Thoughts: A Quick Roadtrip with my Kids

Every year around this time I have taken my kids camping. It’s been something I instituted post-marriage with the aim to broaden their horizons somewhat and maintain a good bond with them.

It’s worked.

This year was a little different owing to a few changes and uncertainties that came about in 2018, so we only had three days to make something happen.

I decided to take them up North. They’ve actually been around Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri a lot (their mother’s dad has a timeshare they’ve been able to make use of).

I wanted to show them some of New Zealand that they wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. My daughter expressed that she wasn’t particularly interested in New Zealand and it’s history. She loves the Romans (but hasn’t read Asterix – go figure). I guess it’s her age and the education she is exposed to.

We based ourselves in Kerikeri. The campground there is well appointed. Enough trees to cope with the 32C heat. It borders a river and it was fun cooling off. And trying not to kill myself by slipping on algae-covered rocks. I’m not really great with ‘outside’. I’m sure I used to be, apparently not now.

I enjoy getting them involved in cooking. Deciding what to buy at the supermarket then taking responsibility for its preparation. They complain of course, they’re teenagers after all, but they do do the doing. I also like them to see me interact with other campers. These places are magnets for tourists and locals alike. My kids are fairly introverted and shy so I feel it’s important to show them how to socialise.

One of the people I talked with was a Maori guy, one of four. He politely asked if he could share the BBQ I was using (of course he can) because he was cooking up a feed of mussels for himself and his three mates. I asked if he’d gathered them. “Yes” he said. “From Countdown”. Sigh. He also didn’t have any cooking suggestions I could learn – “I just put them on until they open and they’re sweet eh?”. He gave me one to try. His approach to cooking worked just fine.

As a side note, everyone has Bluetooth speakers and personalised playlists. This group had a particularly excellent Soul, RnB thing going on and were having a bit of a singalong.

The next group I talked to were Indian. A family. They were cooking corn on the cob direct on the gas hobs. But for me the interesting thing was the seasoning they were going to use. A mix of chilli pepper, salt, and then a squeeze of lemon. Spectacular. It was fun being able to talk to them about their cuisine.

Day Two was the core of my plan. Now, my kids aren’t that interested being taught stuff, learning, when they’re in holiday. Tough dad eh? We got on the road early to drive from Kerikeri to Cape Reinga. It’s an interesting drive, very different landscapes, interesting fauna (we saw cows, sheep, hawks, turkey, emus and more). Actually, we were lucky and saw some shepherds with their dogs working a flock from one paddock to the next, across the highway. Was something pretty special to witness.

As we drove, I pointed out to my kids, the small communities anchored by a church and graveyard and maybe a shop. How NZ was and still is.

Note: Telecommunication coverage is appalling in the Far North – given the potential for tourism there I think it needs to be looked at.

I loved seeing how many people make the trip to see the Cape and its surrounds. It’s quite something being at the top of the North Island.

We headed home, stopping off at Te Kao for an ice cream. (Do it, it’s obligatory). We detoured through Totara North as it’s where my kids maternal grandmother grew up. (There’s literally nothing there so it didn’t take long). We visited a site where gumdiggers worked in terrible conditions locating and digging up kauri gum. I actually got interest from my son. He now knows why gumboots are called gumboots and not Wellingtons in this country.

Next stop, also obligatory and totally worth it, was Mangonui. They have the best fish and chips there. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Given the lack of feedback one gets from teenagers I can only assume that when they’re in their 20’s they’ll look back to the day they saw the Lighthouse…

Day Three. We packed up the campsite and got on the road. (I have to add that as they are getting older they are getting much more useful and helpful).

I wanted to take them West to see Opononi (pretty, nothing much there, had a dolphin in 1955/56 that was friendly) on the way to the Waipoua Forest.

It was good to show them how people live in the Far North. Either by choice or through circumstance. There are small communities dotted on the road. Shanty’s. Lean-to’s. Derelict. Rundown. Deserted and abandoned. It’s certainly not Howick. I was interested to see that despite the ruination of the buildings around, the churches all were in quite good condition…

Then we arrived in the Waipoua Forest. I wanted to make sure they saw Tane Mahuta whilst they have the chance to. (It’s no guarantee that access will be for ever).

All up, it’s been a great few days. Good company, good food, good conversation, good music. I am very grateful that my kids like to spend focussed time with me. Now to plan the next.

January Camping

I’m back from spending a week in the Coromandel – the Top 10 campground in Coromandel Town, to be exact – with my kids.

This is something I’ve instituted over the last few Summers to ensure that I get to stay close and engaged with them (divorce can push/keep Dads away, you know). And it’s become something that all three of us really look forward to.

Packing

I’ve acquired all the camping stuff that one needs (Kathmandu really does have a direct line in to my bank account with their range of quality camping and outdoors equipment) so it’s become quite easy to pack, load and head off on adventures.

This campsite had a pool (the last two sites we’ve stayed at didn’t) which meant that for 3-4 hours each day, my kids pretty much disappeared (under my watchful parental eye – kids around water etc), got wet and made friends. That has been one of the best things about this year: both my kids have learned to take a risk, talk to a stranger, and find a friend. It’s great to see the development.

We discovered all the local ice-cream vendors. We drove North to explore beaches and bays. We discovered the Gold Stamper Battery.

Stamper

Actually, this was pretty cool. It’s a functional rock crusher that enables the process of gold extraction to take place. The guy, Ashley, was incredibly knowledgeable and very entertaining. I probably enjoyed the tour a bit more than the kids did, but we got to go panning for gold in the creek nearby which made up for it (as far as the kids were concerned). We’d have been successful too, if it wasn’t for the attention span of a certain 8 year old…

panning

We visited The Waterworks on the 309 Road. If you have kids, this is highly recommended. It’s really quirky. Lots of interactive water-driven engineering. Things that move. Things that squirt. Flying Bikes!

Water

FlyingBike

There’s a decent waterhole to swim in, BBQ’s to hire, and a cafe on site. We spent about 3 hours there, and could have stayed longer. It was amusing for me to see Miss 8 decide that she wanted to jump in to the waterhole. A 10 minute preparation process all up. Master 11 was too cold, and was feeling pressured to perform. So he didn’t.

Jumper

It was a toss-up between The Waterworks and the Driving Creek Railway. We chose well I think.

pig

On the way to The Waterworks we stopped off to have a chat with ‘Stu with the pigs’. This is one seriously odd man. He has a herd of 65 pigs that roam. He used to have more but people keep stealing them. (Pignapping)? My daughter wanted to know why his lips were green. I really wish I could have answered that question. I want to say zinc sunblock… I’m just not sure I can.

On another day we drove to Whangapoua Beach for the kids to play in the surf with their boogie boards. It was partially successful. From there to Whitianga to play a round of Minigolf and then back to Coromandel Town via the 309 Road.

Camping for me is a chance to decompress and think. It’s a chance for me to bond further with my kids and hopefully instil some values. I definitely want to develop their independence and sense of adventure. Each year I get to see how much they’ve grown in confidence (swimming, human interaction etc.).

I sometimes question myself as to whether I’m a good father. I try to be.

Last night I received this message from my boy: “Thanks for taking us camping. IT WAS AWESOME!!! Especially the chill out And do whatever part. THANKS!!”.

It puts everything in perspective.