Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 8: Last Day!

Tuesday, March 17

We woke up on the last day of our trip with mixed emotions--
on the one hand excited to have one last day to explore,
on the other hand disappointment at having to leave so many New Zealand sites unexplored,
and on the third hand I've only ever daydreamed about having,  a serious longing to be back home in our own beds!

The ship and hobbit hotels had the cool factor and all that going for it, but by this point we were all ready to head home.

Our first stop after checking out of the hotel was the world famous Waitomo Glow Worm Cave which was only a very short drive from the hotel.  They don't allow any photography there, so this picture of a boat exiting the cave is the only photographic evidence I've got of our trip there. (Glen is in the third row on the left side on that boat).  

I've borrowed the following picture from another source  to give you a glimpse of how beautiful it really is.  So what makes this cave so cool (as well as many caves in New Zealand) is that deep within the caves, a very ugly insect that so happens to also glow in the dark, makes its home on the ceiling of the caves.   Their bioluminescence is a very striking and beautiful contrast to the blackness of the cave and people come from all over the world to see this amazing sight.
photo credit:   Planet D

AFter that awe-inspiring experience we got on the road and started heading back toward the airport, but this time instead of going straight there, we went through the city of Hamilton so we could see the temple!

It was a lovely, warm day with blue skies and we were happy to visit a place that, although we'd never been there before, still somehow seemed so familiar to us.  

We explored the visitors' center...

and in a major small world moment,  met the parents of my friend Catherine,  who are senior missionaries serving there at the temple.   

It was fun making the connection with Elder and Sister Monson (no relation to the more well-known Thomas S. Monson) and we enjoyed having someone there to talk to and who knew the coolest photo shots at the temple!

Spence was engaged in conversation at this point and missed this photo op.

Elder and Sister Monson's last piece of advice before continuing our journey to the airport was to  stop in the tiny town of  Pokeno for some tasty (and cheap) ice cream.    

On the way there though we kept seeing signs for Pokeno Bacon and were not too disappointed that there was a Pokeno Bacon store right next door to the ice cream shop(s).   We went to see if they had anything pre-cooked that we could buy and scored the jackpot when they gave us a whole plate of cooked sausages that they had cooked up for giving out as customer samples and were about to throw away because they were closing for the day.    We bought some dipping sauce they sold and made those sausages and ice cream our super nourishing last meal in New Zealand!

After that bit of indulgence we got back on the road and before long we arrived back in Auckland where we could see that  Cyclone Pam had definitely affected that area a lot more than the  area where we had been when it hit.

We found this one last spot for a family picture (minus the photographer).   We thought the foggy view of Auckland in the background was pretty cool and hoped to find some passer-by who might be willing to take a picture with all of us in it, but alas there was not a soul in sight and we had a plane to catch!  

After that, we drove back to the Auckland airport, returned our rental car, and settled in for the long haul  way home (13-hours to LA, and another  5-hours or so back home).      We arrived back to Virginia in the wee hours of the morning and had a limo waiting there at the airport to bring us home.   We enjoyed the last little taste of luxury and arrived back home with only a couple of hours before diving back into the middle of a busy week of "normal life".

It was the trip of a lifetime and we are still in awe that it actually happened.  Thank you to Make-a-Wish for making Spence's wish come true!   It's almost unbelievable to us that they paid for all of our transportation, housing, food, and activities while we were there….just to give hope to one sick teen.   It meant the world to Spencer and to us….THANK YOU!!!!

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