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!
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