Thursday, September 12, 2002

OK, so now it is almost halfway through September and we flew home on September 1- but I want to try to record the balance of our trip anyway. So, where was I – Sydney day 2 Ithink…

Time to walk through Darling Harbor (a few blocks from our hotel) to get to the Aquarium at the far end. Aidan as per usual greatly enjoyed the fountains – and there was quite a variety of water features to admire. One was a “wall” of water set in front of some restrooms under a freeway on-ramp (I think) that would periodically start and stop. I had a great deal of trouble persuading my son to move on – and this was only the 1st one we came to! There was also a rather nifty playground – unusual use of small manmade hills and canopies that made for an nice sculptural area to look at from passer-byers perspectives. Aidan saw a little tram go by a few times – a fake train thing. Of course he NEEDED to ride on it. It just cruised the length of the Harbor area for $5 or something like that. I put him off hoping he would forget about it… So we finally made it to the Aquarium. You get to thinking sometimes that these places are very large as they take so long to traverse with a toddler. Yet when you walk them alone a few days later in under 15 minutes … Aidan certainly adds a dimension to your perspective of a place!

The Aquarium was fairly large and a good one. I think there is at least one other Aquarium in the Sydney area but I think this is the main one. There is rightfully an emphasis on Australian critters. Just inside the entrance is a Platypus viewing area. I guess they are nocturnal creatures as both here and at the zoo the area was dark. They were smaller than I imagined but fun to watch zipping around. Dave & Aidan were captivated. As I sat in the dark on a bench with Quincy, a couple of Asian women managed to see and be captivated by my youngest. As usual, wanting to hold him. We spent a lot of time in the first area which had smallish tanks with various “local” fish and crustaceans and pooped out for the latter stuff which was really probably the better stuff. There was an outside area where you could watch seals laying around and go in a tunnel thru the water to watch them swim by – should they ever get off their rocks… (they didn’t for us). There is a nifty shark and friends (?) area where you are in a glass tunnel so they can swim on either side and above you. Aidan liked the frogman cleaning the tank with a vacuum hose. Quincy screamed. He is NOT good about napping anywhere/anytime in his stroller etc like most kids. He found the Aquarium too stimulating and couldn’t let himself go to sleep. It looked like there was an equivalent tunnel tank for reef type fish that wasn’t open which would have been good. There were some decent reef exhibits tho to view. Pretty fish. The closest we would come to the Great Barrier Reef – this trip anyway. Pete had tried to get us there but the cost at such a late date made it seem a poor choice. We grabbed a so so bite to eat in the café before exiting. Then Aidan reminded me of my promise of a tram/train ride… So we left Nanma & Pop in possession of Quincy (peacefully sleeping at last) and headed off to the other end where we could visit those toilets under the freeway next to the water wall… Nanma & Pop caught up with us quickly. They headed back to the Aquarium in the evening as it was open til 10 and tickets were good all day - while I put the kids down. I was envious. I am sure we must have done something else that day – perhaps that was our Vietnamese dinner night.

Tuesday morning we caught a bus outside our hotel to Circular Quay (the central area where buses, trains & ferries all stop very close to the Opera House). It is a short walk into the Botanical Gardens leading down to the Opera House. I planned to take Aidan on the little tram ride 20 minute tour of the Gardens that we had taken when we had our few hour stop over at the very beginning of our Down Under Adventure. Phyllis & Dave elected to join us for the ride and save their legs a few steps. It was quite a different experience than the first time – mainly in that the gardens were relatively empty. I had last been there on Anzac Day – a national holiday. The weather was still nice although perhaps a bit cooler – and a nice spring day instead of a nice fall day… I then saw how Aidan was nodding off so we headed home on the train for a nap. After a long naptime the boys and I went out for a mid-afternoon meal down at near the ferry wharf on the otherside of the Aquarium. I had spotted this place when visiting the Aquarium – they had nice pizzas and salads and outside seating with large umbrellas to keep the sun off. We had a very pleasant time of it. Afterwards we just killed some time while waiting for the ferry by watching the monorail (or model-rail as Aidan calls it) and taxi boats and tourists. We took a ½ hour ferry ride to Circular Quay – the wrong direction from our hotel and by myself I could walk there in that time – but that wasn’t the point. Trying to get in as many vehicles as possible in one day! Did I mention that we rode the monorail to get from our hotel to the harbor for lunch? Bus, train, tram, monorail, ferry – pretty good huh? The ferry ride was also at sundown and took us across the river to the giant face at the closed down amusement park. Cool. Talked to a nice South Afrikaner woman – she and her husband and 2 boys (both about 2 yrs older than mine) had been in the same monorail car as us. She had done the bridge climb and highly recommended it. Maybe next trip… We met a lot of South Afrikaners in New Zealand too (including my hairdresser). Phyllis and Dave, well, I don’t really remember what they were doing with their time – either ferry to Manly or visiting the Opera House or??? They were home after kiddie bedtime.

Wednesday I think was zoo day (I may have my Tues and Wed confused here). A nifty set up whereby you need to take the ferry across the river to get there. Beautifully situated so that you have vistas back to the Opera House and bridge and skyline at various points. A great sunny start turned into rain shortly after our arrival although we did get warm sunny weather again before we left. We just missed getting to stand next to Koalas – but did get a bench under shelter. We saw more platypus. Saw a seal lion show – you know the kind – they do tricks for fish. Saw a bird show set on a cliff with the city view behind. Fed giraffes some carrots (too bad I got lousy photos of this – it was pretty fun) – Aidan was intimidated – the giraffes have VERY long (black) tongues! They were the one animal he said he wanted to see at the zoo. Again there was a really pretty view of the city. Phyllis treated us all to ice cream cones – very popular with Aidan! I had grabbed a very good warm croissant sandwich that Aidan & I shared as we walked – but P & D hadn’t had any lunch. A peacock showed off his tail feathers – seemingly to Aidan – as we finished our ice creams. We saw some other animals like mountain sheep or goats and gorillas and meerkats. Unfortunately the San Diego zoo spoils you a bit. This zoo wasn’t that large and had fairly mainstream animals, but they had done a good job of using their site. We took a gondola up from the ferry (Phyllis took a bus) and then mostly just walked downhill back to the ferry. Dave enjoyed the tiger pacing right beside the viewing glass. We headed back to the hotel where we enjoyed some good Chinese takeout from SuperBowl. I’m pretty sure I have Tues and Wed mixed up here as Wed night Pete arrived after the boy’s bedtime from Auckland (finally finishing his project after several 16 hr days) and Phyllis & Dave had just gotten home from an afternoon at Manly Beach.

Anyway – we were happy to have Daddy join us at last. Pete had put in a request for viewing Manly & Bondi Beaches from before he ever left NZ so of course Thursday it was time to head off to the beach… Bondi Beach. We took a couple of buses to get there and got to see a few more neighborhoods on the way (looked interesting to me). Bondi is a huge crescent of white sand and crashing waves with requisite surfers. I think in season it can look as crowded as those Coney Island pictures you see. It was truly some of the finest sand I have seen. After letting Aidan do a little raking in the sand we headed off to the right (as you looked at the water) where my Lonely Planet book (and emails with friends) said you could do a nice cliff walk down to a couple more beaches/communities. I think we did about 2.5km along the cliffs. Really very nice. We had some concerns as there were quite a few stairs near the beginning – and we were toting a stroller and heavy backpack on it and Phyllis has bad knees etc. But soon it was an easy walk with almost no steps to traverse. We sat up high (on conveniently placed benches) and gazed out to sea. A very pretty sunny day. The next beach along had a toilet for Aidan and a small playground for a little break. The next one along had a series of cafes with waterviews although they were further from the water/beach than my book had suggested. We had a good bite to eat mid afternoon before catching a bus back to Bondi Junction and a train to the city. P & D had offered to babysit if Pete & I wanted to go out. So we took the opportunity (after bedtime of kids) to go across the street to the Market City or whatever it was called (mall) and catch a movie. I am drawing a blank on what we saw – it was Tom Clancy with Ben Afleck action flick – and pretty decent although it was about nuclear attack on Baltimore and it bothered my sleep a bit the next couple of nights I have to say. It may have been the 1st movie I saw in a theater since Harry Potter with my Mom at Xmas time last and sleeping infant Quincy in my lap.

Friday P & D headed off on a long bus trip to Canberra – the planned city capital of AU. The rest of us took advantage of the beautiful sunny day to head to Manly Beach on the ferry. The ferry lets you off on the river side and then you pass through a fairly short street/plaza (no cars) to get to the ocean beach. Again there was wonderful fine grained bone white sand. I really liked it especially compared to the NZ sands as there were no shells and rocks in it for Quincy to put in his mouth. He really couldn’t even get the sand in his mouth (and after one taste he gave up anyway). We had a nice lunch at a hole in the wall health food place with courtyard seating. Quincy by this time was being fed anything on my (or anyone else’s plate I could access) that was reasonably soft and didn’t have any of the main no no food (egg whites, raw honey, peanuts, etc.) He has a MUCH more varied baby diet than Aidan did at this age. There was a little tiny beach side playground for Aidan. We also enjoyed taunting the waves (we also got our rolled up pants a bit wet). Quincy enjoyed the feel of the sand and the experience of crawling thru it – you should have seen the glee in his little face. A good day out all told.

Saturday the whole crew headed down to the Opera House via a long walk thru the Botanical Gardens and a couple little stops at the convict (?) museum (we only saw the entrance but it looked like it was a well done museum) and the Library (had a Gallery we thought we might want to see). We thought we might try to take a tour of the Opera House (and all 200 steps along the way). But we didn’t really see any tours that day (lots of Matinees etc instead) and we couldn’t come up with a good plan to deal with the kids/stroller etc. So we settled for my only “nice” meal in Sydney at one of the waterfront outdoor Opera cafes. Really very good and made Bev happy. I’d only been there a week… A bit of confusion afterwards occurred. I think P & D were trying to catch a ferry to head the other way on the river. Pete was interested in another ferry ride too. I wanted to look around The Rocks area (we had seen it on the Explorer Bus oh so long ago – older houses and buildings out of limestone etc). I ended up giving Pete my vehicle pass – and him running off with my wallet (accidental??) leaving me with a 3 – 4 km walk home with just a map in hand. I had a very nice time and walked out under the bridge to almost the end / point. I was very attracted to The Rocks and would love to stay there “next time”. Mostly a 2-story area with tree lined streets – very restful after the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. I tried to photograph what I think of as “traditional” Sydney residential architecture – sort of row houses with a party wall between each unit that extends beyond the rest of the structure in all directions by a foot or two. And iron railing work on the balconies that reminded me of New Orleans. I hadn’t seen quite this style before and am a bit curious about its origin. There were great looking shops. I went in a couple – very high caliber crafts, art and wood working. Regretting my lack of wallet… I also wandered thru a street festival or craft fair of very high quality for that sort of thing. Then I wandered down the residential streets past a few quiet hotels then I ended up back at the end of Darling Harbor again. Past were I had shared pizza and salad with the kids. Past the Aquarium. Over the bridge that led to the Maritime Museum (would love to visit next time). Checked out a mall on the other side. I had made NO purchases in AU so far – and it was almost time to leave! Of course our bags were overflowing already. But I spied a T-shirt or 2 I liked and a couple small gifts I’d like to have… I was back to the hotel at our 5.30 meeting time – Pete was late with the boys – Quincy was a bit hungry! We had leftovers thanks to our big frig, microwave and previous asian meals. Pete & Dave had a date to see a movie at IMAX in Darling Harbor at 8. I wrestled Aidan & Quincy down so that I could get back to the shops at that mall before 9 p.m. closing time. Pete never knew I was gone… It was interesting to be out there on a Saturday night. The Harbor was bustling with families and kids (teens) eating out and hanging out. Then it was home to try to pack up.

By 9 a.m. the next morning we were fully packed up with nothing to do before our 11 a.m. supposed taxi pick up for the airport. Phyllis stayed behind but the rest of us headed back to – you guessed it – Darling Harbor – for a bite to eat. Not a stellar meal but reasonable and cheap. And a view. It rained closed to the end of our meal and of course we had packed our rain gear. But we had plenty of time for it to cease before we headed back. Then the shuffle of bags down the elevator to the lobby/street began. No trolleys, 15 (+) bags. Then the wait for that taxi. Oops! It is broken down somewhere. Finally we pushed P & D into a taxi and we tried to wait for one of those station wagon taxis to come by. Nope. Finally I hopped in a taxi with Aidan and left Pete & Quincy and a few bags. Dave met us with a cart at the airport and Pete followed behind by 5 minutes or so. I think we had gotten off close to 45 minutes after we had planned. Fortunately 1) United wasn’t very busy and especially 2) Phyllis is a Premier member and can use the 1st class lines. In addition our crummy 53rd row seats magically became row 32 bulkhead seats where we could hang up sleeping babies… Being only one row apart from P & D (who also managed to have window, aisle and empty middle in an almost full flight) was MUCH better than being 20 rows behind them as originally planned. Then we settled in for a 14 hour flight that arrived before we left… (1.30 p.m. getting in at 9.30 a.m. I think it was). I watched all 4 movies – sort of – had already seen Spiderman. There was some stupid teen boy sword movie (Pete seemed to like it). But the other 2 were decent. P & D took Aidan for dinner. Q slept reasonably well in the bassinette for at least 6 hours of the flight – and in my arms a few more hours. Waking of course for every meal. Dinner/snack/beakfast were served. A got 8 hours sleep. Pete probably something similar although a bit less I would suppose. I got zero sleep. I am just now getting about round to normal – it would help if I got any 8 hour nights but somehow that never seems to be in the cards! Oh yeah – thanks to Phyllis we were also in the United extra legroom section of the plane. All in all a pretty decent flight. Helps to have grandparents along J To our great surprise, at the other end a taxi driver managed to get all 6 of us and our 15++ bags into ONE van taxi! Then he forgot to turn on his meter. I hope he got a very large tip! San Francisco was sunny and quite warm for our arrival. Our house was dusty and needed a clean. Oops – meant to call the cleaning lady before leaving NZ. Pete spent quite a few hours clearing Aidan’s room back out of all the stuff stored there when we had sub-leased the apartment. Aidan’s room has a new skylight. Ugly but I don’t think it will crash down if we have an earthquake – and hopefully this one doesn’t lead either. We are still getting sorted out although we are almost there. It was tempting to just sort of throw a lot of stuff away on our arrival – heck, if we can live out of a few suitcases for 4 ½ months – how much do we really need all of this…stuff… Aidan and Quincy were both just priceless. It was like Christmas had come early – only maybe 2 or 3 Christmases. Aidan was a little butterfly flitting from one toy to the next “daddy did you know I had a Scoop? Mommy look at this train!” Quincy just had big eyes and a big round “O” mouth and delighted in the fact that he could explore all sorts of toys with no consequences from his brother as A was too busy at the other end of the room. That of course has changed. We have had to lay down ground rules and assign some toys as Quincy toys. Aidan would like them all to be his of course. Good thing about going away is that Aidan really doesn’t remember a lot of things and thus it is easy to not have him play with his tiny little toys (chewing/choking hazards for Q) or to tell him toys belong to Q.

Another night I will get into more of the Q & A dynamics. I also need to tell about some of the very cute things A has had to say that may not have made it into blogger in the past. And we start preschool Friday.

Friday, August 30, 2002

So, let’s see… Saturday we headed out pretty early to have one last breakfast at our favorite waterfront café Karve. We had done a pretty good job of being packed up the day before. We still had a couple of hours of tossing food out and cleaning up for the realtor to give us the all clear. Pete was nice enough to drive out to the airport with us although we also had to go in a Shuttle as we had so many people and bags. Quantas said we had 125 kg of checked bags (and thank goodness they didn’t check our carryons!). They allow 25 per person and she gave Quincy (who didn’t have a seat, just paid taxes) 10 kg – then they charged us $10 per kg over. So $150 later… Of course you can’t pay at the check-in counter like any normal airline… We also had to cart off 2 bags to the “fragile” area (although they came off the plane onto the carousel like any other bags) which was at the far end (thank you Pete). And Phyllis had to go pay for a Visa into Australia despite having verified with Quantas previously via phone that there was nothing she would need to do. My ticket was under Webster and passport is under Thompson – I hadn’t noticed the discrepancy. They did but it didn’t matter too much. They couldn’t locate the kids’ frequent flyer numbers and we were supposed to have physical cards (do I even have one?). The woman was very nice but… They also had no record of all the rigmarole that I had gone through to get Aidan’s carseat approved to take on for his seat but they did approve it no problem for a change (at the special paying counter). So by the time we paid them our extra $ then headed next door to pay a bank for our special NZ departure tax of $22 each (and why this isn’t added to your ticket I’ll never understand) and cleared customs etc… we were ALMOST the last people to load on the plane. We made it. Too bad we forgot the stroller at the other end… Quantas lets you gate check them, but won’t give them back until baggage claim – and you have to go to the oversized area (excuse me?) to pick it up. When I returned the following day I must have seen at least 2 dozen strollers in their lost baggage area – so I didn’t feel quite so lame about having left it. We left at around 4 p.m., had a 3 hour flight, gained 2 hours, and still ended up taking our taxi ride to the hotel in the dark – despite being further north than Auckland, Sidney must be much further east in the time zone as it gets dark earlier here and light much earlier in the morning.

We got the rate of $200 Australian ($108 US) for our hotel apartment per night for a 2 bedroom place but it is only serviced weekly. Therefore we have to dump our own trash at the end of the hall etc. The rooms are quite small but nicely appointed and we have our combo clothes washer/dryer and 2 bathrooms and a full kitchen. All countertops have granite or marble and there are a lot of expensive architectural details like reveals at ceiling (that I am probably the only one in our party to notice let alone appreciate) and we have velvet trimmed chenille bedspread etc. Too bad there isn’t anywhere to store our clothes or suitcases! We do have a closet in each room but I think Phyllis said theirs doesn’t even have a top shelf in it. Just about the only service in the hotel is breakfast for $9.50 AU which P, D & A have taken advantage of a few mornings. I tend to head out with Quincy in the stroller and have him take his morning nap away from his brother as I check out the neighborhood and grab some toast or croissant or something along the way. I like walking along the quiet city streets in the morning. By 10 or so they are bustling.

We are situated smack dab in the middle of Chinatown. So we have had some good Asian food – I think 3 evenings I have either done take-away or eaten at a restaurant a few doors down. Across the street is Starbucks, there are 2 or 3 banks a building or 2 away, there is a church on our block, and a major bus stop (our building fronts on a major road and backs on Chinatown). The Central Railstation is about 3 blocks away as I discovered the first morning as I headed back to the airport to pick up our stroller. Turns out I had to take a bus as they were working on the tracks or something that day – but it was essentially a free trip for that. On our corner we have a curious fountain – it is a dead tree trunk that the artist found somewhere and partially painted gold and ran a dripping waterline up and out it then “planted” it in the sidewalk (with a drain). There is some Feng Shui (sp?) significance and it is rather interesting and a decent landmark. Catty corner to that is a very large mall that hosts a huge market Thurs – Sun and has 3 levels of shops, restaurants and movie theatres above. We are a couple blocks to the start of Darling Harbor development around the waterfront. And a monorail stop. Aidan likes all the forms of transportation available to us here.

Day #1 we hopped on an Explorer bus to get an orientation to the city. We rode the whole loop straight thru (1 hr 45+). I had squeezed into a seat with both kids and the stroller. I felt bad as the window was too high for Aidan and he had to kneel to see out. He got tired and a bit bored and hungry as it was well past lunchtime before we finished. Fortunately Phyllis had a snack bar and water she let him have. We then checked out the Powerhouse – a museum quite close to our hotel as it turns out (although I didn’t realize it at the time). I walked with Quincy from the railstation stop where we had gotten off the bus and bought a week transit pass and had a snack. I ended up on roads that didn’t really let you get there so it was a much longer journey than it should have been. I was quite disappointed in the museum. I think it would have been fun by myself – an eclectic collection focusing on Australia I think, but there was sadly little hands on (as promised) or child oriented. Brisbane’s tech museum was not nearly as attractively put together, but much more fun. Then I hopped on the monorail with the kids and rode the loop back to the same stop (which is closest our hotel) and then grabbed some Taiwanese take-away to share with the kids. I think Phyllis and Dave headed down to Opera building and had dinner along the waterfront there. Quincy has been getting treated to a lot of different foods lately! He has enjoyed the innards of dumplings, Chinese noodles, macaroni & cheese, this morning I came in to find a chocolate croissant in his hand (he had very sweet breath!). He has also been taking chunks out of mandarin orange peels (which I remove from him as soon as I realize he has them) and has had a couple mandarin sections. Sometime during our South Island trip he developed reasonable pincher grip ability. We didn’t practice any at the time, but he couldn’t really get small food into mouth before we went, and was pretty good at it when he got home. Bottled babyfood is OK but only in conjunction with something else he finds more interesting.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Tonight is Sunday. I am in Sydney with Aidan & Quincy tucked up in my queen bed. Phyllis & Dave are somewhere out roaming the town. Pete is in Auckland either in bed or slogging away at the office trying to finish up so he can join us. I won't write much now but to say that we do all plan to fly back to SF on 9/1 and join the Eggerths & crew 9/2 for the usual celebrations. You should see how much baggage we have with us! Quantas made us pay $150 NZ in overweight fees! I do NOT like Quantas. Pete will then have to head into the office and jump right into his next project for The Gap. We will be remaining in SF for a while... I have Aidan signed up for Acrosports, preschool, and one of his old babysitters. Later~!

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Timaru impressed us in the morning with its huge park nestled up against Caroline Bay. There was even a glass elevator to take us from the parking area down to the park. Aidan and I walked across the dunes to the beach – tide was out so it was a very deep beach. Aidan had to pick up the requisite shells and sticks for our walk back. We headed out of town north to Christchurch around noon. I have to say that this stretch of drive was the most unimpressive that I think we have seen in NZ – that includes the north island. It was also interesting approaching CC via route 1 instead of from the airport. Not nearly as nice a first impression! Much more strip centers and the kind of usual city grungy outskirts stuff. We also had had lunch at a place called the Saddlery or some such. It could have been an any small MidAmerican town sort of caferteria style eatery although at the time it did hit the spot. We had a reservation to stay at the Heritage Hotel CC (I had liked my stay in the Auckland one). Our suite was in the Old Government Bldg in what had obviously been a beautiful stately room. They had added a mezzanine for 2 small bedrooms and the 2nd bathroom – they hashed up the remodel a bit unfortunately. We had a nice stay anyway.

After arriving latish afternoon Friday in CC, I went for a quick (and very cold) walk in the Cathedral Squ (right outside our hotel) where we watched some girls performing music and saw some people moving very large chess pieces around. Phyllis and Dave headed off for dinner at DuxLux and a session peering thru the College telescope at the Southern Hemisphere skies. I had Thai take out with the kids who were actually quite well behaved for me back in the room. Q did a good job sitting in the high chair for once. Pete unfortunately was on a delayed flight and didn’t reach us til after 10.
Saturday the clan headed off to the Botanical Gardens after some muffins and caffeine I brought in from the Starbucks across the plaza. A very nice lunch in the Botanic Gardens Café – I continued to be amazed at the high quality and low prices of restaurants in attraction type venues. We all enjoyed poking around in the gardens. Aidan can identify ferns by the way. And daisies (the kind in the grass). Aidan found a fountain that he could “activate” by pulling a lever. It was very hard to pull him away from the fountain… Pete and I headed off alone for an early dinner. Nice place – Azure I think it was named. On restaurant row. Back in time to put the kids down. Nanma & Pop had fed Aidan microwaved mac n’ cheese and had soup themselves if I correctly remember. They had refrigerated soups in plastic bags here that have been very good in all flavors we have tried to date.

Sunday came. I was very aware that our adventure was drawing to a close – including our NZ adventure as a whole. Only one more weekend to go back in Auckland. Phyllis decided to enjoy services at the Cathedral followed by some reflective time in the gardens. Dave was kind enough to join me at the Art Centre open air market for some gift shopping while Pete and Aidan checked out the museum (Dave & Phyllis had spent a little time there the afternoon before). We all had a good time I think. Dave is a good shopping companion! We enjoyed listening to a youngish guy who was selling old (circa 1900) bottles he found in old trash heaps. He was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly loved what he collected. I fell for a couple as they will look great with the old glass pieces I have that used to be used on electrical poles. We also lingered over some art. We missed the cheese van – we were looking forward to some more blue cheese. Oh well. We joined Pete & Aidan for lunch at the museum café. Quincy had his first exposure to being set free in one of the playpens you find so many places here. He was very much enjoying exploring it.

Quincy took this opportunity of his 8th month birthday to start standing up (pulling himself up) and even to take a step or 2 holding onto things. When packing I had left the refrigerator door open – I turned around to see him beelining right for it and then hauling himself up to check out the contents (fortunately few).

In the afternoon we decided to hop into the van and take a scenic drive to Lyttleton Harbor across from the Banks Peninsula. We found a very attractive and very long beach along the way that we enjoyed for ½ hour or so. Long enough for Aidan to collect more sticks and shells… It was a very beautiful drive and well worth doing. The harbor is only 12 km straight (going thru a tunnel) from CC. We did maybe 40 km the way we circled around instead. We stopped off at a couple of lookouts to enjoy the view. Too bad on the way back the view of CC was quite hazy and we didn’t get the amazing vista with the Southern Alps as you sometimes have. We could sort of see the snow capped mountains but I certainly didn’t bother taking a picture. It was a nice way back into town thru attractive suburbs on the downslope until we reached the plain again. We stopped back in the Squ and met up with Phyllis and Pete and I ran in to ogle at the Cathedral at last. Then off to catch our flight back to Auckland.

I have spent much of these past 2 weeks here in Auckland feeling a bit sad about our upcoming departure. We are beautifully situated in a very nice suburb in a nice house with lovely water vistas. I have met some very welcoming people. I love my café lifestyle (and cheap food thanks to US $). I like Aidan’s swimming at the Y and Jumping Beans classes. And in general how EASY life is here. This week I got my teeth cleaned, made (and broke) appt for Q to have vaccines (I got flu shot instead), had haircut. And didn’t have to wait more than 48 hours for any of those. At home a Dr appt with the kids Dr is usually a 10 week wait – sometimes more. My dentist can fit you in 6++ months or else only in cancellations (try getting babysitters for that). The prices for all of the above are great too. I think Dr visits here cost $50. Wow. I have really loved seeing the water in many sorts of moods – it is full moon again and seeing the sandbars cropping up at this time of month at low tide. The water is sometimes a luminescent green, other times brilliant turquoise, other times a subdued deep blue. Sometimes combinations of them all as clouds scud across. I have also enjoyed watching the storms head across the water – something I remember seeing as a kid at the lake in FL we used to go to. There is still a lot of the country – esp this north island – that we didn’t get to visit. I have a lot of mental pictures saved up and off course many many photographs to take home as reminders of our time here. All in all I have had a pretty darned good time. (No small part thanks to having grandparents to help out). Aidan will go through serious withdrawal I am sure when the grandparents go home.

I dropped Phyllis & Dave off at the rail station bright and early on a very wet Thursday morning and then dropped Pete off for breakfast with his Australian boss. The kids were great at café Dunk for breakfast with me. I have yet to see Quincy more mellow at a meal. We hooked up with Liza & kids in the p.m. to see Model World. Cool models but somehow disappointing – I think I expected more and somehow thought there would be stuff for Aidan to play with, not just look at. Did see an amazing rainbow over all of downtown as I came off the bridge headed away from downtown into the rain and sun. Pete of course had to work late now that everyone was gone. Actually I guess he had to have dinner or drinks with the boss. Boss had requested that he consider heading to Hong Kong and Korea for 14 weeks starting almost immediately. You can imagine how this threw us a bit. Off went the emails to anyone who might ever have been there. Well that was over a week ago and we still don’t know if we are heading home to SF to stay for a while or to HK. Everyday is a different story and we live an emotional rollercoaster. Pete & I are fed up and he plans to tell them tomorrow – SF please – you took too long making up your minds. But who knows what tomorrow will bring. We have also spent this week in a yoyo of can we get to Whitsunday Islands (Great Barrier Reef) – or make a stopover in Fiji or Hawaii… Finally deciding, no, head to Sydney alone for 8 days and take day trips in area. Pete was also told to leave project early and thus could come with us. Too bad project has headed south and now he will be working this weekend and at least of part of next week – so we will see him ??? in Sydney. We are also trying to figure out how to get out of the house (pay off utilities, get cleaned, get shuttle, etc) and do we need to have dentist, Dr appts etc (changes daily depending on whether or not we think we are heading to SF for 1 week or many months). And do I cancel preschool and YMCA membership etc. Pete gave notice to our landlord at one point in time. And now Quincy caught a cold from one of the kids we went to model world with. I knew her kids were sick but figured it was OK. Too bad I didn’t realize / see til after fact that her boy was taking Quincy’s rice cakes, mouthing them, and then Liza was giving them back to Quincy. Ick. So I have had little sleep the past couple nights. I can’t have a change in venue without being a bit tired going into it though! Again, thank goodness for Phyllis & Dave to help out. Pete has worked very late every night except tonight. Errands are so much faster without 2 kids along. By the way – P & D spent their 4 days and last weekend in Wellington and think very highly of it. Our little family went for a great walk on Saturday (after breakfast at Dunk again as I liked it so much the 1st time). Over across bridge there is a suburb called Takapuna. It has the reputed best urban swimming beach. Rangitoto Island seemed to really shelter the beaches or something and there wasn’t much wave action. The walk leads you over volcanic rocks and past tidepools (although we were there fairly close to high tide) and past expensive homes to another beach along. I think it was supposed to take 1 hour each way – and we started at essentially the end of Takapuna beach (cutting off 15 min according to our book). It took us more like 1 ½ hours to do the part we did. We didn’t walk the whole way home along the beach but cut inland to find a café for late afternoon lunch/dinner. Aidan is a trooper and walked the whole way. Pete is a trooper and carried Quincy the whole way…

Quincy continues to impress us daily with his new abilities. He is getting good at lowering himself down now in addition to getting up. He can transition from holding onto sofa to holding onto the coffee table behind him. He can take small steps and head along a bit. He prefers to walk normally – front wards instead of sideways along things – holding onto the object on one side and your hand on the other allow him to do this. He is such a happy little camper too. Really a delight. The other morning he was in with Dave & Aidan. I was trying to talk on the phone or do dishes or something. I heard him come somewhat near as he crawled along and played with something. Then it got a bit quiet… Dave had assumed he was under our very large coffee table. Wrong. He wasn’t down the stairs as I hadn’t heard any crying. He wasn’t up the stairs (he likes going up the stairs). Then I heard some knocking… He had crawled out of the family room, down the hall, around the corner, into his brother’s room and behind and door and was playing with one of Aidan’s cars. It was clearly deliberate (Aidan’s toys are always SOOO much better than his – and funny enough, if he shows any interest in his own toys then Aidan swoops in and relieves him of them as somehow they must be fun for AIDAN to play with) and I have seen him try to do the same maneuver again. Babyproofing will definitely take a different level with Quincy than with Aidan. Quincy is very attracted to electrical cords too. One of the good things about Aidan moving later (crawling and standing both started at 9 months) was that he also had more sense. He recognized an edge to a stair or landing as being a good place to stop and not fall over. Quincy does the much more typical behavior of heading right over…

Well, enough for now. We are enjoying probably our best Auckland weather ever this week. Mostly balmy & sunny. Lunch at seaside cafes yesterday and today. Where will we be next month? I don’t know…

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Queenstown day 2. After a leisurely start – Nanma & Pop had breakfast in hotel restaurant at 10 – we got in our van and headed back “downtown” to catch our 3rd boating day of the trip. I was going to say 3rd boat but we had 3 boats on our Doubtful Sound day alone! This time it was an old steamer – burns 1 ton of coal an hour – very attractive boat (except for the black smoke trail it leaves behind) with wood and brass etc. The Earnslaw I think it was called. What was especially nifty is that they left the center open down to the engine (?) room and you could even walk thru on kind of a horizontal ladder thing for a closer view – and watch the guys shoveling in the coal and tending the machines. Pop held Aidan up so he could look over the rails – they must have spent at least 45 minutes watching. I looked out the window (and opened the windows) and said hi to the birds perched on the escape boats at the sides for a free ride. Quincy liked them too. I don’t really know how long the ride was – an hour maybe? Maybe less. Across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm Station. A beautiful absolutely clear day – no wind on the ground either. At the farm a somewhat unassuming and rather amusing gentleman met our ship for the farm tour. He showed us some Highland Cattle (shaggy brown with horns) and some deer. We fed them if we chose with cow or deer or sheep pellets (really all the same thing). Aidan chased some ducks and picked up yet more sticks (his latest is “what can I hold in this hand?” – he can’t bare to not have a stick or stone in hand – and prefers that we also hold some of his offerings). Then into the house for some tea and finger foods. Quite tasty actually. I liked the thick toast topped with cheese and onions. After a bit of puttering time the “show” began. He called down his Strong Eye dog (looked like a Border Collie to me) and sent her up the hill to bring down some sheep. It was a mixed bag and we got to touch them and he told us some of the differences between breeds. Apparently Merino are only sheared once a year. That was the main breed on this farm as they had high dry land which Merino like. The Romany gets sheared 2x a year and its wool mainly goes to carpet manufacturing. Some other breeds are better for eating, some are decent for both wool and meat. And so forth. It was interesting. He then had the dog put on a show and bring down some other sheep from further up and direct them around a bit. Always fun to see. Next came the shearing demonstration. This guy was quite a bit older than the guy in Rotorua and certainly no where near as burly – but he made it look positively easy (almost). Then a quick time watching some spinning while in the gift shop and back to the ship. On the return trip the pianist played tunes to sing to – and had song books to hand out. So we returned to the likes of I’ve Been Working on The Railroad, Waltzing Matilda, Daisy Daisy and many others. We all agreed that it had been a good idea to take another boat ride after all. Wandered around Queenstown a bit then back to Winnie Bagoes for more of that yummy apricot chicken pizza.

We set off at around 10 for Dunedin. A drive of about 5 hours. We had plans to do a couple hours in the a.m. Stop for lunch and a playground and then finish up in the p.m. and hope both boys would nap then. A successful plan! I haven’t a clue what our stop was called – a tiny little town but they did have 2 “tearooms” and a park with picnic tables and playground. Quincy enjoyed standing and “driving” an old tractor or machine that was there in the playground as much or more than Aidan. You should have seen the grin on his face. Quincy is SOOO eager to stand. He is still mister wobbly legs, but he is happiest when standing. He can support himself pretty well – he likes coffee tables where he can prop himself on his forearms and still use his hands to play with Aidan’s toys. He is also using Pete & myself if we are sitting on the ground as props – he crawls over and then pulls himself to standing. I digress… We had mince and cheese (hamburger meat and cheese) pies for lunch among other things. Ubiquitous around here. Quincy enjoyed the filling. He is eating quite a variety of things these days. I give him celery sticks to chew on – thinking that he couldn’t get through them. Well he can’t, quite – he does get the ends down to just the strings so he has a little fan. Anyway, the drive was much more attractive than any of us anticipated. We passed by some lakes and a dam. There was interesting fog / low clouds drifting in and out of some valleys. We saw more snow peaks near the beginning of our journey and came close to snow line (although on rolling hills more than mountain peaks) after lunch in a wonderful shale outcropping area. We enjoyed the usual sheep and deer in the pastures. We went through fruit tree country. All in all very scenic. We headed into Dunedin just as the sun was going down. It surprised us with its’ size – it was a real city (although guide book says just a bit over 100,000 population), we had gotten used to small towns.

It seemed to be our coldest place yet! The wind was up and I am sure it must have been in the high 30s. Brrrr. We had a funny little motel and a room that hadn’t been updated in several decades – swirly brown carpet, avocado green things in bathroom etc. The kids and I were upstairs where we had 3 twins and a double to ourselves. No heat but electric pads on the beds… worked out fine though. We bundled up and walked down the street a few blocks back toward city center and had dinner at a Cambodian place – although I think it was just general Asian really – a lot of satays etc. Quite good and fast and we shared round our foods. Pop liked it so well he went back the next night. Dunedin is a big student town – the university was almost next door to us although we didn’t realize it for a while as we kept heading out the “front” instead of the back next to our unit. It looked like it had some very attractive buildings. There are also quite a few Victorian type residential buildings that reminded me a bit of SF. Thanks to the students there seemed to be quite a variety of restaurants – good and inexpensive – to choose from. The next day I spied an Italian bakery – Il Panifico I think it was. Scrumptious. We didn’t do too much wandering on foot as it was still cold the next day. Instead we headed off for Otago Penisula.

A small and very attractive peninsula just outside of Dunedin sporting a variety of wildlife – Albatross in nesting season (not quite yet), Yellow Eyed Penguins, Hooker Sea Lions, Fur Seals, Hectors Dolphins. Our goal was to see penguins. And New Zealand’s only castle Larnach (?). The road hugs the twisty coastline – and I mean hugs – you have a couple feet before you would fall in. We were impressed with the bus stops. Each little nondescript hut had been painted inside and out with murals – one would be astrology based, another would have a boat in the sea, another sea creatures, another lots of flowers, another Wallace and Grommet. Fun. After 45 minutes of stomache churning roads we decided to try to make for the castle. It was just as windy only now the road headed up steep pasture sided roads. We had some amazing vistas along the peninsula and coast. The castle was perched on the ridge at the top with views over the water in both directions from the upper floors. Aidan and I toured the inside – very nice – rather like a grand mansion. Apparently the castle had been left for ruin until 1967 when chanced upon by some ambitious fixer-uppers. They raised their 2 kids there and still own it although I don’t think they live in the castle proper anymore. They did a great restoration job. Seeing how Pete and I had trouble just stripping a bit of wallpaper and doing new baseboards and crown molding in one room – it wouldn’t have been a project we would have undertaken! The Dave and Quincy joined us for a very nice lunch in the ballroom next door. For $5 US I got a whole Hawaiian pizza for Aidan (he kindly shared with Pop). I had a Ploughman’s lunch (cheese, cold cuts, pickles, breads) for the same cost. I have expected the restaurants attached to “attractions” to be poor in quality and or expensive – but so far have found the opposite to be true. We have had some of our better or more interesting lunches at exceedingly reasonable prices at these places. Dave almost ordered the special of the day Hagis Pie – until I told him what Hagis was… ick. The guy who worked there said he had never had it – the smell alone was enough to turn his stomach. Dunedin has strong Scottish ties hence the Hagis. Phyllis took a “wee” nap in the car and recovered from the drive then joined us and had scones and cheesecake.

After fortification we headed off to drive to Penguin Place, about 40 minutes away further up the peninsula. We had been told the penguins appear around 4 p.m. so our tour was scheduled for 3.45. We pulled in just in time – followed by a big tour bus we had passed a couple of km before. The penguins have a colony on a private farm. The farmer in 1985 decided to set aside the land in trust and to have it run in a conservation manner – tag the penguins and also provide more / better habitat and set up blinds for people to come and view them to help pay for it. I am sure it is a nice money maker for the farmer at this point. There was a good turn out when we were there on a weekday in the middle of winter, and they said they have tours all day during the breeding season months when one of the penguins has to hang around and sit on an egg all day or tend to baby. They had 4 or so medium sized old buses that we loaded onto with our respective tour guides and off we went over the farm fields down a dirt track. Our guide was a woman who lives on an adjacent farm. In addition to us Websters there were 2 others in our group. Other groups consisted of whole tour buses worth of people so we felt very fortunate. Apparently these penguins spend their days in the balmy waters off Dunedin eating and come in to spend the night at their roosts with their spouse. The penguins find the water a bit warm and after they get out are quite pink under their wings and on their feet. They stand at times and spread their wings to cool off in the breeze. Guess a lot of their relatives like the water at 60 degree latitude and we were closer to 45 degree. They also like to roost under trees or bushes. There weren’t a lot of those around as I think they had been cleared in the past for farming. The society had built little triangle huts for them to claim. They also added a pond or two and had a whole bunch of very small trees planted (and protected from munching mouths). There was a series of blinds built – dug down a bit in the sand so that your eye level is only 3 feet or so about ground. Above ground there was slatted wood structure with sort of military netting on it. We did see a penguin wander by at only 6 feet away or so. I am betting they could see and hear us at times but they certainly didn’t pay any attention to us. The blinds worked well and we could follow an individual’s progress along if we wanted as they waddled over dunes and along tracks. It was a great experience to get so close and see them in their mostly natural habitat. We certainly saw natural behaviors. Our guide could identify penguins by their home location. One of the 1st penguins we saw was either Emma or Ed. She told us a story about old Ed… He is a father 14 times and grandfather 8 times. He was 1st married to Ann (I forget most of the actual names – or maybe I have changed them to protect the innocent…). After 6 years or so she didn’t come home one day. So time to get remarried. The next one too met with a fate unknown. Then came Veronica. Guess he didn’t really like her too well as he was off having an affair with Julie from another roost. Then he came home one day and beat up Veronica then moved in with Julie! I don’t remember if she kicked out her husband or if he did it… So then one day SHE didn’t come home… So now he is married to Emma. He married her at age 2 – and he an old man of 12! Who knew penguins could have such soap opera lives?! We got to see one couple cooing and billing or necking – I don’t know what it was called, but apparently not behavior often seen by us tourists. Also a penguin go in for a plunge in the pond. And a lot of penguin callings. Very cool. A very good day.

The next morning we had a tour of Cadbury’s chocolate factory to look forward to. I got Aidan all primed with his breakfast at the Italian bakery – banana and cream cheese panini (grilled sandwich) that they topped with shaved chocolate and served on maple syrup with a side of yogurt. It looked pretty good. Phyllis & Dave helped Aidan finish the plate (they had boring old scrambled eggs in fresh baked croissants). We parked by the old and very fancy railroad station (and had a quick walk thru) and off to Cadbury’s. A good time! Plenty of free samples although of their weird stuff mostly with marshmallow fillings etc. We had to wear hair protectors – even Quincy! He wasn’t so keen on the idea but did manage to keep it on. We mostly saw the stages of manufacturing where they are boxing and packaging things although we did see some DVD of the molten chocolate stage etc. I forget how many thousand Crunchie bars per hour… And tens of thousand of tons of chocolate they use. They have 3 or 4 silos filled with chocolate crumble waiting to be made into the chocolate they use. At the end you go in one and they open the flood gates above and this very loud gusher of chocolate comes whooshing down – over a foot in width and molten – cool. Quincy was a bit startled by the noise. He was also not able to take his morning nap thanks to the tour. He did great though. Aidan still doesn’t realize he didn’t get back most of those free samples he got… There was a huge warehouse as you might expect. And they are in the midst of making Easter candy – we saw the Crème Eggs and Hollow Eggs being wrapped. From June to January they make easter candy on one floor (out of 4). I don’t know why they stop in January. Ditto for Xmas candy although its months are obviously different. Then we hopped in our car and made it as far as the Botanical Garden on a bit of a hill above town. Nice. We had seen blooming Rhododendrons and Azaleas in town and hoped we would see them there too – they weren’t quite in bloom yet. Then it was time to head out of town.

Another very pretty driving day. We hooked up with the coast at times. We stopped for a late lunch at Moeriki Beach. They have these very large spheres on the beach. They are sort of like naturally formed concrete as far as I can tell – they formed under water then ended up embedded in the ground which one day became cliffs and eroded around them leaving balls on the sand… Too bad at high tide the water laps at the cliffs thus you can’t access them. We enjoyed seeing them from the restaurant and the beach access stairs. The nice ladies at the restaurant brought over a whole box of toys for Quincy to play with. Toys don’t really compete well against the lure of silverware and glasses of water to drink, but we tried. We did a quick drive through Oamaru. Dave and I were very taken with the town. The old section is all local limestone buildings. Very attractive. We also drove out to the point where penguins (little blues) come ashore – apparently they come in ½ hour after dark though. We didn’t wait around. We did check out the huge crashing waves on the breakfront though. Then onward to Timaru for the night. Our halfway point to Christchurch. We enjoyed seeing snow capped mountains again off to our left as we drove. The Southern Alps.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Motel rants and raves :
So far we have been staying in motels. I believe I mentioned that in NZ lexicon that means some sort of kitchen and often separate bedroom(s). So far so good. The usually very friendly hosts greet you with your little pint of milk (trim or regular?). We have deduced that these pints are for your morning tea. Then we are off to see what kind of accommodations we have stumbled upon this time. We have stayed at almost all 4 star places but that has varied wildly in amenities and ambiance. Te Anau’s Explorer Motor Lodge gets my vote for most spacious and well appointed. But back to my rants/raves… The first thing we do – after checking out what kind of lame heater apparatus they have this time and turning it on – is go around and close the windows! The Kiwis must have something about fresh bracing air. So far I think almost all places have either had windows open several inches or else have the windows on the second latch position of their latches – I am not explaining it well and it is a nifty feature except in winter weather i.m.o. Quite a few of the heaters have been the radiating type – ie you have to wait a couple hours before there is any appreciable heat difference in your room! However, electric blankets – or pads really as they are under you – have been standard and heated towel racks at about 50% of the places. All places but one have had a microwave in addition to a frig and stovetop. All have had cheese graters… Our Dunedin place didn’t even bother with shampoo – a first. A few have had spa baths. A couple places had showers that just had a curtain around them and a drain in the floor. Last night in Timaru our motel had the queen bed in the main downstairs room and then 3 twin beds upstairs – a first that there was no separate sitting area in a “2 bedroom” unit. It is also standard that one room have a queen (or double) and the other have twins – makes sense for a couple and their kids but not as great for us. Places have also varied widely in the amount of space available at a table for people to eat – everything to 2 persons to 6. No where has been particularly set up for easy internet connections but guess that isn’t too surprising. All in all I don’t think my expectations were met at a single place! Exceeded in some ways in a few places perhaps, but never what I expected from reading their descriptions in the motel book or from talking to people. Guess you need to ask A LOT of questions on the phone to really understand what will be provided. Of course the costs have varied widely too as you might expect – but I think some places have been double (and more) the cost of others. Oh yeah – I also noticed that on the (wet) west coast that every bathroom light was tied in with a fan (ie turn light on and fan goes on). On the (dry) east coast there are no fans at all in the bathroom.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Our weather didn’t hold – as predicted. We had a drizzly drive over to Milford Sound. We didn’t take advantage of the various trecks available from the road although we did stop off at one look-out for a while and at Chasm something – very near the sound – very attractive falls / rushing water that had carved holes in the rocks. Shortly after we arrived a whole flock of Asians arrived in about 5 different buses. We had a head start – but a toddler. Aidan was soon having his hair caressed and cheeks touched. There is something about my kids and Asians… A girl even took Quincy out of Pete’s arms – that lasted about 10 seconds until Quincy started balling at the top of his lungs. Aidan rather enjoys the attention and acts a bit shy and smiley. The same girl walked backwards a lot of the way so she could look at Aidan! In the parking lot we got to see 3 Kea birds – Alpine parrots (the only ones anywhere I believe living in snow country). They are quite large and were at the edge of the parking lot fighting over apples one of the driver was tossing them. Before we had gotten to Chasm we had seen several large handwritten signs saying “STOCK”. We speculated about them. Then we ran into – stock. Sheep to the left, sheep to the right, sheep ahead and behind. Dave wanted to see sheep – I think he can now say NZ has sheep! They were being moved to another pasture I assume and were being followed by a man in a truck (pulling one sheep behind laying down in a trailer) and a barking dog running after them. Other than us, the sheep and a bus coming up behind, it was just a lot of wild landscape. The last 7 km or so before you see Milford are in avalanche country and no vehicle stopping is allowed. Very steep slopes up to snow covered peaks. Hardly any growth established on the slopes. Various waterfalls all along. Then you drive straight into one of the mountains – and through in a 1.2 km long tunnel. Out on the otherside you see Milford Sound below and just have to go down a few hairpins turns and you are there. The rain had actually ceased falling by this point and we had pretty decent visibility to the tops of the mountains. We were with the same tour operator. This time on their boat that takes overnight tours in the summer. Very nice boat and perhaps less people than the previous day on a larger boat. We had signed on for a 2 ½ hour nature cruise. The nice thing about this tour is that it was much slower paced so you could stand out on deck quite comfortably. At Doubtful Sound we were mostly trecking along at a fast clip and it was breathtaking to stand out in most places. At Milford we got right up to the edge of the cliffs at places and came to a halt. They spent a while out in the Tasman Sea – very rocky motion from the waves – the fjords on the other hand are almost like glass in many places. Milford is the most northerly fjord, the steepest inside, and one of the smaller ones. Because of the steepness you could really appreciate the tree avalanches in all their states of regeneration – you saw a lot of places that had had avalanches. We had another picnic lunch while hearing some of the same commentary but also learning new things like that waterfall over there is 2 times the Empire State Bldg, 2 ½ times Eiffel Tour, 3 times Naigra Falls (in height) etc. Waterfalls are a dime a dozen. And you do start to have sensory over load of the ooh and aah scenery variety. We have seen a lot of very pretty snow clad peak scenes with farmland in front and often a river or body of water running through. Right at the end of the tour as we were heading back to the dock we got to see several seals creating and feasting on a “meatball” of millions (?) of tiny fish. Very cool. Several birds had joined in the fray too. Then an ice cream for the road and back to the motel. Aidan got to play on the trampoline a bit – he has gotten very fond of them and much more intrepid about his jumping since our arrival.
We were sad to be leaving Te Anau (I finally learned how to pronounce the name – after we left – tea a now. No inflections on any syllables). It was a small but attractive town on the lake and we had nice lodgings and easy walks everywhere and fun day trips.

Back to Queenstown. The drive back was actually much more attractive than we had expected. Surprise surprise. Quite a few deer farms in with the sheep farms. We had to drop Pete off to fly back to work so that he can finance my travels J We then decided to head out to our accommodations. I had booked us at a place called Nuggets Point a bit out of town toward the ski area. Up a bit into a steep sided valley/pass/whatever it is called. It is a resort and has restaurant, pool, etc – not just a motel like we had been staying at. Our room had more storage than we have at home in SF! It also was set up great for large families – nice queen bed in room with one wall all glass overlooking Shotover River below adjacent to bathroom and then kids room with 4 bunk beds then the laundry. There was another bathroom off the living /kitchen area (with same view in living room to water and mountain). Too bad we weren’t a large family with ma and pa and 4 kids! It actually worked fine. Aidan chose to occupy Quincy’s crib they had set up, I put Quincy in one lower bunk and I took the other. We went down to dinner the first night. They had set up 3 tables in the lounge area (fireplace, books, games, bar). We were the only occupants (thankfully). It was a slow dinner but very delicious. Dave tried venison for the first time and I tried rack of lamb. Yum! Aidan had what looked to me to be the best (most American) hamburger of our trip. They do weird things to burgers here – beets, eggs, you name it on top.

Next entry – boat ride #3 and onward to Dunedin.

Friday, August 02, 2002

I forgot to mention that at the Glacier look out that we walked to we had a little scare. Aidan has been enjoying getting up on walls, fences, benches, whatever and counting rapidly and a bit nonsensically and at some random number jumping into Daddy’s waiting arms. Well, he was up on the guardrail planning to jump. I got a bit too close to him, he backed up, oops!!! He was over the rail! Good thing that it wasn’t too high a fall in that place and onto grass or something instead of boulders. So we were able to reach down and retrieve him easily. We were lucky! He was a bit shaken but got back up and had his jump. What a bad game!

Our hotel was out a little bit on the way to Lake Matheson. There was an adjacent restaurant a few meters down the road we had a nice dinner at. Aidan unfortunately had a snit over wanting to choice where we sat and it took a while for him to be in a decent mood. I tend to let him chose where we sit at cafes but it doesn’t work for a whole crowd of people! I made good use of the spa tub – unfortunately in the morning I had a tub but then no hot water for a shower! Oops. Thankfully Nanma & Pop let me use their shower next door. We headed off to Lake Matheson. Unfortunately we seemed to have lost our great sunny weather. There is a trail around the edge of the lake in the rainforest with areas opening out to the vistas of snow covered mountains and Fox Glacier. It drizzled on us and the lake wasn’t crystal clear so we didn’t have the “view of views” picture of the mountains reflected in the lake that you see on the postcards and the highest/back mountains were a bit obscured, but we all really enjoyed the walk (1 ½ hours) and rate it highly. After a quick bite at the café at the trail head we drove a couple of km back to the Glacier. The sun popped out just as we were leaving to light up the top of the snow caps. I liked this glacier better – it wasn’t as grungy looking with gravel on it on the lower sides. All along the coast we have been a bit in awe of the river beds. They are absolutely huge. A little stream will meander through a stony (grey rounded usually) bed perhaps a couple of hundred feet wide. And we’ll see big logs strewn here and there. The force of occasional water outflows must be awesome. Apparently even the road at the glacier is rearranged sometimes by the water.

On down the coast we stopped off for another longish walk – to Monroe Beach. We were supposed to perhaps see rare penguins (Tamaki or Fjordland Crested) there – it is mating season. It was about 45 minutes to the beach. After the fact I learned that the penguins would probably be off to the side in the bushes or on the rocks. We of course stood in the middle of the sand… The sandflies were awful as noted in the books (we hadn’t really believed them). They were actually OK if you kept moving. Anyway, the walk was mostly just through rainforest – no views til the beach itself (which was very attractive). Nanma stayed in the car with sleeping Aidan – smart move! We proceeded onward to reach Haast right at sundown/twilight. Quite a miserable little motel I picked out for us at that location! Not that there seemed to be much better options. We ate at Smithy’s Tavern. Quite an experience. Not a vegetable in sight. I understood why the next day when I stopped at their “supermarket”. About 8 tomatoes, 2 red peppers, a pint or so of sweet potatoes pretty much constituted fresh food items. No apples or bananas. My burger was actually OK complete with beets on top. Pop wasn’t so convinced his steak sandwich (in buttered toasted white bread) needed beets on top. We did put away quite a few French fries (chips).

In the morning it looked a bit grey out. We backtracked a bit to Ship Creek beach where there was a ½ hour walk over the dunes – they kindly put up wooden boardwalk for us (the tracks here have been beautifully maintained) and then on to some lookouts over the ocean and a lake and some forest. A really great walk. We also just hung out and stretched our legs along the beach a bit. Nice. Back in the car we headed off for Haast Pass. To our surprise just a few km along the road the sun broke out – I suspect it was out there all day. It was out at the beach too but a km or so then inland was grey. We had a very nice drive through Mount Aspiring National Park and stopped at a few waterfalls along the way to ooh and aah. Had a nice picnic with views toward Mount Hooker and others with snow. Pete jinxed us by declaring “aah, no bugs”. So of course they soon came calling.

140some km along we made Wanaka town. We had a nice woodsy lodgy motel and all of us were rather impressed with the little town on the lake. The lake view was a bit clouded up – it appeared as though there was a fair bit of smoke from a fire down the lake a bit as we drove in. We are wondering what it was all about. Pete was pushing for us to remain there an extra night as the old bird in the hand… Had great dinner at Relishes Café. I had lamb starter in Dukkah spices over some fried noodles with sort of caramelized onions. Really good. Then duck compote on mushroom risotto with kumara sauce. Again excellent. I have also been enjoying very fine wine and last night tried a local Pinot Noir. Yum.

In the morning I kept the wee ones occupied while the rest of the gang had a nice breakfast in the motel restaurant. We then headed to lakeside (I detoured for savory muffin and mocha). Watched some fish fighting their way upstream. Aidan enjoyed splashing a stick in the lake and then playing in playground. We then headed to Puzzling World. What a great place to spend a rainy day. There is a lot of it you can do for free (we did) – tables set up with all sorts of puzzles – get the ring off the stick, tangoes (?), move pieces here and there kind etc. Too bad it was a glorious sunny day! We killed probably a couple of hours.

Mid-afternoon we decided to head to Queenstown via the high pass way – up about 1100 m. It used to be gravel but now is paved. We got to see lots of sheep (Pop got to NZ looking for them). Some even crossed road in front of us. Too bad we drove over big rock along the way… oops, started leaking gas pretty fast. At about 30 mph you could see a definite line behind us… A pretty drive though through mountains and Aidan finally got to get out and crunch in a little snow – a desire for weeks. This is where Pete smelled the gas… Fortunately our rental company About New Zealand had a Queenstown branch and we had a cell phone and they told us to stop off at the Mobile in town. The guys there had us patched up in under an hour and we toodled around town down by the lake and had pizza at Winnie Bagoe. Apricot, smoked chicken and cream cheese pizza no less – very yummy! Nice restaurant too with a couple of fires, lots of wood, casual. We all weren’t so impressed with Queenstown as we drove in – much bigger than Wanaka. But it seems quite attractive down near the lake – which is perhaps a tad prettier than Lake Wanaka. So we’ll enjoy going back in a few days to check it out some more. Everyone here we have talked to has oohed and aahed over Queenstown. Even President Clinton had an hour of sunlight left for our drive to Te Anau – our home for the next 3 nights. That was supposed to be the scenic part of the drive – along the lake. It was very attractive.

Te Anua I can’t comment on yet – seems about size of Wanaka or a bit smaller. Our accommodations get great marks though. The Explorer Lodge. A spacious 2 bedroom with spa tub and full kitchen and a dining room table to seat 6. Even tastefully decorated and nice china.

It is now Friday evening. Phyllis and Dave are out at dinner while we put the boys down and wait our turn. Aidan had microwaved frozen mac’n’cheese for dinner with some added veggies and cherios (sausage). I decided to let Quincy try a piece of pasta – he had finished all he’d eat of mush. Boy did he gobble it up! And then as soon as you would put his spoon down to the dish he would open up his mouth wide and wait impatiently. He is coming along really well with eating more solid food. He also takes bites right off a whole banana. I noticed his 6th tooth (upper left) yesterday. He uses all those teeth to take big chunks out of whatever you give him so we have to be careful that we don’t mind that he eat what we give him…

Te Anua is beautifully situated on Lake Te Anua surrounded by snow capped peaks. Even prettier than Wanaka or Queestown in some ways as it is a bit smaller lake / the mountains seem closer. We didn’t have a lot of time to appreciate the town though (I ran to the supermarket and grabbed a couple things from a bakery) as we had to leave at around 9 for the Doubtful Sound cruise. The weather was glorious here although it clouded in quite a bit as we got closer to the coast, we did see glimpses of sun all day. The drive to Manapouri Lake was very scenic – mountains in background with sheep or deer in the foreground. We loaded onto our first boat around 9.45. There were supposedly 36 of us and the boat holds 150 (and I got the feeling that in high summer season it does). The first boat ride was about 45 minutes long to the other side of the lake where the DoC (Department of Conservation – they do a great job) Visitor Centre and the Power Plant were. After a quick look around we boarded the bus. The only reason there is a road to the fjord (which is what Doubtful Sound really is – carved/created by glacier) is thanks to the Power Plant. They buried the plant and then pipe the water out 10 km to the Sound – and I believe that all manufacturing stuff was imported from the Sound, hence the road. Anyway, as this is all National Park, there is essentially nothing there except a Hostel on the other end for school kids. The bus goes over Wilmot Pass (I think) and has good views of the rainforest and surrounding peaks and quite a few waterfalls despite the lack of recent rain (snow melt I assume). The driver did a very nice job of commentary all day – on the boats too. We then boarded our Doubtful Sound boat for a 3 hour cruise around the Sound and into a couple of the ones branching off it. Our first view of the Sound from the bus was great – it was laced with low clouds and very pretty. The boat is set up with long comfortable benches to seat 3 across on either side of a table. Perfect especially as there were relatively few people so we could spread out if we wanted. They slowed down and stopped the boat at various points to tell us things. They have tree avalanches there – there is really no top soil – just lichens then moss then interweaving roots. Some of the trees grow out at right angles to the vertical cliffs. Come a heavy rain or snow – poof – off a tree goes and since it is so interwoven with it’s neighbors, they go to. You can see large swathes carved out of the vegetation on the cliffs just starting to regenerate. Fascinating. Unfortunately we didn’t hook up with the dolphins or any penguins. We did head out of the sound into the Tasman Sea (next stop Australia!) and saw a colony of seals hanging about on the rocks. It got to be a much rockier ride out there. There were areas of the Sound that were glass smooth. And when the motor was turned off – awesome. Then back on the bus. This time we let off Phyllis, Quincy and another lady and baby and the bus headed down the road to the Power Plant. 2 km along and about 70 stories down there we were. We walked thru the cave/tunnel into the generator (?) room where they had some good information displays as well as the view to the generators of course. The plant was built in the late 60s – and thanks to public outcry there was no raising of the Lake we had come over on and the Plant was buried. Really minimal environmental impact. The driver pointed out along the way the 30 year growth versus old growth. It still had a ways to go but at least it was all green! I was surprised to read that the Plant was essentially built to power an Aluminum Smelting plant. Hmm. I was also interested to read that as early as 1904 the Lake was recognized as a potential energy source. Then back across the Lake and home to our lovely motel for the last of the daylight.

Tomorrow Milford Sound. I am afraid our weather luck may be running out.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I am not sure quite where I left off, but we spent a good bit of our time and mental energies last week preparing for our 2 weeks of holiday on the South Island. I also spent some of Thursday and Friday running around trying to make the rest of our stay in NZ legit by obtaining an extension to our 3 month visas. It looks fairly easy to get but cross your fingers as they now know where we live and our original visas are up before we even get back north – except for Pete – will he still be in the country when we return?! Phyllis and Dave took a day to get in some sightseeing and maximized their $8 all day bus and ferry pass with trip downtown for lunch at SkyTower and a ferry ride to Devonport and back. I wasn’t used to having 2 little guys all to myself all day! We headed back to Jumping Beans which is back after “Term Break”. Aidan loves going. There is a baby class about 15 minutes after his ends for children Quincy’s age. He was all for us staying. He rather enjoyed being the only big kid around! It was interesting to see what all they had going on for little ones. I was actually rather impressed. They really have their act together especially as everything comes out of an returns to a regular sized van. They pack a lot of equipment in and it all converts and does multiple duties. The kids were both rather pooped afterwards as Aidan’s started at 11.30 and Quincy’s ended at 1.30. Aidan had snacked so I decided to drive them both down for a nap. Aidan resisted in a big way despite being tired. He outlasted me at over an hour’s drive at which point Quincy was back awake from me yelling at Aidan! At least the drive was scenic… And there are next to no traffic lights or stop signs in our suburb and surrounds. Nanma & Pop were a big help watching the boys Thursday and Friday so that I could do the visa stuff, make hotel reservations etc. Pop took Aidan (and Quincy although apparently he didn’t realize it!) to a little music / movement class at the community center. I think they both had a lot of fun. Pop has had a little shadow with Aidan. Or perhaps it is the other way around (at Aidan’s insistence). Both grandparents have also had a lot of potty duty which they take in good spirits. Aidan had gone a month or so no accidents then one night last week peed in bed (and I was sharing the bed but he kindly only wet his side). And then our first night traveling he fell asleep on way home and peed midway through the night without fully waking and had several accidents the second day although has been dry all day today (after being put back in pull-ups – just in case…). He knows right away and it is just a dribble but… Too much excitement?

Have I talked about the sinks and toilets here? Restroom sinks tend to be quite shallow front to back with separate hot and cold water taps. Sometimes only 6” deep. Useless! The toilets on the other hand are quite nifty in that they often/usually have 2 levels of flush available. You can figure that one out. Only use the larger amount of water when really needed.

We started our “adventure” Saturday morning when we were picked up in a minivan of the same make that we were going to rent and we headed to the airport. And all our bags and passengers fit!! We had been concerned… We flew Air New Zealand. Didn’t have to show ID to board plane or get boarding pass. No questions about packing our own bags… They offered to carry our backpacks on board for us as we had the 2 kids. Then on board (and not that big a plane – 737 or so) we were told where the child changing table was and offered help with nappies (diapers) bottles etc if needed. They helped install Aidan’s carseat and brought him a nice entertainment/activity book and colored pencils. Really really nice. And a very pleasant trip down with coastline and alpine views. It was election day – fancy, a Saturday not Tuesday! And all election garbage had to be removed by midnight Friday so no more banners on the street corners lingering on. So civilized.

We had bright clear sunny weather for our arrival in Canterbury region, Christchurch city. We were all most impressed with our drive into town from the airport. The taxi driver (lately a truck driver) informed us that we were going through the “upper crust” part of town. I quite like some New Zealand architecture and some of the houses I thought looked quite nice. They do a great job here with having doors and windows open up completely to the outside (ie our kitchen room has 4 doors across that all fold back along a track so that the whole wall disappears). Guess that makes sense since they don’t bother with air conditioning/heating of any kind! There is also a bit of a European sensibility about some of the aesthetic details that is pleasing. Some use of more high tech materials – metals and tensile fabrics – even in residences that are well used and appropriate. Christchurch is also known as the most English of all NZ cities and that was also apparent in the architecture and a bit more formal gardens we could see. It looked to be pancake flat unlike Auckland with its 48 volcanic hills. It is on Canterbury Plains – and they are Plains! We stayed in a nice Motel (motel means full stocked kitchenette and usually separate bedroom here) with very short walk to city central. Our hostess recommended that we head to the Arts Centre in the old University buildings. Sounded a bit odd to us but we decided to try it out. We walked past the River Avon and saw a “punter” poling his passengers along (think Venice Gondola) under the weeping willows. We spied the Cathedral. The University campus is quite nice and in the old English type stone architecture. There was a street performer that interested Aidan as we arrived and a outdoor market adjacent filled with crafts. We grabbed some Lamb Kebabs for lunch and sat and listened to a folk singer (sort of – very nice) in the sun. I picked up some bread from a van, blue cheese from another (smaller) van, and some fresh fruit from a stand for the next day. We then toured through some of the buildings which have been turned over for crafts. We saw wood and bone workers, bought fudge, ogled the fine knitted wear, looked at the leather – you get the picture. There was even a kite place to have fun in. We then set off to find sign of Rutherford – a famous Physicist that went to school there a bit before turn of century (I think). The Physics Building hosted a crafts store and clueless woman. Not far away we did find the “hundred dollar man” exhibit (guess which bill he is on). Mostly it showed rooms like would have existed in his time and a lot of replicas of his medals (many many) and didn’t explain too much about what he actually did that made him so important. So don’t ask me – I don’t really know. Then we enjoyed dinner at vegetarian & seafood restaurant Dux Lux (I think) right there. Very good. Aidan passed out on the stroll home.

It is colder and definitely a bit less daylight hours in the day than up north, but so far the weather has been pretty reasonable during the day especially with the sun out. Probably high 40s or so. Nanma & Pops new ski gloves seem overkill at this point, but they are keeping warm!

Sunday morning bright and early we headed out of town to the train station. At 9 sharp the Tranz Alpine departed for our trip across the plains up into the mountains and across Arthur’s Pass. What a beautiful trip! The plains are quite attractive in their own right as we passed through a patchwork of agriculture, sheep, cattle & deer fields with the snow capped mounts looming ahead. There was a viewing car right behind ours – exhilarating! Bitingly cold though with the speed of the train whipping the wind past. Aidan called it the Rumble Room – it was a bit too loud for him. We crossed 4 viaducts (bridges) and went through 19 tunnels. Through some of the trip we are in a fog zone in the valley we passed through – it was quite shallow in it’s depth (and I had seen it or something similar from the plane in isolated paths the day before) and we could at times see blue skies above. Inside the fog though all the plants including the trees were frosted – really spectacular. So we were probably trading some nice mountains for the pretty trees. There was one place that is a large sheep station – you could see hundreds of them framed by the frosted trees, disappearing off into the white distance. The train got us in a few minutes late at 1.45 into Greymouth at the mouth of the Grey River.

After a snack adjacent to the Jade Gallery we headed south to Shantytown. This coastal stretch is known for its jade (or greenstone as it was called here). I didn’t know that jade is found in boulders – cut them open and hope that there is jade inside and that it is of good quality… it has often been found in the streams and even on the beaches. Back to Shantytown. You can pan for gold – seemed like a silly idea to us to have your hands in water in the cool temperatures of late afternoon. But there are a bunch of buildings that replicate what you might find at the time of the gold rush (just a tad later than California’s). It was quite well done and we had the place almost to ourselves. We also got to take another train ride – only 15 minutes. It dropped us off at a sawmill that wasn’t working on Sunday but had displays explaining the process. We closed the place down at 5 and then headed south 40 km to Hokitika and our motel the Jade Court. We had a 2 bedroom Motel room this time (previous night was 2 separate rooms). We decided to implement the couples without kids dinner plan. Phyllis & Dave when first while we tried to settle the boys. Surprisingly difficult given their lack of naps and early arousal that morning! Café de Paris was the restaurant of choice. And a good choice it was Phyllis! Pete & I had our turn around 8.30. Afterwards we stopped off at the edge of town to check out the “largest above ground Glow Worm colony in the southern hemisphere”. They are actually flies although spend 75% of their year long life as larva. They glow in all stages and are often found in caves – they like cold damp places. You park by the side of the road then follow (grope along) handrails up a slope into the dell. The trees almost completely shut off the light above from the stars. The worms are stationary and look a bit like stars except you can tell there are tree branches in front of them. We had to go back in the day to see what it looked like. The dell is surrounded by fern clad vertical slopes where we think the worms are, but no sight of them by day. It was pretty cool. There was also a little walk up a slope with vistas out over the seemingly unending shoreline.

This morning we got off to only a 10 a.m. start. Pete & Dave enjoyed a nice kidfree (well Quincy napped) breakfast at the same place while Phyllis, Aidan & I ate our delicious muffins outside in the sun. We finished about the same time and then headed to visitor center. We just made it in time for the noon eel feeding show at Water World. 60 eels, quite a few around 2 meters in length. Diver wears steel mesh gloves to protect his hands from their teeth – and his wet suit looked a bit nibbled on. What a job! A small aquarium but rather nice in spite of or perhaps because of that. I left the crew there for a bit and went and check out the craft stores. I watched glass being blown and saw jade being carved. And spent a little money… We had a snack before heading out to town. I kept shoveling a few bites into Aidan while the other adults headed off to a church as it is the anniversary of Dave’s death.

The drive south to Franz Joseph Glacier is about 140 km. Very scenic with snow capped mountains to the side and sometimes ahead. We crossed quite a few creeks/rivers. They are rather small but have huge spanning river beds lined with rocks (glacier??). We wonder how often the water stretches the full width. The hills and farm land on this narrow stretch between mountain and coast is very green. They get A LOT of rain thanks to the mountains. We saw a lot of deer farms. Not something you see back home. The kids both got in a nap on the way to the Glacier. We took a short (20 min supposedly) walk to Sentinel Rock for a view and a few informational signs (showed previous extent of advancement and retreat of Glacier). Interesting, but we have all seen other glaciers. These are special in that they are very fast flowing and come down pretty close to sea level (300 m) in a rather temperate place/latitude. Dusk was upon us as we hit the first really twisty roads of our trip on our way to Fox Glacier area where our motel awaited.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Quincy weighed in at 15lb 1oz Wednesday. So almost a pound in a month. Seemed like he was really getting heavy to me. I came home and charted it on his chart - and he is still well below the last chart line of 5%... So I have 2 lightweights. How come my back doesn't agree with that statement?! Quincy the last 2 days has made a real effort to get into coordinated crawling. He is now belly off the floor almost all the time altho still often forearms instead of hands in front but up onto knees in the back. He is also quite fast regardless of his rollypolly state. He has amazing body control and really can keep that head from hitting floor or other objects. He now sits quite well when placed in sitting position as long as he doesn't want to head forth and crawl after something which is usually the case. I picked up a highchair of sorts for him - it sits on a regular chair but has a tray so I can get a little distance between him and the table (ie my food). I found that a fennel stalk is a great pacifier for him - he likes the taste and will work on it for quite a while but it is solid enough that although he can shred the end with his 5 little teeth he so far hasn't been able to get off any chunks. I gave him some cornbread tonight. He really enjoyed that although not that much actually made it into his mouth. It allowed me enough time to finish up MY cornbread... Will be interesting to see how it goes in predominantly restaurants over next 2 weeks in South Island. Wish us luck!
Our latest bedtime ploy - Aidan sleeping with Quincy! He is willing to go down with little fuss if we let him go to sleep in our room with Quincy. Bad news here is that he likes to have physical contact with Quincy. He starts off by immediately holding hands and sort of climbs into crib and puts his head to Quincy's. Very sweet. You would never guess that big bad brother who is always taking toys out of Quincy's hand and sitting on him etc would be so loving. Too bad that it has an over 50% wake up Quincy factor... The first time he did it I did see both boys awake and staring at each other and as I closed the door I expected to shortly hear Quincy cries. They never came. They have on other days however. Quincy is getting enough solids now that he seems to be going about 3 hours between feedings. A big plus for me but still midnight, 3 and 6 a.m. are not alot of fun to wake up to. I have joined Aidan the last few days to keep him in his bed and to sleep in. Pete wakes 6.30ish and then I get woken for the day - unless I am downstairs with Aidan with door closed... So I have gotten to sleep in til after 8 this week! So I haven't needed naps - but then again Aidan hasn't been willing to take one either...

Monday, July 22, 2002

Quincy had his first fall off a bed. We were downstairs (in room under him) caterwauling out I've Been Working on the Railroad (his favorite) when I heard him start crying. When I went in - I didn't see him! Turns out he made for the 6"x6" open space between bed, nightstand, and crib. He was on the floor below, wrapped around the bed leg. He didn't seem too unhappy about the fall - more that he couldn't go any where. That night I watched him make a beeline right for that area again. Seems he didn't learn much! I think he wants either the lamp or it's cord on the nightstand. Today after nap I watched him crawl into his crib (set 4 or 5" below bed level and a couple inches from bed) and then try very hard to pull himself up on edge toward nightstand and later opposite end - about 12 - 15" up - no success fortunately. He then managed with a bit of work to haul himself back out and up on the bed. He is a determined little boy! And now quite fast. He still mostly crawls on his belly using forearms to pull himself forward - but he uses both arms instead of just left one now. He is also spending a fair bit of time up on his knees too now. He can also sit fairly well if put down in that position - at least until he decides he wants to head off for something else. He also enjoys propping himself up on his left side - reminds me of studies of nudes reclining from late 1800s in art class. He has remarkable body control and can control his head so that when he rolls around or falls his head doesn't bang down but instead comes down very gently.
Monday was supposed to be a rainy day - although it was gray we didn't have any drops until we were snug in our beds as it turned out. But I pursuaded Nanma & Pop that they should stay nice and dry with us and go shopping. We stopped off at Craft World (not a place to buy craft supplies as Nanma first imagined but a place to buy NZ made crafts). Nanma and I stocked up on gifts for friends/family. We then headed back to Botany Downs Mall / shopping center where they have the large bookstore with tractor on the ceiling, train that runs around track battery powered, and a decent cafe beside all of this. We then found an outdoor store and managed to stock up on a few essentials like good gloves, thermal underwear etc for our trip south this saturday. Aidan asks daily - are we going to the snow now?? Nanma and Pop declared it a good outing at our return at 4 p.m. The boys both passed out as we neared home and the grandparents decided that was a good idea and joined them in slumber land. Quincy had the shortest nap, then I woke Aidan. Surprisingly all our racket didn't wake the other two! Fortunately while they all slept I got a chicken and some root veggies in the oven for dinner.
Don’t think I remembered to mention one incident of our Rotorua trip. As we drove into town we saw several areas with steam rising up from the ground and the odor as we went by was not that pleasant. We shortly pulled up outside the museum and gardens to get our bearings. Pete headed off for a short walk. Phyllis announced that she would change Quincy as he clearly needed it. You can probably guess where this is going… I am sure I looked quizzically at her and indicated that I didn’t think that he needed a change. Sure enough, sulphur was the cause of the stink. To get us back he presented us with 4 poops the following day!

Pop arrived bright and early Wednesday morning. He was apparently waiting for Pete and Phyllis when they arrived before 7 a.m. They stopped off in our little village and picked up some still warm from the oven croissants. Quincy was in my arms when they came in. You should have seen his head whip around when he heard that new voice. Aidan was delighted to have a new addition to his audience. He took a bemused I’m sure Pop on a long tour of the house. He spent probably 45 minutes just explaining all the contents of this computer room/mezzanine – as far as I knew it just had a desk, computer, and changing table! But he managed to point out my reading glasses and who knows what not (I was listening with only half an ear from the kitchen). He later went on to show Pop the contents of Nanma’s case from on her dresser even to explain that she uses lipstick and this is how it opens and this is how she puts it on! I didn’t even realize that he had been in there to observe this ritual. Pop brought with him our longest string of calm sunny weather. He was quite impressed with our situation here – house, village, Auckland. I dropped Pop and Nanma off down in Mission Beach for brunch and a walk back to our village and house. I took Aidan off to Jumping Beans – I thought. Oops – doesn’t start til next week! We did have a rain cloud come through that day – just as I was walking Aidan down to our designated lunch spot (Atomic Café with the sandbox). He was not happy about the distance we had to walk although he was well protected from the weather with rain boots, rain coat and his own umbrella.

Thursday we got off to a very late start. It was our second day to not have enough hot water to shower (except Pete!!). Apparently a few years back the electric companies made a move to take over control of people’s hot water heaters. They have a relay on ours and when there is high “load demand” they can shut you off for 5 hours. And this can be at 7 a.m.!!! Barbaric. So it is Russian roulette every morning – will it be cold or hot today… I have told Pete he is on a strict water ration. So Nanma didn’t get showered and dressed til after 2 or so and Pop around 6 after waking from a nap. I have a few photos of them out on the patio with the kids. Aidan was extremely grumpy when he got up – much too little cumulative sleep. I had the bright idea of letting him loose with some colored water and a bunch of dishes and spoons. A hit!! At the end of the 3 or so HOURS he happily played he was able to tell you how to make green, purple and orange! I don’t think it has really stuck with him as he had to rediscover how he made that purple…he very much likes the game and asks for it a lot.

Friday the lot of us (excepting working Daddy of course) headed back to the zoo. They have a nice area called Pridelands where they have several types of animals in same large enclosure – giraffes, ostriches, antelope etc. They were all off exhibit! Fortunately they were allowed back in before we left the area and we got to see them amble off towards their snacks so it was interesting. And before they showed up some loose roosters were having a crowing match to Aidan’s fascination. We also heard very loud noises from across the zoo. We headed off in search and discovered the Gibbons. Their calls are supposed to be heard up to 1 km away – I believe it! A cloud and breeze came by and I pushed the crew on to lunch time. I took them all back to Atomic Café where Nanma and Pop joined me in my favorite roasted root veggie on greens salad with a Trim Mocha Latte.

Saturday we had a van reservation for Waiheke island – the largest island around here at 23 km long and 93 or so sq. km. It is a bit over ½ hour ferry ride through the bay – very attractive. The car rental guy recommended a specific vineyard for lunch – and as it was nearing lunchtime that sounded attractive. We stopped at a beach or two and did a bit of scenic driving on the way. The vineyard is called Te Whau (pronounced like ‘fowl’). A beautiful building perched on the crest overlooking the harbor to one side and Auckland on the other. They have a very limited production – you have to be a subscriber or visit the vineyard to try their wine. I rate it one of the 2 best meals we have had here. They only serve lunch as I understand the family currently lives below the restaurant and have a couple of young girls. I read in their newsletter that Wine Spectator is including them as one of the worlds best restaurants for wine loves in August issue. Pop and I had seared tuna, Pete had lamb chops and Nanma had salmon – Aidan (with Pete’s help) had some very yummy sausages. Quincy wanted food… After lunch we headed off to do the back loop around the rural part of the island. They didn’t tell us that it was a dirt road! Very attractive though. Pop had wanted to see some sheep – and got his wish. We just missed the 5 p.m. ferry by a few minutes – it was still there as we pulled up but we had to get rid of car etc – so we stopped and got coffees while waiting for 6 p.m. ferry. Too bad we missed the sunset ride. We all then hopped on a bus for home – the younger 4 of us had our car parked a short way out of town. The elder two continued on to our village and had dinner sans kiddies.

Sunday I turned a blind eye and drove the crew out to breakfast and a visit to One Tree Hill (missing any trees at all on top currently). I say turned blind eye as there wasn’t room for everyone PLUS Quincy’s car seat… A nice breakfast – Quincy slept through it !!! The park was very enjoyable. It is the largest park in town with the possible exception of the Auckland Domain. There are also quite a number of sheep and cattle in various parts of the park. Other parts have attractively landscaped walks. We even saw a little troup of men practicing their medieval fighting skills with broadswords, lances and shields. We also saw people out bar-be-queing. We noticed on Waikeke Island – they had flat stainless cooktops that have gas heat source underneath that you start with a push button on the side. No fuss no muss! After checking out the playground we headed home to drop off Nanma and Pop and pick up salad fixins for a bar-be-que at Pete’s co-worker’s house. There were 3 families and 3 other children (a little older than ours). It was enjoyable but not overly memorable i.m.o. I was surprised to learn that I have taken better advantage of some of the things available to children than the native’s wife who said she’d been there 2 years (they have a 4 yr old).