can see the mountains of the Lake District to the north.

The historic town centre has several homes like this one which was built in 1629, and they’re still occupied.  I have a hard time wrapping my Canadian brain around the idea of living in a house that is so old!  It’s absolutely amazing to me.

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Ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel, dating back to the 8th century stand on the cliff overlooking the bay.  Nearby are ancient stone-cut graves which are so small, I don’t think I would fit in them; this really shows how much smaller people used to be.

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In our village of about 17,000 we have shops, pubs, restaurants, a little library, and a post office.  On Tuesday mornings, the fish truck parks on the main road just a couple of blocks from our house, and we can buy amazing fresh fish and seafood.

We can walk to Morcambe (or take the bus) which is only a couple of miles away.  With a population of about 39,000, it has everything we could need for day to day groceries and so on.  If we want to go further, we have Lancaster about 30 minutes away by bus.

We are looking after three cats and have the run of a cozy house which is perfect for the two of us (well, the five of us).  Buffy, Angel, and Minnie entertain and keep us company, so we’ve really got it all here: quiet village life, seaside views, lovely walks, a city within easy reach, and a comfortable home with cat hair included!

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