Road trips are getting to be a bit of a family holiday tradition in our family. Last year we did two - a big day trip to the snow and a fleeting visit to Wellington (via Palmerston and Masterton)....not to mention our twice yearly trips to Auckland and Snells Beach! Generally we do road trips because we can't afford accommodation costs anywhere, so we either beg spare rooms or we come home the same day we left!
So when we knew our adorable nephew's first birthday party was going to be in the school holidays, and then we spotted that "Grab One" had a big half price sale on Rotorua attractions, we didn't think anything of the fact that actually, these two are in totally opposite directions from our wee spot in the country. After all, we were itching to get away from the WEEK long downpour that had left us all feeling a bit water logged and our backyard underwater. So it was down to Palmerston North on Sunday after church for a party and a couple of days catching up with family, and then up to Rotorua on Tuesday for a DAY. No worries.
|the 'white cousins' all together!|
Check out Alijah. Is he not adorable? He was a bit out of sorts at his party, full of a head cold and overwhelmed by the number of adoring
fans, family and friends there, but the next day he gave me lots of smiles and cuddles to make up for it. Love you Alijah! And although Aunty Cheryl and Uncle Veasna were exhausted and full of colds, they still took the time to make us all feel really welcome and at home. It was a really nice relaxing visit....and I even managed to finish my first crochet scarf, which Kate promptly claimed and proudly wore. Jaimee went to her first movie with daddy, enjoying Monsters University. And we all had lots of fun at the pools with the extended family. Minor hiccup when the AA had to be called out to replace our car battery and tell us our clutch needs fixing, drat....bad money timing!
On Tuesday morning, we had to get up bright and early to be on the road by 7am. Sadly, Desert road was closed, meaning we had a FIVE hour road trip ahead of us. No worries. The kids were awesome, it actually was quite a bonding morning in the car having us all contained together! We marveled at the snow on the roadside as we drove along but didn't stop as it was drizzling and the kids were snoozing (NEVER wake the sleeping kids by stopping on a road trip!!). They were all awake to see this beautiful view though as we drove up towards Taupo. Wow. There was a lot of snow on those mountains, and it was just stunning. We loved it, and gave the girls a good geography lesson, telling them the mountains names and that they were in the middle of the north island now.
We stopped on the shores of Lake Taupo for a quick break, as Luke was getting a little restless 3 and a half hours into our drive - time for a stretch! Jaimee thought pumice was pretty cool, and picked up a piece for every person in her class, while Luke just ran around with sticks enjoying being out of the car and Kate built volcanoes in the sand and made 'secret places'.
So we had our lunch in the park, where the girls once again were full of morbid questions about burning mud pools and children falling in ("but HOW did he die mum? ).
Then it was off to our first voucher attraction - aMAZEme. It was SO much fun. We split into two teams going into the hedge maze. The girls won, Jaimee made us run to be first, and then we had great fun calling through the hedges to the boys who were still a bit lost. Marty told me that Luke LOVED running through the lanes. Every time he got to a wall block he exclaimed loudly "OH NO! Door Closed!" before turning and running the other way. He confirmed this new phrase to us by reliving the maze several times over the next day. This morning those were his first words to me as he recalled the fun. He didn't want to leave, pointing at the entrance to the maze as we left calling out "want...want".
|In the middle of the maze: WE DID IT!|
The rest of aMAZEme was fun too, with all sorts of old fashioned family fun. There were giant chess boards, connect fours and snakes and ladders. There was tug of war (Marty won), stilt walking (Marty failed) and sack races. Luke found a car he could drive, and the girls mastered walking the cats up the wall. It was a lovely way to enjoy the sunshine.
Next we headed to Paradise Valley Springs, which we have already been to twice in our married life. Once when I was pregnant with Jaimee, and once when I was pregnant with Luke! This time I can assure you I was not pregnant. We got there as planned, just in time for the lion feeding. Luke pointed and said "lion, lion" happily - until one of them stalked the chain wall directly in front of us. Then he squeeled loudly like a girl, crossed his arms and turned his body away with a big scowl on his face. Hehe. Lion nice while lion not that close! After watching the lions have their 'yum yum" in Luke's words, we headed off to see the Kea get fed.
I am sure Jaimee will end up working in the Department of Conservation. She is so passionate about the environment and protecting NZ. On Luke's birthday she really wanted to go for a 'rubbish walk' to celebrate. A walk to pick up rubbish...what fun! When we walk through a park, you can be sure she is lagging behind, picking up disgusting packaging and finding a bin or taking it home. Her equally passionate teacher has been a big influence on her, and they have spent a lot of time looking at environment this year.
So when it came to the Kea, Jaimee was giving us just as many facts as the educator. She asked questions (actually, she was bit shy and made me ask them for her) and enjoyed seeing these cheeky birds up close. As for Kate, she just adored patting their resident possum and spent the longest time with it....and Kate was a bit nervous inching in close to a Kea for a photo, even I was waiting for it to pull her hair!
We enjoyed the rest of the park too, filling up our drink bottles in the natural spring and having a big drink of the cold yummy water and feeding the animals. Luke especially was taken with the goat, feeding them more and more and saying "goat...goat" as they leaned over for a feast. Jaimee looked like a Disney princess, with three wallaby feeding out of her hand at once.
We finished the day's fun with dinner at Breakers in Taupo, another family tradition on our road trips! Luke had promptly fallen asleep as soon as we left Rotorua from all the fun, so he was wide awake on the road home, but ipods kept the kids happy and we were all safely home by 8.30pm, exhausted but happy after another road trip.