Kiwi Camping - Caravan Style
I have a bit of a confession to make. While many of you were no doubt slogging it out in the office nine to five this past week, it was finally the Flynn family turn to have some fun in the sun. We packed our car to the absolute limit – luggage for two adults, two toddlers and all the necessary stuff that goes with leaving the family home for the week. . Buggies and bikes, books and beverages, and set off for the beautiful, picturesque, and always sunny Bay of Plenty.
Not to some swanky beachfront Bach, or well appointed apartment. Nope – we were off to try our first ever family camping holiday... in a crusty and rusty old-fashioned caravan.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a camper from way back .. but it’s taken a good three and a half years of parenthood and sleep deprivation before I could even entertain the thought of being cooped up in a caravan with two toddlers.
Our safety net was the incredibly supportive grandparents in a campervan a couple of tent sites away –the secure knowledge that even if the nights didn’t go so well, we’d be able to palm them off for a few hours each day for some much needed time with the grandee’s.
Alas – we needn’t have worried about sleep – the kids were so worn out every day from the sun, the surf, the constant walks and scoots around the stunning mountain – THEY slept soundly, only to wake a little early as the sun rose high each day above the multitudes of apartments that now adorn marine parade.
We were feeling victorious – foolish for not having tried it sooner. The kids quickly adapted to using the public facilities, got used to their neighbours being so close and friendly, and we too felt the barriers melt away as we chatted to the man on the motorbike about where to get the best coffee, encouraged our kids to play with the “bigger girls” next door, and watched seagulls swoop in for every left over bbq scrap.
It wasn’t all idyllic ofcourse – it wouldn’t be a good old-fashioned kiwi camping holiday without a tetchy weather tale or two.
So while Kim Dot Com was trying to get his political party off the ground, we were just trying to stay on it –each night losing sleep – NOT, as feared, due to sharing a small space with two small people, but from the thought of the rusty old caravan being lifted off it’s wooden platform.
The winds were so strong – hundred k gusts at times - people were being blown over, tents obliterated, awnings – blown out to the sea.
A neighbor told of deck chairs ending up in the local pool complex, 300 metres away.. we watched as the sand swept up and scorched swimmers backs.
Tourists escaping the docked Diamond Princess’s norovirus woes, were confronted with winds big enough to send them back on board.
We tried to persist with the iconic kiwi sandcastles, ice blocks on the beach and so forth, only to give up and take shelter back inside the 4 flimsy walls. A cool kiwi rose at hand.
It was here we reminisced with mum and dad about the many camping holidays we shared as a young family in the 80’s and 90’s;
The time the water rose so high during a flood at Port Jackson, one of the babies floated past in a bassinet
The time dad’s trailer lost a wheel on the one–way Kopu bridge, holding traffic up for hours in a storm
The time dad forgot to secure the catamaran on the beach, and woke up the next morning to find it had sailed itself out to sea
and the time us kids were put safely in the car while the parents packed the tents up – in wetsuits – during a cyclone – at 3 am.
Each memory bringing a smile at the recollection – never a regret – just perhaps overshadowing the countless good memories – those of making friends for life with your summer neighbours, steaming tua tuas and mussels dug fresh from the outgoing tide.
Camping has changed enormously over the years – there’re fridge’s in many tents, adults no longer needing to rely on the rivers to keep their beverages cold, the facilities are excellent, and in Mount Maunganui there’s nothing to rough with a bunch of trendy shops and cafes a stones thrown away.. But the memories and experiences it brings haven’t changed an iota – people are still friendly, caring and sharing, the locations still spectacular, and the weather still unpredictable. I can’t believe we waited this long to share our love of this kiwi tradition with our own children – next time – who knows – we might even brave a tent.
Love to hear your camping experiences and memories – past or present - good and bad!!