New Zealand - Our Home Away From Home
When Mark and I decided to take the boys to New Zealand for 6 weeks, we could have never imagined how it would change our lives.
When we began planning our EPIC adventure our first thoughts were to stay in Central America and take in the beauty and lushness of a part of the world we had traveled to before. It was all too familiar and of course easy to get to, just a short 4-5 hour flight. As we were planning we knew that this adventure was going to be a once in a lifetime thing...at least for this time in our life, with our children. How often do you quit your job, sell your belongings and just go? We felt drawn to go even further around the world to a place that most people only dream of ever getting to. We were also very lucky that we had friends to call on half way around the world, and they welcomed us with open arms.
So the trip took a turn to New Zealand!
I never thought that Mark and I would actually make it to New Zealand at this stage in our lives, let alone bring our 10 and 12-year-old sons there for 6 weeks. It was a dream of mine for a long time, but 20 hours on a plane is not the ideal 1-2 week vacation that most people are afforded. We knew we had to seize this opportunity and make the most of it. Of course, this meant extending our budget beyond our original plan...ouch!!
After living in Cozumel on a fairly small budget this was going to be a big change...I have often told people the comparison, that 4 plane tickets to New Zealand and back, was almost as much as living in Mexico (with the round trip plane ride) for 3 months...crazy, right?!?
WRONG, going to New Zealand was one of the best decisions of our life.
We were lucky enough to be met with love at the airport by our amazing friend Rich, and we stayed with his family for the first week of our travels.
Rich, Chika, Kahou, Kiiwa and Niji
They were the absolute best hosts we could have asked for! They live in Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula, on the North Island and what a gorgeous place it is. A sweet little town on the Firth of Thames. The water was calm, warm, safe and beautiful. For our 14th wedding anniversary, they took us around the entire Peninsula, which is a must do if you are ever lucky enough to travel there. The scenery is like no other, it is so lush and green with rolling mountains and gorgeous water views. We stopped at Cathedral Cove, where Mark and I got to explore kidless, the beauty of this magical sandy beach cove. We then met up with everyone at Hot Water Beach, a cool phenomenon where the geothermal springs under the sand warms the water so much it is like sitting in a hot tub. The kids got there first, with Rich and family at low tide and dug a hole, the water then fills up the hole with amazing warm and sometimes even scalding water, so you have to be careful. In the same hole you can have a spot that is quite comfortable and then a spot that will burn you, but it was such a great evening sitting watching the sunset, with the cool air on our shoulders and the warm water under our tushies ;)
Coromandel Peninsula, Cathedral Cove & Hot Water Beach
What an amazing start to our trip, you'd think that this was our favourite spot, and as wonderful as it was, there were others we enjoyed just as much. From Thames, we moved onto the first of our two house sitting jobs on Mangawhai, pronounced "Mang-a-phai", the wh- make an "f" sound in NZ...crazy, who knew? Just one of the many new language lessons learned during our NZ travels. Here are a few more:
- Togs = bathing suit
- Jandels = Sandels or flip flops
- Mate (that's an easy one) = friend
- Kiwi = New Zealand people, Kiwi bird = national animal & Kiwi fruit = what we know as the Kiwi we eat...don't get them mixed up or you will be told...lol
- Pokey = a bar where you can play on poker machines
- Sweet as = it's good or cool
- Chips = french fries
- Chur = thank you
- Wop wop = middle of nowhere
- Heaps = lots
- Chooks = chickens
- Bach = cottage
- Rubbish = garbage
We all loved listening to the cool accents, although to the kiwis, we were the ones with the accents. It was amazing to me how they were speaking English and we still couldn't understand some of them. I guess in Canada you can get the same feeling when talking to someone from Newfoundland :) No matter how well we understood or didn't, everyone we met along the way was extremely kind, warm, inviting, and friendly. They say Canadians are the friendliest people on Earth, I beg to differ, I think the Kiwi's have us beat, hands down!
Over the next 3 weeks of our journey, we house sat for two different families in two amazing cities. We were so lucky to have been able to find not only these beautiful homes and animals to care for, but to meet and befriend the owners was an experience we wouldn't have gotten had we stuck to staying in hotels. Being on a budget, leads you to be a bit creative when traveling with a family of 4, so housesitting was a perfect way to help keep our funds on track, and it gave us a chance to see parts of NZ we would probably have never gone to otherwise. I am going to write a future article on the cool do's and don'ts of housesitting, so keep an eye out for that one if you're interested.
After finishing up our housesitting gigs in Mangawhai and Stillwater, we headed down south to the middle of the north island to a beautiful tourist spot - Lake Taupo. We met up with Rich and family again and this time we decided to glamp it up a little at their favourite Holiday Park. We stayed in a tiny little cottage, and spent 2 days soaking in the sun pool side. Now this pool is pretty incredible, it has a HUGE TV that showed sports and movies all day long, and of course a swim up bar with overpriced tourist drinks that were wonderful and refreshing :) The kids had a blast swimming, playing, biking and just being able to be kids with no electronics to keep them occupied. It was so much fun and even though we spent more than we should have, it was totally worth it and the time spent with great friends.
Lake Taupo Fun
Our favourite Spot
Mark and I are drawn towards the farmers markets/local produce, coffee shop and beach vibe small towns, and even though we only got to spend 3 wet and rainy days, our favourite spot in New Zealand was definitely Raglan. It is a sweet little hippy beach town on the West Coast about an hour south of Auckland. It has almost everything we love. Great ocean views and some of the best surf in NZ, small main street living where everyone knows everyone, a river running through it for paddle boarding and kayaking, and most importantly it is away from the hustle and bustle of big city living.
Raglan Beach View
One of the nicest things about Raglan was getting to visit another Canadian friend, who I hadn't seen in about 6 years. My yoga friend Lins, moved to Australia about 6 years ago and lived there until she and her hubby decided to go back to his home country of NZ in August of last year. She just had a baby boy in November, so it was great to have a visit with her and Walker. Our time there was way too short and we wished and even tried to figure out how to stay longer, but it just wasn't in the cards this trip. So off we went, to say goodbye to all those that we had met along the way, before heading up to Australia (another article to follow in the near future ;)
What an adventure we had, so many memories made, friendships formed and love affairs with the country and nature had. New Zealand will always hold a special place in our hearts and someday we will return, hopefully, sooner than later.
Our road trip map
If you're looking for an extended vacation in an absolutely gorgeous country, I highly recommend taking a trip to New Zealand...believe me the only thing you'll regret is booking your ticket home.
For travel info contact Red Back Travel to help you book your next vacay. They were super helpful, friendly and professional. Thanks Angela and Paul :)