We left Murchison amidst a torrential downpour and decided that a morning pitstop at a nearby restaurant for a strong coffee and a time warming our selves in front of there fire was completely justified. This was our fifth day in a row with little to no sun and the futures forecast looked just as bleak so our plans to freedom camp a few nights at our next destination had to change a little. When we arrived at the completely adorable little lakeside camp at Lake Rotoiti we could almost feel the weather had done us a favour. There is not much at Lake Rotoiti and the little town of St Arnaud that sits beside the lake. A general store/petrol station, a few places to eat and a wonderful information centre to help you explore the array of tracks that are on offer here. There are three camps around the lake but at this time of year only the small one at Kerr bay that also offers some powered sites is open. We found a spot tucked in the trees where we could plug in to power and ride out whatever weather was thrown at us over the next couple of days. That first afternoon was very wet, we managed one short excursion to the lake front but even wrapped up in jackets it wasn’t much fun. But then again we experienced that sudden ceasing of the rain and the sense of release it brings as you explore this place the rain was hiding from you.
That night was one of the wettest we have spent in the bus and with the fresh snow on the mountains around us it was the coldest so far. Collecting firewood to keep our little fire burning has become a part of our weekly routine, luckily it is something that Oliver enjoys helping with and so far we have found no shortage of pinecones to collect.
Our second day at the lake we had enough of a break in the weather to do the short honeydew walk close to the camp. Lake Rotoiti is a significant area for the countries conservation efforts, it is one of six mainland predator free islands, where essentially they use the things they have learnt on these off shore sanctuarys and put them in to practise on the mainland. They have a lot of beech forest here and it is part of the reason this spot was picked. There is a bug that lives on the beech trees and creates honeydew, before introduced pests the honeydew played an important part in our countries eco system as it is a great source of food for the birds. Wasps have largely hijacked the honeydew for themselves so here as well as trapping the four legged pests they try to eliminate the wasps as well. It is clearly working as the bird life here is abundant and even in the cold, damp weather we had you could smell a strange sweetness in the air from the honeydew.
The next day we walked from Kerr bay to West bay. It was a pleasant lake side track and the sun even attempted to shine through at some points. We decided as we walked that we were not quite ready to leave and we would stay two more nights. We were all in love with this spot, the view of the snow covered mountains towering over the misty lake was a sight that would never get old. As well as having a multitude of walking tracks to keep us busy. So with the next days forecast looking like our clearest yet we planned a walk to Whiskey falls. It was three hours return but by now that is well within Oliver’s capabilities. We woke to a fairly cold morning so took our time to get ready and head on our way. The track was relatively flat and after the initial part leading down from the road followed the lake quite closely, this side of the lake was quite different to where we were camped. There were several exposed rocky portions to cross and you could feel the air getting cooler and cooler as you gradually turned the corner towards those snowy peaks at the far end of the lake. Oliver was the first up the hill to the falls and his cries of joy would have made the long walk worth it even if the falls weren’t as beautiful as they are.
Just like that our time here had been filled. We had enjoyed it all, even the rainy times spent stomping in puddles. One of the things I did worry about a bit when coming to live in a bus is how we would find the rainy times in a confined space. But this week has been a joy! Hopefully it is a sign of what the rest of winter will bring us…
After our big few days on the Abel Tasman track we were keen for a bit of a rest and relaxation. As our travels after this were heading inland we decided on two nights at Kaiteriteri beach at the camping ground there which is just a short stroll across the road from one of the areas trademark golden beaches. It is literally just around the corner from Marahau where we stayed after completing our tramp so it was a very relaxed drive there and an early check in. And our first day disapeared easily catching up on washing, strolling on the beach and playing on the flying fox at the playground next door. The perfect contrast to the busyness of our previous day.
The next morning we woke to the sound of rain on the roof and the feeling that the winter weather is on it’s way. Deciding that a bit of a day out in the car would be a good way to kill our rainy day we headed back up the Takaka hill planning to visit Harwoods Hole. But when we arrived the rain got much heavier so the 45 minute walk to the viewing area was just not going to happen. Instead we headed to the nearby Ngarua caves.
As we drove down the driveway to the caves it was very foggy and the area really couldn’t have looked less inspiring. But it was something to get us out of the car before driving back and it wouldn’t be raining in the caves so we brought tickets for the next tour. Well as sometimes happens when you go into something with low expectations this cave tour was actually a very cool experience. Oliver knew it would be from the minute they gave us special hard hats to wear, perhaps Mum took a little more convincing.
With only two other people joining us on our guided tour we had plenty of time to make our way through the cave and we spent around 45 minutes walking through, being told the history of the caves and a little about how they are formed. The cave had lots of cave coral as well as stalagtites and stalagmites and one large open area in the middle of the cave which they call the cathedral. Apparently all caves have a cathedral and this is normally the most beautiful part of the cave, this one definetly was. The formations in the cave are made of marble so even the stalagtites that have broken are beautiful because you can see the marble inside. We even got to see some moa bones that had been discovered in the cave and hold a thigh bone of a moa. And at the end we climbed out via a little ladder just to add that little bit more adventure to the whole experience.
It was the perfect way to spend a rainy morning and only made better by the fact that once we arrived back at the bus the sun had miraculously come out. So Oliver and Wayne jumped on their bikes and I put on my walking shoes and we headed for a lookout at one end of the beach. When you live in such a small space there is a real magic feeling when the rain clears and the sun comes out. The outdoors has become so much more a part of our living space now that our house has become so much smaller, so the impact of a rainy day is amplified. Hence seeing that glorious sun breaking through after such a wet morning makes your steps feel lighter and your whole day feel better.
We truly have had an extended summer during our time exploring these golden beaches but it has finally drawn to a close. Perhaps now was the perfect time to move away from the beaches for a while and see what the inland parts of the south island have to offer as well. If it is half as amazing as what we have seen so far I am sure we will love it.
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.
Once 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.
It 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.
The 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.
It 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.