I have been having this internal debate for the last few months about which of the two bays I prefer: Tasman Bay or Golden Bay. They both mean beach, the elements, tides, and now summer, to me.

Our summer started a week before Christmas and has not stopped yet. I think I can get used to that!

Summer really hit us when we arrived in Upper Moutere for house sitting (Hannah has mentioned this here). Alina and Niko from Hamburg came for a visit there, and, girl, can she take pictures! Not only that, but she was so nice as to give them to us, a memory for our special time at the hopkiln. Thanks, thanks, thanks! Here are a few:

hopkiln1 hopkiln2 hopkiln3 hopkiln4 hopkiln5 hopkiln6 hopkiln7 hopkiln8 hopkiln9 hopkiln10Ach, there’d be so many more I could post…

We were lucky to meet Amanda, Dan, Nika and Ciela on our travels – they enriched our lives with stingray watching, cockling + mussling, and playpals for the kids. We met on and off over 4 weeks in amazing places: Motueka, Collingwood, Totaranui, Pohara and Marahau.

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No shit!

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Abel Tasman Park knocks me off my feet every single time. I can to dig the golden sand all day and play with the tides. Tractors and boats in Marahau are a combination of awesomeness almost too much for Elliott, especially sitting in a boat pulled by a tractor. In Marahau I also discovered bamboo as a building material for all sorts of things. So far I made: cups, a bundle bow, a paddle + a raft. But this may warrant a separate post.

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Otis and I on our first overnight hike ever

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Hey, cowboy

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Elliott bringing home the ba..mboo

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We arrived in Golden Bay four weeks ago and followed the road right up to Collingwood.

Sleepy and laid back, it is situated on a tiny tip of land separating the mouth of the Aorere River, in the Ruataniwha (“Taniwha’s den”, or, even scarier, “Two Taniwhas”?) inlet, and the calm waters of Golden Bay.

There is fishing to be done, and Otis would be doing this all day at the moment. He went fishing with Gary, the camp manager, at high tide off the pier one day. They didn’t catch anything, but later on, Gary came around with two smoked Kawhai fillets. Absolutely delicious, and luckily for me, Otis likes the idea of fishing better than actually eating the fish once it’s smoked.

Days passed just combing the beach on the way to the old steam train (“it looks like a rocket!”) playground, or the Courthouse Cafe, or the place where you get real fruit ice cream. Summer is great, and in a place like this, days rolled into one.

My shirt’s ripped now, I haven’t worn shoes for a couple of months, and my only shorts can stand by themselves with salt (hang on, they’re Cactus pants, so they do that anyway).

There’s a piece of land for sale at the corner of the beach. It would nicely fit a bus. We could build a loo and shower, and a hut for work&play and we’d be set. It even comes with a wrought iron gate.

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Holidays are fulfilling, with Hannah’s sister and family coming for a visit. We’re at Para Para beach now and it doesn’t get much closer to beach life: swimming, digging, lazing around, waiting for the tide to return, more swimming. It feels great to be in tune with the tides and to recognize them as your main indicator for what to do with your hours of the day. The kids have lots of cousins to play with all day, and on one and the same day, Otis learns to ride his bike we’ve been lugging around since Wanaka, and Elliott masters the balance bike. Great stuff! In my mind, I already see bike trips, camping trips and explorations of unknown territories.

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IMG_7918We’re passing through Takaka, and coming to Pohara Boat club, continuating the maritime theme. We see stingrays, a pirate ship with a Cafe on it, and meet up with Amanda and Dan and their two kids again, who we met in Motueka a few weeks before. Fantastic :)!

Takaka itself is the hippie center of the universe, or at least of the southeastern part of the northwest of the South Island. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a clothing bell or somebody’s aura. It’s lively, colourful, musical and generally BO-ie. I’m enchanted and am trying to imagine what our boys will be into when they’re 20.

Oh, we also went to Wharariki beach, one of my favourite beaches in New Zealand. Seas of sand and seas blow my mind, and the sandblasting is invigorating. We can’t get past this place without getting some nice dune surfing in. To my delight, Otis really loves it.

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IMG_7898IMG_7862 IMG_7900 IMG_7903 t-roll o-roll

Oh yes we are! Check out the Jan/Feb issue in stores now to see this beautiful photo essay featuring us and Liberty, shot and written by the super talented Guy Frederick. Thanks heaps you fullas xx. northandsouthmag2

Growing up, it seemed like all of Christchurch migrated north to Nelson and Golden Bay for summer. Having now spent 3 weeks in the area, it’s easy to see why. It has rained for half a day since we’ve been here, the roadside stalls are packed with summer fruits and berries, and the real fruit ice creams call our name at every bend.

It feels good to be on the road again. The last few months haven’t involved much traveling. After leaving Punakaiki we headed to Christchurch to welcome my new niece into the world and stayed until just after Christmas. We tried to get as many cuddles in as possible before heading north to make a house-sitting engagement in Upper Moutere by New Year’s Eve. As wonderful as this time with family was, I’m going to skip over it for expedience’s sake, and let the pictures do the talking. Suffice to say, we loved seeing you all and miss you now we’ve gone.

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In Upper Moutere, we were expecting to stay in the bus, watering the garden and feeding the animals to help out, but were treated to a two bedroom holiday house in a converted hop kiln, set in stunning Tuscan-style countryside. The plum tree was dripping fruit, the courgettes, lettuces, and herbs in the garden were screaming to be eaten, the beaches and cafes were an easy drive away and we thoroughly enjoyed having a proper holiday.

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On leaving, we headed into nearby Motueka to stay a couple of nights at a freedom camping spot by the salt-water baths. In such a tidal area, these are a real treat. Filled by the sea at high tide for all-day swimming, we’ve been making the most of them in the sweltering weather. We met our first other Family-On-The-Road, and the boys have been having wonderful time playing with two girls their own ages. At low tide we’ve been cockling, and have dined extravagantly on buttery, garlicky cockles with coriander. Foraged food is so satisfying.

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We’re heading over to Golden Bay now, and will be there for the next few weeks, making the most of summer the way it should be – full of beaches, sand, fish, and afternoon sleeps.

 

Punakaiki beach

Something about the area around Punakaiki makes your blood fizz. Paparoa National Park is wild and lush and feels like an adventure waiting to happen. In fact, our time in Punakaiki even started with an adventure. A couple of weeks prior to our arrival, we’d detected a small gas leak in our bus, which meant we could only run the fridge from solar when freedom camping. The day we drove to Punakaiki our 24V battery system acted up though, melted (not blown) a fuse, and showed pretty erratic behavior. Then rolling into the freedom camp in Punakaiki we noticed a flat tyre on one of the inner back wheels. Licking our wounds (and eyeing the bank balance) we dragged ourselves to the proper beach camp to regroup and figure out how we were going to spend the planned four weeks here without blowing the budget.

From the start though Punakaiki was nice to us and a week of sunshine made it easier to digest the call out fee for getting the tyre fixed. Free excitement for the kids included!

Tyre change

Patched up we went to Mel Parsons & James Nokise’s show in Barrytown. The kids survived the first half of the show with comedy act James (which was brilliant, by the way), and then announced they needed to go to bed. We put them in the bus that was parked across the road and watched Mel Parsons for the second half (equally brilliant), darting back to the bus every 10 minutes or so to check. Excitement for us!

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We had a chance encounter with a gasfitter from Greymouth (WestGasLtd – Mikhael), who checked our system and fixed the gas leak, so after about two weeks here we were able to freedom camp again. Great!

Flinging rocks, flying kites, climbing heights

The beaches were calling, and we came. Abandoned beach huts, wildlife, rocks, waves… The kids look so natural in this environment, and it’s part of the beauty for me that I feel they share my excitement.

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And then..

..Elliott ate one whitebait ;).IMG_7221

Grandparent visit!

As a special surprise, Opa and Granny came for a visit, which made our time at the coast complete.IMG_7152IMG_7160IMG_7144IMG_7147

 

 

I have never lived here

Punakaiki sea

I have never lived here, but getting to Punakaiki always feels a bit like coming home. We’re in and around Punakaiki for almost four weeks now and upon reflection there’ve been new insights.

Today I thought about all those people passing through this most amazing of all places, staying for a night, glimpsing its beauty, and taking off again. It struck me that I, too, even after four weeks, am still barely scratching the surface of Punakaiki’s secret layers of history and people.

Only in the last few days have we finally made some connections, met people on separate occasions who (of course) know each other, giving me the feeling of knowing this place on a deeper level than just loving its beauty.

Now we’re about to move on though, slowly making our way back over to the east coast. It’s a bit tiring to always be on the move, imagining a home, but this may be a topic for another post. Just this much: being in one place and missing another has been with me for a long time, and even in this special place, I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces from the past. Last week I saw Felice Jaguar and Matze, and just today Svenja, Jonas and Fabian. Must mean I miss Hamburg (or that they all have come here without telling me). Is it home though? A product of people, familiarity, chance and time. I’m longing to find a place again where all this is coming together.

Back to this place though: I feel I can come back here a thousand times and always discover a new mood, a new light, new weather. The sea, the beach, even the rocks, are always changing, while the place will remain a constant.

I know I’ll be back for more, in other circumstances, for different reasons, and maybe some time I will be able to call this place home.

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I made a knife today!

That damn knife!

I made a knife today, and I liked it!

From a strip of steel

Raw steel

Raw steel

to an actual, friggin’ knife!

That damn knife!

That damn knife!

If you're happy..

If you’re happy..

A little course in Barrytown, with forging, cutting, grinding and polishing. Awesome. Half of the Westcoast must have one by now, and if not, do check out these nice guys from Barrytown Knifemaking.

Blacksmithing

Blacksmithing

Shaping the steel

Shaping the steel

Life is ticking on pretty nicely at the moment. Work has picked up a bit more (downside = less blogging), and we have a steady wee routine going, something I’ve been aching for for ages. I’m really enjoying doing a bit more hand-drawn work – a couple of logos and some illustrations for a magazine in Germany. It’s such a luxury and doesn’t even feel like work sometimes. Pretty lucky.

We spent a week in Hokitika maybe two weeks ago and switched well and truly into beach mode. The West Coast has treated us with an unprecedented stretch of fine weather, so our days were spent outside, and the boys’ noses look like they’ve been sprinkled with cinnamon. Hokitika is the setting of Man Booker Prize winner, The Luminaries, and although it may have been rough and exciting back in 1866, the wide, deserted streets seemed a little less than golden when we rolled into town. Three op-shops (count ’em, THREE), the lovely little cafe and cheesery,  Stella, incredible weather and that beach soon won us over though. We had a wonderful, chilled out week, alternating between our most expensive campground yet and a NZMCA free campsite. Good times.

Our days went pretty much invariably as follows. Thomas and the would boys hang out on the beach in the morning while I sat in the bus and pottered away at whatever work was on, with amazing sea views as inspiration.

After lunch Elliott still sleeps so Otis and I would hang out a bit until he woke up and we’d head out again for some more beach combing. West Coast beaches have the most amazing stones, and we spent hours spotting, picking up, turning over, and pocketting or throwing into the waves, depending on the verdict. We’re ever on the search for Pounamu – New Zealand jade. The advice we’ve been given is that if you think it’s Pounamu, but there are other rocks around that look the same, it’s probably not. Still, we have one likely looking rock to take to someone with knowledge for evaluation. Oh, and a million other beautiful green, pink, peach, bluey, white, orange and grey stones to admire, lick, sort and stack.

Either in the morning or the afternoon, one, the other, or all four of us would traipse to Stella to enjoy a coffee and watch the live bees busy in their hive (a cafe with built in educational entertainment – extra bonus points!)

Tea was eaten with great appetite (all things considered – we do have one fussy eater), and the boys would fall into bed, happy and smelling of salt.

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Treasures from one of the three op-shops in Hokitika.

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The view from the kitchen window with my new-old teapot.

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Okarito

Okarito lagoon

A couple of weeks ago we were in Okarito.

A little nugget at the West Coast, it has been a thriving gold mining town in the 1860s. Population quickly rose to 1200 or so, but only 18 months later it was all over. I tried to imagine the industrious busyness walking down the main (only) street but couldn’t really picture it.

Nowadays, only around 35 people live here. Strange to think about the ebb and flow of population and its impact on the environment. It’s hard to imagine so many more people in this spot now. It feels like this place is made for stone-skipping, sticks-picking, sandfly-swatting lazy afternoons on the beach and hanging out at the only cafe, both of which we did thoroughly.

The only child in the community, Monty, was kind enough to take Otis out fishing, which made his day, as he’d been very interested in it lately. There’s a little boat house at the lagoon which provides a perfect backdrop for children to fish from. Monty’s parents are Edwina and Richard, two lovely people, who own afore-mentioned cafe and adjacent Okarito Nature Tours, which facilitate kayak trips in the lagoon. The world seems small here, and very perfect…

I could have stayed there for much longer, but having no internet connectivity apart from in the cafe meant we had to move on. I’m sure we’ll be back though one day. Maybe we’ll have to stay at that awesome, cute, 6-bunk DOC-hut then.

Okarito is almost surreal in its beauty. It may have only been the stunning weather we had but it felt like some idyllic, quintessential New Zealand town from a movie, a place you don’t expect to really exist.

On our last day in Okarito we climbed up to the trig point, which gave us a view over the settlement and also over the highest peaks of the Southern Alps. And squinting, I almost managed to see smokey chimneys, dirt streets and horse carts below us, nestled between this amazing coast and its wild lagoon.

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Queen Otis

“You look like a king on his throne, Otis” “I’m a queen!”

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This is Mount Cook

This is Mount Cook

No, THIS is Mount Cook

No, THIS is Mount Cook

Okarito lagoon

Okarito lagoon

At work

At work

Otis going fishing

Otis going fishing with Monty

Okarito cafe

Edwina and Richard’s cafe

Reeds Okarito Trig track

Otis!

Otis!

Trig track

Aaaaah, the West Coast. It seems we did have to go the long way around, to finally arrive where we knew we’d love to be.

And facing winter in Southland may have made it all the nicer to arrive. It felt like layers and layers of cold and darkness were peeled off us in an instant once we’d come over Haast Pass. We jumped out of the bus just past the pass to see a waterfall, and it felt like stepping into luke warm water. These rainforests in all shades of green blow my mind every time.

West Coast, you warm, lush, rugged, awesome beast.

We stopped at Bruce Bay, and the sweet sea smell and mild wind made me realize again: you can’t capture this in picture or text, you just have to be there and experience it. It must be a combination of wilderness, big seas and mild climate that makes this New Zealand’s supreme region for me over and over again.

We stayed at Franz Josef at the aptly named Rainforest Retreat for a few nights. Tree ferns and dense forest outside the window and snowcapped peaks above; this may be my favorite campground yet.

Days are getting longer and for the first time in months we didn’t need to heat the bus over night. I can only imagine our weeks and months ahead, being barefoot without cringe, getting into our beachy outside life in the sun.

Bring on summer!

Haast waterfall Haast waterfall Haast waterfall Lake Paringa Lake Paringa Lake Paringa Franz Josef glacier Franz Josef glacier Franz Josef glacier Franz Josef glacier Franz Josef glacier Franz Josef glacier Franz Josef glacier West CoastBruce Bay

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