Monday, February 28, 2011

Slides, Blisters, and Dino's

We have decided that at the end of this trip we will be able to write a book about the top playgrounds in NZ. One of Josiah's current loves is to play on any sort of slide or swing. Any time he spots a play area he quickly asks, "out, play, swide, weeeeeeeee," in that order. He generally throws a please in too and so we are forced to stop. It has been fun watching him interact with kids his age and sometimes kids who don't even speak English. He mangers on to them in his own language and they jabber back in theirs.

In the third day of our trip Peter had decided to do a fairly grueling hike that was not my cup of tea, so we decided to split up for the afternoon. I will admit it felt funny leaving the only other person I knew in the country at the end of a long mountain road, but i knew we would both have stories to tell at the end of the day.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 18.5 km thru hike. Because we were not heading the direction of the hikes end, I decided to hike the 8 km to the emerald lakes and red crater. The hike was a lot harder then I had planned.... and it didn't help that I had told Molly to pick me up in a few hours. However, the hike was awesome... A small storm came in as I was climbing next to "Mt. Doom" with clouds skimming the volcanic surface. I wish Sam was there to carry me up the mountain, cause I could've used the help. I did make it up and back, only 20 minutes late, but I am sore! And I have a blister the size of Mt. Doom itself!

While Peter hiked, Josiah and I went to National Park, NZ where we visited the Tongariro Chalet and a ski area above the chalet. The chalet was built by the government in a hopes of inviting more people to visit the national park. We also went to the visitors center where Josiah pet every stuffed animal he could and tried to feed each one bread (see our first post for explanation). The ski area above the chalet was built into the volcano and it was fun to imagine the hills with snow. It was especially funny to imagine the ski seasons starting in the middle of July.

When we met back up we headed to the Ruatiti Domain where Peter wanted to fly fish and camp for the night. We ended up spending s few hours on the river fishing, throwing rocks, exploring and then headed back into town for the night.

The next morning we headed south to the NZ capitol, Wellington. What a beautiful city. It reminds us a lot of Seattle and we had fun walking along the streets and exploring the Mount Victoria lookout. For all you LOTR buffs, this was one of the filming sites for the first movie.

We then tried to squeeze in the national museum called Te Papa before Josiah's nap. It was well worth the trip. This was one of the most amazing museums we have ever been to. The layout, exhibits, technology where state of the art and interesting for every age. Josiah especially loved the dinos exhibit and the skeleton of the great blue whale. Soon after the exhibit, he was asleep.

After nap time we walked along the waterfront so we could put our toes in the water, chase seagulls and find something to eat for dinner. We really enjoyed the beauty and feeling of Wellington, we only wish we had another day here. But, we have reservations for the ferry to the south island in the morning.

The Olsen's <><

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Root beer, worms and The Amazing Race

After a great night's sleep we enjoyed breakfast with our wonderful couch surfing hosts on their back deck in the sun. It was a great way to start our first full day in New Zealand. Our hosts gave us some lessons on terminology... Did you know that ketchup is called red sauce and that red sauce for your pasta is called pasta sauce? But, sadly they have no idea what root beer is.

If any of you have ever seen the amazing race, you would know that they always coordinate their outfits. Here's a photo of team Olsen... We are totally going to win.

We then headed south toward Waitomo. We were hoping to get into town soon enough to catch a tour of the glow worm caves. Unfortunately, the last tour of the day was canceled due to a lack of people. So our only option was a quick 45 minute large group tour. We did enjoy seeing the glow worms and Josiah entertained the entire group as he sang most of the time in the cave listening to his echo. He also really enjoyed riding in a boat.

PS - Who is this guy in our photo!?! I don't think he enjoyed Josiah's singing.

Unfortunately they didn't allow us to take any photos of inside the cave. We found a pizza place for dinner and enjoyed watching a thunder storm roll in. Josiah met some more friends at the play ground and was super brave and went down the big boy slide. He also twisted his ankle a little bit while playing on the trampoline, but he quickly bounced back and he was soon entertaining the front desk staff with his jumping and go-go-go's.

We are headed to bed early tonight in preparation for a morning hike.

The Olsen's <><

Friday, February 25, 2011

We made it!

Flight #2: LA to Auckland. What was supposed to be a 12 hour flight turned out to be 13 and a half. With no nap and running around in LAX, we couldn't wait to get off the ground to put Josiah down, but we had to wait in our seats for an hour while they tried to find an ill passenger's baggage. To say the least, this flight did not start out as well as the last.

But, as soon as we got into the air and they turned down the lights, Josiah was out. Did I mention we were flying business class and we had the entire first row to ourselves? We did not take long in taking up the whole space. We also enjoyed probably the best chocolate cheesecake with raspberry sauce ever at 30,000 feet. As well as a bunch of other fancy food served on glass dishes with metal silverware.

Our arrival into Auckland was long awaited and we couldn't wait to get into our own vehicle. It did take some getting used to though. Not only is the steering wheel and stick shift on the other side of the car, so is the windshield wiper lever.... Stupid. He has stopped signaling all together.

After we got our car we drove to Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium to see some fish and penguins. It was a blast. Josiah loved the shark exhibit so much he walked around it over and over. He even gave a diver high five!

YouTube Video

Getting out of the city we did have some minor errors in navigating, but we finally arrived at our first destination about an hour south of Auckland in a beautiful farm countryside. Our couch surfing hosts are wonderful and we are sharing their home with a girl from Hungary (who made us real authentic Hungarian food from scratch) and her British boyfriend. Our hosts have two sons who Josiah has had a blast playing with and following around.

We are off to see some glow worms caves tomorrow. And now it is time for bed. Cheers!

The Olsen's <><

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It begins.......

Flight issues, earthquakes, and a snow storm nothing can't keep us from this adventure.

So here we go.

Our departure time from home was a little earlier on account that it was SNOWING cats and dogs, sticking on the road and not looking like it was going to slow down anytime soon. Here Peter has waited all winter for snow to fall in any sort of accumulation and here it was, on the day we were leaving. So, we quickly finished putting all the last minute things in our bags while Josiah "rested" (sang and talked in his bed) and Chelsea nervously paced between each bag trying to figure out which one was her stuff. It was oddly eerie knowing we would not be back to our house or see our dog for a whole month, but we know they are in good hands.

We arrived to the airport early thanks to the fantastic driving skills of Papa Ken. We breezed through security and made a beeline for the Sea-Tac kids play area. Which, by the way is amazing and there should be one in every terminal of every airport...the play area was even made from antimicrobial foam... Awesome!

Anyway, Josiah promptly peed through his entire outfit (which was adorable) so for the rest of the trip today he is sporting his monkey pj's. He did love playing in the play area and looking out the window at all the planes, which he announced each one in a voice loud enough for all the concourse to hear.

As we boarded the flight and everyone in first class had their mouths wide open as we climbed into our seats. Josiah was very happy playing with his little people, play-dough and watching Curious George. Thus making the 2 hour flight go great. We are thankful, and relieved. Now, as we burn more energy in the LA airport, we pray that the next 12 hour flight will go as well.

YouTube Video

The Olsen's <><

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spontaneous Ocean Adventure

We decided spontaneously to go to the ocean for a little family get-away.  We thought it would be a good idea before we left for New Zealand to "test" Josiah to see how he would do without his bed and without his daily schedule.  
And why not... let this be our first blog post.  

We were blessed with amazing clear, sunny weather not common for February in Washington and especially not the Washington coast. We had the pleasure of some time throwing rocks at Ruby Beach, driving through Forks and enjoying all of the Twilight stuff... not really.

But, quite possibly the highlight of the trip was the Olympic Game farm in Squeim.  There is nothing like having a pack of llamas running around your car, sticking their heads in your windows while you try to avoid them and the buffalo who are charging at your car. to say, it was a great opportunity for some fun pictures and anytime we see any sort of farm life on the side of the road, Josiah asks to feed it bread.

I will admit, it was a bit nerve racking having these animals run full speed up to your car with their antlers/horns, knowing full well you signed a waiver about any car damage. Not to mention all the stories we had heard over breakfast about the bison sitting on the hoods of your car.  

It is amazing to realize that in a little less than two weeks we will be in one of the most amazingly beautiful landscapes in the world. But here, right in our back yard, we have just as amazing landscape. We actually ran into a couple at Ruby Beach who moved to Washington from the east coast after they had traveled to New Zealand. They told us they moved here because Washington's raw coastline and mountains reminded them of New Zealand's. It is so easy to take for granted the things we see everyday. But we came home with a new perspective to love where you are at and to keep seeing all of God's beauty around you everyday.  The more we think about it.... maybe we should have just traveled the Washington coast for a few weeks...... nope... I think we will stick with New Zealand.