40 Days on the Road
If you have ever wondered what a Kiwi family living in the part of New Zealand known as the Forgotten World gets up to on a Sunday, then you, my friend, are about to find out.
All five kids of the Kiwi couple we are staying with, Simon and Sarah, are home and the house is a bit chaotic. They can mostly entertain themselves with the two dogs, two kids and a cat outside, so Simon is keen to give us an insight into what he does on his huge farm, which includes a few mountains, before we go on an epic family trip this afternoon.
Wake up to a volcano view sunrise
You know that view we got at sunset yesterday from the top of the mountain? Well, Robin is heading back up there at the crack of dawn with Simon and Lauren, the au pair, to catch the sunrise. This is a great way to start the day: just going to the top of a mountain and being delighted by the view, except the view is far different than last night’s. Simon drives the Gator (a 4×4 farm vehicle) along the frosty ridgeline of the mountain well above the low-lying morning mist. This time, the spectacular view overlooking various mountains out towards the Central North Island volcanoes and their snowy peaks are covered in a pink hue.
The early risers return back to the house feeling frosty, but Simon, who never seems to stop, gets straight onto the barista machine to make some proper flat whites (a classic Kiwi coffee). Sarah has prepared us a huge breakfast of omelette, toast and leftovers from last night’s dinner. Oh my God, we do not need to eat for the next week!
While we’re chilling out and talking with the family at the dinner table, Simon has gone off to get some bee-keeping suits ready. Robin was only saying the other day how he always wanted to try bee-keeping, but who knew that his dream would come true so quickly?! Only in New Zealand!
Simon comes back with two brand new yellow bee-keeping suits, complete with a big round and netted head protector each, and one old oversized bee-keeping suit that used to be white… Laura somehow draws the short straw and gets the old suit with two gloves that are supposed to go on the same hand. She looks like a demented MC Hammer with the crotch of the suit literally hanging by her knees. The kids zip us into our suits (properly, we hope) and the three of us jump on the Gator to go to just some of the beehives on the farm.
Getting our own fresh honeycomb
Manuka honey is a huge thing in New Zealand. Not only does it taste delicious but it has all sorts of medicinal purposes, making it a well-sought New Zealand product all over the world. To see those little bees in action making the honey is amazing. Simon opens up a hive to thousands of bees crawling on top of the trays of honeycombs. Perhaps only a hundred bees are flying around us, landing on us and our cameras.
In summer, you can’t even see to the gate at the end of the fields for all the bees, Simon says. Because it is winter, the bees are pretty mellow just sticking to their hives and making a strangely soothing buzzing noise in unison. Simon gets a honeycomb tray out of a hive. Even the one tray is pretty heavy, but the whole hive weighs about 25kg! Something Robin finds out the hard way when Simon asks him to hold the hive and Robin nearly falls to the ground.
Back at the house, we try our honey, freshly made by the bees of Tangarakau. Wow. This is the best manuka honey (or any honey for that matter) that we have ever tasted: sweet, sweet and more sweet. Simon wraps up the honeycomb in cling wrap and gives us the whole tray! We have breakfast sorted for the next year!
Then, our day gets really crazy
We play with the kids for a while and feed the other kids (baby goats). Another family arrive to go on our impending adventure to Fossil Canyon. Simon has attached a trailer to the back on the Gator with planks of wood placed across for people to sit on. 14 of us in total are squeezed onto the Gator and trailer with the two dogs running alongside. This all seems sort of cool and normal until we reach the dirt track we are using to make our way to Fossil Canyon. We’re going up and down and in puddle thick with mud. There’s a drop to the river on one side of the vehicle. This is crazy!!
Some of the kids seem to think so too, as one smart guy, Hamish, leaves the trailer and hops into the back of the Gator with us. There are a few sections where the terrain gets too wild for the kids to stay in the trailer, so they run behind while Lauren remains in the trailer looking pretty terrified judging by the look on her face.
Our epic little mission through the landslip
We arrive at a landslip that blocks our way to the canyon. The way is far too muddy even for the Gator to get over, so we have to make our way through the slip by foot. Everyone except for us has gumboots on. We are about to destroy our hiking shoes, aren’t we?
The Kiwi crew place the planks of wood used as trailer seats down on the mud to try and make the way easier to walk on, but within minutes the planks have been engulfed in the mud. This is hardly seen as an issue, as we just slop through the mud anyway. By this point, the dogs have changed a different colour.
We succeed to pass through the slip! Wahoo! The canyon is a short walk away but not before having a drink of fresh water trickling from the cliff wall beside the track. There is a metal camping cup just waiting on a ledge next to the water.
Don’t take the cup, Sarah says to one of the children, It’s been there for 25 years. That’s commitment from the cup!
It’s a good life in Fossil Canyon
And now, the grand reveal: Fossil Canyon. The sheer white cliffs face us with layers upon layers of different rock. Fossilised dinosaur bones have even been found in this canyon. The family crack out the chilly bin (cooler) and get some beers. We are sat on some short grass surrounded by steep canyon walls, some exposed and some covered in forest. The whole area is surrounded by either a small stream or a river. What an awesome place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon.
As the sun dips behind a canyon wall, we decide it’s time to head back on the crazy Gator ride. (We have had so much fun on this Gator). On the way back we stop off at the wool shed where Sarah’s sister lives when she is in town. Yes, Sarah’s sister lives in a wool shed. You can tell she is a free spirit with all the artefacts and trinkets from her travels scattered about her half converted wool shed. There is even a section with some sheep wool still lying in huge piles on the floor.
Leaving our Kiwi family (and New Zealand)
Today has been a crazy Sunday. We feel so lucky to have been able to get this insight into such an awesome lifestyle out in the countryside of New Zealand. This is the sort of thing backpackers can experience if doing an au pair job, WWOOFing or working on a farm.
We have to say goodbye to our new Kiwi family in Tangarakau (Ghost Town) and move along the Forgotten World Highway to the Republic of Whangamomona. We are staying in the Whangamomona Hotel in one of the quirkiest places in New Zealand. We’ll give you more of the details tomorrow!
The beekeeping crew of Tangarakau!
How can you not?! Check out how you can have an experience like ours with a Kiwi family by feasting your eyes on these articles:
- 10 Reasons Why WWOOFing is a New Zealand Must Do
- Being an Au Pair in New Zealand
- How to Find Work for Accommodation in New Zealand
We also post daily travel tips on Facebook.
See you tomorrow from the Republic of Whangamomona!