Thursday, January 23, 2014


We locked up the doors and bid farewell to the beach house then made a few pit stops along the way to our last stop. The Groves scenic reserve was the first. Enormous trees growing out of enormous limestone rocks all working together to create the perfect fairytale ambiance.

Then the Riwaka Resurgence track. Short walk + amazing scenery gets the Young family's stamp of approval. I mean there's a good chance we just discovered Fern Gully here.

The water travels for miles and miles through these underground caves and it all comes bubbling up here. People like to swim in there, but I think I'll pass.

Split Apple Rock beach. Almost as amazing as Totaranui Bay but much easier to get to (unless you count the 20 minute walk through mud slides to get there. Maddox likes to brag that he saved my life because he was holding my hand when I slipped. But, yeah, he pretty much did).

Some little boy had to get life flighted out, I'm not sure what happened. The boys thought it was so cool to watch the helicopter land and take off so close to us, but my heart went out to that poor mama.

That boy coming at me with that fresh homemade cherry ice cream cone is just dead sexy. We passed this little stand and immediately made a U-turn. Best U-turn ever in the history of U-turns.

Marlborough sounds looking all sorts of sultry

We stayed at the cutest farm on our last night. They had me at hello with hot muffins waiting upon our arrival late at night in the pouring rain, and sealed the deal with bottle feeding baby lambs and a freakishly large pig named Molly. With a nose ring.

Kylie pulled out her own molar. Which immediately sent Jason into a wild frenzy googling "are you supposed to lose your molar teeth". Why yes, yes you are. And the tooth fairy still hasn't come.

We headed over to Picton, not really knowing what to expect since after spending weeks and months on end planning the first part of our trip I threw in the towel and figured we'd just fly by the seat of our pants by the end.

Waterfalls, blowholes, light houses, lakes...none of these scenic stops would get the boys out of the car willingly, but they were begging to stop and see this logging site.

And there she is. Isn't she a doll all tucked up in those green hills with a port to call her own?

We walked through the cute little streets and the kids hummed and hawwed and debated for what seemed like hours over how they were going to spend their hard earned 5 dollars.

2 guns, a wooden carved Maori necklace and a pair of sunglasses later, we headed to the park. Where Ryder perched in his sniper's nest on the wooden boat and shot all the tourists with his toy gun. Not the highest point in my parenting career, I'll admit.

They had train rides for 20 cents! Twenty cents I tell you! I haven't seen anything that costs twenty cents here. Ever.

And then sail boat rentals for...wait for it..wait for it...twenty cents!

(...and still shooting the tourists. At point blank range now)

Five bucks for this ride, now that feels more like the New Zealand I know. That cheezer? Totally worth every penny.

And just like that we were off. We had made reservations for one more night in Kaikoura, but we cancelled them because we were just anxious to get home. HOME. I had two realizations on this trip. First, going home felt like going home. I had started to miss the small things, cozying up with Jason under the electric blanket for Friday night movie night on the ipad, cooking and eating dinner together around our $80 table with a few lingering cat hairs still stuck on the seats that won't stay screwed to the chairs (another story for another time), walking around in my slippers and other little comforts of home. I like that this feels like home. The second realization was when I began thinking how crazy it was that here we were seeing some of the most amazing sights my eyeballs had ever seen and a part of me was missing the water pressure in our shower at home. I mean, that seems so lame, but whenever you're away from home, no matter where it is, a part of you will always crave and sometimes ache for the comforts and familiarity of home. And all of the sudden I could finally explain my homesickness. I post pictures on instagram of these amazing places we go and friends comment that I'm never going to want to come home and I can't figure out the right way to say, "yeah, but you have watermelon and dollar theaters" without coming across as crazy.  It's not that I'm not forever and eternally grateful for this experience and it's not that I don't love so much about this country, it's just that a part of me will always miss driving with the windows down and the sun on my skin while listening to a radio that doesn't speak Japanese. And preferably I'll be on my way to Walmart to buy rootbeer. And I'll make a quick stop at Sam's club for their pizza.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The in-betweens 

I know, there's like 500 pictures of our trip. Well, more like 562 but I so graciously narrowed it down, so you're welcome. Only one more post after this and then I can get back to my regularly scheduled Netflix evening routine (I turn into a useless blob after 7:00, what can I say). So as much as we loved lazy days at the beach house, we figured there were so many other things that we wanted to see in this neck of the island. We picked a sunny day to visit Wharariki beach, but getting a triple thread day (no rain, no clouds and no wind) is about as common as a unicorn. So we had two out of the three working in our favor but that wind was brutal. Like we couldn't even hear each other speak and you had a righteous fear of getting blown off a cliff. This was our second attempt at this beach (the first started pouring rain) so we decided to tackle the wind. The walk was beautiful, you start out on farm land where you admire the grazing sheep and try not to step on poo.

(I believe this was from Cape Farewell, a short walk next to it and the most northern point of the south island, I just am too lazy to put the pictures back in order)

Then you walk through a forest and end up at the most amazing sand dune beach. I remember going to the sand dunes when I was younger and having the best time. Until my Uncle convinced me (with the best intentions, of course) that the sand was so soft that if he spun me around by my feet and let go then I would land on the sand like a pillow. I ended up with the wind knocked out of me and braces full of sand. I would not recommend it. The only problem is that with gale force winds on a sand dune the sand feels like needles stabbing into your legs and also renders you temporarily blind. They had some really cool caves on the beach and rumors of lots of seal pups, but it was all we could do to just find a hill to hunker down behind and wait for the energy to make the long walk back in the wind. The kids still loved practicing their ninja jumps and I can't wait to come back next year.

It was too much for poor Ryder to handle, so he did the only logical thing and curled up under my skirt and fell fast asleep. Don't mind that with his feet poking out it looks like I'm giving birth to a 30 lb baby.

And then our triple thread day came, and she was a beauty. We didn't see a cloud in the sky and nothing more than a slight breeze the entire day and I actually wore shorts for the um...second time ever in NZ. We wanted to squeeze out every last drop of sunshine and planned a lot for this day. First stop the Te Waikoropupu Springs, with a visibility of over 200 feet it is very close to optically pure water, the only water in the world that is more clear is found beneath Antarctica’s near-frozen Weddell Sea (thank you Google). It is considered sacred to the Maori people so you aren't allowed to even touch it, but they did have a pump that you could drink some. Too bad for us that it was out of order and we lost our one chance at drinking holy water. But they were still pretty cool to see.

Then we went to the Labyrinth Rocks Park, a natural outcrop of huge limestone rocks and tunnels that they turned into a maze. Very cool and very Indiana Jones-ish (of course after this we had to come home and have an Indiana Jones movie marathon, which was a blast from the 1980's past and I found a sudden urge to tight roll my jeans)

Finding the happy meal toys they had hidden through out was probably the biggest highlight for the kids. (And I swear, in 99% of the pictures Maddox is grabbing himself. Is it the age? Tell me it's the age)

And then we went to the Wainui Falls. We knew it was a little longer hike, but there was promise of swimming in crystal clear lagoons under the falls so I convinced the kids it would be worth it. They're quickly beginning to realize that they can't always trust me. We loaded up with beach towels, mats, sunscreen, enough food and water to last us a week then headed on the longest. hike. ever. We were hot, sweaty, exhausted, shoes had broken and backs felt broken. And this was only 15 minutes into it. They did have a really cool Tarzan inspired swing bridge. We were pretty confident in its construction knowing it had a one person limit.

We finally made it there but the water is freezing and it's so powerful that you can't really swim in it, you get soaked by the mist just standing hundreds of feet away. Right then and there we all decided if you've seen one waterfall you've seen them all. See what spoiled nature snobs we've become, it's embarrassing.

we stopped to rest at some pools further down and just when the tears and whining were becoming unbearable, we were saved by an eel. The ever elusive river eel that the kids have been dying to find ever since they learned of its existence 5 months ago. It was stranded in a little area so we fed it bread, touched it, named it, then lifted it with sticks into more open water. We did our good turn for the day and everyone was in a much better mood after that. But it still didn't make up for the past 2 hrs.

And then we drove over a mountain on a narrow dirt road wondering if the beach on the other side would be worth it or if it would just be like all the other beaches. It was soooo worth it. I've never seen sand that color, instead of making sand castles we made batches of peanut butter cookies. And the clear water with all those vibrant blues and greens was out of this world. It's Totaranui Bay,  the only beach in the Abel Tasman National Park that is accessible by road (if you can call it that). And it was such a teaser that now I want to embark on the 5 day backpacking trail through the rest of the park. But judging by the waterfall hike, I don't think we'll be doing that any time soon.

This little Lagoon looked straight off the set of Jurassic Park. Or Lost. I just knew if I were to knock on those rocks they would be nothing but hollow fiber glass. Kylie borrowed my camera to take a picture, she took like 20 then gave up because she just couldn't get a picture that looked as amazing as it did in real life. I know, sister, I know.

We eventually made our way home when I realized we were clean out of snacks and the kids were starving and the nearest city was an hour away. And then it rained the entire next day. But we went to bed knowing we made the most out of every minute of that sunshine.