Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Agrodome, Rotorua

After our trip to Te Puia we headed over to the Agrodome to see the Sheep Sheering Show. We knew there would be other things to see, but we didn't realize how many entertaining things there would be at this attraction.


Gemma and Angus jumped on the sheep dog as soon as we arrived.


And then on the Kiwi!!


Angus was waiting patiently for the farm tour to begin.


Our first stop was to feed the ostriches and emus. I have to say interacting with the animals is always a highlight of any trip for me.


They also have an organic farm in the Agrodome where they grow kiwis, olives, and feijoa. This picture is of the kiwi vines. It is summer here, so you can see the small fruits on the vines which will be ready for picking in a couple months.


We also got to see this deer which has over bred itself in New Zealand. They now raise them for the velvet from their antlers to make medicine and for their meat. Here are a few of the deer resting in the pasture.

On a side note it has been wonderful to see all of the sheep and cows in the pastures grazing across the country. I rarely see that even in my home state of Nebraska.


Angus and Lily checking out the sheep and alpacas.

They also had alpacas which I absolutely adore! Their coats are so soft and it makes the most divine wool for knitting. There was on alpaca that was quite friend and I was able to run my fingers through its wool a few times.


Three very sweet alpacas.


We also saw several varieties of cows. The black one is none other than the Black Angus!


Here is a gorgeous Highland Cow that came to New Zealand from Scotland.


The sheep sheering show was extremely entertaining and also a tongue twister (you don't even want to know what Jonny kept calling it!). The sheep shearer brought out 20 different varieties of sheep to the stage. I didn't even know there were that many and that probably would explain why I thought all the sheep in Ireland looked so different from our American sheep! The sheep that was in the top row center was a Merino sheep, which has almost as divine of wool as an alpaca.


The Sheep Shearer and his victim. They put them on their back to shear so they cannot get away.


It took him about 2 minutes to shear one sheep and he will receive US$1.75 for the wool off 1 sheep.


Jonny and a Drysdale.

I was extremely impressed with the Agrodome and would highly recommend it to anyone who was visiting Rotorua. I think as a knitter you really can appreciate a place like this, but it is also great for city kids to see how things are done on the farm.

Te Puia, Rotorua

After we left the beach we headed to the tourist city of Rotorua which is know for its Maori culture and geysers. When we were driving into the city there was a horrible smell which I immediately blamed Jonny for, but to our surprise Rotorua just smells like this due to all the geothermal activity. We checked into our hotel and started to plan our time there. We checked out the hours of some of the sights and activates.

We went to Te Puia to see what they had to offer in regards to Maori culture and decided to come back in the morning for one of their tours and Maori Cultural shows. We also went to a Polynesian Spa, where there was a family area.

The next day we were up early and headed to Te Puia. We began our day with a tour of the grounds which sit in a geo-thermal valley.


The geyser was beautiful. Each color on the rocks represented oxidation of different chemicals.


Gemma really thought this was really stinky!!!



Gemma and Lily trying to escape the smell.


Gemma and Angus with the geyser.


We also went to this mud pool which was boiling hot.


Te Puia also had a Maori carving and weaving school located on site. Here is one of the carvers hard a work. Even though he was carving with an axe he was amazingly accurate.


This woman was an incredible speaker taught us about Maori weaving in a very short amount of time. They use flax to weave with and the finished product was once compared to Irish Linen.


The Cultural Show is about to begin. We are going to be invited into their community house.


I didn't find the invitation very inviting and Angus was definitely a bit freaked out, but we went with it anyway.


Lily was one of the first volunteers for the first dance they performed.


Jonny also volunteered to learn how to do the Haka.


Some of the performers in the Cultural Show.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day at Waihi Beach

On Christmas Eve we took a leisurely stroll into downtown Hamilton for brunch and to do a little last minute Christmas shopping and also to kill time until Lily finished work so we could caravan up to Waihi Beach to spend Christmas with the MacDonald Clan.

We had an incredible greeting when we arrived with lots of hugs and kisses when we arrived. It was such a warm greeting and it helped us feel right at home. Mark's parents rented a beach house to get the entire family together for Christmas. Mark is the youngest of 5 and we had the pleasure of spending the holidays with his parents, 3 brothers, 1 sister, their partners, 1 cousin and 14 nieces and nephews. Needless to say Gemma and Angus were so happy to have such a large group of kids to spend Christmas with.


A view of Waihi beach from the house where we spent Christmas.


The New Zealand Christmas tree, the Pohutukawa tree. These trees live along the coastline and they have gorgeous red flowers.


Yeah!!! Lily and Mark!

On Christmas Day morning I did my best to help Mark's family prepare the Christmas feast. When I was trying to come up with things to add to their Christmas menu it was a bit difficult since I was so used to making Christmas dinner in a cold climate I was trying to think of things that were a bit more beachy and bbqy. I helped out with a few of my recipes which included my bruchetta, guacamole, and potato salad which I think by the warm reception turned out well. Dinner was absolutely amazing! We had cold leg of lamb that was raised by the MacDonald family, the best smoked ham I have ever tasted, white bait fritters, chicken mignon, boiled potatoes, green bean salad, and glazed carrots.


Our New Zealand Christmas Buffet!


Santa Lily

After I ate more than my fair share of food I took Angus for a little nap because he was over tired from playing so hard and not in the best of moods. I fell asleep with him for 2 hours and it was the best little post Christmas dinner nap I have ever had! We were happy to see dessert was on the table and that we didn't miss out on our Christmas sweets.


The MacDonald clan having drinks on the deck! That is my kind of Christmas!


Lily and me enjoying the beach.

The great thing about NZ in the summer is that it stays dark really late. The kids went to the beach in the early evening to do some boogie boarding and Gemma really loved it! She really took to the sea water last Christmas and she keeps getting more and more daring. Here are a few shots of her with the board.


Surfer chick!


Gemma catching some waves!


Gemma made a ton of friends on our two days at the beach. Here are her with her new friends Paige, Skye and Brie.


Us with the MacDonalds! We are looking forward to hosting them all in Chengdu in the very near future!!!


The entire Christmas Clan. What a fabulous Christmas we had and what welcoming hosts!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Waitomo Caves


The family inside Ruakuri Cave.

Today we went to Waitomo Caves to see the glow worms, stalactites and stalagmites. I do have to mention that on our way to the Caves we stopped in a small little village on the way to have an Original Kiwi Pie. Now I have had meat pies in my life, but I had the best chicken pie I have ever had! The crust was flaky and light and the chicken filling was extremely tasty.

We had a nice day at Waitomo Caves. We opted for the two cave package of the Glowworm Cave and Raukuri Cave. There are so many things that you can actually do at Waitomo Caves, but it is definitely for people who are more adveturous (than me anyway) and someone with adveturous older kids (10 & up). You can do everything including caving, black water rafting, abseiling, and much more. The Glow Worm Cave was a 45 minute tour with a 10 minute boat ride out of the cave. We were able to see thousands of glow worms. It was a cool thing to do around Christmas because it looks like the cave is lit up with thousands of Christmas lights.

The second cave was a longer tour of Raukuri Cave which included a close up look at the Glow Worms along with amazing stalagtite and stalagmite formations. Here are a few pictures of our day.


A column, when a stalagtite and stalagmite join together.


One interesting fact was that it takes 300 years for a stalagtite to grow one cubic inch!


This is how they grow. There are minerals in the water which cling to the existing formation.


I thought these stalagtites were the most beautiful. They reminded me of icicles and what a better place to see icicles than at Christmas in a country where it is summer!


Here are the fishing lines (as our guide called them) of the Glow Worm Larvae. This how they catch their food.

glow worm_1

Glow Worm hanging from the rock formation.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our First Day in New Zealand

We had a good nights sleep and we were all up relatively early for breakfast. We had decided the night before to have kind of an easy day of exploring the beach town of Raglan. Raglan is known for its surfing and its quaint little town. Unfortunately I forgot the memory card in my camera and the only pictures I have of this lovely little town are on a little disposable camera that will be developed sometime when we return to Chengdu. We had a fabulous day having a coffee in one of the many little coffee shops, looking around the little shops, having a lunch by the sea and watching the surfers surf.

On our way back to Hamilton we stopped at Bridal Veil's Fall which was also a nice little walk and gorgeous scenery.

I have already charged my batteries and put in the memory card into my camera, so I hope to have pictures to post of our adventure tomorrow. We are heading down to Waitomo Caves to check out the glow worms.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Trip to New Zealand

I have not had a chance to blog or catch up with my blog like I would have liked to this past few months, but once again I will make a New Year's resolution to try and keep up! I really enjoying blogging, but it is always the first thing to go when I feel overwhelmed with other things in my life. I thought I would start my resolution early by blogging about our Christmas Trip to New Zealand.

We left on Saturday afternoon for Hong Kong and wait for our flight to Auckland. After a 10 hour flight and a little over hours drive to Hamilton we arrived at our hotel and quickly called our friends Mark and Lily, who we had come to visit.

They came over to our hotel where we had a few drinks and caught up with the latest news from Chengdu. We then went out to get a few groceries and back to the hotel for some take away Indian food. It was a great way to start our Christmas Holidays!

Here are a few pictures of Mark and Lily:



Tomorrow we are heading to Raglan beach to watch the surfers and play on the beach. I hope to get some great photos tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tokyo Disney, the rainy version!


Jonny and the kids at the entrance of Tokyo Disney.

On Monday we had planned to take the kids to the 'Happiest Place on Earth!', unfortunately we looked at the forecast and it looked like the typhoon from Taiwan was heading our way in the form of a tropical storm and we were going to be rained out. We decided that since it was going to rain the remainder of our time in Tokyo we might as well give Tokyo Disney a chance besides, there would probably not be that many people there, right? WRONG!!!

We arrived at 11 am and it was sprinkling heavily. We had 3 umbrellas and the kids had their rain jackets on. We really thought there would be less people visiting the park today, but much to our surprise there were long lines and when we tried to get a fast pass at 11 am it told us to come back at 8:20 pm! We decided to make a go of it though as this would be our only chance to experience Tokyo Disney.


This park is almost exactly the way I remember Disneyland in Anaheim. Here is Walt and Mickey. Notice the park is all decked out for Halloween! I think the Japanese are just as mad about Halloween as we were in the America!


The Castle


I really loved all of the Halloween stuff! We just don't get a ton of stuff in Chengdu for Halloween, so this was a special treat!


The kids and me posing in the rain. Notice Angus and I are sporting our new rain coats. Angus was not happy about it at all!


Jonny and Gemma on one of the rides.


Toon Town decked out for Halloween.


Gemma and Angus posing with some of the Halloween decor.


The Toon Town was exactly like I remember it from Disneyland. I have a picture of Gemma when she was 2 in the same jail.


Here she is!


Angus really didn't mind the rain! It was his first trip to Disney and he was all about seeing Mickey Mouse!


We were able to get dry on the carousel.


Jonny and Gemma enjoying the carousel.


Next we were off the It's a Small World! Here is Scotland...


and Ireland....


and Vietnam...


and Japan...


and Africa.


Then we were off to Alice's Tea Party.


Lots of tea cups!


The kids and me in the cup.


Jonny and the kids in the cup.


We were in motion and Jonny took this picture. I love the expressions on their faces! Of course my face was probably very green as this was my least favorite ride.


I found this picture of Gemma in the teacup with Jonny and my Grandpa when she was 2.


We needed to get out of the rain so we went to have an early dinner in the Queen of Hearts restaurant. We actually sat inside in the warm to dry out for over a hour.


Then we decided to wait for 140 minutes to go into the Nightmare Before Christmas Holiday Haunted House.


I know, I am a bit over the top with the Halloween pictures, but you can imagine how I feel living in a country that hasn't caught on to the concept of Halloween yet!



Jack and Sally



Santa Jack


It was a really cool haunted house and not too scary for the kids.


The normal parade was cancelled due to in climate weather, which was an under statement! They did have a little something for us though and Angus was finally able to see Mickey Mouse!


We also went to a 4-D movie which was a bit stressful. I have gone to three 4-D movies in my life and I don't think I will go to anymore. I hate when things run under your chair! I loved this picture of Gemma in her 4-D glasses though. She maintains this smile through the entire rainy day!


Our last ride was the one we had the fast pass for which was a Buzz Lightyear ride which Jonny and Angus loved!


We walked out of the park at 10 pm, which was their official closing time.


Angus didn't even make it to the train! He was out for the count after we walked out of the exit and slept on Jonny's shoulders all the way to the train station which was about a half a mile walk.

Despite the rain we still managed to have a great time. I think it would take a lot to keep the Dallas children down, they are super troupers! As for Mom and Dad that may be questionable, but we put on our brave rain faces!