Dame Susan Devoy: How it used to be


I have just returned from six fantastic days holidaying on Slipper Island, a privately owned island six nautical miles from Pauanui.

While there was cellphone coverage, the absence of internet allowed for a technology-free holiday and real respite from the daily comings and goings.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Over the years a number of families have on an annual basis visited different camping spots around New Zealand. Some have been regulars on the annual pilgrimage while others, particularly as the children have grown older, have had other commitments. The regulars are seasoned campers. John and I would struggle to fall into that category but luckily our friends don't seem to mind sharing all their toys and gadgets with the city slickers.

I think we redeem ourselves by taking the coffee machine and John's skills are equal to any barista. Strange that a back-to-basics holiday includes flat whites and cappuccinos but there are some things in life that are a must-have.

This was nirvana. The adults enjoyed the lodge, a bed, a flushing toilet and a hot shower while the kids got prime camping spots and even managed - because summer has finally arrived - to sleep under the stars.

The days were action-packed, it wouldn't suit a lounge lizard who only wanted to curl up in the shade and read a book. At any given time there were a number of adventure-packed activities taking place. The choices included circumnavigating the island in kayaks or on foot, some at a much faster rate than others. Snorkeling at the many beautiful bays around the island, lots of fishing for the hunters and gatherers but sadly not many fish.

The kids loved the ski biscuit off the back of the boat, jumping off the wharf, searching the rock pools for crabs, firing water bombs at any moving target, the traditional backyard cricket and occasionally tried their hand at the more leisurely pursuit of cards or Monopoly.

The custodians of the island allowed us to light a bonfire one night, in fact Malcolm and Hazel, an English couple who spend some months of the year running the place, were so hospitable. Nothing was too much trouble although I did note a raised eyebrow when Malcolm was lugging the mountains of gear up from the wharf and he spotted the coffee machine. Malcolm is a retired journalist, having written for the Telegraph when in the UK. I had hoped that with a little persuasion he might have written this week's column for me ... then it would have been a real holiday.

So now we are home, the batteries are recharged and everyone, especially the children, have another stack of fantastic memories. One of my sons who didn't seem that keen at the beginning described it as "mean" - a teenage expression for something special.

What could be better; families and friends enjoying time together in our beautiful country. Fathers and sons - and daughters for that matter - spending real quality time together with dads having the opportunity and time, something not so easy to find in this busy world.

As a parent there are so many opportunities and experiences we want our children to have growing up. Without a doubt the chance to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors comes high on the list of priorities.

In a flash they forget about PlayStations and computers, they can live without updating their status on Facebook and we remember how it used to be.

The group have booked again for next year ... coffee machine and all.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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