Eight Weeks on the Road…?

(I wrote this post on Sunday night, December 6. Because I have not had reliable Internet access to edit it and add photos, I am only just now publishing it. To read a more positive, glowing report about one adventure we’ve had since I composed this, check out the story and photos from our Nelson Lakes National Park hike!) 

We are just one day in to our eight-week epic family road trip. One day. And I’m wondering what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

There have been a couple things already that have been a bit more difficult than normal.

First, though, something that went smoothly: moving out of the rental house where we’ve lived since arriving in Christchurch.

James and I did an awesome job of tag-teaming the packing, for one thing. We actually left the house at 10am. The plan from there was to drop one more thing off at my friend Jen’s house (Jen generously offered to store a bunch of our things that we didn’t need on our travels–school uniforms, winter coats, books, etc.).



From there, we headed to the ATM to transfer some cash from our US account to our NZ bank account.

James parked the car and walked up to the ATM machine. Which promptly ate his card. Without any explanation. We didn’t know if it was the ATM machine or PNC. James worked with two bank employees who were finally convinced to retrieve his card.

Finally, we tried my debit card, which worked, at which point James looked more closely at his card and discovered that it had expired back in August… which was why the ATM was taking it away. Amazingly, neither PNC bank support people nor the bank manager at our NZ bank noticed this detail.

Anyway, that was super stressful, particularly because for a while it looked like we weren’t going to be able to move money from the US to NZ. [Yes, there are other ways, but they aren’t as easy, efficient, or inexpensive…]

While James was negotiating on the phone and in person with banking people, I entertained the kids by playing I Spy, reading with Calvin, walking through the shopping center where the bank is located, and buying coffee to have access to the Coffee Culture toilet for Calvin.

At 11, I was so relieved that everything had been properly sorted that I didn’t even notice that I’d left my wallet behind in the bank.

We only found out when we were an hour north of Christchurch.

We decided not to turn back to go get it* because it would mean missing the only semi-good weather day we were going to have at Hanmer Springs…


Our trip kicks off with two days in Hanmer Springs at the hot springs. It’s December, supposedly summer here in New Zealand.

Ambitiously, we booked two nights at a cheap campground ($37/night for our two tents) just outside of town and told the kids where we were going. This part of the trip was a reward for their good behavior for the babysitter while we were gone at the Great Barrier Reef.

hanmer 1

The weather, however, turned out to be anything BUT summery–it was partly sunny and surprisingy cool. It didn’t stop the kids from having a blast on the water slides, on the lazy river, and in the family fun pool. I just wanted to hang out in the hexagonal pools (water temp 38-40C) and mineral/sulpher pools (40C).

At our campground, the low overnight was 6C. And it rained. Seriously? our first night camping in NZ summer and it’s that damp and cold? In my mind I scanned through the clothes I had packed for the kids, hoping that we had enough leggings and sweatshirts!

Nevertheless, highlights included time on the playground, some friendly horse neighbors, and beautiful mountain scenery.

View from the playground

On Sunday morning we did a short (one hour) hike up the Conical Hill Walkway. As we climbed, the mist over the Hanmer Basin rose and we could see the mountains, river, and the road we had taken up to town.

Hanmer 2

Around lunch time we braved the pools again for the second day of our two day passes and I shivered my way through a high of about 14C. So. cold.

At least the hot pools were comfortable, but each time we had to get out to move from pool to pool or to find a kid, the goosebumps emerged just as the cold air hit the skin.

hanmer 3
waterslides and my North Face coat.

The low overnight on Sunday was supposed to be 1. One degree. As in, just above freezing.

James and I decided to switch our booking to a family cabin, which, at $85/night, isn’t as cheap as camping but did mean that we got a good night of sleep and weren’t freezing!

The other major issue we’ve had to manage is Calvin’s toileting accidents. Perhaps it’s a combination of a mild stomach bug and the disruption of his normal routine, but whatever it was, Calvin had not one but two accidents.

On the first one, Calvin was outside at the campground playground and didn’t make it to the toilet. I calmly put him in the shower, where he repeatedly apologized and said he loved me. It was rather sad, actually.

Then at 5:30pm James took Evelyn in the car back to town. He had a grocery list of things to pick up at the grocery store (simple healthy dinner stuff, one thing for breakfast, and simple lunch stuff for the car tomorrow on our way to St. Arnaud).

But when he got there, the sign said the store was usually open until 6, but it closed today at 4:30. It turns out that the shop has been owned by the same guy for 25 years, and it is being switched over to the new owner. Today. So the store closed an hour and a half early.

Unable to get the things on his list because no other grocery store is in town, James  came home with two pizzas ($40), two Thai curries ($36), and assorted fudge ($18).

In a tiny hamlet like Hanmer, there just aren’t many options for budget foods.

Then Calvin came back into the room looking sheepish and sad. He had had ANOTHER accident. James walked him to the public men’s room, and when he opened the door to walk in, there was a pile of poop in the middle of the floor. Cal had nearly made it, pulled down his pants, and shat all over the floor. He then had pulled his pants back up to come tell us.

James scrubbed the bathroom and put Cal in the shower. I collected two pairs of pants, two pairs of underwear, and one pair of socks and scrubbed them on the floor of a women’s room shower with a bar of soap. That was fun.

I would like to go back to Christchurch, now. Please.


I know things will improve. I am sure that we’ll all feel better and more optimistic in the morning. It’s got to look up…

Things going badly on trips always makes for great stories later. Right?

*Since then, we have heard from the bank manager, who is sending the wallet to a branch office near where we’re going to be later this week. (All’s well that ends well…?)




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