Things changed when we visited Devonport on the second day. Early in the morning, we went to the Naval Museum at Torpedo Bay. The boys found it very interesting because there were displays of numerous battleships and of course, guns. I found it interesting because the displays told stories through the eyes of many of the sailors and their families. From the museum went to North Head. In the 1870s, there was a rumour of a possible Russian invasion and North Head was made into a fort with heavy armaments. The invasion didn't eventuate and the only shots fired at North Head were either practice ones or ones in salute to the Queen. Today, its an awesome tourist attraction for children with its numerous tunnels - there were normal tunnels and then narrower (and darker) tunnels behind the tunnels that were quite creepy. Those were actually used to light the candles that illuminated the rooms underground since they didn't want any open flames going near anything that might go off.
I think they should put up a replica gun in this spot so that it would have been easier for me to explain to Adrian. Still, Aaron is old enough now to have a wild imagination and he kept Adrian entertained with his interpretation of the area.
The views from the highest points were beautiful and the steep hill had many children sliding down with old pieces of cardboard and running back up again for another go.
My ungrateful son, Aaron, said this when we were playing tag "I like you here, Ma. You don't usually play with us." WHAT?! I play with them all the time in Brisbane. To be fair, I do play with them but I rarely have races up and down hills with them in Brisbane. It was very cool in New Zealand and I didn't have to worry about what to cook, or things I had to clean, or think about everything else I wanted to get done. I had a truly carefree time with them at this old fort.
After all the laughing and exercise, it felt as if we were truly on a happy family vacation. We left Auckland for the Coromandel Peninsula that afternoon. It was a two hour drive, something to be dreaded with two kids. Surprisingly, they had no complaints, and were great for all the many drives we took during our time in New Zealand. We did try to plan things so that for most of the drives, they had active mornings and then could have an afternoon nap in the car. I loved the views from the car and never got tired of looking at the green hills, and the sheep. I have many, many shots of the country side.
The highlights of our time on the Coromandel Peninsula were some awesome mussels, one beautiful beach and another strange beach. I would post a photo of those mussels but of the two we have, the first one shows the platter already half eaten because we didn't think to take the photo before we ate. And the second features the bread roll a little too prominently because we were so eager to start eating that we didn't compose the shot.
I do have a couple of hundred photos of the beaches though. We spent a morning at Hahei Beach before having a belated birthday celebration for Adrian with a slice of cake and three candles. I never thought of New Zealand as a place for beaches and while the sand wasn't as white or fine as the Gold Coast, it had something that almost no beach around here has - shade! We're not the sun bathing type so we need shade. The boys stayed out in the sun digging to their hearts content but I always had the option of going back to the shade when I needed to.
Hot Water Beach is one of the strangest places I've ever been to. Its name comes from the hot springs that filter up through the sand. When we first got there, the wind was blowing really hard and it was cold. Then, in this one area, there were hordes of people grouped together, digging, giggling and repeatedly standing and sitting. We had our own spades thanks to the boys so we joined in. Everybody tried out empty pools because it saved them digging their own one but you had to find one with the right temperature. And if it was empty, you can bet that it was either too cold or boiling hot. I felt a little like Goldilocks looking for the 'just right' one. Some areas were so hot you could see the steam wafting around the ground. We eventually found one that was shallow but had a good flow of 'just right' water - and I got my minions to start digging. It was nice once we were settled in our personal pool. We were on the edge and sometimes, the cold water would wash into our pool - that was always fun.
And that was our time on the Coromandel Peninsula. I do wish that it was just a 2 hour drive away from Brisbane. More photos to come...