New Zealand for the School Holiday

Rather than fill this post with text, I’m adopting a strategy from my son’s blog and attaching descriptions to each picture. There are 63 pics in this set from our travels around New Zealand’s north island.

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School Holiday in New Zealand (notes)

We’ve been travelling around New Zealand for the first school holiday. We spent the first couple of days in Auckland in a neat little motel – an older place but it was big, had a kitchenette, and a nice sized living space. We were able to cook a couple of meals there and save a few dollars on what is proving to be quite an expensive place. Gas at one place was $2.50/litre!
Walking down a nearby street we saw a corner takeaway place with a TON of people in it – figuring it must be good we went in and ordered a few dishes. Weren’t disappointed. Diamond Takeaway for those that are in the area.

The next morning we went to the Auckland Museum for a few hours. Reflected on how the first time through a museum in an unfamiliar place you really just take in the patterns, images, and the big picture – not enough information yet to make sense of the smaller details. Seeing the Maori artifacts and items from other Pacific Islander people was certainly different from items back home in North America and those from Aborigine and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia.

Next stop was a couple days north of Auckland with the Thomas family, another family on exchange. We had a fun dinner at Shipy’s, an old boat repurposed to be a fish and chip restaurant and then some deep sea fishing the next day. It was nice to share our exchange experiences as well as the holiday events at the moment. We caught enough red snapper to make a meal for the two families.

The following day we made our way back south to Hot Water Beach for a couple nights in a funky villa just a short walk to a beach with enough geological action to create quite hot pools of water. Lots of places around sold or rented small shovels for digging out your own personal hot tub in the sand. You have to go at low tide so there is a four hour window to find your hot spot. All night and all morning was a torrential downpour with parts of Auckland flooding and losing power. Roads in our area were also washed out. Didn’t look promising for the day and we were thankful we had a nice sized villa to spend a rainy day in. Eventually though, it cleared up and we headed down to the beach. It wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be and dug several holes before we found where to dig. Even then the waves would come in and destroy any holes you dug. Nevertheless, you could feel spots on the sand that were noticeably hotter and after squishing your feet in the sand you could find pockets of very very hot water.

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Social Media Tools for Documenting Travel

Apart from the blog and Twitter for recording and sharing our experiences, we are using the Foursquare app. When you open the app it checks to see where you are and lists nearby places. Find where you are in the list and “check in”. It records your presence there and then you can see what else is around you. Search for nearby accommodations, restaurants, special attractions. Read reviews and user hints about different locations. Some places offer deals for Foursquare users who check in to their establishment.

Like Facebook, your information is only visible to those with whom you connect and there’s no obligation to connect at all. You can simply use the app to keep track of your travels. We consulted our check-in history a few times to remember the name of a restaurant, or the date we were in a particular city, and once to follow up with an unfamiliar charge to our credit card.

You can also export your check-ins to a file that can be read by Google Earth which then shows all your checkins on a map! Pretty neat stuff. Would love to hear about travel apps others are using…

Aussie Places Visited so far

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Aussie Pubs

Every town has at least one and they all share some common architectural features. A two story affair occupying an important corner, or the middle of a block. A second floor veranda with intricate iron rail balusters overhangs the sidewalk in front. Haven’t been inside many, but the ones I have are not lacking in character. Like home, we occasionally head out for a refreshment after work. Unlike home, almost all pubs here have a covered courtyard and some family-friendly places. Some even have playgrounds for the kids, and mine, last week, had a small flock of chickens wandering around.

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Weekend of Caves, Cliffs, and Great Company

Throughout the year, former exchange participants living in Australia host weekend outings for current exchangees from abroad. As they can, participants are billeted with folks living in the area who graciously offer accommodations to us come-from-aways. Such a great network of support!

This past weekend had us balancing on cliff walls in the morning at Kanangra/Boyd National Park. Spectacular views with gut-wrenching moments of terror as the kids frolicked far too close to the edge of a 700m cliff wall… at least far too close for me! After a lunch break we headed to the Jenolan Caves for some spelunking. Super experiences, for sure, and lots of fun getting to know the other exchange families. We wrapped up the night with a pub dinner in Oberon. I love that there are child-friendly spaces where kids can sit and eat with parents. There was even a playground outside in view of the dining area.


The following day we met at the pub in Tarana for the short drive out to Evans Crown Nature Reserve. We hiked up what seemed like a thousand kilometers, but was really only 1.5km. Was definitely reminded that I grew up on Manitoba’s flat prairies trying to manage the elevations! More amazing sights and places to explore – little caves, spaces around enormous boulders, and bush areas. Good exercise, and great company again. These weekends are a great time to debrief, let the kids play and share stories, and explore parts of the country with a home-grown host.

Another bonus was meeting up with a friend from my St. John’s College  days in the late 80s at the University of Manitoba. Had a great visit and a spin around Mount Panorama’s Race Track achieving a personal best time. It is fairly said that a single lap is both my best and worst and, at no more than 70km/h, I was in no danger of winning anything!

We are looking forward to another exchange outing in a few months to Byron Bay and, hopefully, some visits with our new exchange family friends.


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