From Pohara we headed south.  A long long driving day through some beautiful mountains of the north west.  We planned to stop near the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki.  We booked a family cottage at Nikau retreat.  We arrived around 5pm and were happy to see that the spread sheet didn’t let us down again!  (Thanks Ev, Mom and Dad!). Our cottage was fully equipped….and tucked right into the rain forest.  We had a curry dinner a la Rich outside on the picnic table/patio.  Cards and games topped our night off.  Wilson still really doesn’t like cards and prefers Cluedo as the family game.  We sometimes rope him into a game of SkipBo or Phase10 (Lulu’s fav. Cards)….oh and Uno usually is ok.  Rich and I haven’t been keeping up with playing cards against each other…..this travelling with kids and planning the next day activities and trying to run in am (sleep on time) and writing a blog….really has kept us busy.  Maybe in the Islands we will have our tournament of crib!

Pancake rocks were still cool…even though I have seen before.  Rich took off taking pictures and the kids and I wandered through looking at the rocks, the blow holes and the surge caves.

Today is another long driving day…and maybe some hiking to the glaciers….except …BOY OH BOY is it raining.  Rain and fog and the cool temps of the mountains hindered our spirit for hiking and the views that we would be afforded.  So, drive and homework won!

Fox Glacier

one of the many one lane bridges

Arriving in Haast at the very south of the glaciers/famous Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers….is uninspiring.  Greta Craig…you were right!!!  We should have turned left and headed inland!  Oh well.  This is our landing spot for our BIG HUGE NZ ADVENTURE of Heli-rafting.  That’s right.  Helicopter in, set up camp (and your raft) and camp out the night.  Then in am….a grade 2-3 rapid adventure down the river back to Haast.  Rich and I researched this, booked this and paid good $ for this months ago with our planning.  The kids are nervous but excited.  Rich and I are PUMPED…..but ….apparently we didn’t check our Farmer’s Almanac well in advance.  The weather Gods had a different idea.

Many people camping in their cars/campers in parking lot

In the midst of heavy downpours…Rich ran into the motel to check us in…only to run back out to the car with my cell phone in hand…shaking his head.  “What?”  I asked.  “Heli-rafting?” “Cancelled”?????  He nodded and smiled…b/c what else are your supposed to do when the nice lady is saying in your ear….”Due to unexpected terrible weather and dangerous water levels we won’t be able to take your family on the trip!”  ARGH.  She did offer us a different river…without helicopter….Much cheaper (the good part)…but 3 hours back UP NORTH where we had just come from (the very bad part).  We said we would think about it and call her back.

But Rich had more surprises…. With a smile he says “Oh, and we don’t have a reservation here….she says try the holiday park down the road!”  What?  Our spreadsheet is letting us down…can’t be!  I have a reservation I know it…and our spreadsheet says this address…… where?!

We drive to the holiday park and Rich again gets out and dashes through the torrents into the reception area.  Wilson follows while Lulu and I start discussing the possibilities for changing plans re:rafting.  Wilson returns….”bad news Mom…no reservation there either!”….  This can’t be.  My turn to run in and join Rich at the counter.  Rich gave me the ‘whoa…take it easy’ look as the nice lady behind the desk really was trying to help us.  She was calling around to the few other motels and asking for us.  ‘Anyone have a booking for Trenholm?’.  All the while….many many many other travelers were coming up to the counter enquiring for rooms for the night.  The tenters were begging for a room vs. their booked outdoor camp site…..b/c of the huge amount of rain coming down and being promised overnight/tomorrow (up to 50mm)!  ‘Sorry…we are full’ was the polite answer.  If we don’t find our reservation…we are sleeping in the car!  The kids are NOT keen on that! ‘Are you serious mom?’…..deadly!  The next town is a 3hour drive away!

…but kind woman behind the desk comes through!!!!  YEAH!!!! She found where we were supposed to be…which is aptly named River motel and holiday park….whatever…it is OUR ROOM.  It is a backpacker lodge…and will do just fine for one night.  Dry and warm!  We drop our stuff and head to the pub for dinner, beer and planning…what next?!

Decision made….no rafting.  We let Kristen at Ecorafting know…and tried to find a place to stay the extra Wanaka.  Everywhere is super super full b/c it is holiday time here.  We finally find an (overpriced) Airbnb and book it.  And back to finding ways to spend our “savings”!

It rained and rained and rained over night….happy we have a dry place to lay our heads.  The drive the next day through Haast pass…again…very wet.  But my oh my…so beautiful with waterfalls literally falling off of every rock face next to the road.  Rich and I had some laughs getting wet taking picture…the kids…dry in the car.  They are getting tired of “adventure mom and dad style”!  We must remember Haast Pass for next visit.  And hiking the Rob Roy glacier (on the inland side of the pass) on the way to Wanaka or using Wanaka as a base.    Mount Aspiring is definitely inspiring.

anything for a picture

water everywhere

…our poor low riding Toyota

Usually a ‘Trickle’ I guess

…Today….a soaker!

Wanaka turned out to be great fun.  We went to Puzzle World and watched movies in the downstairs of our Airbnb.  The hostel the next night was like a motel…more dvd GLEE time and a dinner out at The COW! (good pasta and pizza).

Mount Aspiring

Then we found the BEST adventure with Wanaka Wildwire.  It is a high ropes/rock climbing water fall climb adventure.  Wilson had some nerves…but quickly conquered it!  There were parts that even made my bum feel funny (Walker!).  So much fun, amazing views and great achievement to climb up next to the wet waterfall.  A MUST do for everyone who visits.

Again, some running for mom and dad…and a playground for the kids…which makes everyone happier…..

I must admit…I got stuck

..but so did he!

Useful Facts About The Port Arthur Convict Era

Lulu fit just fine

Lulu can flip over here too


…and an ‘almost’!

Te Anau and exploring Milford Sound was next on our list….still having fun driving on the wrong side of the road!

We have a great house/cottage in Te Anau next to the host’s house.  They have three boys…and horses and ponies and sheep and dogs and a bunny!  HEAVEN for Wilson and Lulu.  We enjoyed 4 nights stay, a rom-com marathon with Lulu, Lord of the Rings viewing by Rich and Wilson, bubble bath, yoga and running –including a 10km trail run together!…..and lots of time with the animals and neighbors.  Lulu got to ride the pony (Bonnie) and feed the lambs.  Wilson built a fort and enjoyed time with boys his age.

up hill on the run

The run from Rainbow Reach to town/hyrdro dam

Then there was exploring Milford.  We had to pick the right day …without rain and fog…

….but we managed to do a great walk called Key Summit.  Great views and not too hard..but hard enough and it was 2.5hrs.  Everyone was satisfied with that.

We also saw the Sound and other stops along the drive.

Learning to blow amazing bubbles with Hubba-Bubba

It ain’t no Double Bubble…but it will do

Some love at Milford (imitating mom and dad)

Milford Sound

photos in the mist – Milford

The chasm walk

Mirror Lake Milford

And fun at the playground….someone is too heavy for the zip line though!

Leaving Te Anau we were headed to one of the BEST parts of NZ…Mount Cook.   We had an overnight in a wee town named Cromwell.

Old Cromwell…a mining town in the day. BELFAST (for you Karen)

It turned out to be a fun stop with the hilarity at the playground on the hamster wheel…. (you have to see the video…hopefully Rich will post it!)

Rich trying out the wheel…pre dinner

Rich – post margarita…Who thinks this is a good idea?

…where it all starts to go wrong…a foot comes loose

…landing on his head!

(see Rich in back holding neck!)…Lulu terrified of the wheel!

Rich – in therapy all ready.


a great Mexican dinner…..AND go cart racing!  Lulu was SO MAD at me for going too fast in our tandem car….so amongst the tears from Lulu…the boys sped past us! (a number of times).

Before she was MAD

MAD Lulu

Mount Cook did not disappoint.  The weather was off and on…but we managed to do the Hooker Valley track

and Tasman Glacier Track

and the Red Tarns.

Amazing hiking, views and only a few grumpy moments from the children.

Ice cream fixes everything…thanks Eleanor for the NZ $

Our hotel though….had a great view……

but also had ….FLEAS?!  YUCK.  Itching, itching and many many loads of laundry later…..I think we are clear….but the itching continues (can’t help the memory!).  We had a great stay and learned a lot at the museum about Sir Edmund Hillary too.

Off to more adventure…and less itchiness!