A family holiday in New Zealand - part I

It's amazing how many pictures some people can take in as little as three weeks. That is how long my mom and brother were here from Germany to visit me and find out why I'm so much in love with New Zealand. In those three weeks the two of them, I and Daniel managed to take approx 4300 (!!!) pictures in total. Anyone who has met my family will know who took the most...

You can imagine it took me a few days to sort through that mass of fotos. But somehow I managed and "downsized" my harddrive to about 300 pictures. Here's a few of them showing the highlights of our trip. After my mom and brother had hired a car to see most of Northland's beauties Daniel and I then took them south to explore the rest of the North Island. It was a similar trip to the one I had just done in January but this time we let my family decide where to go and what to see and do.

My mom loves birds. She even brought her binoculars along to spot as much wildlife as possible. After the Hamilton Gardens (awesome!!!) and a - rather disappointing - stop at Waitomo Caves we therefore stopped at Otorohanga where her guidebook suggested a really neat Kiwi House.

Unfortunately it had just closed a few minutes before our arrival. So what did my mom do? Pretty much beg the lady behind the glass door to let her in. "I've come all the way from Germany just to see a kiwi", she said. And you know what? It worked! For half the usual administration fee my mom was let into the Kiwi House and even spotted the kiwi before it was going to sleep. That was one of her highlights I think :-)

Not really a highlight but something we all won't forget was the funny noise somewhere on the way to Taupo. It was only the second day of our trip - and already we had a flat tire. It started raining at that point, too, but Daniel was quick enough changing the tire and we could get back on the road.

When he went to the mechanics the day after (of course it had happened on a Saturday and there was NOTHING open on Sunday so we were actually stuck in Taupo one night longer) they found a nail approx. 5cm long that was stuck in the tire! Daniel kept it as a souvenir *lol*

However, Taupo wasn't the worst place to get stuck. We were only meant to go to Napier the next day and skipping that part didn't feel too bad. Instead we went to Huka Falls which has a special meaning for Daniel and me. First of all Daniel LOVES waterfalls and second - when we made the trip to Rotorua, Taupo and Huka Falls last year in december during the Rotorua Triathlon it was the first time Daniel introduced me as his girlfriend *woohoo*

After Taupo we made our way to Rotorua. There I sent my family to Wai-o-tapu (sacred water) to explore the thermal mud and hot pools. They really enjoyed that.

Since Rotorua is also supposed to be a good spot to expierence a traditional hangi (the way the Maori used to prepare their food - underground) we decided to join a tour and booked ourselves a hangi and concert at the Tamaki Maori Village. That was definitely worth every cent ($NZ 105)!!!

In Maori tradition we were received at the marae by warriors and the chief and after accepting the token of friendship were welcomed into the marae by the women singing songs of welcome.

We learnt a lot of about Maori customs and protocol that night, "ancient" free-time activities such as carving and how the Maoris used to tattoo themselves (and still do in some places as far as I know - with the help of a sharp bone the tattoo is "hammered" into the skin). We watched a very entertaining performance of cultural dances and songs followed by the hangi - earth-smoked chicken and lamb with heaps of veges and pavlova and fruit salad as desert. What a feast!!!

Speaking of tattoos - my brother did not want to leave New Zealand without a proper tattoo (the European way, not the Maori one *lol*). So he went to a tattoo shop in Rotorua and got his very first tattoo done - a silver fern. It only took about half an hour, did hurt a bit - but he was proud as afterwards =D

My personal highlight of the entire trip was of a different nature. Since we had booked our cultural experience with Rotorua Hot Deals we had also received vouchers for the Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park (normally the entrance fee is $NZ 25). And guess what they had - a lion cup!!! And you could pet it!!! I adore wild cats and have always wanted to do that. Having it happen on my birthday made it even more special!

This is Ella, a 10-months-old lion cub already weighing about 40 kilos. You won't be able to pet her for much longer as she is growing soooo fast! The keeper told us she eats about 5 kilos of horsemeat PER DAY! That's almost twice as much as an adult lion would have. What was surprising, too, is that her skin is not cuddly at all... more like leather, very hard.

If you want to pet a lion, too, check out the Park's website regularly. They have two female lions breeding and are hoping to have more cubs soon. For only $NZ 25 (approx. 13 Euros) that is definitely worth it! At other places (for example the Whangarei Zion Wildlife Park) it is a lot more expensive!


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