4×4 Adventure on 90 Mile Beach

When I am in the middle of something great I just don’t have the time to write about it.  Right after I am just numb and filled with awe.  Later on I look at the photos and say, “Dang that was great”.  Here is me writing about one of those great experiences from last year.

There we were, standing on the edge of the beach, watching the small 4x4s driving onto the beach, disappear for about 10 minutes, return, then drive back onto the road.  There is another 4×4 with special beach tyres waiting for people to get stuck so they could be rescued.  I see Andrew looking at the tyres on Maggie.  Nope, they haven’t changed, they are still not special beach tyres.  We know that if we get stuck that little 4×4 couldn’t pull us out.  It really isn’t worth the risk for just 10 minutes, anyways.  Jenna and I have been pouring over the map.  We figured that if we start when the tide is going out we just might make it.

The plan is this.  Leave the green car behind because even though our home is 4×4 our car is not.  We drive onto the beach as the tide is going out, as soon as there is beach enough to drive on.  This gives us several hours to make it to the top of the beach and drive back down to get out before the high tide swallows up the beach and any vehicles still remaining.  OR those little dotted lines at the top of the beach, on the map, just might prove to be another way off.  Don’t know.  Jenna and I figure we should tie it a shot.  However, we AREN’T the ones driving and we are far from the worrying, responsible sort of women.  Here, I would like to present a random theory.


Somebody in a relationship seems to need to take the role of the responsible, cautious one.  Unfortunately this role seems to generally land upon the woman.  If, however, a woman decides to reject this expectation and throw caution to the wind.  If she refuses to grow up and worry then the man just might take on the is role.

In response to my worry theory.  Well, actually in response to 2 women who were ready to go for it without giving the risks a reasonable thought, Sam and Andrew were beginning to show a bit more caution.

The tide would be right the following morning.  So, we found a safe place to park the car, Got some award-winning fish and chips and slept.  We had already filled the truck with food and fuel at the last town as we wanted to be prepared for any adventure.


Ah, the exhilaration of driving onto a pristine beach with no road.  Not quite sure what was ahead.  We drove, stopped to play and check out the mussels, then a seal.  Near the top of the beach we saw a river estuary that we later discovered was supposed to be our way off the beach.  We continued to drive tip a rock cliff tells us to stop.  To the right we saw tall grass coming out of the sand dunes and decide to spend the night there.  We figure that high tide won’t go that far.  Just in case,  we go quite deep into the tall grass, As far as we can take the truck.

This place feels like paradise.  Beautiful clear turquoise water, a rock cliff jutting out into the ocean, a small spring fed waterfall with ‘sweet water’.  On the inland side is sand dunes with wild grasses.  It doesn’t take Andrew long to get out his fishing gear and find his perch on the rocks.  It didn’t take him long to catch some beautiful rock cod.  The kids set to explore the tide pools.  Abi has an infection in a wound on her leg so she goes into the ocean to soak it in the healing salt water.  A stingray comes up to say hello and she quickly finds her way out of the water.  We stay here for almost a week.  We fish and explore, talk and play games.  We cook on an open fire.  Yes, paradise.

beach nz

When it is time to go we drive a short way back down the beach to the estuary.  We stop the truck, Andrew and Sam go to explore.  There are some tyre tracks going up the river bed where the water hasn’t washed them away.  There are even some signs lie,  “Soft sand, increase speed”.  After Andrew and Sam walk it out a bit we decide to take the riverbed out.  We may be 4×4 but we are also very heavy.  We need to go onto the firm wet sand but if it is too wet we know we will sink down and get bogged.  After about 20 minutes we speed up to take a path up a steep incline out of the river and shock the wild campers at the sand dunes.  We have made it out without even taking the sand mats off the side of the truck.  Fantastic adventure!  Great driving Andrew!

mum's rants New Zealand

A Thoughtful Christmas in New Zealand – South Island

I know you are cold. I know you probably have snow.  I love snow.  We love snow.  I tell you it seems that most of the Christmas songs are about cold weather and snow.  Here in the Southern Hemisphere it would be quite weird and probably a bit scary if we had snow on Christmas.

christmas water fight

So, instead of snowball fights we will need to make do with water fights.

Some sadness when I was watching old friends greeting each other and thinking of my old friends on the other side of the world.  Especially sad thinking about our son and daughter–in-law on the other side of the world.  At least they are with my sisters and brother and mother.  That is right, I rather miss them too.  I miss them all, I miss you all.

Talking with some people that don’t celebrate Christmas.  Makes me think about it.  Do I think Christmas is a good holiday? Is it about Coca-cola?  Is it about a good man that used to give gifts to orphans?  Is there a bishop in there somewhere?  Is it simply a materialistic buying frenzy to keep our struggling economies afloat?  Is it about Winter Solstice?  The shortest day of the year?  The hope that the days will get longer.  That the sun will return.  I remember the first time my son saw a sunset.  He cried, yes he really cried.  He thought the sun had gone forever.  He thought it would never come back.  He thought we were doomed to live in darkness. I wonder if that was why there was the great celebration on the shortest day of the year? I wonder if they believed that their celebration, with all its hope, was responsible for bringing back the sun.  Actually, seems like it might be quite an appropriate day for the Christians to have their celebration of hope right alongside.  Hmmmmm. Am I going too far with this?

christmas hat

christmas ninja

christmas ties

In our family, we try not to get carried away with the Christmas materialism.  We haven’t the money or the space to waste.  But we do love to give gifts.  We love to receive them.  We love to make those we love happy.  Hard to avoid all the rubbish advertising likes to throw at us though, eh?  In our family most of our gifts are hand crafted gifts of the heart.  What fun.  Another thing I think about is – what other holiday do you get the joy of giving and receiving gifts at the same time?  Where the attention is not on one but on all. Lovely, isn’t it?christmas stout

Weeks before Christmas Gwennie and I were sewing, Tamara was painting and Andrew was brewing down in Waipara while Lizzy was cooking and Abi was discovering in Wellington.

christmas mince pie

Days before Christmas the family gathered.  The Fish were caught and smoked, more cooking, foraging and sewing.  Friends came around.

santa brings bunnies

So what did “Santa” leave you for Christmas.  I bet it was nothing like what he left us.  Andrew and I awoke to do our quick organization duty on Christmas morning. The kids try to pretend they are still sleeping so we can feel not quite so bad about sleeping in again. We noticed a special gift left by some stranger – no doubt a stranger that wears a warm red coat and hat .  It was 5 dead bunnies waiting for our Christmas Dinner.  OK, I know a bit strange but what did you expect – a new lounge suite?

christmas kahawai

Andrew had loads of fun delivering his Christmas Stout that he described as “Christmas in a bottle” and the Kahawai he and Abi caught, I cleaned and he smoked on the roof of our truck.

christmas boxes

During the next two days the following gifts were also delivered to our truck – hand crocheted Christmas stars, bbq meat, bags of vegetables and fruit, a box full of bread, another box of juice, shrimp curry, homemade tomato sauce, fig truffles, mushroom fritters, homemade stuffing, homemade quince cordial, photos, bottles of wine and home-brew beer.  Uuuuuh yeah!!!!  Can you believe it.  Of course, I am sure you know what the best gift of all is……


Even though we are strangers in a foreign land here (Yes, Andrew is a New Zealander but we are on the SOUTH Island and he is from the NORTH Island.  Obviously, A HUGE difference)…Sorry to break that lovely train o thought…. where was I …. Oh, yeah….FRIENDSHIP… What a great gift!!  I am sure that you must know by now that our greatest joy of travel is the amazing people we get to meet as we travel.  Every one unique and beautiful in their own way.  Each one sowing gifts in our hearts. Gifts of joy and beauty, hope and justice, wonder and celebration.  We get the honour of calling way more than our fair share ‘friend’.    Thank you for accepting and loving us as we are with all of our strange habits.

Thank you old friends for staying by our side in Spirit so many years.

Thank you new friends for the opportunity to see new beauty in the world through you and your lives.

christmas jojo

christmas love

christmas malaysia

We are rich beyond measure because of you.

Africa New Zealand

In Our Big Van Down By the River

We are not moving much these days. The vineyard has said that they don’t need me anymore. Andrew is still working there doing the more physically draining job of wire lifting. As the plants are not larger and taller the job requires someone with a bit of height as well as strength. Andrew loves it. He has a pedometer on his i-phone and clocks in 10-20 km a day walking around the vineyard.

We did move about a kilometer away where we are closer to the river, a swimming hole and homeschool friends. We can gather water right next to our truck. We can even park our car right next to our truck. You see, unlike most, our car is not 4 wheel drive but our home is. So, our home can go more places than our car can.This spot is much more popular. At the other spot we only had a few visitors over the month. Over here, we have daily visitors. Apparently this spot fills up over the summer with the beer-drinking quad bike crowd and a caravan did get burned up by some locals making merry last year. That is why we didn’t come here til I finished work so I could stay home with the kids.

There are wild plums and fennel growing everywhere and another tree with something that looks a bit like apples but might be persimmons. I have already made some plum butter. Yummy! I got sort of an ‘un-recipe’ for ‘self-pitting plum butter’ from Excellent recipe because wasn’t looking forward to pitting all those tiny little plums. I had to count the plums before they go in to make sure you take the right amount out. Tamara and I counted. Lost count at around 275. Counted again. We stewed 290 plums. Dang, actually, we stewed 291. Missed one and found that last pit later. I also took the recipe to a lazier/tarter level and left the skins in as well. Now I need to find some good Fennel recipes.

As part of embracing my ‘hunter-gatherer’ I am learning to identify more and more weeds. Slow going but very rewarding when I figure out one more weed with my few weed id books and my handy/dandy i-phone app. This week I found and identified, for the first time, ‘pineapple weed’ and ‘travelers joy’. I can make tea out of pineapple weed but seems best to avoid travelers joy as it seems like it is poisonous, most of the time.

New Zealand

Into the wild, Yet Again

Well, left the camp to go bush. Tired of giving money to someone else for luxuries we just don’t need. We don’t need electricity if we can make our own. We dont need a washing machine if we have a river , don’t need a shower if we have a watering can hanging in a tree and don’t need a toilet if we can dig one. Besides our home is four wheel drive. Why not have a bit of fun.

New Zealand Is great for wild camping. If there is no sign you can camp, especially if you go away from the paved roads. Just need to respect the land and leave it as you found it when it is time to leave.

We now have our truck right across the field from the vineyard on public land. I meet Tamara at a besutiful little pond midway for morning tea and studies on the days that I work. We take a few moments to see how the paradise ducks and their 5 ducklings are doing. We notice how one seems to lag behind. They are learning to dive under the water now. The parents fly off on ‘dates’ now, leaving their babies under our watchful eyes.


The track we took to get here was tough. Got stuck twice. We even got to take down our sandmats and use them for something besides decoration , while crossing the river. Got to see ‘three point mounting’ in action on out truck. It twisted and turned in ways that seem unnatural for a poor truck.


Once arrived Andrew was so exhausted that he fell asleep on the grass next to the truck.


Great fun here. Being able to wild camp in places like this is one of the dreams I had when we first got the truck. I just never get tired of it.

Getting lots of exercise as we walk a km every time we want to go somewhere in the car because the car cannot make it down the path where the truck went. Funny that. Grateful we have a car as we normally don’t. Feel like we are living in a special rustic, idyllic paradise right now.

We think this is where we will be for Christmas when Liz and Abi come down from Wellington. Our good friend, Teresa and her man will hopefully be here from Korea. Possibly, some of our workmates from the vineyard will be here and Jojo, our wonderful new Mauri friend from the camp. I love it when there are meetings of our worlds like this.

Living New Zealand

Working at a vineyard

Started working at the Waipara Hills Vineyard yesterday as a ‘seasonal worker’. We are trying something new. Me and Andrew are working at the vineyard while TJ ( who now wants to be called Tim Tam now) and Hannah ( who now wants to be called Gwennie) are across the street at the camp in our truck studying and playing and looking after each other. All quite fun right now. If it continues it will be nice as we can get some money put away. It is quite fun working side by side with Andrew in the field with Czechs and Malaysians and Germans and a nice Samoan man. I expect we will be thinking many profound thoughts, that We will be sure to blog. as We learn our job better and stop concentrating so much on pruning the grape vines. It is less physically demanding than apple picking but requires more thought at this stage. It is quite embarrassing that several times I have caught myself talking to the grape vines. Right now, my ankles are a bit sore from squatting down all day and I am busting with pride that my 2 youngest girls did so well. We wouldn’t be able to both be at the vineyard if Hannah and TJ, oops Tim Tam and Gwennie weren’t such awesome young ladies who look at difficulties and challenges as adventures with excitement and joy. So if you see some nice ‘Waipara Hills‘ or ‘Mud House‘ wine think of us when you drink it.

New Zealand

Organic River Festival

We are headed over to the Organic River Festival. Its our first time at this “holistic” festival and I think we will have a good time here. Not sure about the wifi situation there so we might pop off the grid again for a few days.

New Zealand

Hello Grandma and Nana!

Can you believe we have been in New Zealand now for over 6 months and such a pathetic representation of blog posts. I suppose now that we aren’t traveling quite so much in “dangerous countries” there isn’t as much need to put up a blog post to say, “hey grandparents! We aren’t DEAD on the side of the road or captured by pirates or anything”.But, we do need to catch up to show that we are LIVING!

Let me catch things up. Actually, how about some pictures first. Just for the Grandmas.


We met up with Samuel in Wellington and did some more “hanging”.


We started out living in a great big circus Marquis while we were working on our yurt. Now, who has always wanted to live in a circus Marquis?


After a while we got to move into our yurt.





Here is the story.

First, of all, we are planning on doing some more traveling. We have our beloved truck, Maggie, here to fix her up for some more adventures in New Zealand and beyond. Did anyone say, Africa? Hmmmm, we shall see. All our kids were feeling a bit identity challenged and our older kids were wanting a bit of a softer way to fly the coop than to be tossed on to a plane and flown to the other side of the world. Sure they have 2 passports (New Zealand and USA) but they were unfamiliar with both of these places and were lacking a sense of home. When we flew around the world last year (or was it longer?) we asked them where they would like to call home. Their three main choices were USA, Australia and New Zealand. They unanimously chose New Zealand. So, here we are. We found a community about as crazy as us outside Wellington. Samuel arrived before us and is settled into Victoria University and studying Theatre/Film. Lizzy is moving to Wellington this month and Abi is in Prague learning “Hostel Management”, but plans to return in December and study “random things” at the local Polytech. I am homeschooling TJ and Hannah and trying to restart “Gone2Pot”. Andrew is busy writing some books and together we are trying to start an import/export business. We are living in our yurt with our truck, Maggie, parked next to us. We also plan on working on Maggie, taking advantage of some local “Kiwi Inginuity”, and taking her on her next adventures.

Hope to keep up better from here on out.

New Zealand

TJs 9th Birthday

Celebrated TJs 9th Birthday in New Zealand. TJ woke up with the sun. She made her way through the mist to the semi-visible car and gathered the gifts from the dash. The whole family piled into mum and dad’s tent and opened the first of her gifts.

The tents were still soggy with mist when we then packed them into the car  for a day of birthday adventures.

First stop was with one of Andrew’s childhood friends. She had 11 kids. She has been busier than us. Instant party! We thought one cake just wasn’t big enough so we made 3. Seeing as the theme was an “apple birthday” we decorated the cakes with apples.

Of course, we had an assortment of New Zealand sweeties.

Feeling a need to climb a mountain on such a momentous day we climbed up one of the many volcanos in Auckland.

After the long hike we went to the Allis Family’s house for more cake. Actually we were supposed to have just one apple strudel (Margaret promised to show us how to make an easier pastry from scratch). However, all the bakers were feeling festive so we ended up with 3 cakes. Elizabeth made  a blueberry and sourcream cake. Abi made half of a lemon cake. Luke made the other half of Abi’s cake chocolate. Then Margaret made a large apple strudel that we affectionately called “the slug”.

At the end of the day, TJ took great joy in recounting all 6 (or was that 5 and 2 halves) birthday cakes. She loves to count and what can be more fun to count than birthday cakes.

New Zealand


Back at Ngatiawa on our way back up north. We have become quite attached to this place and the people.

There is something so amazing about people choosing to live in community. You add a passion for hospitality. How about a strong desire and plan for community transformation. Now make it 8 communities within an hour of each other committed to the local community and giving strength and dignity to its margin dwellers and you have something very beautiful.

Our time here has been filled with chickens,milking cows, washing dishes and cooking. Serendipity moments. Beginnings of lifelong friendships. Colliding worlds.

We are talking to them about coming back for a longer spell later on. Perhaps coming back as an “artist in residence”. We shall see.

mum's rants

The Power of Listening to a Story

Thinking alot about helping and being and doing. I want to help people out of the depth of who I am not just the superficiality of what I can do. Especially if what I do has its main value in helping me feel better about myself.

Going to Christchurch after the earthquake was quite a shock to my system. Andrew did some important networking stuff but what did I DO! I looked for opportunities to shovel something or clean something but couldn’t find where to go. There was a shortage of skilled workers. More structural engineers to lead teams into areas where there might be someone trapped and clinging to life. What about the menial labour jobs.

I had this strange sense that people somehow resented outsiders coming in and doing these menial jobs. They kept telling teams of people, “don’t come”. Why? I am still processing this all but this is where I am now.

I think the Christchurch people may need those menial jobs themselves to heal. Standing side-by-side with someone who has seen their house shake like a tender leaf on a tree. Side-by-side with someone who has traded stability for chaos. Someone else with a shattered story. To pick up a shovel next to them would have been violating a holy space.

As I look back on our time there I think I know the best thing that I had done. Listen to stories. Stories of heroes and survivors. Listen until the focus goes off of me and my heroic efforts and over to where it should go, the one with the story.

By listening I  would validate and serve and witness. By listening I would reconnect people with their humanity. With their connection to their neighbour and their land. To place them in time and space and reality. To shift the focus to them. To lift them up. To applaud with my ears and my eyes and my heart.

In a world where fairness and reason and security seems in short supply. In a world where a new disaster comes in the shadow of the last. Perhaps there is some value in that.

We help where we can. We listen. We witness. We validate. We love. We walk in shadows.