Family Business: Whangarei District 

Our aventures à deux became aventures à six for an extremely enjoyable week’s holiday with my family. As a very close family, but physically very far apart, usually spread between the U.K, France and New Zealand, this is by no means a frequent occurrence and was an absolute joy from start to finish! We spent 3 nights in South Pataua in a bach (Kiwi-speak for holiday house) and spent our days taking trips to and from the nearby beautiful beach to swim, surf and snorkel, and 4 nights in Russell doing much the same, with some stand-up paddle boarding thrown in.

Just before meeting the fam Adrien and I headed to the Tutukaka coast and some beautiful bays around there. I had read about some tricky-to-access rock pools called the Mermaid Pools and so we set off to find them. They were accessed via a steep, hillside climb which was made by the locals after the original pathway collapsed one day several years ago. These resourceful locals, determined not to lose their mermaids to a silly thing like a treacherous climb, tramped out a path, even adding a rope between trees to help get up/down the extremely steep parts. I firmly believe that, especially in this country, the harder it is to get somewhere the more beautiful it will be.

I was not disappointed, and would go as far as to say that these rock pools were one of my favourite things we have done here- a big statement! There were 2 large ones and several teeny ones just for crab-spotting and foot-rinsing, and bizarrely the spot was busy despite the difficult path, but only around one of the pools. By walking an extra 50 metres over the rocks we had the 2nd pool to ourselves! Why people would go to the trouble of scrambling up a hillside to then not bother with an extra 50 metres for a little solitude is beyond me, but then not everyone is so put off by the presence of other human beings (I am actually quite sociable most of the time, promise).

Back to the family holiday, and the unusual animal sighting of the week was the unexpected number of majestic, bird-like, wing-flapping sting rays in the shallow lagoon at Pataua. This made me slightly nervous to snorkel/swim/go anywhere near the water but thankfully my only ray sightings were from a bridge or a kayak. Adrien, on the other hand, captured this shot, definitely not from the safety of land:

Pataua was a big hit with everyone, mainly because of its simplicity and the local, totally uncommercial feel to the area. The bach was a decent size (although the dog parents were forced to sleep on an air bed in the living room to keep Ziggers company and avoid night time howls) and the proximity to the beach meant it was just so simple to do our own thing as we wished and meet up again for meals and spend the evening together.

Our second destination with the family took us further north to Russell, in the Bay of Islands, gorgeous as the name suggests. The set up was similar, but in a much more spacious bach and in a busier, more polished beach-side town. The daily routines were roughly the same as those in Pataua, with more town wanderings and coffee drinking involved, apart from one day when Adrien and I hopped on a ferry to a stunning nature reserve called Urupukapuka Island. This island has been replenished with native birds and plants by volunteers over the last 20 years after decades of human-inflicted damage of tree felling, habitation building and over fishing. We had to check our belongings for stowaway pests upon entering and leaving the island- thankfully it was another day with no clandestine possums sneaking into my bag.

The week was so relaxing and enjoyable for everyone, and Ziggy the lovable canine rogue was a star- she kept her barks mostly to the confines of the deck, had no embarrassing accidents, and enjoyed the company of all her babysitters! She even took a stroll into town for an ice cream like a regular dog with no incidents or arguments with others. A successful week all round!

Next step is to pick up the wonderful Eilidh and Stephen from the airport and go from family time to friend time for the next couple of weeks! How can we be so far away and still be so close to great family and friends? Counting myself pretty darn lucky at the moment, that’s for sure.

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