Good Bye Beast 2.0 – Auckland, New Zealand

Today we say goodbye to “The Beast 2.0”

We woke to some spectacular fog.  A truly beautiful gift from mother nature on this early morning.

Every minute the landscape changed.

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Today we return “The Beast 2.0” our camper that has been our home for the last month.

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Our plan of attack for returning the motorhome was going to be far less stressful than how we did things in Australia.

Step 1: get other people OUT of the camper.

SO, while I packed and Scarlet slept, Dan took Roland to the Museum of Transportation and Technology.

 

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Step 2: Get everything into carrying bags of some kind.  This was not our final packing.  We still have a few days in a hotel and access to laundry.  I separated the dirty and clean clothing. Kept the “electronics” together and bagged up the leftovers (our hotel has a mini kitchen too).

Once the boys were back we ate a quick lunch with leftovers in the fridge and headed off to the hotel.

Step 3: Drop off all our stuff at the hotel BEFORE dropping off the camper. It was SO much easier dropping everything off there and leave Dan with the kids.

 

Step 4: I dropped off the camper and simply walked the 1Km back to the hotel!  We had extra liability insurance so there was no walk around to check for damage and we had also purchased the express return package so I did not need to fuel up or dump water/sewage.  Easy Peasy.

I spied this while returning the camper.  This place looks interesting….perhaps tomorrow.

 

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Kelly Talton’s Sea Life Aquarium – Auckland, New Zealand

When your 3 and your days starts out by seeing a Shark Boat, you know you’re going to have a good day!

Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium is perfectly located right on the shores of Auckland.

 

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We started our tour with the Scott Base exhibit.  It looked really interesting with all sorts of artifacts and reconstructed rooms.  Roland, however, had no interest so I have no pictures for you.

He did, however, love the Penguins!  These King Penguins are huge!  They can weigh as much as 20 kg or 44 lbs (That’s bigger than Roland!)

And if that wasn’t enough, they have huge fluffy babies!!!!!

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There are also Gentoo Penguins, they are the fastest swimming penguin out there!

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We were mesmerized watching them swim around the large tank.  I was surprised how cold the glass was but I guess that is real temperatures for them.  It was also real snow in their enclosure.

Past the Penguins we found these cool looking globes.  They gave such a good view into the tanks.

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Not too far into the Aquarium, we found the kids area.  By now Roland was on full over stimulation mode or something because we couldn’t keep him still.  There were these cool stations with colouring pages of fish and this wall was lit up with an aquarium scene.  There were even a few spots you could touch the wall and things would happen.

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What you could do was colour your very own fish, scan it below and it would start swimming on the wall!  How awesome is that!!

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Roland, however, was not interested apparently.  This is the room we lost him in and somehow he snuck out of the room.  It didn’t take long to find him, however.  He simply made his way to the play area because he “needs to play” as he always says.

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The cafe was well situated with the play area and lots of fish to see.

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Both Roland and Scarlet really enjoyed the underwater viewing tunnels.  Scarlet should have napped, as she usually does, in the carrier as we walked around but she did not take her eyes off those fish.  In face, Roland liked it so much we went around on the loop more than once!

The tour was rounded out with a few for aquariums and a seahorse exhibit.

We really enjoyed this place.  We spent a few hours and easily could have spent more just playing in the kid’s area.  Our tickets did allow re-entry so we didn’t feel the need to stay for lunch.  Parking was limited and not the best for motorhomes.  We also saved some money by getting out tickets online the night before we went.

 

 

Coromandel – New Zealand

After visiting Hot Water Beach we decided to take the scenic route around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula.

Named after the HMS Coromandel who landed here in 1820, the rugged nature of the peninsula has limited its potential growth, despite being relatively close to Auckland.

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We stayed the night and had breakfast in town before heading out towards and past Auckland.

 

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Sorry about the Google Image.  Apparently, we didn’t take any pictures at breakfast.

I have a love-hate relationship with cooking VS going out to eat.  I cook and it’s cheap vs the EXPENSIVE price of eating out. But, when we eat out we have some of the very best experiences and there are NO DISHES.

Today Roland had a blast with two ladies having tea.  He brought them magazines, cutlery and told them stories about feeding dolphins, swimming at the beach and anything else he could think of.  He generally bounced around and we all had a good laugh.
Scarlet worked on her crawling, pulling up to standing and I’m showing her how to use the couch to practice walking.  She shined her best smiles for the ladies and anyone else who dared to look at her.  She is such a ham for the attention.

We headed off in the direction of Auckland with the intentions of going right past.  We will leave the big city for another day.  For now, we are headed to “SheepWorld”!

 

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You say To Mata, I say Te Mata…

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Bugger!

We have such a hard time with pronouncing the names in both New Zealand and when we were in Australia.  We have taken to making up the names.  Puke Hole, for example.  Sorry.

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Thinking of home with these names.

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Massive number of ships

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Crazy Toll fees! (HAHA, someone should show this to the 407 at home)

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Interesting bridge

 

Getting into HOT WATER (Beach) – New Zealand

After leaving Hobbiton we headed out to the East Coast in search of the Hot Water Beach.

Located on the Coromandel Paninsula and known for having natural hot springs right under the sand at low tide, this would be an interesting way to spend a day at the beach.

Getting there is almost just as much fun too.  These mountains were definitely formed by volcanos (I’m guessing).  The area is quite remote and there are rest stops that double as an emergency helipad.

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Endless changing views

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Mountains to climb up and down

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Hair Pin Turns

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Clifs that threatin land slides

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Mirrors to see around the corner

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Don’t worry, the kids have a fantastic view too.

When you finally arrive at Hot Water Beach, you will see the beautiful beach from up high.  There are three different parking lots and I suggest you drive all the way to the farthest.  Here you will find a few resturants, cold showers and bathrooms.  There are also a few places to hire a shovel.  You might need one if you are early but there are so many people digging that you can grab a pool, pre dug, when others leave.  You can also simply use your hands, or anything you might have handy. (We brought a large serving spoon and a collander to dig our holes)

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Hot Water Beach

Pack a bag and get ready for a day at the beach!

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Roland took this photo, he’s stepping up his skills!

 

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Steaming hot water will help you forget about the 14C weather.

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Water seeps up  through the sand at up to 64C.  HOT!

Kid’s didnt seem too sure, lol.  Actually they had quite a bit of fun.  A word of caution, though.  The water in some pools is hotter than others and some of the water naturally coming up from the sand can get as hot as 64 decrees Celcius.

You CAN get a burn from this water!!!  Mind your children carfully!!

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Plenty of pools ready to go or simply dig your own.

Kids had a great time today, digging in the sand, splashing in the water and I even got a quick swim in the ocean.  We grabbed lunch at one of the local spots before heading out.

Roland knows how you might look if you actually need to find this sign!!! He is soooo tired.  Apparent we played way past nap time and he is in meltdown mode.  He was also super HANGRY too.

He is soooo tired.  We played way past nap time and he is in meltdown mode.  He was also super HANGRY too.

Bonus to traveling in the camper: you can get your food to go and eat in a quiet low stimulation environment.  Plus you have your own TV with his favourite movie already loaded!!!

 

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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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