Dan’s Dad in NZ: Part 2, North Island and Our Pet Sit in Taupo

As soon as we exited the ferry, we headed for our vacation rental to drop off our stuff.  We ended up staying and making dinner at the house.  It was a cool place.  The owners purchased this church lodge and remodeled it, keeping some of the original elements.  It had three bedrooms, but only one bath, and it was downstairs!  We ended giving Gabe the downstairs bedroom so he could be closer to the bathroom in the night.  For us, it proved more difficult.  I guess we’ve just been “spoiled” living on the boat where you can reach everywhere in a few steps.  The kitchen and bath of this place were quite modern despite the age of the property itself.  It was very unique!

Photos of the Wellington House

Split Staircase up to Each Upstairs Bedroom


Kitchen with a 5 Burner Gas Range.  I haven’t seen one of those in a VERY long time!

Living Room

Ceiling Detail, Each corner had one representing the four different seasons

Original Plaque, now encased in a wood cabinet

We really had only one full day in Wellington, so we made sure to do what we could–for the most part.  Ariana was scheduled for an acting class from 9:30 to 4.  She had a blast as it was focused on improv and she was quite happy to be doing what she loves most.  The rest of us headed to Te Papa Museum which was four or five stories of lots to see.  We didn’t even see it all, but they’re the only museum in the world that has a colossal squid preserved and on display.  This strange squid actually grabbed onto a fishing line and wouldn’t let go, so when the fishermen pulled up their line, they found it.  Apparently, it was too late to save it, so they decided not to put it back into the water.  No one has seen a male giant squid so the researchers were hoping for the best, but it turned out to have eggs.

Colossal Squid

Then there was this crazy baby thing at the museum…Seriously, isn’t this the scariest looking baby you’ve ever seen?

We also got to see some of the great views of the city from the museum.


After seeing some of the sights, we decided to return for lunch and to watch the playoff football game on TV before we picked up Ari.  After getting Ari, Dan and I went for a walk in the area of Wellington called Petone.

The next day we were off again, just to spend a night in National Park in an attempt to break up the drive to Waitomo.  After one night there, we headed to Waitomo Caves to see the glow worms.  It turns out glowworms are actually fly maggots (larvae stage of the fungus gnat), but that is definitely not as sexy or cutesy as “glowworm,” hence the name.  We did a tour with Spellbound that was described in such a way that I knew Gabe would also be able to do it with few issues.  It turned out to be a good fit because although there was some walking involved, the tour guide did drive Gabe for most of that so he did not have to walk as much.  We went to the first cave to see the glowworms.  We boarded a raft in a group of 12 and were gently guided through the dark cave while the roof of the cave glistened with thousands of these little worms.  All head torches were turned off and we could just listen to the flowing river water and watch the twinkles of the cave. It was quite beautiful.  Some had brighter bioluminescence than others.  After that cave, we walked to another dry cave that was so pretty.  The cave contained the bones of a moa, a bird that has been extinct since the Maori’s hunted them to extinction about 500 years ago.  It also had cave cauliflower, stalagmites and stalactites.  I enjoyed this cave nearly as much or as much as the glowworm cave…

Gabe ducking into the dark, wet glowworm cave.

A motley crew of cavers.

The eel we fed. Just like Huahine, French Polynesia!

The river along the way.

Ryan on the path to the next cave.

With Waitomo Caves explored, we had lunch at a cafe and headed to Taupo.  Dan, the kids and I had a pet sit in Taupo starting the next day.  We got Gabe a hotel room for the night.  I am sure he was happy to have the break from us!  We visited our housesit family and went back out to dinner a few hours later with Gabe at the Lakehouse.  After dinner, we headed back to the Taupo pet sit house.   The next morning, we were officially taking care of Minnie (an 18-month old, brindled American Staffordshire), Little (a 12 year old orange tabby), and Tiny (a 2 year old grey, white and black cat).  It was great to have pets around once again!

The kids and I said our goodbyes to Gabe that morning, as he and Dan were going to Auckland for the night.  Gabe had a flight out the next day, and they were going to see a bit of Auckland before his departure.  The kids and I stayed at the house, took Minnie for a walk to the Botanical Gardens and hung out with the animals.  It was nice and relaxing.



Minnie looked a bit evil, so much so that Ari coined her “Mini Terminator,” but she was anything but.  She was a very sweet dog.  One of the cats (Tiny) actually bullied Minnie.  We caught him swatting at her three times in a row for no reason.  Another morning, I went to let Minnie out to use the bathroom, and she didn’t want to go despite the fact she had just whimpered to let me know she had to go.  I quickly saw why.  Tiny was lying out there and when she spotted him, she didn’t feel brave enough to venture out.  I went outside with her so the mean ‘ole bully cat wouldn’t go after her, and she was able to go.  All this being said, Tiny was actually a fairly sweet cat to humans.  He didn’t bite or scratch or hiss; he was just a bit aloof.  Humans definitely existed FOR him!  Little was the opposite.  He slept with one of the kids every night and would often come and sit on their laps or ours on the couch if we were watching the telly at night.  Minnie would sit on the other couch with us.  They were quite sweet and we enjoyed taking care of them, and walking Minnie every day definitely made her happy despite the fact her family was away.

While we were in Taupo, we managed to do a few things as well.   One day, we went on a power boat for a few hours, that was to take us to some Maori rock carvings only accessible by water.  This was another event we booked on “bookme.com” for half-price.  The rock carvings weren’t that old (about 40 years old), but they were cool nonetheless.  Not only that, but after a good spell of rainy, rubbish weather, we had a beautiful sunny day and a calm lake.  Plus, they had wine onboard and I had made everyone a chicken, bean and cheese burrito with salsa for lunch, so it was a win-win.

Black Swan

Karate Seagull 

The Area of the Rock Carvings

Black and white Rock Carving Photos

The Rock Carvings

Another evening, Dan and I had a date night and we went for some very excellent Thai food.  I find that we gravitate towards ethnic foods here in New Zealand because the menu appeals to us more than the New Zealand typical menu.  We’re not really fans of beef, lamb, veal, pork belly, rabbit, and pizzas with Camembert cheese and cranberry.  But put a plate of Pad See Ew with Chicken, Thai Green or Indian Curry, Mexican tacos, or a Turkish Kebab with Middle-Eastern side dishes, and we’re all happy as clams.

Kate and Steve from Blue Summit came through Taupo and we got to have dinner with them. We also caught up with their adventures, and drank some good wine.  The next day, Dan, the kids and I went to the Taupo DeBrett’s Hot Pools.  We again used Bookme to purchase half-price tickets and paid for the kids to go on the waterslides when we got there.  We stayed there for a few hours and then we were done.

We took Minnie hiking, and played ball along the hillside.

Yet another day we decided to go to Rotorua to do the Skyline Luge.  The kids did their school in the morning and then we headed over to Rotorua, had Turkish food (surprise, surprise) and headed up the gondola for some luge action.  We had 10 rides total, so we all took the scenic path the first time (4), we sent the kids on the intermediate path while we had a glass of wine and listened to live music at the top of the mountain (2), and then we all took the advanced track (4) which was extremely fun.  I loved zipping around the mountain!  Interestingly, we did the Alpine Luge in Mont Tremblant, Canada about 4 years ago, and the same company built the one in Rotorua.  The difference was that in Mont Tremblant, they had only one run; in Rotorua they had three.  While we were riding back up the ski lift, we saw deer, bunnies and sheep with birds on their backs.  It was like Disney!  Anyway, it was time to head back to Taupo, and we were greeted warmly by Minnie Terminator.  It was a great end to the day!

Rotorua Luge

Ari and Ryan 

Mount Ruapane, near Tongariro National Park

NEXT STOP:  Ohakune and Tongariro National Park