If you have been following the blog this year you will know that we have visited many friends around the world on our adventure. We were fortunate to find one of Les’s college friends and her family living on a small farm just north of Auckland. Les and Jennifer went to Sacramento State together back in …, let’s just say a few years back. They live on a beautiful farm with a creek running through the property. It was great for Les to reconnect with Jennifer and Steve and for Suzanne to finally meet them. The kids were thrilled to hang out with Ryan(14) and Andrew(12), who were great hosts and took Alex and Patrick to catch eels in the pond and jump on the trampoline. We enjoyed a home-cooked meal and stayed up late catching-up.
In the morning we all got up early and headed west to Dune Lake Lodge for a weekend horse-camp that Jennifer organized for a handful of local kids, and graciously timed it so our kids could attend while we were visiting. Patrick and Alex will write about their experience at the camp in a separate post. While the campers worked with their horses, the adults chatted, and Jennifer managed the food for everyone. Every so often the parents would wander out with our cameras and watch the kids demonstrate some of the skills they learned such as controlling their horses without bits and convincing their horses to walk, stop, turn, and trot without a halter. The camp teaches horsemanship through eye-contact, body language, and voice control. We were amazed at how fast and effective the kids picked up on this approach. As a reward for a full day of work, the whole crew rode down and jumped in the lake to cool off and wash off the dust.
The adults were able to participate in the fun that evening when Ryan, Alena, and Andrew broke out their violins and treated us to some fiddling, and Alex was drafted to do some work on the bongos. And then before bed time, we all played a game called “Murder in the Dark” where Andrew, Patrick, Alex, and a couple other kids got a chance to play detective, grill witnesses, and solve a mystery.
We spent the night in bunk beds in the barn, and woke up to a wonderfully sunny day with horses grazing in the pasture just outside the kitchen window. After breakfast the kids worked hard to continue developing their horse whispering skills. The final challenge was for all of the campers to control their horses well enough to ride from one end of the coral to the other in a synchronized line. This is no small feat, especially since this group of headstrong kids would have been challenged to synchronize themselves without the horses. It took an hour-or-so for them to figure out how to get it done, but in the end they all passed the final test. Alex asked Les if she could have $1,000 to buy her little horse; Les didn’t hesitate at all as he replied, “I don’t think it will fit in your pack, so the answer is “no””.The two days at horse camp with our friends is another highlight of the trip.
Our original, and wildly optimistic plan, was to head to Muriwai beach for some boogie boarding immediately after camp. Of course we were exhausted – as is always the case after summer camp – so we decided to get a good night’s sleep and head to the beach on Monday. On Monday morning we changed our choice of beaches, and chose to go to Orewa on the east coast to where the waves are a bit smaller and there is a nice little beach town where Steve could meet us for dinner after work. At the beach Jennifer jumped right in and gave Suzanne a few tips on how to catch a wave; Andrew and Ryan did their best to help Patrick and Alex as well. It turned out that switching beaches was a good idea because on Tuesday a man was killed by a great white shark on the West coast – Yikes!! The shark attack made front page news since this is a very rare event in NZ. Our visit with the Wensels was fun, and went by too fast, and we made plans to stop by their house again on our way to the airport the following week.
On Tuesday, we headed into Auckland and we met up with another globe-trotting family from California; Tim, Jenn, and their kids AJ and Charlie. We met Tim and Jenn through a travel group (Meet Plan Go) when we were both planning our trips around the world. Happily our paths crossed in New Zealand. They are having an amazing trip and you can check out their blog at www.notesfromabigworld.com. We arranged to stay in the same hotel and after they took a quick nap to recover from their flight from Thailand with a layover in Singapore, they popped down to our room to swap travel stories over a glass (or two) of wine. We were so impressed at how alert they were since they must have had severe jet lag. The next day our two families went out to explore a little bit of Auckland. We walked to the waterfront and arrived at the maritime museum just in time to sail on a historical wooden ship – called a scow. Scows were extensively used in NZ to haul bulk freight around the country until the 1950’s. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to be out sailing on the bay. The crew is made up of volunteers who enjoyed teaching the kids about the boat and recruited them to help hoist the sails and steer. Auckland harbor is the home base for several America’s Cup teams at this time of year, and we spotted several of the teams out preparing for the big race scheduled to begin on July 4th back in San Francisco. After lunch we spent the afternoon cruising through the Maritime museum, it is a worthwhile museum that covered a lot of information about the maritime history of New Zealand, from the first Mauri settlers and samples of the boats they used to explore the Pacific; a life-size moving exhibit of a 19th century immigrant ship; and some of the winning Americas Cup high-tech 10 meter boats.
It was wonderful to spend time with friends from home that love to travel and are parents who understand the joys and frustrations of traveling with children. The next morning the Keohanes headed south to Rotorura and the Sherrys headed north to the Bay of Islands. We’re looking forward to catching up again back in California.
It’s amazing what a well-trained horse can teach a kid about him/herself.