Ain’t No Party Like My Nana’s Tea Party. Hey… Ho…

Well, all those years of practice finally paid off when we got to have tea in Wellington.

Pretty little cups.
Pretty little cups.
Beth Anne shows off her skills honed over years of pouring tea for stuffed animals.
Beth Anne shows off her skills honed over years of pouring tea for stuffed animals.
Brigit expresses her joy at finding they have hot chocolate.
Brigit expresses her joy at finding they have hot chocolate.
Cocoa with white AND pink marshmellows.
They have white AND pink marshmallows.
Brigit is displeased about being photographed again.
Brigit is displeased about being photographed again.
Another successful tea party.
Another successful tea party.

*For anyone who didn’t get the reference from the title. It’s from the Flight of the Conchords

Buried Village

If you want to be disappointed in New Zealand. Try the Buried Village. In 1886 a volcanic eruption buried several Maori Villages. One of those villages has been excavated and several of the buildings restored to give you an idea of what it looked like before the eruption. The museum includes artifacts from the village and pictures that were taken before and after the event. It also has dramatic presentation of what it was like in the local Inn during the eruption. You enter a dark room and during loud deep rumblings and flashes of light a visiting missionary, tries to calm the people telling them “God gave us this time to reflect and…” Since, the missionary died in the incident it’s unclear how they knew what he was saying. (Perhaps he was dictating?) It’s also unclear why he missed the very obvious (to me anyway) conclusion that God gave them the time to “Get the heck out.” It was quite dark in there so I’m betting the Secretary took some liberties with the dictation. Overall it was pretty neat, interesting but not great.

What really made it a disappointment however was what you couldn’t see and why the missionary was there in the first place. (Apparently, his missionary work was done elsewhere and he was sightseeing, afterward.) Prior to the eruption, the volcano had been bubbling up water with dissolved lime for tens of thousands of years. Creating two sets of terraced pools one white and one pink. They stretched up the side of the mountain and were a very popular tourist attraction at the time. Unfortunately they were obliterated in the blast, so you are left to your imagination and drawings that were made of them prior to the blast.

After you go through the village you have the chance to take a rather steep path to view a waterfall and this makes it almost makes up for it. I hope the pictures do it justice.

Driving in NZ

driving1
10 kph is very slow.

I am pleased to report that I am becoming accustomed to driving on the left. The transition was not as hard as I had feared. Fortunately, the pedals placed the same as they are in cars that are driven on the right. Also they have helpful little arrows pointing you to where you should be.

There are however some differences between driving here and driving in the states. First of all, there are a lot more roundabouts. Also, there is no left turn on red after stop corresponding to our right turn on red after stop. That is, if the police in Hamilton are to be believed.

Another difference is that when you make a mistake (for instance if you were to drift into some one else’s lane in a roundabout forcing them to take the wrong exit) they give you a quick toot with the horn and a friendly peace sign to let you know that you had slipped up. If they make an ugly face while they do this, no worries, it’s just part of the culture, like the faces made during the the Maori Haka.

You drive here.
You drive here.

Unfortunately this typical Kiwi friendliness has not yet been translated to their electronics. When you make a mistake it will say, “At the first opportunity, make a u-turn.” And then after you get back on track it will start repeating itself, saying “Turn left. Turn left.” as if you didn’t hear it the first time. Also if you happen to be off the road it will say, “Please return to the nearest roadway.” as if you were unaware that you were bouncing along in the berm.

It occurs to me, however, that this may simply be a setting for people traveling without a spouse.  I will double check the settings.

Dave, Bring Your Duckie

220,000 Liters per second
220,000 Liters per second

The Waikato River drains Lake Taupo. As the river leaves the lake it is a wide ( about 100 meters across ) lazy stream. But just above the falls it narrows into a long shoot that is only about 15 meters across. While in the chute, the river drops 8 meters and at the end of the chute it drops about 11 meters into wide basin and once again becomes a wide, lazy stream. This is called Huka falls.

The water is exceptionally clear and as it is churned and filled with bubbles it becomes an intense, almost unreal blue. It reminded me a little of Iron Ring on the Upper Gauley. I say a little because the chute at Iron Ring is tiny compared to Huka falls. While we were watching it, I was speculating on what it might be like in a raft. Of course I assumed that doing so would not be permitted. I was wrong.

Just as we were about to leave a kid of about 12 ran past us toward the falls and we noticed an knot of spectators on one side of the viewing bridge. They were watching two kayakers in what I can only imagine were specially designed duckies. They no doubt had extra deep hulls to provide ample room for their enormous balls, which no doubt also functioned as counterweights, keeping the kayakers upright.

Note how low the kayak sits in the water, due to the weight of his massive cahones.
Note how low the kayak sits in the water, due to the weight of his massive cahones.

I was so busy taking pictures of them progressing through the upper rapids that I realized too late what that the kid who ran past us already knew. They would have to go over the falls, there was no going back up and no place to get out. So I ran back down to the falls but I only managed to get this blurry picture of the second kayaker just after he went over.

That little speck in the water, just past the falls. Yeah that's him.
That little speck in the water, just past the falls. Yeah that's him.

Auckland 8 Stories Up

After 25 hours and little sleep, we walked into the main area of the airport. Thankfully, our driver was right there with all of our papers. As we drove through Auckland to our hotel, I thought that it looked much like Florida would look if settled by the British during the Victorian age. Overgrown gardens all blooming, strange blooms. Gables and cornices and gingerbread trim on pastel houses. Downtown initially looked like most cosmopolitan cities. After we checked into our hotel, which was a lovely suite connected to a room with two twin beds for the girls, I looked out the windows and discovered the first of many differences. there was a day-care, 7 stories up, with a play area outside under cover, on the balcony.

Daycare 7-stories up

We all showered and then proceeded to the hotel restaurant for breakfast only to discover another difference. There are serving times for breakfast, lunch and dinner and no service in between in many of the restaurants here. So we adventured out looking for a place to grab a bite and explore the city a bit. Two or three turns later we walked down an alley full of eateries and shops. We found a Belgian pub which was still serving and ate amazing waffles, eggs Benedict with spinach, and potato pancakes.Yummy food.

After that we walked to the harbor and halfway to the Sky tower when the effects of 25 hours of travel hit. Cranky kids, crankier Mom and tired Dad equaled returning to the hotel to relaxed for a while and try another plan of attack. We needed, and still need, some warmer jackets and some basic toiletries, so we looked for a shop, chemist or some place to get what we needed. No luck, like most cities unless you want Prada there is little choice. So we looked for someplace to eat in the SkyCity. No luck, but Joe and I could have hit the casino if we wanted. Finally, after some searching we found a food court. Here we discovered another difference, no McDonald’s or Subways, but a huge selection of Asian food. We settled on Thai and eat huge portions for a relatively reasonable amount. It was here that Beth Anne decreed we could live in Auckland since there was good food she could eat.

After deciding that Sky Tower would wait until our return trip we went back to the hotel, stopping at a market for dinner food and breakfast food, and tried out the pool, which the girls opined was salty and cold. Back up to the room for showers, food and we made it until 7:30 PM before collapsing into the bed and sleeping until Brigit woke up at 4 am. We might need a few more days to adjust to the time difference.

Cures Diabetes, Backaches and Eczema

After customs and biosecurity, we walked out of the Auckland airport at about 7:00. We were very tired and happy to find our driver waiting for us. He delivered us to the City Life hotel in downtown Auckland. The hotel has much to recommend it, not the least of which is the “pillow menu” which includes a biomagnetic therapy pillow. I can only imagine that it is filled with dacron and neodymium magnets. If you sink your head in it deep enough the magnets snap the pillow together over your face thus relieving you of your suffering.

It’s in the Flyover

We arrived at the airport well ahead of time. Fortunately check-in went smoothly and we were at our gates in less than thirty minutes. Unfortunately, this meant that we had nearly two hours to wait before takeoff.

During this time Beth Anne busied herself taking pictures and Brigit busied herself asking “When are we going to board the plane?” Needless to say we were greatly relieved to hear “Passengers requiring special help may now begin boarding” and we pushed and shoved our way through the 350 or so other passengers only to be told that small children no longer qualifies you for special help.

After slinking our way back past the 350 or so glowering passengers, we took up our place at the back of the line and tried to avoid looking at anyone. Fortunately for us the next announcement said “United flight 437 with service to Ohio is now ready to begin boarding.” Hearing this, Beth Anne asked, “Who would want to fly to Ohio?” and we were instantly redeemed (at least to everyone within earshot).

Picking Blackberries

On Sunday we went apple and blackberry picking with Aunt Cheryle and Uncle Mike. Beth Anne took these pictures (and lots others) with her new camera.

Our otherwise smooth journey met its first major hitch when my iPhone fell off somewhere in the field. After nearly half an hour of frantic searching – all the while calling the phone – eagle eyed Aunt Cheryle spied the phone in some tall grass. It turns out that it was on silent, which I had accidentally set when I put on the protective Otter case. Ooops!