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"All The World's a Classroom"
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Updated Nov 13, 2006......................................................................................

New Zealand

August 8, 2006

South Island—Christchurch

We woke up around 8:30 am (6:30 per our body clocks). Since we got a late start, we decided not to do any activities today since the girls were acting like they needed a nap. Darren and Dominique went to the store to get some groceries and some hats and gloves for the girls (it’s hovering around 30-40 degrees around here and it will be colder further south—they gave us snow chains with the rental car). Annette and I stayed at the cabin and played some computer games and did some arts and crafts. At one point, she put her hands on her hips and she said, “You know Mom, the computer really doesn’t have ‘juice’ in it. Dad just says that to be funny. He actually means that it’s running out of batteries when we can’t play it any more”. It’s true—Darren always tells the kids the computer is running out of ‘juice’ when the batteries are running low. You can’t pull one over on these kids.

For the rest of the day, we hung out at the caravan park and played at their play ground. At 5:30 pm, the caravan park showed a kid movie, so Darren took the girls to see the movie. There were a number of other families around, so the girls had fun playing with the other kids and watching the movie.

I was surprised to see how English Christchurch is. The houses are small bungalows with tiny, immaculate, fenced gardens, within walking distance to stores and schools. It was good to see kids walking home from school and elderly people walking to the store. I haven’t seen that in a long time—certainly not since I’ve lived in the U.S.

August 13, 2006

South Island—Christchurch to Oamaru

We woke up around 7:45 am today, so our bodies are slowly getting adjusted to NZ time. We packed up and drove for about three hours until we reached the town of Oamaru. The scenery was incredible. We had snow-capped mountains in the background and rolling fields of cows and sheep in the foreground. Around 4:30 pm we went to see the resident penguins that come to nest at the beach each night. We debated about whether or not to go since it’s cold and wet, and we’d actually gone swimming with penguins in South Africa—nothing could top that. We were right. The path was about a hundred meters above the beach, so we could see the white specs of a couple of birds coming out of the ocean to rest for the night, but that was it. Anyway, it was good that we tried it since we can’t miss the rest of the world assuming that nothing can beat South Africa.

Back at the cabin, Darren was looking all around the sink to figure out how to remove the stopper. Annette ran over and showed him how to do it instantly. Even though the kids are hard work, it’s good to have them around to show us how to do things like unplug a sink.

I’ve really been surprised at how affordable New Zealand is. We’re still averaging around A$100/ NZ$100 per night at each cabin, but the quality that we get for that is much higher in New Zealand than Australia. The exchange rate is also more favorable for us, so it’s been about $75 for us in Australia versus $65 in New Zealand. For this we get a two-bedroom self-contained unit with a kitchenette and bathroom. And, unlike Queensland, we also get heaters and electric blankets. So far New Zealand is getting a big thumbs up!

August 14, 2006

South Island—Oamaru to Invercargill

We woke up at 7:30 am so we’ve adjusted. Darren and I exercised. I did yoga—it’s been really neat to increase my flexibility and work on some painful joints. Darren did some exercises indoors with the girls on his shoulders to make it weight-bearing since it was cold and rainy outside—the girls also think its fun.

We decided to keep heading south to the southern-most town of Invercargill, to begin making our way back up the west coast. We really didn’t have a plan this morning, so we followed some Kiwi advice and went towards the best weather—apparently the weather is so localized, it’s easy to stay in good weather. It snowed overnight in a number of places, but we missed it all (we even missed a small earthquake in Christchurch). We drove through some small towns with some neat architecture, but I’ve been surprised that we’ve not seen any villages—that’s what I expected to find in the South Island.

We decided to check into a motel rather than a caravan park to see if we could get better internet access. The caravan parks have been our most popular stops because they have good playgrounds for the kids. However, their internet connection often doesn’t allow us to plug in our computer, so it’s tough for me to see e-mails since Darren checks e-mails while I look after the girls. In the afternoon, I took the girls to the in-door pool while Darren got dinner and checked e-mail. It’s so nice to have some in-door activities—these Kiwi’s handle adverse weather right!

August 15, 2006

South Island—Invercargill to Te Anau

We had a short two-hour drive to Te Anau, which is the closest town to the Milton Sound cruise departures. We settled into the cabin and had a laid-back afternoon hanging out around the caravan park. We signed up to take a bus ride to the boat tomorrow since the lady at the caravan park said that the weather changes dramatically and that there are frequent avalanches—that would be more of an adventure than I’d like to have on a day trip.

August 16, 2006

South Island—Te Anau—Day 1

We left for the bus at 9:30 am and arrived at the boat in Milford Sound at 12:15, just in time for the boat departure. On the boat tour we saw some incredible scenery with waterfalls falling straight down snow-capped granite cliffs, crystal clear water, penguins and seals. After the two-hour boat tour, we had another couple of hours on the bus and we got back to the caravan park around 4:30 pm. It was a long day, but not as long as the people who came down on the bus from Queenstown, leaving at 7:00 am and returning at 7:00 pm. It was all very impressive, but as well marketed as this is, I thought it was going to be awe-inspiring. It really was great, but I’d say that we had a similar incredible experience in the Alaskan inner passage, without all of the marketing fanfare. Naturally, I’m glad we went since we couldn’t have left New Zealand without seeing it. I’m also glad we took a bus since the weather did change rapidly while we were there and sunshine was followed by snow flurries, and there were many signs of recent avalanches.

milford -- Dom
milford -- Annette

August 17, 2006

South Island—Te Anau—Day 2

We had another laid-back day today, just playing at the local playground, with views of a glacial lake in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background. In the afternoon we wandered around the little town and bought a couple of knick-knacks for the kids. It’s a really cute little town with less than 2,000 full-time residents, but it swells to over 10,000 in the summer and is apparently a tourist nightmare. I’ve really been surprised at how touristy the towns in New Zealand are. We’re meeting a lot of foreigners, and we’re here during winter.

August 18, 2006

South Island—Te Anau to Queenstown

We made a short two-hour drive to Queenstown today. We considered skipping it since it’s supposed to be the most touristy of all NZ towns, but we figured we should at least go for a couple of days. It’s also supposed to rain this weekend, so I’d rather be in a touristy town with lots of indoor things to do, than a quaint little town with nothing to entertain the kids. The weather is very localized. If we drove further north, we could have missed the rain, but it’s not a big deal. On the drive up, we had rain to our left and sunny blue skies to our right, with an incredible rainbow behind us. I’ve seen the most brilliant rainbows here in NZ—they’re much larger, clearer and they show the full spectrum of colors compared to any that I’ve seen anywhere else. The air quality in NZ is supposed to be really good, so maybe that’s why. If that’s the case, I had no idea that air pollution could wipe away rainbows. It rained all afternoon so we stayed inside, played games and watched a movie.

August 19, 2006

South Island—Queenstown

We tried going on the gondola and going for some luge rides while it was dry, but by the time we got to the top of the gondola, the weather had changed. Fortunately, we did see the great views before the clouds came in. We waited for a while to see if the rain would stop, but then decided to go for a ride on the luge even though it was raining—at least there would be no lines. It’s really cold going down a luge when its 40 degrees and raining. Annette and I went down once and decided to make our next stop the café for a hot chocolate. I had no gloves, so my hands were freezing. Darren and Dominique had gloves, so they decided to go again (we had tickets for ten rides). After their second ride, they joined Annette and me in the café for hot chocolates. We waited around for the weather to clear, but it didn’t, so we arranged to have our tickets honored for today and tomorrow to see if we could come back in good weather. Fortunately, the weather cleared so Darren and Dominique went back again in the afternoon—Annette wasn’t interested in another freezing experience, so I stayed and played with her at the cabin.

luge Dom

August 20, 2006

South Island—Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier

We had a long 5.5 hour drive today, largely because there’s very little between Queenstown and Franz Josef Glacier (a town of only 300 people, but a big glacier). Despite the rain throughout most of the drive, the scenery was spectacular. We first drove through a mountain pass, where we had to put on snow chains—the roads were only covered in slush, but the chains were mandatory. After that, we passed glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains, followed by waterfalls, streams and rainforests. The roads were curvy for much of the trip, so thank goodness I was driving or I would have been really car-sick. We arrived in Franz Josef around 3:30 pm and fortunately the rain stopped, so we were able to have a short wander around before dark. We’re planning to stay here for three nights since both Darren and I are thinking about going hiking on the glaciers, and we’ll need to go separately since our kids aren’t old enough. Unfortunately, there’s not much for the kids to do, but there is a trampoline and playground if it doesn’t rain. If it rains, we’re going to need to be really creative with our arts and crafts etc.

snowy road
bouncing Annette
bouncing Dom

August 21, 2006

South Island—Franz Josef Glacier—Day 1

A cold front brought wet winter weather to the South Island today, so we stayed inside all day. We played a lot of games, did arts and crafts, did some reading and cooking, and wrapped up the day with part of a movie. It looks like the weather will be good tomorrow, so Darren and I hope to hike the glacier tomorrow. The kids are too young for the heli-hike, so Darren and I will go up separately—one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

August 22, 2006

South Island—Franz Josef Glacier—Day 2

The weather was great today. Apparently they get 270 days of rainfall, so we were lucky. Darren arranged our heli-hikes but he could only get ones that over-lapped for about an hour, so the caravan park owner volunteered to look after the kids for that time. Darren went up first because I’ve had a cold that I just can’t kick and I was hoping to feel better in the afternoon.

The heli-hiking was incredible. It was really tough to get any depth perception, especially up in the helicopter. We spent a couple of hours walking around on the top of the glacier—it was incredible. A couple of feet of snow fell yesterday, so it we walked through the snow rather than on ice. Even with the snow, we could see the blue in freshly exposed ice. This glacier moves about four meters a day (most don’t move that much in a year), so there’s a lot of fresh collapses—one even happened while we were there. We also slid down a couple of ice tunnels, which was great fun. This was definitely a highlight of New Zealand and a highlight of the trip so far. It was so much more incredible than Milford Sound, but so much less marketed. It’s definitely a “must do” when visiting New Zealand.

glacier

glacier

glacier

glacier from the sky

August 23, 2006

South Island—Franz Josef Glacier to Westport

We had a four-hour drive to Westport today. There’s nothing that we wanted to see in Westport, but it’s a good half-way point on our way up to Picton to take the ferry to the North Island. The drive was really beautiful. We left the rain forest and the snow-capped mountains to come up along the coast of tropical foliage and limestone cliffs. There really isn’t anything to see in Westport, but we spent the afternoon at a pretty park with the ocean to our left and snow-capped mountains to our right—that didn’t make a difference to the kids, but I thought it was pretty.

August 24, 2006

South Island—Westport

We checked out the very unimpressive seal colony this morning. The boardwalk was at least 100 feet above the rocks, so it was tough to see down the cliff to see the seals. The seal colony in Namibia was so much more impressive with thousands of seals within feet of us. Fortunately we didn’t go out of our way to see it. We spent the rest of the morning at the playground and then at the library because it rained again. We spent the rest of the day at the cabin playing games. We’re going to continue to head north and catch the ferry in a couple of days to the North Island. I was expecting to find a little village in which to spend some time in the South Island, but since we haven’t, we’ve made it through the South Island much quicker than I expected. We followed up with Airtreks today to see if we can bring our flight out forward since we’re going much faster than we expected.

August 25, 2006

South Island—Westport to Picton

We had a four-hour drive on curvy roads along rivers and mountain sides. In many places, the bridges were only one lane, so it was some very engaged driving. We found the caravan site with no problems, and decided to stay for two nights to give us time to arrange the ferry tickets and break up the travel days.

August 26, 2006

South Island—Picton

Darren took the girls to a small aquarium today and I had the morning off to some reading. Unfortunately, the internet connection is not very good here, so I wasn’t able to do any research on the next part of our trip. We’ve been searching for a book on South America, but we’ve not found any yet (we did find one in Christchurch, but it was $60—versus the $25 U.S. list price, so I didn’t get it). We’re planning to really focus on spending our time in the North Island around good internet connection so that I can do some research and make some reservations. If Airtreks says that we can bring forward our dates, we need to have our plans arranged for Tahiti, Easter Island and Chile since we’ll be there in three to four weeks.

August 27, 2006

South Island—Picton to North Island

We took the ferry from Picton to Wellington today. The scenery was pretty as we traveled through the sound away from the North Island. The kids found a small play area and some cartoons, so they hung around there the whole time. For some reason, it was a long three hours. We decided to drive a couple of hours north of Wellington since the accommodation was so expensive and we really didn’t have anything we wanted to do there. We stopped at a town called Palmerston North over-night at a motel with kitchenette—apparently these types of things are common in New Zealand. It’s fine for a one-night stop.

August 28, 2006

North Island—Palmerston North to Taupo

We drove 3.5 hours north to Taupo. The drive was very pretty—we drove through a desert region (I had no idea that there was a desert in New Zealand—although it looked more like a savannah to me) which was at the foot of a snow-capped volcanic cone mountain. Even Darren thought it was pretty and he usually rolls his eyes and plays dead when I point out this geographic feature stuff. There seems like there is a lot to see around here if I can somehow trick Darren into seeing some of the volcanic features—I think he’s a little gun-shy after the Undara Lava Tube experience, so he might not be as gullible. The kids had a great time at the camp grounds’ playground, jumping pillow and heated thermal pool. This place is decent for the kids but we still need to find a place that’s got good internet connection so that we can start planning the rest of the trip.

Taupo drive

August 29, 2006

North Island—Taupo

We decided to take it easy today and hang out downtown at the park and doing a couple of errands. It was a beautiful day (one of the first we’ve seen in NZ), so it was easy to hang out-side all day. I finally bit the bullet and bought the book on South America for NZ$67 (that’s about US$45 versus the US$33 list price). I need to plan the trip by guide book rather than internet since our internet connection is so spotty, and I’m sure will be the same in South America. The girls found a friend to play with at the caravan park, so they had a good time playing with her at the playground for the rest of the day. Her parents emigrated from England six years ago and got jobs as teachers. We also met another English couple (also both teachers) who were currently touring NZ and considering relocation. England does such a good job of paying to educate people for the rest of the world—they really need to re-examine their government spending policies.

August 30, 2006

North Island—Taupo to Rotorua

We had a short one-hour drive north to Rotorua, and stopped along the way to see some thermal areas. It was pretty cool to be standing right in the middle of fumaroles with steam warming us as it sprayed out, but the girls weren’t very interested. We’ve decided to stay in a place with in-room internet connectivity this week to allow me time to do research on the rest of the trip, and to try to move up our flight out of NZ. Unfortunately, not many places offer in-room broadband, so we had to forgo the pool and children’s playground for the convenience. Darren took the girls to a park in the afternoon to allow me time to do research. I got quite a bit done on finding accommodations in Tahiti and Easter Island, but I can’t make reservations until I find out what we can do with our flights. I’m now trying to figure out major logistics in South America.

Annette -- craters
Dom --- craters
Craters of the Moon

August 31, 2006

North Island—Rotorua—Day 1

Darren and Dominique went Zorbing today—rolling down a hill inside a huge translucent ball. Annette was too young and I wasn’t interested since I’ve been so dizzy with the cold I had in the South Island. They were glad they did it since it’s such a unique experience, but they wouldn’t do it again.

Zorb wet
Zorbonauts

After Zorbing, we decided to stop by a super-touristy farm since they said they had a chocolate factory. We got really lucky because, as we got out of the car, a guy lead a sheep dog demonstration. We then walked into the store just as the lady was giving a demonstration of the wool press, showing how the wool goes from straight off the sheep to spun wool at the other end. The girls weren’t too interested since it wasn’t the chocolate factory, but Darren and I thought it was cool. We then stopped in and watched chocolate being hand-made and got the girls some chocolate, which made them happy. Then we looked in at the shearing shed and a guy was shearing the bellies of some sheep in advance preparation for the next shearing show, so we got our own private demonstration. We were so lucky. We got to see the key parts of what we would have been interested in the show without all the tourists (and we didn’t have to pay $60). Of course, we paid about $100 Zorbing and $30 at the store, so maybe we fell into their tourist trap without even knowing it.

In the afternoon, Darren took the girls to the park to allow me to spend more time researching the next part of the trip.

September 1, 2006

North Island—Rotorua—Day 2

I spent the entire day doing research on the next part of the trip. We’ve confirmed that we can change the tickets, so that means that we’ll be in Tahiti, Easter Island and Chile in the next three to four weeks. Since our tickets are non-refundable, I needed to make sure that the timing in each country was final. I found some good accommodations, but I can’t book them until our tickets are finalized. We can’t finalize our tickets until we go to Auckland to return our current tickets, so at least I’ve got everything ready to go for when we’ve got our new tickets. Darren took the girls to the lake to go paddle-boating in the morning, then he took the girls to the park to meet another family that we met at the camp ground in the afternoon.

September 2, 2006

North Island—Rotorua—Day 3

We went to the local market in the morning and discovered that our observation about markets still stands—they’re all the same. In every country, they’re all selling the same things. In the afternoon, we went to the park to meet the family that we met at the camp ground. It’s been fun for the kids to have a familiar kid to play with, and for Darren and me to talk to some familiar grown-ups.

playground Dom
playground girls

September 3, 2006

North Island—Rotorua—Day 4

We tried to go to a 3-D maze but didn’t have enough cash to get in, so we went to play at the park and wandered through yet another craft market—still all the same things.

September 4, 2006

North Island—Rotorua—Day 5

The girls and I went to the local pool complex today. It was actually really nice because they used the hot thermal water to heat the pool, so it was even warm enough for me. Dominique helped Darren cook dinner again. They really seem to enjoy themselves making dinner and it always tastes great—and of course, it’s a great deal for me.

September 5, 2006

North Island—Rotorua—Day 6

I took the girls to the park this morning to give Darren a change to practice his banjo. In the afternoon, Darren and Dominique went shopping while Annette and I stayed back to watch Muzzy. I’m understanding more of the video, so I guess it’s working.

September 6, 2006

North Island—Rotorua to Auckland

We drove three hours north today to Auckland. We would normally have avoided the city but we need to go in to drop off our existing airline tickets in order to get new ones. It will be good to finalize the tickets so that I can finalize the details of the next leg of the trip.

September 7, 2006

North Island—Auckland to Whangarei

We drove into the city to drop off our existing tickets and finalize our new tickets. Finding our way around the city was surprisingly easy, and we ended up finding a parking space right outside the building. Everything was all ready and waiting for us, so I was in the office about ten minutes—Airtreks is great!

After we finalized the tickets, we decided to drive north, and stop at a town called Whangarei, which was about two hours north of Auckland, looked big enough to have things to do, and offered a place with internet access in the cabin. I was surprised to see how many logging trucks we passed. Apparently the NZ farmers have turned to timber sales since beef sales to Europe dropped dramatically after he European union. We spent the afternoon playing at the trampoline and playground within walking distance of the park.

September 8, 2006

North Island— Whangarei

I spent the morning trying to make reservations at the next places that we’re going to stay. It’s been pretty tough. In both Easter Island and Tahiti, there is a huge range of accommodation in both quality and price, but the price doesn’t necessarily correlate to the quality. It’s been tough trying to find one of both average price and quality. I also noticed that I’m going to need new passport pages before the end of the trip, so we’ll need to go back into Auckland—too bad I didn’t check on this yesterday. While I worked, Darren took the kids to town. We hung around the caravan park and played on the trampoline in the afternoon.

I received e-mails back on the hotels that I tried to book in Tahiti, Easter Island and the first night in Chile. All came back with us sharing a triple room (i.e. three twin beds for four people), and with higher rates than on the internet. How frustrating! I spent the morning doing more research on where we can stay. Most of the bookings are available via tour companies rather than the hotels directly, but since tour companies are notoriously “here today, gone tomorrow” (as I saw from a number of websites that are no longer valid), I’m trying to book directly with the hotels but many don’t have websites. I sent a few more e-mails directly to the hotels today, so I’ll see what response I get over-night. It’s frustrating trying to get this sorted out with the time zone differences.

September 9, 2006

North Island— Whangarei

It rained all day today so Darren took the girls to the movies while I tried to do more research on where we’re heading next. I didn’t make much progress since I won’t get any responses over the weekend. The girls and I hung out around the playground in the afternoon to give Darren a chance to practice his banjo.

September 10, 2006

North Island— Whangarei

Another rainy day, but since I couldn’t make much progress since no one is responding over the weekend, the girls and I went to the playground in our ponchos. Darren took the girls back out in the afternoon, even though we still had intermittent showers. I tried get some idea of what we’ll do in Argentina. It’s such a large country and we’ve only got two weeks there, so we’ll need to pick an area that we want to go to.

September 11, 2006

North Island— Whangarei to Auckland

Another rainy day, but that was OK since we needed to drive to Auckland to deal with my passport. The rains over the past several days triggered a lot of flooding in the pastures along the way. I didn’t think much about it until we got closer to Auckland when I noticed that all the water run-off from the pastures (including all the manure and fertilizers) was going straight into the rivers and then into the ocean. The run-off was so great when it reached the ocean that the ocean had turned muddy for about 100 meters out to sea and throughout the whole bay. I expect that the recent timber cutting probably added to the erosion. All the million-dollar homes over-looking the bay were looking at farm water run-off. It was a good lesson for me—always buy up-river.

The U.S. Embassy website said told us to mail it in and allow six business days, but that would be taking us to the day we’re leaving, which was too tight. Darren called and confirmed that we could come in and the lady said that if we got there by noon, they could do it while we waited. He told them we wouldn’t make noon since we were 2.5 hours away, but we’d come right away. We arrived at 12:30 and the security card told us that they closed at noon. They reopen at 2:00- 3:30 but only for emergencies. Technically ours wasn’t an emergency since we could bring it in tomorrow and get it back the day before we leave, but the security guard told us to give it a try. We paid $35 for a really bad lunch and came back at 2:00. I think our cute kids helped get us in since the security guard turned away several people while we were there and told them to come back tomorrow. Fortunately, the lady at the embassy was really nice and she put additional pages in my passport right away. Then she said that that we only need to allow two business days. Oh well, after $20 for parking and $35 for lunch, it’s all sorted out now.

We decided to stay in another caravan park on the north side of Auckland. It was a pretty bad area—pretty poor and run-down. Darren even felt uncomfortable going jogging. I know every town has these areas, but you don’t think of them in New Zealand since the rest of the country is so pretty.

September 12, 2006

North Island—Auckland to Coromandel

We decided to drive about 2.5 hours to the town of Coromandel to move away from the tourists and city. The drive up the peninsula coastline was really pretty and the town was really cute—the town has many resident artists and craft people. We made reservations at a cabin because it had broadband access, but when we arrived we realized it wouldn’t work for us. Even so, we decided to stay a couple of nights. Ray Morley, the owner of the cabin, is a really nice guy. He’s so upbeat on his lifestyle (he’s a potter) that he said it almost seems selfish to be so happy. We talked to him for about an hour when we first arrived, just because he’s such an interesting guy and is so enthusiastic. It really is nice to meet people who are so happy.

In the afternoon, we went to a really eclectic inter-active water works place. The place was developed by artist/ inventor and his potter spouse. They really did a great job showing how water powers things and the grounds were beautiful. We all had fun with the water guns and boat races, and the girls had lots of fun in the playground on the zip-line and flying bicycles. It was neat to have so much fun without the glitz of the theme parks.

flying bike
tireswing
waterbikes
zipline Annette
zipline Dom

We took a train ride up to the top of a hill for some great views this morning. The train was interesting since it was originally built by a potter to move heavy materials around. He laid the track (including switch-backs) and built the tunnels and bridges to take tourists to the top of the hill for additional income. It was really amazing to see the creativity and ingenuity to make it all happen.

Annette train
Dom train

Darren was able to get e-mails today. I received a couple of responses to move forward on reservations in Chile and Peru, but I still haven’t made any progress on Tahiti and Easter Island, which are our next stops. We’re going to stay at a place with internet access over the weekend to see if I can wrap this up, but given their response times, it looks like we’ll be arriving in each place and figuring it out when we get there. That’s not a big deal but it’s so much easier to preview accommodations and compare prices on line.

September 13, 2006

North Island—Coromandel

We took a train ride up to the top of a hill for some great views this morning. The train was interesting since it was originally built by a potter to move heavy materials around. He laid the track (including switch-backs) and built the tunnels and bridges to take tourists to the top of the hill for additional income. It was really amazing to see the creativity and ingenuity to make it all happen.

September 14, 2006

North Island—Coromandel to Hamilton

We had a four-hour drive south to Hamilton today. We enjoyed staying in Coromandel but I really need internet time to finalize where we’re going to stay over the next couple of weeks. As soon as we arrived, Darren took the girls to the park and I hit the internet. I finally discovered some accommodations in Tahiti which look very promising, so hopefully we’ll get lucky here and I can move on to wrapping up Easter Island. We really hadn’t been looking forward to spending too much time in Tahiti since a week on Mauritius satisfied any beach cravings for a while, but I have to say, I’m looking forward to drying out and warming up a bit after the wet NZ weather.

September 15, 2006

North Island—Hamilton—Day 1

Finally, success in Tahiti. I’ve now found places that are available for us during the time we’re there. Now all I have to do is finalize the reservations and figure out what we should do about transportation.

Darren took the girls to a water park today while I did more trip details. I tried to make some progress on Easter Island. We’ll see how that goes—I’ve not had any responses on prior queries. I also made reservations to get our Hep A booster shots at a clinic in Auckland next week, when we go in to pick up our revised tickets. There’s a lot of planning to this. Fortunately, once I’ve got Easter Island sorted out and I figure out where we’re going to go in Argentina, the rest of the trip is sorted out. I’m just expecting not to have good internet connectivity after this week for the rest of the trip, so the more I can do now, the better.

I took the girls to play and get haircuts this afternoon. I was a little worried at first since the elderly gentleman took a massive cut from Dominique’s hair, but then he refined the trim and it looks so much better. He also did a great job cutting the hair away from Annette’s face. The last couple of cuts in Australia just weren’t very good. Now you can see the girls’ faces again and of course, they look adorable.

September 16, 2006

North Island—Hamilton—Day 2

Success! I found a nice place for us to stay in Easter Island, so I was able to complete the reservation this morning. Now we’re all set through our first week in Chile. We can play the rest by ear in Chile since we’ll have a car. Now I just need to figure out what we’ll do in Argentina and we’re all set.

Darren took the girls to the park in the morning but it was really chilly out. I took the girls shopping in the afternoon to stock up on our supplies since I think we’re not going to have a lot of shopping choices for the next leg of the trip.

September 17, 2006

North Island—Hamilton—Day 3

I wrapped up our reservations for our rental cars in Tahiti and Chile this morning. After that, we went bowling. They put bumper rails up for kids, and Dominique did such a great job getting several strikes and earning 114 points. Darren didn’t do so well—I think we should have put up bumper rails for him too.

I spent a very frustrating afternoon and evening trying to get some ideas of what to do in Argentina while Darren took the kids to the park, cooked dinner, and pretty much everything else. I finally found something that looks very promising—just what I was thinking about—a way to meet the country people without being in one of the elite estancias. I still need to look into price, location, availability etc, but at least I’m finally making some headway.

September 18, 2006

North Island—Auckland

We had to go back into the city to pick up our airline tickets and get our Hep A booster shots. Our appointment wasn’t until 3:00, so we took our time heading north and stopped in at a place called Candyland to give the girls a treat before they got their shots. After that, we stopped at McDonalds to let the girls play around—they like it and we had to kill time. We finally made it into the city around 2:00 and Airtreks had our tickets waiting for us—they’re such a great company! We then went to get our shots. The lady was very competent and they girls were great—possibly because of the ice cream we promised them. We then went to a new place with internet access to give us a couple more days to plan the rest of the trip.

September 19, 2006

North Island—Auckland

We had a wrap up day today. We had to get a few additional supplies and take advantage of our last easy access to the internet before heading out to Tahiti tomorrow. Darren took the girls to a place called Snow Planet this morning while I tried to wrap up my research on Argentina. He also took them to the park in the afternoon. I found a place that looks interesting, so hopefully they’ll respond. If not, I’ve at least got a general idea of where we should go and we’ll just rent a car and figure out the details when we get there.


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