Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gold Coast (continued)

Our vacation to the Gold Coast was packed full of fun adventures, but the place that provided the most enjoyment and entertainment turned out NOT to be one of the big fancy was the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.   Koalas and kangaroos?  Yes, please!

We were all pretty enamored with those cute koalas...enough so that we paid for a photo package which included three photos, where one person was allowed to hold a koala in each photo.  We let the older three kids be the "holders" -- here are the resulting pics:

Not sure why Steve and I look so tan in these pics.  We aren't tan.  At all. :)  The kids LOVED holding that cute memory for each of them!

We took a little train ride to the other side of the park:

We saw dingoes (wild Australian dogs).  It was sort of sad to see them fenced in...they didn't seem very happy...but, it was still interesting to see and learn more about them.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching an Aboriginal dance demonstration.  I am having trouble uploading the video footage, but we posed with the performers afterward for this photo:

Everyone agrees that one of the best activities of the day was getting to interact with the kangaroos!

Awesome day, wonderful vacation!   

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gold Coast, Australia

I mentioned in my Christmas post that we had purchased tickets for a trip to Australia as a gift for our family.  In December, the planned excursion for April seemed far away, but we had lots of fun things planned in the meantime.  Before we knew it, the anticipated date for our journey to Oz finally arrived!  We left in the middle of the night and drove two hours to Wellington to catch our flight.  Luke and Landon did so well on the airplane.  It boosted our confidence that our very long journey back to the States will go smoothly as well.  I asked the boys to give me a big smile:

"Okay... Luke... try not so big this time." :)

Aww, man, look how grown-up they look!  Cuties.

There were some technical difficulties on our airplane...once we had already boarded, we waited for over an hour to take off.  That wasn't fun, but I guess it's pretty important for the plane to function properly.  After the 3-hour flight, we landed in Brisbane and were welcomed with sunny skies and a warm breeze.  That was a nice change from the freezing wind and cold temps back in Wellington!  We had rented a lovely minivan, and we all marveled at how quiet and smooth it drove compared to Big Red!  Granted, it had no character, but was sort of a luxurious change.  We drove an hour to our destination, the Aruba Beach Resort in the Broadbeach section of Gold Coast:

The resort was older, but well-maintained and very comfortable.  There was a nice swimming pool and hot tub area that we used nearly every day on our trip.  We had a top-floor suite, and enjoyed the view from the balcony in the evenings:

There were dozens of restaurants, a grocery store, and a nice shopping mall within very short walking distance.  Additionally, the beautiful beach pictured above was only a five-minute walk from our resort.  Needless to say, we couldn't have asked for a more convenient location!

We decided to purchase a three-attraction pass for our family, with admittance to Sea World, Movie World, and Wet-n-Wild water park.  I honestly had reservations about attending Sea World after recently viewing the documentary "Blackfish" -- but I got over it quickly.  I always loved Sea World as a kid, and I wanted my kids to experience it too.  There are no orcas at the Gold Coast Sea World, but it was still a beautiful attraction and we had a lovely day.

See the ladies in the hot pink and yellow shirts, sitting in front of the kids?  They kept holding up their phones to take "selfies" but we could see the displays and they weren't even in their pictures...they were just sneaking pics of our kids!  More on that later.

The next day, we headed to Movie World, a theme park chock full of rides and attractions based on all things Warner Bros.

We had heard that the Superman ride was particularly awesome, but unfortunately it was out of order!

The Green Lantern ride was fun!  Look closely for Steve, Rachel, Julia and Cam on the back row:

We let the older kids go off to explore while we spent some time in the little-kid section:

Luke and Landon were pretty adorable that day...they always get extra attention when they wear their Thing 1 & Thing 2 shirts.  Apparently, they are particularly hard to resist for our Asian tourist friends (case in point -- the ladies I mentioned earlier).  If I had a dollar for every Asian tourist who 1) took a photo of the twins, or 2) grabbed them, and posed with them, I'd dollars.  But still.  Control yourselves, people!  Nearly every time, these scenarios occur quickly, without warning or consent.  Here is another example of what I'm talking about, from a few months ago:

Seriously!  Slightly flattering, but mostly kinda annoying.

Anyway... back to Luke and Landon being silly at Movie World.

Moving down the main street, it was fun to interact with Joker, Batman, and other characters:

Not sure about Joker choking Cameron...good grief, dude!  :)  Luke got a little sad that we couldn't spend more time chatting with the guy.  On the other hand, I was a bit spooked and wanted to part ways rather quickly!

Aww...a kiss from Mom made us both feel better.

Batman came by quickly and patted the boys on the head (they are still talking about that), but by the time we had the camera ready, he had moved on.  He was a good Batman -- very serious, very mysterious, with a deep quiet voice.  Truth be told, he creeped me out almost as much as Joker!

Tweety and Scooby?  No creepy.  Just precious.

Near the Scooby Doo Haunted House attraction, there was a little graveyard.  We all enjoyed posing and practicing our scariest zombie faces!

We had so much fun at Movie World, we went twice over the course of our trip (a few hours each time, which was just perfect).

On Sunday, we had the pleasure of meeting up with our friends Mike and Sandy Peake.  They are lifelong friends of my stepmom Marylin, living in Brisbane.  They have a condo at one of the beaches near where we stayed, and we spent the whole afternoon with them after attending a local LDS ward in the morning.  They had prepared a gorgeous meal for us, we walked along their beach, and the kids enjoyed swimming in the very nice indoor pool on their property.  I am certain that we took a few pictures, but after scouring every device, I can't find any!  Here is a photo of us with Mike and Sandy when they visited us at our home in New Zealand last year:

These are a few great photos of their trip to the States (where we originally met them) to see them on our stomping grounds!

Thank you so much, Mike and Sandy, for making the effort to host us.  We love you!

I'll quickly mention our brief visit to Wet-n-Wild water park.  It ended up being a pretty big disappointment, despite all the great things we had heard about it!  We chose the sunniest, warmest day of our visit to go there, but's not summer in the southern hemisphere, and the temps were only reaching the low 70s Fahrenheit.  The website for the water park claimed that the water was kept at a comfortable temperature year-round, but we quickly discovered that every single pool and slide was full of freezing cold water!  When we ran to Whirlpool Springs, an area containing several hot tubs, hoping to find some way to warm up, we found them all deserted and were informed that they were not heated either.  So frustrating!  We braved the cold water for as long as we could, but pushed the abort button fairly quickly.  All that shivering took its toll on my skinny little soon as they got wrapped up in their towels, they fell fast asleep:

We went back to our beach and enjoyed some fun in the sand and sun (and the ocean water was much warmer than the water park water!):

Beautiful beach!

This post is getting lengthy -- I'll finish up my report of our Gold Coast adventure in the next post.  Stay tuned for koalas and kangaroos!