The last few days of New Zealand

Feb 22, 2018

On our last morning in Queenstown, we woke up to dark clouds. Incoming rain, combined with the torture of seasonal allergies meant that it was time to move on to sunnier places.
We packed the van and hit the road. As with the majority of our trip, we set out with absolutely no plans. We had 3 days to get to Christchurch, but other than that we were free to wander. We stopped at a fruit stand, where I bought some plums and nectarines as Ryan asked the employee for advice on which route to take. We had 2 options, both scenic. Mountains and farmland, or coast and farmland. Being fortunate enough to spend a lot of our time in the mountains back home, we opted for the coast. 
The rest of the day consisted of a lot of driving, but we still snuck in some fun along the way. We stopped at a lookout and watched seals playing on on the rocks as we enjoyed popsicles.  

We stopped at the Morekai Boulders, which were giant circular rocks along a beautiful stretch of beach. 

The highlight of the day for me was definitely Oamaru, where we were lucky enough to spot penguins! There were hundreds of them hanging out on a pier, waiting to swim to the beach for the evening. I’ve always dreamt of seeing penguins, so I was pretty excited.
The sun was setting and we still had nowhere to sleep, so we carried on our journey towards a campground. Before we arrived, we turned off onto a dark, quiet country road, where we drove into the darkness and turned off the vehicle for a view of the night sky. We could see the Milky Way stretching above us, with thousands of stars twinkling in every direction.  We rolled into a campground late, and moved our sleeping kids from car seats to bed. 

The next day we were Christchurch bound!  We reached the city around lunch time, and we were starving. 
I found some cute cafes that seemed like good options, and jokingly said we should go to a fancy 5 course restaurant that had won a few awards and had great reviews. My foodie husband strolled in and got us a table. I followed behind with the girls, feeling totally underdressed in my denim shorts and tank top. The food was amazing. We shared our meals with the girls, and Briley the adventurous one loved it all. Aaralee held out for a cheese bun in the van. 
That evening, we went to a Maori performance and traditional Hangi meal. Aaralee loved the performance, as she thought the women were all Moana. Briley was terrified. 

The food was fantastic and the highlight of the evening was when they let the girls feed the deer. Briley squealed with delight and wouldn’t stop giggling. It was probably the highlight of her trip. 

We drove back to the campground for the final evening in our van. The next morning we packed it up in preparation to return, and checked out of our last campground. 

We were freshly showered and the van was clean, so naturally we thought it would be a good idea to go to the beach. What started as a quick stop to see enjoy the views turned into our kids digging in the sand and playing in the water fully clothed. I was torn between cringing at the mess and never wanting it to end. Childhood is not supposed to be clean.

We stopped for a quick roadside lunch and then drove downtown to check into our hotel. Ryan left us there while he went to return the van. We said our goodbyes to our beloved home on wheels and then ventured upstairs to our luxury accommodation. We had thick, plushy pillows on big beds, unlimited hot showers, and room for all of us to stand up at the same time!
As soon as Ryan returned, we got our shoes on and went for a walk. Our first stop was to the 185 white chairs that stand as a memorial for the 185 people who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake. Seeing the chairs all lined up put into perspective just how many people sadly did not survive. Tiny child seats and a baby car seat were somber reminders of the tragedy.  
We carried on, walking through the gorgeous city until we reached a cute little street where we stopped for dinner. We dined on the patio, and every once in awhile a trolley would drive by, clearing Ryan’s chair by a matter of inches. 
On our way back to the hotel we came across a massive, amazing playground. We stayed and played for awhile, migrating to the water play area. I’m not sure if Ryan or the girls had more fun, but everyone was happy and soaking wet. 
We hadn’t planned for water activities, so our dripping wet Briley wore my extra sweater for the walk back. The sun was setting on a beautiful evening and I longed for those warm, late sunsets to come back to Canada.

 In our hotel room, we stayed up late in hope of catching a glimpse of fireworks at a nearby park. Our view was impeded by a large building, but we saw colourful flashes above and to the side and the girls were satisfied. 
We woke up to our alarm clocks the next day, for the first time in weeks. We had an early morning flight to catch, bringing us back to Auckland. It was only an hour long, and before we knew it we were back in Auckland having lunch.
The girls were sleepy, so we went back to the hotel where they cozied up on the closet floor and proceeded to have the longest nap they’d had the entire trip. I’m now contemplating moving their bedding to the closet at home.
We finished the day off with dinner at an upscale food court, where we all ordered exactly what we wanted from whichever restaurant we desired.
On our last full day in New Zealand, we set off for one final adventure. After breakfast we caught to ferry to Waiheke Island. It was a 30 minute journey, just long enough for Briley to fall asleep. Once we reached the island we boarded our hop on/hop off bus and the girls were thrilled to ride on the top deck. 
We grabbed lunch at a beachside village and then got back on the bus. Both girls fell asleep, so we did the entire route, taking in the views while they snored in the seat in front of us. 
We got off again at Oneroa Beach. I sent Ryan and the girls down to the beach while I browsed the shops and bought myself a gelato to eat in peace. 
When I joined them at the beach I was pleasantly surprised at how warm the water was. I’d failed to pack a swimsuit for Briley, so we stripped her down and she was happy to run naked and free, splashing in the waves with Ryan and Aaralee. 

Once everyone was all tired out, I bribed them to take a family photo and then we caught the ferry back to Auckland. 

We stopped at a few souvenir shops along the way, where the girls proudly picked out one toy each. 
After dinner we discovered that Briley had shoplifted a tiny “New Zealand beer” keychain, so we made her bring it back to the store and apologize. Wewalked back to our hotel in the rain. We had our ponchos on, and the round of  the rain falling on our heads was soothing. 
When we woke up the next day, it was our final day of vacation. We ordered smoothies on Uber eats and sipped them as we packed up the room and organized our bags for the flight. 
The girls had been asking to go back up the tower, so we made a lunch reservation to eat at the top. It included our ticket up, so we went early to take in the views before sitting down to eat. The food was yummy, the views were stunning. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip. 
We reluctantly made our way to the airport, with Aaralee grumpily staying several times that she did not want to go home.  I couldn’t blame her. At the airport, nostalgia overcame me as we spotted 3 Emirates A380 planes. The crew walked by and I pointed them out to the girls, explaining that once upon a time, their mommy was one of those girls in the red hats. 
2 hours before our flight, we heard an announcement saying that it was the final boarding call for our flight. We were confused as we frantically dashed across the airport, dragging the girls as we ran. Turns out, it was a mistake.... a mistake that caused us great stress and more cardio than I had signed up for. 
Eventually it was time to board for real, and we said goodbye to New Zealand as we flew off into the sky. We had dinner and the girls and I were super excited to find New Zealand ice cream for dessert. 
With full bellies, it was time to attempt bed time. We’d made the genius decision to upgrade to a Skycouch, which turned 3 of our seats into a makeshift bed. Ryan sat across the aisle and I cozied up with the girls. I had a hard time sleeping, but I was much more comfortable. More importantly, the girls slept like a dream. The seat next to Ryan was vacant, so when we got crowded I’d pass some of our belongings to him. 
We finally landed in Vancouver, eager to get off of the plane but weary with the knowledge that we were still hours from home. Aaralee immediately expressed her displeasure with the cooler temperatures. 
We had lunch, let the girls play, and eventually it was time to board our flight to Edmonton. 

Finally, we were on the way home. 
The girls were miserable and whiny and I’m pretty sure that none of the other passengers wanted us to get onboard. To be fair, it had been a long day and they were exhausted. Briley fell asleep before we reached the runway and Aaralee gave in during takeoff.  

We landed into cold, snowy Edmonton and Aaralee cried when it was time to go outside. 
None of us are thrilled to be back in the frozen tundra that we call home, but we’ve sure missed the space and our cozy king sized bed, and the girls have loved rediscovering all of the toys that they’d forgotten about. It’s back to reality, but we are so thankful for our journey and the many, many memories made along the way. 


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