In Search of Families In Search of Adventure
A Family on a Bike Tour: New Zealand, Samoa, USA and Canada 2004/2005


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From:       Kirstie, Stuart, Matthew and Cameron
Subject:   Playtime
  Date:         1st December 2004             km: 330
     Te Anau, Southern Lakes, New Zealand

Touring with any group of mixed ability involves mixing, matching and adapting what you do to meet the needs of everyone. Our little ones have some particular needs and interests which impact upon our itinerary and stopping off points.

"Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, stop, I need a wee. I need a wee" is a regular heckle from Cameron. And where-ever we are we stop so he can play pee pee in the wind. He's gradually learning which way to face.

Cameron disembarks from Matthews' sleeping bag airplane to declare a need for a 'wee wee'

While both Matthew and Cameron have their own little rucksack of toys in their buggies, they seem to make little use of them preferring to devise their own entertainment which usually involves a pet toy they brought from home and other items they find in their trailers. Matthew is trying to train his Puppy Wuppy and spends hours devising new chokers and leads for him from a piece of string, velcro tabs and an extendible cable lock. Meanwhile Cameron tries endlessly to steal Matthew's cable lock so he and Lamby can use it as a telephone to speak to Granny Beads and Granny in London. And when the wheels stop turning or when we strike camp, a favourite team game involves building and flying airplanes with a Thermarest undercarriage, soft sleeping bag wings, and a camping pot nose. Matthew is the pilot and Cameron can be a passenger but only if he has a ticket.

While we pursue our own adventures on the bikes, the boys are keen to pursue theirs on New Zealand's playgrounds. "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Stop, Stop. I've seen one. We need to stop." Matthew shouts as he struggles to make himself heard from behind his windshield. "A great big playground Dad. STOP." And we do and while Matthew and Cameron burn off some energy Mum and Dad can rest, regain theirs and watch the kids play for a while.

The boys like to burn off energy at any playground they spot - at campsites, parks and schools

Their play is physical and boisterous, energy surging after the relative confinement of an hour or so in their buggies. The air fills with screams, laughter and the sound of sibling power struggles as the boys are reunited after their brief period of separation. And as they play they seem to seek out challenges and thrills amongst the playground equipment. Watching them you can almost see their skills and confidence develop as they figure out how to do the impossible. At first watching others, then maybe asking for help, advice or a hand to hold, and then at some magical moment (usually when your back is turned) finding the courage to have a go alone, the joy of "I did it on my own" clear from their smiling faces. This drive to test and develop skills through challenge seems instinctive and full of pleasure... at least when it works and they're not on the floor with a mouth full of bark chippings.

Bouncing with joy as they test their skills on the trampoline in the school playground at Blackmount School

And with nothing much else for us to do there is so much more opportunity not just to watch them but to play and be with them. To talk with them about the places we have been, things we have seen, people we have met. To listen to them chatter about this and that and nothing at all. To try and answer their questions about whatever is in their head. To make up stories, silly songs and poems and pass the time of day laughing together. Playtime is precious time.



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