Monday, November 1, 2010

New Zealand

Now that I'm finally feeling better and Halloween is past us, I am finally getting around to organizing our pictures from our trip to New Zealand (two weeks ago).  We knew that our time here in Japan is quickly coming to an end, so we started making a list of places we'd like to visit from here that would be very difficult for us to get to once we leave.  Being pregnant, and sick, I opted to choose New Zealand for this trip, as it is an English speaking country and I knew there'd be food I'd enjoy- Thailand will just have to wait.

WARNING- this is a long post.

We arrived in New Zealand at 5:45 am, after an 11 hour "overnight" flight.  The kids barely slept on the flight and I think I slept maybe 20 minutes. The agenda for our first day consisted of getting to the hotel as fast as possible to shower, change clothes, and brush our teeth.  We went to eat breakfast in downtown Auckland, walked around a bit, and headed straight back to the hotel for a NAP.

A first view of the city from the highway:

Here's the bakery selection:

Dave sipping a "flat white"- New Zealand latte- our friend raved about them, so we had them almost everyday:

After the nap, we went to a grocery store, it was so fun to be in a big grocery store again, and we walked up and down every single aisle looking at all the items they sold.  We finished off the day with pizza at a restaurant across from the grocery store and were in bed by 6 pm.

For our second day, we had quite a drive, I believe it was over 3 hours to get to our next destination.  One of the things we wanted to do while we were there was see dolphins and orcas (mainly orcas).  Also, something unique is that in New Zealand, you can swim with the dolphins (in the US you can't).  Our hotel for that night was in a beach town in the Northeast part of the country.  It was a pretty drive, but with four overtired kids in the car, we were sure glad to find our hotel that night.  There are tons of cafes along the roads, the highways were not big, many were one lane, so you could stop and visit a lot of local places along the route.  And, unlike what I'm used to in the US, almost all of the shops we stopped at had highly decent cups of coffee.

Here's the one we stopped at our first day:

We also stopped in a park to look at the ocean, here are the kids in front of a cool tree:

Here I am on the back of the dophin boat with Owen and Hazel:

Here's a cool rock, they call the shark fin rock:

We did see dolphins, but no orcas- disappointment.  People went in to swim, but Nathaniel and Addison were too scared of killer whales to get in:

The area we took the boat ride was called Bay of Islands, I think there are something like 140 islands here.  We stopped on one for lunch, there was a nice cafeteria there.  You can actually arrange to stay overnight there in some cabins.  It would have been fun to do that, wish we knew (next time ;)).

Look how blue the water is from the beach:

After our boat ride, it was off to our third hotel, a beach front apartment.  We only had a 2 hour drive this day across the country, it was nice, and we got to see some cool sand dunes.  If we came back again and I was't pregnant, I'd like to try the sand surfing down the dunes.  These dunes were across from our hotel, they were the location of the filming of Lawrence of Arabia.

The kids were excited to see a pool (they became quite the fish over the summer)- so of course, I called their bluff and let them go in.  It was cold like I said, but I challenged them to be "polar bears" and they all dunked in order to get an ice cream for dessert the next day.

They are all geared up to get in:

An initial reaction to the water temperature:

This is how we were dressed (to give you an indication of the temperature):

And, our fish didn't care:

The next morning, we were off to go stay on a farm.  This drive was long, about 3 to 4 hours.  We stopped at a cool cafe along the way that sold all homemade arts and crafts items.  While we were sitting in the cafe, there was a hail storm, the kids had never seen one before.  Before the day was over, we experienced two more hail storms, even one while we were outside, so that was fun.

We stopped along the way to look at some kauri trees. They are among the largest trees in the world.  We went to see the biggest one in New Zealand.  This picture does not do it justice, but our reaction was "HOLY #$%#" when we turned the corner and caught our first glimpse of it.

Here is a sign explaining the tree:

Try to compare the trunk size to Hazel:

Here it is, this totally doesn't do it justice:

At the farm, we arrived in time for the kids to help feed the sheep.  Then they played some tennis with Dave- now they all want lessons.   This was a nice break for us because the kids were able to run around and play, instead of sit and fight in the car.

We had to get up early and leave because we were booked on a tour of the Lord of the Rings film set for Hobbit town.  Lucky for us, they are getting ready to film two new movies, so they are actually rebuilding the set to its original form and our tour was going on during the construction.   The kids didn't necessarily appreciate it, but we did.  There are some crazy fans out there!  Unfortunately because of the fact that the movies haven't been filmed yet, we had to sign an agreement that we would not post any pictures we took of the set.  The only one I thought I could post, is this cute one of the kids because it doesn't show any of the set, but yes, it was taken on grass that will be in a famous movie!

We still had another two hour drive to get to our hotel for that night, in a city of Rotorua, which is famous for its hot springs and lava pools.  We were warned it would stink like sulfur, but it actually wasn't bad at all.  We stayed in a small two bedroom house for two nights, so it was a treat, a whole day without driving.  We went and saw some colorful lava pools and mudbaths, which were very cool.

It was VERY stinky here.  Check out her face:

Champagne pools, these were my favorite, the gas from underground makes the water look like it's fizzing:

Being very sensitive to smells, I ended up deciding to rush through, Addison joined me, guess we know who has a sensitive nose in our family.  This was our favorite pool, the Devil's Bath- loved the color:

Here is the bubbling mud, we could have sat here for hours:

And this is why we couldn't (the smell):

We ended the day by going to a geothermal spring and Dave and the kids all went in for a few hours.

Here are the kids on the lawn of our cottage, it was right on the lake, very nice spot:

Our next to last day, we were in the car again, this time heading to Waitomo to see some glo-worm caves.  This was one of the kids' favorite days.  We went on a long drive through someone's farm on narrow twisty roads and ended up at the cave.  We all got to wear hard hats:

Then, we walked into the cave, got into a rubber raft and floated in to see the tens of thousands of glo-worms lighting up the ceiling like stars in the night sky.  Below, you will see the strings of the glo-worms (silk)- but the guide didn't want us taking pictures once all our lamps were off, so I could not get  a good shot in the dark of the glo-worm lights because I didn't have a tripod.

That night, we stayed at the coolest motel ever, it was called Woodlyn Park!  You had your choice of sleeping in an airplane, a train, a boat, or a hobbit house.  The lady who helped us book the trip booked us in the hobbit house, I think she thought we were diehard fans since we went on the set tour.  Even though we didn't get to stay in the airplane or train, the kids were not disappointed.

Here's some views of our hobbit house:

On the way back to the airport for our 12 am flight, we stopped at a bird sanctuary and saw Kiwi birds.  They are nocturnal birds, which evidently dig holes in the ground during the day to sleep.  We couldn't take a picture of the bird because the room was dark to keep it awake and trick it that it was nighttime.  Of course, for a New Zealand souvenir, each kid got a stuffed kiwi.  It's confusing, the word kiwi can be used to refer to a New Zealander, the bird, or the fruit.  You can see a statue of the bird in the picture below:

All in all, thumbs up, but word of advice if you ever go, go during the warmer months and rent a camper van and don't schedule too many specific activities so if you want to stop you don't feel rushed.  There were camper vans everywhere there, all shapes and sizes, it was interesting.  We saw more than I've ever seen in my life from mini-van size, all the way up to the huge ones you would see driving up to Mt. Rushmore in the month of July.


  1. This looks fantastic! Did you use the guy from NZ Encounters to book? I am glad you guys were able to mark this off your list.

  2. Alexis we used a lady named Sandy helped us. If you are going, let me know and I'll give you some info.