It’s getting very, very cold….

When we left Kaiteriteri we had two and a half weeks to play with before we planned to be back in Nelson to do a bit of work. So we decided to head towards the Nelson Lakes national park. Our first night out we stayed at a freedom camping spot in the Moutere valley, it was a fairly basic affair, a long drop toilet which I was very grateful we didn’t have to use as it was in such a shocking state and a big grassy area next to the river. It was the first free spot we had found in a while as the Nelson area is not very freedom camping friendly and it felt good to get a free night in. As the day drew to a close the drop in temperature was much more pronounced here than what it had been on the coast and we got the feeling that this would be a growing trend for the next part of our travels.

It was raining the next day as we headed to Lake Rotoroa, so Oliver and I decided to follow behind Wayne in case we stumbled across something to do on the way. Oliver finds it quite amusing convoying this way with Wayne, there is normally a running commentary from the back seat about what he see’s the bus doing. We can also talk to each other on our walkie talkies which is a rather amusing way for a young boy to pass the time, this all serves to make our travelling not seem separate even though we aren’t in the same vehicles. Though to be honest I don’t mind having to drive the car and be apart when we move on from places. I did wonder if I would dislike it, but it is actually nice in some ways to have space from each other every now and then. And on the days where the roads are going to be steep or windy and the bus is going to be moving quite slowly it is good to have the option to just go ahead and find something to do to amuse ourselves at our destination. It was good we were together on this particular day because we found an old railway tunnel to walk through, a short enough walk to be achievable in the drizzly day we had but still an interesting break from the driving.

After that it was just a short drive on to Lake Rotoroa and by the time we got there the rain was quite heavy. The campsite unfortunately turned out to be quite water logged and deciding we didn’t want to risk the bus becoming a permanent fixture we found a spot to park up in the car park by the boat ramp so we could have lunch then formulate a new plan. But while we ate and then killed time watching a movie in the hopes the rain would clear long enough for us to at least look at the lake, we decided that the whole place was pretty empty, there were not even many day visitors around and those that came just snapped a picture and left.  So we spent the night there anyway just parked in the day visitors car park instead of the campsite. A little hard for me since on some deep, deep level I am a bit of a rule follower, but the worst that was going to happen is we be asked to move on if someone came to check on the camp – which they in the end did not. Once again the rain cleared suddenly in the late afternoon revealing a gorgeous view of mountains across the far end of the lake.

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The next day we hired a canadian canoe and spent a pleasant morning paddling on the lake in the misty but fine day that we had woken to. Even shrouded in clouds this lake was a little slice of paradise. The overwhelmingly green colour of the bush told it’s story of a place that see’s it’s fair share of rain. Spongy bright green moss wrapped around the trunks of the trees and across the ground, softer lighter green moss hanging from the branches. The lake itself is crisp and crystal clear. Just to top it all off it is home to the friendliest fantails I have ever come across. More than once they landed on my shoes or pants legs, flying so tantalizingly close you would swear that if you just held out your hand they would sit there for just a second before flittering away with a cheeky little chirp.

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From the lake it was just a quick trip to Murchison where we would stay for two nights. Murchison is only a small town but with a NZMCA camp right in the small town centre it was a great place to base ourselves. A short stroll to the shops if you need supplies, a small playground and even a skate park and bike track just down the road, these things are all a priority when travelling with a bike mad young boy. Unfortunately there was more of the wet stuff around during our time in Murchison so we had a bit of a quieter time. We did visit New Zealand’s longest swing bridge, the bridge itself was very, very long and a bit of fun. But I’m not sure it was worth the $10 an adult when what is on the other side is a lot of muddy tracks, a lot of blackberry and a ton of small biting insects. The upside to the rain is a bit of down time in the bus, it is tempting to be very, very busy all the time as if this was a holiday and you are trying to cram in the fun times while you can. Now that we are nearly two months in to this new life it is really necessary to make sure we do have some quiet days, too much all the time leads to one exhausted, grumpy little boy, not ideal when confined to a small space together. Our days are also continuing to get cooler and cooler, so a slow morning where we light the fire and stay cozy in the bus for a bit longer holds more appeal now. These moments are just as great as the things we are doing and the places we are seeing. It feels like such a luxury to have all this time together, to not wake up to a house that Wayne left while we were still fast asleep, to have no pressing jobs to do, no kindy to get Oliver to. It also feels like something that we want a lot more of in our life, even when we steer our lives back in a more conventional direction. But for now we will just enjoy what we currently have and keep wandering.

 

A magical day

When we were making our decision to sell the house and buy a bus one of the things that swayed us towards taking the risk was the hope that we would get to share some amazing moments together and make some really special memories as a family. Well just a week in to our travels we found one of those moments that I know I will hold onto long after our bus days are over.

We had left Whatamango Bay behind the day before and travelled along Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock. Deciding that we needed to stay in a motor camp for a night so we could do some washing and have a real shower we ended up staying in Havelock, the proprietor was very friendly and helpful and following his recommendations we decided to stay two nights so we could go out on the Pelorus mail boat the next day. Part of our strategy for bus living is that we are trying to live quite economically, so most of the time our entertainment is going to be walking and playing on the beach, we don’t plan on doing all the tourist attraction type things. But in saying that, their are going to be some things that we will splurge on and take the opportunity to do.

The mail boat tour is quite unique, around the sounds there are houses that are only accessible by boat or walking track. So the mail boat does several different runs on various days of the week, they deliver the mail and groceries and to help them run at a profit they also take tourists. We were very lucky to have gorgeous weather as we sailed out of Havelock at around ten am and the first few hours passed very pleasantly with an interesting commentary and beautiful scenery.

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Then after a few stops delivering mail and a few passengers catching a ride home we were dropped off at one bay where we could walk across to the next bay and the boat would pick us up from there. It was a welcome opportunity for Oliver to stretch his legs after the confines of the boat and also an interesting contrast after looking at the land from the water to be enjoying the views out from the land again.

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From here it was a bit more cruising and a few more mail deliveries, which are all part of the tour. I have to say all the locals are incredibly good sports, it must be a bit strange to have a boat load of tourists snapping your picture every time you collect your mail. Then we reached our lunch stop, we had the choice of either stopping at a little shop/cafe where you can buy lunch or going to a nearby farm and having a little tour of the woolshed. We had packed a picnic so opted for a farm visit. It seems an idyllic life, living in these beautiful settings with the ocean literally on your doorstep, a farm that has been in their family for several generations and a woolshed with a view of the ocean has to be pretty special. But you get the sense that this is a hard life as well, that they work extremely hard to keep things going and when you hear that the eldest of their two children is 13 and now attends boarding school as the only school option where they live is correspondence you know that it would not be an easy life to live.

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After leaving the farm the weather had started to change, the wind had picked up and we were starting to head back to Havelock. So we settled inside the boat for our trip back. Oliver was sitting on Wayne’s knee, very relaxed, almost to the point of falling asleep and we were reminiscing over how he had always found being in a boat soothing. And then the magical part of the day happened, we saw dolphins! The captain slowed down to see if they would come over to the boat and when they did we spent about half an hour moving, slowing down and speeding up so they would swim alongside us. I have been lucky enough to see dolphins several times in my life and they are pretty special animals. But seeing Oliver see them for the first time was something I don’t think many things could beat. He was absolutely transfixed with them and listened so well to where he needed to stand and hold on to things that we even managed to stand right at the front of the boat and watch them keep pace with the boat, there noses just jutting out in front of us. There were some baby dolphins as well and though he had to stand and watch for quite a while, because they weren’t coming as close to the surface, he did see them too. Once we moved away from the dolphins and sped up to head back to Havelock Oliver looked at me, huge smile on his face and said ‘We have to tell Nana we saw dolphins!’ I knew then that it was every bit of an incredible experience for him as it was for me. And now that I write this I realize that I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t take a single photo of them, but maybe it wouldn’t be the pictures of the dolphins that would hold the best memories. Maybe it would be the look of awe on my sons face as he watched these creatures and absorbed their grace and power and playfulness. And now that we have had such a special moment so soon in our journey I can’t help thinking there are good odds for many more in the time we plan to spend on the road…..

Taranaki part two

DSC05709One of the things we are learning about travelling in a bus is that it is quite easy to just head off to a destination without to much of a firm itinerary for once you get there. Though I do think this is definitely something I will grow to love, the sense of freedom and flexibility, it is not something I have been used to the last four years since having a child to consider. Travelling has been quite carefully planned to ensure the most enjoyable trip and holiday for everyone involved. But the theory is in the bus that we can decide at any point in the day that we have had enough and simply find a spot to park up for the remainder of the day. This was our first time putting this in to practise as we woke at Okato domain with no firm plans for the day.

Over breakfast we decided that a visit to Pukekura park was our first stop as Oliver had been such a star on our big day of travelling he deserved to do something he would enjoy. Pukekura park is a huge gardens in New Plymouth, it has walking and cycling tracks and is also home to the Brooklands Zoo which was what we were going to check out. We arrived to the pleasant surprise that the zoo was free to enter and once we got Oliver past the playground in the center of the zoo we began to explore all the exhibits. There was a petting zoo area with all your standard farm animals, several different types of monkeys, meerkats, otters and a free flight aviary with several types of parrots. We spent several hours playing and watching the animals and with all the picnic spaces provided and huge gardens surrounding the zoo you could easily spend a whole day here with your family.

Wanting to check out part of the coastal walkway next we headed to the Waiwakaiho River mouth. The coastal walkway is 12.7kms of pathway that stretches from the port on one side of New Plymouth right through the city itself and quite a considerable distance along up the coast. It has several points of interest along the way and one of them is Te Rewa Rewa bridge which crosses over the Waiwakaiho river.

DSC05686DSC05719The bridge they say is supposed to resemble a wave or a whale skeleton, both of which I would say it does, it also in my opinion is quite beautiful. The large metal structure with its gorgeous curves somehow appears delicate against the rugged wildness of the coastline it sits beside. We spent the remainder of our day wandering the beach and playing in the river when we needed to cool off. Deciding that this spot was far to beautiful to leave just yet we stayed in the reserve beside the lake you drove past to get to the river mouth.

DSC05708DSC05699This coast is very different from where we live in the bay of plenty, our beaches are all soft golden sands and waves that beg to be swum and played in. The sea is rough on this coast, the waves crash and warn you to be wary of their power, there are rocks and miles on miles of black sand and driftwood. But in all that wildness and energy there is beauty and they are beaches you could roam and explore for hours on end, always finding something new the sea has brought in or the waves have altered.

The next day we decided to head down the surfers highway with the goal of ending up in Hawera for the night. We stopped at a replica lighthouse that holds the old light from the Cape Egmont lighthouse, well worth a stop for the views from the top of the lighthouse alone. But very interesting with lots of information about the history of the lighthouse and how the light works. And for a few dollars you can turn the light on and watch it work for a few minutes.

After lunch at the pub in Opunake it was a short drive on to Hawera. The joy of small towns is finding ample parking close to the supermarket and the laundromat handily situated right across the road so we can restock on groceries and clean the mountain of washing we seem to have produced in just a few days. Yet again a taste of something that will become part of our everyday lives once we are travelling full time.

This nights camping spots has to be my all time favourite in the bus so far, a spot called Waihi beach reserve just five minutes drive from Hawera. It is just a parking lot at the top of the cliffs with a track that leads down to the beach below. But we got the prime parking spot with an uninterrupted view out to what looked like an endless expanse of ocean. The beach itself is another rugged beauty, stark cliffs, huge boulders to sit on and bathe your feet as the tide went out – really all you could ask for on a hot summers afternoon. And in the morning when I managed to sneak out of the bus before anyone else woke and headed for a morning stroll along the pathway back towards Hawera I was finally treated to spectacular views of Mt Egmont, gorgeous sunrise showing her off in all her beauty not a cloud in sight. Unfortunately by the time I got back, cleaned up and breakfast sorted the clouds had rolled in again and not a picture taken to share. Selfishly perhaps this moment feels all the more special because it was mine alone, my husband and son sleeping blissfully, to wrapped up in how gorgeous it was to think of whipping my phone out for a quick snap.

From here we started to slowly head home, we had one gloriously sunny day to explore Hawera a bit more and then the rain came back. So we took the scenic route home along the forgotten world highway to Taumarunui and then passed lake Taupo, we spent a few nights at DOC campsites along the way to break the travelling up as much as we could. Even more than ever we are longing for the day we head off, these little snippets of travel just confirm to us what we have hoped for. That this is going to be an amazing way to travel and we long to experience it without the time constraints and rush of a short little week long holiday.

Revisiting an old favourite

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Before we head off to explore lots of new places we really want to spend time at some of our favourite local spots while they are still on our back door step. So after spending a wonderful xmas day with my family having a picnic at the beach we decided a quick get away was in order.

Roughly an hour and a half from where we live is a campsite beside Lake Tarawera at a spot called the Tarawera outlet. It’s a spot we have camped at many, many times and is a spot that never disapoints. Stunningly beautiful lake, crisp clear swimming water in the lake and in the river and a relatively easy walk to a nearby waterfall. Really what more could you ask for?

It is a little bit of a drive in through unsealed forestry roads and was quite late by the time we arrived. But the joy of our new way of travelling is that within 15 minutes of arriving I was serving up xmas day leftovers to my tired wee boy and with no real set up of camp required we had time for a stroll down to the lake before bed to wind down from our very busy day.

We woke the next morning to rain and a learning experience of having parked sideways on a sloping site and spent the night slowly sliding out of bed. So after breakfast we shifted to a slightly flatter spot where we could park where the front of the bus was pointing downhill and not the side. A much more comfortable position. With the bus sorted we decided to head off for a little walk along the river.

DSC05610There is a track that follows the river until it goes through an underground tunnel and comes out at the Tarawera Falls, very beautiful with a neat swimming hole enroute but for this walk we decided just to go until Oliver had had enough and wanted to turn around. It’s rather lovely walking through the NZ bush on a rainy day, cool and damp but sheltered from the worst of the wetness. We found a spot for morning tea on some mossy boulders and hung out for some photo’s.

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Luckily in the afternoon the weather cleared and we managed a crisp but refreshing swim in the lake and the river. It was the perfect little getaway after the excitement of xmas day, a great way to shift the focus from presents and over indulgence to family and nature. And the start in a way of our farewell of to our old home and old life as we ease our way into our new one.

Lovely Lake Arohena

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My husband and I have long had a passion for camping and exploring in places a bit off the beaten track. We have done plenty of it in the eleven years we have known each other and though the addition of Oliver to the mix slowed us down a little it never stopped us. Luckily he has just as much of a love for it as we do. So naturally we were dying to take the bus somewhere we had never been before.

The opportunity presented itself this week when we had to head to Hamilton to see if we could have a towbar fitted on the bus so we could tow a car with us when we head off on our big trip. We convoyed over to Te Awamutu after work and spent our first night freedom camping in the carpark at Lake Ngaroto, our first experience of what will probably be many at freedom camping. Unfortunately our trip to Hamilton didn’t give us the answer we wanted, to fit a towbar to our bus would be a very expensive job if they could do it at all, so the dream of all travelling in our bus together just has to shift slightly and we will convoy together instead.

A short scenic drive from Hamilton out to the Arapuni lakes and around to Lake Arohena was enough to cheer us up. Oliver informed me as I was following behind Wayne in the bus that I shouldn’t lose sight of Daddy because he was our ‘favourite friend’ and we did not want to lose him. On seeing him manoeuver the bus down a winding, steep and narrow dirt road to our campsite I agreed that he was rather a handy chap to keep with us!

We secured a park right by the water as the camp only had a few other occupants and fairly quickly enjoyed an afternoon dip in the lake. After years of tenting the ease of travelling in the bus feels very luxurious, within minutes of arriving and unlatching a few drawers, moving a couple of containers we are all set up. No tents to set up, no cars and trailers to unpack. A part of me fears going back to tenting will be very hard after this experience is over.

DSC05568.JPGBest view so far from the bus windows, not bad at all to wake up to this.

Lake Arohena was far more picturesque than I had imagined. It’s a DOC (department of conservation) campsite so fairly basic, this one had the luxury of flushing toilets, a small shelter with some sinks and running water probably intended for cleaning fish as we were told by other campers it was a great spot for trout fishing and a few picnic tables and fireplaces for outdoor fires. definitely a great place to forget about the disappointment of not being able to tow our car and truly begin to appreciate how wonderful this new life in our bus is going to be.

The next day one very excited Oliver had his togs on and his Dad in the water with him before I had even washed the breakfast dishes. We didn’t have to go far or do all that much before it was time to tidy up and leave this little slice of paradise with a promise that we will definitely be back.

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Early morning swims are the best