Thermal Pools with Charlotte

Evelyn and Charlotte are on a two-week school holiday, and I wanted to take the chance to take Charlotte one-on-one away for a day or two.

It can be hard with three kids to make one-on-one time a priority… often it’s easier to do something all together as a family than to divvy our progeny up between James and me. Charlotte, as the middle child, often proclaims that she gets lost in the shuffle, so I really felt like it would be a good thing if we had a mommy/daughter trip.

To keep costs down we decided to take a tent and sleeping bags, but Char was dead-set on returning to Hanmer Springs, which we actually visited on our very first full weekend in New Zealand, back in July. Set in the mountains about 2 hours north and west of Christchurch, Hanmer Springs is a popular tourist destination for Kiwis and international visitors alike. While the town is cute and the surrounding scenery beautiful, the real draw is the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools.

Unlike our last visit, when the air temperature was crisp (it was mid-winter, after all!) and the mountains snowcapped, the weather this time was bright sun and 75F. There was a breeze as we’re currently experiencing a nor’wester (meteorological information here), so it’s hot, dry, and windy.

I decided to get two-day passes so that we could go on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday before heading home Wednesday afternoon. We spent about 3 hours riding waterslides together, splashing around the lazy river, and relaxing in the sulpher, rock mineral, and hot pools–the water ranges in temperature from 32-40C depending on the pool, and all are heated underground by thermal activity.

Char at the end of the Super Bowl slide. (Sorry for the poor photo quality–I only had my cell phone, not the camera.)
Bright sun!

I had to pull Charlotte away from the pools so that we could grab a bite to eat before going back to the campground! She would have stayed until the place closed if I had let her…

Back at the tent we saw the sun set behind the mountains and listened to birdsong together. Charlotte is much less talkative when she’s the only child–it’s almost like the space left open by her siblings’ absence saps her of the need to talk.

She did, however, disagree that my wonderment over the beauty of the sunset was warranted.

“Wow, the sky just keeps getting more and more vivid,” I said.

“It always does that,” she said, unimpressed.

Tent camping does not result in great sleep for me, but I must admit that the warmer weather (the low was 55F) led to less frequent awakenings. And everytime I woke up, Char was asleep, so maybe the problem isn’t camping but me.

In the morning I told Charlotte we’d go back to the pools but that I wanted to do a hike together first. After a smidgeon of grumbling she went along and we did just under an hour up and back the Mount Isobel track. The climb was pretty steep and I spent a lot of it listening to Charlotte explain that she really prefers flat-ground hiking.

We also spotted some interesting purple flowers, enjoyed the views across the Hurinui, pestered an inchworm hanging on an invisible thread, ate a snack, and passed only one person the entire time.

Twenty-five minutes into our hike, Char said, “Mom, we can go back down now. We had our view and we had our sit.”

I guess quiet mountain hikes don’t appeal quite as much to Charlotte as do waterslides…

hanmer hike
At the pools!; Mount Isobel trail; some attitude; cool stuff!

We were at the pools for several hours (long enough that I reapplied sunscreen THREE TIMES–take that, skin cancer) and I loved reading, watching people, and seeing Charlotte having such a great time.

Too soon it was time to get changed and head back to Christchurch. Hanmer Springs really is a wonderful place to visit. As we were driving away, Charlotte whispered wistfully, “I wish we could live somewhere like Hanmer…” and then pointed out several properties with for sale signs up in the front yards.



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