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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even now nearly three years on I can vividly remember all the stress and emotional upheaval I felt in those last few weeks before we left Tauranga in our big white bus. I never really imagined that circumstances would arise that would put us in a very similar situation again, only this time more stressful and more intense. But somehow this strange year that is 2020 managed to do just that. Lockdown, bus repairs, bus breakdowns, last minute hiccups, casual jobs becoming way less reliable than they have been for us in the past and spending way longer than we ever planned living with family. It all combined to a point where I actually wondered if the best move was just to sell the bus as she was and move on with our life. Because for most of this year it has very much felt like our life was not going anywhere, both in the literal sense and otherwise. For people who are very used to setting goals, making plans and getting on with life it’s been a super frustrating position to be in. Thankfully after one last incredibly stressful day it finally happened. We had a little sticker on the window with the right date on it and we were free to move again. We spent our last night in Tauranga parked at Memorial park, enjoying one of the awesome freedom camping spots that the area has and saying our goodbyes to good friends who are very hard to leave behind.
So where do you go first when you feel like life has wrung a whole lot of the energy out of you and you desperately want to get it back? Well we go to the beach of course. We beach hopped our way from Omokoroa to Waihi beach, freedom camping and getting back in to the swing of living full time in a moveable vehicle. There was plenty of time spent wandering on beaches and letting the sound of waves hitting the sand sooth my frazzled nerves. There was also a whole heap of appreciating the fact that we were in fact free to go wherever we wanted.
On our second day at Waihi beach we woke to black skys that promised rain was not far away so we traded our plans of a walk and more beach time. Instead we headed in to Waihi and visited the gold discovery centre. Which I have to say exceeded any expectations I had of it. It was interactive, fun and full of lots to keep both a busy young child and a couple of parents entertained for a couple of hours on a wet day. We also learnt a few things about the history of the Martha mine and the mining that continues there today.
After a night spent with family who live close by it was going to be time for us to move on again. But we still had no real firm plans for where we were going, we decided to go with it and just enjoy waking up in the morning, looking out the window to see what the day had brought us and decide where we wanted to drive to that day. Perhaps this was the delicious cure to all the frustrations of having no control that we had suffered so far this year. It sounded to us like a really good thing to try.