Blogs in January 2007

Glacier Country

Date: 31/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

Another short drive and another dramatic change in scenery. We didn't seem to climb very high from the beach and were suddenly confronted with the enormous icy fracture that is the Franz Josef glacier - one of 3 huge temperate glaciers found in this part of NZ. We arrived in the small town in gorgeous sunshine early in the afternoon and wanted to investigate the glacial opportunities still possible with such young people in tow. Unfortunately, little Florence, being only 6 and of small stature, wasn't able to take part in any of the more adventurous hikes. Ella was just above the minimum age, height and weight required to do the Heli-hike (a helicopter ride and 2 hour walk at the top of the glacier), which Dave and I were both keen to do. All Florence could do was the scenic flight which would only give a brief landing on the glacier - still an amazing experience - so with great current weather and torrential rain forecast for the next few days we struck while the iron was hot and parted with a huge amount of cash to take the girls (and ourselves) on the experience of a lifetime. It didn't disappoint - the girls loved it, I had a great snowball fight with Florence at the top of the glacier with 400m of snow and ice under our feet while Ella hacked her way through ice caves and over crevasses with her dad (of course!).
The torrential rain the following day meant any walking or glacier action was out of the question so we spent the day in our really lovely apartment (thank God we weren't in a cabin) glenfern doing the more structured learning we are endeavouring to do with the girls, playing games and watching DVDs. It's great sometimes to have a day where you do nothing. We've been away for over 2 months now and all this constant activity can be a bit exhausting!

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Franz Josef Glacier

Date: 30/01/2007 | Author: Dave

Somehow the rain avoids us as we survey the driftwood sculptures on Hokitika Beach. This is a wild, pebble and black sand beach strewn with thousands of pieces of driftwood. A fossicker's dream.
We arrive at Franz Josef the next day to a clearing sky. We are here for three days but are having problems booking on a heli-hike because Florence is too little to walk on the glacier.
Being lucky has always been a feature of my life, and thus the non-arrrival of a couple for the last heli-hike today made a slot for Ella and I.
The helicopter flight up was a roller coaster ride over rainforest ridges and valleys. The Franz Josef and Fox glaciers both have their terminal face in the temperate rainforest. All this outrageous weather we drive through feeds both the ice and the greenery. We landed half way up the glacier on a small pad that our guide 'Goose' had chopped out of a pinnacle this morning. Goose was great with Ella while she got the feel of walking with crampons and an ice pick. Through blue ice caves, over ice arches and staring up the glacier at blocks of ice 4 stories high moving at about 4 metres per day. At the bottom Franz Josef is advancing at about 400mm/day. Most glaciers in the world are retreating.
I don't know if I enjoyed the chopper flight or the hike the most but needless to say, both Ella and I felt very lucky to have this experience, and in perfect conditions as well!
The following day it was torrential again. No hiking of any kind today. In fact it is 6pm and we still haven't stepped outside. Stuck like this, a good day's schoolwork was done by the girls but I would hazard a guess that Ella learnt more up on the ice yesterday.

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The Glaciers

Date: 30/01/2007 | Author: Ella

This was the best day so far!
I went on a helicopter for the first time and we landed in the middle of the Franz Josef glacier. All glaciers are the shape of a tennis racket and we landed on the handle part. Walking on that ice was amazing and we stopped to look at an ice cave and even got to walk through it. Freezing cold water filled my boots and it took 5 minutes to kick it all out. We walked for 2 hours and saw lots of different ice formations. When we arrived back at the helicopter pad on the ice our guide told us that the top of Franz Josef glacier is bigger than the city of Auckland (which is New Zealand's biggest city). When the helicopter came we flew back down the glacier to town. I had an amazing time and was one of the youngest people to go on the glacier because you have to be at least 9 years old to do this heli-hike.

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Let it snow............

Date: 30/01/2007 | Author: Florence

We are staying in a village called Franz Joseph which is named after a big glacier near the village. Yesterday I went on a helicopter for the first time! I was too young to go with Ella and Daddy on a heli-hike (they went on a helicopter ride and had a long walk on the glacier) so I went with Mum on a helicopter ride where we had a short time on the ice and snow at the top of the glacier. It had snowed the night before so the snow was very smooth. We had heard that it snowed a little bit in London but there was much more here (the snow & ice is about 400 metres thick). The snow was so deep your feet sank right in to it! The helicopter ride is the most exciting thing I have ever done and it was really cool to be on the top of such a big glacier.

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West Coast

Date: 29/01/2007 | Author: Dave

After a couple of nights at a very homely cottage in Nelson we drove to the much lauded west coast. It may be a fact that the west coast of New Zealand's South Island has the highest rainfall in the world. If not, it must be damn close. It buckets down and roadside waterfalls add to the spectacular vista as you travel.
Punakaiki is first stop at he very tasteful Hydrangea Cottage. On the phone their selling point was "the accommodation has polished concrete floors". However the days end and the cessation of rain revealed one of the best sunsets I have ever seen. Forget the polished concrete underfoot... it was the view to the west that will stick in my mind. (see photo page)
We walked early at high tide to see the famous pancake rocks. The rocks were stunning but despite the big-ish swell the blowholes were not working.
A beautiful piece of coast.
By breakfast the rain starts to fall again. Time to drive south.

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West Coast

Date: 29/01/2007 | Author: Ella

After a week in the north of the South Island we drove down to the west coast and the first place we stayed was Punakaiki. We woke up early on the first morning to see the famous pancake rocks. These rocks are amazing because they look like huge piles of thick pancakes coming out of the sea.
After Punakaiki we headed along the coast to Hokitika. The beach there is wild and covered in beach debris like driftwood, seaweed and rocks. Because of the debris the town holds a sculpture competition every year. Anyone can enter and the only rule is that you can only use things you find on the beach to make your sculpture. My favourite sculpture was called 'Viking Cruisers', it looked like a Viking boat and amazed me because it was made out of so many natural things such as pebbles, driftwood, seaweed, shells and sand. The sculpture that won was called 'Goin' Swimmin' - it was a turtle carved out of a piece of driftwood that had once been a tree root. There were a lot of brilliant sculptures on the beach.

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West Coast sculptures

Date: 29/01/2007 | Author: Florence

We went to Punakaiki which has rocks that look like pancakes. The most amazing thing about the rocks is that scientists don't know why they look like pancakes piled one on top of the other. The west coast is way different from any other beaches we have been to on the South Island because the sand is black and the beaches are really wild and the sea is really rough.
We then drove on to Hokitika where we looked at a sculpture competition on the beach. The sculptures were just made out of sand, seaweed, driftwood, pebbles and other things you find on the beach. There was a turtle sculpture but my favourite was a house you could walk through (see my picture). The turtle won first prize in the competition.
Hokitika is famous for jade and we went to a shop with lots of jade jewellery and sculptures. In the shop I found a door that lead into a very dark room with beautiful sculptures lit up. I showed my sister and she told mum and dad. It was a great shop with lots of interesting things.

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Yoga and the West Coast

Date: 29/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

Having left the beach and peace of Awaroa lodge, we headed to Nelson, sometimes described as one of NZ's 'most liveable cities'. We stayed in a weather board cottage in one of nelson's oldest streets, with an interior that looked like it belonged in the 1970s. The girls loved it and, despite it's twee decor, it was very comfortable and had everything we needed for our 2 day stop there. Nelson was great, there was a fantastic Saturday market and I even managed to go to a yoga class for the first time since I left the UK. It was 'hot yoga' and I did enjoy the workout but I'm not sure it's for me - it was a packed mixed class but the men were practising their asanas in just shorts. Everyone was sweating profusely and there was no time for relaxation postures! I felt great afterwards but spending an hour and a half with half naked, balding, sweating men is not my ideal way to spend a Sunday morning (it's a good job Dave has hair)!

After Nelson we drove on to the West Coast in horizontal rain. This is the wettest and least populated part of New Zealand. We had an overnight stop at Punakaiki, where the sun shone through briefly for a mind blowing sunset.
The drive to Hokitika, further south, took us past and to the wildest beaches I have ever come across. Pounding grey ocean, black sand, green rocks and pebbles and driftwood of all shapes and sizes fill this long stretch of coastline. It's a huge contrast to the golden sands of the Abel Tasman national park, yet is a relatively short distance away. Hokitika is NZ's jade craft centre and there is a beach sculpture competition held every year using just materials found on the beach. The competition had finished the day before we arrived so we were able to spend hours looking at the amazing and bizarre structures - it's the most interesting exhibition I have ever been to and the girls loved it.

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Abel Tasman

Date: 26/01/2007 | Author: Dave

This is all starting to feel a bit indulgent. I am sure the NZ wine sales will show an unusual upward blip for the start of this year. Gabby says "we need not be concerned on a personal level (i.e. alcoholism) because the Vietnamese wine will not tempt us to these levels of consumption".
We spent the next five nights up in the Abel Tasman National Park enjoying more walking and sea-kayaking. Great fun to be had here. The huge tidal swings in this area create massive currents running in and out of the estuaries. We had a lot of fun swimming in these. These sandbars appear and disappear faster than I have ever seen.
Awaroa Lodge for two nights was a bit of real luxury. Great food and an excellent wine list. Leaving there, by water taxi, should have felt a bit sad but in NZ, it now seems, we are always headed to somewhere very nice.

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Abel Tasman National Park

Date: 24/01/2007 | Author: Ella

After Havelock we moved north to Marahau at the entrance to the Abel Tasman national park. On the way there we stopped at a place to go quad biking. I was on a quad bike with daddy (he goes much faster than mummy). We drove through the most amazing scenery and stopped at a 2000 year old Matai tree - it is the oldest living thing I have ever seen.
In Marahau we stayed at a cabin (much better than our last one) on Old MacDonald's farm - it was a great campsite with loads of animals and a river running through it. We went sea kayaking again with a cool guy called Mike - he was very funny. We went to some lovely beaches and saw a rock named split apple rock - there are some amazing legends about the rock.
We then moved to a lodge in Arawoa which is right in the park. On the beach in Arawoa the beach is so golden and there are so many shells - most of them purple or white. There were even some shell sculptures and sand pyramids on the beach. We really liked it at Arawoa and did lots of walks from there.
We are doing so many activities in New Zealand, sea kayaking, canoeing, swimming, walking - if we carry on like this we are going to be really fit by the time we get home.

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Date: 24/01/2007 | Author: Florence

We went by boat to Awaroa because you can't get there by car. Our boat was an Aqua-Taxi. There was a lovely waitress called Bessie. We stayed in a lovely house. Ella and I slept on the sofa bed. On the first day we walked to a lovely beach and we saw the tide coming in. We were surrounded by water. We had to swim across. Ella and I made secret club houses and it was a lot of fun. We invited our mum and dad over. On our last day we had a big big big big walk. We walked across millions of shells. My legs got very tired.

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Abel Tasman National Park

Date: 24/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

First stop at the gateway to the Park, Old MacDonald's farm in Marahau - a fantastic 100 acre campsite with great camping grounds, loads of animals, a river with deep swimming holes as well as a few cabins and a studio. It's for sale and for about 10 minutes Dave and I entertained the idea of selling up everything in the UK to come and run this place but I think I'd be very bored come the first winter. We had 3 nights there, more sea kayaking, a lovely horse ride on the huge beach and finally some great beach action because the weather is (finally) gorgeous!

Next, on to our luxury lodge at Awaroa. There are only 3 ways to get here - on foot, by air (helicopter or plane) or by sea (water taxi or kayak). Now it's too hard with the kids to get here by sea kayak (it's a 3 day trip). Even I wouldn't suggest blowing the budget on choppering in. On foot is out of the question - you have to walk for 3 days and carry all supplies on your back (not really my style - I'd collapse under the weight of NZ wine I'd want to bring!) so of course we opted for the sea taxi. A great way to arrive - a comfortable, if bumpy, speed boat ride with great views of the passing beaches and islands.

Awaroa Lodge doesn't disappoint - our room is great, the food is stunning, the sea is warm and the beach is golden. This feels like a real holiday! We manage a few great walks - for me the best yet - along beautiful coastal paths with dips along the way in the turquoise sea. Absolute paradise - I wish it was closer to home because I definitely want to come back....

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The South Island

Date: 23/01/2007 | Author: Florence

We got the ferry from the North Island to the South Island and met up with Jez, who is my Godfather, and visited him in his campervan. We stayed in the same campsite in a little hut - it was awful, it was the size of our wendy house.
On our way to the next stop we went on some really exciting quad bikes. There was a fun track and we went through water. We had to keep our legs up so they didn't get wet.
Now we are staying in Old MacDonald's Farm. We are staying in a really nice house with our own kitchen and bathroom. There are lots of animals here, we have seen llamas, alpacas, sheep, horses, peacocks, baby ducks and chickens. We even found a rotten egg!

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Day 1 on the South Island......

Date: 22/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

We arrived in Picton after the very pleasant ferry ride to the South Island. We were meeting up with our friend, Jez Webb, in the nearby, rather non-descript town of Havelock for our first night. There wasn't much to do there so we whiled away a Saturday afternoon at the local pub drinking the fabulous local wine (we're in Marlborough province after all!) while the girls entertained themselves and the bar staff. We were staying in a cabin in the local campsite - our worst accommodation yet - a place the size of a garden shed, equipped with 2 bunk beds (much to Dave's complete horror) with such soft mattresses it was like sleeping in a hammock. Thank goodness we were able to share in the luxury of Jez's campervan.
There's always an upside to staying in such a dismal dwelling - I had no problem in suggesting to Dave that we book in to the Awaroa Lodge awaroalodge in the heart of the Abel Tasman National Park which is our next port of call............

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86.3km/hr Flying Fox

Date: 21/01/2007 | Author: Dave

Our first day on the South Island was an appropriately boozy affair with Jez Webb. Great to see one of our dear friends this far off piste. This is his third trip around NZ in a campervan. We sat outside the only pub in Havelock. The kids played and strayed nearby all afternoon. We occasionally lost track of them but found Florence one time propped up at the bar with a juice, chatting to the very affable barman and Ella on another occasion writing the specials board. Very flexible children.
We stayed in a dog kennel called Cabin 5.
Driving to Able Tasman Park the next day we stopped unplanned at a 'flying fox' adventure place. We quad-biked up the hill and then soared seated over the bush for 1.6km reaching over 80km/hr then backwards to the start point. (It takes four rugby players and a tail wind to get it over the ton). Saw the oldest Matai tree in NZ. A stately 2000 years old. The quad-biking was great and we had a most splendid three hours. Dusty, muddy and happy.
This is going rather well.

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Sad news in Wellington

Date: 21/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

We spent a couple of days in Wellington catching up on boring chores like washing etc. It was here we were told of some really sad news from home. Our lovely cat, Duchess, who is being looked after in Bristol by some good friends, Suze and James, had an accident and has had to have one of her back legs amputated. Suze finally managed to get hold us (after days of trying) on our first night in NZ's capital city just as we were about to go for dinner. This wasn't the right time to break the news to the kids but we found some time the next morning. It's a hard task giving little ones such heartbreaking news when you're such a long way from home. Of course there were tears, lots of them and from all of us. I think it's good for children to see their parents cry and it was very cathartic for us all to have a good sob together. The kids still are (understandably) very upset and sometimes shed a small tear but they do comfort each other. Of course, we all feel guilty that we are not there to comfort our little cat. Suze and James are regularly emailing us with updates on Duchess's progress - I think they are finding it more distressing than us. But she is convalescing well and it's really reassuring for to know that she is with such a loving family.

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First stop on the South Island

Date: 20/01/2007 | Author: Ella

The first place we stayed on the South island was Havelock Motor Camp and there we stayed in the tiniest cabin you can imagine - even the smallest caravan put our cabin to shame! We met up with Jez who is an old friend of daddy's (and Florence's Godfather) and went to the Clansman pub with him. While we were there we made friends with the people who worked there and I even got to write the specials board for them!

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Snow and Water

Date: 20/01/2007 | Author: Florence

After Raglan we went to the mountains and we saw some snow! We got on a chairlift nearly to the top of the mountain. We got so high no more trees grew. The mountain was a volcano but luckily it didn't erupt while we were playing there. After the mountains we went to the river. We got a jet boat up and canoed back down. Then we went to the Flying Fox which is a hotel you can only get to by flying fox. It is not a flying fox like the one in Holland Park - it is one with a basket. At the Flying Fox we met a dog called Billy, he was lovely. When it got dark we had an outdoor bath that was warmed up by burning a fire underneath it. The water was fresh from the river.

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Mountains and rivers........

Date: 20/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

Oh my God! What a mind blowing, jaw droppingly beautiful country New Zealand is! Every corner reveals another amazing vista and you can go to so many places in such a short space of time. We left the beaches at Raglan and headed to the volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park for more walks on snow capped, lava strewn mountains.
Next on to the gorgeous Whanganui River where we stayed in our loveliest accommodation yet, the Flying Fox on the Whanganui River Road The 2 cottages (and one gypsy caravan) to rent are only accessible by jet boat from the river or by flying fox 30m above the river. The setting and grounds are stunning and the cottages themselves are equipped with great books, lovely furniture, really comfortable beds and sumptuous bedding. One of the best features was a turntable in the living area with loads of old albums we hadn't listened to in years. We'd booked a couple of days ahead for just one night's stay but I could have easily stayed there for a week.
While we were there we engaged in yet more active pursuits - jet boating up roughly 13km of gorgeous river and canoeing back down. This was where one of the increasingly infrequent rows between Dave and myself took place & all to do with paddling technique! We got a little stuck in a rapid and our canoe started spinning - while Dave insisted on shouting instructions at me I preferred to paddle intuitively! After a minor slanging match (the kids were present after all!) and, once we were on dry land, a well deserved glass of local Pinot Noir, we were friends again. If that's all we argue about we're not doing badly!

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Fun on mountains and rivers

Date: 19/01/2007 | Author: Ella

After Raglan we headed to the mountains of Tongariro National Park. In the Park were 3 volcanoes:
Mount Tongariro
Mount Ngauruhoe
Mount Ruapehu
We climbed up Mount Ruapehu and and played in the snow. Mount Ruapehu is the most recent volcano to erupt in New Zealand. We had fun climbing up the lava flows but had to finish our games as clouds started to wrap around us in a foggy, damp mist.
After that we headed to Whanganui River Road. We went there for jet boating up and canoeing down the Whanganui river. While we were there we also met an old Maori man called Bobby Grey. He was very smart and after our chat with him I thought that he was practically amazing.
Further down the river was the most exciting place we have stayed yet, The Flying Fox, a lovely place to stay, with sheep and a dog running around the grounds. We stayed in a lovely cottage with an upstairs as well as a downstairs. Billy the dog was lovely and followed Florence and I around the place. I loved it there and as we left I had many happy memories.
Next on to the South Island!

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A Busy Day

Date: 18/01/2007 | Author: Dave

Ok, check this out.
Wake up early and drive to the end of 'The Bruce'. On to chairlifts and up toward the snowline on mount Ruapehu. A bit of scrambling amongst moonscape beauty and waterfalls below the snowline but above the clouds. Then we hit the road south to a chance meeting with a Maori elder in Pipiriki who lectures us on Maori language mainly, and then makes us tea. Learnt a lot. Next we jet-boated 13km up the Wanganui River and paddled a canoe back down through grade one rapids. Got spun right around in one of them. Didn't know grade one rapids could do that. Though, I did discover an extension to Gabby's L/R confusion, 'backpaddle'. Anyway, beautiful scenery. One hours drive further down the river was our accom for this night. Accessible, for us, only by flying fox high over the Whanganui. theflyingfox
After cooking dinner we lit a fire under the bath (under the stars) and had a family soak. Imagine a bath that gets hotter the longer you stay in it. I am sorry if this sounds like too much in one day but what can I say.... "we are keeping busy, relaxed and happy at the same time"

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Flower Girls and Dogs

Date: 16/01/2007 | Author: Florence

In Raglan we were flower girls at Victoria and Marcus's wedding. There were also 2 dogs wearing flowers around their necks. We had a lovely view of the sea from the wedding. I was really nervous about being a flower girl, but once I had done it I wanted to do it again. This is how I feel when we have a class assembly at school. I liked Raglan a lot.

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Home schooling the kids

Date: 16/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

I never thought it would be so hard to get the girls to focus on the very small amount of school work we try to get them to do. We are really not asking much because they are learning so much from the travel anyway. Just a weekly blog update, a scrap book to run & a little spelling and maths - it amounts to a few hours a week! Florence isn't bad - she really focuses when we ask her to. But Ella, my lovely distracted Ella - she'll find the smallest thing and get sidetracked by it! I don't know how her school teachers get her to concentrate but Miss Stacey, if you're reading this, please email me a few pointers - I really need them! The idea of putting the girls in to a Kiwi school for a month is starting to really appeal!

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Hahai, Raglan, Waitomo, Tongariro

Date: 14/01/2007 | Author: Dave

I thought I was up to date on my blogs but too much is happening. Anyway, while they sleep I will try to catch up.
Next stop is Hahai (pic of cathedral cove), we sea kayak and love it. A new experience. Couple of rainy days so we speed watch the best of NZ movies. 'Once Were Warriors' particularly potent and 'The Piano' very relevant and very current for all the shots of Karekare.
Then to Raglan for the wedding. I have to be honest and say I fell in love with the place. We drove up a 65 acre block of land (for sale) with ocean views like I have never seen before. My first serious off-roading in the Pajero. Should have read the instruction manual before attempting this one, but hey, I know where I went wrong. Have read it now, so next time....
Next stop Tongariro National Park via black water rafting in the Waitomo caves. Adventure in rubber tubes lit only by glow worms for the most part. In the dark 65m undergound jumping backwards off the top of a waterfall with your bum in a rubber car tyre tube.
Yes we do seem busy. I am liking Gabby's idea of spending a month in Raglan.

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A Kiwi Wedding

Date: 14/01/2007 | Author: Ella

Victoria and Marcus got married on the 14th January. Florence and I were asked to be flower girls for the wedding and I was really excited about it. The other flower girls and I (there were 5 of us) sprinkled petals on the grass as Victoria walked along with her Dad to where Marcus was standing. During the ceremony we saw rain rolling in over Whale Bay but they were married just before it arrived - a great wedding!

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Raglan Wedding

Date: 14/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

After a few wet but lovely days on the Coromandel peninsula we headed over to the surfy community of Raglan for a wedding. Victoria, a UK friend was getting hitched to Marcus, a lovely, laid back Kiwi guy I met for the first time at a muddy Glastonbury festival a few years ago. Loo was maid of honour & the girls were flower girls which they were incredibly excited about! We were very lucky to be accommodated by some locals, lovely Neil & Linda. It's so great to stay with people rather in a bach/hotel or motel - I little local knowledge can go a long way. Neil & Linda's house was lovely & had the most stunning views over Whale Bay & the great surf. The wedding was gorgeous, beautiful words, a fabulous setting (next door to Neil & Linda's!) and a very happy couple. We met some great people there - Raglan is definitely a place I could imagine staying for a while! If we get tired of the constant travel we could always stay there for a month or so & send the girls to the local school!

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Karekare and Hahei

Date: 13/01/2007 | Author: Ella

After a week in the city of Auckland we have now spent our time on the beach and in the bush. We stayed in Karekare (just west of Auckland) in our friends, Sarne, Flo and Celeste's house. We have been on walks, scrambling over boiling black sand dunes and watched the Flintstones.
We also went to a lovely seaside town called Hahei where we went sea kayaking with a guide called Michael. He took us over big waves into cool caves and nearly at the end of the kayaking trip we stopped at a beach called Lonely Bay and Michael made us hot chocolate and cookies!

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New Zealand beaches

Date: 12/01/2007 | Author: Florence

After Auckland we went to Karekare. In Karekare we went on 2 big walks, they were very nice. But I liked it best when we pretended that Celeste's treehouse was a restaurant. We made a menu and invited our mums and dads over for their dinner - but not really!
After Karekare we went to Hahei. It rained lots but we still got to go sea kayaking. It was a lot of fun. We caught lots of waves to get us to land. One wave made us go up then down on the kayak.

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My Trip So Far

Date: 08/01/2007 | Author: Ella

My favourite place so far: Tasmania
Reason: It's beautiful, my cousins were there and we had lots of fun.

The best thing I have done: Jumping off rocks in to the Opal Plunge pool - the ledge was 4 metres above the 3 metre deep pool.
Place I did this: Karekare - NZ

The thing I like most about our trip: We have only been to exciting places, no boring places.

The thing I like least about our trip: Getting bitten by mosquitos and sandflies!

What I am looking forward to: Being a flower girl at Marcus's and Victoria's wedding on 14th January in Raglan.

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The trip so far.......

Date: 08/01/2007 | Author: Florence

My favourite place so far: Tasmania
Reason: I enjoyed playing with my cousins.

The best thing i have done; Going to Kylie's concert in Melbourne.

Thing I like the most; That we are seeing the most beautiful things and places.

Thing I like the least: Biting insects!

What I am looking forward to: Marcus and Victoria's wedding!

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The Black Sands of Karekare

Date: 08/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

Karekare, such a gorgeous place, so wild and so empty! It's the location of Jane Campion's 1993 film, 'The Piano' - you should rent the DVD because not only is it an amazing tale of erotic longing, but it also conveys the beauty of this stunning area far more than I can in words. We stayed at Sarne, Flo's and Celeste's lovely beach house and they took us on some amazing walks to beautiful places. Once again Ella and Florence made me proud with their stamina (as did Celeste (nearly 5) who was the strongest of the lot!) - they all managed a 7 hour walk, including an hour picnic lunch stop, no problem!
On our final day Sarne took us to the Opal plunge pool, a 3 metre deep pool of clear, cold water which is best accessed by jumping from a 4 metre high ledge. I'm not great with heights or freezing cold water but when Ella did it without hesitation I felt I had to overcome my fears. I did, but I hesitated! I am so proud of Ella, I don't think she would have done this a few months ago so hopefully this trip is making her more brave!

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Date: 07/01/2007 | Author: Dave

Today we walked the track from Sarnes and Flo's house, south over Zion Hill. A lot of up and downhill. After the first 2 hours of mainly uphill climb we reach the distance sign. We have gone 20 mins. It is very steep terrain but we are not that slow. Our reward for monumental effort is stopping for a much needed picnic in a beautiful valley, about another 2 hours ahead yet. Then back along the beach to Karekare via the old railway tunnel once used to transport Kauri to the timber mill. Only a pretty swamp exists where the mill once stood. The valleys we have just walked through were once full of these grand slow growing trees. We four adults with Celeste, Ella and Florence took 7 hours to complete the circuit. Of course little tired legs are forgotten when we reach the sea and they run like we have just got out of the car. It was a spectacular days walk. We are all a bit mashed this evening. More beautiful than Cradle Mountain and it is literally walking from their back yard. More on that later. Too tired. Must sleep.
Before we leave Karekare we are treated to a plunge in Opal pool (only 10 mins walk from the house). I am not great with jumping from heights. Ella seems to have no problem. We are all very impressed. (see video)

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Farewell Granny Pad Hello Aunty Loo

Date: 02/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

Jan 2nd - Mum's last day before she heads back to the UK tomorrow. It's been great having her around - a bit of a journey in terms of our relationship. There are things I have learnt about her that I don't particularly like - probably because I see them in myself! Mum you are sooooo opinionated but it has been fantastic having you around - you're an ace Mum & a top Granny - we're going to miss you!

2nd Jan is also the day Aunty Loo arrives and it's her birthday!
We decided to celebrate in style at the Sky Tower orbit restaurant - stunning views and lovely food.

Happy birthday Loo & have a safe trip home Granny Pad!

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New Years Eve 2007

Date: 01/01/2007 | Author: Dave

A great night with great friends.

Anyway, enough of that.
Loo's birthday on the second of Jan. I'm rushing now to the good bit.
Gabby spotted on the internet... 'Crew On Americas Cup Match Race' between NZL40 and NZL41 on Auckland harbour. To me this is a dream come true. Have never actually dreamt about it, but that is splitting hairs right now. So excited. On the 3rd of January with a clear blue sky and a 20 knot breeze, out we go. Gabby, Loo, Bart and I. Bart and I are winch grinding early on. Our boat wins the start and then win the race convincingly. Yes, you guessed it, good winch grinding at the start is fundamental to the end result. The wind picked up to over 30 knots while we were racing. Americas Cup yachts don't go out in over 30 knots so I think we felt the top end. Top day for all of us. Need to post a bit of video of this..... quick Pete!

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Happy New Year

Date: 01/01/2007 | Author: Ella

We are now in New Zealand. We spent New Year here and had lots of fun. We were with lots of other adults and kids. We bounced on trampolines, climbed trees and went into tree huts. Florence and I stayed up until midnight. It was the first time Florence had been awake to see in the New Year.
On the 2nd of January it was my Aunty Loo's birthday and we went up in the Sky Tower to a revolving Restaurant to celebrate it. The Sky Tower is the tallest building in the Southern hemisphere so when we went up we could see the whole of Auckland. When we arrived the sun was setting but when we were half way around the restaurant we could see the moon. That was also my Granny Pad's last night so we had special drinks and a delicious dinner.
The next day my Aunty Loo, Mum, Dad and my daddy's friend Bart went sailing together in a gigantic yacht in a race with another yacht.
While they were racing Florence and I went to Kelly Tarlton's, which is an aquarium, with Tania, who is Daddy's friends sister. Tanya is a very nice lady and we had so much fun with her.
On Thursday the 4th of January we went to the Auckland Museum and learnt how the Pacific people navigated the seas and how to survive moving from one island to another.
I hope you had a very happy new year!

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New Year

Date: 01/01/2007 | Author: Florence

We are now in a new country. (New Zealand)
I had a very nice New Year. it was the first time I stayed awake till midnight! Before midnight Mummy and I went to a beach with black sand called Karekare. On our Aunty Loo's birthday we went to a moving restaurant in a very tall building called the Sky Tower.
Next morning we went to Kelly Tarltons which is an underwater aquarium. Mummy and Daddy went sailing so we had a baby sitter called Tanya - she was lovely.
On Thursday the fourth of January we went to Auckland Museum. While we were there we saw a Maori show called Manaia. We learnt our first Maori word 'Kia Ora'. It means lots of words such as 'Hello' 'Good Health' 'Awesome'. We saw some Maori dances including a Poi dance and the Haka. At the Museum we bought a book and are going to learn more Maori words. Our Granny Pad has now left New Zealand and is on her way home.

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Happy New Year from NZ

Date: 01/01/2007 | Author: Gabby

I hate 4WDs - they hog the roads in the city and in London are generally driven by small blonde women chatting on mobile phones (that includes you Helen!!!) - they pollute the environment and are completely unnecessary..........unless of course you are holidaying in new Zealand! With 90 mile beaches to drive down and glaciers to drive up, I have been told a 4WD is an absolute necessity. Forget our carbon footprint (that's been blown with the number of flights we have taken over the last 5 weeks), forget all things environmental.
We haven't rented one (you can't drive down beaches or up glaciers in a hire car) we have bought one for our stay here. We're not sure how long yet, maybe 2 months, not a lot less. We have only been in Auckland so far - a beautiful city but not much call for a 4WD to drive up Queen Street. We had a great NYE with lovely friends in Karekare, an amazing beach about 45 minutes drive W of Auckland - a lovely drive but something our lovely London Saab would easily have coped with.
I am sure Rosie, as the girls have named the 4 wheeled beast, will prove her worth over the next couple of months. Watch this space. I might yet be converted to the merits of a 4WD although I don't think I will be exporting one back to London. How much is the congestion charge for 4WDs there?
I do think I'm going to like it here in NZ..............

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New Zealand

Date: 31/12/2006 | Author: Dave

I knew that waxing lyrical over the beauty of Cradle Mountain would sooner or later lead me down a difficult path. Well I rode that path sooner than I expected.
Landed in Auckland at 12:30 am and drove away from airport 15 minutes later. Nice start I must say. We have purchased a Mitsubishi Pajero (2004 exceed 3.8 v6 NZ$30,000 if you are interested) with the aim of going places only a 4WD can go. Like 90 mile beach. The camper-van route has some advantages (like tea on demand) but I am confident this purchase will see me proud before too long. A manoeuvre like this needs local help. Greg you are one of life's classic gentleman!
It is now the 31st and a lovely English lady is speaking from Greg's Sat-Nav and guiding us to (our great friends) Sarne and Flo's house at Karekare for New Years Eve celebrations with some of my best friends/work buddies. After leaving Auckland suburbs the short drive to the coast through the Waitakere Ranges is beautiful. Karekare beach (of black sand) is beautiful. The vista from Sarne's back yard is beautiful. Auckland is beautiful and I know that this is just the start of something very special.
Must throw a huge bucket of greenlip mussels on the barbie. Nice one Sarne.

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