Day 7 – Waitomo Glow Caves

December 4, 2015

Today we decided to see Waitomo Glow Caves which was about 3 hours drive from the place we stayed. We didn’t even research about it and when we reached there we found that they have 3 caves in their tour. And it started at 1.30 pm.

Each tour was an hour and the last cave was about 2 hour tour. We decided to go for the first two and in-laws decided on all 3. The Glow worm cave was beautiful. We had to go inside the cave and then once you go inside they don’t have any lights because it disturbs the glow-worm. So you walk down stairs without light and we were told not to make noise as well. At the end of stairs, we went in a boat. There is a lake under the cave.

We were in a boat and they took us on a ride for about 30 minutes and all we could see up the cave was glow worms lighting up like a tiny green lights. There were millions of glow worm in the roof of the cave. And with that light from the worms, we could see clearly. It looks like when you go camping and after dark, you can still see around you with the moon light. It was beautiful, one of the things you definitely need to visit.

Next is the Aranui cave which had lots of stalactite. The formation is so beautiful and most of them were millions years old. That was an hour tour as well. After this we decided to spend our time relaxing in the nearest town which was 10 km  away called Otorohanga.

We walked around the town and I went inside a shop called Paper Plus. I bought some cutout embellishment for my planner girls. We then went into a pharmacy and then had a snack in a bakery. We went back at 6 pm to pick up the in-laws from their tour of the third cave.

By the time we reached home, it was 9.30 pm. BIL made dhal and rice for dinner and then we went to bed. I was so tired of road trip by that time.


Day 6 – Rotorua

December 3, 2015

After the previous day’s long trip, we decided to take it easy. We got up at about 8 am and then had a calm day. We went out to see the lake and by the time we left for Te Puia it was already 3 pm.

That was the view from the house where we stayed. And Yes, I took my travel journal with me.

By the time we reached there, it was 4 pm. Te Puia is where we can see the Maori Culture and it also has natural geyser. We joined the tour and the guide had some fantastic information about the Maori culture. First, we saw the natural geyser, the hot air coming between the rocks. It was beautiful and it also smelled. The smell is from the sulphur.

We then moved to one of the famous mud geyser and then we also saw some kiwi living the enclosed environment. There was a Moari Arts & Crafts Institute which trains people and the sculptures and the baskets were amazing. We then went into their gift shop and I got some mud mask and some soaps.

By the time we finished our tour, it was 6 pm. On our way back to the place we stayed, we stopped at the New World grocery store and I decided to make fajita’s for dinner. It was a relaxing day and we all slept by 9.30 pm.

Day 5 – Travel to Rotorua

December 2, 2015

It was going to be a busy day because we had a long drive from Paihia to Rotorua. My BIL & SIL decided to go on a half a day trip to Cape Reinga in a plane and we decided to stay put because of my daughter. I knew that she wouldn’t do well on a full busy day.

So we decided to stay in Paihia and have a quiet time till they return. We got up at 7.30 am and the reason we got up early was because the sun was out way early. Seriously by 6 am we have the sun out and if your windows face the sun then you will have a bright sun in your face in the morning  which end up waking Anya.

Moving on, we decide to spend the day in Paihia Town. The town center was just 5 min drive from the place we were staying. We checked out of the hotel and went to town. We saw an Art & Crafts show in the town and we decided to check it out. There were lots of talented local artist showing their wares. One of my favorite was the handbag shop , of course. It was hand-made and I loved the design of it but it was expensive say about NZ$200. I just drooled and moved on.

Next shop which impressed me was the natural skin care tent and I got a rose cream for my skin. I love the smell of roses. The cream is all natural ingredients and I just love how passionate they are about their products. Anya was fascinated by the Kaleidoscope tent. She was looking at all the different types and we ended getting a DIY Kaleidoscope kit which the owner told us how to make it.

We then walked along the main street and then had some ice cream. I went into the Pharmacy to check on their products. I found the Paw Paw ointment which was in my wish list and I didn’t realize that they sell them in NZ too. I also found some cute fridge magnets in the next shop. FYI, I collect fridge magnets from all our travels .

By they time In-laws returned from the trip, it was about 1.30 pm. We had our lunch at Amazing Thai Restaurant and then started our journey to Rotorua at about 3 pm. It was an 71/2 hour drive to our destination and it was bad because Anya got bored and cranky. She hated that long drive and by the time we reached there, we were at the end of our collective patience.

Note : Once you come out of major cities, keep in mind that the shops and cafe’s close at 4 pm .

And yes, I am not kidding. We thought we will stop when we are hungry but once we passed the 4.30 pm mark, we couldn’t find any shops. And since we took the fastest route to Rotorua which ended up following the back roads, We couldn’t even find a gas station. We finally found a gas station at about 9 pm and ended up getting Cheetos and drink. By the time, we reached the place we were staying, it was 10.30 pm.

The house we stayed in was about 20 km away from Rotorua city. It was in-front of the lake. The roads were very narrow like one car roads. Since we were so hungry, we had some ready-made briyani and just slept. We were so tired from the long journey and hoped that the next day would be better.

Day 4 – Kerikeri

December 1, 2015

Today we decided to take it easy and on our schedule was only one thing and that was Skydiving  and Yes, you read it right. I certainly wasn’t brave enough to do it but hubby and company decided to do it and I was there to see it. Hubby has never done this before and he was hesitant.

The day began early because Anya got up at 7.30 am and our day began slowly because we had to get ready by 9.30 am. But due to weather, the Skydiving school called us and said our appointment has changed to 12.30 pm and it was fine with us because we had a lot of time to get ready.

We got there by 12 pm and it was about an hour away from Paihia called Kerikeri. It was such a small airport and the plane was so tiny that it could fit only 8 people to the max. They all had a 5 minute video on what will happen and they went to get suited up. I was pretty nervous for them when I saw a group who went before them. When I saw them in the parachute, I could just see myself screaming, closing my eyes and most probably have a tiny heart attack as well . They chose Tandem skydiving in which a professional jumps with them.

They got all ready and went into the plane. It all looked fine and it took about 10 minutes for me to see them in the sky. They chose the 16,000 feet package which was about 45 second free-falling and then falling with parachute (just thinking about it gives me shudders) . I couldn’t see who was down first but after 50 seconds or so, I could see a yellow parachute. And by the time it was half way through, I realized it was hubby on the first parachute.

The way he described his experience is that it was terrifying when he jumped but it was better when the parachute came out so he could balance. By the time we finished with skydiving, It was 2 pm so we went to have lunch at an Indian place on the way called Mighty Indian. My take on the restaurant, BAD. I think I make good subzi than them. It was a waste of money, I would have rather had some fresh fruits and sandwich.

Then we went to Haruru Falls which was on the way back to Paihia. It was a small falls and we barely stayed there for 15 min and we went back to our hotel to take a break. In the evening, we decided to go to the beach. We were in the beach by 6 pm and the sun was down and it got cold. I mean it wasn’t summer there and so without the sun, it was a cold, windy time and it certainly wasn’t a good time to go into the water because you are shivering when you come out.

After our 30 min stint at the beach, we went again to the supermarket to get some groceries for our dinner and breakfast. By the time we went to bed, it was already 10 pm and we were tired even though we didn’t do much that day. The next day was going to be very long for us so we hoped that we had good rest that night.

Day 3 – Paihia

November 30, 2015

We had a long day ahead. We had to drive to a place called Paihia which was North of Auckland and it was about 3 1/2 hours drive. We started early and left the hotel by 7.30 pm. Anya was getting bored in just 1 hour so we had a short stop over for breakfast and then continued our journey. Once you go outside of main cities, the New Zealand you see is beautiful. 95% of them were farms and Anya loved watching all the farm animals and horses. It is so green and so quiet. You feel this rush of calm when you see them. I loved it.

We reached Paihia by 11.30 and decided to check in at our hotel. The hotel was amazingly clean and very comfortable. We had a quick stop in our room before we continued to our Dolphin cruise. The cruise started at 1.30 and it was beautiful. The day started with Grey clouds and by the time we went into the ocean, it was so sunny that the ocean looked beautiful. The cruise was for 4 hours. We saw lot of Dolphins and we even say a baby Dolphin with their mother. They were very playful and was showing off to all the tourists.


Dolphins following our boat

Some part of the cruise was very bumpy which I hated but once it stopped moving, I felt better. There was a Hole in the Rock in the middle of the ocean and it was huge. Huge as in, we actually went inside the hole in the rock and came the other way. We also saw some Seals sunbathing. It was so cute.

We then stopped in Okehei bay to stretch our leg but I didn’t want to go out since I didn’t feel good with bumpy rides. Most likely I was seasick. So hubby and company went out and walked to the light house which was on the top of the mountain. The view was just amazing. By the time we returned from our cruise, it was 5.30 pm. We were so tired with all the travelling from morning.

Note : You will find me describing the New Zealand with the repetitive words like Amazing, Beautiful and Calming a lot because I couldn’t describe it any better. 

We then went to a Supermarket called Countdown to get some veggies and groceries. We decided to make dinner at home. My BIL is a very good cook and he took over the cooking on our trip. He made puliodarai and aloo gobi. We were very tired and by the time we went to bed, it was 10 pm.

And so it all started, the busy days.

Day 2 – Auckland

December 29, 2015

We missed a day because of the time zone change. We reached Auckland at about 5.15 am and I was looking forward to a warm weather coming from Seattle. And when we came out, It was cold  and I wasn’t expecting it at all. By the time we cleared the immigration and had our breakfast, it was almost 8 am. I still had to wear my spring jacket because it was chilly not warm as I thought.

We then got our rental car and drove to our hotel. We stayed in Waldrof St. Marting Apartments in the central Auckland. It was right in the city. We were too early in the morning for our check-in so after taking to the receptionist, we decided to go around the city.

Mt. Eden

We went straight to Mt. Eden where they have a fantastic view of Auckland and there was a crater as well. We had a good walk around the crater and took some amazing picture of Auckland. We then drove to the Supermarket called New World. I wanted to see what they have and I wasn’t expecting much. But I was fascinated by such a big supermarket. I went and checked our every aisle. The food aisle had more influence of Asian and British products.

I loved that they had such huge varieties of Noodles. We got Uncle Ben’s ready made food which was available in Dublin. We had that as a back up for Anya and she loved it. Since we had lot of time on our hands, I wanted to visit a stationary shop nearby . I have know about the stationary shop, Typo but I have never been to one. We don’t have them in Seattle. I loved looking at all the items. I decided to get some pens for my planner buddies and of course, for myself as well.

They were having a cultural even on the main street of Auckland so they shut down the whole street. We waited outside to see the event. Then hubby dropped us in the hotel by 1 pm and went on to pick up our BIL and SIL from the airport. We were tired by the time we went to our room. So I decided to bathe and have a short nap for sometime. I got up at about 3.30 pm. We still had some jet lag but Anya was very happy to see her uncle and aunt.

We decided to take it easy and went to the Farmer’s night market in Auckland. I loved it. They had amazing food stalls that I didn’t know what I wanted to eat. I had some awesome Gyoza and some fresh fruit ice cream. We reached there by 6 pm and came back to our room by 9 pm. And we decided to sleep by 11 pm because we had a long drive the next day.

The first day was very exciting and jet lagged but I wish I had more time in Auckland to see more sight seeing.

Day 1 – Journey to New Zealand

December 25, 2015

This was the day after Thanksgiving and I couldn’t sleep at all during the night. My mind was full of  lists and I was anxious that I was going to forget something. With barely 5 hours of disturbed sleep, I got up at 7.30 am. We woke up Anya only by 8.30 so that we could just put on her dress and she would be ready. Our shuttle picked us up by 9.30 am since our flight was at 12.55 pm.

One of the best decisions we did was to get a travel stroller which can be used by a 4 year old. I did lot of research and found that Maclaren Techno XLR will fit perfectly but we really didn’t want to spend about $450 because we knew that it was going to be destroyed with all the travelling on what not. I decided to check on craigslist and lo behold, we found one for $60. FYI, it was well used and had some scratches and stains but we didn’t mind. The only problem was we got them only on the day we were leaving. Hubby left by 8 am to pick it up. I just wish we could have washed it because it looked like it was stored in the garage for a very long time.

Moving on, as soon as I sat on the shuttle I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was also nervous about travelling with a 4 year old for 14 hour journey. The airport security was smooth and we had some breakfast before we got on our plane. Our stop over was at Vancouver which was about 55 min trip from Seattle. I don’t know what I was expecting but as soon as I saw the plane, I was shocked. It was tiny as in only 30 people flight. I have never traveled in such a small plane and I was nervous.

Mt.Baker view from the plane

But the flight was really good, no turbulence and we reached Vancouver at the correct time. We had an 4 1/2 hrs in Vancouver till our next plane. We did our immigration check, Anya played in the play area and then we had our early dinner in the airport. Our check in started by 5.30 pm because we had a child under 5 years old  (yayyyy). The flight was full and that surprised me and it started late.

We flew in Air New Zealand and our seat which was the only faulty one in the whole plane  was uncomfortable because we couldn’t move the arm rest in between our seats. I was worried about how Anya will sleep but she found it easier to sleep with her head resting on the arm rest. Once we were on the air, our dinner got delayed. Thank God, we ordered Indian meal because that was the first served but we were waiting for the kids meal. Seriously airline, please give the kids meal first. We waited for about 45 minutes for our food from the time they started serving. She got so hungry that she ate the Indian meal.

In between all this drama, our flight hit an turbulence and it was bad. I usually don’t fare well with flights because of Acrophobia and the turbulence freaks me out. The flight was shaking so badly that I thought we were going to die, my heart felt heavy and I was holding the arm rest tightly and taking deep breaths. I think I even screamed once or twice .

Other than this, our flight was good. We slept by 10.30 pm and I surprisingly slept well and got up only because they were ready to serve breakfast. The view of the sky from the plane was beautiful. The almost sun rise, the sky had the orange hue and it was amazing.

And then we landed in Auckland. All I could think was, “Finally, Vacation.” Little did I know that this was going to be a jam packed vacation that I would need a vacation from this vacation.