We left Kaikora and headed north on highway 1 and passed by a number of the landslides that happened during the earthquake.  They were fairly impressive with how big they are, and there is no doubt that they blocked off traffic on the highways.

We meandered up the twisting highway, and eventually got to a small town that had a nice stop for lunch, and a chance to stretch our legs in a playground.

Before this, we stopped at the downtown area of Blenheim, which is a very well known area for fantastic white wines.  I guess I pictured the town as being this quaint village, that was decorated up to the nines with fancy stores and storefronts, with all kinds of wine bars, cafes, and knick knack shops, but it was quite the contrary.  There was a small grocery store, a bakery, some small basic businesses, and a large hospice shop…and that was pretty much it.  No frills for sure, but it was cute in its own way.

We grabbed a couple of things at the hospice shop, including seasons 3 to 6 of Glee to round out our collection of Glee videos, and headed off for lunch in the park.

After lunch we got to visit the local airport, which doubled as a historic museum for Sir Peter Jackson’s private collection of World War 1 and 2 memorabilia which includes a number of original and replica war planes.

Alongside the planes, and incorporated into the planes, were life sized people from the war…soldiers, nurses, doctors, pilots, heroes and enemies.  It was pretty cool to see.

They weren’t anywhere as big as the soldiers in the Wellington museum (Te Papa) that I had seen but they were equally as detailed.

Each one of the scenes were centred around a particular Kiwi pilot or soldier that had done some heroic act, or played an important role in the world wars.

There was a very large display of WW1 planes and memorabilia, which was interesting as it was a time of rapid developments in aviation engineering.  Planes close to the beginning of war were not to dissimilar to planes that the Wright brothers had invented and refined.  Then they were used as spy planes to survey what was going on enemy fronts.  Then they carried two people with one who threw bombs out of the plane onto the enemies below.  Then guns were put on them.  And so on.  All needing more powerful engines that would propel them faster and further through the skies.

A scene depicting what it looked like after the Red Barons plane was shot down by the Kiwis!

Very cool.

The WW2 display wasn’t as big and they were the planes that a lot of us know….like the spitfire, and so on.  Whereas the WW1 planes were not planes that we knew very well, or at all, except the plane flown by the Red Baron.

We left after spending several hours there, and we could have spent a whole day there reading all the displays and immersing ourselves into the history of the planes…but we had to push on towards Picton and settle into our accommodations for the night before our trip on the ferry the next day.

We made it to Picton, and we headed out to an Irish pub for dinner, which was quite good, especially since it had games there, including oversized cards which the kids had fun playing with.

Off to bed as we were going to have a long day tomorrow with an early start.

We got up and made our way down to the ferry, where we were ushered into line with our car, and we made it over to a small trailer where a barista was serving up fancy coffees to a number of customers.

She had an awesome sign that read “Depresso: The feeling when you run out of coffee”.  True that.

We got on the ferry, and we were supposed to do homework on the trip, but the waves of the crossing were incredible, and seasickness was a common theme for the day. 

Wilson started to puke on the way to the ferry. Then we found out he had eaten a cream filled donut that we bought in Blenheim, and was in the car (and out of the fridge) all night. Lessons learned…

It was like that pie eating contest scene in “Stand By Me”.  Wilson was in the bathroom with me several times, and Deb had a seriously transfixed look on her face.  Lulu wasn’t faring too well either.

Wilson and I went outside to the back of the boat, where the sun was shining, and the wind was blowing, but it calmed the stomach as you could see the whole horizon.  As the boat crashed through the waves that were several meters tall, it sent billowing spray out the side of the boat, and created rainbows as the sun was behind us.

It was a wee bit rough…

Eventually, Wilson and I went down and convinced the girls to come up to the top deck where the air was blowing and you could see the whole horizon.  It was kind of funny for me as I don’t get sea sick, and the three of them were pretty incapacitated by it today.  When we got the girls, we had to hold their arms like they were 90 years old and slowly guide them up to the top deck.

Don’t touch me. Don’t move me. Don’t talk to me. You get the sense of how she was feeling…

But honey, look! It is so pretty! A rainbow!!!

When they finally got the girls up to the top deck, they started to feel felt better with the wind in their faces.  Better, but far from normal.

Deb was in nooo mood for joking around.

Eventually we reached the sheltered bay where we were going to be docking in Wellington.

Good to know where their priorities sit.  I guess we are “& EXTRAS”

We drove off and made our way to Wellington’s highest rated computer store, which had a good service department.  I called them ahead and asked them if they did data recovery from damaged hard drives, and yes they did.

Watching the front of the boat lower to get us off the boat of barf.

I was fully ready to take the bad news that they were not going to be able to recover the data.  But I wasn’t prepared for the full on belly laugh that the nerdy service people gave me when I handed the hard drive over to them.  “Man!  That is seriously bad!  This is worse then when we take a hammer to a hard drive that someone doesn’t ever want to have the data recovered from!  Sorry dude!”.  Ya.  Sorry, dude.  That sums it up.  They didn’t have an ounce of compassion between the two of them.

So I purchased a new hard drive, and then plugged it into the computer, and it required an internet link to do some part of the install onto the computer.  I wanted to back the data up as soon as I could.  Again, the staff laughed at me when I asked them for their stores wifi password.  They told me to walk down to KFC to use theirs.  Sour taste in mouth for a business….check!  They needed a little bit of customer service training.

So, we pushed on towards Taupo, and I texted a friend of ours who said he might be able to help point us in the right direction when we got back home.  So, I saved all the bits and pieces from the hard drive, and I hope that we can salvage some of the data.

Our cute little cottage in Taupo…in the morning with coffee of course

We pulled into Taupo in the early evening, and found our cottage at the last AirBnB stop that we were going to have in New Zealand, and headed out to a restaurant for the night since we didn’t feel like cooking after such a long drive.  Off to bed we went, ready for adventure the next day.

I got up early and grabbed one of the mountain bikes that were available for us to use, so that I could make my way down, via some trails to the falls that were famed in the area.

I made my way down to the falls via one of the local single track trails, which took me a bit longer than I had expected, but it was a lot of fun and it was good exercise in a way that I don’t normally exercise.

On the way to and back from the trails, I biked past some geothermal pools, skirting just past the edge of them.  On the trail there was a great sign that warned me that the ground was hot.  Not sure why they had put the sign there as it wasn’t hot enough that the tires would melt, expand or burst.

I got back, and the kids, Deb and I made our way down to the falls, and had a good look around.  The falls carry enough water through them that, of the water that falls over the edge, it would take about 80s to fill an Olympic swimming pool.  That is a lot of water!

We then headed back into town where the girls had manicures and pedicures all lined up for themselves, while Wilson and I went in search of some keepsakes to send home with us.

Daaaad!!!!! Stop embarrassing me!!!!

We found out that Taupo is the home of Ironman New Zealand, and it doesn’t take place until February, but it was interesting talking to some of the locals about it, and that there is a common theme that runs through the town when compared to ours back home.  It is a quaint little town that is very active, with lots of accommodation options and good restaurants.  The downtown is bustling and vibrant.  Just like Huntsville.

The next morning I woke up early to sneak in another mountain bike ride on the great trail system that they had, which was close to our house.  I just had to bike down the road, hop over a fence that said “Do Not Cross” (but the owner said that I could just hop the fence), and get on the trail system.  The sun was just peeking though, so it was awesome to get out there before anyone was up and the trails got busy.

After I got back, we headed off towards Auckland to return the car and hop on the plane, to head for Moorea, which is a small lush island just off the coast of Tahiti.  Paradise awaits!

Sending our last package home!!!