Tuesday, March 22, 2011


We have spent the last week hanging out and hoping for some beach time. It was a welcome break from the daily packing our bags and moving onto a new home. One morning on Golden Beach Josiah kept saying "pack" to me and suddenly it dawned on me that he got used to packing each day and moving on to a new place. I assured him that we were not packing yet. He then looked at me and said "home." Sweet little man, he has done such a great job of transitioning to each new place and making it his home this whole trip. Each new place he likes to see his bed set up with his monkey and blanket and then he opens his bag of hot wheel cars and little people and he is moved it. It is pretty cute to see his little routine. We realize how truly blessed we are.

We had a great time in Golden Beach, we got to experience a full fledged monsoon, complete with flash floods. However, we were a little disappointed because we were planning on maximizing our pool and beach time. We did put our toes in the ocean, but that is as far as we got. We did, despite the rain, hit the pool everyday despite the weather. It was so fun to watch Josiah put his face in the water and jump into us. He also charmed every gal (of all ages) at the pool each day.

It is funny think that we experienced an aftershock in Christchurch and a flash flood in Queensland where they had flooding earlier in the year.

We are amazed that our trip has come to an end and we have so much o reflect on. As we took off from Sydney and flew over the city, it was bittersweet... Our trip was over, but we were going home... And that is a really good thing.

The Olsen's <><

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crikey! Crocks rule!

What a day! With the time change we were up with the sun, but it worked out in our favor because we were able to get out the door by 8:15 and arrived at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo just as it opened. As we walked in we were greeted by some of the zoo keepers with animals in their hands. Josiah pet a baby alligator, a blue tongued lizard and talked with a beautiful white macaw. A couple of the zoo keepers we talked with we later found out were the main entertainers/faces of the zoo. We realized then and there that this was a zoo like no other.

As we walked through the zoo, we noticed how lush all the landscape was and how close each animal felt, yet they were still in a very natural environment. It was beautiful. Because we were at the zoo early, the weather was not too hot and so many of the animals were out and active. Josiah loved seeing the camels, but then he saw the sheep.... He began running towards them yelling, "Hi sheep!" It was so perfect for our trip because of the thousands of sheep we saw in New Zealand he always wanted to pet them, and here in Australia, he could! (As much as he wanted for as long as he wanted.) It was precious and so special. And we had just barely started the zoo!

We then had the opportunity to feed an Asian elephant. Josiah was a little nervous at first, but as soon as he was done, he wanted to feed it more and was even willing to give up his apple for the elephant. He kept showing us his hand that the elephant had eaten from, asking "more." but it didn't stop there. We went into the Kangaroo Haven. Where we walked with, fed, and hung out with wallabies, kangaroos and red kangaroos. We even scratched them behind their ears and under their chins like our dog, they were very personable- even when Josiah put one in a head lock trying to give it a hug. After the kangaroos we went on a koala walk, where we walked amongst sleeping koalas and even were able to pet one and see some young ones sleeping in the trees. They were so precious!

We also watched an animal entertainment show in the Crocoseum. It was a great show. There were snakes, crocs (of course) and many different types of birds that flew throughout the stadium and super close to us. It was breath taking! The show was bitter sweet as well because it reminded us how neat and entertaining Steve Irwin was and how much he taught everyone about conservation for animals.

As our time at the zoo was winding down, Peter and I began to bet on what time Josiah would fall asleep. He was out within 10 minutes once we were in the car, and he slept for two and a half hours ( the longest of our trip). Finally after he woke up, we were able to go for a swim in the pool.

What a great start to our time in Australia!

The Olsen's <><

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Farm-scapes to city-scapes

After we left our glorious room in Oamaru we drove downtown (not much in the town itself) to a little train station run by volunteers who LOVE old trains. We then boarded a circa 1920's train with a diesel engine attached to the front (also vintage). Josiah was excited and a little weirded out by the Thomas the Train stamp they put on his hand. But as soon as the engineer shouted all aboard and the whistle blew, he was all for a train ride. We rode through the waterfront district to the end of the line where we were to get out for about 10 minutes of exploring the 1890's workshops they house there. Inside one of the buildings the opened up a little wooden box to show us two little blue penguin chicks. It was very apparent that in all of these three workshops the penguins made their home at night... That much we could smell. Needless to say Josiah was thrilled and he kept going back to look at them for the whole time we were there. LOTR fan note: one of these workshops actually carved the wooden tools used in the movies. Pretty cool.

We then drove up through the inland scenic highway to Greendale, a tiny town outside Christchurch. You might ask why Greendale? Well, we met a family in a tiny town on the west coast while we were playing at park a few weeks back and as we were leaving they offered for us a place to stay should we need it. And we did indeed need it. It felt funny to be driving to a tiny town (our driving directions included 3km of dirt road) to stay two nights with people we had only met for an hour in a park a couple weeks ago. But, at the same time it was very peaceable and we were excited to see how the 'kiwis' did life on a daily basis. When we arrived we were warmly greeted by Nick, Karen, their three great children, their loving dog Rosa and a leg of lamb cooking on the bar-b-que. We enjoyed two days of relaxing and eating fantastic meals right out of their garden. After all the amazing meals we enjoyed we are even more motivated to start our own garden. We also got to experience an aftershock from the recent earthquake... Quite the hosts to arrange for that (smile).

As our time winded down with the Shepards we stayed up late talking about differences in our cultures and trying to understand the complexities of rugby and cricket. I think we can honestly say we have true kiwi friends- Josiah especially, who took a liking to their youngest, Beatrix, who was 19 months. They kept trying to arrange a dowry of a couple million... We are still in negotiations. Our visit with them was a fantastic finish to our time in NZ and we sincerely hope that someday we can host them our home.

We then flew from Christchurch to Auckland and after a nap, we rode the bus down to the city central. We enjoyed dinner underneath the Sky Tower. After dinner we rode up to the top to watch the city light up as the sun set. It was very fitting to end our stay in NZ with the sun setting over their largest city. Even though it was beautiful, we will remember NZ not for the city but for the amazing landscapes and vast undeveloped beauty.

Onto Australia for our vacation from our vacation.

The Olsen's <><

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chickens, Penguins and some not so big waves

On Thursday night we asked Josiah what he wanted to do the next day. Knowing it was forecasted to be raining, we knew we wouldn't be able to enjoy the beach as much as we hoped, so we decided to let him be the day coordinator. He picked up a map and pointed at the High Rock Animal Park. We laughed because he has been talking about llamas since we went to the Olympic Animal Park in January, so it was perfect that he pointed to the park.

So, off we went the next morning to the animal park. Remember, we are still in the whop-whops... So we showed up to what is a working farm that you can walk around and feed the animals grain. Josiah loved it! The farmer was very friendly and even let Josiah feed the pig... He told us it was truly a "face only a mother could love." And boy, was he right! Josiah opted to just look and wave at the pig. We walked around in the drizzle as Josiah tried continuously to pet the chickens and eyed the turkey and ostrich. He loved it!

We then drove up to Dunedin and checked into the holiday park. It was a short walk to the beach, but with the drizzle in the air, we decided to go downtown and explore the city instead. It was a bustling city with some fun architecture. The highlight for us would be the next day when we visited the Cadbury chocolate factory. When we came home from exploring the city, we were glued to the TV at the horrific tragedy that was unfolding in Japan. Our hearts are broken for the Japanese and we are praying for the safety of those who are there. We then heard about the tsunami warning for NZ and the tragedy hit a little closer to home. Here we were a stones throw from the beach and there was a tsunami warning. However, we were on the east side of the south island-opposite from where the tsunami would hit first. We were so thankful, although we did make sure we knew which hill to go up first in case of sirens. By Friday morning, the warning had been downgraded to a marine advisory, which meant no beach time or swimming, but otherwise, we were out of danger.

We enjoyed the busy Dunedin farmers market with tons of fresh and locally grown fruits and veg as well as really yummy lamb kabobs. The market is located outside the beautiful Dunedin train station. It was fun exploring the train station as well. Then we toured the Cadbury chocolate factory. Oh my, the smell of chocolate was amazing. They hand out samples the whole 45 minute tour. We kept feeding little bites to Josiah so he wouldn't talk over the guide. By the end of the tour he was in a chocolate daze.

We ended our evening in Oamaru, a quiet little beach town south of Christchurch. It is best known for it's colonies of penguins. We waited for an hour to see the shy yellow-eyed penguin. We only were able to see one, but it was so neat to see it in the wild, in its natural environment. Josiah entertained all the people watching by waving and yelling hi to every passing bird and the sea lions on the beach.

We are ecstatic about our hotel for the evening, after staying in quite a few holiday parks or hotels with only showers, we have missed baths, so we sprung for a jet tub and king bed in the newest hotel in Oamaru. The owners of the hotel are also very friendly and helpful. It is awesome! If you are ever in the area, you should definitely stay here!

Tomorrow, we head north towards Christchurch.

The Olsen's <><