A Travellerspoint blog

Travelling with children

A recipe for sanity

sunny 19 °C

Travelling with kids is all about compromise and not having too much of an agenda. So when Dave and I actually had the chance to do something that got the muscles aching and the heart pounding last week we were overjoyed. We had wanted to do some of the Abel Tasman coastline tramp but we had been struggling to know how . So far our 4 year old had only managed 20 minute tramps before the moaning set in. We had the grand idea of doing a small part of it by kayak. The challenge was, who would rent out kayaks to people with a child under 5 or even an 8 year old for that matter?

Some friends, travelling a few weeks earlier, found the answer for us. An operation called Golden Bay Kayaks in Tata Bay. These guys had a small child and understood the frustrations of active parents. Once they had assured themselves that we knew what we were doing they let us out with two double sea kayaks, having only to sign a disclaimer that said if we killed ourselves or our kids it was our own stupid fault. What a relief!

Compared to what we might have done a couple of decades ago the adventure was tame, a gentle 3 to 4 hour paddle taking in deserted beaches and wildlife along the way but to the kids it was a huge adventure. Staying in a hut, carrying all our stuff (except cutlery which we forgot) and the icing on the cake kayaking amongst playing seals.

This paints an almost idilic picture of what a family can do doesn't it? I can almost hear you all packing up your dry bags and heading for Golden Bay. Well admittedly it was one of our more successful plans but when you are packing those dry bags don't forget entertainment for the wee one. The small child that is as excited by a wood louse as a seal and has an attention span of a knat. The small person that has hiccy fits over the oddest of things. It's not enough just to take them to beautiful places you have to entertain them as well by creating boats they can pull along, pretend paddles and stopping to build a shelter for Eeyore.

There are also other people to consider, fellow travellers unencumbered by small people who imagine an evening peacefully contemplating the stars not listening to children pretending to explode pieces of wood. The fellow travellers we came across were thankfully extreamely tolerant or blissfully spoke little English so couldn't complain.

Travelling with kids certainly gives you a different perspective. And I don't just mean bending down low to see if Finn can actually see the erupting volcano from where he is standing behind a bush. No, by a different perspective I mean we get to see the parts of a country that are not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. In fact we are thinking of writing a guide of our own. We now know the playgrounds of South Africa and New Zealand intimately and I must say the later are very good . They are well adorned with comfortable adult seating, toilets so you don't have to pack up and go when the children inevitably need the loo and many are conveniently next to the beach. Some even have cafes; very civilised!

Talking about toilets travelling can be quite unsettling for children. After a while we realised we needed to slow down a bit and spend a few days in one place rather than moving on every day. This especially hit home when Daniel got out of bed one night and looking like he was awake strode purposefully to the bedside table opened the draw and weed in it. He then closed the draw and went back to bed. He had thought he was in the place we were staying the day before. I hope he doesn't do that when we stay in a tree house!

Each day we think what would we like to do, we then figure out how to make that possible/fun exciting. In many ways it is no different than home. There are basic needs such as food and clothing that need to be packed, and actually getting out the door in the morning is a mission in itself. Today we went to pancake rocks, crazy rock formations with blowholes on the pounding west coast. Finns attention was held for about an hour particularly by one particular blow hole which soaked unsuspecting visitors, he would then embarrassingly hooted with laughter. However in the main he is most concerned with what goes in his tummy.
In Lesotho he spotted our guide had some crisps in his bag; he nagged us for them whilst our bones were shaking in the rickity vehicle which took us along the dirt tracks; he nagged us when we were in the local school talking to children who had probably never eaten crisps in their lives and he nagged us when we were served the local dish of maize and spinach. He never got the crisps. The upside of having a Finn sized person however is the cute factor he gets us noticed and opens up opportunities for conversations we would never have had.

Daniel at eight is far more switched on to what is happening, he was happy to get up at four a clock in the morning to see a rhino up close and personal. He has mostly remembered his manners when served dishes that he woultd turn his nose up at home. He flew up the rigging when given the opportunity on a tall boat and I positively had to drag him away from the Te Papa museum in Wellington.

It hasn't all been roses though, late nights and the unsettled nature of moving on every few days has taken it's toll. He frequently refers to a blog we have been following called 'Travels with a nine year old.' The family, an intrepid mother and son have been travelling so long they had to rename their blog.
Daniel is facinated by the son and how he is always moving on, never having long to make friends and hang out with people his own age.
Daniel and Finn, of course, have each other which a parent of more than one child will know can be a blessing but is also fuel for bickering and more importantly noise. There have been many times that it has been hard to tell if it is happy or distraut sounds coming from the back of the vehicle. Blissfully when we had the camper van on North Island it was too noisy in the cab to actually hear the boys in the back.

All in all the noise, the fussyness and the constant demands are worth it. They are only children for a short time, by doing this we get to spend important time with them, form life long memories and realise that the simplest things are just as special.

Memorable kiddie moments so far

Daniel and finn climbing the rigging on a tall ship in the bay of islands.
Finn realising, when staying with some people who had icelandic ponies in Abel Tasman, that a foal was a baby horse not a cow.
The look of joy on Daniels face when we kayaked with seals.
Watching them jumping everywhere. Accross rocks down sandy slopes in fact any place you can jump.
The sheer innocence of how special something is, for example, building a camp in the back of the car while on safari rather than looking at the animals. (Finn)
The realisation that something is special and waiting patiently for the next moment (Seals)
Building things out of what ever is there shells, stones, sticks, leaves, you name it.
Learning from the environment around them. Particularly successful are numbers on letter boxes which are bright cheerful and often very artistic. Scratching letters and numbers in the bare earth (Drakensberg) or the numerous sandy beaches (New Zealand)
Daniel (and me) realising that not all volcanoes are volcano shaped.
Daniel realising the value of money and that by cutting back in some areas we can have fun in others.
Doing Daniels blog together.
Searching for glow worms.
Collecting smiles.

Practicalities
For safari we put together an eye spy sheet
Downloaded loads of free stories on to an I pod.
We travel with a pencil case crammed with lego, pens, pencils, Celotape and kiddy scissors that are allowed on the plane.
We took two very thin waterpoof sheets for those 'just incase' moments and boy are we glad we had them.
We have eaten pasta and cheese almost every other day along with cucumber and apples, all of which have been possible to get every where. There have been moments where stubborness has meant they have gone hungry for example plane journeys and in Lesotho. Thailand could be interesting!
We have two adult Rucksacks, one small rucksack for Daniel to carry ,a drag along small suitcase and a car booster seat.
One rucksack is crammed with wetsuits, buoyancy aids, waterproofs and walking boots. The only thing we haven't used much yet is the walking boots.
We managed to pick up loads of books from second hand shops including some almost mint condition phonics books for Finn. We also have a kindle but this isn't great for small kids books.
We have stayed in backpackers, a van, friend's houses, baches and a lot of cabins. The later are great as they are no hassle and are on campgrounds so there is alot of space to run around in.
We have met up and stayed with 2 families who kindly invited us to stay even though they hardly knew us. This was great for the kids as they had other children and toys to play with. It also meant they got to see a couple of New Zealand schools.
Finally, travelling with kids is constant, hard work but ultimately rewarding and if you have travelled before in that distant past where you could make descisions based on a whim you will see the world from a completely different perspective.

Posted by antheahanson 23:10 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Some like it hot!

Travelling along a fault line

sunny -28 °C

Hot springs
Hot mud
Hot weather
Hot sulpherous steam
Hot sand
Hot tub
Hot Volcanoes
and me i'm hot well in a sweaty kind of way.
The last couple of weeks has been full of crazy experiences. Picture the scene two small children walking down the beach with their buckets and spades, that all sounds perfectly normal doesn't it. Now add to that image a frying pan an egg and a flask of milk. Ok a little bit stranger...now pan out to the whole vista. An empty beach with perfect waves and then oh my word who are all those people and why are they sitting in what looks like steamy nests all squeezed together. A bizare sight. It is a hot water beach. The beach is indeed hot, so hot you could scald yourself but apparently not hot enough to cook an egg much to the amusement of all the scantily clad twenty somethings watching. Oh well it was worth a go, at least our hot chocolate worked.
All this hotness is a result of a dirty great fault line which we have been following from North to south. From White island in the Bay of Plenty which we looked at from a respectfull distance right down to Mt Tongararo which is still emitting smoke after erupting last week.
I think the wierdest thing has got to be arriving in the night at a campsite and peering into the gloom only to find that we were parked right next to a boiling mud pool, even wierder to find the next morning that it was adjacent to the kids playground. These Kiwi's are tough, no wrapping their kids in cotton wool.
The same went for the main attraction for the area Wai o tapu sulpherous pools boiling hot, mud splurting out with big farting sounds and a teeny fence just perfect for balancing on when you are a 4 year old. They did have big fences at the viewing areas but I wouldn't have liked to take Finn a year ago. As it was the kids were fascinated by the other worldy nature of the place and didn't even complain about the smell!

Posted by antheahanson 17:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged island north Comments (0)

Where are all the Kiwi's?

Brit's abroad

There is something familiar about all of this. I have been in New Zealand 6 days and, well it's all rather like home. I mean they drive on the right side by which of course I mean the left; you can buy cheese a fact which has made Daniel very happy, along with Cornflakes, cherios and ketchup; they speak the same language (mainly) and the weather has even made us feel at home, dull dreary days, interspersed with sun and clouds which result in you taking your clothes on and off more than the average lady (or man) of the night.
Everywhere we go we hear British accents, we went to the tourist information and the girl was from Manchester, then to a cool cafe on a boat, again Manchester as for Kiwi's well I think they are all hibernating. All this goes toward kidding your senses that you are in Britain but then you take a path away from the towns and English (or German) accents and you are suddenly face to face with exotic plants like a giant fern tree,whilst weaving your way through the bush (Kiwi speak for forest) it dawn's on you that you are somewhere very different indeed. The vegetation in these parts is nothing short of magnificent if a little prehistoric in character. I can't tell you what anything is so will have to give them my own names, there is the giant toilet brush tree, and the mop tree, along with some beautiful bushes that have bright purple bottle scrubbers on (are you starting to form a picture yet?). Exotic aromas wrap themselves around you, the bird noises are as unrecognizable as the birds. One I swear was wearing one of those fluorescent jackets one wears when cycling.
So far we have had to stay on the board walks as the Kauri tree is threatened by disease and it is not the only one as there are signs everywhere about he ever elusive kiwi (the bird not the human). I'm not convinced it actually exists, are we sure it is not some elaborate marketing ploy? Some of the tracks we have been on we have had to scrub and spray our boots can you imagine that in Britain people would scream about civil liberties or some other such nonsense.
Daniel and I went for a walk at dusk in our quest to see a real live Kiwi. His uncle Martin had bet him a whole bag of sweets that he couldn't photograph one. Thanks Martin! Kiwi are not only nocturnal so you would have to trip over one before you saw one but are small, very elusive and dingy brown coloured so we had about as much chance of finding one as meeting a Martian. We did however have a very atmospheric walk in the dark along with all the night creatures that squawked and gobbled at us. I can tell you I was putting a very brave show for my eight year old son as the huge shadows of kauri trees, and twisty windy things pretending to be monsters towered darkly above us. As dusk turned to very spooky night I was only too happy to comply with his suggestion to give up and go to bed.
Northland is'nt all bush infact much of it has been 'tamed' and is home to a great deal of cattle. Inland it is hicksville with tumbled down buildings all weatherboard and with the obligatory verandah and decking. Many of the inland properties were piled high with scrap metal, dead tractors and all manner of other twisted metal.
There are some stunning beaches on the East reminiscent of Scottish Islands, white sand, often empty and when we were there as cold as a Scottish Island.
Up in the Bay of Islands there are funnily enough a lot of islands, 100 to be precise. We spent a cracking afternoon going on a ferry over to a place called Russell which is ridiculously picturesque in a weatherboarding and veranda kind of way and then boarding a tall ship the Tucker Thompson and sailing back. What an experience. There were only about 8 of us on board. We hauled up the sails climbed the rigging and balanced out on the bow sprit ...yes the kids too. What a feeling hanging on the rigging, boat over at an angle with the wind ripping you along all at about 30 foot above the deck. Eat your heart out Captain Jack Sparrow, yeehah!
So we say goodbye to Northland now not altogether sadly as it has involved a lot of driving and it is time to stop for a few days, regroup and find some internet!

Posted by antheahanson 02:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

A country of contrasts

It's not black and white

South Africa is a country of contrasts. It's amazing if rather tubulant history and exotic smells and sights. Yet in so many ways it is just like home the cloudy dull days of this summer (although 20 degrees) the names we passed such as Grasmere and a place called Nigel, the childrens games during playtime at school in Lesotho and even driving on the left well supposedly! Much of this may be a remenant of the British empire building days. English is the main language for learning and signage however it hasn't really been much of an advantage in talking to people. There have been so many questions I would have liked to have asked and chats I would have liked to have had but they haven't happened as I realised there is a terrific language barrier and I must admit I didn't even master the very basics in Zulu. There also seems to be a certain aloofness which is a real shame.
This really is a whistlestop tour but in less than a week we have already experienced so much. I wouln't be so bold to say that I now know South Africa but it certainly feels more familiar now. On arrival we drove out of Johannesberg nervously waiting to be pounced on or hassled having heard so many stories about taking the wrong turn and carjaking, like nervous mice we locked our doors and didn't linger at junction.But apart from a couple of people approaching us for money or 'favours' we didn't get hassled at all. On the last day though we did hear a couple of stories which reinforced the stereotype one of a man who was hit head on by an overtaking car. Then he was put in prison instead of the other driver being accused of drinking. Apparently the tests for alcohol in his blood would take 6 months to come back. After hearing this we felt that perhaps some of our concerns were well founded.
On the way out of Johannesberg we did drove e by a large area of what can only be described as as shanty town, a mixture of buildings made from whatever was lying around abut this quickly turned into 2 room boxes with corrugated roofs which seem to be everywhere and I think are the governments answer to council houses. (I'm not sure which government). There is so much to know about this place. Particularly the politics.
From Johannsberg we drove and drove and drove to the Drakensberg mountains. This was mostly uneventful stopping only for a brief play in a playpark the kids that is not us (the joys of travelling with children). After a vast plain of quite green but also dusty flatness the odd flat topped hill started to pop out on the horizon, we were entering the Drakensberg mountains.
We stayed in a fantastic backpackers an oasis more like a homestay than a backpackers (Karma). It was an ecclectic mix of bright coloured fabrics, mosaics everywhere you looked and piles of homemade jam set amongst the most verdant abundant garden I have seen in a long time. We were welcomed with a cup of tea and big smiles. Thankyou Vera Ann please can I adopt you as my kindly Aunty? In the evenings we had long chats putting the world to rights and discussing what South Africa was like as a place to live and go to school.
The opinions of the 'whites' that we talked to seemed to agree that futures were hard here and many ended up abroad in England, Canada, America ,Holland and Germany. Education and employement from an outsiders point of view seems to be the solution to many of the problems that still exist here. Although schools should now be racially mixed the reality is that there is still division, the devision is often caused by economic divisions but often as not also cultural expectations and how education is valued. Sorry I sound like I am writing an essay but you can't come to South Africa without being hit between the eyes by it's past and present politics and it is the subject of most of the conversations we have had.
The Drakensberg were beautiful we spent a lovely day following a trail which contoured the mountains, I thought I would be chomping at the bit to go off an do some 'proper' climbing but it was a beautiful experience as the children were delighted skipping along the trail looking at shongolos (sure I have spelt that wrong) Vera please correct me). These wonderful creatures otherwise known as giant centipedes occupied the children's attention for most of the day. What captured me was that the hillside was covered in what I think were yellow irises and amazing patterns were made in the grass as the wind rippled through it. OO that's a bit waxing lyrical isn't it?
My adventure that day was not climbing the mountains however but going shopping. Just before the Drakensberg is a town called QwaQwa. Which seems to run into another town with a ridiculously long name I can't even attempt to write. Qwa Qwa seems to consist of rows upon rows upon rows of little boxes with the red earth around. These are the two roomed houses I was talking about earlier. The supermarket which Vera said was like Asda, was indeed a big supermarket. The adventure was that I was the only white person in the vicinity, many heads turned and as it was my first day in South Africa with all the warnings fresh in my mind I felt instantly ill at ease, I have been the only white person before but I think due to the history my instant feeling was guilt. Entering the supermarket it didn't help that there was a massive line snaking out into the carpark up to a desk that said money. When I tried to go past it I was stopped by a grumpy security guard. He tried to make me go in the queue ,so I asked what it was for? For money he said, but I have money I replied... still no luck, what's in your bag he said, just money I repeated again, now I felt even more paranoid especially as the whole queue was listening, eventually I pursuaded him that if he didn't let me in I would just give up and go as there was no way I was queuing for an hour when I didn't need to. In retrospect ,I realised I must of made a very odd sight. A small white woman with pigtails dressed in mens clothing (The children and my clothes failed to follow us from England and were lost somewhere in the vast bowels of heathrow airport). I'm not surprised I was stared at!
The aforesaid luggage was supposed to get to us the following day, we loved it so much at Vera Anns we decided to stay another day and go into Lesotho.
Lesotho is a country I was very curious about. Landlocked by South Africa it has managed to remain seperate partly due to it's Geography protected by the Drakensberg mountains and partly due to being a British Protectorate (must look up what that means). Driving along unmade roads to the border post you could imagine the first white settlers the Vortrekkers dismantling their carts and carring them down the slopes to the flatter land below (and the awaiting Zulus).
We left our car at the border transferring into a more battered vehicle which proceeded slowly along a very rutted track passing heavily laden ponies and flood plain fields planted up with maze. Eventually we arrived at a school. A collection of 4 long stone buildings built by the children for the children. The children sat in classes from age 6. Daniels year group were grappling with a maths problem chalked on the blackboard. Chldren sat at high wooden benches in a collection of uniforms and the odd person with wellies. All the girls shoes were identical. I noticed that although they wore the shoes in the classroom as soon as they got outside most were thown off. When we went to the 6 year old class Finn read the numbers up to 20 which were attached on a scruffy bit of A4 to the otherwise blank crumbling wall. The other children all 6 sitting in a semicircle in tiny plastic garden chairs looked on amazed that a child so small could read numbers. Our kids were horribly shy and clung to our legs but it was good to see that although different to their own experience of school there were great similarities. The children all got a hot meal in the middle of the day of pap (maize) and some sort of vegetable. This was prepared by the dinner ladies who sat in a rondavel up the hill and worked over an open fire and many of the games played during playtime against a beautiful backdrop of mushroom like cliffs and maize fields were recognisable as games played on our playgrounds as well is the inevitable football but with a ball made of rolled up paper. For lunch we visited what appeared to be the most wealthy man , he was wealthy because he had a flour grinder and could rent or barter it out to the rest of the community. He also had a tractor and a pick up truck in his yard and his living room was ramed with wonderfully kitch items. Finn asked very loudly why the sofas were covered in plastic, I guess he could have said worse. Afterwards we visited the local healer, who lived in a settlement with newly dunged Rondavels that looked really smart i'd have liked to have gone in one but we went in a square hut instead.
For those of you with kids who are wondering how the kids were, well the early morning meant that they were grumpy rat bags whining for food tand whacking things with sticks the whole time. Unfortunately Our guide a very tall Zulu called Terrance didn't seem to get hungry and carried the more child friendly food around all day until just before departure after which they cheered up considerably. Typical.
We are now at Hluhwe after another exceedingly long drive through much greener lands eventually hitting wealth, and rather strangly the white man. Driving into the vast conurbation of Durban was rather depressing with it's stark contrasts and even more so as we entered where we were staying with friends, a secure compound a bit Stepford wives if any of you have seen that. It was so secure we couldn't get in.
Hluhwe 3 hours North of Durban is a wildlife park. Quite strange concept if you think about it. Again as naïve brits we expected to see at least some wildlife just wandering around everywhere but other than a few amazing birds we have seen nothing. These parks however have reintroduced animals such as Rhino, Girraffe, Lions, Elephant along with a host of other things. We had an amazing time getting up a dawn (4.30) and driving around in circles. We saw a lion kill within minutes where a vulture flew over the car dropping a leg of something or other just by Daniel's window, we also saw monkeys, elephant in the distance, a wild dog, zebra, buffalo, Rhino and the thing that made my trip right at the end one solitary giraffe. Awesome, it would be great if these animals were still truly in the wild in this part of Africa. Unfortuantely it was in the papers when we got back to Durban that people are poaching Rhino again and that the perpertrators are often the rangers in the park.
Well I realsie I have written for far too long and if you have made it this far, well done I will try to lighten my tone a bit in the next one.
I will end with a list as I do like them so. Daniel did this in his blog so I am going to copy him.

Things I learnt about South Africa

1.It's really really big but not as big as the whole of Africa that is ridiculously big compared to our country.
2.It has really straight roads but on the majority of them you can't actually go in a straight line due to massive pot holes that you could loose half of the continent in.
3. White South Africa seem to operate on a self imposed curfew, i'm sure people must go out but we didn't see any. It felt like they were in perpetual laager (if i've spelt that right) the name for the first Voortrekers who would form a circle of their wagons when attacked.
4. The soil is really red and very hard to get the colour out of the kids pants so they are permanently going to look like they pooed themselves.
5. That Vera Anns garden is the best place to drink a cup of tea listening to the sounds of the countryside and watching the most amazing birds.
6. You can have sunsets with rainbows in them.
7. That homeschooling is fun.
8. That most people walk and there a very few bicycles.
9. It can hail in summer time
10. Much of S. Africa is flat but there are some big bumps.

Next stop New Zealand

Posted by antheahanson 02:08 Tagged south africa Comments (7)

Wanderlust

Nature or nurture?

Wikipedia
Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel or explore the world.
The term originates from the German words wandern (to hike) and Lust (desire). T
A contemporary German equivalent for the English word wanderlust, in the sense of "crave for travel", is Fernweh (literally meaning "an ache for distant places").
I definitely have wanderlust, I crave it the idea of it, it excites me, I guage the success of my life by it more so than work or money. I love to plan, research and dream about possible and less possible destinations, I own guide books for places i've never been, read journals and blogs of people I will never meet and pour over maps and globes. For me It is the story of place that get the juices flowing.
Why do some of us feel the need to wander while others are quite happy to stay put? Is this an inate desire within us? While I ponder this I recive an email from my father, my mother has been found wandering in a field. That oh so terrible desease which inflicts so many people and their partners in their old age leaves her constantly looking for 'home'. In her confusion she repeats the mantra 'I am always away, always travelling'. In her late 80's this is clearly no longer true but she has a wonderful history of travelling the world. Is it in the genes I wonder, nature or nurture? Talking to her now one might be forgiven for thinking that this travelling past was a negative thing, in fact I started to think so until I picked up a journal written by her 25 years ago. It is particularly poignant as it is about their trip to New Zealand. It is full of joy and delight in the new sights they saw, wonderfully cross referenced to maps, and so like our own plans of a road trip that I am considering taking it with me as a guide book.
As a child we didn't go to exotic places or in style but we did go away a lot, my parent instilled in me a sense of adventure, to always want to look around the next corner but also perhaps unknowingly to grab it while you can and preferably while you are still young enough to enjoy it.
Thanks Mum and Dad xxx

Posted by antheahanson 13:01 Comments (4)

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