As we stay in one place, we find that we’re meeting more and more people and finding ourselves connected within the community. Yesterday, our activities took us to a playgroup, into town and then out to the beach to spend the night with a friend.

In town, we drove to the primary school grounds to a building designated as a Playcentre. Although it was located within the school grounds, the Playcentre is a parent-run initiative that provides early-childhood learning opportunities through play, craft and cooperative activities.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well-stocked the building was. Their outside playground was in excellent condition and the toys inside were of a very high quality. They ranged form traditional wooden blocks and trains to food and Duplo toys. Everything was stored in well-marked containers making it easy for the participant parents to help pack away.

Our girls immediately went to the doll corner, dressing each doll carefully. They were spoiled for choice with all the toys on offer, and because we travel with so few toys of our own, I was pleased to offer them a smorgasbord of activities. Then they moved to the play-dough table — all three of them sitting on little chairs as they rolled out dough and pressed it into shapes.

Delaney was overwhelmed by the noise and activity and clung to my side the whole time. I was delighted to recognise one woman there — Karen was visiting with her two young grandchildren and their mother. She told me that she had helped set up the Playcentre when her kids were pre-schoolers and was delighted to see it still going strong for her grandchildren’s benefit.

The other mums were quite friendly but when it became clear that we were itinerant, they were reluctant to invest in a relationship with us — understandable, and I wonder how many times I’ve done the same thing in the past.

One woman kindly gave us her address just outside Kaeo and invited us to park at her place if we needed somewhere to stay. It is kindnesses such as these that buoy us on our way and keep us from feeling lonely while we’re travelling.

When Playcentre closed down after a shared lunch, everyone helped pack up and clean the rooms. We headed back to Kerikeri for some final supplies before we head north. In one shop, we ran into Bev — this was fantastic because we’ve called at her house twice without finding anyone at home.

After our business in Kerikeri was completed, we drove to Matauri Bay — one of the best beaches in New Zealand — where our friend Luke has a permanent campsite. Matauri Bay is famous for its million-dollar-views of the Pacific Ocean.

Luke and David, March 2011
It was great to catch up with Luke again and see where he lives.

Luke was studying in his tent when we arrived, but we soon coaxed him out to join us as we prepared our evening meal. He showed us around the camp and complimented David on his cooking.

David’s been making delicious chapattis lately. They’re a flat bread made with cooked vegetables and whole wheat flour. Tonight, David’s version was like chapatti pizza with tomatoes, onion and melted cheese on top of a vegetable-based bread.

Making dinner with Luke, March 2011
Our girls love playing with Luke — they call him very playful — and we were pleased that Luke joined us for dinner so David could share his inventive cuisine with a real chef!

When we were ready for bed, we parked the truck right on the edge of the camping ground where the high tide had carved bites out of the grass. The wind blew, and the waves crashed loudly all night, but we were warm and cozy in the truck. What a beautiful evening!