New Zealand 2

April 27, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Posted in New Zealand | Leave a comment

February 22 – March 17

We began the second half of our New Zealand adventure by heading towards the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mount Cook, standing at 12,316 feet. It was a bright sunny day and being that we were staying in the center of the island (New Zealand’s Outback), a little lift in elevation was a welcoming idea. The glacial lakes we passed along the way were thick with powder silt and the bluest color imaginable. We easily reached the mountain pass and we hiked along the popular Hooker Valley Trail over swing bridges and rocky pathways until we reached the base of the mountain and its massive glacier which produced the river that we had followed. We told stories, practiced spelling, boulder-hopped, held hands tightly along cliffs and dipped our toes in the frigid glacial water. We were very lucky to see Mt. Cook’s peak and glistening face on such a glorious day. This hike was one of the highlights of our trip to New Zealand. It was absolutely perfect. The famous New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary, had a mountaineering institute nearby and we viewed the photos and the poignant statue of the man who had recently passed on. The boys still think that we are going to climb Mt. Everest when we get to Asia.

Our next stop was idyllic Wanaka – small town, great cafes, beach on a blue lake, surrounded by mountains and forests and the great outdoors and no traffic. Alas, the place was booked and the helpful gentleman scratched his head trying to think of where we could go and remembered that a nearby campground had a few permanent tents that were new and roomy. We went across town where there was even less traffic, more lake and bigger mountains and found the tents to be better than we could have imagined. They were brand new, had three rooms with all the fixins and had comfy beds with mattresses. It was like a hotel outside! We all loved it and the boys were thrilled. They started right away gathering sticks to make forts and a table centerpiece out of pinecones. They took all of the dishes and played restaurant for hours. It was simple surprises like this that we were always thankful for. We wished we could have the stamina and where-with-all to camp more often on our journey but we never really had the opportunity to research renting camping equipment, etc. We stretched one night into four and made friends with the family in the tent next door and shared some stories and went on a couple of hikes together. The nights were so starry and crisp and the mornings so refreshing.

We headed towards the wild west coast and stopped seemingly every few kilometers to duck into yet another inviting rainforest with yet another waterfall and blue-green stream washing over boulders surrounded by ancient ferns greener than green. Besides rainforests, there were rocky and remote beaches to visit some sea lions basking in the sun and further along was the shadowy faces of the mountains that zipper their way down the coast with frosty glaciers to visit. Beach, Rainforest, Glacier and Meadows – it was all there for the taking in a day.

Surrounded by all of this gorgeous scenery we were inspired to skydive. This was the place to do it so we weighed the pros and cons for hours and hours and even contemplated whether we should leave the boys with the skydive crew and go together (could be catastrophic) or go one at a time (not as fun or romantic). Finally after confirming their safety record, we signed up to jump together the next morning. It is amazing how many scenarios you must analyze and conjure up before embarking on a skydiving escapade. What if…what if one of us…what if both of us…should we, shouldn’t we…kind of takes the fun out of it. Well, the fun was taken out for us when we woke up the next day to overcast skies and winds that did not make for a scenic nor safe flight. But, it was a good “What if” exercise. Probably best to do it when you are 20 or 80 and not in between.

We visited natural thermal springs in Hanmer Springs which was not only therapeutic but the fast waterslides made for great family fun (yes, we had to drag Peter away). We visited a vineyard owned by a friend of ours from Marblehead and his brother in NZ. The children learned all about the winemaking process while the parents carefully tasted as much as they could to discern the fragrances unique to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Along the way, we practiced our math and independence by letting the boys buy groceries on their own and ensure they got the right change. They loved it and would argue over whose turn it was to make the next purchase. We listened to the soundtrack of Dr. Dolittle a hundred times until they learned all of the words by heart. They still want to know if a Push-Me Pull-You really exists. Dr. Dolittle was a good choice for them as he was a great animal advocate and an inspiration to the boys as they journey around the world seeing all of these creatures in their natural habitat and truly appreciating their existence and importance. We are now reading the book which we purchased in one of the dozens of bookstores around the world that we lounge around in for hours. It is one of the boys most favorite things to do especially when they find some books that they recognize from their home collection.

We drove through mountain passes as we criss-crossed New Zealand from the middle, to the west, to the east, back to the west, back to the east and then back west to Abel Tasman National Park. We rented a cottage overlooking green mountains as far as the eye could see and took a speedboat to a trail deep inside the park and hiked the fantastic coastal trail for 6 or 7 hours back. It was another perfect place to hike and one of New Zealand’s 9 official Great Walks.

This was all on the fabulous South Island where we spent about 5 weeks and then we spent 1 week on the North Island. We explored the volcanic and thermal history of the north island and the boys were forever impacted by New Zealand’s Pompeii where we explored an outdoor museum where actual homes remain covered by volcanic soil and poignant remnants remain of those who perished. Smoking cauldrons of land and hot mud pools abound on the north island and volcanoes were no longer a mythical occurrence only seen in books and movies. The children had a deeper appreciation of Mother Nature’s abilities than before as did we.

We ended our trip with a coveted visit to a Kiwi sanctuary where we saw the comical birds scamper around their nocturnal house. They are so rare and are endangered by the import of weasel-like creatures in the last century that it was exhilarating to see them. It is very strange to see a bird with no wings! We ended our stay on St. Patrick’s day and the boys spent hours decorating the sliding glass doors of the hotel with shamrocks, pots of gold and rainbows (which they can now proudly recite the colors of in order). With a quick jaunt around Auckland, we felt we had been on familiar and comfortable lands long enough to drum up our courage to venture into cultures and environments very different from what we were used to.


Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: