Several evenings at the house were spent playing a fabulous role playing game, an invention of James' titled Waaargh, based on a d10 system and set in the Warhammer 40K universe. James was a terrific game master, he had the kids thoroughly engaged and they absolutely loved the game, as did Adam and I! We were all having so much fun that on the last night the kids were still up playing at midnight. Oops!
Some more pics from the Whangarei holiday.
The beach house
View from the front deck - that field was full of Pukeko and their chicks
but they wouldn't stay put for photos
Vegetable gardens in the backyard - we were told to help ourselves
View from Caitlin's bedroom on the third floor of the house.
Cuddly canine visitor
Full moon over Mount Manaia - as you can see we haven't figured out all the camera settings yet
Adam took photos of seagulls while Caitlin and Tom swam
On our last morning at the house we packed everything up and went down the road and round the corner for breakfast, at The Deck, a rather nice little cafe where we'd bought fish and chips one night. Well ok, brunch...at lunchtime, look, it had been a late night playing Waaargh! They had some very cute Kiwi prints on display, I was quite tempted to get the kicking kiwi one, might still be able to as they can be ordered via Backyard Kiwi. Pancakes and bacon and eggs and a pot of tea later and it was time to hit the road.
Next stop was the Waiwera Thermal Resort with its thermal pools fed by hot water springs and waterslides. It was cold and raining and yet again only Caitlin and Tom were tempted by the water. Adam, David and I watched as they and the McFadgens swam and Tom braved a waterslide, but only once. David and I eventually decided we probably should have gone in for a swim too, but by then it seemed too late to be bothered. Oh well, maybe next time. (Next time? I hear you ask. Yes, next time, I'm sure there'll be one.)
We got back to Auckland tired and hungry and after dumping our stuff at Chifley Suites we went forth in search of food, we asked the kids what they'd like for dinner and David said "Anything as long as it's not deep fried!" We found a completely deserted Japanese place, a circumstance that turned out to be due to only recently having started opening in the evenings - they were primarily a lunch venue - and not a reflection on the quality of the food, which was great.
Why oh why would you build a hotel with no cross ventilation in the rooms, no fans and no air-conditioning in the middle of noisy city? Yeah, I know, air-con isn't big in NZ and I can see most places don't need it - but this place did and it was pretty new so it wasn't down to its vintage and we were right above a big pub and could hear public transport announcements being made all night too. Closing the windows fixed the noise problem but I have an aversion to steaming gently all night. After a loud, hot and sticky night we began the day with breakfast at a nice little cafe across the road from the hotel and then walked the couple of blocks to the Sky Tower. The Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand, I was amused by the info poster on the observation deck that answered the question "Why was it built?" with several points, the first being, if I may paraphrase slightly, "As a tourist trap." Of course it comes in handy for telecommunications of various kinds as well.
We went up to both of the viewing levels where I alternated between taking photos and running interference as the kids squabbled over the little pair of binoculars we'd bought in the shop at the base of the tower.
Mt Eden - one of the many extinct volcanoes in Auckland
Rangitoto - the youngest volcano in the Auckland Volcanic Field
After fighting our way free of the gift shop with only minor damage to the credit card (as I nobly left behind the possum/merino hooded cape I had developed an instant crush on) we went back to pick up the car with the intention of parking it near the public library where we were meeting Emma and the lovely Penny for lunch. Through a combination of misunderstanding and a flaky Navman that kept turning itself off we ended up parked way off across the Auckland University campus, but at least the walk was downhill and there were some pretty buildings to look at on the way. The kids and I made Adam go back on his own to get the car though, 'cause that was uphill all the way.
Emma, me, Penny and sprog.
We then made our way to the Auckland War Memorial Museum where David made a bee-line to the World War 1 and 2 exhibits and Tom kept doing the vanishing trick in his enthusiasm for moving on to the next room. We grabbed some afternoon tea in the cafe and then made Tom happy by looking through the Natural History exhibits only leaving when we were kicked out at closing time. For some unknown reason the only photos of the whole time we were at the museum are of this eel.
Eel, showing off its teeth.
For dinner I made Caitlin very happy indeed by finding a Wagamama's where she was able to stuff herself on edamame, rice and yakitori chicken skewers to her heart's content. Which was only fair as all she'd eaten all day was 2 slices of toast at breakfast, there'd been nothing she wanted to eat at any of the other places we'd been.
Our last day dawned grey and wet and windy putting to rest any thought of a ferry ride on the harbour. Plan B was to visit the Kelly Tarlton Antarctic Experience, as we drove along the waterfront we marveled at the choppiness of the waves and the spray of them breaking over the edge of the embankment and splashing on to the footpath. And then we were at the lowest part of the causeway across Hobson Bay and there was water over the road and the police were turning the traffic back. We made our way around the bay, at one point driving through more water over the road that was almost certainly deeper than that where the police were playing it safe, only find Kelly Tarlton's, usually open 365 days a year, was closed, presumably due to the weather what with them being right on the waterfront and all. Bugger. At that point we gave up and headed for the airport, driving back through the now slightly deeper again water over the road that the cops still hadn't found. We checked in, had lunch and wandered around the shops. The shops wandering worked out quite nicely - I now own that possum/merino hooded cape which I'd been coveting back at the Sky Tower, very soft and cuddly and VERY indulgent.
The flight home went well and my wonderful mother met us at the airport with our van. The kids expressed rapture over not being squeezed into a sedan any more and proceeded to bombard Grandma with accounts of the best bits of the holiday. Which apparently means the Hobbiton visit, the LOTR tour of Wellington and the RPG run by James. Mum eventually declared that they were allowed just one more minute of Waaargh stories after which they would have to stop before her brain exploded.
We were greeted with much doggy enthusiasm by Clara when we arrived home. Both my ears were thoroughly licked (Clara doesn't lick at all normally). My dad did not lick my ears but I think he was happy to be going home to his own place, though not so happy to be going back to being car-less! Mum and Dad stayed for a cuppa and to look at some of our photos then Mum left and we ordered Chinese for dinner.
New Zealand was wonderful, but it is good to be home.