Most thrilling beach walk of my life…

Our time in golden bay was coming to an end, we had loved everything about our time here and it was hard to think of leaving just yet. So we decided that three nights at a place called Wharariki beach past Cape Farewell would be a great way to finish of our time in this special part of the country. It is literally at the end of the road and there is a small camp ground there, a cafe that opens up over the summer and as we would discover a magical beach.

Once Wayne had dazzled me with his expert parking skills and squeezed the bus in to the most awkward spot to date, we had been impressed by the spotlessly clean campsite facilities and said hello to the resident peacocks and horses. It was time to go check out the beach. The beach is only accessible by a twenty minute walk through the surrounding farm land so timing it that we would arrive at low tide we headed off. Oliver is getting used to these little excursions and he was keen to get to the beach so it was a quick trip in. Once we made it to the top of the first sand dune and saw the beach start to unfold before us he took off running, smile so wide with excitement at what he had discovered.

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The whole place is just immense, huge expanses of sand dunes, enormous rocks jutting out of the beach and the sea and when the tide is fully out it seems to take forever just to walk to the water’s edge. The boys took off at a run and I got distracted trying to catch all the beauty on camera, by the time I caught up they were in their first sea cave pretending to hold up the roof like some miniature super hero.

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From there we made our way along the beach and found baby seals frolicking in the tidal pools left by the outgoing tide. They are obviously used to people stopping to watch them as the one female seal who was sitting on a nearby rock watching all the babies didn’t do much more than open one lazy eye to check what all the oh-ing and ah-ing was about as everyone on the beach gathered to watch the babies playing in the water.

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When Oliver had lost interest in watching seals swim we moved on down the beach to explore the rocks at the far end of the beach. It was a dull, overcast day and the gray skies only made the whole place seem more wild and untamed. Not many people had come any further on to the beach once they had seen the seals and snapped a few photo’s so we had this part of the adventure all to ourselves. I feel sorry for those who came so far only to miss some of the best bits this place had to offer. This end of the beach the rocks became a maze of huge sea caves, really just a small childs paradise and over an hour easily slipped away weaving in and out of the rocks, exploring rock pools and soaking in all the raw beauty around us.

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It was after 4pm by the time we convinced our wet and tired little boy to start heading back towards the other end of the beach. We stopped by the seal pool for one last look at the gorgeous babies. As if by magic as we started to walk slowly away all the seals hopped out of there little pool and headed back towards the ocean where the rest of the adult seals were. Incredible how these tiny little creatures need no mother calling to them, no sign they had communicated in any way what so ever and they all knew it was time to head home, even the one that had wandered off around the corner alone followed the same internal call. So with that it was time for us to head home too, my baby needed slightly more encouragement than the seals after all his climbing through caves but we made it back all the same.

This beach was such a contrast to all the golden little bays we have been enjoying in this area, you can see how the harsh winds, rains and tides have left there mark on the place. Building the towering sand dunes you climb over to get to the beach itself, carving its mark in the rocks in the water and on the beach, smoothing away everyone’s footprints at the end of the day and bringing it back to the way it should be. Pure, unspoilt beauty.

This would sadly be our only visit to Wharariki beach. The next day the wonderful weather we had been experiencing came to an end and it rained so much that by the day after that the road in to the camp was completely flooded. Luckily we had planned on staying another night anyway, so we spent a day playing card games, checking on the flood waters and getting friendly with the two horses that were living in the campground. Not what we had hoped for but nice to have a couple of quiet days where we didn’t do too much before we began the journey back to Nelson. Wharariki was the perfect end to our time in Golden bay and it truly showed me you just never know what you might find at the end of 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.

Taranaki here we come!

With the first of february looming and knowing that we would be without our bus for at least a few weeks while it had its renovations done we decided on a weeks long holiday in the Taranaki region before that happened. It would be our longest trip in the bus to date and we would also be away on my birthday, brilliant timing really.

Keen to break the travelling down up a bit we set off after Wayne finished work with the goal of making it to a place called Lake Whakamaru. We had dinner on the way and arrived to find a very large tree filled campsite beside a lake with stunning views across the other side of the lake. Oliver was keen to explore so we crammed in a swim (for him) and a walk along part of the cycle trail that passes by the campsite before bed.

The next day was my birthday and we woke to rain on the roof of the bus and clouds that promised a very wet day. So it was an early start to our days journey and the decision was made that we would cover a lot of ground in the rain and make it all the way to New Plymouth. Our first stop was a little town called Piopio, we stretched our legs down the main street and found a charming little art gallery/gift shop to kill some time in. This of course isn’t of much interest to a four year old boy (or his father!) so the next stop needed to include a bit of adventure. Wayne had a spot in mind that he had driven past many times when he used to travel for work but never had the opportunity to stop at.

Not long after we came out to the coast we found it, the three sisters and elephant rock. We arrived at lunch time and on reading the signs realised it was a walk you could only do at low tide as you had to walk along the edge of the water. Deciding that the tide was on its way out but still had a long way to go we settled on having our lunch and a play on the small beach by the car park instead. But after an hour had passed and we watched how quickly the tide was receding we re-thought this plan and decided to just get in our togs, give the tide another half hour to go out and go for it. Most of the ten minute walk around the water was only knee deep so definitely safe. We got to a point where we could see the beach just around the corner and thought our plans may be foiled as the water looked to get considerably deeper. But a few metres through water just above my waist and we were at a delightful little sea cave.

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DSC05618Once we had explored that it was just a short wade through waist high water to the beautiful black sandy beach. Strewn with drift wood and rocks, turbulent surf ahead and high cliffs gouged with small caves at the base to the side, it was a wonderful beach to explore and hunt for treasures as we made our way around to the three sisters.

DSC05643It was just a short and easy walk around to where you could see the three sisters and elephant rock and with the beach all to ourselves it only added to the sense of adventure and discovery.

DSC05656The three straight pillar like rocks are the three sisters and the rock shaped like an upside down v is the one called elephant rock. Maybe it was the rain or our imaginations working very well but while we were there we all could see a vague resemblance to an elephant like creature. Something I now fail to see in any of my photo’s, but for a brief moment on the beach it was there! So we headed back exploring more on our way and enjoying the relative calm and much lower water to wade through on our way back.

DSC05626It was a pleasant drive through to New Plymouth from there and that night as we settled in for a night of freedom camping at the Okato Domain we all agreed that this is exactly what we signed up for when we brought the bus. The time and opportunity to share these little treasures with each other, to explore and enjoy the beauty our country has at pretty much every corner of the road. And to expose Oliver to that sense that he can step off the footpath, wade through the water and find a beautiful little spot hidden just around the next bend. To top off a pretty amazing 36th birthday the clouds lifted briefly off Mt Egmont and we got a glimpse of the beautiful Maunga before bed. This holiday I knew already was going to be everything we had hoped and more.

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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

Freedom

Since around April this year my little family have talked, planned, dreamed and hoped for the day we could go away in a house bus. Unsurprisingly the last week waiting for our bus to be finished at the mechanics has been very, very long. At first we were optimistic it may be done by the Tuesday. Then we thought Wednesday would be great as it was Waynes first day off work. By Thursday my patience was all gone.

But finally on Friday we got the bus back and after a long boring day for Wayne sitting at the VTNZ testing station we were legal and more than ready to hit the road. Unfortunately with only one night left before Wayne had to be back home for work, but we were definetly not going to let this opportunity pass!

We headed to Mclaren’s falls just outside of Tauranga for our first night away in the bus. Oliver and I arrived in the car slightly ahead of Wayne. We had plenty of parking places to choose from and found one that definetly ticked our two main boxes, flat and with a nice view.

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Not a bad view while I cook dinner.

The local ducks and geese who currently had all there babies in tow gave us something interesting to watch while we ate dinner. And after a little stroll down to the water it was time to tuck Oliver into bed.

Mclarens falls park boasts a delightful cafe and an animal park. Both were on the agenda for our saturday. So nice to walk out the bus door and along the walking paths by the water to have breakfast, followed by a stroll around the animal park then back to the bus for a bite to eat, a rest in the shade and a quick tidy up so we were ready to leave when we wanted to. And as I tidied the bus I watched my two boys sitting watching the ducks and talking to each other. These moments are one of my big reasons for doing this, the peaceful togetherness we seem to find when we disconnect a bit and head off into nature is something I want more of for my family.

And just like that our first trip in the bus is done. The more time we spend in her, the more we put our own little stamp on her I can truly see us living and enjoying ourselves in her. Now we are home, planning the next trip away….

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