Jun 7, 2014


There is no denying we are a hiking family. You can’t own a business called Hiking New Zealand and not have some sort of passion for the outdoors. As a family business (along with Malcolm O’Neill’s family) work-life and home-life split is not always obvious. Naturally Daniel and I talk a lot about work, Daniel’s phone goes nonstop over the summer talking to the guides and I am often talking to clients when it is my turn to be on phone duty on the weekends. So really it should not be any surprise to us when our 8-year-old starts making replacement guide suggestions when one of the team calls in with a twisted ankle. Our children – Liam (8) and Eva (7) talk the talk, they know their MSRs, PLBs and quite fancy their own Hennessy hammock. So as the kids finished school in December and had the never-ending summer stretching out in front of them we needed to plan some hiking. This isn’t an easy feat when it also happens to be our busy hiking season.




Abel Tasman was the answer; this was going to be a Mum and kids trip. A chance for me to reconnect with my two beautiful children and not be the one telling them to hurry up and brush their teeth, get in the car, do their homework, be quiet whilst Mum is working – the list goes on… Four days of Fun Mum, no other kids to be the main source of entertainment - just Mum and her silly stories.  It turned out a girlfriend had a gap in her nursing shifts so could join us. It did take a moment for me to consider whether a fellow adult would impede my Fun Mum status but I decided someone else to help carry the tents would be good!




The water taxi from Kaiteriteri to Apple Tree Bay was bliss. The sun was out, we were full of excitement and itching to get walking. We planned just a short two to three hour walk to Watering Cove and we timed it so the day kayakers were gone for the day so we had the magical little beach pretty much to ourselves. With a maximum of ten campers allowed to stay there each night it could not be more tranquil. The kids helped pitch the tents, fought over who was going to sleep with which adult and then insisted we all go swimming. Fun Mum, that I am, saw me plunge into the water and then fight my urge to get straight back out again. The water was actually lovely, I am just a wimp. 



We cooked our dinner over the MSR, sat on the sand, savoured every mouthful and chatted about what a primo camp spot we had for the night. Once our meal was consumed the kids challenged Justine and I to some races. We gave the kids what we thought was a fair head start, only to discover they didn't really need much of a head start at all. We had this magical little beach to ourselves as we competed in our cartwheel races – it appears cartwheel skills diminish hugely around 40! That night we went to sleep to the sound of the waves lapping the shore.



The next day we had 10kms to walk to Bark Bay. Our excitement hadn’t diminished at all overnight and we were all packed up and on the track by 7.30am. The trick we have learned over the last few family hikes is an hour in the morning achieves what two hours would in the afternoon when it comes to hiking with children. Children are like puppies - they can’t help but dart over here, skip over there, walk up the bank, see if they can climb a tree and then completely knackered, just want to hang out and mooch  after lunch. We made the most of the morning energy and took the kids to Cleopatra’s Pool. I had talked up the natural hydro slide and told the kids it would be a compulsory slide for all. Well the recent rain meant that it looked a lot more niagara-like than the last time I had taken the slide. The GoPro video camera was on and the chants were loud for me to be the first to go down. It proved all too much for Fun Mum I got the nervous 'sewing machine leg' as I stalled getting up the slippery rock and into the starting shoot and wisely backed out. However we all took a wild plunge in the icy cold water before making our way back onto the Coastal Track - and we still felt like heroes and my kids still love me. 



Back at the inlet the tide had gone out enough that we could plug steps through the silty estuary to Torrent Bay. The kids loved the fart noises as they pulled their stuck shoes from the sandy mud distracting them from the hardship of the slog across. Another reminder that kids and adults can have their own angles on the same exercise!


Another example of this was the classic kiwi swing that was hanging from a nearby tree as we enjoyed our lunch at Torrent Bay. It proved another wonderful distraction as a shower of rain swept across the landscape. I don't think they even noticed it was raining. The afternoon's walking  passed with each of us making up an adventure for a fictional character called Phil, and his journey across the globe. These little things are 'special moments' the kids hung off every word and Eva slipped her hand into mine so naturally and simply as the story took her away on another journey in her mind. This moment was one of the great memories on the trip for me, a real connection with my kids again. These things we so easily skip in our daily bustle and rush.  




Bark Bay was our camp for the night and we spent a very pleasant evening sitting around a fire and listening to a young kiwi guy play the banjo. It seemed to be the campsite for kiwis, either walking the track or cruising the coastline in their yachts. There were two other kiwi families around our campfire;  both having time out from their city lives and letting (battling) their teenagers to have a break from technology, although there was still the odd iPod in sight.

I would like to say we just  crawled into our tents and peacefully hunkered down for our second night in our little home away from home. But a better description of this evening would be 'mutiny on the bounty'. I discovered that when you are an owner of an outdoor camping/wilderness business (or at least your kids know this) then they have zero tolerance for a less than perfectly pitched tent. I need to add this badly pitched tent was entirely my husband's fault. Yes, the husband I had kindly left in Canterbury working. How you ask? Well here is the solemn truth.

When you go on a personal trip in the midst of your busy hiking tour season, all the new/good tents are out on the road so I was landed with a tent that even the rubbish man wouldn't accept. Not surprisingly it didn't take too kindly to the over-zealous pace at which I wanted it to be set up.  I snapped a pole, and neither child wanted to sleep in the tent with me. Hurumph.

I managed a bit of a fix up job -  with a bit of tape around the pole and some wisely tied guy ropes. I was very tempted to make my kids do shifts holding it up all night so I could get my 10 hours beauty sleep. 




The next morning we had breakfast on the beach and enjoyed the simplicity of the moment. Today was our last day of hiking so we were in no rush to get to our destination. We enjoyed our time at Tonga Quarry, possibly my favourite of all the golden sand beaches. We swam for ages at Onetahuiti and admired the spiky kina (sea urchins) in the rock pools.


The last of the hills was accomplished and then we faced the dilemma of whether to get to our last camp via Awaroa Lodge or hike the high tide route. The lure of lemonade for the kids and a cold Corona for us ladies proved too much, they were treats we were prepared to get wet for if the estuary waters were a little deeper than our shorts. Down the hill we went, by now some of us had taken to hiking in bare feet - 'earthing it' according to one of our guides who loves to be shoe-less. The Corona went down a treat with a bowl of hot fries, there is something special about that first indulgence after a few days of simple meals and plastic cups and bowls. Awaroa is a remote wee spot and not one where you think you will bump into people you met 18 months ago in the jungles of Borneo. But in true kiwi everyone-knows-everyone style this is where we caught up with two very cool people. Justine and I had travelled to Borneo a couple of years ago when we met this great couple who had only just started an overseas adventure. Liam and Olivia couldn't believe it was us - these giggling, almost middle-aged women who seemed to have their life of travel and adventures sorted. We caught up on the last 18 months and I spent some time assuring them that I did work and that my husband wasn't bound to our business as I gallivanted around living the life of Riley.


The stomp across the estuary was no problem at all and much to Eva's relief we didn't see any stingrays. We did see one later when we were swimming near the mouth of the inlet, but as always it disappear as soon as we disturbed it. We had meal preparation (if not the outcome) down to a fine art by this stage in the hike and as it was our last night we made an effort to eat as much of our remaining food as possible, possibly at the expense of the result, however that's another bonus of travelling with kids - if mum cooks it we eat it. We all had a sound sleep knowing all we had to do in the morning was catch the water-taxi.





We enjoyed the boat trip back to Kaiteriteri but couldn't help but feel slightly deflated that the holiday was over. Justine had an afternoon shift at Nelson Hospital to get back to and the kids and I journed back to Canterbury. It was a marvellous few days away and the quality Mum and kid time I had hoped it would be. I reckon I achieved Fun Mum status.




Anne Murphy

You may also like

11880649 991040740918031 2836898849507842330 n 1

Bird of the Century

Arguably, the outcome of Aotearoa’s most important annual election amongst our feathered friends hol…

Street Art

Things to do in Christchurch

Heading to Christchurch for a weekend away, visiting a friend or family, or as part of your travels …

P1080920 RT

Best time to hike

Sometimes you wonder if the weather actually cares what season it is in New Zealand. We have some lo…


Poles Apart

Did your Leki poles weld themselves together again? 

I (Malcolm) went to use my alloy Leki walking …

To Top