We jammed the car full of our stuff (which was now bursting at the seams with the extra Christmas gifts that we had bought), and drove a short distance down the road to an amusement park.

It was Debs turn to go out for a little shopping, so I took the kids and we had a blast at there as it housed a trampoline park, mini golf, virtual reality four person shoot ‘em up game, and an arcade.  The kids didn’t know what to do first, but I told them we were focusing on the trampoline park.

We had the place to ourselves for most of the time, as we bought the two hour “jump til you can’t jump no more” pass.  The kids practiced jumping over boxes, flips into the mats, and new moves that they are going to be using for their cheerleading when they get home.  Yup, they are signed up to do cheerleading which is pretty cool.

They pestered me until I couldn’t take it anymore to play the VR game, and so we strapped in and shot down monsters and robots, which actually was pretty cool.  The kids screamed “Again!  Again!  Again!” but I stood my ground this time, and we just went back to jump around for awhile until it was meeting time for Deb.

We hooked up for a quick lunch and then got on the drizzly drive over to National Park where we were going to be spending the next couple of days, including Christmas Eve and morning….doing some more hiking and hopefully doing the Tongariro Crossing with the kids.

We passed by lots of rivers that were rushing through sculpted gorges and waterfalls.  It was very pretty.

We checked in at our accommodations in National Park, and just hung out for the rest of the day as there was not much left of it, and we were going to be hiking the next day.

Rain pounded the roof all night, and we woke up early to catch the bus, with an already grumpy Lulu, who wasn’t looking forward to the hike to begin with.

This was the day before…it wasn’t looking good.

We wolfed down some food, grabbed the backpacks that we packed the night before, put on our rain gear, and headed out the door to catch the shuttle bus.

On the way out to the Tongariro Crossing

We got onto the bus, which was full of young couples…no kids.  The bus driver, who has seen a lot of hikers in his day said “If any of you want to turn back now, we will issue a full refund.  It won’t be a pretty hike since the clouds have rolled in and it is going to rain again.  It will be cold.”

It wasn’t looking so good…

I was sitting at the back of the bus with Wilson, and Deb was at the front with Lulu.  He asked us if we had any experience hiking…positive me said “Sure!  We just finished the Three Capes track in Tasmania.  48km…this is nothing!  Wrong decision.

After no much humming and haa-ing, we didn’t leave the bus, unlike all the other young ones, and we headed back to the hotel.

Aaaand on the way back.

We decided that we were going to do a small hike still, since that is what we came here to do.  So, we decided to do the Taranaki Falls hike, which was a couple of hours, and at least if we got wet, then we can go home and dry off without being wet all day.

Lulu was much happier to do this hike…not perfectly happy, but happier…

Wilson and Deb enjoying a damp hike to the falls.

The hike wasn’t super hard, but after about 30 minutes of hiking, I was glad that we didn’t go on the crossing.  It was miserable.

Wilson and I went off road to take a peek over the edge of the falls.

Downstream from the Taranaki Falls.

It was one of the few times that I wished the rain was snow, since snow bounces off of you, rather than the rain sticking to you and soaking through.  But, we have been lucky that all in all, it hasn’t rained much on our trip thus far.

We got to the falls, and Wilson and I walked to the edge and peered over the crest of the falls to where the water was tumbling below.

Deb waved us back to walk down to the bottom of the falls and we both remembered that we did this hike 18 years ago when we were here last.  Ahhhh memories.

Hiking to Taranki Falls

We finished the hike, grabbed some lunch back in our room, and then decided that we would go to the hostel next door and do some rock climbing in their indoor gym.

It was totally awesome that there was a really good sized climbing gym in a small town of less than 100 people.  The hostel manager, who doubled as the climbing instructor, and who I realized later was also an attendant at the gas station next to the hostel, showed us the ropes (literally) and said…”You guys good?”….”Yup”, we said, and he left us to climb until our arms fell off.

Lulu climbed the wall like a monkey!

It was a lot of fun, and the kids did super amazing.  Deb has been having some elbow issues, so gripping the holds and climbing was not in the cards for her to climb.

Deb had to put all of her weight behind her to keep me from plummeting down to the ground.

It is surprising how nimble the kids are, especially Lulu, and with a gentle tug from the person doing the belaying on the ground, she got up some pretty difficult routes.

Wilson learned the fine art of belaying for Lulu!

Except when she was trying one in the corner where the holds were pretty small, and she fell off, but the harness caught her…but the wall was on an incline, and she swung out and hit a door frame as it was close to one of the doors.

Interesting design but good use of space as there were all kinds of hostel rooms that led off of the climbing gym, but you had to go through door ways to get to them.

“Daddy, you try!”, and since I am always up for a challenge, I hopped on the wall, and promptly did the same thing.  I don’t know if it was me or someone else, but the glass of the door had a big crack when I looked at it.  Pretty sure it was me.

We all needed a hot tub after the climbing!

So, eventually our fingers and forearms were going to fall off and I still wanted to hold a glass of wine for Christmas Eve, so we finished up at the gym.

Writing out her last minute letter to Santa…

The kids started to realize that Christmas presents are not all about receiving, but the joy that they bring when they give as well.

Santa was packing his sleigh, so his part was not required, but we each bought some small stuff for each other.  Deb and Wilson went on a shopping trip to the gas station-supermarket-pharmacy-liquor store next to the climbing gym, while Lulu and I went back to the hotel to tidy up, pack a bit (since we were leaving the next day), and we waited for Deb and Wilson to come back.

Then it was Lulu and my turn to go Christmas shopping at the gas station.  It was fast and furious as the rain was coming again, and honestly, there wasn’t much in the way of selection.


Both kids bought each other hiking poles, and Wilson’s plan was that he would give Lulu the pole that he got so she could have both to help her along with hiking … since she doesn’t like it that much.  Sweet guy.

Lulu couldn’t contain her joy for Santa’s visit!

Then we made it back where we hopped in the hot tub for a quick soak (so nice….we miss our hot tub at home!!!), and then we got the wrapping paper out and the kids wrapped their presents.

Deb and I did some wrapping too, while the kids made a Christmas tree out of a bedside table, some pillows, and an extra set of Christmas light we purchased way back in Australia (they were one sale you know!  Can’t pass up a deal!).

The Christmas Pillow Tree, while my sweetheart slept away…

It looked awesome.

We piled the presents underneath and headed to bed hoping that jolly old Saint Nick would find his way to us and drop off a few gifts.

Santa brought the stockings over from home! What a treat!

When we got up in the morning, Santa had been there, and Golden Candy Sparkles was still there with a beautiful note saying that she got permission from the big guy himself to hang around for another day since she arrived late, and she wanted to make sure that Santa would find us on this side of the world.

Santa had brought our stockings and more presents from the deer and the elves, and we were ready to roll for the next part of our adventure.

Take a read here of our “Twas The Night Before Christmas” crazy Travelling Trenholms version that goes through Christmas morning with lots of pictures!

Off to River Valley Lodge for Christmas Dinner and horseback riding!

Nothing says Christmas like the post present opening mess.

Wilson bought me a stack of beer!

New warm slippers for mom

Happy Christmas children!