Wandering in Coromandel

When we left our family in Waihi we headed to somewhere we had stayed before but not in the bus, as it turns out there would be a fair bit of that in this trip. But though those places were familiar to us, they were new to Oliver and as usual seeing them new through his eyes brought fresh perspective and fresh enjoyment. Wentworth Valley is a DOC campground nestled in a valley not far from Whangamata. Much to Oliver’s delight there is a ford crossing on the way in and the river runs right alongside where you camp. At this time of year it was quiet and we found ourselves a gorgeous spot nestled amongst the trees to spend a night.

Wentworth Valley

It was afternoon by the time we arrived and we were unsure if we really had enough day left to do the walk that goes from the camp to Wentworth falls. We headed off thinking we would just stretch our legs and do a little bit of the walk. But enthusiasm got the best of us and we ended up going the whole way. It’s moments like this where I really appreciate this new stage of parenting we are in. Oliver is getting a bit older and a bit hardier now. We set off totally unprepared without even a drink bottle but it was fine, we all enjoyed ourselves and arrived back at the bus about 5.30 to enjoy water and a nice cold iceblock while we cooked dinner. The days of having to plan and prepare for even the shortest of adventures are disappearing. In our pre child days Wayne and I were big on spur of the moment fun, we didn’t plan that but it’s there, we’re keen, lets do it. I can see that being a part of our lives again more often now and I’m ready for it.

Wentworth Falls

The next morning we said goodbye to Wentworth valley but we weren’t going far. Just down the road to Whangamata in fact. I have so many childhood holiday memories of this place. For a while there it was a regular holiday destination for my family. I remember fondly days spent playing at the estuary or swimming amongst the waves on the surf beach. Perhaps this is why when Oliver’s eyes lit up and he begged for us to have a swim with him I just couldn’t say no. Even though it was only September and the water was really not that warm yet. Even though the gorgeous sun seemed to hide itself behind a cloud the moment we got into our togs. We had our first swim for the summer (even though it’s not summer yet). Our day in Whangamata ended as all days should when you are holidaying by the beach, with a walk along the beach and one last moment with sand between your toes before you climb into bed.

Exploring Whangamata

The next day we headed to another DOC campsite called Broken hills. Wayne and I had spent a long weekend here years ago in a leaking tent in the rain. We still had fond memories of the place and the walks here so were keen to visit in finer weather. Thankfully that’s just what we got when we arrived. Sunshine turning the river a lovely golden hue and enticing Oliver to wade deeper and deeper into the water. A campsite all to ourselves and only a handful of people out on the walking tracks as we did our exploring. Broken hills is an area with a lot of old historic gold mines. We did a really fun walk here that follows the river for a spell then loops up and you walk through a couple of short tunnels before following the old water race back towards where you started. The boys also explored another short track that had lots of little caves to poke your head in and check out the wetas. We ended our day with a laughter filled game of spotlight and finally a plan starting to take shape for where we were actually heading next.

Nice day to dip your toes in the water
Look Mum isn’t it beautiful?

The waiting place

Since we made our hurried trip from Wellington to the comfort and safety of my parents home in Te Puke it feels like the time has just flown by. Those first weeks in complete lock down were strange and uncharted territory for everyone no matter your life circumstances. The progression out of lock down had an extra element of excitement for us. When we got to level two and could break our bubble we got to reconnect with people we hadn’t seen in over two years. Friends and family that we had missed with all our hearts. I have been pleasantly surprised over the course of our travels how well our little family of three has supported and sustained each other without all those extra connections you make around you, without the community you build and often rely on. But it has been a most welcome thing to share real life moments with that community we left behind, to share conversations, hugs and a whole lot of love.

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Memories of beach front park ups and dreams of more times like this.

We’ve ended up being based in this area a whole lot longer than we ever imagined. A need for a few repairs and a whole lot of very busy repairers who we’ve had to wait patiently to have time for our big old bus has meant that even once we were free to move around the country again we have had to stay on a little longer. After the freedom and sometimes spontaniety with which we have lived the last two years it has been hard being somewhat stuck and having so much of what’s happened this year being largely out of our control. Not that things have always gone to plan while we’ve been travelling. We’ve made lots of little adjustments to plans and done things differently than we imagined many times. This time with a global pandemic, a country in complete lockdown and then what has seemed like a never ending string of things conspiring to keep us immobile it has definetly been the biggest hurdle yet.

One of my favourite childrens books is Dr Seuss ‘Oh the places you will go’. The line ‘You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes you can steer yourself any direction you choose’ speaks straight to my soul! But there’s a page in that book about being stuck in the waiting place, full of people just waiting for everyday things to happen that really doesn’t speak to any part of me. For a large portion of this year that’s what life for us has felt like. Stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for the life we really wanted to be available again. I’m hopeful and positive though that Dr Suess is right and somehow we will escape all that waiting and staying, we’ll find the bright places where boom bands are playing.

 

The wanderings begin

Now it’s finally happening, we are officially living in a bus, travelling the country. Of course the big decision is where do we go first? We decided a little while ago that we would travel the south island first and when we set a leaving date we booked a ferry crossing and planned for a fairly quick trip to Wellington so we would have a couple of days to hang out and explore the capital. It all went pretty much as we had hoped, we spent our first night in Taupo so we wouldn’t have too much driving on the first day. The next morning we spent a bit of time at the playground to run off some of Oliver’s endless energy before a big drive to Himatangi beach. Being in the car we travel a bit faster than Wayne does in the bus so we arrived before him. So it was an easy choice to find the beach and go for a bit of a walk while we waited for the bus to arrive.

It was quite a windy afternoon and they drive cars along the beach at Himatangi, so it was quite an exhilarating walk. Just what we needed after a long drive and a not so exciting day for a four year old. And a vital reminder for me that this is why we are doing this, for these moments we will get to share together now all the time.

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Our night at Himatangi was our first experience of what you call a pop or park over property. We joined the NZ Motor home association and along with that gives you access to a whole lot of different options for places to park your self contained vehicles, one of those options is other members who have enough room on their properties will let you stay at their property for a small fee, in this case $5 and for that grand sum we also plugged in to their power for the night and enjoyed a cuppa and a bit of a chat with the older couple after Oliver was asleep. Very quickly it has become clear to us that we will not lack for social interaction on the road, if anything I would say we will have more than before.

The next morning after a bit of a morning bike ride we left Himatangi and headed towards Wellington. We decided to stop at the tram museum on the outskirts of Wellington and take a tram ride to the beach and back. Oliver is fairly keen on trains so this was definitely for his benefit, but it was actually really interesting for us to. A small but well set out little display on the history of trams in Wellington and then the actual tram ride takes you down to a the beach where you can hop off, go for a walk or picnic and catch a later tram back to your car when you are finished.

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Once we had arrived back at the station it was just a short drive further in to Wellington where we would stay for a couple of nights. This time in a domain that allows freedom camping and luckily for us had big enough spaces for us to fit in. We decided on arriving that we had done enough driving for the day so spent the afternoon playing at the playground that was literally right next to where we were parked and a little walk to explore where we were staying.

The next day we headed in to the city to do a bit of sightseeing. Wellington isn’t somewhere we have spent much time so we were keen to see some of it while we were passing through. Our first plan was to catch a ride on the cable car, with a nearly five year old boy in tow any large vehicle you can ride in is sure to be a hit and this one was no exception. From there we caught a free shuttle to Zealandia which is an area in Wellington that is protected by a predator free fence, the idea of these is that you eliminate all the possums, cats, rats, mice and stoats – all the introduced pests that kill our native bird life or destroy the native bush that the birds use as their habitats. Once you get rid of all the pests the bush can regenerate and the bird life can thrive, giving the opportunity for birds, that in some cases only live off shore on islands that we have managed to keep predator free to establish a population on the mainland again. It was perhaps a bit too much a tourist’s version of a bush walk for our tastes but had an easter egg hunt going on so was a great way for Oliver to feel like he wasn’t missing out on all the easter fun because we had run away in a bus. After that we went for a little bit of a drive to a lookout and around Oriental Bay, which although windy was very beautiful.

We were staying in the same spot again that night and it was wonderful to be able to head home to the bus in the afternoon and have a bit of a rest, watch the kite surfers who were making the most of the wind that had picked up during the day and do a few little chores. The next day was our last full day in the north island and we wanted to move the bus to a spot a little bit closer to the ferry terminal since our sailing was at 8am. This proved not as easy as we had thought, the first place we checked out wasn’t big enough for us and the second though it was big, was also busy and just a car park by a marina so not ideal for Oliver. We left the bus there and went off to grab some lunch and something fun for Oliver after a morning of driving around a city. But while we were out we decided that actually this wouldn’t suit us and Wayne had an idea of a spot we could park from when he used to do long haul truck driving, it was just a little spot in an industrial area but it was perfect for our needs. We had one other camper parked up with us and it was close to a cycle path so we had a good ride before dinner to finish off our day. And as if mother nature knew that for us the next day was the start of a new chapter as we headed off to the south island she put on a fantastic sunset to end the day with. And though we had really enjoyed our time in Wellington we were looking forward to a complete change of pace and to actively slowing our lives down to enjoy our time together.

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