Letters to Willow #12

Hey little Willow,Hope you had a wonderful Aussie Day!

We’re all good here, settled into our campsite at Greymouth.

Dad racked up the k’s today, making sure we can slow down a bit from here out.

We kicked off the day with a trip to Puzzling World! It was very cool, full of optical illusions, puzzles and a maze!

The toilets were probably mums favourite part, all painted up tricksy!

We did a quick re-stock before hitting the open, or rather, windy, rainforesty, waterfally road!

Ferns! So many ferns! And waterfalls and raging ice blue rivers! This place is incredible!

On Haast Past we pulled over at Willows creek, satisfying mums need to fill her water bottle from one of the amazingly blue water, and of course getting a few pics for you!

We passed so many great walking tracks, but sadly our tight schedule did not allow any random stops.

So over the ranges and through the forests we went.

Dead possums and stoats littering the roadsides.

Our big stop for the day was Fox Glacier!

And let me tell you, mum and Dad made NO friends with the girls hiking in to that!

Baldwin Street has nothing on Fox Glacier!

It was hard yards!

But stunning!

Mum kept referring to Jurassic Park, and it was very much like that!

A monsterously huge slate and stone gorge, bordered by gigantic green cliffs on either side!


We hiked over streams and bridges, and up the final crazy ascent, and were rewarded with our first Glacier view!

Dad and the girls were not impressed. But it was incredibly hard to breathe by this point. And our body temperatures had risen by at least 100 degrees!

We had a few snaps, admired the sheer size and age of our surroundings, and headed back down, with choppers zooming overhead, delivering guests straight to the glacier itself.

Dad wished he was in one.

To help you get a grasp of the discomfort, by the time we got to the bottom, Dad had peeled off his track pants, shirt and coat, and was hiking in a thermal top and boxers.

From here we make a beeline for Greymouth.

We’ve crossed a bazillion one way bridges today, and watched the countryside change from snow, to sea, to rainforest, to farmland and back to sea. 

And it’s so darn green and beautiful it blows me away at every corner.

And there are LOTS of corners!

We pulled up at Haast to try and get some whitebait, but were left disappointed, seems we’re 2 weeks early for Whitebait season. Bugger.

We made it in here as the sun set, our latest stop yet, but as I said, worth it for a cruisy-er last few days.

Tomorrow mum has a special date lined up with some Pike River families, and from there, who knows! 

All I know is that it will be less full on than today!

I’m off to help supervise dinner, finally getting in some veggies, and some lamb!

Our first for the trip.

Mums considering vegetarian-ism however, as the animals here are just so darn cute!

We’ll see!

Nigh nigh Willow, we will sleep tonight with the sounds of the West Coast waves crashing in the night!

Love Stan xx


Letters to Willow #11

Evening Willow Woofgood,Surprise surprise, another crazy day day in New Zealand!

Up with stars shining on our camper roof top, we broke our fast and hit the road to Milford Sound! 

With no time to kill, we only managed one stop on the way, to Mirror Lakes, which was incredibly beautiful, and totally dwarfed by the Earl Mountains!

Pretty cool hey!?

So from here we snaked, (and I mean seriously snaked, these Kiwis love their winding roads) to Milford, through tunnels and over bridges, and so many stunning waterfalls and ferns! I’ve not had time to google New Zealand folklore, but I find it incredibly hard to believe there’s no fairies here! It’s absolute prime fair country if ever I saw it, so please NZ folk, fill me in on your fairytales!

The sound was stunning! It’s depth is incredible, and the sheer size of the cliffs on either side is nothing but humbling.

We were super lucky enough to spot the worlds 2nd rarest penguins near the mouth of the sound, and then on our return seen a big colony of teenage male fur seals!

Mum was incredibly relieved to see 2 fighting, as it made it clear that teenagers can never get along all the time, regardless of species.

It was probably over a hair brush.

We hit the road running, winding our way up to a view point and pulling up to make lunch. Given the very low temperature everyone opted for toasted wraps and sandwiches, which lead to an impromptu smoke alarm display!

Those babies are LOUD!

It was also at this time that we had a visitor!

Here we were thinking Kia were rare!

Turns out they must be pretty accustomed to human interaction, as every car that pulled up had one fairly tapping at their door!

Everyone bar G1 and Mum we’re not impressed with their close company!

They are very beautiful! Lila giant version of Aunty D’s chica! 

We continued on, back through Queenstown, calling through Arrowtown for a quick look at the beautiful old buildings, then over the switch back range to Cardrona!

It’s a long, windy way up!

Down is great, through another gorgeous valley totally different to anything we’ve seen yet!

The hills are like the backs of giant brown hairy beasts!

Very cool!

We stopped in for a beer at the Cardona Pub, which is a must see, and would be amazing after a day of skiing, especially if you can nab one of the many indoor and outdoor fire places.

Wanaka was our destination, and Mum managed to swing dad into stopping at “That Wanaka Tree”, (which coincidentally is a Willow tree) so she could get a few snaps, before we settled in for sunset at our van park. 

We’ve now dined, tidied, and snuggled in bed.

Time is certainly sucking away, but we’re ticking off our must sees, along with the k’s! Which is awesome!

But on this, if anyone who has traveled NZ Westcoast could please tell us the best Glacier to visit by foot, (with whiney kids, and sore skiing muscles) that would be wonderful!

Nigh nigh Willow,

We love you

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #10

Hello there pup!Hope alls well across the ditch our baby! 

Our last day in Queenstown was magic, well on the mountain anyway.

Up early again for the first bus up, and we were rewarded with gorgeous soft snow, and after an hour or so, the sun came out in all its glory and we were in a sparkling winter wonderland! 

We started off warming up on the magic carpet and Alta runs, before hitting the sugar bowl for a few laps, then up to Curvey Basin and another stop at the ice bar! This time it was all of us, G2 & G3 got brave and came too!

We all successfully made it down, and hit Sugar a few more times, making the most of the magic conditions!

I’m happy to report that the whole family managed a few jumps on the Park run, with Dad being the bravest and taking on the most! 

He did come unstuck at one point and has the skin off to prove it.

We’ve absolutely loved our time on the snow, and will be saving every penny to get back to it in a few years (or quite a few). Might try Aussie slopes next time!

It’s definitely one of the more expensive past times. But such a great experience!
One more hairy bus trip down the mountain, and we were straight off, hitting the road to our current destination of Te Anau.

It was a gorgeous drive, following Queenstowns lake for a great part of it.

More sheep than I’ve ever thought possible, and gorgeous views!

We were very surprised to see pandanus palms poking their leafy heads out of beds of ferns!

An unidentifiable squeak in the van seen a driver change, with mum taking the wheel while Dad “investigated” every square inch of the interior.

He’s weird like that.

We arrived here shortly before sunset, and were again rewarded with the most beautiful vista.

The lake here is stunning, dark and flat, surrounded by mountains, the distant ones with snow caps.

Mum and G1 spotted a sign for underground Trout viewing along the lake, and convinced G2 and G3 to accompany them.

Dad opted to stay at the van, and partake in some NZ gold.

The rest of us chased the gold of the sunset, and ended up walking the entire length  Of the town, back to where we entered town, to see the Trout, and take in the gorgeousness of the Lake!

Mum and I were very glad that none of the girls have read or watched IT, as the “viewing” area was quite suspect. Particularly in the fading light.

But we soldiered on, mum going in first, put our $2 in the slot, and pushed through some old turnstiles into the viewing pit, I mean room.

It was actually pretty cool.

There were half a dozen Trout doing their thing, and mum and the girls are a sucker for any type of aquarium, so alls well that ends well.

We trekked on back the van, some of us whining about how far we’ve walked on this holiday, some of us complaining that our knees hurt, and one us assuring everyone that it wasn’t that far, and I think I can see it!

Mums a trooper.

The camp kitchen here is smick-o, so it was really lovely to cook up a quick dinner, and get sorted for our day tomorrow.

And boy, I really don’t think there’s any better feeling than showering after a 3 day spell.

We’ve all ditched the thermals as the weathers certainly not snow conditions from here on out.

Every muscle in every body is making the crew know their alive, skiing is an awesome all body work out! And with no end of activities on the horizon, were making the most of our rest time.

And the free wifi!

Having said that, I’m out!

We love you little Willow!

Nigh nigh pup,

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #9

Hello our little Willow!Today we watched the sun rise from the bus trip to the Remarkables, arriving to christen the icy groomed snow!

This was scary and difficult to manoeuvre, and our first day free skiing, putting all our lessons to use!

It only took around an hour for the snow to become beautiful again, and we managed to get the little girls up to the Sugar Bowl, so we were a full big slope skiing family!

It was beautiful! Overcast and cool, but the sun still came through, glistening off the gorgeous white snow, and making for a stunning day! 

We had a bunch of runs down the big slopes, with Dad and G1 the only crash victims! 

Beauties too!

Then we sent G2 & 3 down the smaller lifts, and Dad, G1, Mum & I hit the big one(second biggest actually), Curvey Basin, for the Ice Bar!

It’s a much bigger, and faster, chair lift to the top, and not far from there to the ice bar!

It’s a carona only bar, but they do sell Mulled wine, so mum got to get a taste of Game of Thrones, whilst sitting on top of the world! Just like John Snow!

The trip down was great for mum and I, and from this point on she skied the best she has yet!

Either the wine, or the 2 previous days of lessons, we’re not sure which, but will stop by the ice bar tomorrow, just in case!

We had to cut our ski trip short by a few hours in order to get our van prepped for our departure tomorrow.

Then we hit Queenstown for our final NZ souvenir run, another exploration of the harbour, and a quick cocktail and mocktail trip to the minus 5 Ice bar, a little bar completely made of ice!

It was very cool (literally and figuratively), so we didn’t stay long!

From there, Dad went to catch the fight, which none of us care for at all, so that’s when we shopped!

We met up for a lake walk and then to Winnie’s for dinner. This bar/pizza place, is very cool also, not literally! It’s full of cool memorabilia and very warm (real) fireplace. And to top all that off, they open the roof (yes, the actual roof) on request, when it gets too hot!


We’re home now in bed, waiting for Dad who’s gone to check out the casino.
With or without him, we’re hitting the slopes again in the morning for our last day here in Queenstown.

We miss it already!

Well goodnight little Willow, we love you lots! 

Your Aunty Mandy sent us a beautiful photo of you today, you look beautiful and happy, and we’re so happy your in wonderful hands!

Lots of love, Stan xx

Letters to Willow #8

Hey there willow willow Willow! Straight off the bat we’ll let you know that we have dad extra love today for you, and we even chose a sausage dog card for him, with you and Dukey in mind!

As far as lay days go, today was pretty good!

We slept in, had a BBQ breakfast, then walked up to the Gondola station, and caught the sky line up the mountain for our birthday luge and lunch!

Once again it’s no surprise who was freaking out on the Gondola. You guessed it, Birthday boy.

He sat with his back to most amazing view, and was more concerned with getting to terra firma, than the vista!

Once up, it was another chair lift up again to the luge station!

I rode with Mum, as I’m far more comfortable with her steady pace, and safety corners. Even if we did come to a complete stop at one point. 

It was far more enjoyable meandering our way down, than screaming down full tilt, like the others.

We lunched with a beautiful view of Queenstown, and caught the Gondola back down for a quick visit to the Bird park, and seen our first Kiwi! 

They’re fascinating animals! Closest to mammals of all the birds. With marrow in their bones!! They also lay an egg that makes up 20% of their weight! The equivalent to a human giving birth to a 4 year old! 

Very cool little birds!

From here we ventured back into town, and caught the bus to the Kawarau bridge for the Zip Line!

Sadly it was too late in the day to Bungy, so Mum and G1 had to miss out.

We all took the Zip Line instead, and still had a great experience! 

Mum told the guy doing the harnessing that it was Dads Birthday, so once mum and him had finished their turn, he pretended to unhook dad, then pushed him down the zip line backwards instead! 

We all know how dad is with edges, so it was pretty hilarious to all us on the deck! And dad took it well too! 

Bussed back into Queenstown, we had a wander through the CBD, checking out the wharf and the lake, which we’ve so far only seen from afar.

It’s so beautiful!

Such a cool district which I’d love to spend some time in!

We visited a few stores (candy shop) and decided on a reverse dinner, so grabbed some Mrs Ferberger Gelato, before heading back to the van park for a BBQ dinner!

It’s been a funny day of weather, rainy, then sunny, then rainy again tonight. 

We’re headed back to the slopes tomorrow so are hoping some of this rain translates to snow on the Remarkables!

Anyway, we’re off to get our thermals, snoods and beanies ready for tomorrow! 

Nigh nigh Willow,

Be good for your host family, we love you

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #7

Our dearest Willow!I write tonight very weary! What a day! Once again we beat the sun, though even in our haste we only managed to get the 3rd (quickest by a mile, ask Dad! He was peaking out worse than ever)bus up the mountain! Thus ensued a very manic boot, clothing and ski pick up, with hundreds of other mountain goers, including at least 4 school groups! 

No blue skies today, and a very definite drop in temperature, but it was still stunningly beautiful! And boy was it busy!

The school groups I mentioned were packed full of little pros, cutting past is in perfect snake formation, with perfect pizza stops, all day! 

They were so great to watch!

G2 and G3 went back to their lessons today, having another fabulous day with a new instructor! Poor G2 had a pretty bad crash on her last run of the day, hurting her knee. But she skied down the mountain, and will be well cared for with some dencorub and chocolate!

G1, dad, mum and I went back to our lessons too! New instructor and some new ski buddies, we hit the big slopes of Sugar Bowl today! Up there is an awesome area called the Park, (or something like that) with heaps of jumps and sliders! Our instructor had us all go over a jump and put a bunny hop at the top, which was great fun! G1 came off, but not badly! Then it was down the windy, narrow terrain to the next run! Precarious is an understatement! But it was also great fun!

Adrenaline is a wonderful thing! And we’ve all done “the tunnel”, which is also super cool!

After a quick lunch, Dad ditched the lessons to “free ski” while G1 and I went back for some more learning!

G1 was cleaned up by a snow boarder (bastards), and I by an out of control skier in jeans, but all up, another fantastic day on the Remarkables, and we’re all a lot more confident and able!

We were the last bus down again, but better traffic today put us in town early enough to sort tomorrow’s activities, and hit the world famous Fergurger! We were expecting an hours line up, so we’re pleasantly surprised to only have a 10min line, and 15min wait once ordered! We had enough time to stop off and get Dad something special for his birthday tomorrow, and by the time we got back, our burgers were done! 

It was a beautiful walk home, with the moon sitting above the lights of the gondola above pines on one side, and the mountains with their Fluorescent snow capped peaks towering over the glittering town on the other! If I haven’t said it enough , it’s so darn beautiful here!

And yes, the burgers were all they were cracked up to be! Deliciola! 

A few beers and more regaling of the days crashes, near misses and fun, and it’s finally time for bed! There’s honestly no better feeling, except of course taking off ski boots after a big day skiing! Man those things are tough to wear! I love seeing everyone doing the ski boot swagger! All good until you need to descend the stairs!!!

Well, that’s me out Willow, we have a huge day planned for Dads birthday, but I’ll share all that with you in my next letter!

Love you buddy!

Love Stan

Letters to Willow #6

Hello baby Willow,Hope this finds you well! Please know we miss you lots and think of you often. We’ve seen very few dogs since we’ve been here actually. And I think today is the first day we haven’t seen sheep!

Plenty of white fluffy stuff though!

Oh my gosh! Best. Day. Ever.

I know it’s still early days, but it takes the cake so far!

Brilliant blue sky reflecting off pure white snow! Everywhere!

We were up before the sun (again), and walked into town to catch our bus up the mountain. You know how Dad is with edges, so it would be no surprise for you to know that he was peaking out, just a tad! I’ve never seen switch backs like it in my life! And so high! So so high!

The Remarkables are very aptly named I can tell you that.

They’re simply stunning.

Once through the madness of fitting boots and clothes, we grabbed our gear and were off! 

G2 and G3 went to the kids lessons for the day, and though quite reluctant at first (G3 especially) they had a fabulous day, and are skiing at a higher level than us! They mastered the mini magic carpet, then the big one, and ended the day on the chair lifts on a green run!

Dad, G1, Mum (and I) had a great American instructor named Mandy. She was very patient and helpful, and lead us through the ranks of mini magic carpet and the big one (side note, the big magic carpet is a double conveyor that runs up the learners slope. It’s totally enclosed in a big clear tunnel and is super cool! Not literally as it’s very glass house-ish inside. Someone even skied into it). Then we progressed up to the chairlifts and some green runs! Even taking on a tunnel! G1 had herself a fall, which was sweet revenge as she earlier plowed into Mum and I, very near knocking me out of my pocket, and sending a cold dusting of snow down mums pants.

Mum took 2 chairlifts to nail the take off, but had it down pat by the end of the day. It was an unbelievable view from the chairlifts! And we cannot wait to get back tomorrow and get on some higher runs! 

Pretty sure we’ve nailed our pizzas, and can sufficiently turn, slow down, and most importantly stop! Learning control of those skis is a hard won achievement! And Aunty R will be pleased to know, so far so good, no yard sales! 

It’s been really wonderful and worthwhile having the little ones in seperate lessons, as we’ve spent the evening regaling stories from each group! And it’s lovely!

If I may wax lyrical for a moment. This place really is on another level of beautiful. The environment is so very different from home. Where the NQ sun hits you like a snowball to the face from the minute it crosses the horizon, the sun here is like a shy glance from a lover, just enough to make you close your eyes and turn away with a smile. 

It’s so subtle, almost soft. 

(but yes our noses all got burnt and it did get super hot today). 

And the mountains themselves, when you watch them on the descent, with the little teeny town that is Queenstown, with its teeny tiny winding river, and teeny tiny lake, teeny tiny houses and fields, surrounded by these gigantic mountains, like great stone guardians, with snow dusted atop them all like icing sugar on some crazy Heston creation! I really can’t help but thank the gods for creating such perfection, and thank my lucky stars that I’m able to come on trips like this, and share the moments with those who can’t be here. Like you Willow. 

It truly feels like I’m in a snow globe! 

We seen the day out at Fat Badgers, a pizza and beer shop that sells massive pizzas, pretty big beers, and has bloody big heaters!! Not to mention a great atmosphere! Though that’s also a lot to do with the crowd!

Hope you’re enjoying your letters, and getting a feel for NZ! The crew are off for hot showers, Celebrex and perhaps a hot baileys for mum, a rum for Dad, hot chocolates all round for the girls, and then the warm embrace of sleep! 

Mum reckons she can already feel the day’s aches creeping like frost into each and every muscle! Yet still super excited to do it all again!!

Nigh nigh Willow, we love you 

Love Stan xx