© 2017 mikeandbrynne

That One Place

Why New Zealand?

As we have been planning our adventure to New Zealand several people have asked us why New Zealand?  

Mike’s Take–In the Fall of 2001, I was selected by KPMG for a 6 month International Rotation.  We were assigned to the Hamilton New Zealand office.  I was in Chicago for a week of training for the assignment on September 10, 2001.  The next day the terrorists crashed the planes into World Trade Center.  By the end of the week, KPMG cancelled all foreign rotations…that was the catalyst for us to rethink our soCal career plans and I ended up joining the Ensign Group startup a month later.

That was just over 15 years ago.  My last day working with the Ensign Group was last week.  It seemed like a cool “Chiasmus” to go to New Zealand as the start of my Sabbatical from work.

Taylors explanation– the “one place” that he has always dreamed of going. 

Full of nature and outdoor adventure the land of the long white cloud called to us. Fairly ignorant of how to pronounce the names of half the New Zealand cities, let alone locate them on a map, we have spent our limited spare moments in the last few weeks trying to research ideal locations and venues. Thankfully we got great advice from those who had lived there in the past and a crash course in New Zealand culture from our friend who served her mission on the North Island. 

The plane flight with Lily felt LONG. Graciously, my visiting teachers had brought us a treasure trove of items to keep a two year old entertained on a 13 hour plane flight: sticker books, wipe board, magnetic story books, felt board with people, little wooden dolls, books and puzzles. So grateful. 

Everything with 8 people tends to be slow and New Zealand is not a country in a hurry. It will take us some time to get used to. When we finally got our rental car it was apparent that either we or our luggage was not going to fit.

With Mikes persuasive powers and a little heavenly help we managed to get another car that fit both us and our luggage and we raced off on the “wrong” (ok, so it’s not wrong -just “other”) side of the road to slip into church just in time for sacrament meeting. Thanks to LDS meetinghouse locator we had readjusted our plans to attend another English ward in the area. Apparently, LDS meetinghouse locator is not always up to date. We loved the Tongan ward we attended and were grateful for some of the youth that bore their testimonies in English!!

Auckland, though not the capital of New Zealand, boasts the highest population for any city in the country. It feels like a casual Cali town full of green, epic parks and welcoming people. We picked up some local fish and chips and headed over to The Domain (a giant Central Park) to visit the War Memorial Museum which was the perfect place to start our New Zealand adventure. Not only did the museum have a well done cultural show where the dancers performed traditional songs, dances and war exercises (including Drews favorite- the traditional Haka), but it housed everything from life sized Maori homes, boats and weapons to a simulated volcanic eruption (Auckland is a city of volcanoes), World War I and II airplanes, stuffed native flora and fauna and an incredible animal exhibit called the weird and the wonderful. We had to drag the kids out……yes even the big ones. 

Our Sunday walk for the day took us to the summit of Mt Eden, Aucklands highest volcanic cone from which there are beautiful 360 degree views of the Harbor, the city and both the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. We love that the ocean is omnipresent in Auckland. 

A highlight of Mt Eden was the fabulous park at the base of the extinct volcano!  They don’t make parks like this in our neighborhood!  Lily was whisked to the car yelling, “No!!  It’s my turn again!”

As U2 fans, Mike thought it prudent for us to blast “One Tree Hill” through our car as we drove up One Tree Hill and enjoyed more breathtaking views. We couldn’t have ordered a more perfect day.

Driving north out of town we set out into the rolling countryside. Due to the three day holiday weekend, our large party and our last minute planning it took us ages at home to procure an ideal location for our first night, but we found it!  Settled in the undulating vineyards, next to grazing sheep and stalked by birds, The Vineyard Cottages were perfect!

Elle and her staff couldn’t have been more helpful. They shared tips and ideas and just visited with us both in the evening and in the morning. Lovely people!  Following their recommendation we had an ideallic evening. Racing the sun, we drove over hill and dale until we arrived at Murwari Beach in time to catch the setting sun. The metallic black sand beach brought smiles and shouts of joy from the kids and the gannet colony left all of us gaping in awe.  Amazing.

Before crashing into our ultra comfy beds we stopped for some authentic Italian pizzas. Happy children. Exhausted Lily. What a perfect first day. We are in love.