Update Regarding our Plans and New Zealand: Whiritoa, Lake Mangakino, and Auckland

Well, Do Over is sold, although we are still dealing with incompetent banks that can’t handle International Bank to Bank wire transfers.  Alas, it never ends…

Currently, we are on a month-long pet sit in Dunedin (the southeast corner of the south island) and we are taking care of Libby, a medium to large sized mixed breed dog.  She is quite cute, and I will post another photo of her when I update our time in Dunedin.

The kids with Libby in front of our Live Christmas Tree.  It is very hard to find a live tree here.  We bought this little, but fragrant, one for the equivalent of $7 dollars U.S.!

You may be wondering what is next for the Gabier clan.  We are going to continue traveling throughout New Zealand until the beginning of March, and then we are off to SE Asia to travel for a few months.  We haven’t pinned down exactly where we will go, but it will be some combination of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  If you have any suggestions of the best four, we would love to hear them!

After that, we are flying back to the west coast of the U.S. and traveling for a month or so to find out where we want to live next.  We are narrowing down our choices, and really looking forward to seeing them in real life.  We could also use some input there…we want:  good schools, moderate housing prices, a very walkable quaint town with character, good community theater, bike trails, an hour or so from skiing, and not too far from a decent airport.  Have any ideas?  Please share them!  We have some thoughts; so far they are:  Steamboat, Fort Collins, Boulder, Dillon/Frisco (Colorado), Boise, Flagstaff, and for a while, Bozeman was on the list too but I don’t think I can handle that kind of cold for that long each year!  We really do welcome your ideas/suggestions of places to check out.  Post them on this blog, please!

Back to New Zealand…

So what happened when we hit New Zealand running?  Well, first, we CRASHED at an apartment hotel.  We didn’t get there until about 4:30 in the morning by the time our late flight arrived, and Dan had to leave the next morning to pick up our rental car.  BTW, we found out BEFORE our flight that Dan’s dad could not come to NZ just yet.  As luck would have it, he arrived at the airport with a very recently expired passport.  Good news though.  He has a new one and will be visiting us as of January 3rd.  And maybe everything happens for a reason–we were so busy getting a car, getting our extended visa applications, trying to get Do Over’s paperwork and survey, etc. that it would have been less relaxed if Gabe had come as originally planned and we wouldn’t have been able to explore as much.  Quite frankly, we were exhausted and had many tasks to complete.  Also, now Gabe is flying into Dunedin here on the south island, so we will be able to take him to some of the more fantastic scenery New Zealand has to offer prior to heading back to the North Island.  We have another pet sit set up in Taupo for 10 days after Gabe’s visit, and then we have 10 days to explore on our own, and we then have John and Corinne (Dan’s mom and her husband) visiting after the first week in February.  We are so excited to have family coming to visit and we have a lot planned!

After our first night in Auckland, we had a vacation rental set for 4 nights in Whiritoa, which is in the very southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula on the north island (about 2.5 hours away from Auckland).  It was a modest, small three bedroom home, but it had a very nice view and was within walking distance of a pretty beach (not that we were about to go swimming in THAT water–too cold!).

Our rental:  https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/11658104

Here are some photos of the place:

The “Bach” in Whiritoa



Getting ready for Badminton!


The backyard covered patio and pretty views.  We saw sheep, cows and horses!  We celebrated Thanksgiving in this house.

Next, we had a vacation rental at Lake Mangakino, which is only about an hour away from a popular destination in New Zealand:  Lake Taupo.  Again, we were still just happy to be chilling a little bit, which was good, because here the weather was rubbish.  It rained quite a bit, but we managed to go on a lovely walk in the neighborhood along the lake and the golf course and it was quite a pretty view despite the crap weather.  We probably wouldn’t have bothered keeping this reservation with Gabe not with us (given it took us a few hours to drive there), but unfortunately, I had already booked this one on “bookabach” and they are VERY strict about refunds.  Basically, we wouldn’t get one, so since we needed a place to sleep, we decided to just keep the reservation.  It was a nice house with a beautiful view.


Here was our view:

Next, we were heading back to Auckland so Dan could get a flight out to Sydney.  He needed to return for the boat survey, so the kids and I were on our own for two nights.  Strangely, we had no place to stay and I hadn’t prearranged anything.  I did try, but the place I attempted to book did not confirm, so we were back to square one.  We had just gone to the camera shop to pick up my waterproof replacement camera that was stolen in Tonga (Yeah for the new, upgraded model of the SAME camera!), and we just sat there in the parking lot with me on my Smart Phone trying to find a place to sleep.  And of course, the kids decided to fight in the back seat while I was looking.  That’s always fun.  Finally, I was able to book a one bedroom apartment in a suburb of Auckland that was the basement apartment in a very nice family’s home.  It turned out to be just fine and the price was right.  I truly felt a bit homeless though at that moment!

We stayed here, thanks to willingness of the owner, Bronwen, to prepare for us to arrive in only one hour!    https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/14871206

The kids and I spent the next day at the Auckland Zoo and then we went to Hell.  It’s true.  It’s a pizza place; we picked up our dinner there.

It was cold in Auckland that first night.

At the Zoo.  Me in my native habitat, alongside Marmosets and Tasmanian Devils…

Wait, these are my kids, not Tasmanian Devils or Marmosets…

THERE’S the marmoset!

And the Tasmanian Devil.  He has a face only a mother could love.

This is a Kea.  It is the only high altitude parrot in the world.

This bird is a Takahe.  I am not sure why the Kiwi gets all the street cred; this guy was awesome!  He is flightless, has some bright colors, and quite frankly, beats out the Kiwi in my eyes…

Well, Dan was coming back from Sydney, and once again, we were moving around.  We stayed at a “budget” hotel at the airport that still cost almost $200 a night.  Auckland’s pretty pricey.  The kids and I checked in there, dropped our luggage, and returned our rental car, and when Dan flew in, he just walked over to our hotel.  It felt like we had just flown in, but we had recently agreed to take a pet sit down in Dunedin and it started in a week.  It made more sense to fly to Dunedin rather than drive all the way down to Wellington, take the 3.5 hour ferry (that would cost about $300 or so NZ and then drive the many, many hours down to Dunedin.  Flying is so much easier…We planned to fly to Christchurch and then buy a car.  We were successful!

We are the proud new owners of a Bento Box.  That’s what Dan calls it, and it just fits SO WELL.  The car is a 2005 Toyota Sienta (not Siena, Americans, but Sienta, never before to set foot on U.S. soil).  It had only 79,000 miles on it and was in great shape.  It just looks…well…rather ugly.  There is one plus though.  She speaks to us in Japanese every time we turn on the car or when she thinks we are passing a famous Japanese landmark.

She is a seven seater which we definitely needed that with our family of four and family on the way to visit.  Here is our new car.  We paid $3,800 U.S. with a registration and a year long WOF, and she is in really nice shape:

The third row seats actually fold down under the second row seats when not in use.  The sliding door is automatic, and there is a camera for reversing.

Okay, I will write about Christchurch and Wanaka tomorrow.  I am tired.  Good night!