Trip Start Dec 03, 2008
Trip End Oct 14, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , Auckland,
Friday, May 29, 2009

A few months ago, two of the World's Greatest Mom's decided they were both willing and able to come and visit their wonderful children.  Both Elaine and Susan started the trip on May 29th.  Elaine left from the Quad Cities airport, meeting Susan in Chicago.  Together they flew to LA where they were supposed to be on the same 13+ hour flight to Auckland.  Something got messed up and they ended up on different flights but only leaving within an hour of each other.  They arrived on the 31st.  So see, its not so bad, you leave on a Friday morning and arrive on Sunday morning (but get the time back when you return).

Brian and I had a big day ahead of us even without the Mom's coming.  We got up early and headed to the BIG car market in hopes of selling Miles.  We had a good number of people interested, Brian even took some people on test drives.  All interested though were car dealers (well, they wouldn't admit it) and were just going to sell Miles at another market later on for more more money.  So, needless to say, they weren't willing to give us much of anything for the car.  We had a couple offers but held out.  Then, with an hour left this guy named Eric walked up.  Bran and him drove out for a test drive.  Eric lived in Auckland for the last 3 months but hadn't driven yet, so Brian had to drive the car around for him.  Pretty funny.  Turns out, he is from Texas and his Dad went to the University of Iowa.  He said he trusted us and so had the car checked out by a mechanic on-site. 

As we thought, there were some problems so we lowered our price quite and bit and Eric still wanted to think about it for a couple days.  But we didn't have the time so we gave him a Willbond special offer...and he took it.  It was still more then what the dealers were willing to give. 

So, Brian drove the 3 of us around town looking for an ATM - once we had the money, we got dropped off at the hotel and Eric went on his way.  We were glad he wasn't driving when we were in the car and still wonder if he made it home okay.  SO...WE SOLD THE CAR!!!  

The Mom's - Part I

We arrived at the hotel and knew E&S were there because their flights were in at 6:30 am.  As it turns out, that morning we only missed each other by 10 minutes.  Right when we were getting to the room they opened up the door and we all started screaming and hugging and streaming some more.  Those were the best hugs ever!  I was so excited I forgot my sunglasses were on my head and knocked them off.  We were on the 4th floor and the hallway was outside - so they fell and smashed on the ground.  These crazy $9.99 sunglasses from Target - they won't break - we found all the pieces and put them back together. 

We got a great apartment/hotel for the couple of days.  There was this really nutty, funny guy that worked there.  He bent over backwards for us and made our stay really great.  I think we all went down to the front desk at least once, while he was working just to get a good laugh - what a goof ball he was.  The 4 of us sat around for awhile and had to have some wine to celebrate...and just because NZ wine is the very very best!  

Brian and I wanted to show them Mt. Eden (which we hiked a few times when we first arrived in Auckland).  The weather was changing but we decided to leave anyway.  We walked 2 blocks and turned around.  From the time we left the hotel the winds picked up and started to rain.  So, we went back to the room and drank more wine.  Around dinner time we got a cab and took them to our favorite bar in Auckland where they make their own beer - yum.  There was a band playing and we hung out there for awhile.  Afterwords we headed across the street to the best pizza/Italian place and had dinner. That night both Moms were so tired we all hit the hay early. 

The next day we got to Mt. Eden.     It was super windy but really glad they got to see it.  We also did a really great Harbor Cruise that turned into us taking a longer ferry to an island and having lunch (one of the best yet) at a little cafe/wine bar on a cliff overlooking the water.  It was so great and the food was awesome.  Brian and I are trying to get used to eating out a lot and actually enjoying the temping food New Zealand as to offer.  That night we were so full from lunch we skipped dinner.  That night we got ready for our trip up to the Northernland. 

After renting the car the next day, we hit the road.  We had about a 4 hour drive up to 90 Mile Beach that turned into 7 hours because we stopped along the way.  The Moms were so excited about the scenery, Bri and I had to remind ourselves how we felt when we got out of Auckland - in total disbelief.  One of our stops was the Bee Shop that actually had 1,000s of bees in the shop (luckily, behind glass).  They sold all these crazy bee products.  This one kind of honey - Manuka - is proven to be more effective than prescription antibiotics.   The other BIG stop along the way was to see one of NZ's oldest and biggest Kauri trees - Te Matua Ngahere - which is 53 feet in circumference and over 2,000 years old.  We took Moms on a bush walk to see them.  

After really getting car sick and getting really hungry we finally made it to our hotel in Ahipara, just missing the sunset.  The place was beautiful - it had a huge deck that overlooked the water, which is the beginning of 90 Mile Beach.  We quickly made it up to the restaurant for yet another amazing meal. 

Because we have only 11 days and 2 countries we had to keep moving along to Bay of Islands.  Looking back I would have made us stay another night at 90 Mile.  The morning we left we spent some time on the beach and went for a long walk.  The tide was out and there were huge pools of water in the sand, all of which had crazy things in them.  We saw some starfish, fish, and 1,000s of crabs.  And just because we could, I drove all of us out onto the beach in our SUV.  Although, they were all worried I was going to get stuck or something, so that didn't last long.  Boo. 

On the way out of town we stopped by Okahu Estate winery (the most northern winery in NZ)and were the only people there at the time so the guy showed us all around the vineyard.  He must have shown us everything but the bathroom.  Then we did a tasting.  There were enough wines to try for 50 people, so we didn't get to try them all, but the ones we did, we really enjoyed.  I was driving, otherwise I would have enjoying them even more.  We ended up getting a few bottles and headed on our way. 

We got to Paihia (Bay of Islands) and got a late lunch.  A lady told us to head out to the Maori reserve cafe.  Wow!  What a great recommendation!   The best lunch!  That night we were still so full, we again skipped dinner again.  After lunch we checked into our Lookout Hotel and watched the sunset over the water with our 360 degree views!   The manager was this really wacky funny man with cat hair all over him, Norm, and he really liked to talk.  It seemed he must have just had a scare because he said he's happy to be alive, because he just almost wasn't.  He showed us to our apartment and stood with us for a long time telling every detail under the sun.  He was such a nice guy and funny to talk to, but we just wanted to watch the sunset. 

We  got up early the next day and headed down to the harbor for our dolphin cruise.  We saw some right away but couldn't swim with them because there was a baby in the group - small group anyway.   The cruise took us around to a bunch of other cool things in the Bay of Islands but we didn't see any more dolphins, which was upsetting.  We really wanted to swim with them - maybe somewhere else we'll get the chance.    Either way, we had a lot of fun on the cruise.  Afterwords we had lunch at a little cafe along the main street and skipped dinner again.  We got in a little shopping there and headed back to the hotel.  After the sunset we just relaxed and enjoyed NZ weather. 

The next day was spent with early morning shopping (Brian's fav) and a 3 hour drive back to Auckland with stops along the way again.  We first stopped by some really famous public bathrooms!  Yes.  Designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the toilets were awarded the prestigious Golden Plunger award – a world wide search for the best public toilets as voted by the traveling public.  They are made from glass, tile, sculpture, a living tree and had a grass roof.

When we got close to Auckland we wanted to stop for a drink and some food so we turned off and hit up the famous Kiwi Puhoi Pub.  Glad we did, super cool place with good food and even better atmosphere.  If you have read our other blog entries about how boring the bars and pubs are...let me tell you, this one was different. 

That night we got back to Auckland and stayed at the same hotel we had before.  We would glad we got to see our goofy buddy again.  Brian and I spent most of the night packing our stuff back into our bags and wondering where all this new stuff we had came from.

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