Setting out on our last big New Zealand adventure was a bit emotional. nostalgic? exciting? bittersweet? all of the above? I mean, what a long way we've come, baby! We have managed to see more of this country than any local I know (okay, except Grandma Judy, but she's not your typical local). One thing is for sure, we aren't going home with any regrets. We got a small taste of the North Island over summer, but have been strategically planning a way to get back. We've been stalking the campervan relocation website for months just waiting for one to pop up at the perfect time. All our patience paid off. We found a campervan that needed to be relocated from Auckland to Christchurch for only $1/day. We took full advantage and spent 8 days touring around seeing some of the most incredible sights. You would think by now we wouldn't be so easily amused, but two years in and we still have moments that take our breath away. Starting with this beautiful sunrise on our early morning flight. 5 AM flights have their perks. (and cranky toddlers in the security line is not one of them)
We knew we wanted to see the famous black sand beach at Piha. The sand wasn't quite as impressive as I had expected, I'm going for more of a muted gray here. But the view. Oh, the view. Now that is something.
We hiked to the top of that rock/mountain/mound in the first picture. I had to take a moment to reflect on what little hikers our kids have become. When we first moved here Jason would carry Ryder on his shoulders and I would alternately carry Maddox on my back. It was fun, as you can imagine. Now those two are almost always the first to the top.
It may not have been as black as I had imagined, but that stuff glittered like nobody's business. Shine bright like a diamond.
I loved, with a capital "L", the RV life. Playing cards, taking naps, watching movies, eating snacks and having the kids so far out of ear shot that I almost forgot how hard traveling with kids can be. And the luxury to be able to pull over and cook up a fancy lunch that involves a stove and nothing peanut butter and jelly related. And of course there's the perk of having the most amazing room with a view each and every night as we stayed at such beautiful locations. I'm sold. We might just turn into one of those families that sells everything, buys an RV and travels the country for a year straight while we home school our kids. Don't tempt me.
These Piroa falls were beautiful. I only wish we had gotten here earlier when the sun was out because they say the pool at the bottom is perfect for swimming and rock jumping. It amazes me how many gorgeous waterfalls there are in this country. And I think we've seen every single one that's within a 30 minute walk. Because our kids have made it clear that there's a good chance they'll die if it takes longer than 30 minutes to get there. At their age, if you've seen one waterfall you've seen them all.
And there she is in all her glory. Our first night was spent on the shores of the most beautiful white sand beach that we had all to ourselves (white sand, black sand, orange sand...they definitely don't discriminate over here). I made barbecue chicken sandwiches while I watched the kids jumping off sand dunes, and thought to myself, well isn't this just about the loveliest thing ever.
We took a stroll through the AH Reed Memorial park. We all got a little separated (okay, I got a little separated because I like to stay behind and take pictures) and I had a panic attack when Ryder ran up ahead with Jason and I couldn't find him. I spent the last half of this walk running through the forest in my flip flops with my camera bouncing up and down worried that he had taken a wrong turn or that I had. Thankfully it all ended well. They had just decided to race back to the car while poor mom was left scavenging through the woods.
The Whangarei falls were spectacular. One of my favorites. They were situated right in the middle of town and could be seen from the parking lot. But then you take a short walk down and you feel like you're in the middle of a tropical jungle. It was absolutely stunning being able to hike behind the falls, but the combination of flip flops on slippery rocks made us turn around.
I have to laugh at this. So for every amazing thing we see, there are always a few fails. For some reason "the longest footbridge in the Southern hemisphere" really called out to me when planning this trip. It was a good 2 hours out of the way, with the RV bumping all over the dirt road. We got there, and guess what? The longest footbridge in the Southern hemisphere looks like any other bridge. Only longer.
The landscape in the South Island is so diverse, but the North Island is eternal rolling green hills and puffy white clouds. I ain't mad about it.
Instead of always freedom camping, we decided to splurge for a camp ground a few times because LONG HOT SHOWERS! AND ELECTRICITY! AND WIFI! AND REFILLING THE WATER! AND A PLACE TO DUMP THE TOILET OUT! Okay, that last one really shouldn't have been in all caps, but really, that is sort of a necessary luxury. This campground was at this beautiful inlet on the Bay of Islands. So peaceful and serene. The night ended with an epic willow fight between the boys, and tears, and fighting, and willow fuzz in eyes and the whole campground was glad when we finally settled in for bed. The end.
Ninjago Ryder had to get in on the action. Such a ham.