Pampered trampers

After our amazing hike in Mt Cook National Park, we had originally thought we might do another half-day hike the following day. But the next day was much cloudier (almost impossible not to be after our incredibly clear day!), and moreover, our legs were sore from climbing those 2000 stairs. Very sore. So we settled instead for a quick walk in the Tasman Valley to a view of its glacier and lake, plus a host of snowy peaks.

With one last look at Mt Cook, we then drove out of the park and after a picnic on Lake Pukaki spent the night at a lovely motel in Geraldine, with our own little kitchen to make lamb kebabs (fresh from the Geraldine butcher), sundried tomato pesto pasta, and chocolate mousse. Plus it turned out that Geraldine was home to our favorite cheesemaker, Talbot Forest, so we stocked up on goat Gouda, cumin seed Gouda, and a Mesopotamian blue, as well as sampling a wide variety of jams and chutneys at the neighboring shop.

And then we were back in Christchurch, where our New Zealand adventure had begun. We wandered around the port of Lyttelton (now largely cargo but formerly the main port for passengers from Wellington, and full of cute old houses and hilly streets) before a tasty dinner of Bangladeshi fare and an evening at the art gallery capped off by a fire juggling show that was part of the international buskers’ festival. It all made for quite a lovely date night.

We may have been in Christchurch, but we weren’t yet ready to leave. We had booked two nights on the Banks Peninsula Track, a cooperation between eight farmers begun almost thirty years ago wherein hiking tracks are opened up on their land for a dozen walkers a day, and four huts and cottages are made available along the route for each evening after the hike. Most hikers do the walk in four days, with an average of about four hours of walking each day and plenty of time to relax at the hut. But most hikers are also over 60, and are better at relaxing than I am. So the option to walk the full route in two days instead of four was the one we chose.

We turned out to be not only the only ones to have chosen the two-day walk on our start date, but also the only people starting on January 26, period, so we had the whole complex to ourselves on the first night and our own dedicated cottageEdit (and accompanying outdoor fire bath) the second.

Two days of beautiful coastal hiking through sheep farms and above steep cliffs with views down to sea stacks, sea caves, and occasionally sea creatures (cavorting fur seals just below us! Dolphins in the distance! Rumors of unseen penguins nesting in the beaches below!).

The huts and cottages were each different and quirky, with little luxuries (like cheese graters and recycling / garbage service so we didn’t have to pack out our own trash!) and big ones (hot showers; fully stocked shops selling fresh vegetables, cheese, meat, ice cream, and beer and wine; refrigerators; even (sometimes) power outlets).

And the second night we met up with none other than our neighbor from Wellington when we lived there 21 years ago, in 1995-6. She and my mom have kept in good touch over the years, and when it became apparent that we would be hiking the track at the same time, she incredibly generously offered to slip us the key to her home in Kelburn. So with an evening of catching up by the campfire and soaking in a luxurious outdoor bath warmed by the fire Michael built, we headed out for our last day on the South island before flying to Wellington the next morning.

Our second day of walking took us along the coast for two hours, then inland and up a forested gully to the ridge. Gluttons for punishment (or, more accurately, for views), we took a side trip up Stony Peak before descending into Akaroa. (Which, as a francophone and Francophile, was frankly very disappointing. Its reputation as a French village is quite exaggerated. But we did get some tasty Magnums as a post-hike snack when we discovered the dearth of croissants, crepes, and fromages.)

All in all, a wonderful two days of fabulous scenery (and I have to admit a hot shower is quite delightful after a long day hiking). We walked about seven hours each day, giving us plenty of time for reading, cryptic crosswords, and hot baths. We definitely did our multiday hikes in the right order in terms of increasing degrees of luxury!

Michael’s ranking of tramps:

  1. Heaphy
  2. Banks peninsula
  3. Hump Ridge

Andrea’s ranking:

  1. Hump Ridge
  2. Banks peninsula
  3. Heaphy

But I would happily endorse all of them. A warm hut makes such a big difference after being raised on backpacking and tents! Call me a pampered tramper (but a happy one).

Eight inches of snow

This morning dawned clear with not a cloud in the sky, just as predicted. We set out hiking around 7:45 and soon rounded the bend to bring Mt Cook into full view above the meadow.


After a lovely walk across the meadow with amazing views of Mt Cook and the myriad glaciers of Mt Sefton, we veered left and upward toward Sealy Tarns. And upward. And upward. I later learned that the hike allegedly involved 2,200 stairs, though on the way down I only counted 1,839.

The view from the tarns was extraordinary, however, with the reflection of Mt Cook in the tranquil pools and the mountain itself in the background. Someone had even built a snowman – because yes, as we climbed from the valley floor, we also encountered small patches of snow here and there.




After admiring the view and scarfing some scroggin (that’s New Zealand-ish for trail mix) we turned upward once more, where the endless stairs became instead a rough route over rocks and tufts of alpine grass. As we climbed, the patches of snow also increased in frequency; before half an hour had elapsed, we were surrounded by snow and only a handful of footprints led ahead of us through the snow.


Since neither of us California kids is terribly experienced with snow hiking, we seriously considered turning back when the slope grew so steep we could hardly keep our footing. But after a quick snack break, a conversation with a descending hiker, and even encouragement via text message from my mountaineering father, we decided to give it a shot.

And so we scrambled up the slope of scree with a coating of fresh snow, over fields of boulders where careful foot placement led us to avoid the holes hidden by the snow, and up up up to the ridge, where views of a whole new glacier valley opened up before us.


A hop, skip, and a jump (or, more accurately, ten minutes of slippery snow walking) later, we arrived at Mueller Hut. Pictures of “the hut in summertime” showed us how unusual it was to have eight inches of snow this time of year – I guess the recent rains had been good for something after all.

Lunch at the hut, and we headed back down. Whereas we had had the slopes largely to ourselves in the climb up, they were now busy with a few dozen hikers headed up to the hut. To our great relief, added foot traffic and hours of sunshine had melted the worst of the snow on the trail, and other than a tricky slide down a scree slope the descent was straightforward and continued to treat us to incredible views.

Back down  1,839 stairs, across the valley, and we were home, watching the afternoon light on the peaks and enjoying beer o’clock with paté, crackers, bagel chips, and hummus. Showered and relaxed, we made a quick dinner of blue cheese pasta and a fresh salad before retiring to our room to watch the last of the evening light. Now we just have to sneak out for some stargazing with this incredible dark and clear sky!

Some more photos of our adventure:


So. Much. Rain.

Summer in New Zealand: pack up the chilly bin (cooler), put on a pair of jandals (flip flops), and head to your family bach (cottage) on the beach!

Or, alternatively, with the weather we’ve been having, hunker down indoors, turn on the heat, and hope for a break in the rain.

Needless to say, we have not been camping recently. I’m glad we have the financial and logistical flexibility to change our plans.

On Monday morning we boarded the 8:55am cruise of Milford Sound, having  figured we would beat the crowds by leaving town at 6am for sunrise. What we didn’t plan on was the rain, as it turned out a severe weather warning was in effect. Beat the crowds we did, giving us plenty of time when we arrived at Milford to pull on all of our warm layers, from long underwear to sweaters and fleece and down jackets, under our rain pants and raincoats.

All of which made the very cold, very wet cruise survivable, and the hundreds of beautiful waterfalls did their best to compensate for the lack of visibility of the iconic snowy peaks of the fjord. My pictures don’t do the experience of the blustery rain and spidery waterfalls justice, but I had to try.

Our plan had been for a hike or two after the boat ride, but hiking up to Key Summit for views in this weather seemed a fool’s errand. Even mustering the energy to re-don our sodden raingear for the quick jaunts to scenic waterfalls was a challenge, so we scuppered the plans for a long hike and just walked to a few waterfalls, eating our picnic lunch in the car.

Little did we realize at the time that the previous day would be our last of sunshine for the foreseeable future. We gave up on seeing the mountains after three nights in Te Anau, and drove to the far southeast corner of New Zealand – the actual southernmost point of the South Island! – for views of lighthouses, sea lions, and ostensibly, but not this time around, penguins and dolphins. At one point we had to wait while a confused fur seal crossed the road in front of us only to determine that the cliff did not, in fact, obscure a hidden sea pool. He sat in the road for a bit as all three cars pulled out our cameras and waited for him to flipper-walk his way back to the beach.

We fit in a beach walk at our hostel in Curio Bay just before it started to rain, and at the end of the beach saw a small surf school. Two-hour lessons for complete beginners, tomorrow at 7:30am, it said. For $40 including board and wetsuit rental. How could I resist?

So yesterday morning I arose early and made my way down the beach – in a brief period of sunshine! – to don neoprene hood, wetsuit, and booties. Four of us joined the lesson and enjoyed our first taste of surfing; riding in on the waves was a pretty cool feeling, even if I sometimes found it was more fun to enjoy the ride than to bother trying to actually stand up! But by the end I was catching a few waves and popping up to my feet, and the wetsuit kept me cozy. That said, I’m not sure surfing will be my new sport – too much swallowing saltwater as I dragged the board out over the waves.

The bonus of an early surf lesson was that it left us the day to explore, but we knew the weather was supposed to worsen quite soon. After a quick stop at an 180-million-year-old petrified forest and some shirt waterfall walks, we hit the rainstorm. We braved the rain for a rewarding walk out to the Nugget Point lighthouse, spotting dozens of seals and pups while enjoying expansive views of the eroding sea stacks.

And then popped into our car to head to Dunedin, where we walked around in the drizzle to admire the old Victorian buildings and then relived our days in Korea with a meal of kimchi, Korean barbecue, and an array (albeit smaller than in Korea) of side dishes.

But today dawned even rainier than before. We drove out the Otago peninsula for its famed wildlife, but hardly dared to leave the car as the wind whipped by and the waves washed into the road. (We later learned that the strongest winds of the day were 140 km/h at none other than Nugget Point.)

I did brave the driving rain to visit the royal albatross center, the only mainland albatross colony in the world. Ironically, I didn’t see any albatross when I walked around in the rain, but when I returned to the car Michael had spotted several albatross flying over the cliffs. Totally unfair. Luckily for both of us, we watched some more and saw a few more albatross, but still opted not to join the $50 guided tour of the nesting area in the very wet and very horizontal rain.

And so we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Otago Museum, learning about moa and Maori customs and marveling at the huge model boat collection.

Tomorrow we will have to decide what else to do in the rain and how to spend our last week on the South Island!

(Originally written on January 19, but delayed in posting due to lousy internet.)

From Dunedin to Mt Cook

(Posting this out of order as my previous post is held up until we have decent wifi.)

Since I tend to get grumpy when faced with days of inactivity (as Michael can confirm after having supported me through two major knee surgeries in the past four years, ugh) it was important that we find opportunities for outdoor activities despite the rain. Luckily, when we looked more closely at the forecast, although every day showed a 100% chance of rain, there were periods of nearly twelve hours in which we could expect to stay dry. And so we formulated a plan.

On Friday morning just after the last shower cleared, we set out from our Dunedin hostel to visit Tunnel Beach, a coastal area of sea stacks and a huge arch where a local landowner had carved a tunnel from the rock to allow access to the rocky beach below. (It had been highly recommended by some Dunedin locals who struck up a long conversation at our dinner in Te Anau last week!)

Even more than the scenery itself, the waves were impressive. As the storm continued to move north, huge waves crashed into the sides of the arch and rebounded with huge geysers of water shooting into the air.

And with that lasting impression of the coast, we headed inward. Tomorrow’s forecast was for the rain to hold off until the afternoon, so we decided to rent bikes for a day of riding on the Central Otago Rail Trail in Ranfurly. That meant that this afternoon we would head out there to get an early start tomorrow, and we found an awesome local B&B (which later turned out to have the softest, most comfortable sheets we’d ever experienced, and also to be run by a real sheep farmer who told us she’d been out doing sheep farming things whose words were so foreign I don’t even remember  them).

On the way to Ranfurly we stopped for a diner lunch in Mosgiel (where banana and bacon pancakes and a plate of potato wedges with bacon, cheese, and sour cream hit the spot) and then for an hourlong walk outside Middlemarch, where we circumnavigated a small salt lake that was home to two affectionate black swans. In the background we could see snow on the hills, product of the last few days’ precipitation. I loved the big rocks that lay strewn about!

And so yesterday we set out biking the rail trail, which turned out to be much better surfaced than the other trails we had ridden, and allowed us to fly along at high speed with little effort. We made it to our planned destination (er, turnaround point) well before lunchtime and decided to add on a side trip to the old gold mining town of Naseby on our return trip.

The scenery was pastoral but beautiful, with hundreds of sheep everywhere, and picturesque passages over old viaducts and through tunnels.

We never did quite make it to Naseby, though; we were 10km away as the storm clouds started to roll in. We knew the rain was supposed to start around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and it was slow going uphill on rural gravel roads that were nowhere near as optimized for biking as the rail trail had been. So we just headed back toward town and handed back our bikes shortly before the first raindrops began to hit. But we were thoroughly glad to have had a day out on our bikes: it almost always exceeds expectations.

From Ranfurly our bike rental guy recommended the scenic route over Danseys Pass and back to the coast at Oamaru, which we had decided would make a good stopping point for the night. It took us through Naseby (cute and historic but pretty quiet) and then through incredibly beautiful country filled with sheep, alpine tussock, and steep river gorges.

On the way to Oamaru we stopped at Elephant Rocks, a series of oddly shaped smooth boulders in the middle of a sheep pasture that served as Aslan’s lair in the Narnia movies.

The only hiccup came when we were ready to go and the car keys were nowhere to be found. Sure, we could retrace our steps and find them  – or did sheep eat things like car keys? we wondered. Luckily, we found the keys before learning an inconvenient answer to that question. (We are learning we know exceedingly little about sheep.)

The day had already been memorable, but when we arrived in Oamaru it got even more unique. Reviews of our hostel had mentioned that the owner would explain where to see penguins and where to eat in town. What we hadn’t realized was that she would more or les drag us into her car for an extended tour the moment we arrived: we just had time to pull on rain pants over our cycling shorts before heading out. And what a character she was! “They put up this fence here so that all the penguins who live in town would move to the penguin colony where we can charge tourists to see them. Tourists wouldn’t be very happy if they’d just paid $90 for a show and came out to see penguins wandering all about that they could have seen for free! So my backpackers tore this hole in the fence so the penguins could get home.” And apparently several other holes, too. Oh, and she had a single guy, David, who wanted company in looking for the penguins tonight, so surely we could meet him at the house at 10 and we could all 3 go together?

So after a tasty dinner of pizza and beer at the local brewery, we walked back up the hill to the hostel, only to hear a voice calling our names. Our hostess was setting out in her car to find David;  climb in!

And so from 10pm to after midnight on a rainy night we found ourselves wandering the wharves and pathways of Oamaru spotting tiny fairy penguins waddle their way home. Their cuteness cannot be described in words, and photos were impossible in the dark. But trust me, it was pretty awesome.

This morning we wandered the surprisingly awesome Victorian town of Oamaru in the rain, stopping in to various studios, art galleries, displays of old radios and penny farthings, and the like. This town takes its Victoriana seriously. We also got to pick up some tomatoes, lettuce, cherries, and apricots at the weekly farmers market. Ah, summer!

And this afternoon we drove up to Mt Cook village, where the clouds have cleared somewhat and we can enjoy panoramic views of snowy peaks from our hotel windows. With luck, tomorrow should be clear and we have hopes of hiking …

On the drive in
View from our window

Hiking the Hump

The Hump Ridge track in the southernmost part of New Zealand had caught my eye early on: easier to book than the official Great Walks, but with spectacular scenery and even the option of hot showers or beer and wine at the lodges. Not knowing too much more than those facts, we booked our three-day, two-night tramp for the day after we left Wanaka, drove to Tuatapere, and packed our backpacks.

When we showed up at the office the next morning to collect our hut passes, the manager told us we had better set out right away as an 8-hour day of hiking awaited us. It was already sprinkling after raining heavily much of the night, and the forecast was for rain all of the next three days. Quite an auspicious start!

Luckily for us, the walk was more like 6 hours, and the weather unsettled but mostly sunny with scattered showers; we followed the coast for 2 hours before heading inland and up a spur to the top of Hump Ridge, where our hut was perched just below the ridgeline.

From the hut, a short track led up to the ridge itself, where giant boulders and small tarns sat above 360-degree views of the coast and Fiordland National Park. Unfortunately, it started to rain with strong winds just as we reached the top, so Michael turned back to the warmth and shelter of the hut, but I was determined to see the tarns – and was incredibly glad I did, because as I rounded the corner from my first circuit, not only did the sun come out but an amazing rainbow stretched over the valley below.

After an evening spent cozily by the roaring fire of the comfortable lodge, we set out for another long day of hiking: down the ridge to the coast and a historic logging tram line, complete with its still usable viaducts. The temperature had dropped to just above freezing overnight and strong winds blew misty clouds and rain as we set out. But the weather soon improved and we had periods of sunshine as we continued into the forest. It was neat to see the changes in the flora as we descended from alpine to coastal climes! We were nonetheless relieved to sink onto the comfy couch and read when we arrived at Port Craig after 7 hours of walking!

Our last day was along the coast, though the first few hours were slightly inland through native forest. When we emerged to the beach, we were amazed to be able to see Stewart Island in the distance! It was such a clear day that we could even spot our first night’s hut below the ridge as we walked to the car park.

I managed to soak my feet (and boots) completely by forgetting to watch the ocean as we walked along the beach, so I walked the last few miles in my sandals; we were both glad when we saw our car, and got coffee and a milkshake in town before driving north to Te Anau.

The hike was definitely much harder than I expected, but I loved it. The views from the ridge and the fairytale mossy forest really won my heart. Michael reports having preferred the Heaphy, but then, he missed the best part up at those tarns!

Now just to decide if we want to do any more multiday hikes…

New Zealand map, month 1

It’s been almost exactly a month since our arrival, and I thought those of you following our blog might be interested in a map of what we’ve been up to. Here’s what we’ve done and where we’ve visited so far. Tomorrow we head out on the Hump Ridge Track, and then we will head due north to Te Anau and more hiking in Fiordland!

Tuatapere turns out to be a teensy town with not much going on, but our motel is cozy (and deluxe! Two bedrooms plus a sitting room and kitchen!) and has the best internet we’ve had in weeks, so we’re listening to the rain and hoping it lessens somewhat before we start hiking in the morning …


Wonderful Wanaka

After two weeks on the west coast, it was a real shock to the system to drive into the Wanaka area: beeches replaced native rainforest, sunshine replaced rain, and the climate grew very familiar to us California natives: hot and dry, with lavender farms and rolling hills (albeit slightly more covered in sheep).

Wanaka also marked our return to civilization – a real town with bakeries, bookshops, and more than three restaurants – and we took full advantage, eating (surprisingly tasty) burritos and burgers, buying new hiking boots, and even visit in the optical-illusion-laden Puzzling World, a puzzle museum I had visited and loved in my childhood.

We spent three fabulous days hiking and biking: first up to Rob Roy glacier, next up Rocky Mountain for views of Lake Wanaka and the peaks of Mt Aspiring National Park, then mountain biking along the lake front and Clutha River, and finally slogging up a nearby mountain for panoramic views of the Southern Alps.

The drive to the Rob Roy valley was spectacular in itself, with snow capped mountains, waterfalls, and hundreds of sheep at every turn. But the hike was even better, with stunning views of Mt Aspiring as we climbed and the cold white face of the huge hanging glacier as we reached the top.

The biking was both more scenic and more challenging than expected, with long segments of rocky single track as we followed the cliffs above the river valley, with great views back to the peaks and down to the churning turquoise river. We both felt more comfortable with the rocky narrow sections as the day went on, and had an awesome time.

And last, our two view hikes. Not the most varied hikes themselves, but the views from the top were well worth it.

Oh, and did I mention the scenery in Wanaka itself? Looking straight out at the lake with beautiful clouds and lingering sunsets, we could get used to this!

But today we head to the far far south: Tuatapere, where we depart tomorrow for a three-day, two-night hut-to-hut hike on the Humpridge track. I admit I’m especially excited because one of my sixth grade New Zealand memories is of singing about a tuatara in Tuatapere 😉

We’re off for now! Keep in touch!

Two weeks on the West Coast

Without really meaning to, we ended up spending two full weeks on the west coast of the South Island, with its native forests, glaciers and mountains, spectacular coastline, and legion of sandflies. Actually, the last of those were nowhere near as bad as we had feared; we have a few bites but mostly escaped unscathed. 

Our last day of biking the West coast wilderness trail was fabulous – we improvised our own route and meandered along rolling country roads back to reconnect with the bike route we had taken the previous day. We also learned that we had been biking in the shadow of snow-capped mountains the whole time, but that until today they’d been shrouded in clouds. 

We dropped off the bikes back in Greymouth and spent the night back in Hokitika, where I convinced Michael to go back to the fabulous pizza place for a pie of roasted pumpkin, cashews, caramelized onion, and cilantro pesto. 

We then meandered slowly down the coast, stopping for a very muddy coastal hike (wherein we learned that Michael’s shoes are no longer waterproof) and camping at beautiful Okarito, which ha somewhat obscured but nonetheless gorgeous mountain views of the southern alps. 

We selected Alex’s Knob at Franz Josef Glacier as our long hike, a 7-hour round trip to what should have been beautiful views of the snowy peaks. The views from partway up were promising:

But we got clouded in at the top and instead of mountains we saw this:

Luckily the glacier view cleared a little on the way back down:

And we braved the rain on our final day on the coast to walk through rainforest to Monro Beach and through sand dunes and kahikatea forest just north of Haast. Apparently all the kahikatea (well, 98% of it) got chopped down and turned into butter boxes because it’s odorless. But it makes for a nice swamp forest!

From Haast we finally turned inland and drove over the pass to Wanaka, stopping for some pretty impressive waterfalls along the way. 

We had hoped to do a longer hike, but the clouds were hiding the mountains we had planned to climb, so we settled for an early arrival in Wanaka, where we are spending four nights in a “basic cabin” at the holiday park: a concrete block with a double bed and bunk beds and not much else, but perfectly adequate for our needs. (After five days camping, I think it’s awesome: cheap! Hot showers! Real beds! Electricity and light! Table and chairs! but Michael is less impresssed.)

More on Wanaka next time …

West Coast Wilderness Trail

What better way to celebrate the New Year than to do a three-day bike trip through the rainforest in New Zealand?


We didn’t have an answer to that either, and after two days of fabulous biking we can confirm our decision easily – it’s exceeded our expectations by a long shot!

The previous post has some photos from our drive down the coast from our campground in Charleston to the town of Greymouth. It’s a total distance of only about 80km, so we could take our time, stopping first for short walks at the Truman Track and Pororiro River gorge and then at the famous (and incredibly busy!) pancake rocks at Punakaiki. Where had all these people come from? Apparently it’s pretty much a mandatory stop for anyone traveling the coast, who might otherwise be driving a long way and not seeing much of the west coast at all. Luckily it’s built to accommodate the crowds, and we had great views of the coast and the rocks.

And what a beautiful day we had for exploration! Brilliant blue skies and sunshine, striking limestone cliffs and offshore rocks, and of course the pancake rocks themselves. We spotted two Hector’s dolphins frolicking in the waves, plus some baby weka chicks (incredibly fuzzy and small!).

We had a relaxing afternoon in Greymouth with a short walk to Point Elizabeth – more coastal walking, but hard to resist on such a beautiful day.

And then on the morning of December 31, we set out bicycling. The forecast was for two days of guaranteed rain, with a severe weather warning in effect for Saturday afternoon and overnight into New Year’s Day. But after canceling our biking in Nelson, I was determined to bike anyway. So we headed out in the late morning on Saturday and arrived in the tiny town of Kumara (general store, gas station, hotel) just before the rain began. We snuggled into our cozy cottage, with luxurious baths, plenty of time to read, and big windows through which to watch and listen to the storm while staying wonderfully dry. Nothing like camping to make you appreciate the solidity of real lodging in the rain!

Today’s biking was simply stunning and incredibly varied. We wound our way through rainforest and native bush, cow pastures and beech forest. For a while we followed a historic water race, a narrow channel of water whose momentum was captured for hydroelectric power. The path was gravel but well maintained, sometimes switching back and forth down a hillside and other times providing thrilling ups and downs through the forest.

p1060270 p1060257 img_1251 img_1210 img_1186 img_1191


Lunch was at a ridiculous place called Cowboy Paradise, supposed to recreate the Wild West:


By late afternoon, after a good day’s riding, we arrived in Hokitika, a much larger town along the coast and the main highway, where we are currently waiting hungrily for our pizza to arrive. We somehow managed to have two extremely deluxe accommodations for this bike trip, due to an upgrade last night and the hotel crunch in Hokitika tonight: cozy apartments with separate living rooms, outdoor patios, luxurious bathrooms, and all. It’s quite a step up from both our tent and the hostels we’ve been staying in. (Note that NZ hostels are much nicer than their US counterparts, however; we’ve had private rooms every night, just not in sumptuous surroundings.)

Luckily, after a long day of biking and many aching muscles, we can really appreciate the small luxuries!

Happy New Year to all of you and here’s hoping to see you more in 2017! If you want to join us somewhere in the world this winter, spring, or summer, we would love to meet you!!