After five nights in Australia it was now onto New Zealand and finally being able to reveal our surprise trip home to everyone.
Again, we had to enlist the help of a few family members in New Zealand to help us arrange things, particularly the first meet up with our parents. My parents and Logan’s parents only live about an hours drive from each other and we hoped to find a way to get them together so we could see them all at once. We couldn’t come up with a good plan without potentially giving it away and as Logan’s Dad is still working we decided to let him know what we were planning and give him the task of getting my parents to their place for a Sunday lunch. We only gave him a few weeks notice of our attending arrival so we hoped he was up to the job….
Logan’s brother and his family live in Auckland and after our late night flight in from Melbourne they kindly waited up for us and we spent our first night there. They hadn’t told their children that we were coming back so it was a big surprise for them in the morning to find us all at their house. The four cousins had a brief reunion before we had to run a few errands and get on our way north.
We were heading to Logan’s parents place in One Tree Point, about two hours north of Auckland and Logan’s Dad had done well to keep our arrival from Logan’s Mum and also concocting a plausible story to get my parents over to their place. They were due to arrive around 12.00-12.30pm so we were trying to keep out of site in a nearby street which still gave us a good view of their driveway. The waiting was a bit nerve racking but once we saw my parents finally arrive we moved to park outside the house (luckily they have a high fence) and make our way up the stairs towards their deck and large glass doors.
My parents were seated with their backs to the doors, Logan’s Mum was busy tending to something and Logan’s Dad was facing the doors so he saw us immediately when we opened the door and just walked in. Lots of exclaiming as to why were we there, many hugs and happy tears as Lincoln and Braxton gave their grandmothers a bunch of flowers. Obviously they weren’t expecting more people for lunch but we didn’t come empty handed, we brought with us two important items, Champagne and famous New Zealand Bluff oysters. The lunch extended well into the evening and we got a delicious batch of fish and chips for dinner. The surprise had been pulled off and we could now relax and enjoy our next 3.5 weeks.Our time was spent catching up with as many family and friends as possible and enjoying as much delicious food as we could, especially all those items and dishes we had been missing and couldn’t quite get while we had been away.
Both Logan and I grew up in the North of New Zealand and one place you always visit for at least one school trip is Tāne Mahuta, Lord of the Forest. This is a giant kauri tree (a native to New Zealand) located in the Waipoua Forest. Its age is unknown but it is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years. It is the largest kauri known to stand today and is named for the Māori god of forests and of birds. We had never taken the boys so we thought it was a good opportunity, its just under an hours drive from Dargaville where my parents live. The drive through the forest is beautiful, but a bit of a windy road in places, then you suddenly come across the entrance to Tāne Mahuta. There are a few car parking spots and you simply cross the road and enter into the forest. There is no cost. There were a couple of attendants at the shoe washing stations which is important to do upon entry and exit to help prevent further spread of the fatal Kauri dieback disease effecting these giants of New Zealand’s forests. It is a very easy five minute walk, along a well maintained boardwalk to see this magnificent tree.From Tāne Mahuta we travelled back just one kilometre to a larger car park and the entrance to a few more forest trails marked as ‘Kauri Walks’ on Google Maps. Again we went through a shoe clean station and headed towards Te Matua Ngahere, the second largest kauri in New Zealand and named Father of the Forest. The walk into Te Matua Ngahere is around 20 minutes, along well maintained tracks and some boardwalks. Here you see many more kauri, ferns, ponga, flora and fauna and if you are lucky, some of the beautiful birds that live in the forest. We saw that the other two trails in this area were closed due to the dieback and unfortunately one was the track to Four Sisters, which I would have liked to have seen again and shown the boys. There are many other trails and tracks closed around the upper North Island due to this disease so if you ever visit an area with the shoe cleaning stations, please do throughly use them.
During our visit it was also my Mum’s 70th birthday, so we had the added bonus of being able to attend those celebrations and it was the first time in over five years that all of my immediate family had all been together in one spot. My parents had also not long celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, so those celebrations were included as well. The celebrations actually lasted over a week with extended family and friends coming from all around New Zealand with many parking up and staying at my parents house in motorhomes and caravans. At the height of it there were eight motor homes and caravans parked up at their property and another nine people sleeping in the house.Our time in New Zealand was mostly spilt between One Tree Point, Dargaville and Auckland with the last few days spent in Nelson in the South Island. We included a two day trip to Nelson to visit some friends and Logan’s grandparents. It was wonderful to be able to catch up with them in person after being away from New Zealand for over two years and it has been made even more special as sadly, Logan’s Da has since passed away.After returning to Auckland from Nelson we transferred from the domestic terminal to the international and got ready for our evening flight to London (via Shanghai). It had been an amazing time back in this part of the world but it was now time for us to actually head to Europe and continue this incredible world adventure.