It’s amazing how many of our traditions around holidays involve the weather. Unfortunately, decorating with snow flakes and Christmas lights doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when it’s 75 degrees outside and doesn’t get dark until 10 p.m. So, being the die-hard traditionalists that we are, we ditched nearly all our beloved Christmas practices (save the cinnamon rolls and treat-filled stockings) and vacationed at the beach. Merry Christmas everyone!
Farewell spit is a thin strip of sand dunes at the very north end of the south island of NZ. Glaciers down in fiordland grind away at the mountains, and the ocean currents drag the sediment way up to Farewell Spit. Here the current slows in its collision with Cook Strait, dropping sand in an ever-growing beach. The aerial image looks a bit like a kiwi bird beak and head, and we stayed at a campground that advertized itself to be “at the eye of the Kiwi.” A nice way of saying NOT beach front, but near enough to visit by walking.
It’s a long drive up to Wharariki, so we stopped overnight with our friends the Jordans. Audrey and Milo had almost as much fun as Molly making Christmas tree ornaments at their place.
- I have to be honest here, this is not one of our photos. Our friends the Jordans joined us after Christmas and Jordy is an excellent photographer. Wharariki beach, near where we stayed, is known for its picturesque sea arches.
Wharariki is also blessed with many sand dunes through which one must flounder to reach the water.
The evening we arrived I fought the wind down to the beach and actually got to see these dunes being formed. Sand was moving everywhere, snaking around the hills and pelting my jacket hood. Otherworldly isn’t quite the right word, since it’s definitely planet earth, but it was wild and strange and interesting.
Here’s the campgrounds where we stayed, in one of those little cabins in front of the sheep-grazed hills. The kids had a blast with that beached boat-turned-sandbox.
There were some nice little hikes marked out in the hills overlooking the ocean. We spent a chilly day walking, and stopped to watch the farmer herd his sheep. One of the dogs wasn’t being particularly obedient and the sheep were being typically clueless, so it made for good entertainment.
Watch your kids on a windy day! As promised, the trail was “walk at your own risk,” with few markers and no guard rails. It’s refreshingly unAmerican, actually, because no on is worried about getting sued.
There’s one viewing platform over the ocean cliffs that does actually have a hand rail, I guess because it’s where the tour buses come. That impressively striated rock is, according to the DOC info, a neat layout of sedimentary rocks over some millions of years.
Sheep weren’t the only animals grazing at Wharariki! The campsite owner took the liberty of grazing his horses at the DOC trailhead, where they enforced the “no camping except in the paid campground” rule.
Low tide made some of the beach arches accessible for exploration. The stone is this strange “concretion” of pebbles cemented together. Milo must have felt like it was slippery, because this was one of the few times he consented to having his hand held. Independence at a young age!
Guess who was hiding in the soggy rock crevices? These little crabs were beautifully camouflaged, though not big enough to be worth eating. Too bad, hunter.
Kelp makes a little track in the sand as you pull it along, much to Milo’s delight. We enjoyed the beach even on the chilly days.
This tunnel was so long that it felt eerie–Milo wasn’t so keen on entering. Seals sometimes hang out there too, providing another element of surprise.
We made a seal of our own to surprise beach walkers!
We hung our Christmas stockings on the curtain rod in our cabin, opening them after I recited a 2-year-old version of the Christmas story for Milo. Jeremiah’s contribution was this sampler of Kiwi candy bars. They have a mysterious predilection for “foamy” chocolates, all riddled through with tiny air bubbles.
Despite all predictions, Christmas day dawned beautifully and we met some Christchurch friends at the beach. I made this car for the kids to sit in while the tide rose, but unfortunately I built it too far up and the water didn’t swamp it before we had to leave. What on earth is Tom doing in the background?!?
We brought our Christmas dinner to cook at friends’ house, where we also bathed the kids and enjoyed a relax in the hammock. It was really a sweet time with Naomi. I don’t wear much pink as a rule, but something strange and hormonal must happen after childbirth–when Milo was born, I bought two pink shirts, and after Naomi’s birth I got this one.
Nope, that’s not Jeremiah sporting that nice big brown trout–it’s Ian, dad of the family we visited on Christmas. Being from the UK he didn’t grow up hunting (I get the impression it’s a snobby rich man’s sport there) but he wants to learn. Jeremiah was only too happy to do an overnight trip with him while we stayed at the beach. He looks like he’s in combat gear because of the “sandflies,” biting midges like black flies that are fierce where they hunted.
There’s their hunting camp set-up. No deer to show for this trip, but they came back happy anyway.
Poke, poke, poke! What is this? Does it squish? Does it juice? Can I prong it with a stick?
Yep, like Mommy, like son. Milo spent a long time inquisitively flipping over these beached jelly fish. Turns out that they do squish, they do juice, but they don’t prong very well.
Sand dunes! This is just about the most perfect sand ever, smooth and warm on a sunny day. Milo and his friend Audrey enjoyed these dunes in their own characteristic style. Audrey cautiously scampered down the face, dabbling in the water at the bottom. Milo launched himself off the top, never a thought for personal safety, and bombed into the creek.
Milo spent a lot of time roaring at Audrey, and she spent quite a bit of time running away from him, but here’s one glorious moment of cooperation.
It’s fun to have friends around! Christmas can feel a bit barren with no family, but we’re fortunate to have enjoyed nice times with friends!
Happy New Year!