January, 2007, Sydney and NZ
January started in Sydney.  Above is the view we have had from Blue Sky, not bad.  This grassy area is called Kelly's Bush, one of the first areas preserved as a park in Sydney.  Drake and I climbed one of the towers of the Sydney Bridge, it was a better price than doing the bridge climb, and just as cool, plus I could bring my camera.  You can see our view of the Opera House and Circular Quay.

 
We toured Crunella and Botany Bay with Paul, Nicholas and Gemma.  Paul is pictured with the kids at the Beach in Crunella.
Above is a picture of my dad and Peter's cousins who were in from England.  Libby and John and her sister Katherine and Robert.  We all met at the RSL for a pub lunch. 

Below is the actual landing sight of Captain James Cook's Endeavor in Botany Bay.  Now a tanker sits in the spot, do you think this is what Cook saw?  Peter and Jim try to imagine what the sight would be like back then..
There were two birthdays in January.  Sue, Brenda's sister, celebrated with a rainy day sausage sizzle.  Jon and Terry try to keep the grill lit, and generations of girls: Gemma, Brenda, Mary, Sue, Gill and Phoebe.
I celebrated my 42nd birthday with Amy at 5 below.  A bar downtown where everything is made of ice; the chairs, cups, tables.  We were served chilled vodka drinks and were allowed 30 minutes, after that it gets too cold.

The following day  Paul and Brenda hosted a great celebration, the food, as always was delicious.  The birthday cake was a huge Pavlova, the best I have ever had!
Luis is pictured with us in Darling Harbor, he is a friend of our neighbor Greg Frias.  We first met at Greg's house in Redondo Beach.  Yvonne and Luis both came by the boat and gave us great pointers for New Zealand. Where we are off to next.
On January 16 we boarded an Emirates plane and headed to Christchurch, New Zealand.  Phoebe and Drake said it was the "Best Plane Ever!"  They could watch their own movies, had a goodie bag and a kids meal.  Because of all this, the parents enjoyed the flight as well. 
In Christchurch we hooked up with our friends Andy Laplante from Shorthills, New Jersey and Jeremy Schuster from NYC.  They both went to high school with Jim in NJ.  Below is our first camp ground, the Top Ten Holiday Park in Christchurch, kids in the tent, adults in the car.
The first night it rained and was very cold, we could see our breath in the morning.  Good thing we packed all our warm clothes.  Typical Blue Sky weather.  The museum in Christchurch was one of the best we have been to, above Drake and Andy are building a dinosaur puzzle.  They had an antartic exhibit and hands on things for the kids. Christchurch was a very picturesque city.
Leaving Christchurch we drove over Athur's Pass to get to the West coast.  It was a beautiful day, finally seeing Lord of the Rings Land.  After lunch we went on a hike up to Devil's Punchbowl Falls, it was about an hour up.  A good first hike, as we haven't been on a good hike since the Marquesas.  There were wildflowers everywhere, I haven't seen so many since living in Texas.  There they were called Blue Bonnets, or Lupins.
Punch Bowl Falls was very impressive, massive amounts of water flowing off the cliff.
We stayed the night in Hokitika, a nice small town on the west coast.  Jeremy, Andy, Phoebe and Drake all decided they had to swim in the cold Tasmen sea.  It was flat and calm, very unusual, as there was drift wood thrown across the entire beach. The next day we drove to Fox Glacier. It was hot in the parking lot, and once we reached the Glacier, the air blowing off it was cold.
It was amazing seeing a Glacier up close.  No where else in the world, at this latitude, have glaciers advanced so close to the sea.  The mighty river of ice, see the warning sign, tumble down to the Tasmen.  It was amazing seeing the green trees next to the ice. Jeremy is relaxing after  hiking over a huge rock slide.
We woke up to another rainy day and headed toward the Abel Tasman, with a few stops along the way.  The first was pancake rocks at Punakaiki,  if you look closely the rocks are all stacked on top of each other like pancakes, we are still on the west coast looking at the Tasmen.  They are formed from a weathering process known as Stylebedding. The Maori could see faces and shapes in the rocks, which is what Phoebe and Jeremy are doing. 
The Westport Seal colony were the first seals we have seen since leaving California.  The Fur Seal Pups were just getting used to swimming.
Before the town of Murchison is the longest swing bridge in New Zealand, going over the Buller River.  This was a large gold mining area.  Little did we know, this was one of many swing bridges we encountered in NZ.  The kids loved going over them.  I always got a little nervous, seeing the water rushing below you. 
We drove over Takaka Hill and were greated with this great view of the Able Tasman area.  On the way down the car was stopped by a herd of cows crossing the road.
Emma, Phoebe, Drake, Jim and Jeremy
We camped at the Top Ten Pohara beach on Golden Bay.  This was the most crowded camp ground we experienced the whole trip.  School was still out and people come and set up tent homes for a month or so over the holidays.  It was right on the beach.  The Top Tens were great, very kid friendly with great parks, sometimes swimming pools and jumping pillows.  Always another kid around to play with.  They had communal kitchens and bathrooms.  You could stay in a bunk room or pitch a tent, we  just waited to see what the weather was doing.  This was our last night with Jeremy and Andy and we saw Comet McNaught fly through the sky, what a sight.  (Jan 19, 2007)  At first I had no idea what it was. 
After our goodbyes we headed toward Farewell Spit, a very large breeding ground for many species of birds, to the right are 1000's of black swans.  To the left is a great use for an old fender.  We stayed at a camp ground in Pakawau, great spot on the beach.
Above is the farm track to Whanganui Beach.  Crossing through the farm with the cows and sheep.  The sheep are being herded by dogs, which was quite a site to see.  Below is Cape Farewell on the North West Tip of the South Island. The sand dunes lead to a confused Tasmen Sea. The sand whipped at our legs, as it is always windy there.
Driving thru farm country we came across a salami and ham vending machine, the first I had ever seen, so we had to get something. 

Next stop Hanmer Springs, where we met Meridith and Wallace from Santa Cruz, they were on their way to Hawaii to get married.  Of course they were leaving in the morning. The first Americans we have met on this trip, we had a great evening with them.
There are 25 thermal hot pools at the Hanmer Springs resort, no better way to spend a rainy day.  The kids were prunned after being in water for eight hours straight. Jim trades his usual for an ice cream. 
We had lunch in Lyttleton, the port town for Christchurch where there is a working Timeball, on the building to the left.  Built in 1876, daily it was hoisted on a mast and dropped at precisely 1pm, GMT, allowing ships to set their clocks, so they could calculate longitude.  The white mast to the left was used for signal flags to communicate with the ships in the harbor.
We drove the Banks Peninsula to the town of Akaroa.  This was the first French settlement in NZ.  The kids are in front of the Langlois-Eteveneaux house, one of the oldest homes in the area.  The road to the heads was green fields flowing to the sea.  Happy sheep were all over NZ.
The view of Akaroa and the harbor with boats moored. We are now back on the East coast, the pacific ocean.

One of our favorite spots was Oamaru.  The camp ground was next to a great park and botanical garden, the kids made friends with humpty dumpty. 
In the historic district buildings were built of limestone.  It is one of the best preserved collection of historic commercial buildings in NZ.  We toured the Malt Whisky wharehouse, where the kids found a basket of top hats for sale.  There was a great used book store in town as well.
We saw the endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins in Oamaru.  They come ashore at dusk, after swimming and fishing all day.  One walked right passed us.  It was a great experience to see penguins in the wild.  There are so many in this area they have penguin crossing signs. 

We stopped at the Moeraki boulders, strange rocks formed by the wind and waves on the beach in the town of the same name.
Phoebe and Drake try to move a boulder.

The first albatross we have seen, soaring through the sky, it's wing span was bigger than Phoebe.  What a sight to see.  The Royal Albatross'  were nesting on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin.

The highlight of the kids trip (and mine) was in Dunedin, when we took a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory.  We saw how chocolate was made and received a bag full of samples and goodies along the way. They even had a Chocolate waterfall.

To the left is Slope Point, the Southern most point in NZ. 


The Tuatura, an endangered lizard, lives in the Invercargill museum..
In Invercargill we went to the museum and there was a great exhibit on the roaring 40s and the islands in that region.  The drive from there to Milford sound was undescribable.  The snow capped peaks of the sound.  Phoebe counted over 150 waterfalls and stopped half way.  Below are the Hunter Mountains, and a waterfall at the entrance of the Homer tunnel.  Unfortunately, I accidentally lost all my photos of Milford Sound.  It was one of the most spectacular drives and places we have been. Sorry I can't share it with you. You will just have to go and see for yourself.