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The Place I call Home – A New Zealand Travel Blog – Northland in a Campervan Part 1

May 29, 2020

Northland, unsurprisingly, comprises the uppermost tip of the North Island of New Zealand. Northland is perfect for exploring in a campervan. It is long and narrow, and the drive takes you through ancient forests and along stunning coastlines. Northland is rich in history and culture, both Maori and Pakeha (European), and it has its own micro-climate.

This New Zealand campervan trip around Northland marked our first family adventure in a campervan. This trip gave us a taste of the freedom a campervan can offer us, and the beautiful spots we could discover only in a home with wheels. We were hooked.

The Kauri Coast Highway

We picked up our Maui campervan in Auckland and headed north. A helpful hint here, if you are spending your first day in a campervan, don’t plan to travel too far. Limit yourself to a few hours of driving, planning for stops, and schedule plenty of time to set up for your first night in the new campervan.

Our first break was at Kaiwaka. This charming little town is definitely worth the stop. To stock up on cheese from the Kaiwaka Cheese if nothing else! A creamy blue to accompany a cold glass of wine with a beautiful view at the end of a day’s travel?

We continued to follow the Kauri Coast Highway, a scenic detour from the main Twin Coast Discovery Highway. Heading off the main highway is our modus operandi. Throughout our Northland trip, we managed to spend only a few hours on the main four-lane highway. By staying off the main highway we could stop in the little Bays for lunch on the waterfront, explore ancient Kauri forests and stop at roadside stalls for fresh fruit and vegetables, artisan sausages, and cheese tasting of course!

We spent our first night at the Pine Beach campground at Kai Iwi Lakes, parked up on the waterfront. We could make dinner whilst watching the girls played on the sand. There are also fantastic walking tracks, including a walk around the lake (30 – 45 minutes) or a walk across the dunes to the surf beach. Unfortunately, we only planned to be here for a night, so we didn’t get a chance to explore the area. It is a common theme of this trip that we should have doubled the amount of time spent in every location.

Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest

The next day we followed the Kauri Coast Highway through the ancient and stunning Waipoua Forest, home to the famous Tane Mahuta. Tāne Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’) is New Zealand’s largest known living Kauri tree at over 51 meters high!

According to Maori mythology, Tāne is the son of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuanuku (the earth mother). Tāne was the child that tore apart his parents’ parental embrace. His growth broke apart the embrace of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, to allow space and light in between them for life to flourish. Tane Mahuta is regarded as the parent to all living creatures of the forest.

Logging of native trees drastically depleted Kauris from the 1820s until its ban in 2002. Kauri Dieback Disease now threatens the few giants that remain. For this reason, when you enter a DOC managed forest in New Zealand you will be asked to clean your shoes.

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Tane Mahuta
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Hokianga Harbour and a history lesson

The Kauri Coast Highway then took us through to the Hokianga Harbour where we stopped at Opononi. Arriving at Opononi is like stepping back in time. A place where the pace is slow and the people are down to earth. There are amazing views, wharves to fish off, and stunning picnic spots.

Next, we headed to Rawene to catch the Rawene Ferry. My husband appears to love ferries and will schedule them in wherever he can. Its all part of staying off the main Highway I guess…

Rawene is one of the oldest European towns in New Zealand. Unfortunately, this charming and quaint historical village was not built for campervan parking…

Rawene is however home to excellent cafes, galleries like the Boatshed Gallery, and the historic Clendon House. Clendon House is a heritage house where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The Treaty is the founding document for the New Zealand settlement by Europeans. The Treaty traveled throughout New Zealand and was signed in numerous locations. 

One surprising thing I learned on this trip is that one of my ancestors actually signed the Treaty of Waitangi (as a settler), and potentially acted as an interpreter. Maybe not something to be proud of given the interpretation issues with the Treaty, but still fascinating history.

Ninety Mile Beach, the beach that is not ninety miles long!

We spent our second night in Ahipara, staying at the Ahipara Holiday Park. This wasn’t our first choice, but it was a lovely, clean holiday park. And the girls had a surprise the next morning with an Easter Egg Hunt in and around the campervan (we were finding Easter Eggs for days… silly Easter Bunny didn’t count how many eggs she hid!).

The main attraction at Ahipara is Ninety Mile Beach. Which, incidentally, is not ninety miles long! Ninety Mile Beach is a renowned surf beach, and famous for its sunsets. The beach itself is actually an official highway. As novel as it is to take a drive down the beach (which we couldn’t do in a hired camper), I didn’t enjoy the vehicles roaring past whilst trying to explore the beach with two young children.

Although Ahipara is an adventurer’s paradise, it wasn’t somewhere I’d rave about for a family with young children. However, as a gateway to the Far North, it was worth the stay.

The Far North, lighthouses and spirits

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Cape Reinga
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Cape Reinga, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

The Far North is where it gets really fun! We headed to Cape Reinga, the (mostly) northernmost point of New Zealand. The Cape is home to the famous landmark, the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, and a lone Pohutukawa tree. It is also (arguably) the most significant spiritual area for the Maori people. The Cape itself marks the departure point for Maori spirits, the point from which Maori wairua (spirit) return to their traditional homeland after they die.

I cannot stress enough how sacred this area is. It is well marked. Yet when we were there a tourist was assisting her son to pee in the bushes. There are public toilets. Please don’t be that tourist.

We spent the night in the appropriately named Spirits Bay at the Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) DOC conservation campsite. To get to the campsite we had to detour down a long dirt road, but it was well worth the extra drive. This is one of those areas we would not have been able to explore without a camper/mobile home.

Spirits Bay had an eery (yet comforting?) feeling about it. Oddly, I’m not the only one to think so. When researching for this blog, I found an article that included Spirits Bay in a list of New Zealand’s eeriest spots. Legend has it that, at night, spirits can be seen moving down the beach toward that lone ancient Pohutukawa tree on the tip of the Cape, and then suddenly disappearing. I didn’t see any spirits, but I certainly didn’t like being out on that (beautiful) beach on my own!

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Spirits Bay
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Spirits Bay, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Te Paki Sand-Duning Adventures

Time for a bit of fun? How about sandboarding down the GIANT Te Paki Sand Dunes? The sand formations, vegetation and continually moving sand really make you feel like you are heading into the desert. Hire the boards on-site. Don’t bother trying your bodyboards. Pay the $10 for a specially designed and waxed board… it is worth the money.

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Te Paki Sand Dunes
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Next, it is time to head south again. Where there are plenty of adventures to be had, wine to be tasted, wild Kiwi spotting, and stunning scenery to enjoy. In Part Two of this Northland blog we will be enjoying Matauri Bay and the Bay of Islands… more to come!

This article does not contain affiliate links. Any recommendations are my own honest accounts. I will not receive any commission from any of the recommendations I have made in this article. However, I will have helped support the New Zealand tourism industry post-Covid-19 lockdown.

#travellocal #supportNewZealand #tourismNewZealand #NewZealandCampervan

This blog is part of The Place I call Home Series, a #NewZealandTravelBlog.

lifestyle, Parenting

Life-changing Lockdown Lessons

April 29, 2020

New Zealand has been in Lockdown for 38 days as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We have been at Lockdown Level Four, one of the stricter Lockdowns across the world. Essentially – stay home. But along the way, there have been a number of life-changing Lockdown lessons.

The easing of Lockdown

We are now on the eve of the Lockdown easing to Level Three. This will mean a few more freedoms. Some can go out to work if it is safe. You will be able to get takeaway food and real coffee! Retail remains closed, and many businesses will continue to struggle. If you are not at work, getting essentials, or exercising locally, you must remain at home. In your ‘bubbles’.

New Zealand has done well. Our “team of five million” has drastically cut the number of cases, our death toll stands at 19 to date.

But on the eve of easing Lockdown, its a time of personal reflection for me. I wanted to write not about the virus, and the terrible things it has caused. Instead, I want to remember both the time we spent in Lockdown and what I have learned. To consider how the Lockdown has changed me personally, for the better. About how it has been a period of personal growth. And about how those lessons learned in Lockdown have been life-changing.

A Life-changing Lockdown Journey

Lockdown has been a strange time. A time with highs and lows.

The low points came quickly, with my teenage daughter’s confusion and stress at being forced into a different life. A new and different routine caused her anxiety to spiral. I know in my heart that inside is a scared little girl, but on the outside she was an out of control teenager, taller than me, breaking things and threatening to kill her little sister.

Then she settled down. Settled into a new routine. A relaxed routine. Away from the pressures of her normal life.

And our family started to settle into lockdown life. Sleeping in, every morning. My morning run. A lazy coffee in the sun. Breakfast around 10. Work and school for a few hours. Lunch. Yoga or a bike ride. Free time. Wine time. Dinner. Netflix or a family movie. Sleep. And repeat.

The nightly driveway wines, our neighbors in their drive, us in ours. The kids playing in the culdesac. Tennis, riding bikes, skates, scooters. Reading books.

Board games. Teddy Bears in windows. Exploring the golf course. Collecting pinecones and mushrooms.

Starting a business.

Celebrating milestones

Along the way we celebrated and remembered life’s milestones. We celebrated my birthday. Remembering a year ago the amazing time we had with our closest friends, touring wineries in the Hawkes Bay.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary with a vintage pinot we had collected from a small Queenstown winery. With a cheese board. In front of a roaring fire.

www.accounting4chaos.com life-changing lockdown lessons

Easter arrived and we made hot cross buns and had an Easter Egg hunt around the garden. Miss M’s pet rabbit Minty decided her Easter Egg (rabbit) smelt pretty yummy. And ate it. With the family in fits of laughter, we decided Minty had a streak of cannibalism in her when it came to chocolate bunny rabbits.

Then there was Anzac Day. A day of remembrance for those that fought for our freedom in the World Wars. To remember those that did not grow old. And to be grateful to those veterans, now the most at risk in this pandemic. I rose at 6 am, stood in the driveway, and watched the sunrise as a Bugler in our neighborhood played The Last Post. Along the street, our neighbors stood in solidarity. We will remember them.

Lockdown Life Lessons

Before Lockdown there were two main pressures in my life. Work was the first. The second was my daughter’s behavior, and the stress it put on the family.

Whether it was leaving work, my daughter’s unexpected relaxation, or being forced to stay in one place, I have remembered how to stay still. I have found peace. And contentment.

I am present in the ‘now’. I no longer half-listen to conversations going on around me. Nod, aha, yeah, yup, ok. Until someone asks me a question. Usually my husband. And I can’t remember having the conversation.

I am happy. I’m content. And relaxed. I can enjoy the company of my husband. And love being around my children.

I feel confident again. The anxiety has gone. I can breathe.

Lockdown has been life-changing.

Take care.

XX

#Lockdown #NewZealand #Covid19 #Aspergers

lifestyle, Parenting

Loving our Aspie, the way life is sometimes.

April 17, 2020
www.accounting4chaos.com aspie during lockdown

I was recently introduced to the term ‘Aspie’. An aspie is a person who has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is believed to be part of the autism spectrum. Aspies, while being gifted, can have social, emotional, and sensory integration difficulties.  For the record, ‘aspie’ is an affectionate term, and is not meant as a derogatory term.

An Aspie in the family?

We have for a number of years wondered if our eldest daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome. When my husband first raised the possibility, I immediately dismissed it and put our difficulties down to parenting. Self-blame. A number of themes or reasons, mainly centered around Miss T being an only child for so long, and the impact of rejection when a sibling arrived, Miss M.

I thought Miss T was just a normal child, becoming more and more difficult as she grew up. As Miss M was so much younger, it was a number of years before I realised, they were not comparable at the same age. Miss T’s behaviour was at another level.

Time and time again we discussed whether we get Miss T diagnosed. She was super smart, but lacked empathy and struggled in new environments. Even as a little girl, she would never play on a playground if there was another child there. And with the onset of teenage hormones, she began to fly into rages over the smallest things – a round-shaped soap for example.

We decided we didn’t want to label her. We were never going to medicate her anyway, so we would just learn to manage, and help her to learn to manage. Miss T started behavioural therapy, and my husband and I took parenting classes.

These seemed to help. But the problem was not resolved. As Miss T grew into a teenager, other parents complained about their teenage children’s behaviour. But T was different again. It wasn’t until I was talking to a parent who has a child with autism and anxiety that I thought, that sounds more like my daughter.

Getting help

We kept persevering with behaviour therapy. It worked, until Miss T decided she knew better. I started coming along, so I could keep Miss T in check. So she couldn’t outsmart yet another counsellor. Miss T had to answer to her actions. It was upsetting, but in the long run helpful.

As a result, Miss T decided she wanted help. She didn’t want to be like this anymore. She was as miserable as we were. Miss T made the decision. So we headed to the Doctor.

One of the questions our Doctor asked was why did we wait so long to see her? My answer – I blamed myself. I thought it was parenting.

Living with a teenage Aspie in a lockdown!

As coronavirus hit, and we were put into lockdown, Miss T’s appointments were cancelled and her treatment put on hold. At the same time, I became a stay at home parent for the first time in her life. And she was out of routine. She flared up.

Miss T threatened to kill her sister. She told her, “Percy should have killed you when he had a chance” (I found the cat asleep on Miss M’s head when she was three weeks old). Miss T told her little sister, “sometimes I pretend to like you but I don’t, you are just a dirty ugly weirdo”. Whatever this was, it was hurting both my daughters.

But then there was a surprise. Miss T settled into her new routine. The pressure of going to school and conforming with what was expected of a teenage girl was removed. The stress of being the top of the class, in the excellerant class, was gone. The confusing dialog with other teenagers, when she struggles with empathy and boundaries, was minimised. Miss T became just Miss T again. No need to pretend.

Sure, she is still a teenager. She still hates her parents at times. But that’s normal. The yelling and screaming have reduced. We have not had food thrown on the ceiling. She hasn’t broken any furniture. She has not ripped the wallpaper. No toilet paper thrown in the pool because it was the wrong brand. No corn chips jumped on and smashed because they were the wrong flavour.

She has not hurt her little sister.

Miss T’s anxiety levels have dropped significantly and she can just be herself. And our house is almost peaceful…

A time for reflection

I do wonder how much of this change is also because of the changes in us. Lockdown has become a period where I have found time to sleep in, to do washing based on the weather, and remembered the basics of baking and cooking. I have given up work. There is no more running around getting kids to school on time and to their after school activities. No working 40+ hour weeks, answering phone calls outside of work, doing housework and somehow trying to exercise. I have learnt to full my days with a morning run, doing yoga with Miss M, writing, helping the children with their homework, reading, family bike rides, games nights, wine time, and watching Netflix in the evening with my husband. The pressure is off.

Life has settled down. I have relaxed. Our children have relaxed. And occassionally we see Miss T smile again….

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

Life in lockdown – the end of a dream?

April 4, 2020
NZ in lockdown www.accounting4chaos.com

If you have been following this blog, you probably know that late last year my husband and I made a big brave life decision. We resigned from our jobs. Sold a rental property. And purchased a campervan that is sitting waiting for us in the Netherlands. Then there was the lockdown.

We were set to fly to Europe in April. The plan was to travel for the rest of the year and return in time for Miss T to start her High School exams next year. Really now or never on the timing.

Then the world started to fall apart. Just as I was finishing work, the kids were enrolled in the correspondence school, and our house was listed for rent, Coronavirus started to hit hard in Europe. The borders started closing.  

With a campervan in storage in the Netherlands, we started looking for a backup plan. We worked through our budget and started looking at caravans to travel around New Zealand. Although we have traveled much of the North Island, traveling around the South Island was definitely on our bucket list. We were grateful and excited to have such an amazing ‘backyard’ to explore in our own country.

Lockdown

Then, quite unexpectantly, and with only 100 coronavirus cases in New Zealand, we were all put into lockdown for at least a month. We must stay at home. Although my husband had work lined up (he is now self employed), with the lockdown in place he cannot go out to work, and cannot get paid. We can only leave the house for exercise, to get food, and for essentials.

When we dared to follow our dreams, when we decided to quit our jobs and travel the world with our kids, there is no way we could have ever guessed this could happen. A global pandemic. That we could end up both unemployed and stuck at home. A recession kicking in. Not even able to travel our own country. Living on our savings for our European dream.

The end of a dream?

So what now? We can only take this day by day. It is ultimately going to depend on how long this lockdown lasts, and how far our savings can take us.

I remind myself daily, it could be much worse. I am grateful we live in an Island nation, where we have managed to keep the virus out long enough to learn from other countries. Whereas other countries have suffered immense losses to human life, we have entered lockdown to regain control of the virus, hopefully before it is too late. My family is healthy and happy in our lockdown paradise.

Will we get out on the road? I doubt we will get to Europe anytime soon. But hopefully, we can get out of lockdown in New Zealand, buy a caravan and travel our own backyard.

As for Europe? Well, we own a campervan in the Netherlands. I hope one day we can get there. However, first, we will need to come up with a way of working while we are traveling. And we will need to find a way for our daughter to complete her High School exams from Europe.

One of my clients said to me when we first verbalized our European dream – when you get back, you will fall back into work and the chaos that is life, it won’t take long, but the thing that will change in you permanently is when you look at that horizon. You will look at the horizon and you will know you can pack up and reach for that dream, you will not be stuck in the everyday rat race. You will know you can walk away, you can achieve it. And that is what will stick.

That is what I want to learn, and for my children to learn. To be brave.

And in the meantime, I remind myself that when we traveled to Canada and the US for six weeks, people asked me what my favorite part was. My answer was ‘spending six weeks continuously with my children’. And I can do that right here at home.

Parenting, Travel, Uncategorized

A catch-up Update, our new direction is North

January 24, 2020

So I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog for quite a while. I recently published a post, that I wrote in March last year. A lot has happened, and we have made a couple of BIG decisions in the last 12 months. Once again, we are heading off in a NEW direction. So the purpose of this post is to fill you in on what has been happening and enlighten you as to our new direction!

If you have been following this blog, you have probably worked out I was a stressed-out mother and career woman. The classic ‘rushing women syndrome’ type.

With our girls growing up fast the chaos all got too much. My husband gave up his job in May last year so that he could help out more with our girls, and at home, and generally support me in my career. It has worked wonders with the girls, Miss T’s behaviour has improved remarkedly, and Miss M’s enthusiasm for school and learning has returned. My husband has loved the new lifestyle and has started his own part-time business. On most accounts, it has been a success.

However, I’ve remained stressed. I felt stuck. And my health has deteriorated. Being the breadwinner wasn’t working for me. With Hubby not wanting to go back to work, we started to seriously think about our dream of travelling with the children. A dream that we had put to one side as ‘unrealistic’, while we continued to focus on our careers, paying off our mortgage and saving for retirement … the safe, the normal.

We thought about our parents. My father who passed away at 52, and my mother ín law who died at 59. Neither of whom reached retirement. Sitting here, working hard and saving ‘life’ for retirement wasn’t sitting well with us.

So again we thought of taking some time out for travel.

If we were going to travel, it had to be now. Before Miss T’s High School exams next year.

We made a decision. We are doing it.

I have officially resigned from my job. We have sold an investment property to fund the trip. In two months’ time, we will both be unemployed! Our home will be rented out. And we will be on a plane heading for the adventure of a lifetime with our children in tow!

Budgeting, lifestyle, Parenting

Stressed is just Desserts Backwards!

September 24, 2018

I can be a bit of a stress junkie.  I have a bad habit of overloading myself, and then turning into Mumzilla.  Not exactly conducive to a calm home environment.  Our lives can be a little chaotic.

However, this year we have been doing pretty well.  And although the year started out at full noise, as it progressed, work-life balance was coming back.

The problem being, as you may know, that we have just started a major new project.

The Project

We have purchased an investment house.  And it is in dire need of repair. Continue Reading…

Budgeting, lifestyle, Parenting

Paintbrushes and retirement planning…

September 20, 2018

Life had been going pretty smoothly over the last few months.  I’d dropped a couple of volunteer positions, learned to say no to work commitments, and even turned up for the odd school outing!  I was exercising, going to relaxation yoga, and enjoying spending quality time with my family without stressing about work.

But you know what happens when a busy workaholic finally slows down?  They find something else to do.

And I did.

Over the last few weeks, we have been in the process of buying another house.  It is old and run down and needs a complete renovation.  We have been busy measuring it up, picking carpets, shopping for kitchens, appliances and curtains.  Booking in carpet and floor sanders and builders and painters.  Not to mention the usual stress of dealing with the lawyers and the bank.  And today we got the keys.

Why?

As you know we have been thinking a lot about what we want out of life.  We have been looking at whether our busy chaotic lifestyle is for us.  Which it may not be.

However, if we want to make changes in our lives, we need to do something about it.

We can’t just keep going to work every day, making money, spending money, and in five years time realising we are in the exact same position as we are today – just with a few more grey hairs and the girls looking at moving out of home.

Continue Reading…

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

The Iconic Yellowstone NP – An Amazing Journey Series

September 6, 2018

Yellowstone took my breath away. I thought it would be a great place to travel.  But it well and truly surpassed my expectations.  Another iconic stop in our Amazing Journey that will be etched in my heart, and in my children’s memories, forever.

Planning your trip to Yellowstone

When it comes to planning your trip to Yellowstone, its best to remember there are distinct areas and themes – geysers, wildlife, hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  There is so much to see and do and you could easily spend a lifetime exploring the park.  In fact, people do.  Our fishing guide was a retired scientist who, together with his wife, spent every summer in their RV at Yellowstone – working and exploring.  There is always something new.

The sheer size of the park makes it difficult to get around.  There can be hours of travel between these areas.  Particularly if you have bear jams, or snow, or traffic!

The other thing to consider is the season.  We were there in June, and it snowed.  A lot.  Luckily we had a cabin, but the poor tents suffered.  And it was freezing – meaning the iconic Grand Prismatic was just a huge bowl of steam.

My biggest regret at Yellowstone?  Only allowing three days.  The iconic Yellowstone could be a destination all on its own.

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Lamar Valley

We entered the park from the North East Entrance, straight into Lamar Valley.  This worked well logistically, as the Lamar Valley was quite isolated from where we were staying at Lake Yellowstone Hotel.  It also meant we got to explore the Bear Tooth highway on the way into the Park.

Yellowstone NP has abundant wildlife, but the Lamar Valley is particularly recommended for wildlife spotting.  The Valley is home to bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, grizzly bears, mule deer, pronghorn, and wolves.

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One of the first things that struck us about Yellowstone, before we even spotted the animals was the smell.  We couldn’t pick it, but the air just smelt like fresh herbs.  It turns out it was wild Thyme.  You can spot it in this photo, the wild Sage and Thyme are growing like grass and the smell in the air is just amazing!

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Next time – I’d love to allow for an early morning at Lamar Valley in the hope of hearing to the wolves’ cries and spotting a few bears!

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Canyon Visitors Centre and the Junior Ranger Programme

With the weather turning, we decided to spend a few hours at the Canyon Visitors Information Centre.  It was a great place to explore, to get out of the weather, and to plan the rest of our stay at Yellowstone.  The girls also signed up for the Junior Ranger Programme.

Having visited a number of the United States National Parks, I have to say how impressed I was with the Rangers, the helpfulness of everybody, and the incredible Junior Ranger Programme!  On signing up the girls were given booklets to work through, learning about the Park, its history, the environment and how to look out for the wild animals.  The girls learnt so much on this trip, through hands-on experiences that they would never have had in school.

On completing the Junior Ranger Programme the girls were duly sworn in by the Rangers and given their badge.  What an amazing programme!

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

As the Grand Canyon was on the way to our cabin at Lake Yellowstone Hotel we decided to stop in for a quick visit and hike down to the Lower Falls Brink.  I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it was breathtaking.

One word of caution, this hike is steep.  But we managed it with the family, so you should be fine with a modest level of fitness.

Unfortunately for us, it started snowing about now so it was a quick hike UP the hill to the carpark.

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Lower Falls Brink

And the view from Artists’ Point.

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View from Artists’ Point

Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin

The next day, we awoke to MORE snow.  But it did make for beautiful photos, and a good day to explore the Old Faithful Inn.

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Around Lake Yellowstone

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The Old Faithful Inn made a great spot to sit with hot chocolates and wait for ye Old Faithful.  IF we had more time, I would have loved to have taken a tour of the building and learnt more about its history.  Another free tour put on by the Rangers.

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The Old Faithful Geyser is a must see.  If not just because of its iconic status, but also because you are guaranteed to see it go off.  There is a great sightseeing spot on the deck of the Old Faithful Hotel (hot chocolate in hand!).

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Old Faithful

Grand Prismatic

Unfortunately, the Grand Prismatic was full of steam, and we couldn’t really see much at all.  Apparently, it happens when it snows.

And to top it off – the parking was next to impossible.  We were at Yellowstone in June, in the shoulder season.  The traffic and parking in July would be extremely difficult.  Unfortunately, Yellowstone doesn’t run shuttles like some of the other National Parks.

This is Yellowstone though, and there are plenty more bubbling mud pools, geysers and steam pits to explore.

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Mammoth

Miss M was getting exhausted with the long days, so we decided to head over to the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  It was a good hour and a bit drive so it gave her a chance to have a snooze in the car (this became a routine on our trip – early starts, late nights, and afternoon naps for our 7-year-old…).  But it worked.  See, a smile!

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Lake Yellowstone

Luckily it had stopped snowing by day 3 when we had pre-booked salmon fishing on Lake Yellowstone!  I’m not really a keen fisherperson, but how could you not go out on Lake Yellowstone?

Although the fish weren’t biting we learnt a lot about the history of the lake and heard stories about the old zoo on the island and the rogue that built it.  We even spotted early morning wildlife out for a stroll, as well as native Eagles flying low over the lake.

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Eating and Sleeping in Yellowstone

In terms of the accommodation, you can book this a year out.  I thought we had plenty of time, we didn’t. We were lucky and managed to get the last cabin.  Given there were no cancellation fees, I would book as soon as you possibly can, even if you need to change later.

Although the cabin had no cooking facilities, there was a fridge and with a little creativity, you could self-cater.  We had stocked up with plates, bowls, knives, forks, cups etc at Walmart, as well as food supplies.  We were able to self-cater with cereal for breakfast and picnic lunches.  For dinner, we had pre-made salads and cold meats.  We rewarded ourselves on our last night with dinner out at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel!

A trip to Yellowstone wouldn’t be complete without hanging out in one of the iconic lodges.  We took the ooportunity to relax, and have a cocktail, while waiting for dinner at the Hotel.

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Catching up with diary entries at Lake Yellowstone Hotel

The Hotel offered fine-dining US style, amongst power cuts.  I tried Buffalo (these are not Yellowstone Buffalo, they are farmed for the purpose).

And we got to enjoy the views … well, we did after I asked to be moved (they initially tried to put us in an obscure corner where the children couldn’t disturb their other guests … not my style, our girls have table manners and we were there to enjoy the surroundings as much as the next guest!).

Accounting 4 Chaos

Fine dining at Lake Yellowstone Hotel – even with children!

Lake Yellowstone and Fishing Village

The sun has finally come out for a beautiful drive around Lake Yellowstone on our way out of the park.

Accounting 4 Chaos

Next time?

Yellowstone is an absolutely amazing and iconic destination.  We crammed in a lot for our short timeframe. They were long days and we were all exhausted, but it was absolutely worth it.

I’m not sure I’ll get back to Yellowstone anytime soon, it is quite a hike from New Zealand.  But maybe one day Hubby and I will be the oldies parked up in the staff RV village working and exploring the park :).

This blog is part of the Amazing Journey Series.

Five years ago we re-evaluated our lives and our goals after the sudden loss of my mother in law.  We vowed to slow down and to enjoy life with our small children.  We got outside and explored.  And we travelled.  This Amazing Journey series documents our journey through Canada and the US, provides an insight on travelling with children, local destination tips and tricks, and, of course, gives an Accountant’s perspective on making the most of your holiday dollar. Earlier entries are here:

The Mickey Mouse guide to the value of money – saving for the dream family adventure

4000 miles, 5 weeks and 2 kids – an amazing journey series part 1

It all starts now – an Amazing Journey series – part 2

Vancouver with two children, walking shoes and the man flue – an Amazing Journey series – part 3

Bear Spotting in Jasper National Park

Icefields Parkway

Lake Louise and Banff National Park

Bear Tooth Highway

Coming up – RV Life…

Accounting 4 Chaos #Yellowstone

 




#Yellowstone #YellowstoneNP #Bloggerlife #Travelblogger

Parenting

I am the happiest person in the world!

August 30, 2018

Tonight at bedtime my daughter said to me “Mummy, I’m the happiest person in the world, happy, happy, happy!”.

“Why are you so happy?” I asked her.

“Because I have the best Mummy in the whole wide world!”.

Well.  I didn’t expect that one.

I haven’t done anything special.

Thinking back on the day:

  • I made her cry this morning when she was mucking around and we were trying to get out the door.
  • I confiscated her special toy when she refused to put a jumper on.
  • She had to go to after-school care while I worked.
  • Hubby picked her up, made dinner, asked her how her speech went and was generally the primary caregiver for the night.
  • I finally got home after the girls’ dinner, just in time for the Girl Guides run and bedtime.

So what did I do to deserve this?

I was just me.  I gave her cuddles, showed her I loved her and was there to tuck her into bed.  And that was enough.

As much as we feel the guilt of being away from our children, and the tug of that invisible umbilical cord, us Mums need to stop beating ourselves up about our “failures”.

Just being there, being present and in the moment, is enough.

We are enough.  We can be happy.  Right here, right now. Be in the moment.

Take care,

XX

Accounting4Chaos #Mummyguilt #happy



 

Parenting, Travel

The Beartooth Highway Photo Diary – An Amazing Journey Series

August 3, 2018
Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is a 68 mile All American Road that winds its way through Montana and Wyoming, leading its travellers to the iconic Yellowstone National Park.  At 3,337m high, there is some serious elevation – a bag of chip bursting elevation in fact!  Starting from around 1,600m in elevation, you start your climb starts in grassy meadows, travelling through switch-backs and steep zigzags, past banks of snow, and skiers blasting past your window.

The Itinerary

We flew into Billings Airport, as the closest airport we could find to Yellowstone National Park, that didn’t cost an extremely exorbitant amount (i.e. Jackson Hole).  Billings turned out to be a great place to pick up a rental, stock up the car, and find cheap accommodation.  I have to provide a recommendation here for the Hilltop Inn.  This was the cheapest hotel accommodation in our entire trip, and it provided free breakfast.  The room was huge, and to top it off there was a microwave and a fridge so we could self-cater a family dinner (with the help of a hot chicken from Walmart!).  Would love it if they didn’t use disposable plastic for EVERYTHING though, a little better for the environment if they used glasses, plates, knives, forks etc instead of the single-use plastic variety – wrapped in another layer of plastic for hygiene.

The Beartooth Highway

We had three amazing All American Roads on our bucket list for our US Trip – the Beartooth Highway, the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the Tioga Pass (technically a National Scenic Byway).  Unfortunately for us, a storm took out a key bridge on the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the snow didn’t clear from the Tioga Pass by the time we travelled through in early July – which left only the Beartooth Highway.

Even then, the Beartooth Highway was CLOSED the day before we left Billings.  Hubby was devastated, knowing the Big Sur was closed, watching the snow reports daily for the Tioga Pass, and refreshing the Beartooth Highway website hourly for updates to see if it was going to open.   In the morning when we were due to leave Billings the hotel staff gave us the good news – it was open.  For now.  Get moving… We knew we were still hours away from the start of the Highway, but we took the risk.  We were very lucky.  It was closed again the next day!

Beartooth Highway Accounting 4 Chaos

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