We snuck out the front door for a bowl of muesli on the beach, the sky making a half-hearted attempt, the fluorescent grey not budging. Feeling slightly restless, we ran through the little side streets of Parapara beach, slowly feeling the ever-growing droplets of rain pierce our skin, soon to become weighted pellets and drenching us before we could make it back to the house. We changed into the driest clothed we could find while our family friends snuggled up in blankets for some pancakes. Without overstaying our welcome, we headed off back down the highway in search of this little town that everyone seemed to think we would love, Takaka. We had passed it briefly on our drive from Blenheim, and promised ourselves we would come back to fully inhale all the colour and the character. Takaka was equally quaint and vibrant, rich with personality. There were hippies everywhere, someone living in every second vehicle parked up, people waking to brush their teeth on the footpath. Life seemed simple and fulfilling here. Down the street were hippy clothing stores, bustling organic cafés, art galleries and natural, fresh supermarkets. No wonder freedom campers and travellers flocked here, it seems as if everyone wants to prove to themselves how little they really do need. We found what would become our favourite Takaka café, ‘Dangerous Kitchen’, a packed to the bring mix of wholesome food, colourful artwork, a variety of travellers - with and without shoes, and the constant noise of the coffee grinder. We found comfort in this wild combination, and sat for a while, sipping on coffee and melting into the two-person, preloved sofa, which was to become our go to spot in this particular café. Waikoropupu Springs was up next on our agenda, a leisurely boardwalk with views of some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. However beautiful, “Pupu springs” was not hugely memorable in comparison to our next adventure, Rawhiti Caves, aka ‘the hills of doom’. We didn’t have to drive far before ending up in the middle of nowhere, on a farm, cows watching us as they hung out in the lush green. We parked up, and began our walk, not entirely prepared for what was about to come. We were greeted with ever-changing terrain, patchy forest floors which dropped into a crossing loaded with huge, boulder like rocks, then up to a muddy, increasingly steep zig-zagging, slippery hill walk. Legs and shoes covered in mud, we arrived at the magical Rawhiti caves. The temperature dropped immensely as we entered the caves, a welcome change after our tiring hike As the afternoon came, the question of where we would sleep that night become real, but as we drove past Pohara Beach, I was determined to make it our home for the night. It was a beautiful beach, with golden sands and a feeling that felt right. That evening felt like our first true camping night. The lack of rain meant our camping stove and green curry made an appearance, and so we took our time making a truly average, overly spicy meal. As we were eating and laughing at our first attempt of camping cooking, a young German au pair who had seemed to be scouting out people his own age in the campground came and sat with us. His name was Jans, and we ate noodles together and talked and giggled, promising to catch up again in Wellington, where he was staying and where we would be returning after our two weeks on the road. Naturally, the sky became dark, Jans left, and we cosied up in our sleeping bags for the night.