Happy New Year!!! It’s crazy to think we left 19 weeks ago! We made it through the holidays and have come out on the other side ready to go to Australia and onto Europe. The holidays were good. We were sad not to be home with family and friends, but we enjoyed our time in Wellington, NZ, where we spent Christmas. We opted for a hotel – the Intercontinental – so that we knew it would be decorated for the girls. They were even kind enough to help me get a Christmas tree in our room, which made the holidays that much more special being away from home.
And Santa found us all the way in New Zealand!!!! Thank goodness! Christmas Eve day we went to see Star Wars – not traditional, but a great way to spend time as a family. Then I wrapped presents. Never left it all til Christmas Eve, but it all worked out okay. Being away from home, gifts were small that could be carried with us. Christmas morning was amazing and after presents and brunch at the hotel, we walked the waterfront and went to the Te Papa Museum. So amazing – well thought out, peaceful, pretty – so different from what I feel I experience at home. We went to the Dreamworks exhibit, which was amazing, and also saw the star of the museum – a giant squid! We capped off an amazing Christmas watching Sound of Music and all in all we were pretty happy and had a nice Christmas.
We left Wellington and headed to the South Island – took us 3 hours on a ferry – very cool and beautiful. Spent some times in a few cute towns – Picton, Nelson and Blenheim. The best place we stayed was St. Leonard’s Cottage in Blenheim – a cute farm in the vineyards of Marlborough.
The girls were thrilled to be around animals again – sheep, chickens and even deer. We stayed in the cutest cottage – the Shearer’s Cottage – that used to be where they actually sheared the sheep. Wish we could have stayed there a month!!!
There was a grass tennis court where we spent two days playing as much as we could. Michele and Marcus, who owned the cottages, said they had never had anyone play as much as we had. It was a fun way to spend a couple of days.
New Year’s, however, wins the prize! We woke up in the cute town of Blenheim in the South Island and drove about 20 minutes to Picton – the town where we landed on our ferry ride from the north to the south island. We had an incredible day – crystal clear with calm waters. We put on our wetsuits and got on a boat of about 15 people with Eko-tours. We were searching for dolphins and if we found them, we would have the opportunity to swim in the wild with these amazing animals.
It took about 30 minutes for us to find a pod of dolphins. I was a little worried – all I wanted was for the girls to at least see dolphins – swimming with them would be an added bonus that I was of course hoping for. Once the dolphins were spotted, we had to be quick about getting in the water. This was no ordinary dolphin encounter since we were looking for them in their wonderful, beautiful habitat of the Marlborough Sound, we were not sure how long they would hang around, if at all. We didn’t really have time to think. Claire went down the ladder and then I did – wanting to be in the water before the twins. Next thing you know, you look down with snorkel masks and the dolphins are zooming underneath and around you. It was truly amazing!!
These dolphins are native to New Zealand – Dusky Dolphins. They are the most acrobatic dolphins in the world besides the spinner dolphin. What a once in a lifetime experience! Once we got out of the water, the captain and first mate were so excited for us – they said it was the best swim they had seen in 3 months!!!! Welcome to 2016 – I was so thankful that the girls and Dave and I were able to experience this!!! Really to experience all of this. I sometimes can’t believe what we are doing and how lucky we are to have this opportunity.
We then spent about an hour cruising around trying to find pods to watch and we were spoiled with what we saw. All Grace said she wanted to see were dolphins jumping out of the water and we got a show from one dolphin that jumped along the boat for a few minutes. Plus they were swimming so close to our boat, you just had to look over and there they were.
I am amazed at the experience and so thankful it worked in our favor.
Here’s a GoPro Video. When we got in the water we were told make as much noise as possible so the dolphins would be curious and find us interesting, so excuse the annoying noises.
We have now reached Christchurch after a beautiful 5 hour drive along the coast where we stopped to see a seal colony lounging in the rocks hear Kaikoura.
Something to see since in San Francisco we are so used to seeing them on the docks at Fisherman’s Wharf.
We hate to leave the amazing country in a couple of days, but know we will return someday soon.