Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Travel Diary

I did so much while in New Zealand yet there is so much more to see and do. Slowly I've been uploading samples of pictures but I'm going to load them all onto Flickr and you can go there and view them all in one place. Also, While I was there I kept a daily journal of all we were doing and seeing as I was sure I wouldn't/ couldn't remember it all and would later look and pics and wonder...why did I take this??!!! So....in an effort to tell you about what I did and do it once in one spot I'm going to give you a summary of each day's doings as well as tidbits that other people there shared with me as they were being our "tour guides".

Getting There...

(Summary - Vancouver)

On Sunday, June 22, 2008, we (my mother, my brother, and myself) left Winnipeg airport at 12:55pm and arrived in Vancouver at 2:30pm. Our checked luggage had been checked through to Auckland so we only had to worry about our carry-on while stopping here. So after we found the luggage lockers/check-in, we took the public transit downtown to the Harbour Center/ Vancouver Lookout and walked around downtown a bit.

After lots of pictures and some tourist shopping, we took the public transit back to the airport. We were going to stop for sushi (Matt's request) downtown but most stores had already closed. Once we got back to the airport and retieved our luggage, I used the internet terminal in the airport and at 9:00pm we were departing for New Zealand! :D

Monday, June 23, 2008 didn't happen for us as we crossed over the international date line and Monday was gone.

DAY 1 - Tuesday, June 24, 2008
(Summary-west coast, east coast, haka, oysters)
We arrived in Auckland, New Zealand airport at 5:45am.

We experienced some turbulence during the flight. I managed to sleep some, watched 4 movies on the plane - 27 Dresses; Penelope; How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days; and Definitly, Maybe. My neck & butt were so sore after sitting in that seat for 14 hours. I'm surprisd I didn't get bed sores!!! Breakfast was served on the plane. It was still dark and light rain falling as we left the airport with Uncle Gary. Once we got to his house in about 20 minutes, we just talked and looked at pictures I had brought. Matt & I were antsy to start doing something so we went for a walk through downtown Papakura in the rain. We also met Aunt Betty & Uncle Gary's pet cockatoo, Buddy.

Around 9:30, with Uncle Gary as our tour guide and chauffer, he drove us to see the airstrip and plane in Ardmore that we will be taking a chartered flight on on Saturday weather permitting. Drove through Drury and their were stores called "Drury Lane" - my first question was does the muffin man live here?! Drove through Clevedon and as per Gary, they who live there are hobby farmers, horse people, different/weird people who play polo and nobody else can afford to live there. On the way back we bought fresh, raw oysters at an oyster farm in Kawakaw Bay.Then we drove almost to Orere Point on the east coast (Pacific ocean) and saw seashells everywhere!
Came back to Gary & Betty's for lunch and after lunch Gary as tour guide again, took Matt, Mom, and I to the West coast. We went through Pukekohe. Went to Wesly College (a Methodist College) and watched the opening of the local NZ team playing rugby against a team from Utah, USA. Before kick-off each team did a Maori Haka (War Dance) [see video bar below]
The weather changed from down pouring rain to sun in the matter of 5 min and vice versa So needless to say we saw a couple rainbows while there.
We followed the Waikato River to where it empties into the Tasman Sea on the "wild" west coast at Port Waikato. It was very windy and cold there and we were getting blown off our feet. The sand is black here as well as many other beaches due to the high iron content in the sand.

After we returned home, Gary stoked the fire and we warmed up and had fish buddies for supper. It is their winter season here and the day time high averages around 13 degrees but it is very damp and cool in the evenings. Also, there is no insulation in the houses.

Day 2 - Wednesday, June 25, 2008

(Summary-Bucklands Beach, Harbour bridge, Devonport, Ellerslie AKA "launch pad", One Tree Hill)

Today Gary drove us all around the outskirts of Auckland Cilty. First, we went through Howick. Took some pictures over Cockle Bay. Even though it was misty, you could see the islands - Rangitoto Island "round one with the hill" and Waiheke Island "long one". We continued to Bucklands Beach and saw the house Uncle Brian lived in. The whole time there were rain showers on & off making for rainbows everywhere. I think we saw 4 today...and lots of traffic circles. Rather than lights they often use traffic circles at less busy intersections.
Then we drove across the Harbour Bridge where we saw an awesome view of
Auckland City and LOTS of boats thus its name as The City Of Sails.

Gary explained that before the bridge was built there wasn't much housing on the side of the river north of the bridge. But since it was built all the housing has just been sprouting up there in the past 40 years. When the bridge was first built it was four lanes wide (2 each way) and shortly after it was opened, it wasn't big enough for all the traffic. So they built "clip-on sides" and added 2 more lanes each way making it the 8 lanes wide it is today. Went to Albany to do an errand then continued on to Devonport. Stopped at Milford beach before having lunch at a cafe. Then drove through Takapuna and went to Devonport Beach and saw the ferry coming in. Also in Devonport, we went to another large hill - Mount Victoria- 87 meteres (283 ft) above sea level, the highest volcanic cone in Devonport. The first coastal fortifications were built on the mountain and a disappearing gunis inside the hill.
After we went back over the bridge we went to "a" boating marina (one of many!). Then continued along the waterfront. Saw lots of yachts, the Hilton Hotel which is in the shape of a cruise ship. Past the warf and through Mission Bay (Matt's dream place to live)and St. Heliers.
Next was Ellerslie and we saw Gary & Betty's first house and where I was "launched from" - the last place we stayed before going to Canada when I was just 2 months old.
Next onto One Tree Hill. Wow, who would have imagined in the middle of a city you'd see sheep roaming free in the fields and crossing the road.

One Tree Hill is in Cornwall Park - a large area of land (about 300 acres)that was donated by the founder of Auckland. It was donated to the city with the condition it is never altered. One Tree Hill is an extinct volcano (one of the largest in Auckland) and former fortress, the hill rises 183 meters above sea level!
We also drove to Henderson to look at the NZ Bible College as mom knows someone going there. On the way back home, Gary had to fill the car with gas. Gas prices in NZ at that time were $210.9/litre. It cost $75.00 for 35.56 litres!!!!!
We all (Gary, Betty, Mom, Matt & I) went to he Stampede Bar for supper. We were going to walk as it is just a short 5-10 minute walk from G & B house but ater answering the phone, it started pouring....so we drove. The Stampede Bar is similar to what we know here as Montana's. Apparently Kiwis DON'T leave tips and prefer we tourists don't either or "the locals will be expected to do the same.". After we came back home, we watched rugby on tv and had "supper" (snack before bedtime) - tea & fruitcake. *The third meal of the day is dinner or "tea"*

Day 3 - Thusday, June 26, 2008

(Summary- Train to Downtown, Skytower, Full house)

I woke up early today and both Matt & I were ready to go early. Once Mom was ready, the three of us left the house around 10am and walked to the papakura train station. Uncle Gary was busy picking lots of people up at the airport today, so the three of us were going downtown for the day. It was about a 30 min train ride from papakura to downtown Auckland. Nastutiums as well as calla lilies, cannas, and pampa grass grow wild like weeds along the hillside and in the ditches. Once there, we walked up the hill also known as Queen Street to the Skytower. First we went to the main observation deck and then up to the skydeck (another 15 stories higher). I stood on the glass floor and stood 192 m (630 ft) above Auckland streets. We also saw two people jump.

After buying some gifts at the Skytower gift shop, we went to Victoria Market were we bought some more gifts including finding the perfect wedding gift for a friend of mine.
Next we walked back to the ferry deck and took the ferry over to Devonport.

First we ate lunch at a cafe and Matt tried spirulina - a fruit drink that a guy described as pond scum/water. Looks gross but tastes good. There are some trees in Devonport with HUGE roots:

Wow, where did the day go!..it was already getting dark so we took the ferry back downtown, Matt & I stayed outside for one VERY WINDY ride. We finally arrived back home in Papakura around 7pm to a full house!- Cousin Paul & Maite with their two kids- Laura & Brian (from Auckland); Cousin Craig & Joanne with their two kids- Rachael & Steven (from Brisbane, Australia); Uncle Brian (Wollongong, Australia)as well as a couple other relatives of mom's. Most people left around 11pm. Brian, Gary, Betty, Mom & I talked until almost midnight.

Day 4 - Friday, June 27, 2008

(Summary - Museum, Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World)

Paul & Craig along with their families came over for breakfast around 9am. After a big breakfast everyone seemed to be going their own way with various plans so Uncle Brian took Mom, Matt & I to the Museum and we saw a Maori Cultural Performance. First they sang, danced and displayed a cultural stick game.

Finally, the did a Maori Haka [see video bar below]. Next we stopped for ice-cream on our way to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World. Very Cool!!! We saw live penguins, stingray & sharks.

Then we returned home after Uncle Brian kept trying to ask us for directions pretending he was lost when infact he knew where to go all along. We had BBQ'd lamb chops tonight. In addition to everyone that was here for breakfat some more people rom the wedding party had arrived. Aunt Betty comes from a large family and so Paul & Craig have a total of 34 cousins on that side of the family but on their dad's side, Matt & I are their only cousins. Needless to say we all looked at lots of photo and talked and learned about each other...and talked until 11:30pm.

Day 5 - Saturday, June 28, 2008

(Summary - Tropical Butterfly House, Red Ruby Restaurant, group pictures)

I got to chat with BJ & J together on MSN - it was great to talk to both of them again. Family started arriving around 9am for breakfast. Unfortunately the chartered plane trip over Auckland city that my Uncle was going to take us all on had to be postponed till tomorrow due to rain squalls. The rain stopped shortly aftr breakfast. Uncle Brian, Mom, Matt & I walked through downtown Papakura to get a 40th anniversary card for Aunt Betty & Uncle Gary. After we returned home, I phoned Aunt Linda (Dad's sister) in New Plymouth to inform her we'll be coing to N.P. on Tuesday and would love to visit her and her son (my cousin whom I've only seen in pics) who lives next door.
Since the plane trip for today was no longer a go, we all - 26 of us (friends, family & wedding party) piled into two minivans driven but Paul & Craig and went to the Tropical Butterfly House

After we came back home, I went to Paul & Mayti's house and she showed me her garden & plants as well as inside her house which they were packing up as they were getting ready to move to Australia. We had some tea to drink and looked at kids pictures. Once we returned to Gary & Betty's we all got readt for "tea" AKA dinner and all got in the minivans again and rode down to the Red Ruby Chinese Restaurant for all-you-can-eat. In addition to regular chinese food, I also had mussels, oysters, and squid. Yum! Once back home, we all posed for various group pictures. G & B's neighbor, Diane, took the pics and will be amking a DVD for everyone to keep pics from this weekend. Aunt Betty brought out her wedding dress and re-enacted the bridal march...in her pink slippers...more pics! :)
I was so tired after today...gotta go to sleep so I can be awake for tomorrow!

Day 6 - Sunday, June 29, 2008

(Summary- Matamata, Hamilton, meet Amber & Vicky)

Got up this morning around 8am (like usual) and had the usual breakfast of Wheatabix and rather than fejohas, today we had peaches. Family started to arrive around 9am for the big breakfast. Diane came and gave people their DVDs/CD of the pics she had made of the anniversary w/e. When we woke up it was raining but it had stopped and cleared up after breakfast. Unfortunately, the plane ride was cancelled as therewere afternoon squalls in the forcast. It was about 9:30 am now and too late to go to the Vineyard church as we had hoped we might be able to do had the plane ride been Saturday. So, instead everyone kind of made their own plans for the day. At about 11:30 am we (Mom, Matt & I with Uncle Brian as driver left to go to Matamata and then to Vicky's in Hamilton. On the way we drove through Huntly, and Cambridge and up Bucklands Rd - a long, narrow windey road through the hills and countryside. It was beautiful!! At the top was the Shire's Rest where we took some pics.

This is where part of the Lord Of The Rings was filmed
There wasn't much in way of gifts for kids as Wynn really enjoys these movies so I thought I may get something for him in Matamata. As we drove into Matamata, I got my pic taken by the Welcome To Hobbiton Sign
It was about 4:15pm and unfortunately almost everything was closed. :( (Oh-No!! What about Wynn?!) So we returned to the Shire's Rest where I got a couple little things. Then we drove to Hamilton and found Vicky's house. Met Vicky (37) & Amber (16). Vicky had cooked a delicious dinner for us, we looked at pictures and took some more pictures. Amber kept waiting for her Canadian guestes to say "eh" so she could count the number of times we said it. unfortunately, we aren't very stereotypical Canadaians as we only said it once.
Vicky is my half-sister

Vicky showed us to our rooms. I slept in the spare room, Mom in amber's room and Matt & Brian CHOSE to sleep in the livingroom on a foam matress & couch respectively so they could watch T.V. infront of the fire.
In the morning we are planning to visit the Hamilton Botanical Gardens.

Day 7 - Monday, June 30, 2008

(Summary - Hamilton Botanical Gardens (HBG), Return to Papakura, Uncle Brian to airport, One Tree Hill (2nd time), Auckland Botanical Gardens (ABG) )

I woke up around 7:30am. got up and showered at 8am. The toilet is really weird/old fashioned as you wind the crank to flush. we had crumpets for breakfast. Talked some more - Vicky really likes painting and art. We left around 9am and to everyone's surprise there was NO RAIN!!! Infact, there was blue sky and no clouds. However it was much colder than Auckland is in the morning. I could see my breath inside and outside and there was a tiny bit of ice crystals on the windsheild. When we left, we went to the HBG with Uncle Brian. Not much is in flower but still it is more than we have in Canada during the winter. I really liked the Italian and Hindu Gardens.

At one of the garden lookouts, a Maori New Zealander asked me if I was a tourist and am I aboriginal. Apparently he thought I might be Maori as I'm "short, have a square-shaped face...just the wrong skin color...". Boy did I have him fooled, just wait till he hears me try to speak Maori, then he might change his mind!!! ;)
We had to return to Papakura aroung 12:30pm as Craig and family were waiting for the car to drive it to New Plymouth. They will be there for a few weeks and we'll meet them there when we go on Tuesday.
Mom, Matt & I went in the back seat of the car as Uncle Gary drove Uncle Brian back to the airport for 2:00pm. We took some pictures of the terminal as it was raining & dark when we arrived at 6am and it will probably be dark when we leave (8pm). After we said good bye to Uncle Brian and he was off to Australia, we )Mom, Matt, Gary & I) continued to one Tree Hill as it is clear today. The last time we were there is was raining. Needless to say, we took more pics. :)Uncle Gary showed us just how narrow the land becomes and how close the east water (Pacific ocean) andwest water are (Tasman Sea). In the photo below, look for the green and orange building in the center of the picture and you can see the tip of each body of water on each side of the building:

He also pointed out all the extinct volcanoes and I got a picture of Mt Eden and MountWellington. In the distance you could also see the Bombay Hills. We drove over them going to Hamilton and Uncle Brian's comment was Aucklander's believe that after you go over them going south that is the end of civilization.
On the way home, Uncle Gary decided to stop at the Auckland Botanical Gardens and didn't tell anyone. YAY!!! "Are we going IN here?", I asked. :D WOW! is all I can say. Who would have thought there would be so much color and in flower. I couldn't stop taking pictures. Matt really likes all the palm trees.
We got back home around 5:30pm...after Uncle Gary stopped to buy a new drip coffee maker for mom & Matt as they burnt the other one out. We sat infrontof the fire, wrote our journal and Mom & I read/sent emails.
Tomorrow will be an early start as Uncle Gary has to take Kim and her kids to the airport for 7:30am. After breakfast we'll be off to New Plymouth.
Diane came over while we were getting supper ready (mashed potatoes, carrots & beans and roast corned beef with white sauce (YUMMY!). Diane offered Mom, Matt, & I our choice of keychain or magnet of the Skytower. She took day and night photos of the Skytower and they are now being used on things like the magnet I got.

Day 8 - Tuesday, July 1, 2008

(Summary- Drive to New Plymouth, Kiwi House, meet Lew & Margaret)

I got up early this am. While Uncle Gary was taking Kim & her boys to the airport, we had breakfast and got ready to go.Breakfast today was muesli, peaches and yogurt (that Aunt Betty had made). I sent Jeannette an email and talked to J this am. D'oh, I forgot to wish her a happy birthday so will have to leave an email tonight. We (Uncle Gary, Mom, Matt & I) left for New Plymouth around 9:30am. It is about a 4 hour drive non-stop. As we drove over the Bombay Hills, Gary explained it was about 50km from One Tree Hill (where you could see the ridge of the hills) to Bombay Hills. Aucklanders say that over the Bombay Hills is the end of the world. THe people outside Auckland call the people who live in Auckland, Jeffers or "Just another F'n Aucklander"
In Tauripiri ("the sacred hill" Maori call it), we saw a Maori cemetery where the Maori queen is buried. The higher you go, the more important you are. However she didn't want any big monument. She was brought up the river on a canoe. Stopped the train (as per Uncle Brian) and closed the highway. Her son now rules.

We saw a train (gotta tell Uncle Brian as he LOVES trains :)) in Huntly "Home Of The Huntly Clay Brick". Saw a Maori palace and meeting place in Tauripiri. Driving down the highway, landscape changes as Ngaruawahia is mostly dairy farms. I took pictures of Pirongia mountain (green) and saw Mt Ruapehu and the tip of Mt Ngauruhoe in the distance. The are mountains in the middle of the North Island. Mt Ruapehu is the highest point in the North Island.
We went to the Kiwi House in Otorohanga. Watched the kiwi feeding at 1:30pm. Very interesting. The lady that was feeding had to take someone else in whom she is training. Atu - the great-spotted Kiwi is normally finicky and territorial. this time she expectedly wouldn't eat while the stranger was around, instead Atu kept trying to attack her throught he fence. Other birdes we saw were a Kea (they eat shiny things esp in Queenslans, South Island. Matt was told for this reason if he goes to Queensland he should rent rather than use his own vehicle.), Tui, Parakeet, NZ pigeon, Kingfisher, and Oystercatcher.
Once around Te Kuiti, land becomes hillier (rougher) and there is no more dairy cattle, now beef & sheep. Thus the reason Te Kuiti is known as the sheep sheering capital of the world.
Between Te Kuiti and Piopio, rocks are seen on the hillside from volcanic activity.

Rocks have been there untoghed since mom can remember.
Gary explained that in the area between Strofford & Taumarumui (abut 2 hours from Auckland) there are about 43 tunnels throught he mountain.

Very few people live in that area. Before Awakino we drove through a tunnel then followedroad along the Mokau River and through a gorge. It was an awesome drive, trees all around, long windey road through treed mountains. It was actually Arroragani Scenic Reserve until it came out at the coast in Awakino. At a scenic lookout over the Mokau river we could see the tip of My Egmont through the clouds.

The Mokau River is known as the border between Kings Country & Taranaki (AKA New Plymouth. We arrived at Lew (Mom & Gary's cousin)& Margaret's (his wife)around 5:30 pm. We ate tea (AKA dinner) then we called relatives to arrange meeting together tomorrow. I talked to Aunt Linda (Dad's sister). They live on 5 acres and Jeff, my cousin, is next door. Jeff works renovating houses and he has a 13 yr old daughter who we will also meet tomorrow evening.
We sat in the LR, watched tv, looked at Martin geneology & old pics Lew has compiled. Also looked at pics of an old car that Lew built - Austin Healy body and all the mechanicals are a 1934 ford V-8. He wanted to put a V-12 motor but it was too expensive. Lew really likes restoring old motorbikes. He has 3 Indians in his garage and others he'll show us tomorrow.

Day 9 - July 2, 2008

(Summary - toured New Plymouth, St Mary's Cathedral, Pukekura Park, Meet mom's cousins, meet Aunt Linda & Jeff, Lew's bikes)

I woke up around 7am but didn't hear anyone else up so went back to sleep. Got up at 8:15am. We left around 10am. Margaret had to go for an eye appt at 9am. After breakfast, Lew took us out to the garage. I took lots of pics of all the bikes in their various stages of restoration. Saw Lew's car and I sat in it. It's just the right size for me! :) Now I just need to learn how to drive a stick shift.

When we left (Mom, Gary, Matt & I) we started out tour aroung New plymouth by going to Paritutu - the big rock and Agent Orange Factory.

We went along the coast and saw port Taranaki - New Plymouth is the busiest port on the west. Dairy goes out and petrol & oil come in.
We saw the breakwater - now mostly port. Used to be the beach where mom would go to lots when young. Next stop- St. James Church where mom & dad got married.
Then off to - Puke Ariki. It runs along the coast, it was just train lines before but now is a park/walkway (see the windwand). Mom used to work at the train station here.
We walked up the hill to St Mary's Cathedral - the oldest stone church in New Zealand.

The new part of the cathedral was built in 1993, stone was purchased that matches exactly the old building that was built in .In the cemetery behing the church we saw a gravestone of my great-great-great grandfather Sartan who immigrated from England to New Zealand.
We met Craig, Jo & Kids for lunch. They said they'd take us up the mountain in the morning if we want. :D
After lunch, we went to East End Beach. This is where mom used to surf. Up the beach was a street called Courtenay Street with Aunty Mona's house, the vicarage pottery and "Gram & Gramps house".
We also saw several houses where mom & her family lived while she was growing up. We continued on to see where the Waiwakaiho River emties into the Tasman Sea. muddy water from the river empties into and mixes with blue sea water.
Next we visited the "New Cemetery" and the "Old Cemetery" and saw the gravestones of my great-grandmother & great'grandfater as well as my mom's parents (my grandparents).
Then we drove to Brooklands Park. While we were there it started pouring, "raining buckets"! It was in this park that my cousin Craig & Jo got married. Saw the ampitheater where there has been many a concerts. The last concert there was Elton john in March '08.
Next we were off to Aunty Marg's to meet mom's cousins that were able to get together for a visit. It stopped raining once we got there. After a great visit and meeting everyone, we went for tea with Lew, Margaret, Craig, Jo & kids. After tea they stayed and visited while we went to Alfred Rd and saw Aunty Linda, Jeff & Jeff's daughter-Elizabeth. We had a good visit share addresses and looked at lots of pics.
One the way back into New Plymouthas we passed Pukeiti, Mom & Gary mentioned that there is the largest rhodadendrum garden in NZ up on a mountain and the prime bloom time is Novemeber.
When we got back to Lew & Margaret's, Lew showed us an article in Bike Rider magazine Dec/Jan '07 Issue 34 that features him and his motorbike. He also showed us Craig's webpage on the net for his business, CDK Engineering, www.cdke.com.au/

Day 10 - July 3, 2008

(Summary- Westown Base Hospital, Mt Egmont, Waitomo Caves, return to Papakura)

First thing this morning we were off to meet Jo & Craig. On the way we drove past Whakawhiti Rd which is where dad lived with Aunt sharon & Ron and where mom met him. We also saw Westown Base Hospital which is where I was born. Apparently the maternity ward in on the second floor of the wing to the left of the main hospital and mom was at the end of the floor.

At Craig & Jo's hotel room, we met Jo's mother (who lives in New Plymouth) and took more pictures. Jo & the kids went with her mom, Gary went to the hospital to visit Betty's mom. (a 93 year old lady who was living alone on the farm until she recently had a stroke), and Craig took Mom, Matt & I up the mountain. It was raining and so misty. The windows were fogged and it was hard to see in front of us as the road was so narrow and windey. It was POURING rain when we were at the mountain house. We managed to see the mountain for about a minute but couldn't even see downtown New Plymouth through all the mist.
(This is what I saw)
(normally you can see it out the viewing window).

(This is what I should have seen.)
Jo & Craig were here at the mountain yesterday and all was clear. They apparently got great pictures of the mountain (Mt Egmont) and Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro which are in the centre of the island. I'm going to ask Jo if she can email the pics to me. Craig gave me his business card with email addy.

We drove aroung looking at more houses mom remembers then went to the hospital to meet Uncle Gary. When Craig phoned, Uncle Gary asked him to come in as Betty's mom is not doing well. And said Paul & Betty must make arrangements to come ASAP. Craig went in and we stayed in the car and waited about 30 min.

Once they came out again, we said bye to Craig then we were off. We saw a couple more sights such as the rugby field at West End Park. Then we were on the road againafter stoppingfor something to eat at a gas station. I had spirulina (yummy!), the cashier however thought otherwise. "You can't drink that, it's off!", he said sarcastically. We left New Plymouth at 1:50pm (almost 2 hours later than we had hoped around noon. But we had unexpected circumstances so what is one to do?!)

We drove through Waitra AKA "memory lane" for mom and saw wild turkeys and pheasants crossing the road. Continued on driving throught the gorge and Mt Messenger. Awesome, natural beauty! It's like I'd imagine it would be going through the jungle - trees, palms& ferns everywhere.

Drove through Te Kuiti to Waitomo Caves. We arrived there at 4pm and went for a private tour (only us)at 4:30pm. It was very awesome, unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos though :(. The stalagtites (up) and stalagmites (down) take 1000yrs to grow 1cm squared.
There was a line above our heads where you can see the water line. The last flood that was that high was about 4 years ago. Two days ago it was flooded up the stairs so you couldn't enter the lower level where you go on the boat. *We all decided it was a good thing we didn't stop here on the way down to New plymouth. Observing the rivers on the way down, Uncle Gary stated the water was too high....he was right!* In the cathedral (the largest open area of the cave) many concerts have taken place there due to the acoustics. Some concerts have included opera, Sting, Rod Stewart, Kenny Rogers, U2, and the Beatles.

We went throught the glowworm tunnel on the boat but could not enter out the end of the cave as the entrance was flooded. - The space between the londest stalagtite and the water was about 1 ft (12 inches). During the flood 4 years ago, many of the glowworms on the side of the cave were washed away. So most of the ones we saw were in a long band along the top. The tour guide explained how many of the stalagtites and stalagmites have been named. There is a Kiwi family "the mom (tallest) with a bun in her hair, holding baby in a blanket (side) with the son on her lap (lower) and family dog (on the floor) with the dad worked to the ground (small seperate slalagmite). Other ones included a bungy diving Kiwi, side of an elephant head and face of a dog.

We got back to Papakura around 7:15pm. Betty was home and had supper ready. After supper Uncle Gary checked his email and once he was done, he told me to go satisfy my cravings (figured I must have gone into withdrawal) lol :)

I said good-bye to Aunt Betty tonight incase I don't see her before she goes to work in the morning.

Day 11- Friday, July 4, 2008

(Summary - souvenir shopping downtown, goodbyes, going home :( )

I woke up early this morning, heard Betty getting ready for work. I heard mom get up and Uncle Gary tell her she should go back to bed. I was in denial thinking that if I didn't get up then today wouldn't come to an end. I did get up eventually as I was awake anyway. It was sunny and blue skies when I got up. I signed onto the computer and BJ was on so we stated chatting. After a bit she had to go eat supper and I had to eat breakfast - Wheetabix, fejohas, and homemade yogurt. I said good-bye to Betty again before she went to work. I packed all my clothes and gifts so we were ready. After Gary came back from dropping Betty off at work, he drove Mom, Matt & I to a souvenir shop (used to be) in papakura. Unfortunatley it was no longer there. So we went back to Gary's and got our coat's as it looked like it could rain. Mom, Matt & I walked to Papakura train station and got a day pass to go to Britomart so we could finish our shopping. At the station we observed a confrontation. A Maori native (teen?) crossed the tracks to the loading platform . An older (50?) short train station attendant approached him and told him not to do that, he can walk around like everyone else. The native responded, "It's my land, I can do what I want!" then proceeded to say something (insult?) to the train guy and called him a "Whitey...". The train guy who WAS walking away, turned around, asked"what did you call me?" and hit the native with his arm/elbow. The native then knocked the guy to the groundand another native came to join/help the fisrt native. The police/security were then on the scene. The train worker told the natives they were not to go on the train, they had to find alternate forms of transportation and IF they did get on, the train wouldn't leave the station. Luckily (for me who really wanted to go shopping), they did not get on. Once we got downtown to Queen St, we were reminded of the truckers "road rage" Trucks everywhere lining the streets and blowing air horns. NOISY!!

We went to each souvenir shop going up Queen St and I spent more money Friday than I have the whole time here in NZ. We stopped halfway up Queen St for lunch - sandwich & green tea. We saw and took pics of a student march/protest against student debt. We were back on the train around 2pm and back in Papakura about 3pm. Gary's eyes were HUGE as we walked through the doors with all our bags (before we left we had said we just had a few things left to get :)). After we got everything else packed, suitcases weighed and items juggled, Gary took us to Paul & Maite's house to say goodbye. The people were there filling their container as they were moving to Austraila on July 7. Maite was very emotional about the move and kept hugging and kissing us (guess that made sure we didn't leave.) Next we went to Betty's work to say goodbye (again :)). Finally on to the airport. Gary dropped us off and it took us atleast an hour to get our bags checked in as the line up was very long. Inside customs, they had to open mine & Matt's carry-on to check some of our gifts as they looked "suspicious" on the x-ray. Unfortunatley they had to unwrap Jill's wedding gift. The cane I got for Edwin and wascarrying since it didn't fit in any suitcase also needed to be unwrapped. Then we were told that if it wasn't being used then we can't take it as it could be used as a weapon. So mom pretended to hobble and need it. :)
By the time we got to the gate, boarding had started. However we didn't end up taking of until after 8:30pm (more than 1/2 hour past the scheduled 8pm departure time) due to a rainstorm.

During take-off we couldn't see much as it was dark outside and rain on the windows. I spent the first part of the flight writing this. Ate supper (lamb). There was a NZ rugby team of high school age boysgoing on a Canadian Tour. Toronto-Montreal-Halifax then going touring to Calgary, Banff, and BC coast (*Note not going to MB :( )

....once we were almost to Vancouver, I was feeling rather weird....it's been such a long plane ride but it is still the same day, infact earlier than when we left NZ (WEIRD@) I tried to see the sunrise but the airline attendant kept telling me to close the window as people were sleeping.
I tried to sleep a little but not much room...++cramped. So I listened to music & played Tetris much of the way. we had breakfast on the plane.

When we went to collect our luggage after landing in Vancouver, it took a while as there was a jammed belt. i was hoping maybe my bags were left in NZ and I had a reason to go back. :D Unfortunatley,, it wasn't to be :( as my bags cake once the belt was fixed. The weather here was cloudy and so it was hard to get a good view of the mountains...I'm sitting at the departure gate. It's 1750 (Vancouver time) and we don't start boarding for about another 20 min (1810hrs) and take-off isn't until 1845hrs. The internet terminals don't work, and haven't for sometime at this gate so I went to another one hoping to chat with BJ or J. Neither were online so I left messages, checked my email and came bach here to wait.

On the flight to Wpg we experienced some periods of turbulence. There were no games and no tv on this Air Canada flight so I listened to music and napped a bit until we started to descend. After a 13 hour flight, this 4 hour flight didn't seem long at all. Cliff & the kids & Ted were waiting at the airport.
When we came home, Autumn had made me a card. Cliff & the kids put up a welcome home banner & ballons. WOW!, Cliffie was a busy beaver while I was gone. All the carpets, couches, and matresses had been steamcleaned. The cracked area above the deck door was sealed, painted , and border back up; the lawn mowed; flowers so big. The kids wanted to see what I got them before we went to bed (landed in WPG at 11:35pm). Liam, Wynn 7 Autumn went to sleep and about 1am I came to bed with Cliff. I woke up in the morning with Liam beside me asking for juice and telling me it's morning and time to get up (9am)..............................