Category: blog


What do you get when you crisscross a plethora of Natural Geysers, Haka Dancers, blueberries, and a live Kiwis? This probably describes many places in the area of Rotorua but we chose Te Puia Cultural Center because you could find all the above in one place.

Because it was their National Anzac Day (similar to the U.S. Veterans Day), we found that NOTHING would be open until 1 pm. This made us quite happy and allowed us to take a relaxing morning in getting out the door, until we realized that we weren’t going to be able to find anything to eat. We took our sweet time on the way, stopping at a blueberry farm which toted succulent and healthy blueberry dishes (this made me happy) but even after 1 pm she said she wouldn’t have time to fix us anything for quite a while…. we were confused as the sign said ‘OPEN’. We didn’t let that stop our hunt for a good place to eat and do a little shopping before we headed to the Cultural Center.

Rotorua is the cultural mecca of the indigenous Maori people. The town is set in the North Island of New Zealand. There are many geysers and thermal mud pools that are fueled by the area’s geothermal activity. The mud from the pools are known to be good for the skin (Hummmmm).

Dale was really excited to see a live Kiwi but sadly they were sleeping. Such a disappointment, even though he knew they were Nocturnal, he had hoped to find at least an eye open. It was not to be. We did however enjoy a crazy Haka performance, which Dale was asked to participate in…. his claim to fame perhaps? You decide after watching the video!

Dale and Marissa tried to see how the Maori houses (found in one of the villages) could work for them. Marissa was thrilled to know that the houses were toooo short for her, since she doesn’t see that very often! Apparently it will not be called her permanent home.
Some breathtaking New Zealand scenery along our journeys.
We love tidbits of travel information from locals. We were told of a Hot Water Beach where you can dig your own ‘Hot Tub’ in certain parts of the beach where the volcanic tubes heat the water from underneath but …. you need to wait until low tide, so this only works at certain times of the day… but you need to dig deep, trying not to let the cold ocean water in…. but you have to have something to dig with… we were up for the challenge. We were headed to Matamata so we took a little detour, isn’t that what travel is all about?




We stopped in the little town of Tairua close to Hot Water Beach for something very important… food. We not only had food but we had a culinary experience at Manaia! Everything was incredibly fresh, gourmet, and hit just the right spot.


We needed towels for our beach visit so we stopped after lunch at an ‘Opt shop’ (better known to us as a 2nd hand store) which you can find all over Australia and NZ — 4 towels and two bowls later (to dig the sand) — total cost $4.


Dale kept digging by himself while others did the same until they all started working together. That is when it all came together.


We had to keep adding to the edge nearest the water to keep that cold ocean water away but then that was half the fun.


This was the best multi-country community hot tub ever. Our time was spent enjoying conversations with many new friends.
Travel Saving Tips:
1- Ask locals about activities that they enjoy in the area you are visiting. On this particular day, we had the Hot Water Beach recommended to us and we were not disappointed. Better yet it was FREE… a bit off our path but worth a little extra gas.
2- We did not want to pack towels with us to NZ so we bought some at a local ‘Opt Shop’. We bought 4 towels and 2 bowls to dig in the sand (otherwise they charge you to rent one at the beach) … all for $4. Never be afraid to buy items from a 2nd hand stores when you need something that might be only used a time or two, you can’t beat the prices.
“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not Today. Good morning! But please come to tea – anytime you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!”
-Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit-Unexpected Party)
Unlike Bilbo Baggins we were excited and ready for an adventure!
From the moment we entered Hobbiton our eyes were in constant ‘AWE’ everywhere we turned. The green foliage was so bright it looked as though it was spray painted it on. We were ready to pack our bags and stay for a while… even if we did need to duck a bit.
Any mail today?
Wow! Really the pictures don’t do it justice. 
We found the house for us!

Movie sets are typically built for a one time use. Hobbiton was no different. However, as they were dismantling the set after the first Lord of the Rings movie they decided, why not let people come see and feel as if you are part of this incredible world created from the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien. Now that all of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ movies have been filmed here there are even more homes and fresh gardens to enjoy on your visit. 


“Cheers” with our freshly made Ginger Ale. Unfortunately Bilbo Baggins was not here to join us for tea.


Relaxing by the fire at The Green Dragon Inn. 

“I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”
-Frodo Baggins
We are grateful he saved the Shire for all of us!
Our welcome to New Zealand with a little music in the background… it quite possibly should have made us dance the ‘Haka’ right there in the airport. But of course, Marissa would be incredibly proud of her parents for such a stir — we opted to just walk through.
Joyce decided to join us in New Zealand then Australia for a couple of weeks. Why not? She arrived early one morning and to be  helpful we decided to keep her moving during the day to keep her awake but in turn, jet leg was somewhat evaded.
To start off we decided the Auckland three hour walking tour was just the remedy for staying awake. We love the Free tours in many of the cities we have visited and this was no different (although you do leave a tip). They entrench you in grueling and incredible history dubbed with stories and people from over the years. You really get to know the city, where things are and what you want to visit first. We would highly recommend doing this first thing when visiting any city.


The tree Marissa is sitting in is protected in New Zealand and their branches reach to gigantic proportions. You are not allowed to trim or cut them in anyway. It quit possibly would make the base for the most incredible treehouse.
After our walking tour we drove over to the West Coast for a little waterfall walk (Yep, more walking) but on the way we had to stop quit often as there was incredible and perfect photo moments. Dale’s photography radar was going off constantly which translated to many stops along the way, there were a few moments when we thought we might just not make it to the waterfall.


“Kitekite Falls”
Proof we made it!
And Joyce said she has never slept better, go figure!
Bribie Island Hire Hut and Tours was fantastic to rent from and the staff is entertaining… thankfully that was not an extra charge! We enjoyed paddle boats and zegways (sometimes even hands free). If you are ever on Bribie Island you have to stop by and tell them ‘Traveling U’ sent you.
Dale has been the only one to ride a Zegway previously, so the girls pretty much squashed his entertainment by not doing anything too crazy. He was sure we would get super scared so he filmed us in hopes of having a great YouTube video… but life sadly does not work as planned sometimes. Lucky for the girls.


Does Marissa look scared? Too much fun is more like it!
We couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Was 1993 really that long ago?


Who wouldn’t like a little friend like that on your shoulder?
A few days later the weather was so warm and inviting we decided to canoe out in front of our Brisbane house. It was just shy of an hour when we finally decided to come in because we kept getting high-centered on the sand banks. Marissa decided to just get out and play, why not? She kept us laughing for quite a while……Free entertainment.


Marissa having a Yoga moment (literally).
This weekend market “Eat Street Markets” had wonderful nibblies, treats, crafts, and very innovative foods for sale. Dale found one thing he had to try.


This “Croi-muffin” was half muffin and half croissant rolled in chocolate accompanied by a syringe filled with more chocolate (Nutella no less) that you inject into the decadently sinful dessert. Important:  You must love chocolate to eat  this! 
Travel Saving Tips:
1- We always look for local outdoor markets to join in a little fun without spending a wad, unless YOU find lots to buy when you attend.  
2- We found the Bribie Island Hire Hut and Tours just by driving to the Island and seeing a spot that we thought would be perfect to explore, talked to the tour company, and they were able to get a great deal on our activities – their prices seemed much less then other tours we had seen.
3- Never be afraid to ask the locals for ideas on the best places to go and how to get the most for your money.
The view from our new home in Brighton, Queensland, what more could we need! 
This is the best place to relax at anytime of the day and you can’t beat the view.


Marissa walking on water. 
When the tide is low you can walk out almost a half a mile from shore, where it looks as though you are actually walking on water. We have taken walks out there in the mornings and walked for quit a while without having it get too deep to come in.
 This beach is quit famous with the windsurfers, the wind seems to be just right.
One evening we decided it was time to introduce Marissa to downtown Brisbane. We took the ferries over to South Bank to enjoy a little dinner and walk about. While walking by the riverfront, a soccer ball rolled our way, a group of boys were playing on the grass next to us. Dale, trying to help the boys out kicked the ball back but unfortunately it hit a wall and swung back over our heads and into the river. Dale felt so bad he jumped over the ledge while thinking about what the next step should be. I, of course, was panicked thinking that he would try and lower himself down another 7 or 8 ft. with nothing to hold onto and fall into the river. Then I received even more news from a passerby that mentioned that the river is full of Bull Sharks which are one of the most aggressive sharks, much like the Great Whites. At that moment I told Dale to pay the kid $50 for his Nike ball and let’s call it good.


The kid who owned the ball said he would follow it down the river until it hit the dock and then he would retrieve it. So we walked with him but it unfortunately went under the bridge so Dale and another guy held his arms, lowered him down, he caught it between his feet and pulled it up. Here he is jumping over the edge. We are grateful no Bull Sharks worked their way into this story anymore.
The thought of driving in the car for 12 hours was not what you would call ‘thrilling’ but we knew that if we did, we would have time to spend with friends on the Gold Coast. So press forward we did, with some sightseeing along the way (this really helped us stretch our legs before heading off again). And there was amazing scenery all along the way.
We love our family, and we love doing things together but every once in a while when we are stuck in the car together for too long, we need a break or a breather. Maybe not everyone is like that… but we bet most are. We all need a little time apart for a minute and doing a little sightseeing on the way is a perfect way to help that.
Friends told us that the Byron Bay lighthouse was not to be missed. It was so busy that day we had to park in the 2nd parking lot below but along our walk we encounters a group of dolphins (probably about 20) just off shore. It was so incredible watching them catch their dinner in their natural habitat. Apparently that is their home and they can be seen there almost everyday. For those of us that don’t live by the ocean, it is exciting to see them even once.


Byron Beach.


We finally made it to the Gold Coast in time for a boat ride with our friends Helen and Peter down the Gold Coast. Marissa and Dale enjoying some father/daughter time up front.
Helen and Marissa enjoying a few ‘Nibblies’.


Saying ‘Good-Bye’ to the Gold Coast and good friends.


As we continued up the coast we took a few walks to some beautiful waterfalls in the Tamborine Mountains. The one above looked pretty lively with people jumping off the rocks over head or sliding down the rocks on the left. When they jumped from the rocks above… I almost screamed with them!






We think this slide was just calling his name.
We met a wonderful friend in Melbourne named Lizzy who got us in contact with her sister and family in Sydney. They were so welcoming and even invited us over for an incredible dinner spread… it was so yummy we felt like we ate in a 5 ***** star restaurant.
The conversation and evening with the Thorton’s was refreshing, funny and most times, very lively. Wonderful evening.
Good-Bye to Coogee Beach… we will miss you.








The weather was clear and cool but still worthy of a few photos.
Our last night in Sydney found us attending the temple with some new friends, some of the Thorton family was able to join us…  and then a trip for ice cream afterwards. We ordered from a New Zealand Creamery in celebration of our up coming trip to NZ (we were also excited to try something new!).
When our kids were little and actually even when they were older we always colored Easter Eggs… just part of our holiday traditions. We decided that everyone coming for Easter dinner needed to take some eggs home so instead of cooking real eggs to dye, we bought chocolate eggs and decorated them with frosting. 
We had invited a few people over that did not have family here to be with us for Easter. A few international students along with the missionaries for an Easter Mexican Meal (this was a request from one of the missionaries…not the norm for Easter Sunday but we love fixing mexican food and of course, eating it). The Chinese students seemed to like this new food as most of them went for seconds. That is certainly a compliment when your guest asks for more.
Marissa working on her chocolate egg master pieces… a new art form for the Bartlett’s. 




Our finished works of art.
Our Australian Easter Dinner friends.


After Easter Sunday Church service we grabbed a shot with the Sister Missionaries. We will miss all the amazing people we have met throughout our travels! But we are grateful for all those that have changed and added to our lives throughout our time here, these will never be forgotten and make our travels that much sweeter.
We hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Easter!
Featherdale wildlife sanctuary here we come again. On the way to the blue mountains we stopped for a little Kanga love.
Really Marissa? The poor frog.


There is nothing like having a kangaroo love you – even if it is just for your food!
This koala was awake and active… we think he is looking for more food.


What is better then food and friends!
This cute baby sure loved hanging out with Marissa.
Marissa and Keaton enjoying some Kanga time (check out their video).


Marissa would do ‘almost’ anything for Chocolate… that is all this furry kangaroo had to say and he got a big kiss.
We were headed to the beautiful and famous Blue Mountains, but once there it was rainy and foggy. We could hardly see across the street but we were here and wanted to try and see something. We went to the parking area of the Blue Mountains and we couldn’t even see well enough to see where to park, which meant the mountains definitely were not going to be seen as they were covered in a blanket of white mist. After a lunch in town and no sign of a change in the weather, we headed back home to Sydney, sadly missing the iconic Blue Mountains. 
Travel Saving Tips:
1- Most beaches never cost but parking does. Quite often and especially in foreign countries, it can be expensive, as much as $12 an hour. To help eliminate or at least reduce the cost we try to find a parking spot that is a bit farther away… a little walking isn’t a bad thing either, it justifies the ice-cream or gelato you buy on the way back to the car.
2- We had looked at various tours for the Blue Mountains that started about $85 and went up from there, most were around $135 although there were higher priced ones too. These did include a coach ride there and a few stops on the way. If you were here by yourself and did not have a car, this might be the way to go. But there are 5 of us and we did have a car so it made sense to drive ourselves. Think how much $ we saved between all of us AND it was a good thing we didn’t sign up because the Blue Mountains we not to be seen anyway. Very often you can “COPY” a trip outline yourself and do it for much less.
3- BUT there are times you must spend the $ on doing an activity where you are visiting. While visiting Paris, we wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower and after spending all the $ to get here, we should do the activities that are most important to us. In Rome we visited the Colosseum and Vatican.