Tauranga & The Coramandel

Our final summer road trip ended up being 3 nights long, thanks to a kind soul making my roster work for me to travel, and thanks to Greg’s employer being flexible with his weekend. With that much time, we were able to go a bit farther than we had previously gone, and we decided to head up to Tauranga, and the Coramandel, with some specific sights in mind.

Some generous and helpful friends of ours loaded us up with all the camping gear we could possibly need and want, and sent us on our way!

We left town after work on Friday night, and ate our spaghetti in the car! We stopped in Rotarua to grab a beer for Greg. You non-Kiwis may be thinking, “excuse me, grab what?” Apparently it’s legal to drink alcohol in the vehicle in most places in NZ, as long as someone else is driving. Yeah. (Kiwis, if I’ve misunderstood this, correct me, please!) We hadn’t done it yet, but we figured we should have the experience at least once. (Cause we don’t have enough opportunity to drink here as it is. #sarcasm) It felt really wrong, but when in NZ… cheers to road trip beers!

We arrived in Tauranga where some new friends, R and S, put us up for the night. We shared some wine and had a great visit with them on their beautiful patio before bed.

The next morning, we headed to the beach by their place, Papamoa Beach, and enjoyed some white sand, sun, and Tuatua catching!

We had heard of catching tuatuas from a couple of people, but didn’t really understand how to do it until we got into the water. We saw some others with buckets out about thigh deep, and wandered out as far as they were. Greg started digging his toes around in the sand until he felt what seemed to be a rock underneath, and then picked it up to find out it was a Tuatua! They are similar to muscles or clams. I tried and found a few myself! The limit is 150 per person, per day, so Greg set out to get a small bucket full for dinner. It was a new, unique experience for both of us, and so cool to try.

We had an amazing brunch with R and S, and then headed into Tauranga, where we climbed Mount Maunganui.

It was a bit cloudy, which ended up being to our benefit, as it was 27°C, very muggy, and we came down drenched in sweat! The views at the top were gorgeous, and I would highly recommend climbing it if you’re ever there. Just make sure you have decent shoes, some water, and a relative level of fitness.

We did some shopping afterwards, and then Greg and I headed to visit some Canadian/Kiwi friends for dinner! It was so great to spend the evening with some familiar faces from Canada, and to glean some wisdom from people who have moved abroad, and experienced so many of the same things as we have, but are years ahead of us on the journey. (Greg also cooked the Tuatuas, and they were pretty flavourful! You can see some in the bowl between us.)

We finished the evening with a walk to the beach to watch the girls run and enjoy the cool breeze. We left Tauranga around 8:30pm to finish our treck to Hahei in the Coramandel, where we camped at the Seabreeze Holiday Resort. The road was extremely windy to get up there, but was nothing we weren’t prepared for by now. We arrived and got the tent set up, and made it to bed before midnight.

Sunday was a relaxing morning of sleeping in, coffee and pancakes. The camp facilities at Seabreeze were amazing to me! I guess they are quite typical here, and from what we’ve heard, some resorts are better than others, but Greg and I were blown away at the amenities this place had. They had a large communal building with several bathroom stalls and shower stalls (there was never a line in the 2 days we were there). They had a big kitchen area with 4 fridges/freezers, about 6 sinks (dish soap provided), 6 stove tops (some pans provided), several microwaves and kettles, toasters, plug-ins where people charged their phones, and even a tv room with couches and chairs.

This place would be amazing to camp at with groups of friends! I’ve never had such a great experience tenting. It honestly reminded me of being at summer camp. We slept in our tent, but we headed to the main building just down the path whenever we wanted to cook, do dishes, use the toilet, or get something from the fridge. We also met a few nice people in the kitchen as well; I really like how this style of camping promotes community and making new friends. A person could have privacy in their site if they preferred, but could also head to the main building to meet others if he or she wanted. It was awesome! Canada could learn from this.

Sunday afternoon, Greg and I headed to Cathedral Cove. We parked and walked the 25 minutes in with our beach gear. We planned to stay for a while and enjoy it, instead of just getting some photos and leaving. I’m glad we did! We had a great afternoon. It was partially cloudy, which allowed us to stay longer without burning to a crisp in the NZ sun. (We still burnt a bit!) Cathedral Cove is beautiful, and a NZ must do.

We wanted to go to Hot Water Beach as well, so we left Cathedral Cove in the late afternoon, with the plan of heading over to HWB, not realizing that we were in the wrong tide window for it to work. We had gotten there too late, and the water was up high enough to cover most of the hot spots. We left with the plan of returning in the morning before heading home.

As it turned out, there was a brewery on site at Seabreeze, so obviously, Greg was pretty happy about that. We cleaned up and headed over for some pints and hot chips before dinner. It was a nice place to relax on site at our resort!

We had a nice steak dinner, cooked on the communal BBQ at the resort, and enjoyed some star gazing before bed.

The stars were so bright and beautiful that far out of town. It felt like we could see every star in the Southern Hemisphere. We’ve learned that down here we can see the Southern Cross, the constellation on NZ’s flag, but it can’t be seen from Canada. We can’t see the Big Dipper from down here.

Another random piece of information for the Canadian readers is that they have these creatures here called “cicadas.” They essentially sound like crickets, but they chirp in the day, from dawn till dusk, and are about ten times louder than crickets. I usually don’t mind them, but while sleeping in the tent, they were so loud in the early evening and morning that we had to put earplugs in. Thankfully I had 2 sets in my bag from the flight over!

On Monday morning, after another round of pancakes, we packed up and headed to Hot Water Beach, at the appropriate time this time! In order to access the hot springs under the sand, one needs to be there either 2 hours before or after low tide. We only had a bucket, but Greg started digging.

Our neighbours in the next hole told us the water beneath the surface needs to be hot right at the beginning of digging. If the water coming up is cold, there is no hot spring under that spot. We had cold water, so we moved to another spot, and started digging again. Those same neighbours lent us their spade, so Greg was able to do a more efficient dig.

The water was warm in the new spot, so Greg kept digging deeper and deeper until we had a sizeable pool to sit in. There was a really noticeable hot spot on the left side of our pool, and it was so hot that it was burning my elbow and waist on the left side. I had to keep shuffling the sand around and moving the water throughout the pool, just like trying to warm up the bath water! We just dug a hole in the sand and made our own hot tub with geothermal heat. NZ has got some amazing things to do!

As our neighbours were so kind to give us tips and lend us their spade, we gave them some of our wine, and had a nice visit with them. Some other neighbours had a hole that was so hot they couldn’t even go in it, and we felt bad for them. As we had to leave a bit early to get home for a party that evening, we gave them our hole, and they were quite thankful.

We enjoyed the scenery on the drive home, and I took my turn to enjoy a nice wine pairing with my lunch in the car (still so odd…). We got home 25 minutes before our friends arrived at our place, and we finished off the weekend with a fun farewell party with friends!

It was a great long weekend, and finale to our summer travels. I’m so looking forward to the next time we get to go exploring in more of this amazing country we’re calling home.

How My Laundry Room Became a Brewery, and My Backyard a Tire Storage Facility

I remember the night I picked a fight with my husband about the laundry room.  I distinctly remember saying something like, “it’s our laundry room, NOT your brewery!”  I look back on that now, and laugh at myself.  I’m thankful he was so patient with me at the time.  There are things that are worth fighting over, and there are things that just aren’t.  I realize now, that the ratio of washer/dryer square footage to brewing equipment in the laundry room is something that just isn’t worth it.  I learned an important lesson after pondering what happened within me that night to cause my anger.  I seemed to think that I had more rights to our laundry room than he did, but that’s just it – it is our laundry room, not mine.

Let’s back up a bit.  I’ll fill you in on my husband’s hobbies.  He’s had a lot of them throughout the length of our marriage, and most haven’t stuck for more than a few years.  It’d be fair to say we regret spending money on some of them now, but he was learning and exploring, and they were important to him at the time.  (I’ve regretted purchases too.) So when he was gifted some beer making supplies and decided he’d take it up, I assumed it would be one of those hobbies that he’d do once or twice, and then let fall along the wayside.

I was wrong.  He is passionate about brewing.

Years, and dozens of home-brewed IPA’s, honey-browns, and English bitters later, he’s got a sizeable brewery in our home, and is constantly stunning tasters of his beer with how great they are.  His friends are benefiting from his generosity and love of sharing his craft with anyone who appreciates it.

He used to take over our kitchen for a day to complete the brewing process, and leave our entire house smelling like sweet malt.  People would ask me, “don’t you hate that he makes your whole house smell like a brewery?”  I didn’t actually.  Or they’d ask, “how come you let your husband take over your whole kitchen for that?”

Although some hobbies were costly, he made money with others – his “side-hustles” as he likes to call them.  He’s very gifted and can fix almost anything.  He’s also patient in dealing with online shoppers from our local used items listing website; he has a small hobby of taking old, broken things, fixing them up, and selling them at low prices for quick turn-over.

At one point, a few years ago, we had close to 50 used tires in our backyard.  I mean, they were everywhere! I borrowed a bunch to take to school for an obstacle course for the kids once; we even threw a Cross-fit themed birthday party for a friend and used them for challenges and a winner’s podium!  Again with the comments, and from the guys too! “My wife would never let me keep junk like that in our backyard.”  “How do you get her to let you fill your backyard with all those tires?” That’s sad to me, that my guy friends felt that way about their wives.

In his brewing craft, he started where most probably do, with beer kits.  Then, he transitioned to doing a few more steps on his own, and after his beer club informed him that if he’s using any part of a kit, he can’t really call it home-brew, he went 100% from the grain.  He literally buys a big bag of malted barley, grinds it himself, and does it completely from scratch.  The kitchen was no longer sufficient.  As he just happens to also be a custom welder, he spent the next year building a huge custom brewery in our basement laundry room.  He’s got 3 massive tanks that he welded, a custom counter and sink, heating systems, an electrical panel to run all of this, piping that hooks up to our laundry venting to the outside to eliminate the steam, numerous other equipment, and hundreds of bottles.

Needless to say, the laundry room is no longer a laundry room; we have a brewery with a washer and dryer in it.

We have a clean and empty backyard now that he’s out of the “tire side hustle,” but there were years when we barely had a backyard; we had a used tire storage facility behind the house.

Fast forward to the laundry room argument… pointless.  It’s not my laundry room, it’s our laundry room.  Can I wash clothes in there?  Maybe not while he’s brewing, but that’s where communication comes in.  It’s not my backyard, it’s our backyard.  Could I have hosted a beautiful garden party with all those tires out there?  Maybe not, but I hosted a pretty sweet birthday party and made the best of it.

So many women carry this idea that the house is their domain; at the very least, the kitchen, laundry room, and back garden are theirs.  The guys can have the garage, or the shed, or maybe some back room in the basement, where guests can’t see when they come over.  I don’t know why we think this, or why this idea is passed on to us by other women.  I don’t know why I just fell into that belief too, without even paying attention to it or questioning it.  I’ve realized over the years, that thinking this house is mine, because I’m the wife, isn’t very selfless or loving.  He doesn’t tell me I can’t park in the garage because he works in there; it’s our garage.  He doesn’t complain about the living room clock that’s a bright red high heel (it’s not tacky at all people, it’s a designer marble clock we picked up in Venice); in fact, he suggested we hang it there so I can see it every day.  We’ve also hung his motorcycle calendars in the kitchen.

It’s not my house, it’s our house.  And in this house, it’s about sharing, and compromising, and making this home a place that we both can put our stamp on, and that we both feel at home in.

I don’t know what this guy of mine is going to get into next.  I expect he’ll keep up the brewing, because he’s great at it, and he loves it.  I hope he finds more money-making hobbies, cause what’s not to love there?  Either way, he’ll be welcome to use our home, for what he needs it for, with no trouble from me; in return, I know I’ll be extended the same courtesy.