Thursday 30 April 2009

What we did in New Zealand (by Peter)

Hello everyone, this is about the things we liked and didn’t like in New Zealand, where we are having a great time.

The best museum in the world was Te Papa, it was soooo good!!!  My favourite things at Te Papa were the Giant Squid, the customs display (where we had to look for things being smuggled into New Zealand) and a computer game where you had to build a robot to clean your room!

When we visited my half cousins, Edward and Spencer, we had a great time.  We rode on their quad bike on the beach and I went really fast and got to ride on my own after some practising.

In Rotorua there were go-karts (or luge), it was cool as!  I got to go down the track on my own, my brothers had to sit on Dad’s knee.

Everyone likes Brumbys the bakers (except Dad because it was lent when we went there :-( ).  

There is a thing called Zorbing in New Zealand, where you roll down a hill in a ball, in water, so you slide in the ball…it is a thing called fun!

My friend Jack lives ten minutes away from Cromwell and lives at a restaurant (aka a field) and I like to play with him.  The best game we played was when we pretended we were stopping the Japanese whalers.

When Sarah (you might not know her, she is my aunty) came to stay we did bowling and my final score was 95 and I was second.

Luke thought Te Papa was good, just like me, there was a giant squid and ever since he talks about giant squids!  Luke liked the go-karting as well.  Luke loved bowling, although he was mainly interested in the balls!

When Mum went to the Pancake Rocks she was very disappointed.  Mum said she really liked her skydive!!!  In Rotorua, up at the go-karts there is a big sky swing where you swing over a cliff, cool as!  Mum and Uncle Dan went on this and it was great.  There is a place called Puzzling World, it is sooo good and Mum loved the puzzles there.

Dad loved the trapeze that he tried out at Action World, he thought it was great!  We went sailing on a pirate ship, Dad liked it because there was free cups of tea and scones.  Dad really hated Greymouth, it was rainy and grey.  Dad liked the Taupo Ironman and I was a bit bored as the race started at 6am and lasted till past my bedtime!  Dad thinks one of the best parts of his holiday was watching my Weet-Bix triathlon, I was first in the swim and Dad was really proud.

Joe absolutely loved the bowling we did with Sarah.  He also loved the luge in Rotorua.  There was a place called the Antarctic Centre where you can see real snow, wow!  Joe got a toy Kiwi in Te Anau, which he called Keo and this is now his favourite toy (apart from Dogger).

Bye, bye.  I hope that you have enjoyed reading about New Zealand.  We have enjoyed out visit!


Wednesday 29 April 2009

Goodbye Johnny 5

Last night was our last sleeping in the campervan (Johnny 5).  Once the boys were asleep we pulled out the luggage and started packing.  It is amazing how much stuff was concealed in the storage lockers in the van - but we somehow managed to squeeze it all into our bags (including the new fourth holdall).  However, despite the trial pack last week we once again managed to forget about the shoe cupboard so the shoes arrived at the hotel in a carrier bag - we have some reorganising to do if we want to keep everything we've still got.

Over the last couple of days we have managed to clear out most of the major items which we needed to get rid of (bikes, car seat, printer etc) and yesterday and this morning the van had a final wash and clean.  Annoyingly the weather this morning was wet for the first time in a while which meant we couldn't let the boys out of the van after breakfast (camping + rain = muddy footprints) and the van arrived at its new home looking considerably less shiny than it did last night.

The people who bought the van (Annie and Rick) live just outside Christchurch, so Joseph and I drove out there this afternoon to drop off the van.  The new owners are really nice people (I'm not just saying that because they'll read this blog!) and also have kids, so Johnny 5 still has plenty of action to look forward to once they get back from their eight week campervan tour around mainland Europe this summer.  After a quick trip to the bank to pay over the money for the van Annie and Rick drove us back to the hotel (while their four year old son kept us entertained in the back).

We are staying at a hotel within walking distance of Christchurch Airport for the next two nights before we fly over to Sydney on Friday.  The boys have adapted to hotel life again already and don't seem to be missing our old home yet - mainly because the hotel room has a TV!


Monday 27 April 2009

Getting ready to move on

Over the last week we have been getting ready to move on to Australia.  We sold the campervan on Trade Me and we deliver it on Wednesday, we are leaving a few things in the van for the buyers (like plates, hoover, cooking pots etc) so that has made it a bit easier as we will have the essentials until the end.  We have left the Sally Car with the garage for them to sell on once it is repaired (see earlier blog!).  

In order to check how much stuff we had accumulated while we were in NZ we had a 'trial pack', where we packed up all our bags with everything we were taking with us.  We have one bag less now as we sold the tent, which had lots of extra space for squeezing in a car seat and sleeping bags.  It was all going brilliantly, we had everything packed into three bags and we were feeling rather smug....until David opened the shoe cupboard and was buried in an avalanche of shoes!!!   We had to buy a fourth bag.

We had accumulated a few bits and pieces that we wanted to keep, but we didn't need on the rest of the trip, so these were packed up into a box and posed back over to Scotland.  This box was mainly filled with the boys treasures, such as train set, triathlon medal, DVDs and a couple of books.

The other thing we had to get rid of was the bikes.  David sold his bike to Andy, so this had to be dismantled and packed up then couriered up to the North Island (where it arrived safely today).  

The kids bikes proved a bit harder to get rid of.  Dean and Diana bought Joe's bike for Jack, leaving us with two still to sell.  We tried a secondhand shop in Dunedin, but they were not interested.  We tried a Cash Converters 
in Christchurch, where the worlds most grumpy shop assistant offered us $70 for Peter's bike and $35 for Luke's (which cost $460 and $170 respectively).  Offended by this poor offer we went to ask in the bike shop if they would be interested and the super-friendly guy (who remembered us buying the bikes) has agreed to sell them for us then send us the money.  Sorted!

We also had other assorted possessions to sell, most of which went to Cash Converters...due to Mr Grumpy we had to visit a couple of shops before we were rid of most of our stuff.  We still have a bag for the Charity Shop, which we will drop off in the morning and then we will be packing for real!  Where have the last six months gone???


A few days in Dunedin

After Easter we headed off for one final trip away from the restaurant and went to Dunedin for a few days. Dunedin is the 'Edinburgh' of the Southern Hemisphere and we felt quite at home on streets such George Street and Hanover Street, while staying at a campsite by the Water of Leith.

On our first day we wandered around the city. We found it to be bustling and cosmopolitan with the impact of a large student poplation evident even though it was the Easter break. It did feel a bit like Edinburgh, especially the icy wind we had on our last day. We saw the statue of Robert Burns (which made us feel quite at home as he was born and lived near Dumfries) and the Cadbury chocolate factory (which the boys were impressed with!). We also took a drive along the port and out the peninsula.

Over the next couple of days we visited the world's steepest street, Baldwin Street, and climbed to the top. We also visited the botanic gardens, where the autum colours were very impressive, but the star attraction was a talking parrot whose phrases included “have a cup of tea”!

We also caught up with Barbara (Diana's mum) who we knew from Guernsey, where she spent a year with Dean and Diana. Barbara had a lovely house and we really enjoyed having a bit of space and sleeping in a bed, we also spent an afternoon sheltering from the wind watching DVD's...David and I finally got to see Short Circuit after listening to it many times in the car on our US road trip.

We could probably have spent more time in Dunedin, but were sadly running out of days, so it was a quick but enjoyable visit.

Photos here.


Wednesday 22 April 2009

The adventures of Sally Car

Sally-Car is the 1989 Fiat Uno which we bought last December to use as a runaround when we are at the Lazy Dog.  

Last Wednesday I took Sally-Car into Cromwell for masters swim training.  On the way home I realised (once I was out of the well-lit town centre) that my headlights were not working.  By the faint light provided by the side-lights I managed to find a spot to pull over to investigate.  After much prodding and poking around in the electrics box I somehow managed to get the full lights on, so I quickly jumped into the drivers seat and raced home.  This somewhat dented our hopes that we could sell the car the following week.  Plan B: Sell Sally-Car back to the mechanic who sold it to us?

Peter's asthma had been deteriorating for a few days and to avoid the inevitable late night hospital visit we decided to make an emergency doctor's appointment yesterday afternoon.  I ran him into town in Sally-Car because it would be much quicker than taking the campervan (and, obviously, it wasn't dark).  About 5km from Cromwell Sally suddently lost power and my mind quickly started scrambling for solutions to the impending combination of sick child and sick car.  However, we managed to limp on to Cromwell.  As we turned into the street where the surgery was it looked like this was as far as Sally-Car was going to take us - ironically on the corner at the garage where we bought her, but she came alive one more time and we just made it into the surgery car park before she finally conked out.  With Peter steering and me pushing we parked Sally up in the only space available: the disabled parking space (appropriate for a disabled car).

After the doctor had sorted Peter (she sadly couldn't help Sally), we manouvered the car into an empty non-disabled space (Peter steering again) and caught a lift home.  This morning I went into the garage and made a deal with the mechanic to take her back and sell her on.  He gave us a tow along from the surgery and we last saw Sally back in the place where we first saw her five months ago.  When Luke said goodbye to her I'm sure she looked sad.

Some photos from recent days can be seen here.


PS Peter is well on the road to recovery and feeling much better. 

Saturday 18 April 2009

Wanaka Toy and Transport Museum

On Thursday we decided to go to the Wanaka Toy and Transport Museum, which we have driven past many times but have never actually managed to make time to visit.  What an experience!  This has to be the most bizarre museum I have ever been to, it was an absolute Aladdins Cave which was jam packed with pretty much anything toy or transport related that you could think of!  

The museum consisted of three large warehouses, a huge hangar, a lean-to and acres of outside space where there were rows and rows of vehicles and machinery.  We started off looking at the toys, where my favourites were the barbies while the boys were all drawn to the Star Wars and Lego displays.  Interspersed among the toy displays were old cars, some of which were filled with old dolls, teddies or trolls.  Most of the toys were displayed in cases, but we were particularly impressed with the collection of toy planes displayed on top of a row of old cars.  

The other warehouses were crammed with cars, planes, motorbikes and any other forms of transport you could imagine.  There were endless cars, some of which were tucked under the wings of planes!  A lot of the cars were dusty and there were some sitting outside with grass growing up through them.  The museum hires out cars for props and we saw the car used in the film 'World's Fasted Indian'.  David and I both saw cars the same as those we learned to drive in...although it has been pointed out that seeing the car first car you drove in a museum is a sign of old age!!

We all really enjoyed looking around such an eclectic collection and when we left we still felt there was lots that we hadn't managed to see.  

Photos are here (there are a couple of snaps and then loads of the toy museum I thought this place was great, so be warned you might get bored of them!)



Thursday 16 April 2009

Milford Sound and Te Anau

After Queenstown we headed South and over to Te Anau which sits on the large Lake Te Anau and is the gateway to Milford Sound.  The town of Milford Sound itself contains little more than a jetty from which the various boat cruises leave so we booked in for a few nights at a nice campground right in the town centre of Te Anau.  

On our first day in Te Anau we took a stroll down the main street and looked in some shops and then had a walk down to the lake-front.  In one of the tourist shops Joseph bought himself a little soft-toy egg which 
unzips to reveal a baby kiwi.  He has named his new kiwi friend Kio.  [In order to be strictly consistent with the naming convention for other soft toys on the trip; his toy dog (Dogger) and Luke's toy cat (Cattie) it should really be Kiwio.]  In the same shop Luke also bought a kiwi souvenir - a nice warm kiwi hat.

On our second morning we took a day trip to Milford Sound.
We were picked up by the bus at 9.30 in Te Anau.  The drive to Milford Sound took about 2.5 hours, including a couple of stops along the way.  The bus driver gave a detailed commentary on the way including history, geography and environmental information about the areas along the way and about Milford Sound itself.  (Did you know that there are three types of avalanche in the mountains - snow, rocks and trees?)  This made the drive rather more interesting than the vast amount of touring we have done in the campervan.  The best part of the road to Milford Sound was the Homer tunnel, a 1.2km hole through mountain rock (the tunnel is not lined so you can see the blasted rock right through on the walls and roof).  Luke spent the whole drive either eating crisps or asking for more crisps.

After arriving at Milford Sound we boarded our boat for a two hour cruise in the sound itself.  The boat was custom built for these cruises and had plenty of viewing windows and lots of space outside on the front, back and top of the boat.  
However, the main important feature was the free supplies of tea throughout the tour.  The kids enjoyed parts of the cruise (for Peter: seeing seams of copper and gold in the rock, for Joseph: getting up close to the Seals and Dolphins and for Luke: seeing "Niagara Falls" several times and eating crisps).  Nicola and I could have enjoyed it a little more if we weren't mainly keeping an eye on the kids and handing out snacks, but we each had a turn of sitting outside with a cup of tea and enjoying the tranquility and beauty of the surroundings.

The bus trip home was a quicker journey with no stops and no commentary and a general feeling of tiredness all round.  Nicola, Peter and Luke all had a well earned sleep on the way home. We did, after all, have to stand up to get on and off the boat and also to get another cup of tea).  Overall we really enjoyed doing the day trip to Milford Sound and for me it was nice for someone else to do the driving for a change!  Milford Sound is certainly beautiful (although, to be honest it looks even better in the tourist postcards than it does when you're there).

We hung around in Te Anau for a couple more nights because
 it was a lovely place and the campsite was really nice.  We also had a really nice neighbour in a camping bus (actually, the bus was quite smashed up - he told us that he finds reversing it quite tricky because he is blind in one eye)  and the boys picked up 12 balloons from other neighbours who had celebrated a birthday the day before.

On the drive back to Cromwell we were lucky to pass the Kingston Flyer waiting to depart for the journey back to Kingston.  We had time to get a few photos before the fireman built up steam and we watched the train pulling away.  We then spent the next five minutes chasing the train down the road before we eventually caught and overtook it.  

Since arriving back at the Lazy Dog we have had good news on the van.  We had to go down to Alexandra yesterday to get the van tested for its COF certificate - which was successful.  Later that evening the online auction for the campervan ended with a successful sale.  The price was slightly disappointing, but the good news is that the sellers live near Christchurch and we have arranged to trade just before we fly out (so we avoid the cost of having to stay in hotels and have a hire car for a couple of weeks) - on balance a good result.

We have only one more new place to visit before we go.  Tomorrow we head down to Dunedin for a few days (and, sadly, we have to sell the kids' bikes).  By the time we get back we will have only a couple more nights with Dean and Diana before we make our way up to Christchurch to fly out.


Wednesday 8 April 2009

Queenstown (again)

We are back down in Queenstown again for a few days as this was the next stop on Sarahs' bus route.  We drove down on Sunday morning while Sarahs and Sven got the bus around lunchtime (stopping off for a quick bungee-jump en route).  

After a morning of constant nagging we relented in the afternoon and took the boys up the Gondola to the top of the hill in Queenstown (it all helps make the annual pass good value for money).  After raining all morning we were lucky that the weather cleared and we had a good view looking back towards the town and lake.  

Sunday night was Formula One night again - this week we were not in a motel so I headed into town and found a bar showing the race live and was joined during the race by Sarahs and Sven.  The F1 organisers had the bright idea this year of making the Far East Grand Prix(<- plural) later in the day so that European fans don't have to get out of bed so early - so for this race I was kept up late (getting home just after midnight!).  No doubt they will revert to the original race timings for next year!

The rest of the week has been largely a washout.  Monday (rain) we drove out of town with Sarah H for ten-pin bowling.  Tuesday (rain) we went to the leisure pool at Frankton with Sarahs and Sven.  

Today we took a drive out to the shops at Frankton so that Nic could pick up some warm socks and we also picked up a small electric heater to help keep the van warm and dry in the rubbish weather.  Good move - it snowed this afternoon!!  We had a brief wander in town and then rode the Gondola to the top of the hill where we met up with Sarahs and Sven who had their first taste of the Luge track.  We didn't stay long because the boys found the snow a bit too cold and we didn't think hurtling down the luge track would help (actually Peter did).

We have said goodbye to Sarahs several times now (not knowing whether we will see them again before Australia) but tomorrow we are heading even further South to Te Anau because we have booked a trip to Milford Sound for Good Friday.

We need to get back to Dean and Diana's by next Wednesday so we can get the Campervan through its 'Certificate of Fitness' (heavy vehicle version of NZ equivalent of MOT).  The van is now listed for sale on Trade Me (NZ's version of Ebay) and has had a huge amount of interest so we are hoping that bids and a sale will follow.

We've now added photos of our recent exploits at Mount Cook and with Sarahs (we had to hold off on uploading for a while because we were over our monthly internet limit and it could have been very expensive).


Sunday 5 April 2009

Skydive Lake Wanaka

On Friday Sarah, Sarah and I did a skydive from 15,000 feet (Sven didn’t join us as he has done 98 skydives already and David couldn’t join us as he was on babysitting duty).  We arrived at the Skydive hangar at 10am and after signing the most lengthy disclaimer I have ever read (which basically seemed to say ‘you might die and if you do then tough luck you are not allowed to sue anyone,’) we donned attractive jumpsuits and got into our harnesses.

We then headed out to the plane where we were packed in like sardines…it made the Aurigny
 flights to Jersey seem spacious!!  We took off and started circling to climb up to 15,000 feet.  The views as we gained height were spectacular, we could see Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and the Clutha River.  

When we got to height it was time to jump, Sarah L was first, then Sarah H and then me.  To jump out I had to sit on the edge of the plane and tuck my feet under the plane then put my head back on the instructors shoulder, once we were in the correct position we jumped.  

From 15,000ft it is a 60 second freefall before the parachute is deployed.  The views were
 stunning and it was an amazing feeling to be falling so quickly towards the ground.  The 60 seconds passed quickly and before I knew it the parachute was open.  As soon as the parachute opened it was suddenly silent and we gently cruised back down to the landing zone.  

We all agreed it was absolutely brilliant and that it had all been over too quickly…maybe we will have to do another one!!  


Sarah and Sarah … and Sven

After a great weekend at Mount Cook we had an exciting week as David’s sister Sarah (Holmes) and her friend Sarah (Lawrie) arrived in Wanaka.  They are spending 6 months travelling and are spending 6 weeks in New Zealand, travelling around on the ‘Stray’ bus.  

They arrived on Tuesday and we all went out to the Lazy Dog for lunch and an afternoon of catching up and exchanging travel stories.  Dean and Diana had a customer arriving by helicopter from Queenstown to do a wine tasting, so that added a bit of excitement to the afternoon and Sarah L hopped aboard for a quick spin with Dian
a and Jack!

Wednesday was our long awaited
 visit to do the maze and illusion rooms at Puzzling World.  We picked up Sarah and Sarah from their hostel and one of their friends from their bus, Sven, came along too.  We started off with the mind-bending illusion rooms, which were fantastic.  I think they were one of the best attractions we have seen in New Zealand.  After a quick lunch in the van we did the maze, we split up and gave Sarah, Sarah and Sven a race to the finish…which they won easily!  We then spent a good hour trying out all the puzzles before heading outside to 
take some photos with the ’Leaning Tower of Wanaka’.

One day in Wanaka we came across a travelling TV studio in which you could record a YouTube video to send back home (link here).

The rest of the week was spent with Sarah, Sarah and Sven in Wanaka where we enjoyed chilling out in the sunshine, taking in the views over the lake, visiting the park and we also enjoyed another afternoon at the Lazy Dog.