It was our last weekend in Blenheim and we had one place we had been meaning to visit the whole time we had been based here. Now was our last chance, so when we woke to sunshine we both knew where we were spending our day.
It wasn’t much of a drive out of town, but a fair bit of climbing upwards to get to the car park where we would start our days walk. Far enough up that there was a small amount of snow in one corner of the carpark and a definite chill in the air. As well as some views of snowy peaks across the other side of the valley. From the car park we were walking down into a valley below where there was a hut and a lake. We had caught just a glimpse of Lake Chalice as we drove in and you didn’t get so much as a peek at it as you made your way down the very steep track to it. It was only an hour down and suddenly a clearing and the hut peeks around the curve of the track. The hut is small, basic and far from new, but thoroughly charming. And when you stroll on just a few more metres to the river bed and lake beyond it becomes an infinitely more charming place to spend a night.
We picnicked and spent an hour taking photos and skimming stones across the gorgeous green waters of the lake. Oliver made several objections when it came time to leave but we wanted plenty of time to make our way back up the hill so we left regardless. Though we all regretted not having packed enough gear to spend the night.
As we climbed up at the tired end of our day I pondered that the advantage of climbing up mountains is that by this time of day it’s normally an easy walk downwards. But the satisfaction of making it to the top is the same no matter when you get there. Oliver’s joyous celebrations on making it were testament to that. The whole day felt like a sort of warm up for our next stint of traveling and the real adventuring to resume.
The weekend we had my Mum visiting we went to Kaikoura for a few nights. We hoped to have another day at the snow but the weather on Saturday just didn’t co-operate. It wasn’t really hard to fill a day in Kaikoura. We wandered through the charming little town centre. Had a walk around the rocks at Point Keam and saw a few friendly seals.
When we were planning what we wanted to do on our trip we wrote a bucket list of the things that we really wanted to do. A lot of them were little things like toasting marshmallows over an open fire and swimming in a west coast river. But we did pick a few big things to put on there that we absolutely must do. One of those things was to go whale watching but on the Saturday afternoon as we wandered around the beach and watched the wild waves smashing against the rocks it did not look hopeful that this would be our chance to do it.
Thankfully Sunday morning arrived with clear blue sky’s and much calmer seas. We had our tour booked for 1.15 so did a little more sightseeing to fill the morning. Kaikoura on a sunny day is truly beautiful, the mountains with their snowy peaks glisten in the sun and the whole place almost seems to glow with the light reflecting off the snow. Add to that the fact that everywhere you are in the town also has a view of the beach, a view of the ocean spreading endlessly out to the horizon and it is a fairly amazing combination.
When we checked in for our tour we were informed there was a sea sickness warning and though we all decided we were confident enough not to take any thing to aid in preventing motion sickness, when we were warned again at the safety briefing I did have a moment of wondering how rough it was going to be. Once we got on board and headed out of the harbour it became clear that we had struck it very lucky, we had all been out in much smaller boats in much worse conditions and coped fine so today would not be a problem. It would become clearer that we had struck it lucky in a lot of ways as we cruised around looking for whales and other wildlife to look out. We had only been cruising for around ten minutes when we slowed down to take in a pod of dusky dolphins that had come to investigate the boat. After a little while of watching them we were informed that the other boat they had out had sighted a whale so we should find something to hold onto as the boat picked up speed to reach the whale.
As we approached the other boat, a sight seeing plane circled overhead and you could see the whale spouting occasionally even from a distance. When you get closer you can only see around a third of the whales length on the surface, the rest is still submerged. It’s hard to grasp how huge these creatures actually are and even harder to get a photo that does justice for how incredible seeing them actually is. The whales come to the surface for between five to ten minutes to breath before disappearing below with one flick of their powerful tail where they will remain for around an hour. So you can watch them move around on the surface a little, see the water flying up away from their blow-hole as they breath out. And then the moment you are waiting for arrives and that gorgeous tail is up in the air for a sweet, short moment. Once that first whale dove we saw another three in quite quick succession, apparently the average to see is two whales so four felt like hitting the jackpot.
After the whales we went in search of some Hectors dolphins and found a few, though the Hectors dolphins are very rare and live in murkier water where they can hide from their predators. They were very different to the playful, friendly dolphins we have encountered before. They would approach the boat and swim under it to go past but not linger to play in the wake or swim alongside. Almost as if they were aware of there dwindling numbers and tenuous grip on existence and not willing to get to close to something as big as the boat we were in. We even got to see a few seals sunbathing on our way in and got a good view of a seal feeding in the ocean, a first for me. This day felt like the best possible way to tick whale watching off our bucket list. Oliver got to share it with his Nana, we saw an abundance of wildlife and couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. I hope all our bucket list get’s ticked off in such spectacular fashion.
Since we hit the road in the bus I have made a concerted effort to keep a kind of scrapbook about all our adventures, I don’t want to forget the little moments that happen in the midst of the big ones and are quite often just as magic. While we were moving constantly I was doing it religiously but since Wayne has been working I had slacked a bit so this week my mission was to catch up. Oliver and I had great fun reading through some of the weeks we had at the beginning of our journey. It made me realise how quickly things slip to the back of your mind because there were already moments I needed reminding of.
It also made me think about how natural it feels for us living this way in a small space. You wonder when you embark on something like this how you will cope without all the space and the walls that a roomy three bedroom house affords you. Will you drive each other mad? Will you miss your privacy? Will we have to spend our evenings whispering to each other so we don’t wake Oliver? For us none of these things have been an issue. I actually think we get along so much better now than we did before and are probably all a lot more tolerant of each other, I don’t really have an explanation why. Perhaps it’s because we were conscious of the possible downfalls of this way of living so have been careful that every now and then Wayne and I take a little bit of time out from the little unit to go do something by ourselves. Perhaps it’s just because our life in general holds a lot less stress than it did before so we are calmer on the whole. As for privacy I honestly don’t miss it as much as I thought I would. And Oliver falls to sleep in a matter of moments most evenings and sleeps soundly with the sound of us doing pretty much whatever at close range. Cooking dinner, watching tv, talking at normal volume, I actually think he likes hearing the noises as he sleeps and knowing that we are just right there.
Just to test how livable our small space really is my Mum came to visit us for a week. I truly count myself as blessed to have a Mum who will come and sleep on my couch for a week just to spend some time with us and the four of us coped really well with living so close together. I suppose we had a bit of practise in the time we spent living together while the bus was being renovated. It was so great to share our new life with someone who is so important to us and catch up on some of the time we have missed with each other over the last six months. It’s always affirming to share things you are doing with someone you love, to see the knowledge that this is truly working reflected back at you by them. And though it’s mildly heartbreaking to watch Oliver say goodbye again to someone he adore’s I know he made the most of the time he had with her, soaking up every opportunity and sneaking in as many cuddles as he could. In it’s own way I think this is good for him, he is learning not to take the people he loves for granted and to enjoy the time he does have with them. So now we have had a little dose of home to keep us going for a while, Wayne’s work here in Blenheim is coming to an end and the next adventure feels like it is knocking on our door….
When you say Kaikoura most New Zealanders immediately think of whales. The little town is famous for the whale watching tours that go out on a daily basis. But if you stop there for just a little bit longer it is easy to find so much more to fill a day with. The Kaikoura coastline is nothing short of breathtaking, rocky, rugged and so very full of life. Since we had based ourselves in Kaikoura for our visit to Mt Lyford we decided to make the most of our time on the Sunday and do a bit of exploring before heading back to Blenheim. We left our spot in the morning with no firm plan and our first stop was to empty our grey water tanks and refill them with fresh water all ready for the week ahead. Quite often dump stations are tucked away in not so glamorous settings, Kaikoura on the other hand has beach front views from their dump station. As luck would have it, it was also at one end of the Kaikoura coastal walkway and we very quickly decided this is what we would fill our day with.
The track climbs quite steeply up to the top of the hills at first but it’s a short, sharp climb and from then on the walk is mostly flat following along the edge of the cliffs so you don’t know which way you would rather look. Down at the beautiful coastline below or up at the stunning snow-capped mountains and the glorious colours of the sun reflecting off them. It took us around an hour of easy walking to make it to a spot called Point Kean where you have a good view of the seal colony below and plenty of spots to choose from to enjoy a picnic in the sun. The sea was so flat and calm on the day we were there that we regretted not bringing our binoculars to gaze out at the ocean with and see what else we could spy.
It is really starting to feel like the worst of winter is behind us now and days like this you can feel summer is starting to head your way again. I try my hardest to enjoy every season for what it offers and not wish my life away waiting for the nicer weather, but I can’t help but be excited for our first full summer living in the bus and all that will have to offer. And in the meantime this type of weather is really the best for walking in, between work and rain we have been a bit restricted with what we have done lately so days like this are such a good reminder of what this life style is all about. I love hanging back a bit on our walks sometimes, letting Wayne and Oliver have a bit of time to themselves and simply appreciating how much their relationship has grown now that they have had all this time together. This above everything else is what I am so grateful we have found in our bus life. Not more love because I think we already had plenty of that. Just a greater understanding of each other, perhaps more appreciation for each other and definitely a whole lot more patience with each other. We headed away from Kaikoura feeling completely content and already planning the next adventure.
All winter we have been gazing up at snowy mountains that seem so, so close, but are just a little bit to far away for us to get to. Since we have been back in Blenheim we have been waiting patiently for a fine weekend so we could finally attempt a trip to the snow and finally one arrived. Our aim was to visit Mt Lyford so we planned to travel to Kaikoura on friday after Wayne finished work, spend a couple of nights in Kaikoura and do a day trip to Mt Lyford on the Saturday.
In 2016 there was an earthquake in Kaikoura and it did significant damage to the road that leads there, so significant that it was closed completely for a long time. And though it is now open the road is still very much under construction and it makes the trip a little slower. Luckily the coastline that the road follows is stunning and between the views, lots of seals to spot along the way and a few diggers and cranes to watch it was an interesting trip for everyone involved. We even got to Kaikoura early enough for a little play on one of the beaches before finding a spot to stay for the night.
We woke early on Saturday morning and before we even cracked the curtains we could feel it was going to be one of those perfect mid winter days. Oliver has seen snow once before but he was only about 15 months old and has zero memory of it so for him this was all extra exciting. So he was keen to pile into the car and start winding our way up in to the mountains to find some snow. It took us around an hour to get there, the last twenty minutes or so where on a dirt road and the road just seemed to keep on winding further up in to the mountains as if it would never stop. The sight of the piles of snow getting bigger and bigger as we drove past were excitement enough that by the time we reached the car park Oliver was already pretty happy with the days adventures.
The ski field at Mt Lyford was a fairly laid back affair and due to the long drive in and the dirt road access it wasn’t overly crowded. Plenty of people skiing and playing around on the learners slopes but plenty of spots to find a space all your own and just drink in the amazing views around you. Gazing out at the mountains rolling off in to the distance they looked almost to perfect to be real, more like some painting where the artist has lovingly created every peak and valley to bring you the most visual pleasure they can. As well as drinking in the views we toboganed, had snow ball fights and of course made a snow man. By the time we lured Oliver back in to the car he declared it was the – best snow day ever!! I can’t say I disagree with him, days like this are the reason we are living in the bus. To experience things that would have been a far off dream if we were still living our old life. To build all these amazing memories together that will last so much longer and bring so much more joy than all the things we have given up for this opportunity.
When we were in the process of getting the bus renovated and planning our new life there were things I was a bit apprehensive about having to deal with. One of the things I wondered about was how we would cope with wet weather, up till now we have actually been remarkably lucky in the rain department. We haven’t had more than a two days of full on rain in a row, our good run had to come to an end some time and last week it did. We had a whole week were it was pretty much wet every day, a couple of afternoons it cleared for a spell but every day we were quite bound to the bus for large portions of the day. To be honest it wasn’t as horrific as I thought it would be (cue big sigh of relief), the worst of it is actually the fact that our bus batteries don’t charge if the sun isn’t shining and of course trying to get washing dry in our small space is a challenge when it’s wet. It’s funny because when we lived in a three bedroom house with two large living area’s a week of wet weather was normally guaranteed to make me feel like I had been cooped up way to long and normally resulted in a kid with way to much energy to burn. You would think that being in a smaller space would amplify that but what it actually does is force us to just put on our jackets and gumboots and go out even if the weather is less than ideal. Our outings aren’t as long and sometimes involve sheltering somewhere if the rain get’s to heavy, they also normally involve Oliver stomping in puddles and trying to get everyone else as wet as he is. Luckily bad weather seems to mean shorter outings are enough and they make heading back to the bus to snuggle up by the fire seem extremely appealing.
Just before our week of rain commenced we were lucky enough to have some visitors from Tauranga. It’s been nearly four months since we left and it was so good to see friendly faces again and share a bit of our new lives with people who were a part of our old one. The one thing that I am starting to miss a little is all the people we left behind, when Wayne isn’t working it’s really not something that I think of that often, we have each other and that along with chatting with who ever we are camping beside that is enough. But now Wayne is out working and my main source of conversation is five, I do end some days feeling like I verbally vomit the entire contents of my brain over Wayne once he walks in the door. Luckily he takes it like a champ!
So it’s fairly safe to say that we are looking forward to this stint of work being finished so we can move on and do some more exploring. There is something about having wheels under your house and knowing that you can move that just makes it seem wrong to stay still for to long. Luckily for us it’s now just a few short weeks until the adventure begins again.
Eventually the point we have found ourselves at in our journey was always going to arrive, that first exciting rush of hitting the road was always going to calm down. So Wayne’s been working, Oliver and I are busy settling in to a routine with his schoolwork – something that resembles a ‘normal life’ has settled in to our grand adventure.
While we are in Blenheim we have to float around a little bit between different parking spots. There’s an awesome spot we’ve found that’s only $5 a night and right in town so Wayne can get to work easily and Oliver and I can easily walk to a playground or in to town depending on what we want to do. But being the middle of winter we are finding we need to stay somewhere we can plug in to power once a week and since campgrounds mean 10 am checkout we have had to time our nights there for the weekends so Wayne is around and has time to move the bus.
Then we had the first experience of getting repairs done on the bus while we were living in it. I can’t lie the week that this happened was the least fun week I have had since we moved in to the bus. There were two nights where we couldn’t stay in the bus at all and had to stay in a motel. Then a few days where we had to vacate the bus all day and sleep in it parked at the mechanics. We made the most of our time in the motel, Oliver had the longest, biggest bubble baths he could possibly have. We cranked those electric blankets and I enjoyed showers with great water pressure, no timer and didn’t cost $2 for five minutes. The days we were camped out in the yard at the mechanics taught me exactly how long a day with a five year old child can feel. Of course it is all just part and parcel of living in a vehicle and thankfully it is a fading memory now.
Oliver is all properly enrolled with correspondence school now and he is loving his school work. I am so glad we decided to get it going straight away and not hold off until he is 6, he is just so ready to learn. Not sending him to school isn’t something I ever contemplated but I can see why people become so passionate about homeschooling now that I have had this experience. It’s like the feeling you have when your child is learning to roll, crawl, walk, talk – pure joy at seeing them learn and master a skill, pride at what they achieve and how hard they worked for it. In some ways it feels like the moments I have with Oliver now are extra time that I have somehow stolen for myself and I am so glad that I did.
So life is just ticking along (in a good way). It feels like a good move to stay still and work while the weather is coldest. It definitely feels like a good move to delay heading further down the south island until it warms up slightly. Planning where we travel to next is a great way to pass the winter evenings until our not so ‘normal’ life resumes.