We left Phoenix Sunday afternoon and arrived in New Zealand around 7:00 Tuesday morning, beating the sun by half an hour.
Since we couldn't check into our hotel until the afternoon, we decided to take a drive out to Piha Beach. This is the beach from the second Narnia movie and it is beautiful!! We loved not only seeing it, but after traveling for over 24 hours, it was so nice to walk on the sand and feel the cool air on our faces.
And of course the girls had to have a jumping picture. :-)
In the afternoon we drove to Auckland Harbor and boarded an America's Cup Yacht for a sailing adventure. I thought I would be spending the afternoon sitting in a chair enjoying the ocean breeze, but the ride was quite different than expected.
The boat sails at a 45 degree angle, and instead of sitting calmly, you are either working the sails or hanging on for your life! Here Kat and Wes are working as "grinders" raising the sails.
This next picture does a pretty good job of showing the angle the boat was sailing. You can see how close to the water the low side was. I was clinging to the top while taking pictures.
It was a lot of fun, and gave us great views of Auckland.
Finally, it was time to check into the hotel! Wes had made reservations through Priceline at the Hyatt Regency. We were happy to get two rooms for a cheap price, but our happiness turned to complete surprise when they upgraded us to the penthouse suite!
It had two bedrooms, three bathrooms, an office, living room, dining room, kitchen and veranda. We loved it!! We also got a personal letter from the hotel manager telling us what additional amenities were available, including a delicious breakfast.
We were so perplexed as to why we were receiving such great service. But perhaps the mystery was solved when we saw the name of the manager. He had the same last name we did. So maybe the hotel thought we were family. :-) Our only disappointment was we were there just one night.
Our next night was spent in Rotorua, and the hotel there was quite a come down after the Hyatt. The furniture was old and worn, the rooms were very cold, and the bathroom served as a hallway between the sleeping area and a kitchenette. But we did learn to appreciate heated blankets.
Next on our drive were the Waitomo Caves. We loved viewing the caves, but the best part was the glowworms. After descending the cave, we boarded a boat. They then turned off all the lights and very silently we sailed on a river through the dark. Above us, however, glowworms shined brightly. It was much like seeing the Milky Way on a moonless night. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures of the worms.
And that night we celebrated my birthday in style. We had dinner at the local KFC and then returned to the freezing hotel room for gifts and "cake". The Famous Amos cookie box and hotel wash cloth were wrapping for a box of Junior Mints. And the two muffins, which were divided into five pieces each, served as birthday cake. Wes gave me my gifts ahead of time. My new camera doubled as a birthday/mother's day gift, and in addition for my birthday, he bought a purple coat. I loved it!