A Travellerspoint blog

A Day in Rotuara

Lake Rotorua is a very popular tourist attraction!

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Up early, and headed to a fun filled day in a town about 45 mins south of Tuarnga. We reserved a night with the maori tribe, and planned to go ZORBing and/or ziplining or luging...

ZORBING-kids found it amazing fun- the 3 of them squeezed into a hole and found themselves inside a huge blow-up plastic ball that got filled with a few inches of water. The hole zipped up, and they were pushed down a giant hill- the result was sort of like an inside out water slide! Max & Sam loved it so much, they paid their own money to do it again!!! Now, Steve did the 'dry' run, where he was zipped inside, but was strapped to the side of the ball and pushed down the hill- He wishes he had not done it! He had major motion sickness!! I laughed very hard as I watched all of them roll down the hill, and espcially when I saw Steve roll past the ending area and kept going up a hill til he hit the fence, then came back down. Little did I know he had exceded the weight limit, but they let him go anyway!!
Zorbing!

Zorbing!


The New Zealanders have crazy extreme sports here, and do not pay quite as much caution to being overly 'safe' like we do in the states... Which takes me to the luging we did after the ZORB adventure... It started with a gondola ride to the top of the hill- where there was a winery, retaurant, icecreamery, and jelly-belly store! We took in the scenery over looking the Rotuara lake- this place is like a lake Tahoe type place- tons of things to do nestled around a very popular tourist summer lake shore. NZ is just breath taking from the top views.
Kids in Gondola

Kids in Gondola


So... when we got off the gondola, we went to the top of the LUGE- we each got our own coaster, and we free-steered down these windy paths going up to probabally 15-20 mph- it was insane! (No padding, by the way!! except for a helmet) & No surprise there was a first aid tent at the bottom of each run!!-LOL But wow, was it fun! Our 'joy-ride junkie' family Loved it!!
Ziplining was out, not enough time to get to our Maori Village... A REAL tribal village, with real carvings, tikis, and Maori people put on a real tribal peace challange, showed us games and warrior training traditions they participated in in years past. Most Maoris now live like modern day, especially in the cities, and suburbs of the cities, but are still a few remaining (3rd world-ish) places here that are very remote.
A typical story of their people being overcome by the new settlers, with civil wars, peace & land treaties that were not 'really' followed, the Maoris TODAY are making their stories know and trying to assimilate their culture into today's world- we learned they teach Maori as a second language in schools and some schools teach in Maori as the first language, English second. So 'experinces' like we took in are very educational and very REALISTIC.
We ate Maori food, cooked and served (a Hangi) which is a pit dug underground, hot stones, and a covering so the meat & vegetables & pudding steams. It was delicious!
We watched dancing, war dances (from the heart- which meant they were getting passionate & 'fired-up' to go to battle) and learned some of the carvings and what they meant. Steve and Sam both participated in different activities.
Steve Does Maori Dance

Steve Does Maori Dance

Posted by sandlb107 11:25 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

December 27th- Catching Up

The morning before we head to Rotorua...

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December 27th-

We are in the Beach Resort town of Tauranga- very different from the more remote areas we visited our first three days. (I feel like we are back in civilization again!) We drove here pretty much all day on Christmas- about 5 hours of driving altogether. The first part of the trip- doubling bback from the North through Auckland- just felt long. A strange way to spend Christmas Day! Once we got through Auckland (our second time driving through the city- Lisa and I are very much looking forward to actually exploring the city either Sunday or when we return next month) the scenery really changed and we had some pretty cool adventures.

After driving for about 2 ½ hours we were pretty challenged to find anything open to grab some food- we ended up settling for “meat pies” from a gas station. As we approached Tauranga, where we planned to spend the next few days, we drove through several very interesting towns, multiple wineries and streets lined with both palm trees and what looked like topiary trees?
Arrival at Trinity Wharf

Arrival at Trinity Wharf


Finally, we arrived at our hotel and it was phenomenal- even better than the last place. (So much fun to see Max, Sara, and Sam run around their new place and pick out beds, etc…) After we got organized and put our stuff away it was off to the hotel pool to break this place in!
We had correspondence with the hotel about Christmas Dinner- they have a nice restaurant called “Halo” and so we knew we schedule for a late (8pm) Christmas dinner with the family. We all got dressed up and went down, which was quite an experience. Unfortunately, the kitchen was really having some problems and we ended up not getting served until about 9:10pm- everyone was at their wit’s end by that point. So Christmas day ended on somewhat of a downer…
Our Christmas Dinner

Our Christmas Dinner

The next day was called “Boxing Day” here and we expected it to be a crazy, madhouse kind of day but it really was not so evident.
We started our morning with an hour long family hike of Mount Maunganui, which dominates the landscape here in Tauranga. It was a pretty arduous hike for the entire family- but the views at the tops were absolutely spectacular and it made enduring the whining on the way up worth it! Everyone had no trouble at all descending the mountain (and this is where multiple pictures were taken because it was so beautiful!) and then we pretty much made a bee line to the beach for some rest and relaxation.
View From the Top

View From the Top


The beach was very nice- our first beach with a life guard- and the water was chilly. However, the skies darkened and we decided to move on pretty quickly to another activity. We got some ice cream and drove down to Papamoa for what easily became a major highlight of the trip so far: Blokarting and Drift Racing! We are not sure the pictures will do justice to exactly how much fun it was… Each of us (even Sam) got to race around a large track in a sail powered race car- like wind surfing with a go kart. It was fast, exciting, and crazy fun. All of the kids really caught on and even Lisa talked about how much it helped her understand how sailing worked.
Steve Blokarting

Steve Blokarting


Lisa Blokarting

Lisa Blokarting


After Blokarting, we went over to another track and got to try electric “drift” cars, which were like go karts built to simulate drift racing… This also turned out to be incredible family fun- Max was all over the place and had some spectacular crashes- and everyone left Papamoa with huge smiles on their faces.
Ssara and Sam on Electric Drifts

Ssara and Sam on Electric Drifts


We went food shopping at “New Town” (a grocery store) and then it was back to the hotel pool to get our bearings. We ended the evening with a family walk through Tauranga (we had hope the stores would be open but they weren’t) and our second ice cream purchase of the evening. What a great day!

Posted by sandlb107 01:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Christmas Eve? Christmas?

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family! We definitely miss you all on the other side of the world…

sunny 70 °F
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It is very cliché to imagine how difficult it is for people to enjoy the spirit of Christmas in sunny, hot, weather. It felt strange all day yesterday to see New Zealanders in Santa hats, even as they lounged with us on the beach!!!

Yesterday we start ambitiously with the intent to drive some 3 hours north to Coopers Beach- which we had decided was a good compromise from driving to the very tip of the North Island (would have been 6+ hours…) However, we had only been driving for about 15 minutes before Sara starting feeling carsick and we began to scale back immediately. We ended up driving 2 hours North to a seaside town called Paihia, near Russell. Russell had been highly recommended, but you need to take a ferry to get over there so we stayed on the beach at Paihia. We played baseball and made sand castles and generally had ourselves an “Ocean City” kind of day. Somewhere in the midst of all the fun I started to feel bad- something that has now bloomed into a full Christmas day illness, I’m afraid. (I am writing this in the morning, as I wait for everyone to get up- and yes, Santa somehow made it here, there are filled stockings out in the middle of our apartment!)
Playing on the Beach of Paihia

Playing on the Beach of Paihia

On our way back to Tutukaka, we stopped at another beach and explored the rocks and natural “aquariums” that formed as the tide went out. We saw green lipped mussels, a purple crab, and a giant (palm sized) sea slug.
A Fun Stop on Christmas Eve- Sandy Bay

A Fun Stop on Christmas Eve- Sandy Bay

Our time here this morning will be short, soon we will say goodbye to Tutukaka and head 4 hours south to Tauranga, our next destination. Along the way we will be searching for a church.

I hope everyone is having a fantastic Christmas (or will have, as we are generally a day ahead of you!)

Oh boy, someone is getting up...
Santa Made It To NZ

Santa Made It To NZ

Posted by sandlb107 11:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Tutukaka- The first 2 days!

(a little trouble getting online...)

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Day 1- The Travel (written on the morning of Day 3)

I feel a little tempted to over-dramatize the travel it took to get here but it was relatively uneventful, and everything went very smoothly. It took us over 24 hours to get door to door (from Fallston to Tutukaka, New Zealand) and it has taken the first two nights of this trip to fully acclimate to the time difference. And so now I find myself up early at a time (6am) usually reserved for work. I am hoping to get this blog posted in the morning along with some pictures… the only thing preventing that last night was some internet struggles.

New Zealand is as incredible as I had always imagined! We arrived Sunday morning in Auckland, and it was strangely overcast, but after securing our Rav4 rental car we proceeded to drive 3 hours north to our first place- the Oceans Resort in Tutukaka. I will say the difference between travelling with two, “almost” 10 year olds and an “almost” eight year old vs our last trip (Max/Sara 6, Sam 4) was striking: the kids are pretty independent now and so the entire ordeal was less taxing. I think about that as I look back on the 3 hour car ride from Auckland- the kids were as engaged in the scenery as Lisa and I as we headed North.DSCN2333

DSCN2333

A few interesting signs we saw: One, was posted everywhere-No Spitting-I suppose it is a huge cultural offense and Hold your dog- apparently the KIWI birds come out at night and domestic dogs kill them. We saw them in the early morning on our porch, sort of like a small chicken, ground feeder type of bird.

Anyway, as soon as we arrived and settled into our apartment on Sunday afternoon we headed up to a nice beach about 10 minutes north of Tutukaka- it was incredible! Amazing scenery (lush foliage on tall, rocky hills) and water that was crystal clear. My first indelible moment came within 3 minutes of being in the water as a perfectly clear 5 foot wave reared up and crashed onto us- made me flashback to Tom Hanks trying to get off that island (can’t remember movie name)… we swam and played for about 2 hours and then went back to Tutukaka and some pizza at a nearby pizzeria (very popular here). The entire gang was incredibly tired and so we all fell asleep by 8pm!

Tutakaka is like a town like, Duck or Corolla, NC geographically speaking, not scenery- one road one lane all the way up, far from a major city. Tons of art galleries, small shops, very remote. I have only seen 2 pieces of litter the entire time- this country is so well preserved, impeccably clean, absolutely no pollution.

Day 2- (Monday for us, Sunday for everyone back home!) We started the morning by going on a family hike- headed up to Whale Bay and did both the 30 minute AND 45 minute hiking trails, one of which doubled back to the beach we had explored on our first day. Each turn and pass of the hike revealed more and more beautiful views of various cays and bays- it was just a real treat!DSCN2384

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DSCN2386

We headed over to a Dive Shop at 10:30am and then took a boat out to Poor Knights Islands, which are some 18 miles off the coast of New Zealand. In retrospect, I would like to think we had planned all of this out but the truth is we have no idea we were staying near Poor Knights- known internationally as one of the Top Ten Dive Spots in the world!!! The boat tripDSCN2415

DSCN2415

was flat out “JEPIC”- everyone had a great time and I will share three quick incredible memories of Poor Knights:

• Snorkeling was Max, Sara, Sam (Lisa still not really onboard with the concept) and finding ourselves in the midst of thousands of fish!!!- I won’t soon forget the look in the kid’s eyes as they tried to share what they were seeing through breathing apparatus! DSCN2423

DSCN2423


• Kayaking into the largest sea cave in the world! The entire family boarded kayaks and travelled about ¼ mile from the dive boat into the large cave. Sam, Sara and I went so close to the far wall that condensate from the 20 foot high moss ceiling started dripping on us…DSCN2437

DSCN2437


• Leaving Poor Knights on the boat and driving through a couple of incredible arches and tunnels of the volcanic formations! Simply amazing!DSCN2486

DSCN2486

Anyway, we capped off the day by heading into the town of Whangarei. We went to a nice dinner (great lamb, best meal yet) and then played in the city’s playground which featured strange and interesting equipment that got everyone spinning and laughing. On the way home we stopped at Whangarei Falls (about a 60 foot waterfall) and got some pictures- however, by the point the kids were cooked and we barely made it home without meltdowns…

Today we plan on some serious driving to the northern beaches- I will hopefully write more often (and more briefly!) in the coming days…

Posted by sandlb107 11:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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