The End

We drove back to Auckland before our flight home. We had the afternoon so we tried one more burger place downtown… again eh. We decided the ultimate problem was that most places overcooked the burger in our opinion. The meat itself was delicious though.

We had time to check out a couple sites in Auckland so after walking downtown we headed to Mount Eden. This is a public park with a large crater in the center that was created by a volcano. It also has a fantastic view of Auckland.

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We were just hanging out relaxing and getting ready to pack up and head to the airport. We were also cleaning up a little and that’s when it happened.

Mike had nearly lost his wedding ring a couple times on this trip, but after 3 months and losing about 20 pounds, he finally lost it. He was wiping crumbs off the seat of the camper when whoosh! out the open back door it sailed… into the famous crater park! He looked diligently for some time, but nothing.
We had to give up and head to the airport. Here he is right before the incident.

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The bright side is that the ring was only $40, so we will replace it when we get home.
It has been a once in a lifetime trip and we have had a grand adventure everywhere we went. Thank you all for your love and financial support to help make this possible for us! If you ever want advice or suggestions we are more than happy to help with any experiences we have had during this time. We look forward to coming “home” and seeing you soon!
All good things must come to an end.

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Bay of Islands

Our last main stop is farther north of Auckland near the Bay of Islands on the east side. So we left early and drove north for most of the day. We planned to go on a snorkeling adventure in one of the most notable locations on earth.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of water, I do not have many pictures of the experience. But it was amazing. We went snorkeling in several different locations throughout the day. We left early morning and returned early evening.

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The water was very chilly so we needed to wear wet suits… I am not a fan.
I grew up in fresh water, and although it was cold sometimes, I never wore a wetsuit. I found it incredibly restrictive and uncomfortable. At one point I had to get out of the water as I was feeling nauseous. In retrospect I wish I had practiced swimming in a wetsuit a little beforehand. It was still a great day though and we were tuckered out from the sun!
Back to the camper for the night.

This was our last night in New Zealand, we would fly out of Auckland tomorrow. We found a free campsite right on the beach, awesome location!

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We also had some shots that we needed to drink before heading out, what a rough time this has been! A great way to spend our last night listening to the ocean waves.

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Mount Doom

Our next destination is Tongariro National Park, the site of Mount Doom!
Again a beautiful drive. The whole country is gorgeous, very much reminds us of Hawaii.

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Today is about driving and hiking.
We did a shorter hike and then after lunch a longer hike. Fabulous time.

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It was a great day outdoors and then we hit the road again, heading north. We had wanted to stop at the Waitomo caves, also known as the glowworm caves, but the time and cost was just too prohibitive. So we stopped for the night on the west side of the island. We found a spot right on the beach in Raglan, New Zealand for the night.

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Hawke Bay wine tasting

We drove on to Hawke Bay, we found a winery tour just south of Hastings called “On Yer Bike” we would be able to tour wineries on bicycles!

We arrived later in the afternoon so we needed to giddy-up to catch the wineries before they closed for the day. Set and ready to go.

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A little background, we are not the biggest wine drinkers… we generally prefer beer and hard liquor… and bubbly for me!
But this was a great opportunity and I had heard the wine here is great. I absolutely have determined that I do like wine, I just like REALLY good wine.
So we gave it a shot.

A little ways down the road we made our first stop, I think in all we made it to 6 wineries total before we had to head back. Which was plenty!

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The two we liked best were Salvare and Te Awa, we ended up purchasing wine from both. Salvare was a little more funky, we tried some wine slushy that was actually delicious and refreshing.
Te Awa had delicious wine, we spent the most time here. A lovely woman let us taste over 10 different wines and the atmosphere was rustic and comfortable. We were the only people in most of the wineries. It was a fabulous experience, I highly recommend it!

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Taupo

We drove on and our destination for the evening was Taupo, Lake Taupo is almost dead center on the north island. We found a free campsite right along a river called Reids Farm. A terrific spot.
So we had a thought… New Zealand is known for grass fed beef, we certainly saw a ton of them grazing in green hilly pastures as we were driving, what better place to have a great burger, right?
We tried one in town here for dinner called BurgerFuel, eh is was ok. The town itself was cool, it was located next to the lake and a “hoppin” place.
We called it a night.

The next morning we stopped by Huka Falls, the craziest aqua blue water, you have ever seen! It was not in our budget to take a ride down it on a boat, but it sure did look like fun.

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Time to drive on. Our next stop was south to Hawke Bay near Napier, New Zealand.
Here is Mike driving Jeff Plecha style. Luckily he was in the shade most of the day.

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Tauranga & the Falls

We were heading south to Tauranga.
So I always forget and underestimate the sun, not the best idea with my fair skin tone. But the sun here is SO MUCH stronger! I was enjoying the ocean breeze from my passenger perch and didn’t realize I hadn’t put sunscreen on, OUCH!

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I found a waterfall we could hike to, so after a quick stop in town for some more specific directions we arrived at Tauranga Falls.

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There was a short hike into the actual falls, a lovely and pleasant hike.
What an amazing waterfall, just like a postcard. We were so excited to get in and take a picture… until I tried to get in the water… holy cold!
Mike thought I was being a “girl” so he did his best to prove me wrong.
This is as far as he got.

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We tried our best and really wanted to go for a quick swim, it was warm out, but the water was just SO cold! We settled for at least seeing it and the great hike. Time to drive on.

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Here we go!

We took advantage and slept in until 11am, very unusual for me, but I will take it! We had done some research and had a general idea of where we wanted to go, with only 1 week we definitely were staying on the north island and there was plenty to do, so we headed along the coast to Coromandel peninsula. What a spectacular drive!
I have done lots of road trips, especially in the last 10 years, and I am a huge fan of the less traveled roads and avoiding expressways whenever the time allows. We followed the same plan here, at least whenever we could.

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Our ultimate destination for the day was Hot Water Beach. I had read up about the underground river of hot water at this beach, where at low tide you can dig into the sand and create your very own hot tub! How exciting!
We arrived during the day and we missed the first low tide and discovered we would have to come back around 1am to catch the next option, Mike was sad. So we decided to find a campground for the night and then return to soak in the middle of the night.

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We found this place not too far away and hung out until that night.

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We left around midnight and took the pathway to the beach, luckily there was a full moon to help. There were only about 20 people total, and everyone had their method of digging… we were not so successful at first.
But oh my gosh, when you “hit” a hotspot the water was almost scorching!
We finally waited until a few people left and swiped their “hot tub”
What an amazing experience! We finally wised up and dug a trench for the cooler ocean water to cool down our hot tub occassionly.
Time to catch some shut eye.

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New Zealand bound

We had a very long flight(s) ahead of us, we flew overnight-ish, arriving in Brisbane around 1am and rested as much as possible until our 8am flight to Auckland, New Zealand. The company we rented our “home” for the next week picked us up and took us to register our camper van.

It was evening by the time we got our bearings and stopped at a grocery store to stock up for the week. The camper is a stick shift and you drive on the “wrong side” here so it was a little funny watching Mike driving the first day, he did really well and there was NO WAY I was going to attempt it! So we opted for a less impressive camping park in Auckland before we headed out on our adventure the next day.

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Pretty comfy digs!

Singapore – Kinetic Rain

So the city of Singapore is fabulous, but the airport is immaculate! No wonder it is the #2 top rated airport in the world!

There was also an art installation that we watched for quite some time, it was a group of copper looking raindrops suspended on clear cable. In time to music, the raindrops moved in random patterns, I must have been there for 10 min.

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If you can find a video, I highly recommend a viewing, or if you can find it in person, definitely go!

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

So we were up super early, we wanted to check into our 1 night fancy hotel as early as possible and get every minutes worth of pleasure, there was no time to waste, especially on laundry!

So we found a close laundry mat, fairly new and since it was so early it was empty, which meant we could use ALL the machines!
Mike dropped me off, with bags all emptied and every single piece of clothing ready to be dryed.
We found out that washing doesn’t necessarily kill bed bugs, you must dry them at a certain heat for a min. amount of time, great! So EVERYTHING had to be done, our bags, shoes, hats, clothes, all of it.
So I got started and Mike went to get more change, breakfast and to pack up all our misc. crap in a large trash bag since we had no where to put anything until we were done.
Meanwhile I am at the laundry mat dressed in a sarong and nothing else, since we had to wash everything, sweating in the 100+ heat, and praying no one else would come in and disrupt our “routine”
Luckily, we made it through without too much disruption, about 3 hours later and we were in a cab headed to our hotel!

And this is what was there for us…

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BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER!!!!!!!

It was a little less classy that we rolled up, barely dressed with a trash bag of belongings and laundry but I simply did not care at this point! We were in Tower 1 on the 48th floor, fabulous!
I immediately ran to the window and then directly into the much anticipated luxury bathroom/shower, it has never felt so good.

It was a very cloudy day and we wanted to see more of the city so we opted to explore that evening and then check out the notorious roof pool that evening and next morning, when the weather was supposed to be nicer.
We went out to explore the Bugis street market, very cool experience. The rain started so we found dinner and headed back to check out the pool.
What we found was a packed pool full of children and the water was freezing! We were sure to come back in the morning.

February 23, 2013
This is why I wanted to stay here!

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The most amazing view! The sun came out, it was not too crowded, and pictures turned out, success!

We toured the observation deck (where you can pay to go – but you cannot use the pool unless you are a hotel guest, so worth it!) then headed back to pack up and head to the airport.
Singapore is an amazing city, I am glad it was part of our itinerary.

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