Roland’s 3rd Birthday – New Zealand

Today my little boy turns 3 and he says he’s not little anymore.  This independent, stubborn, social and loving kid is becoming a seasoned traveler before most of us have ever been on an airplane.  Travel can be hard on kids.  Long hours sitting in the car, disruption of the routine, new places every day, sleeping in new places, but he is thriving.  Learning new words, eating different foods, seeing new animals and experiencing the world around him in every possible way.  He is learning how to explore and push himself into new and exciting experiences.  This is why I travel with my kids (That and I like doing all those things too.)

Today we decided that the best gift we would give him was time.  Time to play.  Time to swim.  Time to eat.  Time to simply be a kid doing kid things.  That and eat cake.

So, we booked ourselves into the Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park for two nights and spent the whole (thankfully sunny and warm) day playing and doing whatever Roland wanted.

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Riding a bike

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Playing with toys

 

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Playing at the park

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Wearing his new Camera Shirt

 

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Getting excited over who know what.

Getting Daddy a coffee and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows.

And last but not least.  Eating cake.

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1930 Architecture – Hastings, New Zealand

We stayed in a small campground on the East coast.  You can hear the waves crashing on the shore some 50 ft away.  It poured rain all night and looks as though it will do the same for the rest of today as well.  The place we are staying happens to have a little restaurant that is open for breakfast and lunch, the Snapper Cafe.  I expected the typical home cooked, greasy spoon, dinner food but what I got was something totally unexpected.

This is Roland’s Muesli.  It has flower petals.  It is beautiful, to say the least!

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We finally got a chance to check out the beach.  It is hard to see for all the rain but it is long and narrow.  Apparently, they have a patrol during the summer to keep swimmers safe.  The beach itself is made of small smooth pebbles and it quite soft to walk on.

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As is was pouring down buckets of rain, we decided to head out for a drive through this area’s towns.

The interesting thing about this area is an earthquake in 1931.  It was a 7.8.  It shifted the sea floor up and out.  It devastated Napier and Hastings.  It remains the worst natural disaster in this nation’s history.

There is so much added land from the earthquake that they were able to build an airport among other things.

Basically, everything affected was torn down and replaced with the style of the 30’s.

 

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Downtown Hastings

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Notice how it says Established and not built.

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It looks as tough there was one very popular architect who provided the new plans for all the buildings.

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This is a water feature in the center of downtown Hastings.  The traffic flows in one direction on either side.  What we didn’t notice on first glance are the working train tracks that run right down the middle of that water feature!

There is also current work being done around Hastings.  This is a first for me.  A tire as a temporary roundabout.  Love the ingenuity.

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We also saw this little gem riding around.  I have seen something like if online.  It is likely peddle driven and qualifies as a bike.  Such a great idea for dealing with weather.

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Just enough space for one!

While some towns have prospered, rebuilt or repurposed to stay alive, we do see evidence of the towns who have moved on.

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There are still people who are holding on and keep these small places from becoming a ghost town.

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Many of their buildings, however, have seen better days.

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They are found if the most beautiful of settings.  Surrounded by mountains or valleys, the scenery is breathtaking everywhere we go.

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Geothermal is the way to go in this part of the world.

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The Place With The Longest Name – New Zeland

Today we finished our long drive to the long name.  How long it is?  Well, it’s world record setting.

We started our morning in Dannevirke.  A small town made up of roughly 6000 people plus plenty of cattle and sheep.  Settled in 1872 by a few  Danish, Norwegian and Swedish settlers, the name comes from a  Viking fortification line in Denmark which had recently fallen into German hands in the German-Danish War of 1864.

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If you remember from my last post, I told you that this place looked like something special as we drove in.  Despite the rain overnight and the misty, rainy, wet conditions of the morning, I filled my pocket with carrots and we headed off.

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After our morning run around the park, grocery shopping, and a late McD’s Breakfast we headed out for the Longest Place Name.

The roads were lightly traveled and many reviews complained about the long drive to get to the long name.  We were well prepared.  We knew there would be nothing but farms in the area.

This is Dan’s Black Swan Event:

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So again you are probably wondering how long it the name of this place and why don’t I just write it.  Well, it’s so long that they don’t even want to try and put it on the information signs.

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Naturally, we hear sheep.  Then we SAW sheep and not just one or two.

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Then we saw a poor logging truck slowly navigating the traffic jam.

We did think it was odd to see this small flock of sheep all on their own.  They were hesitant about coming any closer (Roland didn’t help with his excitement.)

Eventually, the rest of the flock caught up, along with the herding dog and Sheppard.

So this is the place with the longest name.  It is the name of the hill you can see in the background.  There are 85 characters in this name and the Maori name is translated to English as “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as ‘landeater’, played his flute to his loved one.”

 

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You might wonder just how we managed to get 3 out of 4 of us into this picture.

No, Scarlet did not take the photo.  I actually have a monopod (tripods take too much room).  I have found some pretty cool ways to prop it up and used the 10 sec. timer.  I was getting tired by the time we got this one!

With this mission completed, we headed the rest of the way to the east coast, stopping near Hastings.    Our drive was filled with laughs.  Here is Roland.  He insisted on getting Daddy a cookie when we made a stop for fuel (knowing full well he would get one too).  The then insisted on having me take his picture while he ate his cookie too.  This kid is too much.

 

Tonight I can hear the Ocean Waves crashing and I think of home as I look at the game Othello

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Porirua – New Zealand

We found ourselves in the town of Porirus for no reason than a place to stay that had us heading north of Wellington.  Turns out it’s a great little town.

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We stayed at Camp Elsdon, a fantastic little place with a big heart.  Situated at the top of a hill, it is surrounded by bush and just a short drive to town.  We even found a Denny’s to eat at for dinner!

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They have some great little ponies too.

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Last night I had some wonderful conversations with some other travelers.  We seriously get some of our best information from people on the ground.  There is just something special about a personal recommendation over a Google search.  So after our walk this morning we headed for the community pool!

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With a heated large play pool, separate lane swimming pool, lazy river, big and small slides, kids hot pool, separate adult hot pool and saunas you would expect to pay big $$$  but, it is seriously cheep!  Less than $10 for all 4 of us to go swimming.  Also, there are no set times or limits.  It was simply open.

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Scarlet hasn’t  been feeling great today.  She is super tired and just fell asleep on Dan.  She was nice and warm too.

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There is also a cafe where we could grab some grub before hitting the road.  Now I knew this was going to be a drive where Roland falls asleep FAST!

Roland made sure to request we take as many pictures of him as possible before leaving too. ( A well-known stall tactic of his)

Our drive started costal before we headed inland towards the east side of the island.

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As per usual New Zealand driving, we headed up, down and around.  When they tell you to go 25 km/h around a corner they meant it.  The speed limit otherwise was 100km/h.NZ Day 18NZ Day 18NZ Day 18NZ Day 18

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That road down there is the continuation of the road we are currently on.

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I don’t get it.

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Dan and I have noticed a lot of the grass covered “hills” have a bee hive like look to them.  On closer look, you can actually see that the lines are indents and paths caused by the sheep walking on the steep hills.  I wonder how long they have been using these paths to make such an impression.

As it starts to get dark (earlier and earlier each day) we quickly called it quits on our drive.  Our original destination had been Waipukurau but we will stay the night in Dannevirke instead.

As we travel with no reservations booked we can easily drive into a caravan park and if we don’t like it, we simply turn around and leave (yes, we have actually done this).

We’re staying at Dannevirke Holiday Park and if the drive in through the park is any indication we are going to love our morning walk tomorrow!

Movie Magic in Wellington – New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is situated at the south end of the North Island.  You can get here by ferry from the South Island, take a plane or drive a car.  There is a vibrant art scene, some movie magic and you can even drive under a mountain!

Consequently, parking is hard to find, expensive and NOT motorhome friendly.

 

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There are some great advertisements around town,  Now this one is for Canadian Club.  It took me a moment to ponder before I got the “Bad Sweater” connection and why they are not “Ugly Christmas Sweaters”

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“For Those People Who Complain About Too Much NUDITY In Our Billboards!”  And I’m not quite sure what is with the crowd surfing Fox below.

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This is a GIANT gold/bronze Hippo at the Hippopotamus Resturant.

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Dan spotted this cool Push Bike.  I think Roland might get one of these when he gets home.

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After doing some driving we found this fella hanging around the Weta Workshop Cave.

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Yup, that mean ugly guy is a Troll from Lord Of The Rings.  We even had to run away from his friend!

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For as little as $25 you can even get a tour of their working studio!  A tip: call to book if the website says the tour is booked full.  They often have spots for people like us who just drop in.

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Naturally, they are a little protective of their work and pictures are not allowed inside the workshop.  Another tip:  if you are driving, plan to walk as the street parking is packed!  They also have shuttles that leave from downtown Wellington so you don’t need to find local parking.  visit http://wetaworkshop.com/ to see some of their amazing work and to book a tour.

 

Wellington is host to some pretty amazing things to do but our time was limited.  We decided to head over to the FREE Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa for lunch and some exploration.

While there we learned about local wildlife, New Zealand History, Dinosaurs, Earthquakes (including an Earthquake House simulator), living eco-friendly and so much more.  The second floor of the museum is virtually kid proof and perfect for a handsy toddler to run around like a maniac.

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Anatomical in size Blue Whale Heart!

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The cafeteria, on the first floor, has great food and a play area.  There are also high chairs and change tables.  Perfect!

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Oh yeah, remember the airport I mentioned.  Here is a plane landing, almost on the water.

Crossing the Cook Straight – New Zealand

We have booked a ferry ride across the Cook Stright for today, but it doesn’t leave until this afternoon.  We found some great parking (Dan got us a $40 ticket because he forgot to pay the meter) and headed off for some breakfast and exploration.

Naturally, Roland found some friendly dogs.  This kid seriously loves dogs!!

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Playing outside a motel were two black labs looking for a good tug-o-war.  Dan also spied this old gem of a Mustang.  We have seen a lot of old cars in very good shape.

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As we headed down toward the water, Roland found one of his favourite things to do.  (Don’t ask me why, I haven’t a clue).  Sitting on a bench.  He’s waiting for one of his other favourite things, a bus.  As bus stops go, this one is very nice.

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Down by the harbor, we found a spectacular surprise.  This park is simply wonderful.  The big ship is amazing and even has a ramp for easy access at the back.  There is also a splash pad, swings, model trains, little park and public toilets.

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Speaking of, I would like to share with you a side by side comparison of the types of videos Dan and I shoot.

We made a quick stop at the Picton Community Museum.  The staff member working today was fantastic with Roland.

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There are a lot of very interesting things to see and read about here.  Admission is only $5 too.

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With all this running around we were ready to eat lunch but also did not have a lot of time before getting on the ferry.  So, off we headed to be one of the first in line so we could grab lunch on the boat.

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Roland is patiently waiting and ready to go.

Once on board, the 3-hour ferry crossing from the South to North Island, the views are something worth seeing.

When we crossed from Melbourn to Tasmania we chose a night sailing as there is not much beyond the open seas and it was 12 hours long.  Here, the short 3 hours is easily taken up by walking aound the ship and grabbing a bite to eat.  The two islands are so close, infact, that you can see on from the other and will always have a good view of the land.

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Picton, New Zealand  – Harbour

 

 

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Along with comfy chairs, dining, and incredible views, there is also a children’s play area.  Today, Roland has skipped his customary nap.  The timing just didn’t work out for him to have one.  So, I compromised.  He was allowed to watch TV for as long as he wanted, just so long as he way laying down at the same time.  He Was Tired.  He also refused to nap with the TV on.  I even got him to eat some food served out of a paper boat.  Scarlet enjoyed crawling around before sleeping in the Ergo carrier.

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Fish Farming

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As we get sight of Wellington we are first impressed at the size of the city.  It is also getting dark FAST and we will need to find somewhere close to stay the night.

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Much like winter in Canada, winter is New Zealand gets dark early.  It’s not even 6, there is rush hour traffic and it is dark.  Both kids are super tired too and I think I will be able to put them right to bed when we find the caravan park.

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No Cooking dinner tonight!!  I had a chat with the staff as we checked into the Top10 Park, just outside Wellington.  They highly recommended we call HELL PIZZA as we could get free delivery.

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Established in 1996 (totally makes sense with the theme), this pizza chain has gone all out with branding.  I am digging the boxes.  We ordered the Mordor and the Damned.  If I though they put a lot of attention into the boxes, they put even more into the pizza.  There are some serious flavour combinations going on here!!

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Photo Recap of the day.

Driving Nelson to Picton – New Zealand

We start our morning with an early walk around the park and beyond.  Roland had a great time running through the leaves, dropping things into the stream and clucking at someone’s backyard chickens.

There was a large soccer pitch across the street and Roland desperately wanted to go see it.  I tried to get him to head back to the camper but he had other plans.  He stopped for two pictures and kept going until I had no choice but to run after him.  This kid has little fear of going off on his own.

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I thought of my cousin Pat as Roland played with this one.

Finally, back at the park, we played on the rather we playground, fun none the less though.

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He is starting to love the trampoline.  Today I told him to hop like a kangaroo and got him really jumping!NZ Day 15

A quick drive has us at the waterfront.  The harbor is protected y a boulder bank that is 13 km long and created a beautiful calm water and beaches.

Established in 1841, Nelson is the oldest city on the south island and the second-oldest city in New Zealand.  It is currently known for its arts and hosts plenty of local events.

 

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A short drive out of Nelson and we were once again surrounded by mountains and crazy roads.  You can look ahead to the road you will be driving on by looking to your side rather than straight ahead.  This has the added advantage of letting you know when the big trucks are coming.

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We also drove through some pleasant valleys and into some lingering clouds.

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As we do every day, we found somewhere for Roland to play.  He now identifies McDonald’s as a place to play.  He could care less about the food, he just wants to play.  Every McDs we have seen has a playground of some kind.  (He will be so disappointed when we go home, they are harder to find).

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Scarlet is really getting in the solid food phase.

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You know when you order a burger and it is sooooo big, you’re just not sure how you’re going to fit it in your mouth?  I’m sure that is what she is thinking here.

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As we entered or final destination of Picton we were greeted by this park surrounded by some very large trees.  Like, I cannot even begin to describe how big they are.

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We checked into park super early and had plenty of time to run around before making supper.  Roland immediately challenged this little lady to a game of chess.  Unfortunately, it appears she actually knows how to play!  We also had a family of 5 kids come along.  It was so fascinating to hear them all yell “YES, THERE”S CHESS” followed by the decision on how to take turns playing.

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An actual operational phone booth.  Old booth, new phone.

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Dan had 8 channels to pick from and one of them was Dinsey.  So, he kept tricking Roland to go back to Disney but Roland kept asking for something else.  What did he want?  Teenage drama held his attention for a few minutes.  He didn’t want News, he didn’t want music videos, he didn’t want FROZEN (I think I just made every parent jealous).  He wanted car racing.  Nothing else would do.  Cars and bikes racing in the desert.

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Dan had heartburn. We’ve had too much to eat and not quite the most healthy of diets lately. He seems to be living on pop and coffee here. He decided while I wrote he would go out on a foot tour to have a look around and find something to help.

He asked at the campground front desk where he could get some Rolaids, or Tums or something for heartburn. He received detailed directions to the grocery store that would be open until 8 pm. All of the chemists/drugstores in town were already closed.

And as luck would have it, so was the grocery store. (6 pm) Like everything else in this town. A few variety stores, a gas station, a lot of lights from the ferry terminal, but nothing else at all is open.

Fortunately Dan saw through the grocery store and out to the other side to see what he thought was a fire truck at a gas station and sure enough, it was. He walked around the block past the closed medical center with an ambulance entrance right up to the gas station and bought these Qwick Eeze for his heart burn. 🙂

He had a chance to check out the local fire trucks, the fire station, and the rest of the downtown that had locked up and gone home at six pm. It was so quiet in town.

He checked out the marina and somehow figured out a different way home that likely no one else in the world would have tried or figured out. (It involved a man bridge that was high enough for sailboats to sail under it, and figuring out his way through a marina that he has never seen before, that has dozens of buildings and service roads) Dan loves his little adventures.

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Driving to Nelson – New Zealand

Today was a day of driving.  We headed from Carters Beach to Nelson, working our way through the scenic roads where we will ultimately end up in Picton to take the Ferry over to the North Island.  We only have a few short days left here in the South and it is happy to throw everything is can at us.

Framed with light clouds and blue sunny skies, warm temperatures and dry roads, we drive up and down mountains, along rivers and through small towns.

Surprisingly we fit underneath this rocky overhang.

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Beware of SLUMPS!

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Driving INTO a cloud.

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Believe it or not, they strung the hydro wires from mountain to mountain ACROSS a river and road!

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Some Clouds just did not want to give up the day.

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There is evidence of logging in this area as well.  Not all the replanted trees survive.

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We do make sure the kids have time to play.  Roland and I got out the first ting in the morning and explored the campground.  We met a goat and a cat on our travels.

 

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We also try to find a place to play at lunch time so everyone can relax and stretch out for a while.NZ Day 14

That’s the sugar bowl she is eyeing…

 

We continue to encounter crazy roads.  This is a One Lane Road.  It was two but the mountain got in the way.  The corner is so tight you can’t even see the oncoming traffic!  There is actually a stop light to control traffic too.  I guess you will have to cross your fingers if it’s not working!

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I think this is my favourite picture of the day.  Still a working farm, this home looks like it must have a century ago.

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Complete with working horses, I wish we could have stopped and explored their home.

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks – New Zealand

As we head north of Greymouth we feast on the spectacular ocean views of Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park.

Know for pancake rocks and blow holes it is easy to see why they say it is a must see on the West Coast of the South Island.

 

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The Pancake Rocks that Punakaiki is famous for, are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay was raised above sealevel by earthquakes to form the coastal cliffs and coastline. The sea, wind and rain have since etched out the soft layers to form the unusual rock formations we see today. When conditions are right, heavy ocean swells thunder into the caverns beneath the rocks and huge water spouts blast skywards through the blowholes in a truly spectacular sight. (http://www.punakaiki.co.nz/about_punakaiki/)

There is a short 20-minute walking trail that is paved.

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It would have been easy to take the kids but everyone decided to have a nap while I went for the walk.

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What do you see?  Some people have a great imagination and can see all sorts of creatures in these rocks.

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Did you see any of these creatures?

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The wind, rain, and sea constantly change the formations and leave behind the harder stone.

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Unfortunately, there was no activity at the blow holes.  I imagine a higher tide would have produced some great sprays to see.

We rounded out our drive by heading a little further north to the small town of Carters Beach.  Know for their sunsets and spectacular star gazing, we were not disappointed.

As we marveled at the wonders of nature we were also left wondering just what happened here.

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ShantyTown – New Zealand

Just a short drive from Greymouth is the heritage park of Shanty Town.

Here you can Ride the Steam Train, Pan for Gold, Watch a Holographic Show, Walk through China Town, Get and Old Time Photo, Eat at King Dick’s Cafe and Play at the Park.  Oh, and of course you can get a cat to give you a tour of the museum…

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We started off our visit at King Dick’s Cafe for breakfast before heading off to explore the town.

There were toys for both Roland and Scarlet to play with.

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Roland just loves finding toys that Scarlet will love.

 

We had some time to explore before catching the next steam train.

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I guess we will catch the next one!

While Dan watched the Holographic movie, Roland, Scarlet and I found ourselves a tour guide.

This is Mr……I can’t remember.  He is the resident cat of the town and he also runs the joint.  He truly did take us on a tour.  We followed him to several buildings.

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The town is set up with all the little stores you would have found in a gold rush.

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Roland getting the cannon ready to fire

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early examples of doctor equipment

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There are many people who made places like New Zealand work.

Surveyors, police, blacksmith, robbers, all types of people.  Some did well and some, unfortunately, did not make it at all.  You can learn about many of these stories around Shantytown.

Here are some great examples of Old Time Medicine.  How far we have come.

 

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We caught the 11:00 train that took us on a short trip with the opportunity to pan for gold.

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Much like Canada and the US, New Zealand also has a long history with the Chinese and mining work.

I had some trouble with Roland and Dan so I decided to try out the disciplinary teachings of the period.

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Things are getting serious now.  They still won’t behave so I will just have to put them in irons.

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Here Roland is trying to help poor Daddy who has been thrown in the stock.  He can’t quite reach as he is at the end of his ball and chain.

There is quite a lot to see and do here in Shantytown and we easily could have spent the whole day.  Roland, however, was tuckered out and it was time for a nap/drive to the next spot.