I’ve been putting this off for far too long. I gave myself the week after we returned home off and didn’t let myself feel guilty at all for not posting. Oh and as bad as I thought the jet lag would be, it seriously kicked my butt so there was that. But now we’re nearly halfway through the next week and the guilt and dread is creeping in – darn it. Of course I’m excited to reminisce about 2 of the most amazing weeks of my life, but sorting through over 1,000 pictures — not fun! Here we go!
When Dave’s parents received their mission call almost 2 years ago (in February) to Wellington, New Zealand the planning a visit started almost immediately. Hello, who wouldn’t want to go to New Zealand and since we had a very good excuse there was no way it wasn’t going to happen. As the months progressed we decided it would be best to visit during the Southern hemisphere’s Summer (our Winter). And then as more time passed we learned that Dave’s parents would have the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. Dave also gets that week off so it was settled, we would travel to New Zealand just after Christmas day.
Then the wheels started turning…..New Zealand is SUPER far away, but closer to lots of places than Utah. Like Australia and Fiji. My dream has always been to go to Fiji! And my dad served his mission in Australia so, of course, I’ve always wanted to go there. As we started looking into more details, we ultimately decided on Australia. The great thing was Dave could spend a day or two doing some work in their Sydney office which greatly helped offset the travel costs.
We started getting serious in planning and decided to fly to Auckland, New Zealand where Dave’s parents would pick us up. We would then spend the next week with them as we made our way south to Wellington, enjoying the amazing scenery and all NZ has to offer. We would then fly out of Wellington to Sydney, where we would spend a week in the Manly Beach/Sydney area. Sounds awesome right? Right……but a little long. Speaking of which — talking about being away from your kids for 2 weeks is an entirely different thing than actually being gone for 2 weeks. This mama had a few rough patches where airlines were almost called and fees paid to return early. I had no reason other than I just missed them – oh and I may have had a little guilt. They were in beyond capable, fun, loving, amazing hands. My parents moved in and relived life with 4 children. Ali and Josh gave them a break on the weekends when they moved in and braved church. Megan took on more children as she entertained, fed, bathed, drove whomever to wherever whenever it was needed. They not only took care of the children, but made them beyond happy. They sacrificed so much of their time and energy. They dealt with Farmageddon 2 (the stupid windstorm), frozen pipes, a dead car battery, and “apparently” a lot of poop (gotta love Eli). They are the ONLY reason this trip was even possible. We also had many friends and neighbors check in and help in many ways — such a blessing!
Here’s how our 2 weeks on the other side of the world shaped up – day by day!
Sunday, December 28th: Poof! We lost this day – to the ocean maybe??
Monday, December 29th: Land. FINALLY. In New Zealand!! The flight wasn’t too terrible, I likened it to sleeping with a newborn (maybe because there was a baby that cried almost the whole flight). Once we got on the ground, I was ready to go. We went through all the rigamaroll of customs, got our bags and made our way out to the meeting area. As I headed to the drinking fountain, in walked the missionaries. So exciting!! We were thrilled to see them and they likewise. It was still sort of unreal that we were actually there, with them.
As it was the first thing in the morning, we covered a lot of ground that day. We started by driving along the coastline. We stopped a few times to take pics and walk around. We saw the incredible Kauri trees, which are essentially New Zealand Redwoods. They are easily 100 feet tall. As amazing as they are, I have to say there were so many incredible trees and plants. It is green EVERYWHERE! There are hydrangeas taller than me just growing along the side of the road. It was quite a sight for our sore-Utah-Winter-eyes (or our Summer eyes for that matter). We eventually made our way to the Coramandel Peninsula where Dave and I just couldn’t take anymore beauty 🙂 and needed a nap. Afterwards the searching for seashells began (per Audra’s request)…..
Tuesday, December 30th: After a much-needed and super night’s sleep it was time to really take in this Peninsula and take a short hike down to the Cathedral Cove (AKA as Fortress of Solitude or the Crystal Palace – you had to be there). If you ask Dave, this was his favorite thing about the trip. I have to say it was almost unreal in its beauty! I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean in California and Hawaii, but this was like a different Pacific Ocean — water that was clear and a gorgeous blue. Definitely my favorite side of this huge ocean. We would have loved to stay there all day, but there was more NZ to be seen. We then made our way to Lake Taupo, which is the largest lake in Oceania (NZ/Australia area). It is the same size as Singapore. Growing up in Utah when I hear “lake” I think of green or brown water. Lake Taupo is beyond description. The water is totally clear and then it turns into this beautiful turquoise color. Pictures cannot capture the color. We spent the next 3 days in this resort town.
New Year’s Eve 2014:
We started the day at the McDonald’s featured in Dave’s flying magazines because, strangely, it has an old DC-3 attached to it. And after a morning stroll through the many shops we headed out on a boat to see some authentic Maori carvings. The ride out was chilly, but beautiful. We made some Australian friends and learned lots about New Zealand and the Lake Taupo area. And we may or may not have seen Rod Stewart’s NZ house.
After the boat ride and a short dip in the “grotto” (which is nearly beyond description – think a hot tub within a cave) we attempted to stay awake for the New Year. I barely made it past 10:00 :(.
January 1, 2015:
Such a fun-filled day. First thing, we headed to the Aratiatia Dam release. This happens 3 times a day and is a.w.e.s.o.m.e. We made our way to the lookout point and then watched this gorge fill up with water as the doors opened and let the water flow. It took about 20 minutes for it to fill and seriously added like 20+ feet of water as it made it’s way down the river. I’ll say it again, but the water was unbelievable in color – unreal!
After that adventure we headed to walk through Craters on the Moon. This area around Lake Taupo is geothermal – a lot like Yellowstone, so it’s true NZ really does have it all! We also stopped at a Lava glass store and got to actually watch the craftsman making beautiful glass creations. I came home with a cute toadstool and sea star.
Once lunch was done, the parents decided to have a relaxing afternoon so Dave and I headed down the beach a bit to see about renting some kayaks on the lake. Once we got there, we decided to forego kayaks and instead rent a small sailboat for the afternoon. It was a lot of fun! Dave knew what he was doing and I so I just followed his commands and we managed to mostly stay out of trouble ;). Definitely another highlight of the trip!
January 2, 2015:
Not a lot of pics or a lot to report from this day. We packed up and began the 4 hour journey south to Wellington. We stopped often – when we saw something of interest, to use the toilet, to eat, or just because. We knew we were getting close to wonderful, windy Wellington when we stopped at a beach (about 30 minutes out) that was quite breezy. I managed to continue my quest of collecting seashells for Audra.
It was so great to enter Wellington and have Mel and Duane tell us all about this city they’ve called home for the last 16 months. We moved into Elder & Sister McNamee’s flat, which is very nice for missionaries and met the adorbs missionaries (elders) who live next door and were just thrilled to not be in the car.
January 3, 2015:
This was Wellington day. We got a full city tour from our own tour guides after we parked in their very own parking spot downtown. We walked along the harbor to make our way to the national museum, and quickly learned that summer in Wellington is very different than Summer in Utah. It was warmish, sort of, and quite breezy. The national museum was awesome – 4 floors of all things NZ and it was free of charge. It would be a great place to bring children. We learned about the native animals, the history of NZ and the Maori people and Air NZ.
After a quick bite we jumped on a cable car that took us to the top of the city where we walked through my favorite part of the day: the botanical gardens!! AMAZING!! It was huge and full of beautiful plants. There was a hydrangea section, a succulents section, a fern section, an herb section, a rose garden, a begonia house…..I could go on and on! So fun!!
January 4, 2015:
After losing the last Sunday and knowing we would be flying the following Sunday, we were excited to attend church in NZ with the parents. Very nice ward full of very nice people, but man did I have to really pay attention to be able to understand them. English is not English in NZ :).
We also went to a close-by beach that Mel and Duane had never been to. It was a beautiful one, but was quite smelly. It also turned out to be a jackpot when it came to seashells. I found the most and the biggest shells here. I knew Audra was going to be so “incited” (as she says).
January 5, 2015:
Our last day in NZ :(! Since it was a Monday we were able to go to the National Archives where Elder & Sister McNamee serve, and meet everyone and see what they do up close and personal. WOW! A whole building dedicated to maintaining and preserving the national records of this country. What Dave’s parents and the other missionary couple they serve with do is quite incredible and will definitely help the church’s geneological work. Basically Melody opens up the probates, arranges them in the correct order and then Duane takes digital pictures of them that are stored and sent to SLC where they become available to all of us (that’s putting it quite simply). I’m not sure I could do that for 2 years, but we are so grateful they enjoy it and we get to reap the benefits of their service!
The time had come…..time to head to the airport and say good-bye to NZ and to Dave’s parents for 7 more months.
We absolutely loved our time in this beautiful-beyond-description, intriguing country! We may never make it back so I am so grateful for this opportunity!!
It was also at this point that I was beyond homesick. I honestly could have gotten on a plane to SLC at that point, but I’m super glad we didn’t and that we headed 4 hours east to Australia!!