The days go slowly and the years fly by! This is parenting.
The metres go slowly and the kilometres fly by! This is tramping with kids. Sometimes you find yourself coaxing and cajoling tiny trampers to gain some momentum from the start-stop motion characteristic of the complaining child, only to find them sprinting away until the next mini-meltdown. On a bad day, the pattern continues until you have reached the destination or the car. Part of tramping with kids is getting alongside them and moving at their pace with the promise that soon the kilometres fly by.
There's a new hut in the Kaimais, Te Whare Okioki. The first weekend it opened for public bookings, we excitedly bagged four beds and sussed a route that would be kid-friendly. The age and stage of Dan (9) and Sadie (6) means that fewer kilometres and greater technical difficulty are the way to go. They'd much rather travel through mud and clamber up ladders than grind along a flat highway trail for hours. The first part of Te Tuhi track goes through private farmland, under electric fences, over boulders (optional), and around cows and cowpats. In the next section you enter the bush, head up a steep and slippery hill and cross several streams before reaching the junction of the North South track. It's reputation lives true as the mudfest of the Kaimais begins in earnest until you reach Te Whare Okioki an hour or so later.
All tramping trips are memorable, but this one was the kind that marked a change for our family. It was the first time the kilometres truly flew by. Over the years, we haven't increased the kids' pack loads by much. Instead, we've worked to increase the kids' confidence, agility, endurance, and enjoyment by choosing more technical, long, and enticing destinations. But this trip was something more - it was the first time the kids held the mood. They independently and enthusiastically packed their bags, even double checking each others' packs and reminding the adults of the frequently forgotten necessities (always bring toilet paper!)
On the track, they took the lead in making navigational decisions through the farmland and chatted through safe stream crossings. My energy levels were low and my pack was feeling heavier than it ought to when I heard my past words reflected in theirs as they spoke with patience, encouragement, and positivity. You did really well on that big hill, Mum. Almost time to stop for a treat! They spoke kindly and reassuringly to one another and sang waita along the trip. With all this goodness, I did wonder if I was dreaming! When they saw the roof of the hut barely visible through the trees, the kids sprinted the rest of the way. When Jack and I arrived a few minutes later, the kids congratulated us on our hard work and continued their friendly conversation with the tramper that had started the fire.
The tides are turning - the days might going slowly, but (as promised) the kilometres are starting to fly by!
Te Whare Okioki via the Te Tuhi Track
Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park
Distance: 8km, 536m elevation gain.
Time: 4 hours.
Buggies: No. Backpack child carrier for experienced trampers only.
Dogs: With hunting permit.
Barefoot: Muddy, but possible.
Trip notes and a couple more photos for this route are available from Wilderness Magazine.