End of an Adventure.

Gentle Annie Campground, West Coast South Island, 2018

I have been meaning to write this for a while now. Turning over in my head how I write about the last chapter of what has been such an amazing experience for my family. The last thing I wrote here was when we were leaving Hamilton. As you can probably guess lots has happened in the time between then and now. When we left Hamilton we were headed for Taranaki with a slightly different purpose in mind then we have had for the past three years of travelling. This time we had settling down on our minds.

Mavora Lakes, 2019

For us, right from the start, this adventure always had an end date. We actually thought perhaps a year or 18 months would have been ample time to spend living in a bus. As it turns out it was a little bit longer then that. But at the start of 2020 we decided that it would be our last year of this gypsy life. It just felt like we were all ready for something new. Right from the start we always new that we wouldn’t be settling back in Tauranga when we stopped traveling. We had a few options in mind at the start but settled on Taranaki after a few visits early on in our travels.

Marfells Beach, 2020

When we left Hamilton and started the drive to New Plymouth I have to admit I had more than a few doubts in my head. We had only visited this area a handful of times. Would we actually enjoy living here or were we big mistake. Our plans for here felt so permanent and like such a commitment after living in a way where you could literally decide you wanted to move on and be somewhere new the next day. Now after a few months of sinking our toes into the wild, black sands of these west coast beaches and slowly finding our place in this new life, I’m happy to report that those worries were needless. Turns out this settling down again stuff is not to bad.

Clyde Dam, 2018

We’re doing it slowly though. Still in the bus for now, just with a bit of a permanent spot to base ourselves until we find a house. And that urge to explore and discover that has driven us on this whole big journey right from the start is still getting a chance to stretch it’s feet here. We have a huge stretch of the coast that’s easily accessible. That gorgeous mountain to explore. And when what’s on our doorstep isn’t enough we know how easily we can travel further in this beautiful country of ours.

Arthurs Pass, 2019

I started this blog because I wanted to document our travels and have a record of the whole experience. It’s been it’s own journey for me, rediscovering how much I love to write. I’ve done a lot of it, both on here and just for myself. Filling pages of books with stories. Trying my hand at poetry. Scribbling away in a journal. I know that my writing will continue now, even if it’s just purely for my own enjoyment from here on in. Thank you for following along with our wanderings and reading my ramblings along the way. If anyone reading has done so because you have some wild crazy dream to live in a bus, or travel with children, or really any dream that you think you just shouldn’t do because it’s a bit outside the normal. I encourage you to just do it. Our big crazy dream has given us so much that is good and very little that is not. Happy wanderings people, wherever they might take you.

Aoraki Mt Cook, 2019

More coromandel wanderings

We always seem to settle in to a bit of a rythym when we travel, the first few mornings of getting up and sorting the bus always seem a bit hurried, like they don’t quite flow properly. But after that everyone seems to remember there roles in the process and it all clicks in to place. We were well and truly in that good rythym when we left Broken hills. The bus wheels were turning by just after 8am. It was another gloriously sunny day and we decided to pull in to Tairua for a look around. To be honest this is a place I’ve driven through plenty of times and often thought it looked lovely but have never actually stopped. I’m very glad we’ve rectified that situation now after our short stop here and have mentally listed it as a place to visit again in the future.

Tairua bathed in sunshine

It was one of those wonderfully warm spring mornings and to be honest it was tempting to find a spot to park the bus for the night so we could spend the day swimming in the crystal clear waters that were feeling very much a swimmable temperature. But the night before while Oliver was sleeping soundly in his bed Wayne and I had dreamed up a plan for the day. So we spent a few hours playing and dipping our feet in the ocean here. Then we headed on to Hot water beach with a plan to dig ourselves a hot pool at low tide so we could spend the afternoon lounging in it. This is something Wayne and I can both remember attempting with our families as children, with varying levels of success! We have also visited Hot water beach a couple of times together but never been organised enough and arrived at the wrong tide. So this time we decided to stay at the Top ten campground that is right by the beach so there was no chance of getting it wrong this time.

At 3 ocklock we headed for the beach, spades in hand to dig ourselves a hot pool. There were already a few people digging steaming pools by the time we arrived and once we picked our spot it took us a while to master the art of digging the pool while your feet are sinking into the sometimes burning hot water that is bubbling it’s way up through the sand. But eventually we had ourselves a passable hot pool to sit in. We even got fancy and dug a channel from a pool that someone had kindly dug in a cold spot and promptly abandoned once they discovered there error. The whole experience was a huge hit with Oliver. There’s something about hot water bubbling up from the sand on a perfectly normal looking surf beach that is magical even to fully grown adults. Pair it with a spade, the opportunity to dig a big hole in the sand and have a swim afterwards. That just ticks all of my little guys boxes.

picking the perfect spot
Testing the temperature

The next day we woke to more glorious sun but the forecast for the next day was looking decidedly less friendly. Again we were up early and heading on to make the most of the weather while it was in our favour. We stopped off in Whitianga to stretch our legs, have some lunch and pick up a few supplies. To our absolute delight when we were leaving we saw some dolphins cruising around the harbour and stopped to watch them until they headed out of sight. Then we headed to Coromandel. It was a slow climb in places for our big old bus and a good test for all the repairs it had recently had. But we made it without any drama and coincidentally found my parents staying at the same place we were. Completely unplanned as we hadn’t spoken since the day we left Tauranga. But it was nice to share one last meal together that night and one final goodbye. With the weather turning as predicted this was the end of our time in this part of the country for now. I’ve been lucky enough to have plenty of holidays in the Coromandel over the years, it’s a special place for me, full of lot’s of beautiful places and lots of beautiful memories. This short visit added a few more of those to tuck away somewhere that they won’t be forgotten. The best souvenirs from all our trips.

Where do we go when the countrys in lockdown?

We arrived in Wellington thinking we would be there for three months as that’s how long the work Wayne had would last. When we were making our decisions to leave Christchurch the corona virus was a concern, but a distant one, there still weren’t any cases in the country. In the days between making that choice and getting to Wellington that changed.

The day Wayne started his new job he was warned that they couldn’t guarantee his role would continue if the situation worsened. He’s been employed as a casual worker for two years now so for us that wasn’t as alarming as it might be to others, it is the very nature of casual employment. By the end of the week there were confirmed covid 19 cases in Wellington and there were clear warning signs that if it continued to progress then the places we were staying would likely close to force people to head home. To me the other option of staying at a holiday park where you are normally crammed in closer to your fellow campers didn’t feel like an appealing or safe way to ride out what was coming.

On Monday morning Wayne headed off to start his second week of his new job. We could see that things were going to all change at some point but Wayne wanted to stick with the job until they did, I agreed because ideally you don’t want to leave people in the lurch but really I would have been happy to jump in the bus and leave right then. For the first time in our whole journey being in the bus didn’t feel completely safe. We have an ever changing set of neighbours, sometimes parked just over three metres away and during the week Oliver and I rely heavily on getting out of the bus as much as possible to fill our days, but even a simple thing like a playground wasn’t really safe. So when it was announced that the country was heading in to lockdown I felt overwhelming relief. I also felt overwhelming gratitude because we had somewhere to go.

So the next morning we left Wellington after just over a week and made the long drive to Te Puke to my parents orchard. We hadn’t seen my parents in just over a year so any reunion was going to feel good. Add to that all the other emotions that this strange situation had prevoked and I can safely say I have never felt so grateful to see my beautiful Mum.

Perhaps that gratitude has helped us through the lockdown as our experience has so far not been to bad. We were lucky that there is plenty of truck driving work that is classed as essential and Wayne picked up a new role quickly as being a casual worker meant there was no wage subsidy to carry us through. The first two weeks we had gorgeous sunny days and made the most of them on my parents orchard. Rain has made it feel less fun but we have a well established school routine to help those days pass quicker and grandparents to share the load. What the future will look like for us now is a complete unknown. But I guess it is best to just not dwell on that to much for now and wait to see what the next few months bring our way. I hope you are all finding your way through this strange, strange experience. Lots of love from my bubble to yours!

Leaving Christchurch

There’s a lesson that our time in the bus keeps teaching me, over and over. It’s that things can change, incredibly quickly. Opportunities can just appear from no where when you keep your feelers out and are willing to consider everything that comes your way. Then it’s up to you do you decide that the change is to much or to fast. Or do you jump in and take whatever has been offered. Perhaps the second half of that lesson is that Wayne and I are, most of the time, absolutely the type to jump on board and take the opportunity. It probably explains how we could make such drastic changes to the way we lived in the first place.

When we arrived back in Christchurch after our xmas break we had a plan. The job Wayne had been doing had finished up but he would find something else and we would stay in Christchurch until the end of April. Then we’d head off and be back in the North Island by Olivers birthday in May. Since then Wayne’s had plenty of work through a couple of places but none of it would be our ideal, so he has kept his eyes and ears out in case something better came along. Well last week it did. Only it wasn’t in Christchurch, it wasn’t even in the South Island. The job was in Wellington and starting as soon as possible. I was more than ready to be back in the North Island so it was a fairly easy and enthusiastic yes from me. Wayne didn’t need much more of a reason than that to make it a yes from him as well. Five days later we had booked a ferry crossing, said our goodbyes to Christchurch and were on our way to Picton.

It feels like I haven’t shared a lot about our time in Christchurch. That’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed it. I’ve got some very fond memories from our time here. We’ve made the most of having some gorgeous beaches on our doorstep this summer. I’ve also enjoyed having a closer look at how this city is choosing to rebuild after the earthquakes. I look forward to coming back in the future and seeing it all finished. And our trips to Banks Peninsula left us wishing we had more time to spend out there. We are all leaving this city with a few favorite places that we will miss not having on our doorstep anymore. But by now we all know that Wellington is bound to have some special places for us to discover and a whole lot of fun to be had while we discover them.



Bus life in the city


If it feels like it’s been a while since you read an actual blog from me, that’s probably because it has been. We finished our magical trip through the Mackenzie country, arrived in Christchurch to find work. Then life just got busy, not a we’re off having amazing adventures can’t wait to write about it busy. But that every day run of the mill busy. Wayne’s job here is the most full on he’s had on our travels, it includes a few nights away and he is back to working lot’s of hours. Which as any parent whose partner travels for work will know means that there’s more on the plate of the one left behind. I look back at those days when this was our normal. When it was me at home with a new born baby and Wayne away every week at least five nights a week. Every, single, week. I look back and I marvel that we all survived those years so well. This time I know it’s a short term thing and most weeks he’s only away one night. But even so it has been an adjustment.

I have to admit it took me a minute to get used to being based somewhere as big as Christchurch in the bus. It means a bit of a shuffling around approach to where we stay which has actually been nice. There’s nothing like a change of scenery every few weeks to keep things interesting. We have settled on two favourite spots where we spend the majority of our time. One beside a beautiful river and the other that has something equally as beautiful. Showers! Showers without a timer that are included in the nightly cost of $10 per vehicle. When you have to make your water tank last all week your showers are as short as you can possibly make them, having this as your everyday reality makes the simplest of things feel like a luxury.

Of course we’ve been doing as much exploring around Christchurch as we can fit in to Wayne’s time off. It’s a beautiful city with beaches and a great assortment of walking tracks to choose from. This has perhaps only added to our busyness as we have no shortage of places we want to go, things we want to do whilst we are here. We were lucky enough to arrive in Christchurch just as the spring flowers bloomed so we got to enjoy how beautiful the city was with all those gorgeous flowers. Wandering through the daffodils at Hagley Park will be a lasting memory of Christchurch for me. Oliver and I have had a few adventures into the city via public transport and his highlight is the Margaret Mahy playground, which if you visit here with children in tow is a must do. Heck even if you come without kids the slides here are big enough for adults to join in the fun. I also don’t think it will surprise anyone that we have explored the beaches a number of times. Our favorite spot is Corsair bay with New Brighton a close second.

With all this wonderful living happening 2019 just sped to a close for us, as I know it does for a lot of people. In that rush it’s easy to loose sight of all you have done and experienced over the year, to feel like it’s all just passing you by to quickly. But for us this year it doesn’t take much searching to find some great memories we’ve created together. I think because it’s the end of a decade I have done a fair bit of looking back lately. Ten years ago I was in the midst of planning our wedding, we had lots of plans and dreams and so much hope for what the future was going to bring our way. Some of them came true, we had an amazing honeymoon, brought our first home, had a child together and a million other little moments to go with the big ones. Some didn’t come true and then there were the things we never even dared to dream of at that point. All this looking back makes me wonder what the next ten years will bring our way. For now all I know is it will involve a few more adventures in a bus.


A birthday and some beaches

There is something about this time of year that always makes me really aware of how much of the year has passed us by already. Wayne’s birthday is on the 30th of June and I know this plays a big part in this for me. From there on in it always feels like the year is just sliding away in a huge rush towards christmas. I find myself taking a mental tally of all the things we’ve managed to tick off that list of things we hoped to do this year because even living like this I have a to do list for the year, it’s just infinitely more interesting than its ever been before.  This year even though it felt like we were slow to get started on it at the time we are working our way through that list quite nicely.

Of course the only choice when you live in a bus and it’s your birthday is to go away somewhere new. So we spent the weekend beside Warrington beach for Wayne’s birthday. Even in the bus it’s not a long drive to get there from Dunedin and there’s a great little freedom camping spot which is just a short stroll through the sand dunes to the most perfect beach. We had the most beautiful winter days while we were there. Days so crisp and clear the sun sparkles on the water and you shed your heavy winter layers in the afternoons warmth. From the moment we woke on the Saturday morning Oliver knew how he wanted to fill his day, he wanted his spade and he wanted to head to the beach. I love when we are parked somewhere that he can just head out the door with a clear purpose in mind for what he wants to do and go fill his day with it. So that’s how most of our Saturday was spent, sitting on the beach, walking on the beach and watching Oliver dig holes on the beach. Not a bad way to spend a sunny winters day in my opinion.

just a boy and his spade

We have in fact been in beach heaven since arriving in Dunedin. There are so many little bays and hidden treasures to explore. The drive out to Port Chalmers and Aramoana was a highlight for me, with views across the harbour to the Otago Peninsula it’s just gorgeous. We walked out along the breakwater at Aramoana and saw some seals lounging in the afternoon sun. There’s also a short boardwalk out onto the salt marsh here that I think in the right season could be a great place to bird watch, unfortunately a few ducks and the odd seagull was about all we saw.

perfect place for a snooze

view from the Aramoana breakwater

Oliver’s favourite beach to visit so far has been Tunnel beach. Like a lot of walks in Dunedin it’s a fairly steep track down to the beach but well worth the effort of hauling yourself back up the hill after you’ve seen the beach. I imagine this walk is hugely busy in the summer months as even in the middle of winter there were still a few tourists heading here and a few locals as well. The views continue to get better and better as you head down the hill towards the beach. But it’s not until you are almost right on top of it that you can see the man made tunnel you use to access the little beach below. The tunnel was made by a family that owned the land I think in the late 1800’s so they could have access to a private beach. The beach below is pretty and Oliver loved having a tunnel to go through to get to it, but for me the views of the rugged coastline unfurling before us as we walked down were the star of the show. That is one of the great things for us about doing these sorts of things as a family. Even when we all loved a walk it’s often for completely different reasons. As Oliver is getting older it’s really interesting to hear his take on things we do together and what he’s noticed or enjoyed the most. Sometimes he see’s or points out things that I have completely missed. Sometimes it’s just that simple delight children can find in things that we as adults have forgotten was there. But once reminded it’s easy to see it through there new fresh eyes and share in that delight as well. I hope that even after he is not my little boy anymore I remember how to see the world through that fresh, shiny, joyful filter he’s reminded me of.

Views as you head towards tunnel beach

down the tunnel we go


view from tunnel beach


A city, beaches and a new home

In the dreaming and planning stages of this journey we are on the times that we would have to stop and work were not the times that kept me inspired to keep going when things were difficult. I knew they were necessary but didn’t imagine they could be just as interesting as the traveling times. But spending extended periods of time in places actually adds to our whole trip in a unique way. We were really looking forward to spending a bit of time in Dunedin for this stint of work. It would be the biggest city we had been in for quite a while and one that we expected to have plenty of options for filling our downtime while we were here. Wayne and I had visited Dunedin before, spent one night and crammed as much in to two days as we could but left feeling it was a place with so much more still to offer.

We arrived in Dunedin on a weekend and had two days to spend just exploring a little, finding our feet in this new place before Wayne started looking for work. We have always read up about our options of places to park before we arrive. But when you are looking for a bit more long term options, in winter, in an 11.5 metre bus it sometimes means your plans aren’t completely clear until you arrive somewhere and see the options for yourself. Dunedin is very hilly, lots of narrow streets and flat space is at a premium. But we found two good options in Mosgiel and decided that we would most likely float between them during our time here. One had power for $15 a night but the walk to town from there was along a busy main road with hardly any grass verge to keep Oliver (and this Mums nerves) intact during the 10 minute stroll meant we would be largely stuck at the campground when we stayed here. The other option had no power and is just a carpark but at only $5 a night and with a playground, library, Mosgiel town center and a bus stop all just a few minutes walk along a nice safe footpath. Clearly the second option was going to make my weeks with Oliver go much quicker so we settled there to start with but with the knowledge that being the middle of winter we would have to float between the two a bit to keep our batteries charged.

I have to admit that our first couple of weeks in Dunedin flew by in a bit of a blur. We always expected it might be easy to find work here but never dreamed how quickly it would all move. Literally the first place Wayne visited offered him work, but there was a slight catch. They wanted to fly him to Christchurch the next day where he would work for the rest of that week then after that there would be work back in Dunedin for him. So then began the whirlwind of moving the bus to the spot with power so I didn’t have to worry about that while our driver was away, packing a bag and waving goodbye to Dad as he headed off on his plane. I know it shouldn’t have been because he was so little at the time but it was a bit of a shock for me during this process to realize that Oliver has no memory at all of the time when Daddy being away working every week was our reality. I guess I am grateful that he doesn’t remember how absent Wayne was in those years, that he can’t imagine a life where Daddy is not around. He wasn’t the only one who was glad to pick Wayne up from the airport and have that missing piece back again. Bus life (and life in general) is just better when we are together.

We have already found a few favourite spots in Dunedin. The beaches are beautiful, I think my love of a good beach is well documented by now and life just feels better when there is one close enough to get to on a regular basis. The botanic gardens here are great, you can get free food for the ducks and there are also swarms of pigeons keen to get in on the action who will literally land all over you to get to the food if you let them. There are a multitude of paths leading through the gardens and an amazing aviary at the top of the hill with a huge array of both native birds and colorful parrots from warmer climates. The city itself is interesting to wander around, scattered with old buildings, gorgeous churches and plenty of street art. So far Dunedin gets a big thumbs up as our home for the winter.


Gorgeous freedom camping and a visit to Queenstown…

Once we left Mavora Lakes behind our idea was to head towards Queenstown where we would spend a few days. It’s not a long way from Mavora to Queenstown but with a portion of it being on a dirt road it slows us down a little so we decided to break the trip up and spend a night at a freedom camping spot just past Kingston. For an area that doesn’t have many spots you can freedom camp at this one sure is a beauty. There’s no facilities so it’s purely for self contained vehicles and the reasonably flat spots here are very few. But if spending a night with million dollar views out your windows is on your list of things that make your heart sing then this is a spot you might want to stay at. Kingston is just down the road and worth a visit to wander along the lake edge. It’s also home to the Kingston Flyer which sadly sits currently unused, but there is an abundance of old train carriages sitting around to have a look at, a hit with our young train enthusiast.


Time to test the water

Train carriages at Kingston

We woke the next morning after a night of torrential rain in a situation we have tried our hardest to avoid in the time we have been in the bus. The firm ground we had parked on the previous day was really not firm anymore and for a time we all had serious worries that this gorgeous spot may be a more long term arrangement. But with some cautious and skilfull manouvering, the help of a few pieces of wood we found to give our back wheels some traction and in Wayne’s opinion a whole lot of luck we managed to free ourselves with only a short time spent in heart pounding stress. The rain didn’t let up as we made it to Queenstown and our day seemed to be one we should have just pushed skip on altogether when Oliver managed to get his hand stuck in the buses automatic door as it was closing (thankfully nothing a big cuddle and an iceblock couldn’t fix). But as seems to be the way with bus living, things can seem really bad one moment and back to really good the next. By the time the afternoon was over we had settled in at Twelve Mile Delta just out of town and managed a visit to Arrowtown to stroll around the Chinese miners cottages. A nice, firm spot to stay and somewhere interesting to explore is all we needed to remind us of how much the good moments outweigh the not so good in our life.

All our luck with the weather ran out when we were visiting Queenstown. We spent almost a whole week here but still didn’t do a lot of the things we had thought we would. Because plans simply have to change when it’s raining. We did get one clear morning so we could drive to Glenorchy and admire the stunning landscapes. But after that we ended up doing a few more touristy things that may not have been in the plan. We spent one wet day visiting the gondolas and Oliver had his first turn on a luge. He loved it so much that even in the pouring rain he was keen to keep riding that chairlift up so he could finish all his rides. We visited the Arrowtown museum and spent a morning playing in the lazy river at the local swimming pools.

views from Glenorchy


Then on our last full day in Queenstown we woke to find the rain had stopped, the clouds were lifting and all around us the mountains had been dusted with a pretty decent amount of snow overnight. To us the snow still seems a little bit magical. So to wake up and see the first big dump of the winter felt like a great way to end our Queenstown visit. We made the most of the clear day with a bike ride and a stroll along the lake edge. We had timed things perfectly with the start of Luma, Queenstowns take on a light show. So we ended our day with a picnic dinner of Fergburger on the waterfront and a stroll around the lights.

Fresh snow on the mountains

New views around every corner

This trip had been a study in contrasts. We had been to places wild, isolated and undeveloped. Then to the bustling, growing tourist mecca that is Queenstown. As we set off the next day it felt to me like we were on the homeward stretch of our South Island journey. We were heading for Dunedin and from there the plan is to work our way back up the east coast. After spending so much time lingering in the deep south we were finally heading closer to home instead of further away. Hopefully with a few more adventures along the way!


Mavora Lakes

When we left Te Anau this time we were all keen for a few quiet days somewhere that we could spend some time in nature and not be to busy for a spell. We thought we had the perfect place in mind. If you take a detour off the main highway and go for a drive down some dusty gravel roads you’ll find Mavora Lakes. Here there are walking tracks, two beautiful lakes, mountains to gaze at as you sip your coffee and a really great camping area. There’s also no cell reception and at this time of year very few other people. For us that sounded like the perfect ingredients for a few days of relaxing time as a family.

The area you have to camp in here is so immense that our normal walk around to pick the best spot was just not an option. So after a bit of a drive around and some excited discussions over the walkie talkies we found the perfect spot. Flat, a great view out the front windows, lake just a short stroll away and a fair distance from where the other campers had set up. This last one may seem a little anti-social but when you live this way you often have to deal with other people parked fairly closely to you and lack of privacy is just something you have to deal with at times. So when you have the opportunity to be parked on your own boy do you take it!

Camp site with a view

Oliver was particularly happy to find outdoor fireplaces at this camp. They are becoming one of his favorite parts of places like this and I can’t say I blame the kid. There is just something about an open fire in a big wild place like this. Our first afternoon was easily filled with a wander by the lake, a stone skimming competition and a good dose of firewood collection for the evenings entertainment. I have never seen a dinner be consumed more quickly or with less complaint then when he knows it is all that stands in the way of him and lighting that fire. Then wrapped up against the cold we toasted marshmallows, gazed at stars and played spotlight until we could finally convince our little man to come in to bed.

Our evenings entertainment

The best part of being parked in places like this with no huge plans for the day is that it really gives Oliver time to explore all the wonderful things that are right there on our doorstep. It’s amazing how much time he can spend really wrapped up in little things. Trying to master the art of skimming a stone which normally turns into an experiment of how high he can splash the water. Stomping in puddles is a current favourite, or just wandering amongst the trees finding fallen logs to climb and balance on. A whole day can disappear easily filled with these kind of things. When we are parked in places like this his toys are ignored, the desire for tv is non existent. I’m so glad he finds as much value here as we do, it would not be as easy to live this way if he did not.

A boy in the wild

So after a day filled with just enjoying our surroundings, another evening filled with a fire and outside fun. We snuggled down for our last night by the beautiful Mavora Lakes. If we had been in a different mood we could easily have done some serious walking here, there were plenty of options. But we were content with the many short strolls along the lake that we had taken instead. Our next destination was going to be Queenstown, a serious change of pace from the isolation of Milford and Mavora lakes. So this little time of quiet and rest felt like the perfect transition.

beautiful sunsets


A boat trip and a birthday

On our last full day in Milford we woke early and were on the road just after 8am. We had a boat trip booked to explore the actual sounds and a fair bit of ground to cover between our camp and where we would board the boat. There was plenty of thick cloud hanging around as we set off and a few people heading in the same direction we were. Some one had been up long before us all setting out cones and black ice signs on any sections of the road you needed to take extra care on so we were happy to have the extra time to pull over and let impatient people past or see anything that caught our eye. It didn’t take long for us to find something worth stopping for. We rounded a bend and sitting in some car parks at the side of the road were a group of kea’s. Kea are a parrot native to NZ, they are incredibly intelligent and will actually seek out interaction with humans. Sadly their numbers are also dwindling so we were pretty happy to run into a group of eight of them here. We spent a good 15 minutes here watching these delightful birds interacting with anyone who stopped and their vehicles.

Kea waiting for some visitors

Amazing that they let you so close


Eventually we pulled ourselves away from these glorious birds and headed on towards the Sounds. There’s only one road in here and one of the highlights of the drive is a trip through the Homer Tunnel. Once you’re through the tunnel and the mountain that it takes you through the valley seems to unfold before you. You zig zag down and down into this epic landscape. This is a corner of my country that really drives home to me how small a part of this big world we are, it’s easy to feel dwarfed by the size and grandeur of the peaks and valleys that surround you. Once you make your way down it’s a pretty glorious drive through bush and alongside the river until you finally make it to the end of the road. By this time it already felt like we had seen enough sights for one day but luckily for us it was just the beginning of our days adventure.

There was still a fair bit of cloud around the hills as we got on our boat and started cruising but Milford is one of those places that is stunning no matter what the weather. We had opted for the cruise that had the longest time on the water so we had plenty of time to wander around the boat and take in the views. The boys joined in with all the other tourists and stood at the front of the boat when they went in super close to a waterfall, I was quite happy to stay dry and watch from inside. The clouds lifted as we turned around to make our way back and the views were amazing.

shrouded in clouds

even more lovely without the clouds


After a stop at the underwater observatory our time on the sounds was shortly over. All that was left was to hop back in the car and make our way back to the bus. We made a few brief stops to look at things that had caught our attention on the way in but to be honest we were all feeling ready to just be home so we could enjoy the mountain views from our front window for a while before we moved on.

The next day was a bit of a special one in the bus, it was Oliver’s sixth birthday. He woke to pelting rain which was the perfect excuse for a slow morning opening presents and eating pancakes. Then it was time to head back to Te Anau where we planned to spend a night before heading on to somewhere new. I have to say I love celebrating our special moments in this low key way. Sure we did our best to include things in the day that Oliver would enjoy, a trip to the local bike park and a special birthday dinner. But it’s much less effort and work for me than I would have previously put in to birthday celebrations. Which it turns out equals a lot more time to actually spend with the birthday boy. It also turns out that just having time with us is what Oliver actually wants most as well. Our time in Milford left me feeling completely recharged on every level. It had been the perfect way to spend Oliver’s last few days of being a five year old. Starting our holiday on such a great note also meant we had high hopes for what the rest of our trip would bring.