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.
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.
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.
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.
I have never been very keen on new years resolutions, for me a change of any kind has to have much deeper motivation than simply another year rolling over. But in the last few years I have come to enjoy that sense of things starting over, of fresh possibility and some years of saying goodbye to a year that was hard and you are glad to see the back of.
This new years day I woke with a very real knowledge that 2018 is going to be a year of huge change for my family. And it also holds the promise of some very exciting times and wonderful memories to be made. So strangely this year the time of year when resolutions are made is a time when I am making plans for change in my life. The massive upheaval we have already experienced with getting rid of so many of our personal belongings and giving up a permanent, fixed address. And the knowledge that so much more lifestyle change is just around the corner is inspiring me to question many areas of my life and see if there’s any way they could be improved.
Of course when you start to think like that there are always things you can do better. So yes, a list of what you could call resolutions has been made this year. Only time will tell if they become like a lot of people’s resolutions and fade quickly or if perhaps our huge shift in circumstances is just the motivation to help me achieve them.
We spent our new years eve with family, the children swam and roasted marshmallows, we shared a bbq and a few drinks and after the younger children went to bed we made the valiant effort to stay up to midnight. Wondering when exactly did we get so old that midnight was a late night? My guess is around the time we had children who like to get up at the crack of dawn! I hope everyone reading had their own version of a great new years eve and that your new years day feels as full of fresh promise as mine, it truly is a great feeling.