It's less than four weeks until we take the children into another country. Not in a legal sense, but across water, the first plane journey for Brighid and the first for Fionn in almost five years. Indeed it is almost five years since we got on a plane at Heathrow with the son we grew and nurtured alongside the District Line and then the Central Line, on the borders of East London and Essex. We took him to my parents' place in Hanmer Springs, a place he thought of as "New Zealand" for some time (Wetville was not NZ, it was another country altogether to him). I will never forget day three of our new life, when he said he had had enough of being on holiday and wanted to go home.

There is no home.

That's what we did to you, my child, we took away your home, everything outside of your parents that you knew and before you could write or facebook or email your little buddies, and created another one. Thankfully it worked.

We came to the South Island for several reasons. I wanted my parents to be within affordable driving distance from their grandson and later their grand daughter and that meant no expensive ferry crossing. FH was keen on the South Island and we had bonded to the West Coast on a holiday six years before. That was the holiday when we decided to get married, when we borrowed bikes and cycled to Carters Beach and when we avoided the mirrored-window pub at the end of the shopping strip in Westport, preferring the one with the pipe band on New Year's Eve. The West Coast was also affordable, a place where we could buy our own home with a bit more saving, a place by the water, a place where we could have a second child without both of us having to work full time to pay the bills.

That first year, I went to Wellington for a friend's 40th birthday, and each year since we came back to NZ, FH has gone to Auckland for friend or family reasons. This is the year I promised my mother in law that we would be at their 50th wedding anniversary party, no matter what. So we will spend time with FH's family in the outer reaches of West Auckland and on a hill in Albany, places which don't seem to exist in popular renditions of Auckland from the outside. There is more to Auckland than either the fashionable strip of Ponsonby or the cliches assoicated with Otara.

We are planning to go camping further north, country which I have scarcely explored. I remember going to stay with family in Warkworth as a teenager in 1987. There was an exhibition, I think called Te Maori, in Auckland and I wanted to see it. It wasn't quite what anyone else had planned and in the end we had a day trip down to Auckland to shop in Smith and Caugheys (closest thing to Ballantynes for my Cantabrian mother I suspect) and go to Kelly Tarltons.

In 2000 FH and I drove north one sunny Saturday and I saw the Brynderwyns for the first time, wondering about this bright landscape with its Welsh name. We drove through Opononi and past Ruawai. Soon it was dark and too late for me (the wuss who prefers not to drive after midnight) to go back to Auckland. Our best option appeared to be a pub in Dargaville. FH noted that our room was directly above the bar but I was breezy about that, it was deserted at 8pm on Saturday night so nothing to worry about. I avoided looking at the brown stains on the brown walls. On a scale of budget accommodation, many things are better than a tent when it is not summer. Only it turned out that this was the late night venue after the other pubs had closed.

We left promptly the next day.

I don't feel the need for a Lonely Planet for my own country, but I am keen to hear recommendations for places in the north to explore. I've been eyeing up Aroha Island and Whananaki Beach so far. Man who likes stones (geological), woman who likes food, 7 year old who likes action, 3 year old who likes water. Budget. We are taking our tents, permissible in the summer.


Anonymous said…
How about the Kauri Museum?

The Stone Store in Kerikeri (for the stone man!)

The Chocolate Shop (you won't buy anything, but the freebies are enough and it's interesting to watch them making them for a wee while)

Karekare, our favourite beach,_New_Zealand

Our house! (no pressure, but genuine invitation)

Sharonnz said…
A loooong time ago BK (Before Kids) we camped at Motutara Farm at Whananaki North...simply magical!

We visited a lovely winery near Kerikeri too...can't recollect it's name, sorry.

Being married to a boy from Kaitaia, the lure of the North is pretty strong!
Thank Rachael and Sharon. I'm looking forward to the Stone Store - I've read a few things on it now and remember your post on it Rachael.

I will get your telephone number nearer the time Rachael, so we can meet up, though we are all sorted for accommodation in Auckland, thanks.
Isa Ritchie said…
If you're coming through Hamilton, let me know - I'd love to meet you!

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