Flanders in NZ 13 – Seals…again

This morning I was climbing up and down a bakers rack marking concrete columns and girders. When one of the construction workers came over I asked if he could help move the rack to the other side. Once he and another young guy  moved the rack I went over and asked their names and shook their hands. Coincidentally they were both named Ned. Young Ned looked at me proud and said “well I’m Ned Simpson.” I told him my last name was Flanders and he was pretty excited to hear that, gave me a high five, and asked if we could switch names. As classic as the Simpsons are to America, I’m fairly sure the Kiwis love them more! I get far more comments about my name here than in America.

I was a bit worried about my post this week. Thought it would turn out being a lot of photos like this…


The Ceiling Can’t Hold Us

Saturday I worked a bit in the morning and the rest of the day we had a stint of cabin fever. We were pretty relieved when a colleague mentioned a trip to Kaikoura to visit the baby seals on Sunday! You may remember I got to see the seals per this post, but it was great to make a day out of it and bring Keith to see them.


Ohau Stream Seals – best of

There were still heaps of seals playing in the stream–peak season is throughout the winter. It is one of the most entertaining activities to watch a bunch of baby seals swim and climb over rocks.


Seal Climb



Jen + Seals

Keith got into the river (well on a few rocks) to take a photo with the seals, and they all decided to pose perfectly 🙂


Keith + Seals

After walking up Ohau Stream, we grabbed fish and chips and some seafood chowder at a local diner (“Why Not”) and then headed to the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. The tide hadn’t receded much yet, but we were able to round the corner of the low route and find heaps more baby seals!


Seals w/ a View

This was my favorite seal photo of the lot, we found one baby seal who had crawled up the path a bit and was enjoying the view a little more than its low-lying friends–


Seal w/ a Better View

Flanders Hiking Photo of the Week:


Peninsula Walkway, Kaikoura

All the adult seals found their way into the parking lot to nap…


Staying 10 meters away from the parking lot seals…



Take over of the parking lot seals

Overall a great way to cure a bit of cabin fever.


Along the Peninsula Walkway

Less the 3 weeks until we hop the ditch and experience Aussie (and some warmer weather!) for a little long weekend!


Flanders in NZ 2 – There’s no place like home

It’s been a busy first week of settling into the southern hemisphere. I was warned before arriving in New Zealand that I would have to go on a business trip Tuesday after landing…so at least I was prepared. There was a significant earthquake in the north part of the south island last year which happens to be the location of several large wineries. Therefore, on 6am Tuesday morning myself and colleague drove 4 hours up the coast to Blenheim to wonder around wine tanks for two days. Although this was a fun introduction to getting back into the swing of New Zealand work, I admit, I couldn’t think about drinking wine afterwards (at least until the weekend). The best part of the trip was that on the way back we stopped at the Ohau Point seal colony—another activity I missed during my first New Zealand stint. At Ohau Point the adult seals will swim out to sea to fish throughout the day and the baby seals will climb up the river to a waterfall pool. This results in some pretty amazing seal encounters off the beaten path—

Cute right?

We moved into our new temporary home on Saturday—a two bedroom flat right by the park. *Nerd housing economics break* For those interested in the housing in Christchurch, a typical 1-2 bedroom flat around the “city” is roughly $1800/month. The previous place we lived in the suburbs of DC was not this much. As the housing capacity shrunk around the city, the rebuild increased employment and population. The apartment one of my colleagues lived in two years ago increased their rent by 140% after they left. I consider us fairly lucky to have found the nice & convenient place we did! This morning’s top news story was actually that the government is helping to subsidize rent costs for unemployed young Kiwis to move to Christchurch for rebuild work.

Back to the Flanders moving – moving into a furnished apartment with five suitcases may have been the easiest process ever. After a rough 2+ day move out into a Maryland storage unit, I highly recommend always moving into a place with pre-existing furniture 🙂
Sunday morning was cloudy but we decided to drive into the hills for a hike. Lucky for us once we drove high enough we ended up above the clouds…




Keith really wanted a photo next to some sheep…but he kind of scared them away



Sunday night ended with a Cinco de Mayo / Carne Asada fiesta at a coworkers flat. A great way to kick off the start of the new & busy week!

New Zealand 8 – Cinco de What?

This week marks a whole month living in New Zealand. Therefore, I’ve officially driven more on the left side of the road than the entire past year of living in the States driving on the right side of the road. I’ve also finally broke down and purchased things like good olive oil (a product I finally missed too much to cook without). Lastly, It’s becoming very difficult to do my own dishes–

*I think I’ll do the dishes tonight…no, maybe tomorrow before work, (tomorrow morning comes), oh no I’m out of time…conclusions – oh well, the maid will do them for me*

One of my coworkers jokes that we’ll all have to hire maids when we go back to the States. I should probably start getting used to chores again before I go home in 2 months!

But enough about olive oil & dishes.  This past work week included following up with site visits & reports and then on Friday I sort of volunteered myself to crawl underneath a gym floor. By sort of, when I heard the project manager ask my fellow engineer if he would go to this gym site visit and the engineer mentioned another deadline he had, I volunteered my crawling-in-small-spaces talents (of which I have none). As a background, this gym floor is built 2′ from the ground on several concrete piers. During the February earthquake several problems were noted which we needed to follow up on. This included checking underneath the gym floor to see if anything looked crooked or settled. By order of age, experience, and my apparent willingness, this lucky crawler happened to be me.  This all involved an extra-extra large disposable jump suit that the office made the project manager promise to get several photos of, and crawling around in some dirt for a bit to see what was going on. In the end it was a fairly interesting experience, and maybe shows my friends&family back home that I don’t get this free trip for nothing 🙂

attempting to start a new fashion trend

Onto the good stuff. This weekend, on Saturday to be exact, was busy. I planned a trip to Kaikoura with four other coworkers to do a coastal hike. Kaikoura is a 2+ hour drive north from Christchurch and known for their seal-viewing.

New Zealand Fur Seals at Seal Point, Kaikoura

We parked at Seal Point where we saw a few seals basking on the rocks and continued up the hills to start the walk along the ridge.

Peninsula Walk – along the ridge

Walking along the ridge was beautiful (despite the gloomy weather), but on the way back we decided to be a bit adventurous and hike along the shore instead. Typically, this would be impossible; however, the tide was low and luckily stayed low until right after we got back to the car park. We also were able to get up close and personal (a bit too close…) to the fur seals.

Peninsula Walk – along the shore with the seals

We were told to stay at least 20 meters away from the seals off the trail, though sometimes that was just not possible the way the seals strategically situated themselves across our path. Seals tend to blend in with the rocks, so we learned very quickly to step carefully! Seals are not fast, but tend to be grumpy and hissed at us a lot.  At one point we got between the seal and the water and one of my coworkers had a close-call seal attack. (seals don’t really attack, he just got a little too close for comfort)

Seal Attack

Once we got back to the trail, the seals seemed a bit more friendly and even posed for the camera.

Hello There

Once we got back to Christchurch we had a one-hour break before heading off to a Cinco de Mayo party.  An American engineer who used to work with a coworker of ours invited us to his place to celebrate (he is living in Christchurch now indefinitely).  Housing is fairly scarce in Christchurch, but since most locals are weary of living in the hills after the earthquakes, our host had a gorgeous apartment that overlooked the town and ocean below (my night iPhone photo does not do this justice).  Those who live in the hills typically have community elevators to bring them to their houses. When we left, we hoped in the lift, pushed the down button, and were brought down to our car parked several feet below. What a nice form of transportation!

Sumner Views

The party involved several engineers & spouses from all over the world. We quickly learned that outside of North America, no one has any idea what Cinco de Mayo is. Actually, several guests had to Google it before arrival and then go out to buy sombreros & ponchos to fit in. Overall, it was a great meeting so many people outside of work that are also transplanted here for a while.

Pinata Gathering

Today (Sunday) was a great recuperation day. Tried out a new breakfast place (I’ve been making an effort to try a new one every weekend), joined a local gym, bought some NZ merino wool clothing that my coworkers keep raving about, and decided to use part of my daily food allowance on a manicure…typical. I will leave you with my coffee photo of the week. Cheers!