Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Zealand and Merry Christmas

We finally have reached New Zealand. The place is beautiful. We arrived at midnight on the 18th after several hours of plane travel and movie watching by the kids. The moment we got onto the plane Kay promptly threw up in the bathroom, which we took as a good sign (usually she throws up in her seat, so this was auspicious). The airplane attendant looked at me and said " Kids always get a little nervous on their first flight", I just smiled and shook my head.

We landed up at our hotel at 1am and the kids had a hard time settling down. Tracy finally had to get up at 2:30am to make Jimmy a bowl of oatmeal for fear that he'd starve to death before morning. Again, another sign of the days to come.

Tom got up early the next morning and headed over for "Campervan Training" which was nothing more than giving me the keys and pointing the directions out of town. I had visions of Randy Quaid in vacation when he pulled up to the Griswalds and announced " Shitter's full!"

The van is really nice and clean. It is what they call a 6 berth however we are a little cramped during meals. The kids have claimed the berth above the drivers area for the new " fort" and they have been sleeping up there and for the most part doing quite well. They have been riding great, it is when we get to the next campsite that all hell breaks loose.

We arrived in Auckland and checked into the campsite of Friday the 19Th. Jimmy was giving a running commentary to which Billy responded ' Jimmy can you just stop talking for one minute". The Wartime Museum was our first stop and we attended the Maori Culture show. The people are very talented singers and were fierce hunters and warriors. The city has a population of around 1.2 million, while New Zealand has a total population of 4.5 million and they get around 2 million people per year as tourists. Auckland is a harbour town and there are tons of people sailing and seeing all of the sites. The city boasts of culture, dining and as they say around here she is the true capital of the country. It reminded us of San Francisco, all hills and cool views and cool weather.

We loaded up the Campervan and headed of to the town of Waitomo to visit the glow worms and to go " caving". There are two types of caving done here, black water and the basic hiking. Jimmy decided that we could go black water caving "maybe next time because you have to be 16". Black water caving means you get a life jacket a helmet and a small torch ( flashlight) and them jump down this hole into the water and the dark caves and then let the river carry you into the cave, as an added bonus the waters are eel infested, we chose to walk.

The glow worm caves are really spectacular. The caves are limestone and have stalagmites and stalactites, I do not believe one can exists with out the other. The caves have been known to the local Maoris who introduced the caves to the rest of the world around 1887. The glowworms are actually a marketing plow by the locals, the worms it turns out are maggots, who would want to go see glow maggots? hence the name change. These "worms" live on the top parts of these damp caves and live for 12 months. The first 9 months the are in larvae form and then in the last three they grow these long nerves, "fishing lines" as they are referred to. The worms eat mosquitoes and other little insects that rise from the river. The insect gets tangled in these fishing lines, the worm eats once or twice a month.Then as the 12th month approaches they females lay their eggs and the males do their thing and then off to glowworm heaven after 3 days of regular life and the cycle starts all over. When we asked Jimmy what he thought, he said "not enjoyable".

The next day we went to Ruakuri Cave and did a two hour walking tour. The cave was rather large and 65 mitres below ground. The kids had a great time and we got to see a group of black water cavers go underneath the walkway. The sight of this reassured that we made the correct choice in the walking option. For some reason the kids loved this tour, they talked non stop the whole time. We had lunch and the headed off for a small drive to Wellington.

7 hours later we reached Wellington and promptly froze near to death. Wellington is the capital and has a population of 165,000 people and is a harbor town as well. This place is an island wouldn't you expect to see harbor towns? Wellington is referred to as "Welly-Wood" as we all know about the success of Lord of the Rings. We checked into the Holiday Park had a bite to eat and settled the kids down for sleep. I awoke in the middle of the night and was shaking so hard I could not stop. I have not been that cold in my life, freezing. The next morning we thawed out the kids and headed off to the Pichton Car Ferry. The destination is Nelson, on the north part of the South Island.

Kay and Tracy fought off sea sickness the whole 3 hr ride to the south island but the views were spectacular and we even saw dolphins playing in the surf. As you approach the south island it looks like what I would imagine the norwigian fjords or alaska would look like. Steep hills, green meadows, sheep everywhere, and the blue-est water I have ever seen (yes, even more blue than the caribbean).

We found a cool mini yacht club to have lunch at and watch the sailboats being put in and pulled out. A very TDNS moment and gave us a minute to reflect on our boat friends.

We settled into Nelson after and easy drive and got to work on all the basics of camping - food, drink, showers, laundry, etc... We decided on a kayak tour the 1st day to be followed by horse back riding the 2nd. I have no words for how cool the kayak tour was. We went with Margarita (from Spain via about 12 prior places but originally Majagoria). She was nice enough to "take" JImmy in her kayak. We followed the coastline and saw the most unbelievable blue, green water, moved in and out and through caves, saw dolphins again and a pengiun even swam by us!! Proofing Tom can make friends anywhere, he made friends with a diver that swam up to show Kay the crab he had caught

Day 2 - the horse back ride place is full. We reconvien to our camper to replan our day and the stars/moon shine on us. If we have 25 min's they can give the kids a quick pony ride. While not the cowboy experience JImmy was expecting, still a great way to spend an hour. Off to the mini aquarium, lunch, a wine tasting that didnt include any wine but you could taste vodka (go figure) and finally a stop at our favorite local park (yes, just 2 days in town and we already have a favorite park).

Tonight holds a trip into town for Cmas carols in front of the local church, tomorrow Santa comes and we begin our LONG drive to Fox Glacier. Its a 8 hr drive without kids through the mountains and while will proof beautiful might go down as the longest Cmas day in history

We wish all the Merriest of Christmas and the most Prosperous New Year.

ALl our love! Watch for more updates!