Sunday, May 24, 2015

ANZAC Day

The suitcases are sitting on my floor waiting to be packed, the walls have been freshly painted to cover up two years worth of hot wheels being chucked at them, we gave farewell talks in church today and I've been tearing up at the drop of a hat. I still can't believe we're down to the last week. I have so many emotions going on and thoughts swirling through my head, but for now I'm just trying to get caught up on the blog as much as I can before we leave. ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) Day was really special this year. It's similar to our Memorial Day, a day to remember those who serve, and especially those who lost their life in service. Judy invited us to Pete's farm for the day. It's in a small town, and everyone knows that small towns do these sort of things right. A beautiful ceremony at the Town Hall and a solemn parade followed with punch and cookies for the kids. The kids have been learning all about the battle at Gallipoli (for which the day is marked) and everything associated with ANZAC day. I love hearing the things that they have learned, and I love that they have this opportunity to learn about so many different aspects of the culture and history here.






Maddox is all about the poppy flower. It is a symbol used on ANZAC day and he has grown quite fond of that little red flower.


We then spent the afternoon at the farm. Riding quads, going target shooting, grilling burgers in the sunshine, hiking to a waterfall, visiting a cemetery, and my favorite was ending the night in the hot tub under the stars belting out Bryan Adam's "Summer of '69" with Judy until we were hoarse (and the kids thought we were crazy). Those were the best days of our lives.....














Thursday, May 21, 2015

The end

I wasn't sure if I would ever get to the end of these pictures! We seriously packed so much into these eight days. For such a small island, it's amazing how much there is to do and see. It's taken us two years to explore and there are still places we haven't seen. Although we have managed to see quite a bit, we definitely won't be going home with any regrets. I must say, the North Island has the South Island beat when it comes to waterfalls. We've got some pretty ones down south, but I'm just amazed how many there are up here and that most of them are within a few minutes walk from the road. Like Marokopa Falls, she was a true beauty.



The Mangapohue Natrual Bridge was beautiful too.


The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a must see on every traveler's bucket list. It's an experience you'll never find anywhere else. Floating in dark silence through a cave covered in glowing specks like stars in a night sky. It sounds dreamy, but all I could think about was having a panic attack deep inside a cave. I really had so much anxiety about this, but knew I had to overcome my fears or I would regret missing out on this. I pulled up my big girl britches, popped a valium and was good to go. The tour instructs that there needs to be silence because noise disturbs the glowworms. That immediately took Ryder out of this equation. Since Jason got a chance to do the Te Anu Glowworm caves when his sister came down, he volunteered to stay with Ryder while I took the others and then we swapped. I am so glad I went. I thought the whole tour would be on the boat in the dark, but it starts out walking through a cave that is large and well lit so I didn't feel trapped at all. It was interesting to hear the commentary along the way and to see the cool formations. There's one room of the cave, The Cathedral, where the soaring ceiling gives way to the most incredible acoustics that they will hold operas and concerts down there. That would be quite the experience. Then we got on the boat and it was one of the most incredible sights.


You aren't allowed to take pictures, but here is one I grabbed off the internet to give you an idea

 
(pic via)

Here we are at the end with the cave to the left. One of our ward member's great great (great?) grandfather was one of the first people to discover this place. Can you even imagine stumbling across something like this?


There was another cave that was part of the tour, so I swapped with Jason so he cold have a chance to do some exploring. This tour was about 2 hours and we didn't know how well Ryder would do, so we just snacked on fruit and watched Justin Time in the campervan instead. This spiral walkway down to it was pretty incredible.







We made our way over to New Plymouth the next day. Do you love how matter-of-fact these posts are going?  So blah. Hopefully the beautiful pictures make up for my lack of engaging commentary. Pukekura Park was one of the most beautiful city parks we have ever seen. This man made waterfall was pretty cool. The kids loved pushing the button to turn it on and watch the water spill over.





They had the cutest little zoo with everything from farm animals to monkeys, and it was all for free. They had a butterfly section and as we were walking over Maddox saw all the cocoons and knew that it was a swan plant. Sure enough. That boy is like a sponge, he absorbs everything he learns at school. He continued to tell me all about the life cycle of butterflies and we had fun trying to spot all the caterpillars and cocoons.


We ate ice cream then rented a paddle boat and got stuck in the rain. It made for some good laughs and memories





Seeking refuge under the bridge. (Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner, sometimes I feel like my only friend, is the city we live in, the city of angels, lonely as I am together we cry.... Under the Bridge...Stone Temple Pilots...the soundtrack to my senior year...anybody?? No? Okay, moving on)




And just when you thought I couldn't sneak in one more picture of that beautiful bridge, I pulled a fast one on you. Didn't see that one coming, did you?


5/6th of us decided to hike the Paritutu Rock. 1/6th decided to stay in the campervan and he definitely missed out. It's a pretty steep climb and already at the beginning the little guys were complaining about being tired while climbing all the stairs. My glutes were complaining too. But then about halfway up it changed from stairs to rock climbing with this chain to hold on to. They thought that was about the coolest thing ever and scrambled up the steep rocks like regular old rugged mountain men. At this point, any fear of them falling has long subsided. I mean, with all the tree and rock climbing they do here, being an overprotective parent just won't fly.




I guess you could say the view was worth it....




And there she is. A pretty impressive climb for three year old, I must say.


We debated back and forth about Mount Taranaki, an active volcano with beautiful hikes. I especially had my eye on the Goblin Forest. It was getting late, the clouds were looking ominous, the kids were tired and it was a little out of the way. We decided to throw caution in the wind and just go for it. I was sad that the cloud cover never let up so that we could get a view of the actual volcano



But Goblin forest didn't disappoint. Ryder had fallen asleep, the kids were enthralled with the Flintstones and at this point the clouds had opened up and the rain was coming down. So Jason and I just took a romantic walk through the moss covered forest where the muffled sound of raindrops got lost in the leaves while the smell of fresh rain mixed with the musty forest left a thickness in the air that was equally eerie and intoxicating. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip.




We drove late into the night and arrived at the ferry terminal where we slept for a couple of hours before boarding the boat around 2:30 AM. We stumbled around bleary eyed dragging pillows and sleeping bags around the ship looking for a place to sleep. We found some booths that were empty and I wish that I would have gotten a picture of us all curled up on the benches, Ryder laying on top of me, while trying to sleep as passengers walked by. A four hour ferry ride and another 4 hour drive home and our vacation was over. And what an incredible vacation it was.