We started planning our trip in May last year. First we planned what countries we wanted to see and in which order. When we decided that New Zealand would be the starting point, we tried to figure out where to stay. Our goal was to be close to nature and everyday life, and not far from the sea. This counts for most villages of the south island. Now we tried to find our special place where we wanted to be, depending on the availability of affordable accommodation. First we looked around Christchurch, as it would be a perfect place to explore the south island. Our flight to Australia would leave from there as well. But we didn’t find a place that matched our criteria. Mainly because of the high-season, the prices were pretty high everywhere. Finally we decided to spend the first weeks in a campervan, which made it less important to be at a good spot to explore the island. We zoomed out the map and after doing some research we tried to find something located at the west coast. To find an accommodation we used several web-pages. We contacted several hosts and quickly found the place we wanted to be. Karamea and Pauls’ Farm Baches seemed to meet everything we were looking for. Everything was like a perfect match. The location. The host. The accommodation. The nature. The beach. Really everything. Now we’ve been there for a month and it was hard to say goodbye and leave the place.
Karamea is a small town. It’s a really small town. I think it’s the most remote place we’ve seen on our drive through New Zealand. There’s a local supermarket with everything you need, but the next bigger one is located 100km further south. No mobile connection. During the evenings and rainy days the internet is unusable. Otherwise it gets close to ISDN speed. It has a school, a kindergarten a couple of mornings a week, plenty of places to stay overnight, a library (only for members though ;)), a swimming pool, a museum, but most importantly it’s located between the Kahurangi National Park, with it’s rain forest and mountains, and the sea with a spectacular beach. After all the planning, the travelling, the excitement it was definitely the right place to calm down and relax for a while.
My personal top 3 of things we did in Karamea:
- Walking/running along the beach
No matter which time of the day, it’s simply wonderful. You can walk and walk and walk, the kids can play in the sand. And there is hardly anybody. Linnéa enjoyed it so much to go with her feet a couple of meters into the sea and wait for the waves to catch her. We looked for special shells, drew in the sand or just jumped from the dunes. On the other side of the dunes there is the estuary, with plenty of birds but less waves. So if Linnéa could decide, we went to the “our long beach” as she called it. Which was almost every day.
- Take a walk in the Kahurangi National Park
There are plenty of great walks, which I will write about in a separate post. The rainforest is just stunning. The tracks are prepared really nicely. And even being with Linnéa and Niklas alone, it wasn’t a problem. The nature is fantastic. Funny Weka-birds are crossing your way every now and then. Great caves. Beautiful birds, rivers and streams. It’s just amazing. At least twice a week we hiked there.
- Oparara basin
Even though I mentioned the walks in the national park already, this deserves an additional mentioning. Getting there is a bit tricky on a 14km winding gravel road going up and down towards the start of the track. We saw two cars broken down there. One with an open hood and the other one parked nicely in the ditch. But once you are there you can see natural arches and caves which are simply amazing. But don’t forget your mosquito repellent.
So, what stays with us after the time there? It was definitely a great experience, being in a place as remote as Karamea. After a couple of days you already know some people you met in the supermarket, in the cab on the way to Karamea, in a cafe, in the pool, the play group or simply on the street. Everybody says hello and takes some time for some small talk. The local community seems really active and passionate. No matter if it’s a local festival, the local school, or anything else regarding life in Karamea. The local museum collects everything about the history and anything else. It’s really cute. The strong community and do it yourself mentality is something I’ll definitely keep in mind.
Being that disconnected certainly gives you something instead of taking. And you notice how dependent you can be of all the electronic gadgets you have. Same with being so far away from everything. There is just one highway and you have to go 100km on a winding road, which will take you 1 1/2 hours to drive – or half an hour more if a cow herd is chased to a different location. All that is nice, makes you think and wonder. But certainly just for some time. It was nice to feel the comfort of a more populated place again. The first thing I did in Sydney was having sushi 4 times in a row :) Things can be complicated – if you want the one thing the supermarket does not offer, talk relying on the internet connection, or leave the place on a Sunday.
The nature I will remember the most. Reaching the sea and the mountains with the bike, within a radius of a couple of kilometers, is just fantastic. We loved it. We enjoyed it. We will come back, once the kids are big enough to do the Heaphy track. ;)