Our initial New Zealand destination is Whangaroa Harbour on the top of the North Island where we fell in love with the countryside and the people a couple years ago. It’s a pleasure to be back in this beautiful place and among friends.

In the morning in Whangarei, the girls had another play on the sculptures before we drove north again. The morning was cool and rainy — a good time to be travelling.

The girls on a stone waka, February 2011
The stone waka (Maori canoe) hangs out over the water to provide the symbolism of movement.

Climbing on the waka sculpture, Whangarei, February 2011
The girls enjoyed climbing all over the solid rock sculptures, and we took shelter from the wind and light rain.

By the time we reached Paihia on the northeastern coast, the weather was very fine. We parked on the beach of this tourist town and let the girls play on the beach for a couple of hours.

Building sand towns at Paihia, February 2011
The girls loved building elaborate cities in the sand, complete with airports and flags.

After another short drive, we finally reached Whangaroa. As we drove up the steep gravel driveway of Mike and Janet’s rural property, we thought we would surprise them with our presence. However, our arrival hardly caused a ripple — they had known we were in the country and were expecting us!

We were proud to introduce our three other daughters to Mike and Janet. They had met Aisha but not the others. In my last visit here, I was newly pregnant with Delaney and my mother looked after Calista and Brioni back home in Queensland.

The Flemings are generous hosts, and Janet immediately invited us for dinner. We were joining Ann and Ken Gartner who work with the faith-based unit of Rimutaka Prison. Although they’re based in Wellington, Ken travels around the country, singing and speaking about inmates, their struggles and spiritual triumphs.

Sitting around at Mike and Janet's, February 2011
After sharing a meal together, Mike read the girls a Bible story and we all joined together in singing with Ken accompanying us on the guitar.

During dinner and before the story, Mike soon had our girls responding to him. After observing him, I think Mike’s trick is to state something that is blatantly wrong so a 4yo or 6yo cannot bear it unless they correct him. It works like a charm.

While we’re here, Mike and Janet are letting us stay in a guest cottage on their farm. It’s fully furnished and a wonderful relief after the chaos of the truck. We’re so thankful to them for their generosity and hospitality to us!