Archive for March, 2011

Toothy Milestone!

Just a quick update to say that Emily has lost her first tooth!  It’s been pushed out of the way by one of her first big teeth growing behind it and was on what seemed like a thread for ages.  In the end big brave Daddy had to take matters (and teeth) into his own hands and yank the little chap out.  Emily was fine with this, it was just me who was a bit squeamish.  I mean you’re genetically programmed not to hurt your little ones and here I am pulling a flippin tooth out of her head!

Pictures to follow!

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Ok, let me rephrase that.  We’ve had more visitors and my blog posts are now out of order.  I thought I’d bring you up to speed on what we’ve been doing this weekend.

Our latest visitor is called Hélène and she is a friend from our Asda days back in the UK.  We were in the same team for a while and we last saw each other at a christmas party in 2008 where I was dressed as a headmaster and my wife, Hélène and our other friends were dressed as St Trinians school girls.  Err anyway, where was I.  Err oh yes, this weekend!

Well I’m afraid to say that our beloved country has let itself down.  The weather greeting Hélène from the airport was thick low cloud and rain varying between heavy drizzle and torrential.  I picked her up from the centre of town to drive back up to the house and could not point out a single one of the usual landmarks because all you could see was an impenetrable wall of white nothingness!

We’d been so excited about taking Hélène to our beach to relax the flight away, but the weather was appalling.  However, being British, we did not let this deter us and set out for the West coast to show her Muriwai beach which must surely be just as spectacular in light drizzle as it is in brilliant sunshine.

The drive over is pretty and it got us out of the house but the beach element of the plan really failed badly.

Muriwai Beach - British Style

By the time we’d got there the drizzle had turned into something altogether more drenching…  having persuaded Hélène she was fine to put her summer trousers on we ran for the cafe with trousers sticking to legs.  Drinks and chats lifted our spirits so we headed home again to eat something nice.

By this time jet lag was catching up with Hélène so we apologised for the millionth time about the weather and sent her to bed.

Sunday was an altogether more exciting day with no rain so we jumped in the car, headed to the ferry terminal and set off across the harbour to Rangitoto.

We’ve been to Rangitoto once before and were looking forward to both sharing it with someone else and having more time to enjoy it.

The kids just love the ferry and were no sooner on-board than investigating thoroughly all the levels and doors and stairs.

The trip over took about 30 minutes but we had the benefit of some commentary as part of the harbour cruise trip that we were hitching a ride with.

As we approached we could see the top of the dormant volcano brushed by whispy clouds.  Climbing up into the clouds was an exciting proposition.

Despite the overcast day the air was almost thick enough to touch with humidity and still very warm.  We were soon glowing from the effort of climbing the loose volcanic rock paths.

It took us around an hour and half to reach the summit, which is not bad at all for little Lucy, who walked all the way up without being carried once.  She did grumble a little, but with a bit of effort she was easily distracted and very happy to pick up a stone, carry it ten yards then put it down again.  The refuelling stops of banana and choc chip cookies also helped.

The cloud lifted whilst we were on the summit and we were able to look out over the Hauraki Gulf and the harbour area at the city.  Well worth the effort of the walk up.

On the way down we detoured to visit some lava caves which we’d previously not had time to go to.

I love these things.   They have fascinated me ever since I visited some enormous ones in Australia in 1998.  They are formed when the hot lava forms a skin, whilst a stream of molten rock continues to move under the surface.  The stream drains out of the lower end of the formation leaving a tube or elongated cave behind it.  The ones on Rangitoto are a little more modest than the ones I saw before but no less fascinating for it.  Emily really didn’t fancy the darkness and Lucy was getting decidedly tired by now so just Hélène and I ventured in with our torches to check them out.

In a damp wet hole...

The roots are particularly fascinating, snaking out of cracks in the ceiling, then carrying on down and finding their way through into the ground below.

There’s only so long you can spend in a small cave before it’s time to head on, so we pushed on back to the ferry.

Arriving back there fairly early I mourned the lack of swims because it was really warm and I wanted to get in the water.  I toyed with the idea of going in my pants, but they were white.  Not a good look when wet…

We killed time by visiting a restored bach and talking to the ladies about how people lived on the island.

Eventually we made our way back to the city and wrapped up the day with an ice cream from Valentino’s on the waterfront by the ferry terminal.  They make the most amazing ice cream.  It’s actually of Italian origin and they call their ice cream gelato.  It’s slightly different to ‘normal’ ice cream and is very smooth and tastes fab.

The last bit of tourist activity on the cards was to pop up to the 33rd floor of the Vero Centre (using my work access card) to show Hélène the views from nearly to top of one of Auckland’s landmark buildings.  All for free!  It’s such an amazing view across the harbour – sometimes you sit in meetings and sea weather moving across the surface of the sea.

We bid Hélène bon voyage tomorrow (boo) because she is going on an amazing trip around NZ.  She is coming back though (yay!) and has promised to cook French crepes for Josie’s birthday.  Yum!

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Whilst we were waiting for the months to roll past and our visitors to arrive we spent a lot of time thinking about where to take them.  We wanted to show them something that meant New Zealand to us and was really specific to our adopted home.  For us there was only one real choice – The geo-thermal area around Rotorua has magical steamy stuff, exciting bubbly stuff, impressive whooshy stuff and relaxing warm watery stuff.

We’d last been at Christmas with some other families and had a brilliant time.  The town itself is so-so.  It’s quite back-packery and has the nick-name Rotovegas.  There is one street called Fenton Street which is just motel after motel after motel.

We chose to go back to the holiday park we went to at Christmas because they had a cabin that would hold all 7 of us at once.  This was part of our strategy to maximise our time together – sharing accommodation rather than taking the easier route of getting two smaller rooms.

The Funbus!

We applied the same strategy to transport and had planned to hire an 8 seater  so we could drive and talk and talk and drive.  In the end some fantastic friends let us borrow their big 4WD which seats 7.  This car or ‘truck’ as it got referred to, is quite a few years old and has been used for various work jobs so has a healthy number of marks, dings and dents.  It runs fantastically but is cosmetically… let’s just say ‘well used’.  Unexpectedly this was the making of the roadtrip.  The old wagon had character in buckets and we’d soon cycled through a number of nicknames until ‘funbus’ seemed to stick.

Very soon climbing into the ‘funbus’ would elicit the new holiday chant from Lucy of  “All aboard the funbus – Woo Woo”.

Kaimai Cheese Factory - They make cheese!

We headed down country and after passing through some of the scrappier agricultural land south of the city we pushed on into nicer country side.  We stopped just before Matamata at the Kaimai Cheese Factory because they have a cafe and it was lunch time.  The place is really nice and does good food.  Don’t fall into the mistake of thinking that the cheese platter will feed two people though.  Not unless you want a rumbly tummy for the rest of the day.

We rocked up to our home for the next four days mid afternoon and immediately went in search of bubbly mud!  The holiday park has a couple of small bubbly mud pools of it’s own.  A little taster of what was to come (not literally of course) for our guests and then off to the shops to buy provisions.

With plans set for the next day we tucked the kids up in their corridor/bedroom bunks (too exciting!) and settled down to play games and chat and generally unwind. Tomorrow the excitement begins!

Good road tripping everyone…

More photos of the roadtrip here

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Well what a lot of excitement!  Sorry for the wait.  I’ve invented a new (I think) term.  It’s called a blogjam and it’s what I suffer from when I’ve taken tons of photos I want to share but can’t get them all ready for display.  Anyway, the blogjam is now cleared so information can once again flow.

Lots of photos available on their own page, just click on this link!

After receiving our lovely guests at the airport we made plans for the coming days.  First on the list was a visit to the beach.  Great start – we forgot the camera.  Well what sort of bloggers are we.  Nevermind, that was only one little part of the day.  To say the girls were in their element would be the understatement of the year.  It was clear that Sophie, Emily and Lucy were going to have an absolute blast for the next few days.

I coaxed Uncle Guy into the water and we had an impromptu swimming lesson.  The water was beautifully warm and remarkably clear.  I’d already been down for an early morning swim at around 8am – taking full advantage of being off work.

Only a couple of hours were available to us because we had plans to head into the city after lunch.  We decided to drive to Devonport to take the ferry across because it’s nice and that set us up nicely for dinner on the way home!


Heading to town on the ferry

After a hasty drive (we completely underestimated the impact of the roadworks on the way to the ferry) we rocked up and drove straight into a spot someone had literally just vacated.  Free 24hour parking a hundred yards from the terminal.  Don’t you just love it when that happens!

There is something just brilliant about boats.  If you didn’t have to pay for it we’d be on the ferry all the time!  It makes visiting the city really exciting and you feel special when you arrive, even though you’re mixing it with all the commuters and locals.

The main drawcard on today’s plans was the SkyTower.  We’ve written about the skytower before in our post Family Time counting down… and we really love going up there.

Of course with tourist attractions like the tower you may think once you’ve done it it’s not worth doing again.  But it’s a completely different experience every time.  So what’s changed?  Well we have for a start.  The girls have grown up a lot – especially Lucy.  Emily is far more aware of the whole thing and makes a great little tour guide.

Bravery or stupidity? Maybe at 2 and a half it’s simply naivety…

Then there is the city itself.  I spent ages on this visit looking at the amazing tunnel building project going on at Victoria Park.

Of course the weather is different every time. Sometimes the cloud is so low the observation deck is not visible from the ground. Obviously there wouldn’t be any point in trying to look out on those days but you get the idea.

And finally of course we are getting to share it with our lovely family, showing them what we do and where we live.

That aspect of the trip is what makes the time we have together so special.  It’s not just about meeting up with people you’ve not seen for a long time (although that is of course wonderful).  It’s having a chance to give a tiny glimpse into some of the reasons behind all the effort, money, time apart, stress and emotional upheaval that have gone with our journey so far.

With this spirit of sharing in mind we finally headed back to Devonport on the ferry for a table booked at Manuka, our favourite restaurant in Auckland.  I’m sure there are other places that rival Manuka, but as we went there on our recce trip and have always had fab food it occupies a special place in our hearts.

As always the food was lovely with a large portion of pork belly being ordered by three quarters of us.  We stayed far too long and ate far too much but as always had a lovely time.

Chocolate Cake envy and subsequent theft

We took a trip back up the bays to try and point out some of the beaches that we’ve played on over the last 18 months.  I’m not sure it was very successful as it got dark quickly and we were pointing out things that no-one could see.  Everyone was lovely a humoured us anyway.

The food and the drive set the kids up for a good night’s sleep which was just as well because we were in for a busy few days.

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It’s been nearly a week since we said goodbye to all our lovely visitors.  To remind ourselves of the fun we had whilst they were here, we will start a mini-series of all the things we got upto.

I’m just finishing off processing all the photos then we’ll get started!

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Angry World

We have been playing host to some friends from Christchurch since the most recent devastating aftershock.  They returned home on Thursday to pick up their lives again.  It seems like no sooner had they left than we heard of the world’s latest natural disaster a truly huge quake off the coast of Japan.

Whilst it was a long way off the coast and this dulled the direct impact of the quake itself the world’s media now has some truly terrifying imagery of a large Tsunami moving across the coastal regions of some areas of Japan.  The thing we have learned about Tsunami is that it is not a wave as such but a raised body of water.  A wave of a few meters doesn’t sound that high, but even small Tsunami can be devastating due to the volume and power of the water.

Our hearts go out to those in Japan affected by this latest disaster and of course we still have our more local events front of mind.

It’s easy to feel like we live in an angry world right now, although of course there is no emotion or motivation in rock and water.  This is just the world we live in and although we like to feel like we have control of it, every so often we are reminded we are simply passengers.

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