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.

School Holiday Fun – The Boy post

In School Holidays I do focus on the one-on-one time with my kids. I wrote about my day with my daughter yesterday, so here is a piece about my day with my son.

He’s 10, and likes tunnels and dark places and military installations.

We made a plan to go visit Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

I decided to take my car across so we could explore properly. I picked him up at 7am in order to make the 8am Sealink ferry sailing from Half Moon Bay, Auckland.

It was a perfect weather day.

WaihekeWe arrived on the Island and then found a local store to stock up on snacks. And then we just drove. No maps. We just followed our noses and went down random roads. I have to say, there is a lot of beauty and seclusion on Waiheke.

After killing some time by looking at nature, we headed to our primary destination: Stony Batter. This is an historic gun emplacement on the western side of the Island. The appeal is the extensive network of tunnels, some 20m below ground. It’s really great seeing some progress towards restoration. Being able to roam them with torches whilst following a written guide made for a lot of fun. Especially when we’d turn the torch off and I’d hide around a corner. Yes, I do enjoy freaking my child out. I’m sure I should feel bad about that but I also think it’s important for one to grow in confidence in the dark.


It was about this time that my phone died so I couldn’t take any more photos. I’m still a bit annoyed about that as I do like to retain memories.

After leaving the tunnels and checking out the massive gun pits, we headed back to where we parked. We had a lot of fun exploring the boulders in the fields around the site. My son was adamant that Peter Jackson should have filmed The Hobbit there (yes, we did have to do a little re-enactment of ‘dwarves running across boulder-strewn fields avoiding Orcs on Wargs’).

We had lunch at the Beach Front Restaurant and had a nice chat with the owners. I love that people from the other side of the World are able to find and purchase a business online and then move here for the lifestyle.

We returned to the ferry terminal via all of the roads.

All in all, a great day. We had fun misbehaving and exploring. I can’t wait until the next time. (Of course, the next time is probably going to be Tree Adventures again because the sister had such a great time there).