A recipe for sanity
27.10.2012 - 13.12.2012 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.
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.