It was an early morning on Wednesday June 8. My mom texted shortly after landing at 5:30a and I only had to wait about a half hour to see her excited face walk through the Arrivals door. After driving back to the flat, we n apped for a couple hours then prepared for a day on Waiheke Island. It is a 45 minute ferry ride from Auckland Harbour and covered with rolling vineyards. A perfect location for wine connoisseurs and amateurs alike to enjoy easy wine tasting… in the summer time. My mom’s stay fell at the beginning of the winter season, working in our favor in terms of no need to book far in advance or compete with tourists for space, but working against us with shorter opening hours of every establishment. I bought for us a coupon for a meal at the Stonyridge Restaurant, mildly approved by our shuttle driver. It was a quaint place, staffed by those with a Kiwi sense of humor. We were able to sample the house red and white wines and the coupon barely covered small portioned meals for us. We had a gorgeous view of the vineyard in their backyard (after the rain stopped). We then started to walk down the main road towards the beach, making a stop at the Waiheke Museum. The main building had different sections of cases featuring Waiheke culture at specific time periods, such as what gentlemen’s activities and hygienic routine would be in the early 1900s to the introduction of household cleaners for women. There were also a half dozen small houses around the premises set up to display different features of Kiwi life. We continued on to the beach and practically had the place to ourselves. We took the bus across the island to catch the ferry back to Auckland.
Thursday, we woke somewhat early to head towards Rotorua. My mom and I had tickets for a cultural experience package while Phill and Emily were along to plan their own adventures in the town. My mom and my first stop was the Mountain Jade store and factory. We had a factory tour, which consisted of one of the workers just pointing at different tools necessary to carve the jade. Very informal and relaxed, which was nice for us to ask whatever we wanted. From there, we grabbed an elegant McDonald’s lunch, picked up the other two from luging, and headed to the Thermal Village. I was able to tour this location during my orientation week with AustraLearn, but knew my mom would enjoy it. Our package got us a complimentary corn on the cob cooked in the natural boiling pools. Our tour was very similar to my first time there, same guide even, just slightly less ideal weather. My mom thoroughly enjoyed getting to lay on the naturally heated earth for back pains. Following the Thermal Village tour, we relaxed in our extremely comfortable hotel before being picked up for our Tamaki Maori Village performance and dinner. Again, another activity repeating from orientation week, but one of my best meals in NZ. Our bus driver was an eccentric character, greeting us with 60+ languages. We enjoyed the traditional greeting at the village, followed by a walk around the “village” displaying difference descriptive stations on aspects of their culture from animal trap making to the tattooing process. We were then shown as our food was pulled from the ground where it was heated by coals. As the buffet was set up, we enjoyed a musical and dance performance by the actors. Dinner was as delicious as I remembered and I loved the local pavlova dessert, despite some Aussies across the table complaining about lacking ingredients (pavlova’s origins are largely disputed between Australians and New Zealanders, each taking ownership). We had the same eccentric bus driver back to the hotel and arrived after he playfully drove the roundabout at least a dozen times.
On Friday, we left Phill and Emily in Rotorua so they could whitewater raft. Mom and I drove to Matamata and caught a Hobbiton Tour. Unfortunately, we signed an agreement barring us from sharing any pictures until after the release of the next movie. It was informative and the guide had the movies memorized, being able to point out what happened by each Hobbit hole in every movie.
Unfortunately, I had two exams on Saturday. But we certainly celebrated by visiting an exciting gay bar (sans Mom) on the infamous K’rd that evening.
Sunday was busy with a visit out to the Coromandel Peninsula. We visited Cathedral Cover first as my mom is quite a fan of the Narnia movies and the Cove’s cameo in the second film. We then tried Hot Water Beach but got there just in time for high tide (low tide being necessary to dig own hot pool).
On Monday, the four of us got into our cozy Toyota renal and headed south. As far as we could. It was exactly 8 hours from Auckland to Wellington. We stayed at the local YHA hostel (a well known name amongst backpackers). On Tuesday, Mom and I went to the Weta Cave in the nearby neighborhood of Miramar. It is the only public access of Weta Studios, the production studio linked with any and all computer generated genius films and TV (LOTR, Avatar, Last Samuri, King Kong, ANYTHING Peter Jackson, Narnia, Dr. Who). It had a mini museum with models used for story writing and many items for sale. We were treated to a short video describing the history of the studios. In the afternoon, we took the Wellington cable car up to the botanical gardens. We finished the day at Te Papa museum. A free, four level, gorgeous museum. It had everything from Maori cultural exhibits to an interactive music section to a hologram presentation of Pacific Islanders arrival at Aotearoa to the Colossal Squid (largest squid captured alive). We had dinner at an Irish bar on cuba street. Wednesday morning allowed for some souvenir shopping until our departure at noon.
Thursday morning brought the final for the Pacific World Views and Languages course Phill and I were in. We rocked it. In the afternoon, my mom and I went to the Auckland Domain War Memorial Museum. Free entry for Auckland residents (which I qualified as!) and also very professionally put together. What was very enjoyable for me was the section on how childhood has changed over time for Kiwi kids. Another fascinating part was seeing more about New Zealand’s involvement in World War II.
Friday sadly brought the departure of Emily. Though we weren’t sure if they would be the case because the ash cloud from a volcanic eruption in Chile was canceling flights even in NZ. While Phill took her to the airport, my mom and I took the ferry over to Devonport. It was a rather gray and windy day, so we mostly enjoyed the shops and cafes. Mom loved the fabric store we found and got herself a quilt pattern with New Zealand themed fabric.
Saturday was a relaxed day. Lots of sleeping and bumming around the flat followed by my mom graciously treating Phill and me to dinner at the Waterfront restaurant on the harbor.
Sunday’s plans backfired. We had plans to a few west coast, black sand beaches. My search on the internet spoke of slim to no chances of precipitation that day. It was a bit cloudy with big blue patches when we woke up. An hour into drive, it was raining sideways as we zig zagged up and down a mountain. We made it to Piha, got out of the car for three minutes, then turned right back around. I had my best nap of the semester after returning to the flat.
Monday was the end of my mom’s stay in Kiwiland. We spent the morning filling any empty space in her luggage with any stuff I wouldn’t need during my last week. Early evening, we returned the rental car, and she was on her way back home. Marking only one week and one day left for me in New Zealand.