Things quietened down a bit just before Christmas, and between Christmas and New Year Clemency and I went camping. For as long as we've known each other, that is about 40 years we have done this. For a while it was in our 1962 Volkswagen Kombi. In company with Megan our Rough Coated Collie we parked the Kombi on DOC sites and lakesides and remote beaches quite literally from North Cape to Bluff; sometimes because we liked the view, sometimes because I had to lie under the van and fix something. When the kids arrived we progressed to a series of tents, culminating in an orange and brown 15'x9' frame tent. Because we had been to so many places in the Kombi we knew a good number of out of the way spots where no-one was going to object to us parking up for a week or two; so we would load stuff on the trailer drive for a few hours, pitch the tent, dig a slop hole, build a fireplace, erect a toilet tent (where "tent" is used in the widest possible sense of the word) and put the solar shower in the sun to warm up. It always needed at least 20km on a gravel road, to keep out the undesirable elements (IE those who didn't like gravel roads). Kaiaua Beach on the East Cape was a favourite place, as was Eight Acres in the Urewera National Park. The Abel Tasman was great until it got discovered by North West Christchurch and utterly ruined. Pureora National park was OK (very cold but there were saddlebacks) and the West Coast of the South Island was always worthwhile. What was not OK was camping grounds with lots of neighbours and people with jetskis and a lounge with a TV set. Our daughter Catherine still thinks that it hasn't been a proper holiday unless there has been at least one meal cooked over an open fire and a cup of tea made in a thermette. There are standards to be kept! Lines which should not be crossed!
The last few days we were in Surat Bay in the Catlins. In a camping ground (blush). In a (double blush) caravan with a shower, a flushing toilet, a stove, and a flatscreen TV hooked up to a DVD player. To mitigate things, I might mention that the camping ground was smallish and was at the end of a short stretch of gravel. Behind it was a beach about 3km long which ended in a notched headland. Climb over the notch and you arrived at the breeding ground of the Royal Spoonbills, and on the way to look at them you were bound to encounter sea lions and penguins. Most days, when I took my morning stroll, mine were the only footprints on the beach. On the day it rained we spent almost a whole day watching episodes of Ever Decreasing Circles, a British sitcom from the 80s which has dated pretty well except when it comes to gender issues, and catching up on Facebook via the camp's wifi connection. We sipped red wine and there was beer from a boutique brewery in the fridge.We didn't dig a slop hole. We didn't even take the thermette.
In a few days we will head to Nelson to see the whanau. Normally, we would drive straight up in a day, perhaps tossing a pup tent and sleeping bags in the back of the car in case we decided to stop on the way. This year, I think we will take a few days over the journey, both coming and going. And I think we'll probably take the caravan.