Our first month on the road

Unbelievably we have been living in the bus for a whole month now. So far it has been a pretty dreamy experience, it is everything I hoped it could be and a little bit more. There have not been as many issues with adjusting to it as I thought, at first there was a lot of organising to do since we had a bit of a rushed and messy final move in to the bus. But gradually over the month most things have found a place, there are still a few boxes lurking in the boot of the bus that I haven’t opened yet, perhaps a sign they are things we simply don’t need in this new life? Time will tell. Establishing a bit of a routine for Oliver is an evolving thing, we have the bed time one sorted, a major for me since Oliver will not be going to kindy or school now. At the moment with Wayne around all the time I am getting lots of time to sneak off for a walk or take some time to myself. When he’s working, night time will be my only chance for this and particularly when you live in close quarters that time to myself, to not be Mum for a while is precious.

There are still day’s where we will be somewhere, walking down a beach or through the bush and I almost have to pinch myself. It is hard to believe we are living like this now when a year ago a two week camping holiday was all the time away we could manage. I am fully expecting this experience to change a little once we have been doing it for longer, at the moment it is pretty idyllic. Moving around lots, seeing lots of interesting things and Wayne being free not to work. The periods where he is working will perhaps resemble our old life a whole lot more. I think Oliver will really miss him when he is at work now, he has had a taste of having Dad around all the time and he loves it! I am pretty sure he is not the only one. There are days where they will both just ride off together and sometimes not appear again for a few hours, normally both itching to tell me whatever fun they have discovered. I can see Oliver blossoming under all the one on one time with his Dad and I can see Wayne enjoying being a father more now that he isn’t always tired from starting work at 1am or distracted by something else he has to get done. The gift of time together is the biggest gift this lifestyle will give us.

So the goal now is to find ways to make sure we make the most of that gift and ensure we can work less and travel more. Luckily bus living is proving to be quite economical so that part of our strategy is working out. We are exploring options for a cheap or free place to park the bus while we are working in Nelson, really this is where we can save the most money. And that is after all the whole point of spending money installing a solar system and bathroom etc so that we can save money in the long run with cheaper places to park, because we don’t need the facilities at a motor camp. Although it is nice every now and then to have a real shower and laundry facilities on your doorstep. I have a new appreciation for unlimited supplies of water and washing machines that’s for sure.

We are spending most of this week in Nelson, starting the job hunting process, buying birthday presents for a certain little boy and just enjoying this beautiful city by the sea. After this we have another three weeks of freedom before coming back to Nelson for our first stint of work. This may be the last of the nicer, warmer weather before winter really kicks in so we are keen to keep moving and make the most of it. I am hopeful that the second month on the road will be just as good as the first and if we are really lucky maybe even a little bit better.

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.

 

Devil’s Boots

Every now and then when walking you will come across a track that takes you considerably longer than the suggested time frame. Maybe the track isn’t well maintained, maybe the suggested time frame is a bit optimistic and maybe you just move a bit slower than the people they thought would attempt this track. Now normally with Oliver in tow we add half an hour to most times when planning, so the suggested time of 2 hours and 40 minutes was probably going to take us 3 and a bit. When we arrived at the track we found you had to park up and walk around ten minutes through farm land to get to the start of the track.

This whole walk had been Wayne’s suggestion, he spied a place on the map called Devils boots and a track there to the Aorere caves and Druggans Dam and it was somewhere he just had to explore. On our drive in Oliver had renamed the track the devil track – perhaps he knew something we did not?

The first part of the walk to the caves was quite a climb and took us much longer than the 45 minutes suggested. But was all worth it on finding two caves, one quite large called the ballroom cave, you can easily walk inside and explore a smaller tunnel, all safe and achievable for children and Mum’s who sometimes struggle with their balance. If I was to do this track again I would turn around here, which is probably what a lot of people do.

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We wanted to have lunch by the dam so carried on. The track became narrower and narrower and very overgrown with gorse in places. So after finding the dam and enjoying a well earned lunch, we decided to head back via the 4wd track (something I would normally avoid!) it had the same suggested. And then Wayne tempted fate and said ‘It can’t be any worse than the gorse’ Well in my opinion it sure was; very muddy, slippery, very slow going. The only redeeming feature was going this way we did get some awesome views.

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Just on five hours later we made it back to the car. And as I peeled Oliver’s muddy shoes and wet socks off his little feet while he devoured whatever snacks were closest at hand I was so proud of this kid. I know he found this walk really hard at times, but he didn’t once say he couldn’t do it, he didn’t once ask to be carried. He simply kept going and even at the very end he had a smile on his little face and was making silly little boy jokes. This kid amazes me and he inspires me, because if he can do these things I sure can to….

Pupu Springs

Once we reluctantly left Totaranui Bay behind we had one more spot to visit before we left Takaka behind. Pupu springs is one of the major tourist attractions in the area, it’s a large natural spring and it’s water is amongst the clearest in the world. I think we may not have had the best viewing conditions, cloudy with a little wind which made seeing in to the spring difficult. There was a very pleasant little loop walk there and we saw ducklings swimming with their parents, always cute, so still worth a visit.

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Just down the road we found something much less popular and much more entertaining. The Pupu Hydro walkway is a two hour walk that follows a historic water race that was originally built for gold mining in 1902. In 1929 this now abandoned water race was upgraded to provide electricity for Golden Bay. After 51 years of use the Hydro station closes due to no longer functioning. The really remarkable thing is that in the same year some locals formed the Pupu Hydro society to try to retain control of Pupu hydro within the bay. By 1987, just six years later, despite opposition from the local power board they had fully restored the hydro power scheme, paid off all the loans they had to take out to do so and built a walking track at the same time. It is inspiring and this quote from one of the engineers involved with the project is that kiwi No 8 wire spirit at its best.

“All the experts said she’s had it, we might as well throw it out to the dump….. I wasn’t going to wear that lot. You can fix anything if you try. ” Jim Baird.

The walk itself was just as good as the story behind it. You climb up the zig-zag track for around half an hour and shortly after start to follow the water race. Large portions of the track along the water race you are walking along a very narrow boardwalk suspended over the water with metal railings on your other side as you are right on the edge of the cliff. Such a wonderful way to experience this place and appreciate what an amazing feat it was to build this water race in the first place.

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You follow the water race all the way along to the dam where it begins. Then you climb up and walk down the opposite side of the river to the power station where you can view inside the power station and see how it all works. Thankfully there were some very informative diagrams as well so I could put together an explanation for Oliver’s millions of questions for how it all worked.

And after all that fun something that is almost my favorite part. We head back to where the bus is parked next to a river. We cook dinner, light our fire and tuck Oliver into bed. Truly at home no matter which part of the country we are in.

A walk with a nearly five year old

Right from the start this day felt like adventure was in the air. We had a plan – to walk to Anapai Bay, which if we crossed the estuary at low tide and used the low tide track would take us about 45 minutes. So we were all ready to go by 8.30 when the tide was just starting to creep back in.

I’ve always loved walking in the bush in the mornings. Everything seems cool and fresh in the morning air and the birds singing in the trees as the sun slowly sinks through the canopy is like a joyous celebration of the new day. Getting to introduce Oliver to morning bush walks is one of the things we are enjoying lately. He’s really starting to enjoy walking now, as he gets physically stronger and quicker he seems to be taking the time to just enjoy all the things around him as he walks. Considering I am a bit of a bird lover it’s not surprising he’s learning all their names and gaining a little bit of bird love himself. This particular morning the bellbirds were out in force putting on a wonderful morning chorus.

Oliver had picked up a stick along the way, as he is quite often known to do. On hearing the bellbirds song he held the stick up behind him pretending he was a bird, even making up his own little birdsong to sing us. Once he’s done with that he periodically uses the stick to sweep leaves from the track. An extremely friendly fantail starts following us along the track, coming so close at times that you almost imagine you can reach out and catch it. Oliver begins holding his stick out in the vain hope it would land on it. He switches between this and towing it behind him, because he’s ‘a tanker truck’ until we see the sand appear between the trees. Then there is a mad run to get his first glimpse of the beach. And a mad rush by me to get him into his togs/out of his shoes so he has dry clothes left to walk back in.

I had read that this beach was ‘arguably the most beautiful in Golden Bay’ and since we are all totally in love with Totaranui Bay we were all disbelieving it could beat it. At first glance though beautiful we failed to see how it lived up to the title ‘most beautiful’. Then we found the second part of Anapai Bay, hidden behind some large rocks, a smaller beach, small but completely perfect. After swimming, exploring, picnicking and just gazing at the pristine beach and stunningly clear water, we decided an argument could be made for this being the most beautiful beach.

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On heading back to the main beach we discovered quite a few people had joined us at Anapai Bay. So after a bit more swimming, a little encounter with a shag and an attempt at making a dam in a stream, it was time to head home.

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The return journey required a little bit more encouragement for Oliver after all his days busyness. But I’m not above bribing a tired child to the top of a hill with the promise of a few lollies. And a game of Boo, hide and seek – where Oliver and Dad go ahead, hide and jump out to scare Mum when she comes along – get’s him the rest of the way down.

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It is nearly 3.30 by the time we get back to the bus. And Oliver is not the only one ready for a bit of quiet time with his feet up. But it is a happy, fulfilled kind of tiredness after a day like this. And all three of us will end it hoping for another day like this soon.

 

Totaranui Bay

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At the end of a windy, narrow dirt road about 30 kms from Takaka is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been lucky enough to visit. Totaranui Bay is home to a gorgeous big Doc campsite, the most golden sandy beach I have ever seen, crystal clear water and tons of walking tracks. It’s the place where a lot of people start the Abel Tasman coastal track, a walk that follows the coastline along the length of the Abel Tasman national park and takes between 3-5 days.

We found a wonderful spot to set up camp, views of the water from the front windows, views of the estuary from the bedroom and most importantly just a short stroll down to that beach. Our first afternoon was filled on that beach. We built sandcastles, explored the estuary when the tide was out and even though it’s late april and the water is rather crisp we all swam.

Our second day here we were keen to do one of the walks that were on offer. So mid morning we headed off to Goat Bay, it was about a 40 minute walk with a stop off at Skinner point for some great views back to Totaranui Bay. I had packed Oliver’s togs knowing he would want to swim at Goat Bay but not ours a move I did regret a little after the climb over to the bay on a surprisingly warm autumn day. We settled for paddling our feet in the ocean and very quickly killed a couple of hours before climbing back over to Totaranui bay and finally having the swim we wanted.

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Another great thing about this camp is that they have fireplaces all around the camp so you can have an open fire. Toasting marshmallows over an open fire was a pretty great way to end such a nice day and I know it’s one of Oliver’s favorite memories from our stay here.

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The next day we opted for a bit of a quieter day, most of our morning was spent riding our bikes around the camp and the little area behind the carpark that has been made in to a little bmx track. Then we took a walk with the Doc ranger and fed some extremely big eels. And in the afternoon it was back to the beach, more sandcastles, more swimming. This day is the pattern many of our camping holidays normally take, it feels familiar in its routine no matter where we are and what beach we are swimming on. Perhaps this is why Oliver is taking to our new life like a duck to water? He seems very content with this new normal, in fact I would go so far as to say he thinks this new life is much better than the old. And I can see his little mind taking in everything around him, there are moments where I can see the learning happening right in front of me. It’s not in a so called conventional way but it is learning all the same and what’s more so much of it is self-directed. As he walks through the bush he tells me ‘tree starts with t mummy’ and then spends a good 15 minutes naming things around him and what letter they start with. We write words on the beach with sticks and he counts things constantly, sometimes even doing basic addition without even really knowing what it is that he is doing. It’s amazing how much a child can just learn all by themselves if you just give them a loving supportive environment, surround them with plenty of varied opportunities to explore the world around them, read to them on a daily basis and give them as much time to play as you possibly can. For Oliver learning seems to be an almost natural thing, always evolving, always growing, always searching for new knowledge. I hope he never stops searching, growing and evolving and I hope I always take the time to see it happening.

Welcome to sunny Nelson

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It was a glorious, sunny autumn day when we arrived in Nelson. All the more glorious because the day before had been wet, windy and bitterly cold. But that cold day seemed a small price to pay to get to see snow on the mountains as we drove in to Nelson.

Nelson was the first decent sized city we had been in since Wellington so our first plans were to get some groceries and then find a place to stay for a couple of nights. We needed a little it of time to decide on exactly where we were going to next. After getting supplies and finding a spot to stay the night it was time to take Oliver to the playground we had spied on our way in. The playground was right on the waterfront so it wasn’t long before we ended up on the beach. It also wasn’t long before my son was soaked from head to toe, frolicking in the waves. The mountains with their dusting of snow looked gorgeous from the beach and as we walked, played and admired we decided this would be the first place we looked for work. It seems easier to make decisions like this now that we are actually on the road, I think the fact that we have made it this far gives us confidence that we can make anything work out if we put our minds to it.

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But we have only been travelling a few weeks and we are not ready to stop moving just yet. So we simply paused a few days, caught our breath and caught up on washing, did some research and planning as to where we were headed next and enjoyed a little taste of what Nelson has to offer. When we left we were headed towards Takaka with high hopes of adventures to be found.