Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Coromandel Peninsula

This is one place on the north island that I have been especially excited to see, and it did not disappoint. I had drooled over pictures of Cathedral Cove when we were in the early stages of planning our move, and the surrealism of being here soaking up these views in person just never gets old. This was the location for the opening scene in the second Chronicles of Narnia and it is every bit as dreamy as the movie makes it seem. What made it even better was that we got to explore it with some sweet friends who recently moved from Christchurch to the North Island.

We have had such amazing weather this whole entire trip, so I really can't complain, but we were a little disappointed to wake up to rain pouring down on our only planned beach day. It had stopped raining once we got here, but the cool misty air wasn't exactly beachy. It didn't stop Jayden and Maddox who have turned into true kiwis. I think it took them a whole year before they were brave enough to get into the cold water here, but now I can't keep them out. Not that I would want to. I mean, those waves are just screaming to be tackled.

Ryder was so excited to be reunited with his cute friend

And I was just as excited to see my cute friend

I love that she enjoys doing photo shoots just as much as I enjoy taking them.

The world famous Hot Water Beach was high on our list. We couldn't wait to take advantage of the thermal activity right on the beach and dig a little hot tub to relax the day away in. What we hadn't anticipated was that we would be nose to butt cheek with the entire population of New Zealand. We're so spoiled to have every beach here virtually to ourselves so we weren't prepared to share. It still was a pretty cool concept and Jayden loved the challenge of finding the perfect spot. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Some of the water is boiling out of the ground and scorching hot to the touch.

Maddox is clearly thrilled

Like I said, we had the unfortunate opportunity of getting a little too close and personal with people. Jayden's face says it all.

Saying goodbye is always sad, especially knowing you might never see them again. Why oh why does New Zealand have to be so far away?? Thanks, Armstrongs for a memorable day!

So that night as the kids were watching X-factor and we were busy grilling up sausages and corn, we noticed that Maddox was a little lethargic. He was coming down with a fever and complained that his neck hurt. It's such a bummer to get sick on a trip, but it was a good excuse to snuggle up with him on the couch and I didn't worry too much about it. Until I went to bed. And then my mind starting wandering. Which is never a good thing. I started googling amoebic meningitis. Which is never a good thing. The Mayo Clinic website (hey, a little more legit then Web MD) had me convinced he had contracted the deadly disease from the hot water pools and that amoebas were currently in the process of eating his brain and he only had a week to live. I kept telling myself I was over reacting, but this wasn't like the time my lips were raw and had weird sores for like a month and I figured I should start making a video diary to leave for my kids when I passed away from lip cancer. No, this time was different, all the symptoms were there. Except for the vomiting. He slept at the foot of our bed and at the first sign of vomit I would have the ambulance on speed dial. Thankfully he slept soundly through the night (although I wish I could say the same for me). And thankfully I had Jason there to convince me that there was a one in a million chance he had amoebic menigitis and a one in five chance he caught something at the McDonald's playland a few days ago. He was still running a fever and his energy was zapped the next morning, but the good news was that he wasn't dying. I was so excited to take the kids to this Driving Creek Railway. An hour long train ride up and down a mountainside through lush native bush, over wooden bridges and through dark tunnels. It was such a fun and unique experience, I just wish poor Maddox felt better so that he could actually enjoy it.

Is that not the saddest face?? We debated whether to take him or not, but we figured the fresh air beat sitting in a stale car waiting. Whenever people would look at him with concern as he laid lifeless on my lap, I would play it off like, "ya know...late night last night..." hoping not to alarm anyone. Is that bad? Yeah, that's bad.

Ryder is like everyone's favorite toy. He is at such a fun age with a laugh so contagious and eyes that have a certain sparkle when he smiles. Everyone is always fighting over who gets to sit by him. The "cut the pickle" game never got old, one month later and it's still going strong.

We spotted the LDS church building in Coromandel Township. So cute and quaint.

Then enjoyed a nice peaceful drive over the mountain to Auckland

We hated to wake the kids up, but Pokeno's ice cream was worth it. This place is famous for their 19 scoop ice cream cones. That was the plan all along, and then we decided we didn't want to be like that scene from Diary of a Wimpy Kid where they all share the same ice cream cone (tell me you know what scene I'm talking about, it makes me laugh out loud every single time), so we opted for our own cones. Still a little disappointed we didn't get to witness the 19 scooper in the flesh.

Doing his daddly duties and "licking off the drips"

The kids always chuckle at the "Gay Time" cones here

And then we made a quick stop in Auckland. I would loved to have spent more time here, strolling along the wharf and admiring all the architecture, but we had a plane to catch.

Thanks to a recommendation from a friend we stopped at One Tree Hill. A dormant volcano that boasts beautiful views, an awesome playground and contrary to the name, more than just one tree.

I passed my camera over to Maddox to keep him entertained during the flight home. I should do that more often, he's got a pretty good eye for photography (minus the 153 shots of the back of the chair).

Right there below the spit is where we spent our dreamy week at the beach house. This summer vacation totally rocked.

Saturday, February 07, 2015


Judging by the amount of pictures, you can guess how amazing Rotorua is.  I know I've said it before, but the diversity in this tiny island just blows my mind. It really does have it all. Rotorua is like Middle Earth meets Yellowstone National Park. Wai-o-tapu is this geothermal wonderland made up of every color of the rainbow. If you ask the kids they will tell you it was way too much walking, but we did see some pretty amazing sites.

Kerosene creek was a hidden gem passed on by a friend. Unlike the spa thermal park in Taupo, this one was off the beaten path. Literally. You take a long unmarked bumpy dirt road to get here and you would miss it if you didn't know what you were looking for. My favorite kind of place. And instead of just a small section being heated, the whole entire river is a hot tub. It is seriously amazing. And then my zoom lens rolled out of my bag and fell into the water. I was so sad, I use that thing all the time! It kind of put a damper on the situation. But like my sister said, it's a pretty good place for it to be laid to rest.

We took a stroll through the Redwood Forest. Ya know, I've got a thing for overgrown trees and wooded paths, it's all so dreamy.

Our last stop was the Skyline Gondola and Luge, just like the one in Queenstown. We had to laugh when we got in the gondola and saw this picture, because it is totally what I did the last time we were on it and I had a panic attack!

Maddox and Ryder were literally in tears over who had to ride with me because I'm so slow. Slow and steady wins the race, I always say.

What an amazing little pocket of the world, so grateful for the chance we had to explore it!