Category: Life

Hello Fiji!

Hello Fiji!

We decided when going to Fiji this year with the kids, that we’d save some time by flying down to Christchurch to meet them, rather than drive.  What a stroke of genius this turned out to be!  Apart from the stress of hoping and praying that our flight wouldn’t be cancelled or delayed for any reason, it was perfect…

Our flight to Christchurch left right on time at 10.05am.  Conditions were smooth and although we couldn’t see the mountains because of the high cloud cover, the view coming into Christchurch was lovely.  We were in seats 10A and 10B, which were the exit row towards the back of our Q300 aircraft.  These workhorse planes are among the best aircraft flying today, I believe.  They’re grunty, reliable and comfortable.

We thought the kids were meeting us at 12.30pm but they surprised us by being there waiting when we got off the plane (along with their “chauffeurs” Barrie and Carmen of course!).  We had some time to kill so went and had an early lunch before going through Customs.

One of the things I love most about travelling with teenagers and tweens, is watching them learn to navigate their own way in life.  I took them over to organise their own foreign currency exchange which they all handled well and they were super excited having a new currency to study.

New Zealand Customs are trialling a new system where they let 10-14 year olds go through the smart check-in, which was wonderful for us as it meant no queuing.  Zach handled it like a proper wee jetsetter.  These things can be daunting when you have to go through one at a time and no one can do it for you!

We went into the Koru Club where we discovered our flight was delayed by 40 minutes.  I went to the bookshop and got a pack of cards, and taught the kids to play Last Card (one from the “Olden Days” when I was a kid).  In the end we had all 5 of us playing away happily (albeit competitively) until our flight was called.

We flew to Nadi on Air New Zealand’s, A320 direct flight from Christchurch.  This route flies several times a week over Winter and is just fantastic for the time it saves.  The flight was really calm until just out of Fiji, when the Captain warned us of some turbulence ahead.

The turbulence encountered was the worst I’ve had in several years, but luckily lasted only a minute or so.  I had an empty seat next to me that a harried flight attendant collapsed into and I watched with interest as he clutched the seat in front holding on as the plane worked its way through the massive air pocket.

Within 10 minutes of this turbulence we were on our descent into Nadi thankfully!

I also must mention the airline food on this flight.  Normally atrocious no matter who you fly with, I had a chicken curry on this flight that I would have gladly paid money for at a restaurant.  It was spot on!

Customs in Fiji was very easy, they didn’t even look at the food we had brought in, just waved us through.  We walked through the Arrivals Hall and waited for the Tanoa Hotel’s courtesy coach which arrived about 5 minutes later.

The Tanoa Hotel is close to Nadi Airport and is the hotel used by many of the airlines flight crews.  It’s clean, tidy, and has three restaurants and a pool.  It’s rated 3.5 star and is very reasonably priced considering you get a full buffet breakfast and courtesy airport transfers included.

We had requested an inter-connecting room, however as the hotel was fully booked, they were unable to do this, and had instead booked us rooms opposite each other.  Jase and Zac took one room and the girls and I took the other.

Zac was looking particularly knackered by the time we’d checked in and organised our rooms, so we got some chicken wings and chips from room service, and then sent the boys off to bed.

Caitlyn, Amber and I wandered down to the pool, where we sat on the edge with our legs dangling in the water, while chatting and listening to the band play in the bar.  It  was warm and the air was scented with frangipani.  It was a lovely way to end the evening and we headed back to our room about 11.00pm.

It was very strange climbing into bed without Jase there.  We have only been apart once since we got married almost 5 years ago, and that was when I was in hospital.  The only other night apart was the night before our wedding.

Tomorrow we head for Plantation Island!  YAY!



Goodbye Glorious Taupo!

Goodbye Glorious Taupo!

5 nights is just not long enough to spend in this wonderful piece of Godzone….

All too soon, our time has come to an end.  We decided to spend our last morning in town having a look around, before heading back to the fantastic pool to swim our sorrow away for the afternoon.

Jase, Caitlyn and I decided to have a crack at the Lake Hole in One challenge.  You pay $20 for a bucket of 25 golf balls and basically take out all of your pent up rage and anger (if you have any – otherwise it’s a rather strategic, careful game!) with club and ball and aim for a pontoon in the lake.  It’s hard enough to achieve this (if you’re a weakling like me!) but even harder of course to then get the hole in one which is on the pontoon.  If you manage to get it, you win $2000.00.  Apparently someones strikes gold with this about once a fortnight (we didn’t!).


After Hole in One, we met up with Craigs family and went to play minigolf.  I have to say this was a bit of a logistical nightmare, thanks to either greedy or unexperienced staff.  There were 9 of us, which obviously takes a while to get through.  What should happen (I believe) is that when you book in, you have to wait a certain length of time before you start, so there is a working distance between groups, especially at busy times of the year like the Christmas holidays.

However, this lady just kept taking group after group, handing out the clubs and sending people on their way.  This created a huge bottleneck, with another group watching our game while waiting, and another group behind them putting pressure on.  We were stuck behind a family as well, so in the end with pushing the kids up one hole further when we could, we lost of track of scoring.

Now that is a disaster.  Anyone who knows me (and Jase, and Craig) knows that we are fiercely competitive and there are no games where “everybody is a winner”.  So, we ended up having our own wee 3 way game but really, the enjoyment was taken out of it with the pressure of people just everywhere.


After mini-golf, we walked back to town to grab some lunch.  KFC for Craig’s family, while Jase, Caitlyn & Amber had Subway and Zach and I had Sushi.  We sat outside at a picnic table overlooking the lake and ate our lunch before my family headed back for some r&r at the holiday park, and Craig’s family did a bit of shopping.  We met up with Mum and Dad back at the park and the afternoon was spent in the pool.

We headed to the Lonestar for dinner, which was lovely.  I’m always impressed when the staff get orders right for big groups.  There were 11 of us, and the staff were friendly, accommodating and got it all bang on right.  Well, apart from the young girl who dropped Tobi’s burger on the floor as she walked up to the table.  I felt so sorry for her!  She kept calm though and Tobi was busy drawing on the colouring in paper the kids were all given so he didn’t worry about it at all.  Another burger was quickly supplied.

Driving out the next morning at 8am was a bit sad.  I felt we’d all had a really relaxing, healthy holiday and I wasn’t ready to leave!  We’d had a bit of a problem with a massive group of people somewhere near to the park (but not in it) who were screaming down a megaphone with all their audience singing and hollering until about 1am which demented everyone in the park.  We kept hearing guests going outside their tents or rooms and screaming for them to shut up.  Anyway, the council and police were getting onto it by the time we checked out, so hopefully that doesn’t happen again.  Not so bad for us being in a room, but for the families with wee kiddies trying to sleep in a tent, it would have been horrendous.

We didn’t get to see the mountains heading south as it was a bit of a miserable day, but the time flew quickly as we listened to music and chatted.  We stopped in Levin for lunch and were at the ferry terminal in Wellington right on time.

The weather in Wellington was sublime…..  a very light breeze, stinking hot sun and calm sea’s.  Absolutely PERFECT for a crossing on the Interislander.  We simply couldn’t have asked for better.


The crossing was smooth, calm and sunny.  We sat on the deck, had a drink and watched the world go by.  Tracey met up unexpectedly with some of her relatives on the boat which was cool, and the kids all got souvenir coins which they were excited about.


When we got to Picton, we decided to just get a pie at the petrol station and head for home, while the rest of the group wanted something a bit more substantial.  We grabbed our food and kept heading for home, arriving about 8pm.  I have to say the pie at the Z Service Station in Picton was one of the BEST I’ve ever had….  I savoured every mouthful of my pepper steak pie and the rest of the fam did too.  Yummo 🙂

So, we’re home now.  It’s a bit quiet without our fur babies, who don’t get picked up until tomorrow.  The rest of the family are heading this way and will be here shortly for the night before driving the final 4 hours tomorrow back to Hokitika.

A wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating family holiday that everyone should experience!!!!


A bit of sightseeing!

A bit of sightseeing!

Where do you start when you’re wanting to do a bit of sightseeing for a day in the Taupo region?  There is SO much to do…

We only had the one day, so decided on the Huka Falls (you just can’t go to Taupo and not visit there – it’s like eating pies without tomato sauce!) and Orakei Korako, the Hidden Valley thermal area, which we picked as it’s one of my favourite places, and it doesn’t smell too putrid which is a benefit to those with more “delicate” nostrils hehe!

The Huka Falls are just beautiful.  The most stunning shades of turquoise blue, mixed with frothing white water.  They are on the Waikato River, which drains Lake Taupo.  A few hundred metres upstream from the falls, the river narrows from around 100 metres across to 15 metres.  The canyon was created during the time of Taupo’s massive Oruanui eruption, which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago.

Caitlyn getting her phone ready to take a video at the Huka Falls
Caitlyn getting her phone ready to take a video at the Huka Falls

A huge volume of water rushes through, sometimes as high as 220,000 litres per second!  The flow rate is regulated by Mighty River Power through the Taupo Control Gates.  All part of the hydro system planning that the Waikato Regional Council dictate.

At the top of the falls is a set of small waterfalls, which drop over about 8 metres.  The final stage is a huge 6 metre drop, which actually raises to 11 metres by the depth of the water.

Huka Falls
Huka Falls

It’s a hugely popular place, and being the first day in a week that wasn’t raining, every other tourist in the area had the same idea as us, make the most of the sun!  The carpark was full but having 4wd utes, the lovely carpark attendant allowed us to drive halfway up a bank and perch precariously on the side.

We wandered down, batting aside the seething mass of tourists, and wedged ourselves on the first bridge.  What a special place this is!!!!  Just glorious…..  We took our time and I have to say that for the amount of people there, every single person was courteous.  It was great!

It actually wasn’t planned that they were all wearing either black or grey!!!! Tobi aged 9, Caitlyn aged 15, Zachary aged 10, Riley aged 12, Amber aged 12.

Next stop was Orakei Korako.  When I worked at Flight Centre in Greymouth, many many moons ago (because I am the ancient vintage of 40 after all….!) I used to drive every day from Hokitika to Greymouth to go to work, and would listen to the radio.  There were these ads about Orakei Korako, advertising that it was a hidden valley, accessed only by boat.  I always remembered those ads and had a vision in my head of what Orakei Korako was about (I was completely wrong by the way – I tend to have a rather vivid imagination).

You’re going to have to bear with me here, I LOVE this place and you need to read all about it…..


Orakei Korako is Maori, meaning “The Place of Adorning”.  It’s a highly active geothermal area, most noted for its series of fault-stepped sinter terraces.  In the early 19th century, the Maori population congregated here, probably attracted by the hot springs, which they used for cooking and bathing.  We don’t know when they left the area but it’s been suggested that they left after the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886, because of great changes in the hot springs.

The earliest known route from Rotorua to Taupo for early European travellers passed right through Korakei Korako, and it was the last two remaining Maori families in the area who provided a dugout canoe to get people visitors across the then-swift Waikato River.  In the 1930’s, a wire strop and pulley system was erected.  The tourist resort was officially opened on 15 December 1937.


In 1955 the proposal for a power development was fianally approved (it had been first proposed in 1904).  By May 1960 an earth-filled dam, rising 49 metres above the river level was placed and consolidated.  The filling of Lake Ohakuri began on 19 January 1961 and was completed in 14 days.  Two of the world’s largest geysers were sadly drowned by the lake, one used to erupt up to 90 metres high (the same size as the Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park), and the Orakeikorako Geyser which blew to 55 metres, the geyser from which the whole area was named.  Also flooded were 200 alkaline hot springs and 70 other geysers.  Some of these features still discharge and are evident as gas bubbles rising from vents in the lake bed.

The lowest terrace is the jade-green Emerald Terrace.  It’s the largest of its kind in NZ since the presumed destruction of the famed Pink and White Terraces in the Mount Tarawera eruption of 1886.  The Emerald Terrace continues down 35 metres under the lake.


Even with the loss of two thirds of its thermal features under the artificial lake, Orakei Korako remains the largest geyser field in NZ with up to 35 active geysers.  The most famous is the Diamond Geyser, totally unpredictable with eruptions that can last from minutes to hours, ejecting boiling water as high as 9 metres.

The three terraces above the lakeside Emerald Terrace are great fault scarps formed by a massive earthquake in 131 AD, around the time when Lake Taupo was last erupting.  The are mostly covered in hot water algae with different species presenting in different colours.

At the top of the third terrace is the Artist’s Palette, a 10,000 m2 silica sinter terrace covered with clear blue alkali chloride pools and irregularly erupting geyers.  To one side of this terrace, a new geyser began to erupt in 2001, possibly the beginnings of a further terrace.  Cool aye!


There are plenty of other features at Orakei Korako, such as the Ruatapu Cave, one of only two caves in the world known to exist in a geothermal field.  The cave extends 45 metres, with a vertical drop of 23 metres, to a shallow pool of clear, sulfate-rich, warm acid water.  The pools chemical composition gives it the unique ability to clean jewellery.

We wandered around the well formed paths for a couple of hours, soaking in the exquisite scenery, and as we walked back down towards the boat, the heavens opened.  It was such awesome timing that we had seen all we had set out to see before it started raining.

We took the wee boat back across to the visitors centre and decided to have a late lunch there.  Prices were really reasonable and we had sandwiches, pies and sausage rolls with some cold drinks.  I really am impressed with pricing up in the North Island.  I think places like Queenstown are just taking the mickey with their costs, you’d think up north you were in a different country!

More pool time this afternoon and a yummy home cooked meal of Spaghetti Bolognaise followed by a night swim!  We are in Paradise…..









The Lake Taupo Holiday Resort

The Lake Taupo Holiday Resort (previously called the Top 10 Holiday Park Taupo), is the most fantastic destination for families with kids.  The thermally heated lagoon pool is the biggest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and cost over two million dollars to build, and the kids (and big kids) can play and splash around for hours.  The water is warmer than the water in Fiji year round!

Taupo Holiday Resort

A swim-up café and bar has everything from coffee to a cheeky wee cocktail on offer and there’s also a giant poolside screen that shows sports and movies, almost around the clock.


There are parts of the pool for all ages, with a lovely wee lagoon style paddling pool for toddlers, complete with a toadstool fountain.  There’s a massive spa, and a cave with the water in there an impressive depth of 4 metres that you swim to under a waterfall.  The kids particularly loved that area and would dive to try and reach the bottom.  Kids under 16 aren’t allowed in the cave without adults and the staff were great at doing spot checks.


The accommodation is varied and well positioned.  There are powered and non-powered sites, and a variety of cabins to suit every configuration and budget.

We stayed in the Wimbledon Cottage, a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom unit overlooking the tennis courts.  It’s a fantastic set-up, the only gripe being there is no oven in the unit, which isn’t ideal when you’re trying to cook for 11 people.  The communal BBQ’s in the grounds come in handy though!

Wimbledon Cottage

The morning was spent sleeping in, relaxing and waiting for the groceries that we’d ordered to be delivered.  Countdown provide a great online service.  It’s how I do all my grocery shopping at home and I thought I’d give it a whirl on holiday too.  It went without a hitch!  Dad and Jase cooked up a mean feed of sausages for lunch that we had with bread and salad.  I don’t normally like sausages but these were beef beauties from the Kaniere butcher in Hokitika.  They were amazing!

During the afternoon, the 3 boys hired out some wee bikes and burnt off a bit of energy with an hour long zoom around the park.  They absolutely loved it!  Once they were finished we all hit the pool, where the kids ordered their first drink at a swim up bar.  They all thought they were the coolest kids on the planet, and sat there swigging their cokes and sprites like the best bar proppers.


Caitlyn and I enjoyed a mocktail each, and I have to say, the prices were really reasonable.  Being a captive audience, they could charge what they like but the kids drinks were only $4.00 each and our mocktails were $6.50 each.  Really good value for the size. 

Taupo Holiday Resort 2

Jase and I were called upon in the early evening to help out an 11 year old who had fallen off his bike.  He had broken both wrists, hit his head and hurt his neck when he had fallen and was in a serious amount of pain. Jase and I took over his care, organised the ambulance and assisted the paramedics.  The wee lad was back the next day with two casts on and came knocking at our door (with his head as his arms weren’t working) and had a box of chocolates under his arm for us.  Warm fuzzies!  It was so nice to help someone again, and made us both miss our ambo jobs (for an instant anyway).  Unfortunately the politics at St John are so intense that neither of us would consider returning at this stage.  The politics bled the joy out of the job.

Dinner was a mixture of Tracey’s butter chicken and rice, and my honey soy chicken noodle stirfry.  We were all tired so it was another early night.  Tomorrow we’re out sightseeing, bring it ON!