There is a campground in Christchurch that has wormed it’s way in to my heart. It’s a fairly simple affair. It has toilets both of the long drop and the flushing variety. It also has an extra big sink in one part of the camp for those people who don’t bring their dish washing facilities with them and a few big rubbish bins. That’s about where the modern luxuries end. What it does have is lots of green space, plenty of big shady trees and a river that winds its way through it. For a gold coin donation per night anyone can come and stay for up to 28 days. When so many areas we have visited are constantly tightening their restrictions on these types of camps it’s a welcome sight to see a council choose to offer this. Whats more welcome is that this camp is open to everyone, big vehicles, small vehicles, caravans or tents. It’s wonderful to see this place full of families from near and far. As well as the usual assortment of retired motorhomer’s, overseas tourists and a few full timers like us. This wonderful mingling of everyone enjoying this place is one of the things that makes it so appealing to me.
Another big thing is of course that beautiful river. When we first stayed here it was November, the water was icy cold but Oliver was quite happy to swim and play in it on the sunny spring days. As summer arrived and things got warmer, then hotter, I braved the still fairly cold waters. Between dips in that refreshingly cool water and strategically parking to catch the shade in the afternoons we have spent a large portion of this summers hottest days here in relative comfort.
Oliver has explored this river in so many ways in the time we’ve been here. He’s spent hours building dams and experimenting with redirecting little streams of water through the rocks. Digging little pools at the edge of the water that will warm up slightly in the sun. Floating on a tube down the river then jumping off, making his way back up river and doing it all over again. Scooping up the tiny fish out of the river, watching them swim around in a bucket for a time before releasing them back into the river again. Making boats out of sticks and twigs and having boat races. Skimming stones and throwing sticks. His imagination when he is playing in places like this is endless.
Having this place as our backyard guarantees a week that flows smoothly. With plenty of time in nature, as well as those moments of connection and shared enjoyment when we go swimming together, our metaphorical cups are both full to the brim. It’s the first time we have stayed somewhere like this while Wayne is working. Because I always kind of thought that being places like this on our own during the week with no car to go anywhere just wouldn’t work. We’d feel isolated and kind of trapped or maybe even not safe. But I was so wrong. Oliver and I even spent some nights here just the two of us while Wayne was away for work. There was always enough of a mix of people around that I felt just fine. As for feeling isolated, well it turns out that I don’t mind that at all. Actually when you’ve been on the road for almost two years you welcome a camp that clears out during the day and gives you a quiet, almost private moment.
I know that when I am looking back at our time in Christchurch our weeks here at Coes Ford will be one of my highlights. Slow, quiet days, spent enjoying everything you could do down by the river.
Our trip so far has felt a little bit fast and furious, now it was time to really slow things down a bit, that is after all the greatest advantage of living on the road permanently – there is no time line and no need to rush. One of our rules since we are convoying and not all in the bus is that an hours driving a day is enough, when we left Havelock we didn’t even get close to an hours worth of travel. We were aiming for a spot just past Rai Valley but when Oliver and I arrived it was much smaller than we had thought and very full of mainly non-self contained vehicles. Since it’s a spot that is only meant for self contained vehicles it’s a little annoying, purely because we have spent considerable time and money so we can camp responsibly then we can’t park in the spots council have said self contained vehicles can because of people who aren’t doing things properly. Freedom camping is really in the spotlight here at the moment and not normally in a positive way, we really don’t want to be lumped in with the people who are taking advantage and not doing it cleanly or responsibly, so we decided to backtrack a little to a Doc campsite at Pelorus bridge. Instantly we were so grateful we did, those pesky campers did us a favour on this occasion.
Most Doc camps are fairly basic affairs, long drop toilets, a few taps to get water and not much more. Pelorus bridge has a fairly new looking kitchen facility, flushing toilets and hot showers, even a coin operated laundry facility. On top of the modern conveniences it is right next to the most glorious river, an abundance of walking tracks and a cafe just a few minutes stroll away just to top it all off. Within half an hour of arriving Oliver had Dad down by the river and by the time I had the washing on the line and the bus a bit organised I looked out the window to see Oliver pants thoughtfully rolled up to his knees but wading in water that came up past his waist. And this is mainly what our day consisted of, a short walk after lunch to a swingbridge further down the river and then back to the bus to put on our togs and head back to our bit of the river. The water was completely freezing but Wayne managed a quick swim, I got up to my knees and that was more than enough for me.
The next morning we woke feeling like we weren’t quite ready to leave yet, it was so idyllic we just wanted one more night. So we decided to take a drive out to the French Pass in the car and leave the bus just where it was for the moment. This was a drive we were never going to do in the bus anyway as there is a long windy, narrow dirt road to get there. It was interesting enough passing other cars coming the other way on some parts of it, definitely wouldn’t have been suitable for our big beast. Once again we were left in awe of the stunning views as we drove in and once we got there it was actually hard to stop taking pictures of the perfect little bay.
Even after having to do the same long, windy drive all over again in reverse this was still a trip worth making. I have always been aware of how lucky I am to call this country my home but every time I think that we have found the most beautiful spot ever down here, we drive around another bend and it just gets even more amazing. I feel so lucky to be having this time to really enjoy all the little places that we find, to soak in all the things around us and at the same time to really enjoy my time with Oliver without a lot of the everyday distractions we used to have in our lives. He is going to be five in a little over a month and his growing personality makes me very aware that normally we would be getting him ready to head off to school. It also makes me very glad that for us this is not the end of our years with him at home, instead this is a time where Wayne can have some concentrated, uninterrupted time with him like I have been lucky enough to have for the last five years. And for Oliver and I our relationship is growing and changing to, he is moving out of that little boy stage where he was so dependent on me and asserting his independence more all the time. This of course brings challenges and a fair bit of boundary pushing some days, but that is just part and parcel of parenting really. For us I think the good bits outweigh the harder so much more now than they used to. Perhaps it’s because we are both around to share the load, or because we are just having so much fun all the time, or because we have eliminated a lot of the worry and stress from our lives now. Most likely it is a mixture of all these things and I hope that we keep getting the balance right for a lot longer.