Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

The weather looked pretty dismal as our flight touched down in Christchurch. We walked out of the airport into a freezing torrential downpour and realized pretty quickly that our first stop needed to be a shoe store. Sandals don’t quite cut it during early spring in New Zealand.

Our first stop wasn’t actually a shoe store because we had to pick up our rental car first. They say that driving a car is like riding a bike; once you learn how to do it, you’ll never forget. Whoever “they” are, they obviously have never gone nine months without sitting behind the wheel and then rented a car in a place where you drive on the left side of the road. After accidentally hitting the windshield wipers instead of the blinker about 100 times and continually repeating “stay to the left, stay to the left” every time we made a turn, we successfully navigated our way to Kmart without causing a single accident and were able to procure our much needed shoes. We know that it isn’t well known for having the best shoes around, but our plan to camp and road trip around New Zealand for the next month meant that we needed to purchase quite a few things. Kmart is the perfect place to gear-up when you need cheap stuff that doesn’t have to last too long. In less than an hour, we had everything we needed to hit the road in the morning.

When we woke up the next morning, the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining for our long drive south to Dunedin. You’d think we’d never seen mountains before with the way we were ogling over the Southern Alps and taking a million photos from the moving car. While we loved living in Colorado, we always said that if there was a place with mountains like the Rockies and a turquoise blue sea, it would be heaven on earth. New Zealand must be that place. You can nearly see skiers coming down the white-capped mountains while you’re standing on the beach with a view of the endless blue ocean. We started discussing our plans to move here only two days into our visit.

To break up the nearly 400km drive from Christchurch to Dunedin, we made several stops along the way. The first was for a “Driver Reviver.” We think this is the coolest thing ever; free coffee at a rest stop and with a clever name to top it off. The next stop was a picnic lunch along the Rakaia River with gorgeous views of the snow-capped mountains, and just before the longest bridge in New Zealand (yes, that’s right, our atlas told us so). Following lunch and a few hundred more kilometers, we broke off the highway at a town called Oamaru. It reminded us of Leadville, Colorado, but on the water. Just up the road is another quaint sea village called Moeraki, where the ancient Moeraki Boulders are located (basically, round orb-like stones on the beach where tourists take pictures).

By the time we made it to Dunedin the day was almost over, so we pulled into a holiday park where we set up camp. Holiday parks in New Zealand are similar to KOA Campgrounds in the US; mostly electrical RV sites with some space for tents (only crazy people like us stay in tents this time of year) and tons of facilities like kitchens, showers, hot tubs and computer rooms. Despite it being a more commercial camping experience than we’re accustomed to, we were stoked to be sleeping in a tent after a summer without any camping. At about 2am we realized what a terrible mistake we’d made. It was freezing cold and our 55˚F sleeping bags weren’t providing much comfort. Thankfully the rental company had upgraded us to a Subaru wagon, so we changed our plans a bit and have been sleeping in the back of the car instead of the tent.

We set out in the morning to explore the Otago Peninsula. It was a gorgeous drive along the main road that winds along the north coast all the way to the tip where there are stunning cliffs and an albatross center. On the way back we took dirt roads that led us to inlets and viewpoints where we saw no other cars. There are sheep farms everywhere, and being the time of year that it is, their coats are thick and almost ready to be sheered.

Our final day in Dunedin was spent exploring more of the country side. One of the greatest things about New Zealand is that you never have to drive far to get out of the city and into nature. The transition from buildings to open spaces happens quite quickly. Our first stop was a short hike down to some cool cliffs known as Tunnel Beach. We pulled into the trailhead parking lot only to find a sign posted which read “Closed for Lambing.” Many trails that we had encountered the day before had similar signs posted making it difficult to find a nice trail. Now don’t share this next part with anyone, but we did something naughty…we ignored the sign, climbed the fence, and hiked the trail anyway. Nothing like a little excitement to get the day started. For the record, we did not encounter any sheep or lambs along the way. What we did see was more majestic New Zealand landscape.

Having a car for the next few weeks is an exciting prospect. For months now, we have been relying on public transit to make our way around the world, but in New Zealand we will come and go as we please.  We don’t have a guidebook, but we did buy an awesome road atlas, so our days are sure to be filled with countless scenic lookouts and quirky informational plaques. Here’s to the open road!


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Lightening the Load

Just two backpacks; that’s all we’re taking with us.  The truth is that we’re taking a lot more than that.  You can actually fit quite a bit into a 40 liter sack.  For the first leg of our trip in Portland, we brought extra luggage along because we knew we would be staying with family and taking part in holiday festivities.  Until loading up our backpacks for Florida two nights ago, we couldn’t honestly say what we would be bringing with us on our RTW trip.  But the deed is done and we have shed our excess belongings!  Below are pictures and descriptions of what came with us to Florida and what we will be carrying oversees.

Amy’s Gear

3 T-shirts, 1 blouse, 2 tank-tops, 2 long sleeve shirts, 1 pair jeans, 1 pair leggings, 1 pair zip-off pants, 1 pair Chacos, 1 pair tennis shoes, 1 pair flip flops, 2 dresses, 1 sarong, 1 skirt, 1 pair shorts, 1 fleece, 1 raincoat, 1 hat, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair sunglasses. Not pictured: scarf, swim suit, undergarments and Gregory Jade 38 backpack.

Mike’s Gear

1 T-shirt, 1 short-sleeve collard shirt, 2 long sleeve shirts, 1 micro fleece, 1 zip-up vest, 2 pairs zip-off pants, 1 swim suit, 1 raincoat, 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair Chacos, 1 pair tennis shoes, 2 scarfs, 2 hats, 1 pair gloves, 1 pair sunglasses. Not pictured: 1 T-shirt, 1 pair pants, undergarments and REI Pinnacle 40 backpack.

Miscellaneous Shared Gear

starting at top left, moving clockwise

“The Junk Drawer” – Q-Tips, 2 collapsible water bottles, EmergenC, deck of cards, Yahtzee, First Aid Kit, plastic bags, Kleenex, sewing kit, watch, ear plugs, compass, head lamp, string, mini salt & pepper shaker, converters, immunization records, notepad, wet wipes, drain stopper, sharpie, duct tape, head phones, flashlight, extra batteries, zip ties.

“The Towel Rack” – 2 quick-dry towels

“The Bathroom Cabinet” – shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, body & face lotion, sunscreen.

“The Pharmacy” – various prescription and over the counter medications, including anti-biotics, malaria pills, anti-inflammatories, and many more.

“The Liquids” (carefully separated thanks to TWA) – Aquamira water purification drops, DEET, medications, saline solution, neosporin, etc.

Not pictured:

“The Library” – we are starting with 2 guide books and 3 novels, which we plan on switching out with newbies as we make our way around the world. Have suggestions on good reads? Let us know!

“The Safety Deposit Box” – passports, yellow cards, wallets, insurance cards, credit cards, cash, family photos.


Acer Aspire One netbook, charger & waterproof case, Nikon 3100 SLR camera, charger, extra battery & shoulder bag, Fujifilm digital camera, charger & case, 1 flash drive, 3 memory cards, GorillaPod, portable speakers. Not pictured: iTouch and iPod.

Storage Cubes & Day Packs

1 REI backpack, 1 Sea To Summit packable daypack, 1 money belt, 1 purse, 3 EagleCreek storage cubes.

It feels liberating to have nothing but each other and the packs on our backs.  Surely the items described above will not be the same items that make it back home with us at the end of the trip. It will be interesting to see what we aquire, replace and discard along the way.

We arrived in Florida yesterday to spend a week with family.  It is nice to be in 70 degree weather in January!  Our flight to Spain leaves this Monday and we will be in Barcelona on the 17th.  Looking forward to reporting from our first international stop!

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It’s funny the things I catch myself doing recently.  It’s like my brain has been taken hostage by travel ferries and I can’t control my thoughts and actions any more.  For example, this Sunday I found myself packing up my backpack.  Again.  I guess it’s useful to practice these type of things. To strategize if it’s better to put my tennis shoes along the bottom of the pack, or standing up vertically, one on each side.  Wow, now that is a big life decision.

Pack Test #3 – this time my fleece didn’t fit inside….

Another oddity is my continual obsession with our budget.  While attempting to relax and watch a movie this evening, I drifted off in my head for at least a half hour thinking about our budget.  As if it matters?!  We’ve already quit our jobs and are leaving town in three weeks.

Obsessive googling of travel destinations for at least 2 hours per day is now the norm.

With only 23 days left until departure, I have become crazed with hanging out with friends and family as much as possible, and doing everything “Denver” before we leave.  Guess I should have been doing this all along, but no time like the present!

Something funny that other people have been doing is saving and giving us boxes.  “Hey Amy, I have some great boxes if you need some”…as if they’re precious jems or something.  Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate it, it’s just, well, funny.

The packing pile is growing…

As a result of the box giving, we started packing up our apartment. All sorts of weird stuff is coming out of the woodwork. We are also donating (and re-gifting) a lot of stuff we just don’t need anymore.  Our fake Christmas tree is probably better in someone else’s hands.

I’m sure we’ll get to the point where I won’t be able to sleep.  As for now, I’m still REMing. And will continue test packing:)

– Amy

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Pre-trip Preparation

Countdown to departure: 53 days

Today someone asked us “How do you plan for a trip around the world?” Amy’s response, “Google it.” It’s hard to describe step-by-step what you have to do to plan a trip like this. We’ve been planning for some time, Googling and such,  but are just now beginning to physically take action, to do things.

Last Friday we started on our first round of immunizations. 3 injections each. Today we went back for batch #2. Before all is said and done, we will each be vaccinated for yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, the flu, typhoid fever, Tdap and Japanese encephalitis. Also there are the dreaded malaria pills. Creepy!

Last night we cracked out our packing list and put it to the test. Not a bad first try. Amy’s portion fit in Mike’s 40L backpacking pack with room to spare.

Is this really a year’s worth of gear?

It all fit!

We still have a lot of gear we still need to get.  But after this successful packing test, we were so excited that we impulsively purchased a new Gregory Jade 38 (in Beta Red, actually 39L) for Amy. Stoked!

Like we said before, it’s hard to know exactly what you need to do to prepare for a trip around the world.  Have you ever considered what you would do if you ran out of pages for stamps in your passport?  Mike had that very thought.  So, today we mailed in our applications to get an additional 48-page added (see Form DS-4085).

So far, we’re having a blast!  Can’t even imagine what fun the trip itself will bring.  Here are a few tasks on hand we’ll be tackling in the coming weeks…

  • Continue researching awesome destinations, visas, etc.
  • “Go talk to Chuck”
  • Finish last round of vaccinations
  • And of course, keep shopping for new gear!

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