Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Te Whānau

ALL ABOARD!! Welcome to Steff Cruise lines! I am Erin, this is my Co-Captain Jeremiah, and we will be your guides this trip. Please let me take your tickets as you sit back, relax and enjoy your trip. Remember to bring your camera, pack some sunblock, togs, and jandals, and keep an eye out for that elusive Kiwi...

Wouldn't you know it, the trip we've been planning for nearly a year now has come and gone. The whole family packed up their bags, said "Adios America", and came to the land of the long white cloud. We spent some action packed weeks traveling around the South Island, visiting local places around Nelson, and hobbiting across the North Island (yes that is a real verb). I know Santa normally comes with presents and candy, but for me Santa dropped off four lovely jet-lagged family members at my doorstep. We did our best to keep them awake, but over 24 hours of traveling meant that everyone was in bed by 8:00. Jeremiah and I snuck off to do a bit of Christmas caroling in town while the exhausted family had a well deserved sleep.

Christmas day brought a lively Kiwi BBQ with friends. We all piled into Kevin (our car) and made our way to our friend's place for beers, bbq, and bow and arrows. Yes, we spent Christmas day shooting each other with rubber tipped arrows. Not your typical American christmas. I believe most family holiday feuds could be solved this way. Christmas was followed by days of sunshine at the beach, swimming, and watching the new Star Wars movie twice.

During our trip we spent about a week traveling around various locations of the South Island. The first stop was Wharariki beach. This is a favorite on the Steff tour and I believe we have gone there with everyone who has ever visited us. The archways and sea caves are just unparalleled in their beauty. On this trip we were even able to spot a Blue Penguin hiding in the back of one of the caves. We were goggled at by the local seals and lots of tiny stinger-less jellies scattered the beach. We even took time on our trip to stop at the Anatoki Salmon Farms to feed the "tame" eels. I put tame in quotes because you should pet them with caution. Their eye sight is not very good and your fingers look a lot like the Popsicle sticks you use to feed them.

Next on the Steff Tour was a trip out to the Blenheim wineries and the Omaka Aviation Herritage Centre. I can't tell you much about the Aviation centre except that Sean and Mom loved it... the rest of us may have continued on with the wine tour rather than view the museum. A good time was had by all exploring the wineries and taking way too many photos amongst the grape vines.

Moving further south we popped off to Nelson Lakes and Cape Foulwind. From hiking up Mt Roberts, to standing on the turbulent beach below our Airbnb, we all made some great memories. My favorite was spending about 2 hours playing on the rocks below our batch at Cape Foulwind. When the tide was out we could walk onto the beach under this massive stone archway. As the tide changed though, we were pushed further and further back. You can actually climb up onto the arch and watch the ocean as it smashes through the archway. At a certain point, the tide and waves get so high that you could actually be stranded on a rocky island if you don't wander back up the steps.

We had an amazing time throwing massive sticks into this cave hole that looked like the throat of a monster. When the waves pulled away, the 'monster' would swallow the stick and suck it down the hole with a gurgling noise. A few seconds later, the explosive waves would shoot the logs back up onto the beach like the monster was spitting them back out. It was here at Cape Foulwind that we popped the Champagne and counted down the new year. We went around and made resolutions that I'm sure we'll break in the next week or so. If I'm honest, I can't really remember what mine was...

After our travels south, we took a bit of break back home in Nelson. The days passed quietly with reading, eating real fruit ice cream, and taking day hikes in and around the city. My favorite day was spent out at Cable Bay. We've been out there many times but it never gets old. We brought the kayaks and snorkel gear so we could play in the water and see the starfish and sea urchins below. At one point, Jeremiah and I had taken the kayaks out into the middle of the bay and music began to rise off the hills. Sure enough, high on the hills there was a man in a kilt facing the ocean playing lilting melodies on the bagpipe. His music ranged from traditional Scottish melodies to Amazing Grace to the theme from Star Wars. It was really the best concert I've been to in a while (besides Retro Candy of course).

With the tour winding down, we made the most of our last couple of days on the North Island. Our first day was spent taking a ferry to Waiheke Island. On our ride over we saw multiple extinct volcanoes that are now little islands dotting the bay. We shopped the little town of Oneroa and I found myself a large floppy sunhat that Jane Austen would have been proud of. I hope to come again for a full weekend so I can bike around the island, visit the many wineries, and kayak the bay.

Our final stop was the real reason the Murphy's came to visit us (just joking Mom!). They were dying to see Hobbition so we took the Hobbits to Isengard and spent a day crawling in and around the hobbit holes of Matamata. I still can't believe I got to keep a piece of the set on my last visit there. The leaf from Bilbo's tree is still safely tucked away in my scrap book in NC. We had a wonderful time and finished the tour by grabbing a drink at the Green Dragon and pretending to be Hobbits.

I have merely scratched the surface of all the adventures we had over the past couple of weeks but I feel that the photos will tell you a lot of the story. Until next time, we send our LOVE to YOU!

Takaka Hill

At Wharariki Beach

Our Guide Extraordinaire

Mr. Krabs!

Mermaid out of Water

Octopus out of Water

Are we in NZ or on Tatooine? 
The top of Mt Roberts

Punakiki Rocks

Truman Track Beach

Cable Bay hike... and cows... and lots of sheep.

Green Dragon