Time for another pause in our travels.

It had been six weeks since we left Blenheim behind in search of new sights to see and places to explore. Now as we left Wanaka our travels were drawing to a close for a bit as we planned to stop for another stint of work. We were heading for Invercargill as Wayne had a few contacts there he could approach about work. Slowly we made our way along the Clutha river, we found a spot beside the Clyde dam to stay a few nights and enjoy the cool blue beauty of the water. Then we headed on through Roxburgh and then to Gore where we stopped for the weekend before heading in to Invercargill to job hunt.

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One of the first and biggest questions we get about the way we live is how we earn money, how we find work. It is to be honest the part of this whole journey that in the planning stages we just had to confidently tell ourselves we would make it work even though we weren’t entirely sure how it was going to go. Our experience finding work in Invercargill is probably the easiest it could possibly be. Wayne headed out on a Monday morning to start looking for work, by lunch time he was back at the bus having visited a few businesses and employment agencies he had a possibility of a job. By three o’clock he had a phone call confirming he had a job in Gore and would start Wednesday. I now would confidently tell anyone that finding work is the easy part of this kind of life. Not being fixed to one particular town/place is actually such an advantage the fact that the work is an hours drive away is no problem at all and if we are ever somewhere that work isn’t readily available we can simply move on to somewhere that it is.

So now we are settling in at Gore, the funny thing is that this is a town we probably wouldn’t have even stopped at on a normal holiday where time is short. But it is a lovely little rural town, there are plenty of options here for camping and the people here have been incredibly friendly. We even get delivered a local paper twice a week by a nice old gentleman on a mobility scooter flying a pirate flag, nothing says welcome like an old pirate delivering you a paper! We’re also looking forward to plenty of weekends away during this stint of work as there are plenty of places within a few hours drive that we can make it to for a weekend.

The week Wayne started his new job it marked one year since we moved out of our house and in with my parents. I look back now and can so clearly remember how busy, how hard that time was on so many levels, but I also have lots of great memories from that stage of our lives. I’m also so grateful we were brave enough to make that leap of faith, sell up, move back home with my family and then set to work making our big dream a reality. It’s amazing how much a year can change your lives, amazing how much a year can change you.

Beachside living.

Some days the drive is as much of an experience as the destination. The drive through the Buller gorge to Westport is one of those times, you wind along beside the river all the way down to the coast and it is not short on stunning views. When there is enough to keep a five year old boy entertained just by looking out the window, chatting about what he can see you know it is a good drive.

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We arrived in Westport and made our way to our first spot on the west coast. It was an NZMCA camp, right on the beach and with bike tracks running right behind it. For only $6 a night it really feels like we have won the lottery when we arrive at these spots and find we get a view of the ocean from our lounge, that we can have sand between our toes within mere moments of stepping out of the bus. It has been a good while since we have had a spot beside the beach so we were all a little excited to get some beach time in. And this beach proved to be a goody, sandy, big and with an impressive amount of driftwood running the length of the high tide mark, more scattered higher from past storms. Oliver had the joy of being the first to spot a seal on this beach. We were strolling along, I was taking photos and Wayne was skimming stones when Oliver’s little voice calmly says ‘Mum I see a seal on that log’. There it was probably only 15 metres away, a young seal lounging in the driftwood trying to have its afternoon nap.

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Westport is only a small town but it was extremely easy to fill the days we spent there. The museum that is attached to the information centre is well worth a visit, small but well put together displays about the local coal mining history kept us all amused for almost an hour. We spent a morning on the cycle trails behind our camp, rode out to the river mouth and watched a ship come in, watched the huge waves tossing a tree in towards the shore and marvelled at the power of the ocean. We built sand castles, collected driftwood and built a shelter around one of the many big logs that are scattered along the beach, roamed the beach in the morning and at night. We also did the Cape Foulwind walkway. The walk goes from one bay up to a view of a seal colony and then along the cliff tops to a lighthouse. It took us just on an hour to get to the light house with plenty of stops along the way to read information panels and gaze at seals.

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But I would say the highlight of our time in Westport for Oliver was that there was another family staying at our camp at the same time as us with two children, one of whom was a five year old boy. We saw a few young children during the first school holidays that we were away but since then we just don’t seem to have come across any. So Oliver had a great time playing on the beach, riding bikes and playing monster trucks with our temporary neighbours. He is now keen to see if we can find other children at every new camp that we arrive at and I am glad that it is coming in to summer soon when this is going to be a more regular occurrence. I have no doubt that he is thriving with his main play mates being Mum and Dad, but everyone craves connection with their peers sometimes. For now though it was time to leave Westport behind and head further up the west coast in search of some more beaches to call our temporary home.

Four nights at lake Rotoiti

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.

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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.

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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…

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A few last days at the beach

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

 

Caves, waterfalls and mazes, Oh my!

As soon as we arrived at our camp at Port Tarakohe, just past Takaka I knew this was a place we would enjoy spending time in. We were staying at an NZMCA camp and the location was gorgeous, view of the water, large area for Oliver to ride his bike and close to plenty of bush walks.

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On our trip in I had seen a sign that said Labrinth Rocks, so we decided this was a great thing to check out with the afternoon we had left. If you are in this area with children (or are just in touch with your inner child) you must check this spot out! It is a natural rock formation that is basically a maze and hidden throughout the rocks and trees are all sorts of toys. We spent a good hour walking, spotting hidden treasures and playing a hilarious game of hide and seek. Some parents have clearly had a laugh while hiding toys with there children. I’m undecided which is my favourite, the severly underdressed barbie, the lego man perched in the skull or the many toys artfully suspended in branches – poised for action.

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The next day we were up early and on our way to our first walk of the day. Something I haven’t mentioned about Wayne is he has a bit of a fascination with tunnels and caves. If there’s one within walking distance it’s normally on the agenda for us to go see it. Todays cave was the Rawhiti Cave and had a suggested time frame of two hours return. The track followed the river for a while before climbing steeply for around half an hour. Oliver was like a little mountain goat scrambling up the track, literally leaving me in the dust in this rush to get to the cave, maybe the obsession runs in the family? Once there the climb proved to be worth it, Rawhiti cave is a phytokarst where plants and calcium work together to ‘grow’ the stalagtites and stalagmites. It’s large and open and the water dripping down from the ceiling as the morning sun streams in is quite a pretty picture.

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Once we had rested a bit back at the bus we headed to Wainui Falls. As we drove to the start of the track we got our first look at the golden sandy beaches that give Golden Bay its name. And as we followed the well maintained and obviously well used track to the waterfall we got our first look at the lush rainforest, full of Nikau palms that is common in this area. It is so different to the bush we are used to walking in, it’s so green and vibrant, so alive. It was a pleasant and easy walk to the falls with a swing bridge to cross just to make it a bit more interesting for Oliver.

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That night we took advantage of the fact that the boat club next to our camp opens for dinner on a sunday night and wandered over for a meal. The people who ran the restaurant were all very friendly and full of tips for places to see and things to do while we are in the area. They made Oliver a little man made out of marshmallows to go with his ice cream sundae and let him ride in the service elevator downstairs when we left. I truly think the people we are meeting along the way are just as much a treasured part of this journey as the sights we are seeing. I love to think about what it is teaching Oliver meeting people like this, kind, helpful people who go out of there way to make a small childs day just that little bit more special. I hope it teaches him that we are only strangers until someone makes the effort to smile and say hello. And that no matter how different people might appear from the outside, once you say hello it isn’t hard to find common ground.

The next day we followed one of the suggestions we had been given and did a walk at the Grove. It’s a very short but very worthwhile thing to do in this area. Lovely bush to walk through, lots of interesting rock formations and a great view from the top.

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Our three nights here went so quickly because there was simply so much to do. It had all been great and as if to finish it all off nicely on our last night as we went for our evening walk down past the boat ramps we saw a seal sleeping on the rocks in the last of the days sun. It was the first time Oliver had seen a seal that close up and there is something about there big beautiful eyes that never gets old for me. Truly the perfect ending to three perfect days.

 

 

It’s back and better than before

So when we dropped our bus off to be renovated we were hoping it would take a month for all the work to be completed. Just to continue the theme of our journey in to bus living the renovations have taken much longer than we wanted as well. But finally almost seven weeks after we dropped her off the day had arrived to pick her up. Wayne had been popping in most weeks to check on the progress but I had only visited once and at that time everything was still pulled apart and not yet put back together. So I was actually a little nervous of what I would find, would I like it? Because if I didn’t there was no changing it now.

Thankfully I absolutely loved the end result. A lovely bathroom, surprisingly compact but still roomy enough to be usable. Lots of extra ventilation, a nice new oven and fridge installed and lots of little touches like extra draws under the bed, a shelf above the kitchen window, a pull out spice rack in an empty space we had beside the oven. And then the fire, I am so incredibly grateful we decided to just go ahead and put in the fire. With a lovely stone tile hearth and timber surround it really turns the space into a little house. Instantly my mind is drawn to those south island winter nights that we will be experiencing soon and how wonderful it will feel snuggled up in front of that fire.

I know the last few months I have questioned at times if we should have just brought a bus that was already in a livable state and didn’t need renovations. I am 100% glad now that we chose to take the risk and buy this bus, we have something now that is far nicer than what I had ever imagined we would be travelling in and something that we hope we will find a place for in our lives long after we settle down again.

It is incredibly hard to take photo’s in such a long narrow space and I fully intend to spend some time figuring out the best way to do it with the camera. I will probably leave that until I have had a chance to put all our stuff in and get all the little finishing touches in place. But for now I actually had better luck on my phone, so here’s a few of what the inside looks like now.

cofcofcofcofcofIMG_20180320_185707.jpgAt the moment it feels like I have a huge amount of things to do before we leave and a very small amount of time to do it in. But the reward is definetly worth it at the end so we will just put our heads down and get it sorted. For now I am enjoying all the little exciting things along the way, like turning our fridge on for the first time today and tucking Oliver up in his bed in the bus knowing that this time there’s no countdown until it goes away to be fixed. That this time it’s our home for as long as we choose to be 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.

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.