In Search of Families In Search of Adventure
A Family on a Bike Tour: New Zealand, Samoa, USA and Canada 2004/2005

Paradise Lost

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From:       Kirstie and Stuart
Subject:  Paradise Lost
  Date:         28th January 2005
     Motueka, Tasman Bay, New Zealand


Were you to take a trip to the 'sausage capital of New Zealand,' you would undoubtedly know you had arrived. A huge roadside sign proclaims Tuatapere's fame throughout the land. But if you got a fly in your eye and missed it, you would be reminded of its' celebrity status by a giant pink plump sausage on a painted sign outside the butcher's shop where it all began. Meanwhile, were you to drive through the 'Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World,' the sight of larger than life mussel men standing on the roofs of buildings in the main street would subtly let you know you were there. Many towns in New Zealand claim national or international recognition for something or other, promoting themselves as the much reputed towns of 'Trees' or 'Trout;' the 'Smallest Borough in New Zealand at the Highest Altitude,' or the 'Health' capital. Where there's not a formal claim, residents will often tell you of informal achievements; like the residents of Culverden who like to think of themselves as a 'damn good pie and pee stop.' A few days ago a promotional leaflet incited us to visit Kaiteriteri, 'voted one of the top five beaches in the world.' "This is a must see," said Stuart, "We should spend a couple of days there and soak it all up. The boys will love it."

We decided to save the best for last and take some time to visit the Northernmost reaches of New Zealand's Golden Bay before heading for paradise. Travelling up towards Farewell Spit in the deep early morning shadows was tranquil and stunning, the long sandy coastline revealing hidden treasures with each twist of the road.

Thousands of Black Swans enjoy the Golden Bay coastline

"Isn't that glorious, Black Swans swimming amongst the rocks out there," said Stuart.
"They're not rocks, they're swans arses," said Kirstie as the rocks grew necks emerging gracefully from beneath the water.

Thousands upon thousands of Black Swans were paddling in the Tasman blue waters in glorious, golden sunshine. We camped by a quiet beach in the far North and the kids paddled delightedly in shallow waters warmed by the day's sun. Forgetting to undress, they ran in then out again, soaked and giddy, ripping off their clothes and going back for more.

"Imagine what it's like for them, their first time swimming in the sea, playing in the waves," said Stuart, picking Cameron up after another wave derailed him.
"More wave, more wave," said Cam, giggling, choking and spluttering, his sandstreaked tummy bloated by seawater.

Spikey smooths his hair down

They took spades and threw sand in their hair and over their wet bodies. As darkness fell we tried to persuade the boys to leave. Joy turned to tears and the usual tired tantrums at bedtime, this time in excitable stereo. After finally tucking the exhausted kids up in sandy sleeping bags, we took five minutes out to walk together along the beach, feet splashing in the enticingly warm water, a full moon rippling its' yellow beam towards the shore. This moment alone together reminded us of time before kids. This surely was paradise; so how would Kaiteriteri compare?


We sipped Tea Planters' Punch on a sunny restaurant veranda overlooking Farewell Spit at the tip of South Island. We sucked the soft berries up the straws.

"It pops in your mouth Dad, do another one," said Matthew.

While three of us sucked on the soft fruits, Cameron chewed his straw frustratedly then poured the juice down his trousers and picked the berries off the floor We ordered lunch and ate it hungrily, our appetites fuelled by the sea air.

"Why does the sea move Dad?" asked Matthew.

Stuart engaged him in a lengthy demonstration of how a watermelon moon goes around a strawberry earth. But the removal of the strawberry from Cameron's plate gave him cause to demonstrate his legendary restaurant-clearing tantrums. While the moon orbited the sun, Cameron circled the car park, Kirstie orbited Cameron and a galaxy of diners concealed their sniggers behind their napkins. When it was all over, there was time for one last beach before the main event.


The journey to Wharariki Beach was billed as a twenty minute walk from the nearest car park. For Thomas the Tank Engine, Edward, Henry and Gordon it took forty minutes of chuffing up steep sand dunes in thirty degrees of ozone charged NZ heat. An arrow pointed upwards, as if into the clouds.

"What are we going to do now Gordon, why do we need to go up into the sky?" asked Matthew taking things a little too literally. "Perhaps it means we need to go up over that stile," he continued answering his own question for a change.
But the stile presented it's own challenges.
"It's just like Thomas with a cow on the line," added Matthew pointing to the large bull obstructing the wooden gateway.

'Edward' leads the way at a sign he understands

'Thomas' the little engine struggled on the dunes

Wharariki Beach was at the end of the line. It was simply the best. We slid up and down wind-scaped white sand dunes to reach the shore, where craggy islets squatted solidly in the sea. Lines of crashing surf surged onto soggy sands then retreated sucking the grit from under our feet. Dark labyrinths of sea caves lined the shore, hungry monsters lurking to gobble up small boys. And just a handful of people scattered along the beach. No cars, no windbreaks, no picnic boxes, no deck chairs; just pure undeveloped sands. Perhaps the inaccessibility of this place was enough to put off all but the most committed holiday and tourist traffic. The kids ran over the sand, into the sea then into the caves. Sand, sea and caves, over and over again. No need for picnics, ice-creams, or trousers. Finally they dragged their sandy feet back over the dunes without a single complaint.

Looking for sea monsters in the caves at Wharariki

"Wake up guys, we're almost at Kaiteriteri," said Kirstie, "It's the big one, better than all the rest. Can anyone smell the fresh sea air?"
"Yuk, Mum it smells of wee here," said Matthew.
"Did a cow done a poo Mummy?" asked Cameron. We had arrived at one of the world's top five beaches and it smelled alarmingly like a toilet.
"One of the world's top five pisspots more like," said Stuart, putting his headscarf over his nose. It was getting dark so we decided to check in at a campsite. We were alarmed by the security guard on the gate.
"Er, do you have a tent site?" we asked politely.
"I should think so. Park over there and report to reception."

"J block, number eight. That's your pitch. You'll need a map," said the receptionist. She drew a route to our pitch on a plan of the beach camp.
"So, we go past the toilets, past the scullery and turn right at the fish cleaning area," said Kirstie looking at the piece of paper which showed four hundred tent spaces, three kitchens, four laundrettes, nine toilet and shower blocks, one barbecue, one children's playground and one fish cleaning area.

It took us ten minutes to find our allotted space, crammed in between awnings, cars, and family barbecues, and ten minutes to return to the office to ask for our money back. We took a short walk on the beach. It was a pretty half moon bay lit by the setting sun. If we hadn't seen the other beaches we would have been more enchanted, but here the natural beauty seemed masked by the clutter of development.

The views at Kaiteriteri were less impressive

"Why on earth is this place so popular?" asked Stuart as we zig zagged around people drinking beer and eating chips, boats moored up on the beach and all the debris of a busy day at the seaside.
"I guess it's paradise for families," said Kirstie. "Easy to get to, safe, and everything you need is here….. entertainment, boats, playgrounds, toilets, chips. Everyone else seems to be having a great time."
"I need a wee wee" said Cameron clutching his pants.
"Can we go Dad?" asked Matthew holding his nose.
"Yes, let's go guys," said Stuart.

Our family had already experienced paradise; there was nothing for us here.




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