That's Lake Tarawera, just outside of Rotorua. The volcano pictured across the lake erupted in 1886, killing 150 people and completely burying an entire Maori village. We didn't pay to visit the buried village, which has now been turned into a tourist attraction of sorts, but it was really interesting to learn more about the area.
We arrived late on a Thursday night. Hawea and Manaia were already at the home, and had gotten the fire going so it was nice and toasty. We got everyone sorted...there were enough bedrooms for everyone to have their own bed and some privacy. It was lovely.
It was cloudy and rainy all day on Friday, but we didn't allow the soggy weather to put a damper on our mood! We were all just happy to be together and to enjoy the time to relax (except Hawea, who was attending a conference for work all day). The house was well stocked with games and toys and the kids were in heaven playing with new things. We had a hearty breakfast of streaky bacon, eggs, and spaghetti on toast, a favorite for many kiwis. For the record, Steve wouldn't try the spaghetti, and it took awhile to coax Cameron, but the rest of us actually quite liked it!
We hopped in the car and took a long drive, stopping to visit some of the beautiful lakes in the area. The colored leaves were stunning mixed with the usual lush, green hills. These are the sights from New Zealand that I am going to miss the most!
We stood at this lookout point, with Blue Lake on one side and Green Lake on the other:
Our next stop was to downtown Rotorua, where we made our way through the Government Gardens and soaked in the stunning beauty of this extraordinary building, formerly named the Bath House, but which is now the home to the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. This masterpiece is dubbed the "most photographed building in New Zealand." Gorgeous!
We loved the intricate details, especially the colored glass!
We only spent a few moments inside the museum, since the stuffy ladies who worked there were clearly not keen on having a bunch of wild kids running around, mucking everything up! Still managed to get a few cool shots inside, though:
More beautiful sights around Government Gardens:
This is a replica of a traditional Maori waka (canoe) used to travel from other islands to settle New Zealand.
Back to the house for a fun-filled evening, with lots of food, laughter, sitting by the fire, watching movies, and even a little trek to see some glow worms, which were located just a short distance behind the house!
The next morning, Saturday, dawned clear and crisp and SO beautiful!
Steve and Hawea took off to go mountain biking. The Rotorua area is famous for it's mountain biking trails! The guys met up with some friends of the Kingis, Jeff and Rose, who took them on some of their favorite trails, then fed them a nice lunch afterward. Steve immediately took to Jeff and Rose, and noticed that many times throughout the day, Jeff referred to Rose as "darling." Since then, Steve has been calling me "darling" in his best kiwi accent (which, despite his earnest efforts, still sounds like a mixture of Spanish and Indian). Needless to say, it's quite precious.
I really hoped that Steve or Hawea would take some photos from their adventure, but after some investigation, this is the only photo we could track down, taken by Rose:
Steve on the left, Jeff on the right, and we think that's Hawea down in front. It's debatable. :)
Meanwhile, while they were off galavanting in the forest, we were enjoying another delicious breakfast, a Kingi specialty: Eggs Benedict.
Luke and Landon were especially cheerful, despite having a rough night. See, I had no idea that they had had a rough night at all...Steve had been sick and had a pretty nasty nighttime cough, so I chose to wear ear-plugs. I slept like a baby, later learning that the boys had woken up several times, crying, asking for toys, needing drinks of water -- HUGE shout-out to Manaia for being the all-night babysitter and for having the courtesy to not wake us up! You're the best. :)
We split up afterward...the older kids headed to the lake for kayaking:
I took my three younger kids to the park to play. It was a stunning day!
When we'd gotten our fill of the first park, we drove to a different one!
Aww, I love these littles of mine, so very much.
In the evening, we were invited by Rose and Jeff, and some other friends of the Kingis, to attend their ward party. It was a dinner and variety show, packed with great performances by some super talented people. We had a great time!
All good things must come to an end, and so it was with our Rotorua retreat. On Sunday morning, we cleaned the house and got ready for church. Here are a few house photos taken right before we checked out:
Looking down at Big Red from the balcony:
It was a true pleasure to attend church in Rotorua -- really nice, friendly, humble people!
We stopped in Lake Taupo, on the way back to Palmy, to make some lunch and to stretch our legs:
The drive went smoothly, and as we got close to home, we grabbed a few shots of the beautiful sunset and New Zealand countryside.
One last-minute cook up -- since Monday was the Queen's Birthday, the kids were out of school, the Kingis were off of work, and Steve didn't have to go in until noon...so, the Kingis brought over their portable mattresses for a stay-over Sunday night. We had spoken many times of our mutual love for the movie "Nacho Libre" so we watched it together, laughing and quoting all the way through. Then we watched "Napoleon Dynamite." Yep, it was that sort of night, ha ha! In the morning, we had a big pancake breakfast before finally pulling the plug on our fun weekend. Such great memories with our favorite kiwis!