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On this day in 1985 I walked for hours along the beach from Paekakariki to Paraparaumu, on the west coast of NZ North Island. As I walked the tide went out, revealing a wide beach of dark sand and shells.

I got talking to an elderly man as we both walked along, paddling. I learnt about the bird sanctuary on Kapiti Island in the distance, about Maori words, culture and ecology of NZ. He was a fascinating companion for part of my 10 km walk.

As you can see, I was still in NZ. I had postponed my flight back to Australia. I stayed with my new friends in Auckland as I sorted out logistics of staying in NZ. I then stayed with friends of theirs, in Wellington where I found work as a nanny.

Looking back, knowing the bureaucracy involved today and the qualifications required to work with children, I am amazed that I found work so easily. I guess as a twenty something English girl, with driving licence and six months experience of work in a residential children’s home, I was deemed responsible and capable for such a position. Most of the jobs I had involved sole charge of kids while their parents went away on business or specific family commitments. I wonder now where I got the confidence from.

My first family consisted of four year old Andrew, who met me in a Batman outfit, eight year old Catherine and ten year old Simon. I had seven days doing the school run, sports clubs and music lessons, cooking meals and generally taking care of a house and family. We played games, went to the local park, went swimming. I dealt with a sick kid and ear infection.

I wrote … “Bank work is nothing compared with responsibility of looking after children”. But I’d enjoyed the week and happily signed up for the next job, starting in a few days time. Hence this mini break walking along the beach on my own.

In the days following, I visited Wanganui and New Plymouth, both were interesting towns, with old buildings, botanical gardens, monuments, hill look outs with views of the coast, a volcano and surrounding landscapes.

I stayed in a quiet little youth hostel on the Wanganui River, a couple of miles out of the city of Wanganui but with the river literally at the end of the garden and a few minutes walk from the sea and another black sand beach. It was a beautiful place to watch the sun set over the sea.

The journey to New Plymouth gave superb views of Mount Egmont (since renamed to its Maori title of Mount Taranaki). It rises 2,500 metres above flat rolling countryside and is one of the worlds most symmetrical volcanic cones. At times it looked ethereal, with the volcano hovering above cloud at ground level.

So back to Wellington for my next nanny job.

Paekakariki beach

Paekakariki beach

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki