Thoughts: The Staggered Start to 2019

Today is February 6th, Waitangi Day here in New Zealand. It’s kind of like Australia Day or Independence Day in the US – but not.

I sit here, not working. The weather is nice though, so that’s a plus.

The last couple of weeks have been irritating. I had a decent break over Christmas and New Year. Recharged the batteries a bit. Was able to have a bit of a hard reset. Turned it off and on again.

Then, oh wow, did I have to hit the ground running. My field of work requires a lot of resilience and an ability to empathise fully whilst deflecting. It can be challenging. Some of the things people share with me are quite confronting.

But then we have today off. Waitangi Day. In the middle of the week. We had a weekend. Then two days. Then a day off. Then we have two more days of work. Then another weekend.

And last week we had the Monday off for a regional day.

I have found these micro-breaks incredibly disruptive.

Sure they’re nice to have, but really. Are they necessary?

Remind me in the months between Queens’ Birthday and Labour Weekend how great micro-breaks are. That’s when they’d be appreciated.

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.

Thoughts: Camping Pt 4

And we are heading back home to Auckland today.

It’s been a very good week. Spontaneous hugs and conversation attest to this.

However, yesterday started a bit weird. Declarations of boredom led me to take the kids to Craters of the Moon. This is a geothermal tourist trap North of Taupo. However, my daughter was not in the right frame of mind, was never going to enjoy it, and whined for 45 minutes. Horrific. My assessment of CotM is that it’s probably priced right but there really isn’t much there to see. In Autumn, Winter it’d be more impressive.

I have appreciated the hospitality of the locals here in Taupo. In the early afternoon, Miss 9 was whisked off for five hours of play with her new friend. She got to spend time with a family that isn’t tech-focused. “They have chickens“! And now she has someone that she will be able to write to.

I took the boychild to a place called Mind Junction. A slightly extortionate tourist destination that features puzzles, a maze, minigolf, a Lego display, a shooting simulator and much more. I thought it would be a bit lame but it turned out to be fun. We spent an hour poring over the Lego looking for specifics: “the mermaid”, “4 sticks of dynamite”, “the man in a chicken suit” etc. Very distracting.

On the way back to town we stopped off at Lava Glass – a glassblower factory and gallery. We watched a man craft a vase. Amazing. I can’t get my head around how this is done. I really do like learning about new stuff.

And now I’m waiting for the tent to dry. Why it had to rain on our last night…

Taupo Top 10 is a good campsite. The new pool should be completed by Easter 2015. My kids have enjoyed it here and are actually angling to return rather than try a new destination next year.

I do think that these places go a bit overboard in charging for everything that they can. Usually things that bored kids want to do. Still, I guess it’s their prerogative.

Once again, a successful adventure. These weeks I spend with my kids are so great and so important. They remember. They talk about them. They look forward to the next time.

^sd

School Holiday Fun – The Girl post

Today was a good day!

I collected my daughter early, and then we headed to the West of Auckland. Our ultimate destination being Tree Adventures, a wonderland of trees and climbing and challenges.

Miss 7 chose to do this. I was quite pleased as it is a seriously fun thing to do.

We arrived at our pre-booked time and had our safety briefing. The staff there are really good at what they do and are obviously a little sensitive about the well-being of their clients these days.

This was my daughters second time visiting the park. She has come so far in terms of confidence. It’s an absolute joy to see.

TreeAdventures_1

We navigated our way through the first four courses. She now needs to grow another 5cm before we can go back for higher and more challenging activities. This is entirely up to her.

Of course, the best thing about the end of each course is the glorious Flying Fox. A definite highlight.

GloriusFFAfter Tree Adventures, I decided to take her to Muriwai Beach on Auckland’s West Coast. Of general public interest is the Gannet colony, but she was more fascinated with black sand, jellyfish, little curvy shells and pumice. It was a great time of connection and joyous discovery. I loved being a kid again. I hope I never lose the ability to see the world through the eyes of someone seeing things for the first time. It’s so important!

Murawai_1 Murawai_2So, I’m happy. We had a wonderful day. A time of closeness and fun.