Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ruakaka Beach

With Grandma Evie here safe and sound, we could properly begin our exploration of the Northland region!  We all enjoyed having Grandma in the van with us, and the kids chatted her ears off.  I absolutely love these snaps from inside Big Red.  It's really hard to get a genuine photo of Emily, so I think she looks adorable here:

Of course Julia and Mom look gorgeous, too.  :)  Anyway, all that chatting and catching up and driving made everyone hungry, so after a few hours, we stopped at Ruakaka Beach for lunch.  Steve and I stayed back to make sandwiches, while Grandma and the kids walked down to check out the beach up close.  It was stunning, to say the least!  All photos credited to Rachel:

Julia proudly displayed the sand dollar she discovered:

Doesn't this rock look like an enormous shark fin?

Back to the van for sandwiches (and a change of clothes for the twins, who obviously managed to get soaking wet!).

Rachel's view from the back of Big Red:

As we continued traveling north toward Russell and the Bay of Islands, I was relieved to see that the foliage outside was green and lush.  Down south, in our area of the island, we had experienced a long dry spell, which had caused the normally green grass and hillsides to turn brittle and yellow.  There must have been more moisture here on the upper North Island, and Evie was impressed.  Even when my trusty navigation tool on my phone led us on a L-O-N-G detour, it was really beautiful scenery, so we didn't mind so much.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Three Cheers for Grandma Evie!

Actually, it was WAY more than three cheers when she finally arrived after all of those delays!

Before Mom's flight was scheduled to land, we went to a viewpoint close to our campground and the airport to watch some of the jets coming and going.  We got there just as the moon was on the rise and tried to be clever:

We eventually made it to the airport shortly before Mom's flight was set to arrive, and I breathed a sigh of relief when reading the announcement that the plane had indeed landed.  It seemed like forever (just over an hour) for her to "process" through customs.

Landon started to lose his patience...

...but finally seeing Grandma's smiling face made all the waiting worth it!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

An Accidental Day in Auckland

After dropping off Shawn and Erika at the airport on Sunday evening, we set up our tent less than a mile from the airport at a very inexpensive little campground.  It was a really interesting place -- we didn't even check in with an actual person, we just scanned our credit card when we arrived and then scanned it again when we checked out.  If we wanted to come and go in the meantime, we would push a button and someone -- somewhere -- would open the gate for us.  There was a kitchen area and decent-ish bathroom facilities, all for the bargain price of $40 per night (the cheapest camping with full facilities that we've experienced in NZ, by far).

Once checked in, we quickly noticed this beautiful marae right next to the campground:

Unfortunately, we also noted the very loud airport noise from the arriving and departing jets as well as the constant sound of barking dogs (there must have been a kennel close by).  No matter.... it was inexpensive, close to the airport, and we would only be there for one night.  We planned to pick up my mom Evelyn at the airport first thing the next morning, and then we'd be on our way to explore the Bay of Islands!

Before long, I started getting messages from my mom, saying that she had arrived safely in Los Angeles from Utah, but that there was some sort of problem with the flight from LA to Auckland.  Finally, after several hours and many messages, she let us know that the long flight to New Zealand had been cancelled.  The pilot had gotten violently ill en route to the airport and could not safely operate the airplane and there was no one who could replace him.  Therefore, every passenger was put up in a hotel room in the LA area for the night and the flight would depart the next morning.  Mom didn't end up getting to bed until 3 am and then had to be back up to catch the shuttle to the airport by 7 am.  Not an ideal beginning to her long-awaited New Zealand adventure, but she was such a good sport about it.

Therefore, we found ourselves with a whole day to kill in Auckland.  After doing a little research online, we ended up going to a kids' fun center just a stone's throw from where we camped, with miniature golf, a petting zoo and other animals, and a dinosaur park.  We decided to split up.  Steve took the older three kids to play mini golf (they really wanted to do the ropes course, but there was a big school group there and they didn't have space for our kids at the last minute).  I took the younger three to do the other activities.  The weather was beautiful and we all ended up having a great day.

The littles especially enjoyed the dinosaur section.  See that amazing course in the background?  That's what the bigs had their hearts set on doing.  Too bad they weren't able looks amazing. 

Our final activity was a little train ride.  While we waited to depart, Emily grabbed my phone and took these pics of me with the boys...

...then Luke grabbed my phone and took this pic of me and Emily.  Not bad for a 3-year-old!  :)