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Posts Tagged ‘Camping’

It’s 2014!  2014!!  Holy Heck, where does the time go?  2014!!!

We are just at the tail end of our fifth kiwi christmas and quite acclimitised to the warmth and food traditions.

This year we made gravadlax (cured Salmon) and glazed  a giant ham.  I’m not sure how big the pig monster was that donated his limb to us, but he was a super tasty pig and we very much got huge value out of his sacrifice.

Christmas Day was lovely.  We did the usual family present opening in the morning then had some fab friends round from lunch onwards.  Lunch (the meal) lasted around four hours as we sat at the table and picked our way through the variety of stuff we’d put on the table.

In the evening we played games as one big group, Lucy included.  It was really quite lovely to have everyone contributing.  Around 9pm Lucy broke, so we wrapped her up in a duvet and sent her off to Bedfordshire.

Although it’s a bit weird, I’m really happy with how we tackled this Christmas because the waste and recycling piles were so small.  We’d really managed to keep the usual excess under control (except in the kitchen – but we did eat it all).  That made me happy.

After a few days at home we decided on a completely last minute camping trip down to Hawkes Bay, staying in Hastings, which is right by Napier.  we had an amazing time with some lovely people we’d not been away with before.

The girls enjoyed having new people to play with – especially a boy!  The dynamics of Lucy and Indy (both 5 ) and Emily worked beautifully.  Em stepped up to the big sister role and seemed more grown up than ever.

We did loads of great stuff.  We visited the National aquarium in Napier, vintage  clothes shops, looked at the Art Deco buildings, had the odd bite to eat here and there.  We went to the harbour area and hired kayaks and a stand up paddle board and had a windy but enjoyable water based adventure for a couple of hours.  Time spent chilling in the pool and back at the camp.  We also went to an amazing little Farmyard Zoo near hastings.  A really small operation, but beautifully run and such amazing value.  We spent the whole afternoon there and the kids all had their first rides on ponies.  So much excitement.  The only thing that would have impressed Lucy more was if hers had a corn on it’s head!

Overall it was just a fantastic break and we headed back on Friday 3rd.  Stopping in on the way at our friends small holding in Pukakohe where we saw a very newly born litter of piglets.  It was such an amazing place and so inspiring to talk to the owner that we rushed home and started planning chickens and bees etc.

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Last weekend was Labour weekend in New Zealand.  Celebration of the establishment of the 8-hour working day.  The movement promoted the concept of 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest.

So we celebrate this with a public holiday making a long weekend.  This long weekend we decided a group camping trip was in order and someone suggested Waihi Beach.  This is an actual place that is also a beach.  Not just a beach.  But there is a place called Waihi (without the beach part) just up the road.

Waihi is interesting for two reasons.

1) It has an open cast gold mine

2) We sat on it during our recce trip and according to our collective recollection had a conversation which was as close as we got to a single decision for us to come over here and make a go of the big move.

Last time we were passing through.  This time we were staying at the Waihi Beach Top 10 Campsite.  It’s a funny campsite this one.  Fantastic facilities, including a pretty good pool complex and sauna, games room, etc. Very nice established trees but tiny pitches.  We haven’t got a big tent by any stretch but we filled our pitch with the tent and the car.

We were right next to the bouncing pillow which was great for the kids, although we did have to become the bouncing pillow police after the kids were in bed and it was still being used after it’s closing time.

We’d really been in two minds about whether to go or not.  The weather forecast a week before was horrendous.  Rain all through the long weekend.

With very fresh memories of our previous camping trip where the forecast was for rain we were a little apprehensive.  Thankfully the forecast got progressively better throughout the week so on Friday morning we finally made the decision to go.  Hopefully we wouldn’t end up sitting in a field like the one in the photo to the left.

Well the forecast was spot on.  We used the pool and the bouncing pillow and sat talking into the evening.  We were completely unprepared for hold cold it was overnight, shivering in our sleeping bags because we hadn’t got enough clothes on.

Having had very little rest we woke early and had breakfast by 7am.  So we made the most of the situation headed down the beach.  It was absolutely stunning.  The water was flat calm and the kids were soon collecting shells and running up and down.

We met a lovely retired couple doing some long line fishing.  Long line fishing is where over a thousand meters of line is dragged out behind an electric torpedo out into open water dragging 25 hooks on the line.  The line sits for a while then you haul it back in again.  It was very exciting – they caught two Gurnards which have an amazing red with blue fringing on their fins.

We were back at the campsite by 9am and felt like we’d had half a day already and it was only just starting.

The plan for the day was to head to Karangahake Gorge.  We were planning to split into three groups.  Walkers, runners and cyclists.  We all started from different points with the plan of converging on a cafe at the same time.  I was walking with Lucy and a lovely lady from the UK, visiting friends of ours.  The walk we were on was a 3.2k loop starting off with a 1km disused railway tunnel.  The walk takes in spectacular views of the gorge and all the amazing remains of the old gold works which brought the area prosperity.  Lucy managed the whole 3.2km  on her own without being carried – I was super proud!  Emily was with the cyclists and she did fantastically as well.

The forecast for the rest of weekend was starting to look questionable so we bailed out late Saturday night.  We probably managed an all time record for packing up all our gear going from a standing start to fully packed in an hour flat!

It really is a beautiful area of the country and we will certainly be heading back there again.

 

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We were delighted to wake on day three having had a great nights sleep.  After the fatigue of the day before we really needed to recharge our batteries.  Power drinks and a sense of being on a mission had kept us going the day before, but there’s only so much sugar and caffeine can do before you crash completely. Waking up in the Ahipara campsite was very pleasant.  The only sounds were the gentle rustling of the tall trees all around us, and the gentle swoosh of the surf breaking on 90-Mile beach just outside the campsite.  We knew we were heading into very sparsely populated areas today, so we had breakfast and made a pack-up so we could be as self-sufficient as possible. The plan today was to head all the way up to the very end of the road.  Cape Reinga is not the most northerly point of New Zealand, but it is the most easily accessible northly point.  To go to the true holder of that accolade involves a fairly decent hike off road or path – not for us today. The drive was easy enough and we excitedly took note of the turning for the giant sand dunes at Te Paki on the way up, as we planned to visit on the way back down again. The last ‘end of the country’ I went to was Land’s End in the UK.  This couldn’t have been more different.  For a start you don’t get charged an extortionate fee to get ‘in’.  Second there are some modest improvements that complement the experience, not an over-developed wanna-be theme park. And so on…  It’s a lovely place.  There’s something quite compelling about driving somewhere until the road just stops.

The short walk to the lighthouse at the end of the path is sprinkled with information signs about the significance of the place to Maori culture and information about it’s general history and geography. After spending a while there, we headed back south and turned off to the sand dunes.  Emily was fit to burst with excitement by the time we’d got there.  We spent most of our time on the  smaller slopes, but decided we couldn’t leave without tackling one of the bigger slopes. How best to convey scale?  These dunes are ginourmous.  There that did the trick.  Emily led the charge to the top of the first one, with Rob closely in tow.  She fearlessly hurled herself down having barely reached the top and went like a rocket.  She absolutely loved it, right up until the point that she bashed through a clump of sand and it all went in her eyes.  By in her eyes I mean in around, under there eyelids everywhere.  So she and I walked back to the car – she was a real trooper, this was no time to flap and I was calm and she was calm.  It took a good five minutes of walking to get back where Dr Daddy had to administer improvised eye-wash station (squeezy bottle) in his improvised clinic (front seat of the car).  Eventually we managed to get all visible sand removed and although there was still some discomfort (most likely scratched eye lids) there was no lasting damage.  The others made their way back shortly after and we decided the lesson of the day was that it would be good to wear goggles!  Even though the sand detracted from the experience a little, Emily still had tons of fun and would still do it all again. The rest of the day was an uneventful drive back down the east coast to find somewhere to sleep for the night.  We found a very kiwi campsite at Hihi, functional and home made.  We sat up talking late as the wind knocked the trees around a bit.  Around 11pm the owner dropped by to tell us that it was going to be ‘a bit windy’ tonight so we lashed the tent down tight.  It turned out that a weather bomb was forecast for a bit further south than we were, but we were still likely to be on the edge of it.  Not knowing this we listened to the roar of the wind in the trees around us grow until it peaked at 1am to the point we genuinely considered getting into the car or sleeping in the kitchen building for fear of broken tree bits squashing our tent and us with it.

Whilst laying there trying to remember when the last big storm had been (and therefore when the last time the trees would have had a good clear-out of dead stuff) and considering the not insignificant logistics of transporting four peoples sleeping equipment a hundred yards through high winds we fell asleep.  I hope that doesn’t sound blasé, seem negligent or make us bad parents, but we were just so tired that we dropped off.  By the time we’d woken the wind had reduced a lot and we were able to stand down the plan to move elsewhere.

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After leaving the field day we’d left ourselves witha  bit of a challenge.  We didn’t really have a destination in mind, but we did want to get over the Hokianga Car Ferry before stopping for the night.

We topped off with petrol and caffeinated drinks in Dargaville and then pressed on North.  The drive soon took us through very beautiful country side which eventually became hilly forrest.  Part of the planning for this route was the inclusion of a visit to Tane Mahuta.  Tane Mahuta is a tree.  A famous tree in New Zealand.  Some may say a celebri-tree… Ithankyou.

So this tree… according to Wikipedia (so it must be true!) “Its age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old. It is the largest kauri known to stand today.”   So there you go.  And I have to say that it’s an impressive piece of wood to look at.

The tree is just a few minutes walk from the main road.  There is a boardwalk to guide you through and around the trunks of equally lovely but much smaller trees, which allow a sprinkling of sun light through to ground level.  Kiwi’s are not prone to over-developing tourist attractions and this is no different.  There is a modest information board and the boardwalk itself is only there because it’s crucial to protect the forrest.  As we learned (from the modest information board), Kauri roots are shallow, so trampling them with a multitude of boots and shoes with an international heritage will end up killing these huge huge trees.  And there’s not many of them left really.  Not, considering the place used to be covered with them!  However, looking at a big Kauri you can easily understand why the ship builders of previous centuries (lacking somewhat in their appreciation of the impact us people can have on the planet) thought they’d be great trees to chop down and make stuff out of.

After visiting Tane Mahuta it really was time to push on for the ferry.  We dropped out of the forrest shortly after setting off again and started to follow the coast round through Opononi and on to Rawene where the Hokianga Car Ferry departs from.

Opononi is famous (for NZ values of famous) for having a friendly dolphin.  It’s dead now.  The dolphin that is, not the town.  Although I’m not sure about the last statement really – we just passed through, taking with us just memories of the beginning of the Hokianga harbour and the immense sand dunes on the other side of the harbour entrance.

Eventually we ran out of road.  Rawene is teeny tiny.  We got in the ferry queue seemingly near the front.  It must be very frustrating to miss a ferry as they come just once an hour.  Imagine being the last car in the queue and there not quite being enough space to squeeze you on…  Anyway, that didn’t happen to us.  We got on, about 20 minutes or so after we arrived.  The crossing takes about 20 minutes and the kids (which automatically means Josie as well of course) loved getting out of the car and exploring the area for the foot passengers.  It reminded us very much of a little ferry we used to get in the Scottish Highlands – the Corram ferry, which just like our current vessel cut out hours of driving around the end of an inlet in exchange for a short hop on a boat.

Whilst traversing the harbour we planned the remainder of the day.  The plan was to eat as soon as we could after the ferry docked then push on to Ahipara at the bottom of 90 Mile Beach.  It’s impossible to know how long it will take to get anywhere, because up here what looks like a normal road on the map may turn out to be super windey or unsealed or full of cows…

Leaving the ferry we pulled up minutes later to grab some almost unbelievably good food at a little cafe called KB Cafaway.  We really just wanted to throw some food at the kids and crack on, but the very friendly lady serving us made some stunning fish and chips from locally caught fresh fish and the seafood platter was an amazing selection of yummy sea food with a generous salad and big bowl of chips.  We stopped without any expectations at all, and left delighted, very full and ready for our beds.

In the end it wasn’t too long until we got to our beds, as the remainder of the journey to Ahipara turned out to a quick one.  We arrived at the Ahipara Holiday Park in the light, but our tree-sheltered pitch got very dark very quickly and we were putting the last pegs in with torches. And that wasn;t easy… why do some campsites use a light sprinkling of rocks as their base layer. Thankfully there were plenty of stones around to use as make-shift mallets. I wasn’t sure we’d get the pegs out again in the morning, but that was a problem for another day.

There was a brief pause whilst Lucy demonstrated that you should always take a child at her word.  Emily ran off to the loo – enjoying the freedom that being a (nearly) 7 year old brings and Lucy declared that she needed the loo to.  “No you don’t” we reply, keen to get the tent up and convinced she just wanted to be a big girl like Emily.  Well, how wrong we were as she developed a vacant, slightly strained expression, wobbled her knees a bit and set about her business where she stood.  So we did take a break from putting up the tent in the end to sort out our lumberjack daughter and the small log she felled.

As we settled down, there was no chatting, no sitting up late, drinking whisky, looking at stars.  We just crashed big time.  It was a long day but promised dreams of diggers, ferries and huge fish and chips.  Tomorrow?  Tomorrow we planned to complete the part of our journey where we head north – then turn around come back again.

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Thursday morning was a bleary-eyed and very tired one.  The wind had come up over night and the tent had been pummeled and buffeted along with squally heavy rain AND the noise from the surf on the beach down below us.  Something about the three sounds together meant that we (being me and Josie) got barely any sleep, dropping off for short periods then waking again soon after.  The girls managed to sleep through it all of course, whilst we emerged from our tent thinking that maybe we’d have been better off using all the guys and ensuring they were all pulled tight before we tucked in for the night.  Note to self:  If a tent is made with eighteen guy ropes, use eighteen guy ropes.

The previous day we’d seen a sign for ‘Northland Field Days’ just a few km away outside Dargaville and wondered what it was and if it would hold any interest for us.  We’d loosely aimed to get quite a bit further north, but decided to check out the Field Days and stay for a few hours if it was worth it.

A brief stop at an i-Site (tourist information) confirmed that the Field Days sounded hugely exciting!  A bit like a county show in the UK, Natalie was especially excited (even more so than Josie if such a thing is possible) as the whole agricultural/country-side theme is something she’s been around her whole life.

As it was the first day and still a weekday, the show wasn’t overly busy, but still very well attended.  Josie read somewhere that these Field Days, which take place around the country, are a significant economic indicator.  Farmers really do go there to buy new tractors and barns and stuff.  If people are spending money in the rural economy, the whole economy is good apparently.

The first exciting thing we stumbled across was Doug the Digger.  A mini digger set-up for kids to use.  I’m not talking a kids version – this is a proper digger you could use on a building site.  The brilliant guy manning the stand invited the girls up and Lucy charged at it.  Strapped into the seat, wearing her hi-viz, the man helped her to move the bucket and the arm.  Once Lucy had led the way, Emily reluctantly climbed up, but once she was in she forgot herself and loved it.  The man changed his patter to suit Emily’s age, a very rare skill for adults, to correctly pitch their jokes and teasing at the right level given the rapid changes kids go through as they grow.  He was more hands-off with Emily and let her control the digger without him helping.  How often do you get that kind of experience?

We split up for while leaving Rob and Nat to watch some Spanish Riding (which turned out to be english dressage by a Nana in a Spanish dress) whilst we took the kids to the Fonterra tent for some free dairy products and colouring in.  The kids managed to get some temporary tattoos all the way up their arms of various Fonterra brands whilst we were in there, which then stuck around for days and days and days.

After joining up again we were all starting to flag so headed for food with thoughts of an early exit.  Finding an angus beef stand we ordered some burgers and sausages.  It was startling how stupid the woman serving us was.  We had a ticket which quite clearly showed we had ordered 3 burgers and two sausages.  She seemed unable to match up the ticket with the food being presented to her from the grill.  First we got one burger, then two sausages, then we said we wanted two more burgers, so she tried to take the sausages away.  We explained the order was three burgers, so she gave the next two to the woman behind us in the queue.  We explained we had ordered three, so she tried to give us three more.  I was losing patience and civility by this point but thankfully (whether by coincidence or judgement) she managed to finally get our order right.

Before we left I really wanted to go and catch a fire brigade demonstration of what happens when you pur water on burning oil.  This is something everyone should see (watch the video for the critical moment!) as it’s so impressive.  Rob also had a go on a drink-driving awareness game, which involves a test of dexterity and coordination whilst wearing some goggles which disorientate you as if you were a bit drunk.  The woman who went before him showed barley any difference in her performance – used to it maybe!  Rob however, managed to entertain everyone by falling on his backside.  This attracted the attention of a local reporter who interviewed Rob for one of the smaller Northern papers.

Our final adventure of the day was to have a ride in a cherry picker owned by the power company.  A fifteen meter high ‘bucket’ used for working on live lines – the man explained to Emily and Lucy that the shaft was made of fibreglass and that his working day was spent in this ting working on live 11,000 volt power lines!  They hadn’t got a clue what he was talking about, but I was very impressed.

A few hours turned out to be enough for little people and big people who hadn’t had any sleep.  We really can’t recommend going along to one of these Field Days enough if you get the chance.  A fantastic day out and amazing value at just $10 for adults to get in.  Doug and the bucket ride were free and there were some great deals inside as well.

For us it was time to move on and strike north.  We weren’t sure how far we’d get having had our detour, but we had a full tank of gas, we were wearing shades and eating M&Ms.

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Summer at Last

Well what a summer it hasn’t been.  It seems like it’s taken so long for the rain to go and for us to have some reliable hot weather.  I have a couple of photos of a flooded camp ground to add at a later point in time… until then I’ve included some photo’s of our first camping trip to Raglan.

We passed through Raglan briefly earlier in the year, but it was mid-winter and we had to enjoy the beach wearing waterproofs and wooly hats.  This time we had the weather and a fine reason to go – birthday celebration!  A friend of ours had clocked up another year so a bunch of families all decamped to Raglan for the weekend.

It’s only a couple of hours from Auckland and I’d argue easier to get to than the Coromandel, on the opposite coast.  Being west coast it does mean the beaches can be a bit more serious and Raglan is known as a fine surfing destination.

Being west coast it’s also black sand – which gets everywhere!  Lucy in particular appears to be a magnet for black sand.  She was so utterly filthy within a few minutes of getting out of the car.  No matter what we tried she’d be coated again within minutes of being cleaned.  We gave up.

Raglan town is a surfy, arty, laid back place, although you can feel a little like a walking dollar sign wandering around the interesting craft and clothes shops.  Some shop keepers are friendly without being pushy, but others put on the hard sell when you walk through the door.  All minor stuff though – it’s a lovely place in general.

On the Saturday we played on the fantastic jumping pillow in the morning then went into town for lunch.  We sat by the river watching the local kids jumping off a small wharf into the fast running estuary below.  It took some getting used to watching these guys fling themselves around.  After while you started to get a sense for how they were watching out for each other and how instinctive their feel of the water was.

The footbridge between the town and camp ground crosses the estuary and is a magnet for hot kids on sunny days wanting to cool off.  About five meters or so above the water, it doesn’t look to high from a distance, but when you look out over the edge it seems higher.  I think it must be listed in a tourist guide as a ‘must-do’ type activity based on the number of people there.  Although it was tempting to cool off in the water, none of us were tempted to leap into it from several meters up!

Instead we headed back to the camp ground and the beach which runs alongside the estuary.  At high tide there’s a nice chunk of beach and a safe swimming area.  The kids mucked about on body boards and we ended up making a huge sand construction.  By we I mean me and the kids, whilst the other adults were relaxing in the sun.

We checked out the surf beach on Sunday morning, but only stayed for a quick play.  Ice cream was calling and we headed to town to treat the kids to a Kapiti Ice Cream tub and the adults to some nice coffees.

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