Bouncing into the New Year at a beach house on the Kapiti Coast

I’m writing this on return from seven wonderful nights away on the Kapiti Coast.

Beautiful holiday moments on the Kapiti coast at Te Horo beach

The sleepy beach side settlement of Te Horo welcomed us with rural tranquility and bird song. For seven nights we forgot about work, school and house-keeping and focused on making every moment about spending quality time together. Time was the biggest gift and Christmas seemed a very distant memory (though the holiday home did have a tree up – just in case we forgot).

The rural surrounds and beauty of Te Horo

It was a week of summer holiday fun and, when it came to an end, it was quite a shock to return home to Christmas decorations all over the house and so much ‘stuff’! It struck me instantly that this New Year should be about de-cluttering, and I started with taking down the Christmas decorations before the children could get too used to them again. I shoved the tree and any offending tinsel in boxes under the stairs before even looking at a suitcase and post-holiday dirty washing.

The girls ran around the house and garden happy to be home – but we all agreed it would take us a few days to get over the beauty of living with the view of Kapiti Island every day and the sound of the waves as we slept.

Kapiti Island with a rainbow welcoming in 2012

In our garden we had a few welcome home surprises – a caterpillar had made a chrysalis on the swan plant and a couple of other caterpillars had certainly been busy chomping leaves in our absence – looking rather plump in appearance. The sweet peas had come out in flower, as had the Pohutukawa tree in our garden, and our friend – who’d been house-sitting – left a bowl of freshly picked strawberries and flowers from the garden in the kitchen for us. It is always nice to be home, but oh, what a fabulous holiday we had.

A truly wonderful week, shared with my dear parents. I actually relaxed for the first time in a long time – normally so used to barely having a moment to sit down all day. It was so lovely to be able to take a shower knowing all the children were happy and cared for, to savour a meal that my dear parents had cooked – and then share in conversation with them around the dining table.

The holiday house was perfect for a family holiday

So many moments were filled with tear welling eyes of happiness seeing the children’s relationship with their Grandparents deepen and flourish. It was especially touching to see Alice, not yet two, with her Grandma and Granddad.

Grandma on the beach with Alice, Granddad in the surf

Their love had been built on the foundation of photographs, telephone calls, Skype video conferences and stories.  To see love in full wonder, with hands touching and laughter shared, is something else.

And after the sun-drenched Christmas, we accepted the rain on New Year’s Eve – it was perhaps only fair (at least for the gardens) that rain clouds should descend – but then we weren’t camping or hanging out for a firework display. I was too tired to stay up till midnight, and for the first time since I was a girl, went to bed early (though restless toddler Alice ensured I did ‘see in’ the New Year – several times in the course of the night!). Meanwhile, Dan did the team proud – staying up past midnight with Grandma and Granddad to officially toast the New Year in with a drink (one in each hand – one for him and the other on my behalf!).

Granddad and Grandma cooked up a New Year’s storm, with a delicious ‘Goulash’ for dinner – Sophie kept going back for seconds and thirds till 10pm – whilst I had my share the next day for lunch!

There was certainly a strong holiday spirit in the camp, despite the wet start. The holiday house, ‘Beach Retreat‘, on the beach at Te Horo welcomed us with chocolates by every bed, candy canes on a Christmas tree, white lillies and an assortment of board games, books, toys, music and films. There was even a large trampoline and, in the garage, a tennis table. A pirate themed sleep-out with a treasure map, pirate ships and stories of old made it easy to entertain the children and the beach, even in the rain, was beautiful – strewn with driftwood.

On New Year’s Eve the girls decided to put on their wetsuits and bounce in the rain for an hour on the trampoline. Dan gallantly supervised the play (even turning down the offer of a beer, so he could have his mind fully on the job!). We all thought they’d come in exhausted after so much bouncing – but on the contrary, they were just warming up.

Bouncing on the trampoline on New Year's Eve in the pouring rain

As the rain continued to pour down on the sand dunes and clouds hid the sky in a whispery cloak of grey, the girls called out to, ‘Get on down to the sea and catch some waves!’.

New Year's Eve and catching waves in the rain

They had an energetic time of boogie boarding the waves and Dan trying out his new paddle board. I was thankful to have my dear Dad helping to keep Charlotte and Sophie safe in the water and he caught a few good waves too!

Alice too enjoyed her share of water fun. On the day we arrived, the day before New Year’s Eve, she ran into the surf, fully clothed – pulling me in with her, tugging at me to bounce her feet up and down in every new wave. When the rain got too much, we snugged up indoors – finding pleasure in the simplest of things.

We refused to let rain dampen our New Year

So the New Year was welcomed in the rain, but our spirits were far from dampened (and the rain gave us an excuse for a shopping trip to Otaki’s retail outlets a ‘must’, hee, hee!). The forecast ahead looked set to improve and it certainly did (and just as well – since my dear folks had treated me to a wetsuit in the sales at Billabong, which simply had to be given a dunking). After a couple of days of board games, paper airplane competitions, charades and origami, the sun returned (just in time to prevent any cabin fever from taking hold – and thankfully the corner cafe and Hyde Park Museum at Te Horo saved our sanity a few times when the rain threatened to jangle our holiday nerves!).

Drawing, making and balancing books on our heads

With the sunshine playing ball we really relaxed into holiday mode and enjoyed many of the wonderful attractions on the Kapiti coast! And I felt more like toasting 2012 properly with a crisp glass of Cloudy Bay Pelorus – the same that we drank on our wedding day in 1999.

We revisited the wonderful Loco Miniature Railway and Gardens, which we’d so enjoyed in Easter 2011. We played cricket, chilled in hammocks under a walnut tree, met the hens and the guinea pigs (on the kind introduction of the owner’s youngest daughter) and, of course, marvelled at the miniature railway.

The gardens at Loco, Otaki

We walked through the beautiful Nga Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae, admiring the native birds in the walk-in avaries…

Nga Manu Nature Reserve

… and catching our breath at the scenic surrounds of the reserve and the rich mixture of flora, with the call of native birds following our every step.

A walk in Nga Manu Nature Reserve

Sophie skipped along the pathways, pointing at the signs. Charlotte walked on bravely – stepping to high ground when a duck got too close!

Nga Manu Nature Reserve

Fantails danced along in the air as we walked. Alice took a nap, waking up in time to see a few friendly Pukekos and take a little walk.

Sophie, Alice and Grandma enjoy a moment of wonder with a fantail

We visited Lindale Park to sample Kapiti cheese and ice-cream and had a delightful time visiting the little petting farm there.

Petting farm at Lindale

The girls all loved feeding and petting the animals.

Feeding the animals at Lindale's petting farm on the Kapiti coast

Across the other side of the state highway, from Lindale Park, we stopped to meander around the stunning Nikau Palm Reserve and admire Keruru sitting colourfully and plumptiously in the trees. It was wonderful to revisit this magical place, having visited over Easter 2011 (which I wrote about in ‘A visit to a Nikau Reserve‘). Last time Alice seemed more of a babe in arms – having just turned one. This time around Alice was running along the pathways, jumping over the vines and tree roots with glee!

Keruru at the Nikau Palm Reserve, Kapiti coast

One day we drove a winding road to Otaki Forks, the western gateway to the Tararua Forest Park, where we hoped not to meet a passing car on the narrow, steep drive. The gorge descended sharply from the road and recent slips were evident on the landscape. We felt in awe of the scenery, and the depth of the varying shades of green in the bush, against the straw coloured agricultural land.

Beautiful scenery at the western entrance to the Tararua ranges

We parked up at a lovely picnic spot by the river and walked ‘The Arcus Loop‘.

Otaki Forks a beautiful walk

Sophie and Alice made little foxglove finger-puppets along the way…

Alice and Sophie with their foxglove finger puppets

Sophie really strode out and was such an enthusiastic leader on the walk. Poor Charlotte, suffering from hay-fever, was less than delighted with having a few fields of pollen loaded grasses at her head height to walk through. Alice was a happy participant (but then she was carried a large distance – only because she’d take all day if we had let her, what with foxglove finger puppets and all!).

The river crossing at Otaki Forks

But when we did let Alice down she sure showed us how to move… especially down hill! She ran at quite a pace – dragging her Daddy and Granddad along with her, hee, hee!

Alice on a walk in Otaki Forks

After a beautiful walk we enjoyed a while by the river skipping stones…

Skipping stones at Otaki Forks

and making big splashes…

Relaxing by the river at Otaki Forks

The fresh air and exercise eventually drove us away from the scenic beauty to nourish ourselves with a late lunch at the superb ‘Brown Sugar Cafe‘; where it’s easy to enjoy a coffee and cake whilst the children run around the beautiful garden setting. Our girls made up their own languages on the chalk boards, played tag and fairies, and Alice role played stories with the toy dolls.

When we weren’t out enjoying the beautiful surrounds of Otaki and the Kapiti Coast we whiled away time with ease at the holiday house. The beach, just a stroll down a shared garden path, was so easily accessible.

The holiday house a short stroll to the beach, even for young Alice

One  sunny afternoon, early on in our stay, Dan and the girls spent a couple of hours building a beautiful shelter out of drift-wood – which lasted the duration of our stay.

The beach shelter we made with driftwood

Charlotte added a ‘Welcome’ sign and we agreed that the den belonged to the beach and was something to share with others – which the girls did and, as a result, made a few new friends of all ages. Sophie had fun boogie boarding with one little girl – they hit it off instantly (since they both believed in fairies, liked Barbie movies and horses)!

Welcome 2012 - our beach shelter of drift-wood

The ever-changing outlook, sunsets and star-lit night sky made for a wonderful way to pass the time. There was always the possibility of seeing dolphins skipping in the waves too – or maybe a shark (as a great white shark had been spotted cruising off Kapiti whilst we were there!).

We were never short of entertainment either – with Charlotte on the guitar, Sophie on her keyboard, Alice dancing to the moon and greeting us with ‘Happy New Year’ and continually singing, ‘Tis the season to be jolly…’!

Making music at the beach house

One evening we were told to, ‘Sit down and watch the show!’ which of course we obediently did (with drinks in hand – one eye on the show – the other on the setting sun).

Home grown entertainment on holiday

As the holiday on the coast rolled to a close we started to pack away our things, bidding farewell to a holiday home that truly felt like ‘a home from home’. The sound of the sea as we slept will stay fresh in our minds for a while… just like the sand that found a home in our suitcases, clothes and the car (Alice brought home half the beach on her scalp from rolling in the sand!).

Most importantly, the memories we made together will stay strong. Having my dear Mum and Dad to share the joy of a good ‘ole Kiwi beach holiday and seeing the happiness they brought to their grandchildren will make me feel all warm and fuzzy for a long, long time.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and wonderful 2012.

Hands together in the circle of life, telling the passing of time. Carrying the genes of our loved ones that walked the earth before us and there to guide our young ones as their hands explore anew.

WELCOME 2012 and Happy New Year!