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Driving across the North Island
January 23rd, 2010 by Kate

The rolling green hills of the North Island are SO beautiful – its like a postcard here!  Tessa is in heaven as there are sheep literally EVERYWHERE.  Not joking.  There are 4.1 million people in all of New Zealand and 40 million sheep.  Where there aren’t sheep, there are cows.  Be assured that if you buy New Zealand beef or lamb – those babies are grass fed and led a very nice life before becoming your dinner.

 Each of us has at some time in the last week spontaneously starting belting out “the hills are alive, with the sound of music” because everywhere you turn it looks like Julie Andrews might just be at the top of the pretty green hill singing away.  I have a great series of photos of Phoebe dancing, twirling, and singing through a field of tall grass that I am going to turn into a flip book when we get home – it SO captures the feeling you have here in these never-ending rolling green pastures.

The traditional "Italian" Garden at the Hamilton Gardens - with Phoebe posing of course!

The traditional "Italian" Garden at the Hamilton Gardens - with Phoebe posing of course!

On our way down to the Bay of Plenty (east coast) from Auckland (west coast) we stopped in a city called Hamilton.  Never actually saw the city center, but it has one of the most impressive public gardens I have ever seen in my life.  If you are ever in Hamilton – GO!  Actually, if you like gardens, and are anywhere near NZ – make a special trip to go and see it.  In addition to the regular pretty flowers and trees, it had 6 large traditional gardens from around the world that were really quite amazing.  These demonstration gardens wisked you away to China, Japan, England, India, Italy, and the US.  Also, they had the veggie garden of my dreams…

Tess, Olivia, and Phoebe in front of the Chinese Garden

Tess, Olivia, and Phoebe in front of the Chinese Garden

From the gardens we headed east across the island through the stinky town of Rotorua (more on that later) and on to the beach town of Ohope.  The drive was filled mostly with sheep and lovely rolling hills, but past Rotorua was a beautiful stretch of land with forested mountains and totally beautiful – totally uninhabited lakes.  There were like 10 of these lakes, and only one had about 10 houses on its shores.  We find ourselves saying over and over again – we can’t believe this place is so empty – if this was America this (fill in the blank):  picturesque lake, rolling green countryside, beachfront property, etc. would be filled with zillion dollar homes.  But they’re not!  It feels like the “land of plenty” in terms of beautiful places that could be developed but aren’t.  Guess that’s what gives this place its charm – otherwise it’d just be another island chain of active volcanos!

So this giant sheep made of corregated metal is actually a two-story wool sweater store.  We drove through this odd little town that was completely dedazzled in corregation!?!  Literally, everything - the shops, the signs, the playground were made of corregated metal.  We sadly forgot to find out the town's real name - so we fondly refer to it as "Corregation Nation"

So this giant sheep made of corregated metal is actually a two-story wool sweater store. We drove through this odd little town that was completely dedazzled in corregation!?! Literally, everything - the shops, the signs, the playground were made of corregated metal. We sadly forgot to find out the town's real name - so we fondly refer to it as "Corregation Nation"

We had a great time in Ohope with our couchsurfing hosts Heike and her son Simon.  The beaches in Ohope were wide and overlooked a large volcanic island not far offshore.  The closest town to Ohope was Whakatane.  Now to the untrained eye, the name of this town looks like it would be pronounced “whak a tawn e”, however, it is a Maori name, and the Maori pronounce the “Wh” as an “F”.  So, much to our parental dismay, the children are walking around correctly (and loudly) saying the town’s name and sound like they are cursing like sailors.  Lovely. 

Yes, we know this isn't a REAL sign, but it was up the whole time we were in Ohope, and it made us laugh...

Yes, we know this isn't a REAL sign, but it was up the whole time we were in Ohope, and it made us laugh...

Couchsurfing with Heike in Ohope - awesome digs right on the beach!

Couchsurfing with Heike in Ohope - awesome digs right on the beach!

The beaches in New Zealand all have very dark grey to almost black sand.  I never knew this – but with all the volcanic activity, I guess it makes sense.   I find it really wierd to lay on a dark grey beach, I try and try to think of it as just regular sand, but it still looks dirty to me.  Ironically, the beaches, water, and sand are probably WAY cleaner than any beach in the States.  On one really windy day, we all left the beaches looking like we had moustaches and beards – the fine fine sand sticks to any and all hair.  Thankfully, the sand and wind made taking my camera out of the bag a bad idea – otherwise the girls would no doubt be posting VERY unflattering pics of me in a bikini with a female body and a man’s face – circus freak anyone?


One Response  
julie whelihan writes:
March 14th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Your Mom turned me onto your fabulous site and I cannot tell you how amazing I think what you’re doing with your beautiful family is!! What an incredible experience and how wonderful that you’ve taken to sharing the glorious details with us!!Can’t wait to learn those Thai cooking tips. Eileen is doing well and of course misses you all. Congratulations on your brave endeavor and enjoy the rest of your trip. Enviously, Julie

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