During our 10 month journey we had only few days where we’ve been completely washed out…pretty lucky, right?! Well, our luck has run dry (or wet)! It has been raining for the last 4 days…I mean like crazy heavy rain that literally stops you for going outside. Our first day in Ohope Beach, we did not mind since we just arrived there and were settling into our new beach front AirBnb rental. We booked a sweet apartment right on the water and what’s even more amazing, the owners have two little boys almost same age as Leo and Mila. They have been playing together the whole time, regardless of the rain. At first, we were a bit disappointed but once we saw how happy Leo and Mila were playing in the rain, it didn’t bother us at all.
The next morning we woke up again to a heavy rain…since we could not do much that day, we drove to a local shop and got a 1000 piece puzzle, haha, yes we are getting old. Leo and Mila ran around with the other two boys and were having a blast, especially while jumping on the trampoline in the middle of the rain. Finally the next day, the rain subsided a bit and we decided to take a drive to a Tarawera Waterfall, located about 1 hour from Ohope. The drive to the waterfall was kinda crazy…for a good 30 km we had to follow a dirt road that looked like it was leading us to nowhere…but we finally reached to track. With all the rain, the waterfall was raging! Probably the most intense one we’ve seen.
Our host are great people…Rick hit it off with Stu - he happens to be an outdoorsman and a beer distributor. Needless to say, Stu stocked our fridge with plenty of suds, so the rain definitely didn’t bother us : ) I had great conversation with Jodie and we shared plenty of mom stories. This morning, they gave us two pieces of a fresh blue fin tuna - caught in the local waters! That evening, they set up a fire pit and we were able to smoke the tuna, yum yum! We enjoyed each others company over beers and had dinner together in their house. It was such a lovely gesture. The dinner was delicious, fresh tuna stakes, corn salas, salad, bread and wine, pure perfection! We enjoyed each other company to the fullest. Kids were running around and just having a ball. While the rain continued into the evening, the company of our hosts made us forget about the current weather conditions. Once again we are reminded that it is the people we meet that make this trip special…
Happy Valentines Day everyone! Since it was a day of spreading the love, we decided to hike a local mountain - Mt Maunganui. What could be more romantic?! We drove about 1 hour to a town called Tauranga, where the mountain was located. This “hill” stands right on the coastline of Central New Zealand and measures 232 meters. The weather finally improved and we even saw some sunshine, yay! The hike was beautiful! As soon as we got closer to the top, we were able to see the gorgeous beaches and some stunning scenery. There were quite a lot of people following our valentine day idea and it felt truly amazing to see so many happy, fit and dedicated peeps up there. The most impressive was this 70 year old gentleman who ran up and down the mountain 3 times!!!! (the path way to the top is about 2km long). We talked to him at the base and he is an ironman! More like iron grandpa in unreal shape : ) We also stumbled upon a paraglider and were able to witness his takeoff and landing - it was so cool! He just hopped off the hill and went flying up to the sky - love gave him wings! We absolutely loved this hike and wish we were able to do it again :) Once we got to the bottom, we walked between sheep and then along the beach - what a cool day and a perfect way to spend valentines day. We finished the hike with a delicious ice cream - we had to replenish the calorie intake :) It was definitely our favorite day in this region. Rain stopped us from exploring more but hey, at least it was not freezing cold!
The next morning right after breakfast we hit the road towards our last destination in New Zealand, a little town called Hihi located on Doubtless Bay in Northland. It was a looooong road trip, almost 10 hours but we made it! Kids were amazing and pretty much behaved the whole time. We made several stop along the way, one big one in town called KeriKeri where we stock up on groceries since the closest grocery store is about 45 min away from Hihi. We arrived pretty late, about 9 pm but were completely blown away by our AirBnb one month rental! This property is located on 15 acres right on the water and it simply stunning! Our house is simply perfect - cozy 3 bedroom with an open floor plan and amazing views. We were all super tired but somehow managed to stay up till midnight :) I guess we were waiting for this moment for a very long time…
The next morning, the owners of the house came to visit us and say hello. Ms Cecilia and her husband Peter are extremely nice and lovely couple. We talked for a good hour and got to know each other a little. After lunch we drove to a local town called Mangouni, where we enrolled Leo and Mila at a daycare! First of all, this place is beautiful! Right on the ocean with turquoise water and super green hills. The overall vibe of this Holiday town is so chill and relaxed, we immediately felt right at home. The day care seems wonderful. While Leo and Mila played, the manager gave us a tour and explained a little about the day to day operations. All children between 1 - 5 years old are together. They split them up into age appropriate groups during story time and other classroom activities, but for the most part, they are all together playing and having a blast. We were also informed that the school van will be picking up the kids from their homes…of course the teacher is always on the bus but still, that is something completely new to us :) The school also provides breakfast, lunch and snacks for the childREN. Parents are responsible to prepare the lunch on Fridays. For now, Leo and Mila will attend the school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 am till 3:30pm. And here is the best part - guess how much it costs us…nothing! The schools in New Zealand are free! Even the day care, how wonderful is that. Both Leo and Mila had so much fun playing today and Mila threw a tantrum as we were leaving, go figure! We also signed up for a local gym! We plan on going there while kids are at school (it’s only 400 meters down the road from the day care). I must admit that settling down a bit feels amazing! Leo and Mila keep running outside all the time and love having so much space here. Plus the weather has been perfect, in upper 70’s with some strong sun, but we wont complain about that :)
Life has definitely slowed down for us. We are fully enjoying our gorgeous house and its property. Each morning we sip our coffee on the patio and listen to the birds. At night, once Leo and Mila hit the bed, we enjoy a glass of wine and watch the starts from the deck - I know that it sounds a bit cheesy but thats our current life :) We visited a farmers market that happens each Saturday and bought some of the local goodies. We also made it to a gym and had a good intense workout, while the kids play in the kids room. We are trying to take it all in and use this time to figure out what’s next. We also bought a puzzle at the flea market which is a perfect mind distraction :) The owner of the house brought plenty of toys for Leo and Mila, which was really nice. It really feels like being home…
On Sunday afternoon we drove to the Coopers Beach and watched Leo and Mila run around like crazy bambinos! Leo met some local girl and played with her the whole time. Mila felt complete free as she run butt naked along the beach :) Tomorrow is first official day of school…we will be there for few hours to ease them in and help the adjustment. It’s something completely new for us. The last 10 months we spent being together all day and night, and as nice as it sounds, it’s kinda hard let Leo and Mila go to school and lose that exclusive closeness but I guess that’s the part of the process…
Monday was officially Leo and Mila's first day of school…I was so worried about these kids but they absolutely loved the new day care! I stayed with them for the first hour (from 9-10) but then joined rick at the gym. We seriously did not know what to do with ourselves all afternoon, hahaha. The four of us have been together for the last 10 months and this is literally the first time when we had no kids and no plans…we decided to get the kids earlier, around 1:30 since it was their first day. When we arrived, they refused to go home, can you believe that? They either love the school or are sick of us hahaha, maybe both :) We are so happy that they adapted so quickly and love being around other children, teachers, and fit right in into a new setting.
Early Childhood Education is a little different from what we were used to. For example, they do not teach the children reading or writing. Yes, they have story time and the teachers read books to them but there is no such a thing as sitting down and learning how to write letters. The teachers explained to us that the kindergarten and elementary school is design for that, not a child care for kids 1-5 years old. The outdoor playground area is amazing, there are few slides, swings, climbing ropes, water pool, sand box, outdoor kitchen, garden where the kids work at, the fence is used as an art activity and the kids are allowed to paint it. They also teach the kids how to ride the bikes and encourage any type of creativity. I guess I understand now why Leo and Mila did not want to come home :) The other day Leo took the school bus home and I have never seen him more excited! It’s a small mini van with car seats and booster seats, one teacher is the driver and the other one arranges and watches after the kids. Next week we will also try to give Mila that experience and see how she does :)
Little by little we have been exploring the Northland region of New Zealand. It’s absolutely sunning here. The weather is sub tropical so it’s pretty hot right now. Winters are very mild & wet so it’s green all year long. We visited couple local beaches and so far our favorite is the Maitai Bay in KariKari Peninsula. What a gorgeous paradise! The water is so blue and so clear you can literally see everything on the bottom. We enjoyed this little slice of heaven until the rain surprised us - that’s another thing about New Zealand…the weather can change drastically, just depends on the wind. The other day we experienced a two hour cyclone that could easily be considered a category one hurricane. After two hours of complete madness the sun came up and you could never tell it rained earlier on. We witnessed so many breath taking sunrises and sunsets, ah, life is pretty good right now and we wish we could stay here forever!
We also managed to make a few friends. First of all, people of New Zealand are extremely friendly and very open. Our owners brought us the other day home made peach kumbucha (which we drank in one setting) and we invited them over for a dinner one night. It was a lovely time spent on getting to know them better, we learned a lot about the local culture, customs and just New Zealand life in general. We also met at the gym a super nice retired gentleman from Wyoming, who is here on a 3 months vacation with his wife. One day after the gym session they invited us for a coffee and snacks. Once again, we had a fun time together and will meet them again in the coming weeks. We have only been in Hihi for one week and already feel like a part of this wonderful and welcoming community. Leo and Mila are so happy here and just love running around and being free. It really is just those little things that make a living super special and meaningful…
The next day, we made a two+ hour drive to Cape Reigna. The drive was stunning but once we got to the cape itself, we were greeted by a beautiful white lighthouse separating the Pacific Ocean from the Tasman Sea. The views were breathtaking, dramatic cliffs, white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters - a true heaven for your eyes. We also spent half of that day sun bathing on the Spirits Bay Beach. We were surrounded by gorgeous green hills and mesmerizing blue waters, if felt as if Ireland met with Thailand and decided to create this slice of paradise in New Zealand.
Tomorrow Rick’s parents are arriving in Auckland! They will be spending two weeks with us and exploring this amazing country. We have not seen them since early May and both Leo and Mila are super excited to have a little family reunion. So for now we gotta go, clean the house, prepare some delicious food and wait for their arrival!
This week we are spending in the city of Hamilton right smack in the middle of the Central North Island. Our first day took us to the Waitomo Caves, located about 1 hour away from our current rental. They were formed by underground streams carving out apertures through the limestone rock. The night before we research all of the tours and decided to do the Aranui Cave and the Glowworm Caves. Since this attraction is pretty popular among tourist and locals, when we got there it was pretty crowded. We took the tour of the Aranui Caves which were spectacular. There is an interesting story associated with this cave - in 1910 a man named Ruruku Aranui was spending a day out hunting. At one point his dog started to chase a pig…Aranui followed his pet and shortly after found him and the pig inside of a unknown cave. It was a very impressive cave with gorgeous pink, white and brown stalactites and stalagmites. Leo and Mila were hoping to find trolls there, hahaha!
Our second tour took us to the Glowworm Cave, which is probably the most popular one. The main attraction of this place were the glowworms attached to the limestone. The tour guide used minimal lights and once he turned them off, we were able to see thousands of glowworm above us - so beautiful and mysterious! The best part of this adventure was a short boat ride leading through the cave. The challenge here was a complete silence and I will happily admit that the four of us managed to stay quite for almost the whole excursion! Towards the end, as we started to approach the exit of the cave Mila started to scream that there was an alligator in the water and he was going to snap snap our hands…her comment definitely lightened everyones’ mood up, haha!
The last part of that day was the Marokopa Waterfall, located about 30 km away from he caves. Originally we were planning on going there and hanging out for a bit at the water, but during the car ride both Leo and Mila passed out…In that case, only Rick walked over and enjoyed this magnificent waterfall…one of the best he’s seen. The ride back home felt like forever! We chose to take an alternate rout and let me tell you, its a miracle none of us threw up. It was probably one of the windiest road we have ever driven but the view made up for the motion sickness!
The weather forecast indicated that Tuesday was supposed to be the nicest day during the entire week. No brainer here, we chose to head to New Zealand’s surf capital - Raglan. We drove about 30 minutes to Manu Bay, which is considered surfers paradise because of perfectly left bank breaking waves. I must admit, I got very jealous when I saw the surfers catching some waves but honestly, the waves were pretty weak. I guess the scenery makes up for the surfing conditions since the whole bay is surrounded by mountains and green valleys. Water was freezing! We did not swim at all, haha! Even sunbathing was out of the questions because there was a bit of chill in the air. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool to watch the surfers and I cannot wait to sign up for surfing classes at our next stop. We also visited Bridal Viel waterfall, one of the largest dropping falls in NZ.
I need to brag a little about Leo - he is the perfect older brother. He has so much compassion and love for Mila. The other day she was crying in the car because she wanted to hold my hand…since I was driving, I could not make it happen. Without hesitation Leo offered to hold her hand and started to sing a polish lullaby to calm her down, so sweet! He always thinks about her and each time he gets a piece of candy, he makes sure to grab an extra one for her. She is a little bossy and very often misbehaves but he always has her back. It’s so neat to watch them play together and strengthen their sibling bond :)
Today was a very special day because it's our Papito Hermie's birthday! It was a fun and very intense day that ended with a little celebration. In the morning we drove 1.5h to a town called Rotorua. It's a very popular place due to its hot springs ( that we did not get to visit, dang!). Our first stop was made at the Blue Lake Reserve. We did a 6 km hike around the lakes. It was so funny because every during our trek we met some Maori's forest workers who were having lunch. Leo was walking by and staring at their food so they offered him a grilled beef and cheese sandwich hahaha. We either look homeless and hungry or just have special skill of attracting super generous people. At one point during the hike we came up to a hill from where we were able to see both lakes, the Blue and Green Lake. It was an Ok view...honestly, the information and pictures in the brochure blew our minds but the reality was a bit different...I guess it was a mini family nature walk.
Right from there we headed over to the Red Woods Park - as the name says, red wood forest with trees planted over 100 years ago. Those trees were huge and simply beautiful. We purchased tickets and did the suspension bridges walk - part of these trees were connected by 20 suspension bridges and you could walk through and enjoy some stunning views. Mila was in heaven, she kept running and jumping ( you are not allowed to do that on the bridge but of course she is not very obedient). We were supposed to stop at one of the local geysers, but both Leo and Mila felt asleep during the car ride so we called it a day and drove back home.
It was time to celebrate Hermie's birthday! Here is what I love about staying at AirBnbs - we are currently tending a cottage, right next to the house of our hosts. Upon our arrival, I mentioned something about Hermie's bday but never paid much attention to it. Here our hosts remembered and they baked a delicious banana chocolate cake! How sweet is that!? I also made a chocolate chip cookie cake and we invited our hosts for the celebration. It was so lovely to talk to them, get to know them a little better and just spent some time together. Believe me, you won't get that type of experience and treatment at any restaurant out there!
Whenever you are in New Zealand on the North Island, you have to make a visit to the Hobbiton movie set. Usually Rick plans all our activities but this one was on me and I did not prepare for it at all. After breakfast, we packed the car and drove to Matamata where the movie set is located. As soon as you get off the main road you are driving on 1200 acres of a farmland that looks like a fairytale. Obviously, in order to see the Hobbiton you need to book a tour - how was I supposed to know that (check the website - duh!)!? Once we arrived there we were informed that all of the tours for today were sold out, well that's a problem (apparently not for me, haha). At first I was mad but I just had this gut feeling that somehow we were going to get in there. I walked over to the lady at the ticket counter and once again asked if she was sure about the tickets being sold out and she confirmed. But, she said that sometimes people cancel or they have no shows and told us to come back in 10 minutes. Surprise surprise! There were four tickets available, hurray! We paid $160 for the two of us and kids were free. The lady also told us that the tour bus leaves in 10 minutes so be there on time. Since our backpack was in the car, Rick went to get it and Mila managed to poop, so she needed a change. We thought we were aware of the time but apparently, the bus left without us, hahaha! I swear, the more we travel the worse we get : ) Luckily, the parking lot was super busy and the bus had to make one more round, see, there is always a bright side :) After 5 minutes we were on the bus and walking into a fairytale land. Believe me, this place was probably one of the most magical in the whole world. Everything looked just like on the movie….the attention to detail was out of this world. Leo and Mila had a blast running around and touching literally everything, haha. They thought the whole set was a playground and I don't blame them one bit. The tour lasted about 2 hrs. We took tons of pictures but each time we tried to snap a family photo, Mila threw a tantrum (at least 20 that day) and Leo was in his own fantasy world. The tour ended with a beer or nonalcoholic drink at the bar. Such an amazing experience that really makes you want to watch all of the Hobbit movies (perfect activity for a rainy day).
Speaking of rain, the last two days brought heavy downpours all day long! Its amazing how lucky we’ve been, 10 months on the road and I think this is the first time since Perigord in France where we had an entire day(s) washed out. Everything looks green and beautiful but you cannot be outside for the obvious reasons. So the next two days we spent doing absolutely nothing. First day was super nice, and we caught up on much needed rest, but after 24 hours the kids & parents got cabin fever! Tomorrow, we’ll drive to the east coast and to Ohope, voted one of New Zealand’s nicest beaches.
Monday morning arrived and once again, we were on a move. This time our road trip was a short one, only 3.5 hours to New Plymouth, located on the west coast of the North Island. Our AirBnB rental was a super charming two bedroom apartment in an old historic building, overlooking the Tasman Sea and Mt Taranaki. Our lovely host Jan welcomed us to her flat and narrowed down all of the local must dos. Since it was close to 3 pm, we decided to grab a bite to eat at a local cafe called Chaos (perfect nickname for Leo and Mila). It has been insanely hot - in the mid 80’s. Living in Florida, we’re used to the heat, but this sun is so strong it honestly doesn’t even compare. There’s no ozone layer here and it’ll only take you 3-4 minutes to get burnt. That evening we chose to take short drive to Paritutu Rock. It’s literally a big rock (154 m elevation) formed by dormant volcano’s. You can climb up ‘The Rock” with the assistance of rails & chains to get a glimpse of Mt Taranaki & the Tasman Sea. The skies were clear so we wanted to get up there and catch a sunset. At the beginning, you walk up steep steps, but the real “fun” begins half way through where you have to hold onto a chain and climb on very uneven and sharp rocks. Leo was leading the whole time and would not let me help him at all, go figure. It was a bit scary as one slip could've created havoc but he just figures it out and gets it done. It’s interesting to watch his personality grow, especially his stubbornness (I wonder where he gets it from?). Once we got to the top, the views were pretty sweet. The panorama stretched from Mt Taranaki (volcano), beautiful sunset over the Tasman Sea and two big rocks called Sugar Loaf Islands. There were a decent amount a folks up there to catch these amazing views and even some kids (albeit a bit older). A nice couple struck up a conversation with us about hiking with kids. They were celebrating their anniversary and had a short break from their kids who were the same age as ours. We immediately felt a connection with them, talking about our World journey, their travel experiences, living abroad (they spent the last 2 years living in Abu Dhabi) and their beautiful New Zealand. Before we knew it, the sun was setting over the sea! It was so nice to share our stories and experiences. It felt as though we knew each other for a very long time : )
The following morning we both decided to go for a run along the water. Our apartment has a perfect location right along a 15km coastal walkway. There was also a playground along the boardwalk so a perfect solution for our whole family. We were supposed to go for a hike but the couple who we met the night before on the rock invited us over to their home for dinner & drinks! Let me tell you something, have you ever met someone and instantly felt a connection (like love at first sight?), well that's exactly how we felt about Kendall, Matt and their two amazing daughters. They are super sweet, nice, funny, hospitable, compassionate, adventurous and the list goes on and on. We spent all evening talking, eating, drinking, laughing and sharing experiences. The kids ran around and played together amazingly. Kendall prepared a delicious meal and served us a local fish called Taranaki. It was without a doubt one of the most magical and unforgettable evenings of our journey and something we will cherish for a very long time. I can't believe that we had to travel all the way to New Zealand to meet our soulmates :-) As we were leaving their home Kendall gifted us a typical New Zealand dessert called Lollicake, which we ate within the next 24 hours (yes we are piggies). It was so nice to be able to relax, share wonderful conversations, and getting to know each other. Kendall and Matt, if you guys are reading this, thank you again and see you somewhere in this beautiful world!
The following day we slept in till almost 9...maybe the wine we drank the night before had something to do with it : ) We started the day very similar, ran on the beach and took the kids to the playground. We decided to head over to Mt Taranaki and do one of many hikes. We chose the Hooker Shed Track which was only 2hrs long and honestly, it was not as spectacular as we expected. The weather changed drastically, as soon as we arrived there the temps were showing only 17 degrees, it was windy, cloudy and grey skies. You could not see the peak of the volcano. We wish we did this hike few days earlier when the weather conditions were more favorable but oh well, it happens. We also stopped at the Dawson Falls and snapped a few pictures.
The next morning we woke up to a crazy rain storm! It was cold, windy and reminded us a bit of a fall day. Kendall and I met at a local coffee shop while Rick and the kids packed and got us ready for another road trip. Kendall is such a lovely woman, she brought for us her favorite sweets from New Zealand, chocolates and other goodies. The next few hours we spent talking about everything literally. I feel so much connection with this girl and it was very hard to say goodbye. It doesn't happen that often that you get to meet people who feel like your soulmates.
On the way to our next house we stopped at Mike's Brewery ( recommended by Kendall and Matt. Matts brother is the actual brewmaster). It's a super cozy place, with lots of character and a great atmosphere. It is kids friendly with plenty of toys and other things to keep the little once occupied while the parents do a tasting. Since it was raining we took our time and did not rush to our final destination...
So let me tell you about our new airbnb rental...it's a true farm house, an 800 acre dairy farm in the middle of nowhere, literally! The house is located 5km off the main road, right at the end of the forest, surrounded by gorgeous mountains and farm land full of cows, sheep and horses. The bathtub is outside in the garden and in order to get the hot water in it, you need to burn some wood underneath it - how cool is that!? I guess we will be taking turn taking our baths in the middle of the New Zealand nature :-) It's a total freedom state of mind, don't judge!
We all slept so good at our farm house. After breakfast Leo and Mila went outside and just enjoyed the big space around them. The owner of the cottage stopped by, brought us some fresh milk and opened the tractor for the kids, haha. She also invited us over so we could watch the process of...milking the cows hahaha. In the afternoon we decided to drive to a place called Three Sisters - beautiful limestone rocks washed up by the shore. However, the night before was the big blue moon and the tide was super high, making it impossible to get to the actual rocks. Since we were out and about, we drove another 30km to Mt Dampsy waterfall. The waterfall was super intense since it rained all day. On the way back home we stopped at the cattle farm and helped milk 160 cows! Boy oh boy, it was quite an experience. The owners are amazing people, explaining the whole process to us. They gave us gumbo boots and it was show time! Rick was the most excited out of the four of us hahaha. I also gave it a try but I will admit, it was not my cup of tea...Towards the end of this task we were all standing in a fenced in area full of cows. Suddenly one of the cows started to poop...what can I say, some of the poop landed on Leo and me! So gross! I guess you could say it was good luck, we were baptized by a cow! It was an interesting experience but I don't think we are cut out for that type of job...
Our last day in Taranaki region we spent in the company of our lovely new friends, Kendall, Matt and their wonderful girls. We drove back to Mikes brewery and had a fantastic time together, once again. The weather was perfect, 75 & sunny, and the kids ran around, climbed the trees, rolled down the hills while the parents enjoyed some delicious beer and interesting conversation. It's amazing how much we have in common. The four of us realized that we are pretty much the same age and so are our children. Our conversation was limitless and we constantly changed topics but there was never an awkward moment of silence. We are forever grateful for our new friendship. I know deep inside that our path will cross again. It was sad to say goodbye but I'm so thankful for our unforgettable encounter on the paritutu rock! On our way back to made a stop at The Three Sister. Leo and Mila were both sleeping so only Rick took a short walk and snapped few pictures.
And just like that another week passed by and it was time to relocate. Our next stop is Hamilton, right in the heart of the North Island. It took us only 2.5 hours to get there from the farm house. Our new AirBnb rental is located on the top of the hill with gorgeous views of the valley and the mountains. We will be staying here for the whole week and the main reason we chose this location was because it has a driving distance to all of the local attractions. Time to hit the sack since we have super intense 6 days ahead of us!
After our short pit stop in Hokitika, we were back on the road to finish our South Island road trip to the city of Nelson. Nelson is the 4th largest city on South Island, and is a gateway to Marlborough Wine Country, Able Tasman National Park, and Marlborough Sounds. Along the way, we drove right up the rest of the west coast and made a stop at Paparoa National Park. Its home to the Pancake Rocks, a group of limestone and mudstone boulders at the edge of the coast and they resemble your breakfast of champions. They kind of reminded us of the Twelve Apostles in Australia, another natural spectacle created over a million years ago. We walked the coastal route and gathered more memorable photos here.
We rarely go out to eat, so this was a treat for us. Rick and I had a glass of wine, the kids were rather well behaved and we enjoyed a delicious meal. We got the kids ice cream for dessert and Mila started to throw her terrible 2s tantrum. We thought it’d be a good idea to grab to-go boxes and the bill but this very kind younger gentlemen came over and asked if he could buy Mila another sweet dish. We agreed and it seemed to calm her down a bit. It allowed Rick & I to finish our meal. We struck up a conversation with these 3 young fellows, he was getting married in 2 weeks back in native India to his childhood sweetheart. You could tell he was glowing when he talked about her. As we said our goodbyes and asked for the check, the manager came out and said the check was being paid for by these guys. What? Are you kidding me? We tried to politely decline but the gentlemen said it was his pleasure to talk with us and share stories. It was such a kind gesture and really put us in good spirits to know how much gratitude there is in this World.
The day next bought rain showers and catch up on laundry. We notified the owner of the issues and had to make a decision whether we were going to suck it up and stay in these conditions for 4 more nights or find another place. One thing about New Zealand, it is expensive. Outside of Switzerland, it is the most expensive place we’ve visited. Hotels easily run in excess of $200/night and most AIRBnbs hover around $100/night so our budget has been tested during our time here. Finding new accommodations at the last minute were going to be a challenge. Rick found a place available for 3 nights in the nearby town of Richmond. We decided it was best to move on. Since we had to suck it up and stay one additional night, and the weather was still rainy, Rick and I got the kids to bed early and completed our first 1000 piece puzzle. It was such a fun experience for us, putting our phones away and working on the puzzle together. It took us well into the night, we stopped at 2am then got up at 7 and finished it around 10.
Travel can test your will from time to time. Here we are, tired, exhausted, completely off balance with our food arrangements and we’re on the move again. We’ve relocated ourselves 4 times in the last 6 days. Fortunately, our kids are amazing, they just seem to go with the flow and get excited about the thought of a new house. We packed up and moved on to our new accommodations in the town of Richmond. The owner refunded us the unused nights as well as the cleaning fee. We arrived around noon and felt more at ease with the new place. We were all starving and luckily there was a farm to table restaurant right across the street from our house. We walked over and sat at an outdoor picnic table to eat. The kids fell in love with the cafe, it had rabbits and a playground. The waitress brought a bunch of food for them to feed the rabbits, they were loving every second of it. Rick and I ordered and had a perfect meal to take our minds off the last 2 days; roasted pork and veggies and feta beet salad. We even splurged with homemade chocolate kaluaha & carrot cake for dessert.
Our original plan for this region was to explore the coastal Able Tasman National Park. There are a ton of coastal hikes, an inland waterfall and some of New Zealand’s best beaches. With our eyes still red from the last few days, we decided it was best to just relax. With the weather perfect, 84 & sunny, we found a beach spot just 30 minutes from our place. There was a huge playground and perfect little spot of the golden sand for us to soak up some sun and let the kids play. We relaxed and reset our minds.
Our last day on the South Island was very pleasant, relaxing and fun. After good workout, we walked over to the Grape Escape Cafe where Leo and Mila were able to play and feed the rabbits again. From there, we walked over to a nearby organic winery - Richmond Pine Wines (located only 200 meters from our house). It was probably one of the best wine tasting we’ve ever had. Not only the wine was excellent but the lady serving us - Angela, was a joy to chat with. She was originally from Milan, Italy and a little over ten years ago, along with her husband, they took a gap year and moved to New Zealand (sounds very familiar - minus the kids). They absolutely fell in love with the land, culture, weather and landscape of this magical country. She said something very interesting - they made a goal to be self-sufficient and created a farm. They own cows, sheep, chickens, olive trees, fruits and veggies. They do not buy anything from the grocery store but rather make it themselves. If they are in need for a particular produce that they do not have, they simply trade with the local community. For example: she traded tomatoes for eggs, homemade cheese for fish, etc. You could sense the happiness beaming from her…although she misses her family and friends in Europe, she loves living in New Zealand. I just love encountering positive and happy people…she was just beaming with life in Kiwiland. It was so refreshing to talk to her and get a different perspective on life. It was a definitely memorable meeting…maybe our house in Nelson was a disappointment but the people we’ve met in this region have been amazing to us. Life is all about peaks and valleys - yes having a moldy house was not pleasant and brought us down a bit, however, receiving genuine gestures from complete strangers was a breath of fresh air and a nice reminder to always look at the bright side.
It was time to say an official goodbye to the South Island…after amazing 4 weeks spent on exploring this part of New Zealand, we were ready to see what the North has to offer. We left Nelson around 9:30 am and drove about two hours to the port city - Picton. We hopped on the ferry along with our car and took the three hour ride to the capitol of New Zealand, Wellington. Overall, it was a fairly smooth trip. The ferry had 8 floors and one of them was designated for kids - playground, movie theater, etc. They also had a magician on board who put on a one hour show for the kids. When we arrived in Wellington the temperature dropped drastically and it drizzled a bit. Our AirBnb rental was located 90 minutes from Wellington, in a little town called Levin. We arrived there pretty late, around 8:30pm. We were greeted by lovely hosts, Mike and Colleen, who showed us our new house and the surroundings. The property is pretty big, little over one acer so plenty of room for Leo and Mila to run around.
The next day we decided to take the kids to probably the biggest playground we have ever seen. It was located right in town and of course both Leo and Mila loved it there. It was more challenging for us because we had to constantly keep an eye on them, trying to track them down. On the way home we stopped by a local blueberry farm called NoHo. We saw a sign that said PYO (pick your own) and wanted to give a try. Here is what I love about it the most…prior to that Leo never liked blueberries, however, since he got to pick them on his own, he is now loving blueberries! Allowing your kids to be part of the experience opens them up to a new world, and in this case, blueberries! We finished this mini adventure with some delicious homemade blueberry and wild berry ice cream; simply amazing! So far on this trip we were able to pick our own strawberries (Germany), lemons (Australia), cherries (New Zealand) and blueberries (New Zealand). We have stayed on many farms and totally love the idea behind it. I don’t think that we will ever have a big farm but we both admit, that once we settle down somewhere, we want to have a property big enough to have chicken, rabbits, fruit and veggie garden. Both Leo and Mila enjoy helping out and I love the idea of having your own grown produce. My father-in-law is a master gardener and his homemade salsas, relishes, and canned tomatoes are the best! Maybe he’ll help us get it started one day (hint - hint).
Without a doubt this week has been tiring, we drove a crazy amount of kilometers, moved what seemed like every other day, and took a 3 hour ferry ride to the North Island. Packing, unpacking, taking care of the kids, preparing meals and managing our life on the road is slowly effecting our energy levels. Also, New Zealand is experiencing a bit of a heat wave, its been crazy hot and staying in homes without AC adds to your fatigue. The kids have had a really difficult time sleeping, it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 and they just seem to kick up an extra level of energy in the evenings. Looking back at the last month, all the hikes, car rides and physical activities, we kind of need to hit the reset button and finish our World journey strong. The thing is, the less you do the more lazy you become. During the days when we have everything planned from morning to the evening, we are super prepared and organized. When we come home and lay down in bed, we are tired but feel a sense of accomplishment. And of course the lazy days make you feel blah. Tomorrow we have another road trip ahead of us to New Plymouth. We are so ready to shake off the tiredness and continue to explore this amazing country. Our future has also moved to the front of our minds. What’s next for us? When you’re on the road for long stretches, it is front and center of our conversations. For the first time in our life, we are ready to “settle down”.
This trip has always been about living our dream, experiencing our World, raising our kids, and building a new network of relationships. This past week, we’ve had some more amazing encounters with people - complete strangers, who reached out their hand to help us or encourage us when we felt exhausted. Sometimes slowing down your World and taking time to appreciate the people in your life is the greatest cure of all. I remember watching a YouTube video, a complete stranger playing his violin in the Washington DC metro during rush hour. Here he was making beautiful music, yet nobody stopped to appreciate. In fact, the only ones who stopped were little kids, until their parents rushed on to get to work. The musician happened to be Joshua Bell, one of the best on the planet who charges $200 ticket to go to his show. In a World that demands you to move faster and work harder, sometimes taking a step back to appreciate it all is the best cure of all.