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!