Thursday, August 29, 2013

Of Alfred Hitchcock, bear hunts and unexpected adventures

There are three guaranteed constants when it comes to Ryder.  He'll drop everything to sing along to Girl on Fire, he insists that I sing Five Little Monkeys the entire way to pick Maddox up from school, and every night before bed he has to sit next to me in a laundry basket while we read Going on a Bear Hunt.  Every character in the book is someone from the family and he never fails to gasp when they actually find a bear in the cave.  So we went on an accidental bear hunt on this trip, but before we get to that, let me back up....Jason is very type A, I'm very type Whatever.  He loves to have a planned out itinerary and I love to go wherever the wind blows us. He was a little concerned that we didn't have anything planned for the second day, but I've learned that the best adventures are the ones you don't plan for.  We packed up that morning and drove.  We spotted a sign for a scenic overlook and couldn't resist.  One last longing gaze....

And then we got back in the car and hadn't driven more than a couple of miles when we pulled over to a beach.  There was a huge flock of birds just hanging out on the bank, which of course is any little boy's dream scenario.  Jayden and Maddox were so stealth as they snuck up on them, but I think they ended up with the bigger surprise as they fell under attack.  It was part fascinating to see so many birds swarming, but mostly Alfred Hitchcock-ish. I have to laugh as Jayden starts out as the concerned big brother trying to save Maddox, but ended up ditching him and running for his life.

They always love to race the waves.  The waves never fail to win and we always end up with soaked pants, but if there's one thing I've learned, it's to always carry a spare pair of pants whenever water is involved.

And then we got back in and drove a few more miles before we spotted this incredible cave right off the side of the road. Stopping was a no brainer. Especially when that cave was the exact replica of the bear cave in Ryder's book, right off the shore and everything.  He was equal parts excited and terrified to explore the bear cave. He felt safe with Jason holding him, so off they went.  Dark caves don't particularly excite me, so the rest of us just hung back.  Pretty soon Jason came darting out of the cave looking like he had just stared death straight in the eye, shrieking about something being in the cave and about something growling at him.  After all of our experiences with growling seals the day before, we figured it was a seal and started busting up.  I think the last time I saw Jason that scared was when we were dating and a guy dressed in animal suit was hiding in the trees and telling us we were going to die while we were in the canyon with friends, but that's another story for another time.  I would have been totally freaked out too, hearing something unexpectedly growling at you in the pitch black has got to be pretty unnerving, but Jason regained his manhood when he went back in there with the kids (sans Ryder, he had enough bear hunts to last him a lifetime) and a flashlight and found that it was indeed a seal.  Now everytime we read Bear Hunt, Ryder goes on and on about the "cereal" that was hiding in the bear cave.  It makes for a much better bedtime story.  We ended up spending about two hours exploring caves, having a picnic, daydreaming about mermaids, collecting shell rings and heart shaped rocks, playing pirates, climbing rocks and letting the kids just be kids. 

Maddox taught Ryder how to hear the ocean inside the shell.  Then he kept trying to dump the invisible water out of it.

Maddox found me a fine collection of rings, that boy holds my heart.

And then we got back in the car and drove only a few more miles before we just HAD to stop again.  The 2 hour drive home turned into a 6 hour drive home.  We passed this most amazing sight, these steep lush mountains with cows and sheep grazing at the base and just enough mist from the ocean that it could have passed as a dream.  I gave him the look and without even asking, he turned around so I could take a picture and the kids could find more shells.  This boy of mine is a keeper.  The farmer came out while I was taking pictures and I immediately thought he was going to get after me, but Christchurch doesn't get it's 12th friendliest city in the entire world ranking for no reason. Instead, he asked me if I wanted to climb over the fence and get a closer shot.  I politely declined, but we got talking about how beautiful it is here, and he told me his 80 year old mom sits in her room upstairs all day with her back to the window.  It's hard to understand how anyone could ever get tired of looking at this view every day.

We eventually made our way back home, while the kids slept we were spoiled with the most amazing scenery.  Jason and I didn't feel the need to talk, we just basked in the silence and beauty.  We kept getting passed by car after car and I realized that I really like this new Jason that was evolving. Gone are the days of getting from point A to point B in record time. Jason had the Phoenix to Vegas route down to the minute. One bathroom, gas and drive thru stop in Kingman and that was it. He was always the one doing the passing, the one gripping the steering wheel when he got stuck behind a trailer and now seeing him take the time to stop and smell the roses, er, salty sea air made me unexpectadly fall even more in love with him. We are welcoming this whole joy in the journey with arms wide open.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Kaikoura" is Maori for "heaven on earth", or at least it should be

I'm not big on crying. It wasn't even a temptation during The Notebook and I rolled my eyes at Les Mis.  Okay, lest ye think I have a heart of stone, there are a few isolated incidences like the Disneyland commercial with One Republic's "Good Life" playing in the background and an embarrassing choking up episode involving the girls from Club Dance and a Disney show. I'm not proud of that one. But the point is, I really don't tear up that often, but this weekend as we explored one of the most beautiful places in the world with the people who are my world, I felt that unfamiliar sting in my eyes on a few different occasions. Every time I felt it coming on I gave fair warning, and it was always met with a famous Kylie eye roll and a "please don't mom".  We finally took that birthday trip to Kaikoura that I had been rainchecking and re-rainchecking for the past month.  We got there friday night and stayed in a cute little cabin at a campground. We woke up with the sun streaming through the windows and I just knew it was going to be a good day. Correction, an amazing day. Legend has it that there is a waterfall filled with baby seal pups, so that was an obvious first stop. The drive out there was the stuff legends are made of too. Each side of the road was competing for our attention. Turquoise blue waters on the right, and green rolling hills framed by snow capped peaks to the left.

We finally found it, a quiet unassuming trail leading to the most amazing sight I've ever seen.  If this were in the States it would have been marked with Vegas style lighting and plagued with churro and t-shirt stands. Aside from a few hikers here and there, it was just us and about 100 seal pups.  The trail up was dotted with baby seals sleeping on rocks or jumping and making their way up stream.  Once you get there it's unreal.  They are jumping off rocks, wrestling each other, flipping through the air and having the time of their lives.  We just sat there soaking it all in, while trying to ignore Maddox who was crying about being cold and who eventually got stuck on the slippery rocks while trying to run away and needed rescuing. Man, every party needs a pooper. But it was magical while it lasted.

While the babies swim up stream to play, the moms lounge around at the mouth of the river and sunbathe all day.  Sounds about right.  They weren't quite as fun to watch, they don't move much and growl if you get too close.  But still amazing to see wildlife in nature and especially when that nature takes your breath away. 

We were visited by this Albatross, don't be fooled, it was massive.  I took this picture 100 feet away with my zoom lens because I was afraid it would peck my eye out. 

The water is amazing, but the beaches leave much to be desired. Such a shame. This was the only decent patch of sand and it stunk really bad.  We sort of did the plug your nose and chew thing while eating our picnic, with the occasional smile and head nod to cover up the fact that we had all lost our appetites.  But the kids loved exploring.  The tide pools were covered with these plant things that popped whenever you stepped on them, it was like a giant roll of bubble wrap laid before our eyes.  There were all sorts of creatures and shells to be discovered and we soon forgot about the smell.

And then New Zealand went and blew my mind again. It's been doing that a lot lately. We walked up to the top of the peninsula bank where they have this track all around the edge that pretty much makes you pinch yourself the entire time.  The views are that amazing. We virtually had the entire peninsula to ourselves, the sun was beaming, the greens were green, the blues were blue, the cows were grazing, the silence was golden and as we sat at the edge of the world eating handfuls of homemade granola I knew there would be few moments in life that could top this. It goes without saying that we have our hard days like all families, the days where I want to scream if I hear the word "mom" just one more time and little boys that keep coming out of bed to ask you to say prayers that they won't have bad dreams about the zombie games they were just playing, or to remind them of the lyrics to Hickory Dickory Dock, or to talk about the mummy they saw in the museum, and do you really want me to go on and on about the dialogue I've just had with Maddox over the past hour when he was supposed to be in bed?  I'm just grateful for the moments that make me realize what a beautiful life I have and the moments that make me love this family of mine so hard it hurts.

I could have stayed up there all day, and all night, and quite possibly the entire next week, but the kids wanted to venture down along the coast and scour for treasures in the form of rocks, fossils, shells, starfish, bones and some poor animal's spine that Ryder had an awfully hard time parting with.

He had his little pocket filled with treasures and I loved the ritualistic little pat he gave it each time he added a new item.

The seals were everywhere, dead seals, live seals, growling seals, friendly kept us on our toes after almost stumbling on them a few times.

We ended the night with fish n' chips on the beach.  I'm not a fan of the deep fried fish, but the chips...yeah, those I could eat for days.  And that table with a view was definitely worth writing home about.  And day 2 will have to wait for another post, because this is just too much pretty for one post to handle.