Longer Than It Takes

You think we’d have learned by now. Me and James, I mean. You’d think it’d have sunk in, two months into our time here in New Zealand, not to mention 11 1/2 years since we became parents.

Illness + naptime + hunger = grumpy kid = probably not great to try to get the kid to hike. or do chores. or be like a human.

On a misty Sunday we drive out of Christchurch. Our destination? Akaroa, a French town on the Banks Peninsula. (The Port Hills, featured in many of our other photos and posts, are part of the same geological formation.)

banks map

Google Maps said it would take about 80 minutes.

Google Maps is a liar because the hairpin turns and steep inclines/declines don’t lend themselves to speed. Google Maps should add some time to that estimate to help drivers slow down and feel okay about it.

As we drive from the flats up through the hills, formed long ago by a massive volcano, we reach cloud level and the windshield wipers have to swipe away drizzle. Through the mist rose green-covered hills and white fluffy sheep, contentedly grazing (as always) on cliffsides and peaks.

our first view, 10 minutes later, Ev lounging on a construction vehicle, James and the kids
our first view, 10 minutes later, Ev lounging on a construction vehicle, James and the kids

Amazingly, Calvin’s whining (sort of) resolves just as the skies start to clear and we could get a good look down into the bay where we plan to take a walk on the Onawe Peninsula, a sacred Maori site.

Just as we get out of the car at the start of our hike, Charlotte starts clutching her ear. And crying. She had complained of a sore ear the night before, but then had seemed fine all morning and even on the car ride.

It is breezy down near the water so I put a hat on her head to cushion/cover the offending ear. Cal starts dragging his feet in the gravel.

Not a hundred meters from the car we stop in a secluded spot for those who need to take a quick potty break (sans potty).

This hike is off to an auspicious start, clearly.

The trailhead, keep in mind, is just 1 kilometer (about 2/3 mile) from the car park because the road leading out to the trail is closed due to tree removal.

So we’ve heard some birds, looked at some rustic boathouses, and seen one kingfisher in flight, but we’re also listening to Calvin droning about being hungry and Charlotte whimpering about her ear.

Cal refuses the food I packed for a snack (crackers, cheese, almonds, and water, having already had a strawberry smoothie and an apple in the car) but insists he’s STARVING.

We finally reach the spine of the trail that is basically an isthmus out to this beautiful high point in the bay.

Banks 2

A minute’s walk takes us to the top of it and we realize it’s too treacherous to walk out that way, but thankfully it’s low tide so we can go down along the rocky beach to continue onward.

Charlotte starts crying again about her ear. Calvin collapses and refuses to get back up.

Angrily, I get the car key from James and tell him that I’ll hang back with the two younger kids so that he and Evelyn can hike out to the end of the peninsula to see the views.

Calvin promptly tries to run after James and Evelyn, insisting that he, too, wants to see the views that he so recently eschewed in favor of laying in the grass. Charlotte restates her unwillingness to walk another step.

I distract Calvin from the receeding backs of his oldest sister and father by offering an adventure on the rock beach.

“Let’s see who can find a living animal first! Do you think we’ll see fish?”

The three of us climb back down to the shoreline where we do not, in fact, see any fish. We do, however, see a snail nursery (where the tiniest snails imaginable grow, clinging to rocks), find some sea glass, argue over who found the biggest snail (it was me, of course), scramble around over damp rocks that will be covered by the high tide, and discover a blowhole where the incoming waves plunk up through a small opening and make awesome sounds.

I’m not going to lie; it was pretty sweet.

banks 3

Just when I notice the tide coming in, James and Evelyn return. They say the views were beautiful from the top of the point.

Check out the mix of clouds and sun behind them.


We quickly pick our way across the rock-strewn beach; high tide is clearly coming in and we have noticeably less real estate to navigate than before.

That’s when Calvin starts melting down big time. He tries to break free and run back to the start of the trail. “I want to COME BACK after we have LUNCH. I want to do the HIKE. We have to COME BACK later to DO THIS again!” He becomes completely irrational and spastic; James and I alternate gripping his hand or arm to propel him the kilometer back to our car.

The birds we had heard earlier fall to silence as we parade past them; Cal’s shrieks reverberate off the rocks and trees and echo out over the (otherwise silent) water. When we finally get back to the car, I have to sit and hold him for a few minutes to get him calm enough for us to buckle him in to his seat safely.

Happier times, at the beginning of the day. The land behind us in the bay is where we walked and beachcombed.
As a team, we’re figuring things out.

James and I have a quick conversation about what we’ve been learning in gradual phases: we had expectations for what our family would be able to do while here in New Zealand. Evelyn and Charlotte can, the vast majority of the time, do the things necessary to have that experience. Calvin, on the other hand, cannot. He just doesn’t have the physical strength or stamina to do some of the walks/hikes; he doesn’t have the maturity to understand and appreciate why we’re doing what we’re doing (especially when it’s hard or not immediately interesting to him); and his attitude frequently falls more to the raja-mindset of wanting to be catered to and carried at the slightest discomfort.

We’ve got to do a better job of operating from realistic expectations instead of anticipating optimal or ideal conditions. Because ideal conditions (at least with Calvin) are hard to come by.

More often, we face a combination of the following: hunger, tiredness, grumpiness, time constraints, and the fact that, as James’ family says, everything takes longer than it takes.

To start, today we ditch the idea of continuing on the final 10km to Akaroa. The fog and mist are rolling back in, anyway, so visibility probably wouldn’t be good. We’ll have to return to see the town some other time. Instead we opt to stop for fish and chips at a bar/bistro right on the bay in Duvauchelle. Yes, James and I shared a pint. Char and Ev pick out breakfast platters (but amazingly did NOT eat the venison sausage); Cal has a kid’s meal. They all enjoy ice cream before we get back into the car to drive back home.

The mist and rain descend again, enveloping our car. Visibility drops, but even so, some things are clearer now than they were this morning.




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