Monday, April 27, 2015

New Zealand!

Every Aussie family has at least once done a trip to New Zealand. There are 2 broad categories of trip-planners - the easy going relaxed site seeing variety and the adventure seeking kind. Our group, however, fell into a mixed blend of the two categories - the easy going type out on the unique adventure of travelling with 3 infants. It was an adventure of its own kind, that started right from the phase of packing - a mom who has already traveled with her child once can keep adding stuff to her travel list even after the trip ends!!!!

There were 9 of us on this adventure. The Jetstar flight was eventful to say the least. Aussie PR holders don't need a visa to NZ, but one couple in our group somehow didn't show up on NZ's database.  An hour and half land a call to the NZ embassy later, we were on board!! Three babies on a night flight - between us we kept pretty much every person on the flight awake. On arrival, it was early morning in Auckland. The sun was just rising when we boarded our mode of transport for the next 4 days - a huge Thrify vehicle with 3 baby seats.

Day 1- Auckland- Hamilton Gardens- Lake Taupoe- Rotorua - Tuck Inn
At first glimpse, Auckland was spectacular...starting with the beautiful pine trees near the airport. We had breakfast at a burger place where the lady was kind enough to tweak the menu for 7 vegetarians in the group, Our friend from Auckland Dr Pravin came to meet us. We managed to get his help and buy one important item we had forgotten to pack - sunshades for the car. And then, we were off! The rhythmic movement of the car soon lulled the babies to sleep, and us ladies soon followed suit. The drive is picturesque - here are a few captures by the guys.

A road-sign that's unique to NZ

We reached Hamilton Gardens at around lunchtime. Had a walk around the lake, and a delicious lunch at the bistro overlooking the lake. Blissful! There are various themed gardens there, but kids were getting a little restless, so we took off soon after lunch. Lunch was idyllic in a cafe overlooking the lake.

Next stop was Taupo lake - the huge lake whose other end you cannot see. On the way we saw a smoky exhaust emitting from a pipe and were surprised that there could be any kind of pollution in this pristine landscape. We presently found out that they were in fact hot springs - all natural!!

Taupo Lake

Finally we reached Tuck Inn- The picture-perfect farmhouse that was to be our home for the next two days. Owners Kathryn and Marcus made us feel welcome with a sweet message on the board, and fresh warm bread on the kitchen counter.

Tuck Inn

There were a lot of fascinating fixtures in the house- They add to the charm of this place. There are so many cute things with messages on them - I couldn't resist clicking away!

The unique weather forecaster hanging in the kitchen of Tuck-Inn

And it was so happy to be turned over :)

A rock that met us at the door of Tuck-Inn

Milk bottle - The message inside says they will fill it up with fresh milk from the cows at the farm if we leave it outside in the morning!

We had a restful sleep at night. There were plenty of toys for the kids, they had a nice play before they retired for the day.

Day 2- Waitaki hot springs and Waiotapo Mud Pools 

We had an early morning visit from Kathryn - she told us about the things we could do around the area, She has beautiful informative brochures in the kitchen too, and we all unanimously agreed on the Waikite valley thermal pools and the Waiotapo volcano. They were quite close to Tuck Inn- just a 30 minute drive. 

Waitaki Hot Springs

The place is beautiful! For the minimal entry fee of 12$ a head, you get access to 6 all-natural hot pools at a delightfully maintained temperature. Idyllic and peaceful. The visitors were sparse and non-intrusive. Our group spent most of the time in one particular pool with the mountains in the background. The kids had a great time too - they were allowed more time in since the weather was so perfect. 
We ate at the cafe - vegetarians had Tomato Soup and potato wedges. We were famished by the time we had our lunch, so everything tasted just divine!
A cute sign at the cafe
After the late afternoon lunch, we were to head to the volcano, it had looked quite attractive in the pictures, But just on the way back to our cars, we saw a sign that said scenic walk, and everyone spontaneously decided to go for it. It was gorgeous - walking along the boiling river.  

The Boiling River - Waitaki
The colourful volcanic site of Waiotapo was our next destination. But we found upon reaching there that the site was to close at 5 in the evening, and even the shortest walk was more than an hour long, and probably not something fun with 3 prams and tired infants in tow. We had to reluctantly drop the volcanic area from our plan- and this after a tourist told us that she had seen many volcanoes in the world and this had been the most beautiful one ever. Here's a reason to come back! We definitely want to do this the next time. She told us that we could, however drive further down and look at the mud pools - they don't close. So, that's what we did, and what a sight! I had never seen something like this before. Bubble bubble toil and trouble!! It was meditative and serene and just amazing. The word mud pool definitely does no justice to this volcanic natural phenomenon before us. Good thing Abhishek decided to chat with this tourist lady! 

Volcanic Mud Pools- Waiotapo

 We missed our friend Rashmi who always has great photo-pose ideas while clicking away later at the mud pools. 

Upon reaching home, we had a cheese making workshop with Kathryn. She had had a busy day, but was kind enough to make time to teach us how to make the best Mozzarella I've ever tasted. 

What a luxurious breakfast we had the next morning! 
 Home-made bread, farm-fresh milk, and  cheese on the side made by us!!

Day 3 - Good-bye Tuck Inn - Mata-mata- The Shire (Hobbiton)- Auckland

Good-Bye Tuck Inn! These are a few things we will always remember.....
The 'Who Cares' Clock

The breath-taking view from our bedroom and living room

The visitor book at Tuck Inn

My entry in the visitor book- Thank you Kathryn & Marcus!
 Here's a fun fact.. Woolworths is called 'Countdown' in NZ. And we get some unique home-brand products in NZ, which I am yet to see in Australia. Like these rice crisps.....Perfect kiwi snacks for the car!



We soon reached Mata-Mata - from where we boarded a bus for the tour to Hobbiton. That's Anderson Farms, converted into a movie set for all parts of The Lord of the Rings. Its a costly tour, but definitely worth it, especially if you are LOTR fans. 
The Visitor center at Mata Mata- styled to look like a hobbit hole. Don't miss this atleast, if you can't make it to Hobbiton

Near the visitor center at Mata Mata

Anderson Farms or Hobbiton on The Shire

Hobbit Holes in Hobbiton

Samwell Gamjee's Home in the Shire

The Party Tree

Party Tent - Near the party tree

The Hobbit Family- You can dress up in hobbit clothes at the Tavern

After a lovely time at the Hobbiton, we made for Auckland, which was to be our destination for the next two days. We were to stay with Pravin and Smriti, who were kind enough to let 3 couples and 3 kids invade their home. We reached at dinner time and had a delicious fusion dinner of Tandoor Paneer Pizzas from Pakurango's. Oh why don't we have such delights at Melbourne?!! A perfect end to a perfect day.

Day 4 - Omaha Beach, night playing Mafia

Pravin suggested we go to a beach they like, and that's what we did. We stopped in the city for an Indian brunch. Another great find.. I tell you, NZ is the place for vegetarian Indian food.

All natural strawberry ice cream at a place called..well... Ice Cream :D
Fun With Photography at the beach

The beach was fun, with more nutty poses and pictures - good company, good times - Great memories. At night, with all the kids tucked in, Prashant hosted and taught the newbies the mind-game of Mafia. Its so addictive that we were at it until 3 am. 

Day 5 - The Sky Tower, Auckland, Evening flight back home

On day 5, we shopped for some souvenirs, paid a visit to the sky tower, and had another dinner from Pakurango's before heading back home.

The Sky Tower - Auckland

Another memorable trip with a great group of friends. We are waiting for your visit to Melboure now, Pravin & Smriti. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicely done Neha. Next easter, we plan a trip to South Island