From dust till sea and back home

Our last blog was about our lifestyle in the outback, this time we will tell you about what we have seen during our trip. The first highlight was Coober Pedy, a famous opal mining town. There is a free spot where you can seek for opal yourself. Despite the effort we didn’t find any opal at all. After our hard work we felt hungry, good for us Coober Pedy has one of the best pizzerias of Australia! Our pizza with kangaroo and emu meat was delicious. The town is also famous for its underground living. All hotels, motels and campings are constructed in caves. It was a great experience to sleep with our tent in a cave! Outside it was really windy, warm and bright but as soon as we entered the cave, it was comfortable but dark.

After a few days driving we arrived at Uluru (Ayers Rock). What a massive rock! The rock has a special spiritual meaning for the aboriginal people. From generation to generation they tell each other stories about the time of creation and within each story there is a lesson how to behave. You are not allowed to tell a story about a place if you are not at the place yourself, because parts of the stories are connected to the landscape and you won’t fully understand it because you are not there to experience it yourself.
That is why aboriginals are originally nomads, they don’t intent to stay at one place, they need to go to the next spot, to share the stories and knowledge about nature and life.
They didn’t share all the knowledge and places with everyone because some parts are sacred.
Some stories can only be shared amongst men and others only among women. But from our point of view men have more rights than women. For example, women are not allowed to play the didgeridoo or to go hunting. What we liked however, is that aboriginals teach each other that they can’t hunt down baby animals. They have to wait untill it is old enough, full grown. Because you get more meat and for them that’s the way nature keeps it’s balance.

From the distance Uluru is one giant rock, but when you come closer, you will find trees growing, a waterhole and during heavy rain you will even find waterfalls.

Things don’t have to be big to have an impact, small things like flies can have an impact as well. With hundreds of them they were constantly flying and buzzing around us. First you try to ignore them, or let it be, but at the end of our walk around the rock all we wanted to do was run to the car and have some peace. Despite the flies, we have stayed 3 nights to see the beautiful sunrise and sunset, not only at Uluru but also at the Olga’s.

After visiting the Olga’s we went to Kings Canyon. At Kings Canyon there is a walking track to the Garden of Eden. Suddenly in de middle of the dry canyon there is a waterhole. Nature has an important law: water means life. Near the water tropical trees are growing and the water attracts animals who like to come and drink.



Our next big stop was Alice Springs. We liked it there because when we asked “are our clothes okay to enter the bar?” they said: “no problem, this is Alice”. That’s how we like it!! There was live music and we had great fun. People convinced us to come to “Wide Open Space Festival” a hippy festival. Everybody gathered around the pool and was dancing and having fun, dressed in the most craziest outfits!

Left of Alice Springs we drove through the West Macdonall National Park. It was to hot to do any decent long walk but we have definitely enjoyed the ride. For miles we have seen low lands and this range was full of mountains and spectacular sunsets!

Before we reached Darwin, we have visited two beautiful national parks: Nitmuluk and Litchfield. Freke’s absolute favourite spot is Edith falls in Nitmuluk. The falls have different levels and at the upper pool you can swim. We came back three times because it was so pleasant. Being there at that spot, surrounded by such a beautiful nature, makes you feel peaceful. It was more than 30 degrees outside, being in the cold water was a welcome refreshment.

Edith falls2P1070778nitmulik
Although the waterfalls of Litchfield were really pretty, we had some bad luck because Freke slipped from the rocks and hurt herself badly which even resulted in a visit to the first aid and a quicker departure to Darwin because Freke was not allowed to swim in the water anymore for the next couple of days..

Darwin was not a punishment at all, because for the first time in many days we could sleep in a real bed! We booked some extra nights because the warm weather, the roof terrace, a bar and the pool where at our ease;)

Darwin is the most northern part where we have been in Australia. Time to drive back to Sydney, but not before we have seen Kakadu National Park! We wanted to see crocs! We joined two excursions: a river cruise and a croc jumping trip.
The river cruise was special because besides the crocs, we have seen many other birdlife and the surrounding of the wetlands was beautiful. The trip ended with a great sunset.
But to have a better impression of how powerful the crocs are, we went to see them jump! From the boat an employee would offer them a piece of buffalo meat and just before they would bite, they pull it up. It was impressive to see them come so close.


We spent a few days at the park, to see the rock art and the sunset at Ubirr. It was nice but soon we went on because it was time to go to the east coast. After a couple days driving we arrived at Mount Isa. We have spent a couple hours to check it out, did some shopping and went on. We realised it would only take maybe a day or so to be able to see the sea again. It was still quite a drive but when we arrived in Townsville we were very excited. There it is! Freke said, it’s the sea! Trust us, if you have been in the desert for like a month or so it’s really nice to see the sea again! We drove up the hill for the best view and suddenly we saw this beautiful island in front of us. It didn’t take a long time for us to decide to take the ferry and spent some time on the island. Magnetic Island… it’s true it pulls you in the chilling mood. We found the best camping spot ever! The sun, turquoise sea, good music, a nice drink, palm trees and obviously a hammock. Life as it supposed to be!

Before we left Townsville we spend a day at the longest single drop waterfall in Aussie. It was a really nice walk! On our way to Brisbane we stopped at Airlie Beach. This is the access point to the Whitsundays! We did some snorkelling over there. WOW! it’s mindblowing beautiful, the fish are so colourful. Freke was laughing out loud when the sea turtle swam next to her and observed her with a funny look. We both had a good laugh about it! We went on to Whitehaven Beach. The view was stunning, and right from the start we understood that the name ‘Whitehaven Beach’ lives up to his reputation. The turquoise sea and the white sand gave us the perfect moment to chill out again! At the end of the day we went back to Airlie Beach with a couple of more precious memories!


It took us a couple days to arrive at Hervey Bay. This is the accespoint to Fraser Island. Isabelle has been here before and decided to stay in Hervey Bay but Freke explored the island on a daytrip with a 4×4 bus.

People had recommended us to visit Noosa Heads and when we stood at the lookout spot we understood why! Our vision was 360 degrees and we could check the coastline with the sea and the beaches and on the other side green hills and little hills! A perfect place to decide what our next direction would be. We have seen enough coast lines, let’s go inland to the green hills! Yeah!! This is how we like it! Green hilly areas where you have vision till the horizon. The route was also a very popular among motorcyclists and it reminded us of New Zealand.

Of course we also wanted to continue with our storytime project, that is why we were heading to Brisbane. We were happy with some invitations in Brisbane. Brisbane has a Dutch/Flemish school named Duyfkenschool and they have invited us to be a present at their Dutch Language and Culture Day. During that day the children had to make language tests. We showed the oldest children our large book about the Netherlands and had conversations about it and with the youngest children we sang typical Dutch songs.

dutch school

At our first day in Brisbane, we stayed with a Flemish family who invited us. The family was really friendly and we had fun with the children. The children liked our story about a King and his knights who are bored because there are no dragons or other enemies left. Until the king has an argument with a witch..This story is one of our favourites! It is exciting, different and it makes the children think. And another advantage is that the story is written in English and Dutch at the same page. Depending on the children or family we could choose to read the story in Dutch/ English or both! We told the story with two voices, for example Isabelle read the lines at the left page and Freke took care of the right page. Of course you can also interchange with each paragraph with your child to make it more exciting. If you want to know more about the book about the King and the Knights you can listen to the book for free: http://www.luisterrijk.nl/luisterboek/1465/the-little-knights (Dutch website).

After we stayed with the Flemish family, we also stayed at the families place of the principal of the school. Both children are cleaver for their age, asked us cleaver questions and also already knew a lot! The children knew a special place where we had to read our stories, they built a hut for us with their duvets.

The plan was to visit some more families but some had to cancel because there were some illnesses because of the changing weather. It was winter in Australia and it was raining a lot. We decided that is was time to go home for us. Back to the summer in the Netherlands.

Our journey was one big adventure and back at home we will have plenty of new stories to tell! Stories about the hospitality and the openness of the people who invited us in their homes, about the fun we have had with the children, how grateful the mothers were that we entertained the children and they could prepare a meal without being disturbed, and if you ask a child what they liked the most during their visit to the Netherlands they will answer “the Efteling”. We also fell in love with the nature of the two countries and especially New Zealand, no doubt that it is considered to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

We would like to thank our readers, the people who donated money, the people who have supported us and of course the people who invited us into their home. Thank you!

thank you


Our lifestyle in the outback

We, Freke and Isabelle, are travelling with children picture books in our car through Australia. During our trip we meet many people and some of them invite us at home to read stories to their children. Of you live in between the sunshine coast and Sydney you can invite us! At this website we share our adventures

We have arrived in Darwin! (while posting we are already at the East Coast on the way to Brisbane).That means that we have crossed the country from South to North, at least 3000 km straight ahead through the outback. Now or then there is a roadhouse where you can stop for a rest and to get fuel. Sometimes the nature was greener than expected and sometimes more the same than we wished for. They told us there are Aboriginal communities but they seem to be hidden. Most aboriginal people we have met, are begging or fighting on the street.
Because the population is so low in the outback and it is difficult to make contact, it has been a good decision to have a little storytime break.
Instead, in this blog we give you an impression of our lifestyle.

Our tent is our house, that is why we have bought a new tent, all the other camping gear is from Kmart and is cheap but we have decided to invest in this. The tent has enough space but is not too large. Our air bed fits in it and on both sides there is space to put our clothes, torch (to spot mosquito’s or flies) and a bottle of water.
For us it’s important that we can easily put the tent up and take it down. We both know our own share in it, almost every day we break our personal record. The main reason why we want to do it as fast as we can, is to avoid an attack of flies/mosquito’s and to enjoy our time before it gets dark. In de evening we enjoy the sunset.

Our day starts when the first birds begin to sing and it’s light, a really peaceful way to wake up. During the time that we cook water for a coffee or tea we take down the tent. After we have enjoyed our drink we prepare breakfast. Usually Isabelle eats eggs and Freke eats muesli.
And after cleaning breakfast and tied up ourselves we are off to go to the next destination. When we travel in the desert we drive up to 6 hours and hope to arrive around 4 pm. Sometimes when we really want to make progression we know we can drive until 6.30 pm before the sunset. We have an app which tells us where the next camping or resting area is. Most of the time we pull over at a resting area along the road where we camp for free together with a bunch of other people who do the same. If we want a shower, we just find one. Some roadhouses offer a shower for 2 dollar and sometimes there is a shower near an attraction like a waterfall and if there is no free spot, we stay at a camping and enjoy the shower and other facilities a lot!

During the day there is a point of interest like Devil Marvels to visit, where we stretch our legs with a walk, we take a lunch break, and go on driving, listing to our music on the iPod and having good conversations.

We especially like it when people (for example Natalie) send us a voice message through whatsapp and we listen to it on the stereo while we are driving.
We always make sure we have enough supplies like food and water in the car. If needed we can survive for 2 weeks with our supplies. We are king in buying products in special, we stock up plenty (hamsteren!). In big towns we hunt for wi-fi spots to download en send pictures. Good places are shopping malls and banks. They provide wi-fi as a costumer service.

Australia is so big that it is even bigger than Europe! Temperature and conditions change during the trip. In the beginning we had to sleep with 3 sleeping bags to keep us warm, later on we didn’t want to use any! At one spot there are heeps of flies and next time it are the musquito’s! It’s always a surprise!

We have seen plenty of small bushfires, but don’t be afraid, it are controlled fires! They rather burn some parts to prevent big fires and fire regenerates new life.

Along the road we find dead animals, mostly kangaroos who are hit by a car or cows who died out of dehydration. Nature has his own circle of life: the eagles will eat them and clean it up.

The trucks on the road are so huge that they call them road trains, the biggest one has 5 sections behind him! It costs at least 20 sec to overtake a road train with 3 sections.

Being on the road in the outback for days and days can also be really confronting because there is not much to see or do and that means that you start thinking about things you normally let pass by. Sometimes it was difficult but most of all it gives you important insights.

So far a bit about our daily life, next time we will tell you what we have seen.



We, Freke and Isabelle, are already more than a month in Australia. Before Australia we have been travelling with our Storytimebus through New Zealand. During our trip we meet many people and some of them invite us to their homes. We have lots of books and read stories to the children.
In this blog we share our adventures.

We started in Sydney and after visiting a few families, we moved on to Melbourne. Melbourne is the best city so far. Great atmosphere, beautiful old buildings built in the time they had heaps of gold, streets where people are allowed to make graffiti art, narrow cosy streets with baristos and restaurants and the peolpe love sport! In Chinatown we enjoyed a delicious beef noodles soup and discouvered a restaurant named Dessert Story. They only make desserts! It is no icecream but snow ice with fresh fruit like kiwi, mango, stawberry and lycee. You have to try it when you have the chance!

We really wanted to go to Tasmania.
To travel light, we have stored our books at a family in Yarraville. Not many tourist visit Tassie, but we love the nature, the walks, the silence and the feeling that time stands still. No rush in Tassie!

During our hitchhiking in NZ we have met a young family from Hobart. The first days we have stayed with them before we rented a car. From that moment on our adventure started.

We decided not to pick up hitchhikers but suddenly we saw this poor guy, or was a road where just a few cars pass and the next destination was far. Turned out he was already walking and trying to get a ride for 4 hours. And he was about to start a walking track for 14 days! We want to do some long walks as well but not for so long! We decided to walk with him for the first day, sleep there and return the next day. What a strange track. It is not a popular walk and it was certainly not well maintained. It was already twilight and we hoped to reach the next shelter soon, but suddenly there was this river which we couldn’t cross easily. “We don’t know what your plan is, but we will just camp here and go back tomorrow” was our reaction. So we set out our tent and it was a great experience, sleeping in a forest!
Next day we went back to the car and drove to the most southerly point of the island to walk another track. We had to walk through the forest and on the other side we saw a golden sunset in the sea. We have camped there, this are the best spots: in remote nature, there is no one else and it is for free!

The experience was great but soon we found out we would rather do a day walk and return to the car or even sleep in the car. We don’t like to walk with a tent, sleeping back and matress on our back. During the night it was so cold in a tent. We didn’t had propor airmatrasses, just a thin one, because they were sold out at Kmart..  Not that the car was comfortabel but at least we where warm!

We did to many walks to discribe them all, but highlights where a nightwalk to a waterfall to spot wildlife, a walk around Dobson lake and Cradle mountain.




In Tassie we have met a couple from Melbourne and we had such fun together. We promised to meet in Melbourne, where they live. Turned out that we have stayed with them for 4 days and it was great. We had our own room and bathroom and we could make use of their bikes. Thank you Ed for showing us around in town and thank you Ann for baking such delicious berry cakes! Freke got the chance to go to a Australian football game. No one expected our team to win and it was a close call, but that makes it even more exciting.
Back in Melbourne Freke also visited a Dutch playgroup. We have two books with funny illustrations about good old Dutch songs. The children sang as loudly as they could and especially liked the song head, shoulder, knees and toes. We practised first with a slowly version and built up the speed time by time. Such fun!


We have bought our own car! It is not a bus but a station wagon. It runs on lpg and petrol, which makes it cheaper to drive. That is important because you have to drive so many km’s before you reach another town. We sleep in a tent at (free) camping spots where sometimes kangaroos keep us company, we have a good airmatress and enough blankets.


We are now in Mt Gambier, driving the Great Ocean Road up to Adelaide. The coastline is spectaculair and we have seen many wildlife like kangaroos, coloured birds and even koala’s! Next destination will be Alice Springs.




People are still welcome to invite us to come to your house and we love to play and have fun with the children but we have decided to make less advertisements and let things happen more spontaniously because it took to much time and effort on a day to find families. And if you decide to invite us, please send us your name, adress and phone number, which makes it a lot easier for us to reply to you and to see whether it is possible to visit you! You can reach us on storytimebus@gmail.com


Thank you and goodbye NZ

It is time to say goodbye to the people of NZ because we will go to Aussie. We would like to thank you fellows for your hospitality. It is because of you all, that we reckon our project as a big success: SWEET AS! (check http://www.facebook.com/storytimebusadventures for a video message)



Before we started we hoped that our project would work out well and it did!

People from all over NZ have invited us.
We have been in both islands. In South Island we keep good memories of Alexandria, Spring Creek and our stay with the boys in Christchurch. The boys have let us stay in their house for almost a month and helped us with buying our car. We have had so much fun together.

Most of our families that we have visited live in north island. Thank you all to the families who live in Wellington area (incl Stoke Valley) for showing us around. We keep good memories to seeing the Hobbit in Wellington cinema, nearby the studio, together with a father. One family introduced us to the Frozen movie. From then on, when something bothered us, one of us would say: “Let it go, let it go”.
Thank you to the families in Paraparaumu who let us feel at home and let us taste a homemade pavlova for the first time and showed us different kinds of fishing (longlining).

Special thanks to all the children book publishers Lemniscaat, Books Island and Gecko Press who have donated us great Dutch and English books.

We have passed almost all main roads and some areas we have seen twice. But Northland is the King, we have been their three times! Thank you Jennifer and Warren for letting us stay all the days and for showing us the Maori culture as well!

Matamata was great! Driving in a Beatle and hearing stories about our next destination Australia.

We have met a group of woman and they have invited us to Gisborne were they showed us the best Maori movies and let us taste Maori food like a Hangi and a boil.

Thank you to the people from Auckland, the place where we have sold our van.

Thank you Arnica for helping us to waive the infringement of 200 dollar for camping at a wrong spot.

And thank you Kiwi’s for keeping the country clean to enjoy the stunning landscapes.
We have seen to many beautiful things to list them all. But because people want to know it anyways:
*Mt Cook (Mt) by helicopter
*Milford Sound
*Views on the top of Tongariro vulcano
*Cathedral cove
*All the waterfalls: Wairere, Whangarei etc.
*Marlborough Sounds
*Beaches around Matapouri
New Zealand has a special place in our heart. We will leave the country with a big smile!

We are really excited about our new adventures in Australia. We hope

that you people keep follow our blog and fb page.

Do you know families who live in Australia? Tell them about us!
We will start in Sydney and via Melbourne, Tasmania, Adelaide, Perth, we will go up to Darwin.
All families can invite us for free. We speak and read stories in Dutch and English. Www.storytimebus.wordpress.com/invite-or-contact-us/


Mother Nature shows her beauty

Freke and Isabelle are two friends travelling through New Zealand and Australia (2015). With a special Storytimebus we read aloud in villages we visit. You can invite us to come over to your home, school, club or society.

Paihia, in the Bay of Islands, is a perfect place to spot dolphins, so we decided to give it a go and booked a boot trip to swim with dolphins. The weather conditions were perfect, there was a blue sky and no big waves, but nature is nature and the dolphins didn’t show up for a long time. But finally our patience was rewarded and we saw them! What a beautiful creatures!

They swam around our boot, but there were youngsters among the group and for their protection we were not aloud to swim with them. They gave us a voucher to try it another day but we wanted to go along and travel further to Kerikeri to check out the waterfall. It was a wonderful waterfall, with a cave behind it. We saw children climbing to stand behind the waterfall and we decided to do it as well. We felt great when we had achieved it because we definitely had to pay attention and had to believe in ourselves. Sometimes you had to make a move which was a little bit scary. Shall I make it? YES!


Waterfalls are one of our favorite spots to visit, so on our way back heading to Coromandel we checked the Whangarei waterfall as well. This one is special because of the basement, you can enjoy the waterfall from a bridge, as well as from a land with a gorgeous giant old tree with big roots.
Whangarei has a museum about clocks and they gave us a free ticket because they support our StoryTIME project.

Freke has always been fascinated by clocks so we were really grateful! They have Dutch clocks as well. The clocks at the picture are Maori clocks.

We told Ernestine, Freke’s twin sister who was visiting us for 4 weeks, that Coromandel is famous for it’s stunning beaches and for Cathedral Cove, and it certainly is true! We all were flabbergasted by Mother Natures beauty! Just paradise!


I have learned something important from Mother Nature. Beauty is everywhere around you. The rivers, the mountains, the lakes, the trees, the leafs, the birds etc, it is all there. At a few places we have noticed you had to walk, climb, bike or swim for a while, to reach the exact place. We had to put some effort in it, but if you do it, nature will reveal you even more stunning views.

Let it be an important lesson for life. If you want to achieve something, put effort in it. You can achieve things without putting a of lot effort in it, but you will be rewarded, if you do so. The day after, all we remembered is how stunning the views were and not how much effort it had cost us, to come there.

We knew Cathedral Cove would be special, but another highlight was a track of the Wairere waterfall. It is the largest waterfall 153 meter in North Island. You could see the waterfall from a far distance, but we wanted to come closer. You could choose to walk until the first look-out or until the summit (top). It was a long steep walk to reach the summit, but it was worth it! Amazing.. just before we reached it, we noticed that the energy was really calm, such a peaceful place. It looked like heaven. A stream of rippling water, the sun reflects in the water and the leafs are greener than green. What a contrast with the waterfall itself, where the water comes down with such a strong power!

The water was so clear that we decided to wash ourselves in the water. We were the only ones there!

While we walked to the beginning of the waterfall, it felt as we where on the top of the world! It was a clear day and we could overview the whole area.


We continued our trip and noticed we were close to Matamata, the place where Hobbiton is. “Hobbiton is for tourist and we are no regular tourists” was our main thought. But somehow we were still curious. First we told ourselves to just check the area and when we where there we were like: we have made it so far, it would be a shame if we would regret our non going.. LETS GO!! We are so happy that we just did it, because this is paradise as well! This one is created, but our compliments for the results! The flowers in the gardens were in bloom, we felt just so happy to be there!
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When we were driving in town our eyes came across: “Pancakehouse Oma” that must be Dutch! Let’s meet them and have a chat! We told them about our project and told them we are always looking for (Dutch) families to read to. And they invited us to their house. They live on the country side and we had so much fun together! They have done a round trip through Australia with a Volkswagen Beatle (Kever in Dutch) and shared so many good stories with us! Our big book about the Netherlands was again a great success! We have spend the whole evening by checking the book and sharing facts about what we know about The Netherlands. The book was on the floor and we where lying on cushions and beanbags around it.

They still have a Volkswagen Beatle and because non of us had never been in this type of car, she took us for a ride and it was so much fun! Next day we went to their shop again to try their kroketten and it made us so happy to taste it!

During the last week Ernestine was visiting us, we have stayed around Rotorua and Taupo. Special moments were chilling in natural hotpools, tubing down the river, seeing volcano’s and having dinner together at Taupo lake.

Thank you Ernestine for joining us for 4 weeks! It was special for me (Freke) to have my twin sister around, to be able to give you a hug and to give you an impression of this beautiful country and it’s people. LOVE YOU!


Storytime Adventures welcomes Ernestine

Freke and Isabelle are two friends travelling to New Zealand and Australia (2015). With a special Storytimebus we read aloud in villages we visit. You can invite us to come over to your home, school, club or society.

Someone asked us: “what will you do next?” I answered with: “We have no clue! We don’t even know whether we will go left or right!” Those moments that something unexpected happens are the best. If we would live following a schedule, there would be no time for unexpected things. The outcome is a gift! One really special gift for Freke came on Freke’s birthday when Ernestine, her twin sister, asked to come over to New Zealand. How exciting! Within a week she would arrive in Auckland. Meanwhile we had a great time in Ahipara. While we were preparing dinner at the beach, we met 2 boys who just picked up a German traveler (he travels by bike) and asked us to join their poker evening. They are the green keepers of a golf course and they have a house on this property. The golf course and the sea is their backyard! How cool is that!


That evening was so much fun that we stayed for a few days. Basically we started the day with a morning swim, we eat at a local restaurant and vodka cruiser was our favorite drink. They all played guitar and we where singing all the time, if we weren’t eating or going out for a swim! We also tried to go floundering (fishing) but we had no luck. And of course, if you practically live on a golf course, you have to play the game as well! After a few days it was time to say goodbye and to welcome Ernestine. It feels so good to be able to give her a hug! We hope to give her an impression of the country, the people and our project. First we showed Ernestine her first waterfall in NZ (Piaroa waterfalls), we were amazed by the glowworms in the underground world at Abbey Caves and we walked a track ending up at a private beach (Peach cove, Whangarei). We have enjoyed ourselves on many coastlines and we have found a hidden pathway, which led us to a rock pool at Matapouri.

rockpool  IMG_2637IMG_2608

The people who were there told us normally only locals know about this place. They all have a bench (holiday house) in the same street and hang out together. After a little chat they offered that we could make use of their kayaks to see the mangroves. It was so much fun with them, that we stayed the night. Our first family we had planned to visit in the Northland was in Kawakawa. Mother is Dutch and she is married with a Maori man. Together they have a little boy. We always hoped to meet a Maori family and to learn more about their culture. For a long time Maori people had no script, so they passed over knowledge by using oral stories. Family, friends, eating and sharing are the most important values for them. They welcomed us in their house with a ceremony. Each person had to stand up one by one and you had to speak out your name, who your ancestors are and something what you would like to share. They also sung a special song in Maori language for us, assisted by the guitar. And Ernestine choose to sing a song in Sanskrit. We have been told that they separate portraits on the wall. The pictures of living family members and friends at one wall and they choose to hang the pictures of people who passed away at another wall. We were invited at his sisters place because they have a bigger house and she made a delicious dinner for us all. We didn’t eat all together, the children had been eating earlier on. When the adults are sitting on the table, woman get served before men! The idea is that a woman has an important role to take care of the family. Because she has to be strong, they serve her first. Next day we went further on and found a backpackers place, but when we came closer, we noticed that it was closed down. But the people who now live there invited us to stay for the night even without knowing anything about us. How kind of them! We came back to the family in Kawakawa and before we knew it, we where joining a karate lesson, because he owns a Karate school! Every day is a surprise!


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!! We wish everyone a healthy and loving 2015. Our wish was to experience NYE in Sydney and to see the big fireworks. Because both our birthdays are soon, we gave each other a present and it was awesome!
We have watched the fireworks from Dudley page reserve and we had a great view of both the harbour bridge as the Opera House. There were so many colours!



2014 has been awesome! We have visited many families, read many stories to children, had great fun and have seen many places most backpackers don’t see. Our project is special because people allow us to be part of their lives for a few days which gives us the opportunity to experience the life of New Zealanders. It puts us in the position that we can explore what they find important in life and in which way it is different or equal to Dutch values.

We have noticed that people find it important to spend time in nature. Men do not necessarily work 5 days a week, they make time to go for a run outside or have a walk through the forest with their child(ren).

Most families try to be self-sufficient and grow their own vegetables and fruits like lettuce, tomatoes, apples and herbs. They often gather and hunt and exchange their fish for some meat with neighbors. One mother told us they will only try to eat fish, meat or vegetables which they will catch, grow or trade by themselves for the next coming month. It is a special summer project for the kids, it keeps them busy, but they will also learn a lot about nature and to appreciate the origins of food.
I am seriously considering to plant some trees and plants by myself. I can tell you, it taste better!

We have stayed in Wellington region (incl Paraparaumu) for a while and there are a few things which make the city special.
Wellington is New Zealands capital city and after Auckland it is the second largest city.
Wellington is geographically located on the bottom of the Northern Island, so it means that it is 180 degrees surrounded by the sea, coastlines and beaches.
There are many fault lines and therefore
Wellington counts so many hills, that it doesn’t matter where you stand on a hill, you can always see the sea! Most houses we have visited in Island Bay and Houghton Bay are located on a hill and have a great seaview. In the Netherlands most people care about a big television in the livingroom but in Wellington it would spoil the outstanding seaview! They rather do an outdoor activity then watching tv. In Holland everyone is addicted to their phone, tablet or tv and young children can not live without it. Here parents are more careful, children can only watch tv during weekend, or use a tablet only 15 minutes a day or they just don’t have a tablet. I think Dutch people can learn from this. It is still possible to be less dependent of them. One mother said that she just took away the tablets and didn’t turn on the tv during the day and the children were asking for it for 3 days, but after that period, they totally forgot about it!

Some of the houses have big windows where you can see the sunset or sunrise in stead of watching tv. And you don’t need curtains like in the Netherlands, being afraid people will look inside your house, because the house is on a hill. And the garages!? We have seen some houses where the cars are on a platform (eagle to the road) which is actually the roof of the house!
Wellington has an airport and the landing lane is directly near the sea. How cool is that! It is special to see the airplanes landing and departure from the top of a hill.
I have never seen a city which is so green! There are so many trees, the spaces between the houses are almost like a forest. Actually, first it was a forest and later people start to built their houses, that is why!

Did you knew:
– Some people take a plane to go to their work?
– People are aloud to drive from the age of 16? It used go be 14 not so long ago.
– They don’t need to take drivers lessons like we do;
– A yellow sticker with an L means lesson but we think: watch out, they still have to learn how to drive;)
– You can drive without insurance;
– The only Highways (1&2) to Wellington are both built on fault lines! If there will be an earthquake, it will damage the roads and thereby it will block every access to the town;
– The earthquake of Christchurch had an big impact on the people of Wellington as well. Everyone thought that if there would come a big earthquake it would be in Wellington. It made them even more alert;
– On your first holiday they will learn you how to react during an earthquake
– Kids know exactly what to do. They have to crouch in a turtle pose. One father has said: a few months ago there was a big earthquake and it took him a few seconds to react but when he looked at his children they were already in their turtle pose!
– The WOII is still very important for kiwi’s and they have many memorials;
– Many Kiwi’s came to Europe and Holland to help us;
-In one way they had to, because if Hitler conquered England, it would also posses NZ;
– Everyone knows someone who died during the war;
– They want to change their flag;
– Not only rugby is popular, we have seen many bowling parks ( yes, jeu de boules);
-Big cities have their own Botanic Garden, it is paradise, it is so beautiful! All the different tree’s, plants, flowers, built upon and between the hills.

And you probably want to know about our visits to the families! On a certain day, one Dutch family had invited us and 3 other families with Dutch origin  We had lots of fun that day and we have read a story about knights. The book is written in two languages: Dutch and English. So Freke read aloud the alinea in Dutch and Isabelle read aloud the same in English. We were sitting in a big chair and at a certain moment all the kids had crawled around us, they were totally sucked into the story.
It was a big success because all the families asked us to come to their houses as well! One mother was really grateful that we entertained the children while she was cooking. Finally a moment for herself without being disturbed! One father took us out for a ride along the coastlines and other special places in Wellington and he even took us to the latest Hobbit movie!
Another mother has donated an exemplar of her own book “my happy place”.

On our way to Auckland a family with two mums and two kids had invited us to come to their farm. We had a really great time with this lovely family. They cooked a special lamb meal for us and we could make use of the bikes to ride along the coast. You can see the Mount Taranaki from their house, we went for a walk the day before and have seen beautiful waterfalls!

We have a few days left in Sydney and we will enjoy ourselves! On January 6th we will be back in Auckland and continue our project. We hope to meet many more families in NZ and probably in March we will move to Australia. There, we will buy a new car and of course, if you already want to invite us, please send an email to: storytimebus@gmail.com

All the best in 2015 and hope to see or speak you soon!


We have visited so many families and someone special has visited us in NZ

Freke and Isabelle are two friends travelling to New Zealand and Australia (2015). With a special Storytimebus we will read aloud in villages we visit. You can invite us to come over to your home, school, club or society.

Even though we have had a lot of fun in Christchurch and it felt safe to have our own room for two weeks, we felt it was time to move on to the North Island. Parents told us their kids are excited to meet us, to check our Storytimebus and to listen to the stories. A family in Spring Creek, near Blenheim, welcomed us. Mother is Dutch and they have a six year old daughter and twins (a boy and a girl) of 3. They showed us the playroom, which would be our room for the time being.

We played with the kids and picked them up from school. Father has a diving school and they let us taste a butterfish, fish that you can only catch when you shot it while diving! How special!

The next day we went to their school. It is a small school with about 38 kids and two classes. The teachers had everything perfectly under control! All the kids listened, we think because they like the clear structure. Groups of tables have their own colour, sorted out by the colour of the pencil basket. The school has a cornerstone character. They hold on strong to values, student behaviour and citizenship. We witnessed that after the lunch break.

The oldest group, children between the age of 8-12 year, challenged us to play soccer during lunch break: Girls vs boys. The boys thought they would win, but it ended as a draw. At the end of each lunch break the group comes together and the principal asks them if anything had happened during the break that they want to point out and discuss. We discussed that everyone has a responsibility for fair play.

Ana was really excited that we came to her class, and she likes to be in the spotlight, so we have asked her if she wanted to help us a little bit when we would explain about Sinterklaas!
She started to shine! She told them about the chimney and the presents in your shoes.
Ana and their family have their own Jip and Janneke (J&J) book about two kids from Holland. We took it to the school and after the story was finished, we asked the kids what the biggest difference was between the lives of J&J and their lives. A boy shouted: “the houses!” “What about the houses?” “Well.. They are built next to each other, there is no space between the houses! We have our own garden!” “Yes, that is right! In Holland we name it rijtjeshuizen. And what else?” “Their houses have more than one level, but in NZ most houses are ground flour”.

Before we took the ferry back to the North Island we enjoyed a few days around the gorgeous Marlborough Sounds.

Mike (from Christchurch) his parents live 20 minutes outside Wellington and they have invited us for our first night at the North Island. It was so lovely to meet them! We had lots of fun and interesting conversations.
The second day we dropped by a kind lady from Belgium who had donated us some books, because she is the owner of Book Island publisher house. In the afternoon we went to a family with a boy of 7 years old. They have contacted us through Couchsurfing. We tried to make Dutch pepernoten (spiced cookies) for them, but because we mistaked the baking power with self rising flower, it went all wrong! The moment a strange chemical reaction happened, we knew it wouldn’t work out.. At the end, it stayed flat.. Such a shame. We are sure they would have liked it.

Next day we went to a playcentre in the neighborhood. “Playcentre are parents-led early childhood centres. Playcentres also offer free parenting and early childhood education for parents members”. Our visit was such fun! The children all wanted to see the books and as a thank you they all formed a circle and started to sing songs for us!

It was a successful week because every day we went to a new family. On Tuesday we visited a family in Stokes Valley, with the four years old Jasmine. She likes to sing as well! She gets crazy about the Frozen movie. But the moment we showed the book about Holland, she started to jump even more!! The Efteling!!! Last year they have been to this Dutch amusement park and she could not stop smiling thinking about it again. Yeeeh!! That was fun! I can see het sprookjesbos (fairytale forest) met Kleinduimpie (Little Thumbling)! Suddenly she said: “I will show the big book to my friends and they will say: wow, did Jasmine go to the Efteling!?! Jasmine can perfectly understand Dutch, but she prefers to reply in English.

After Stoke Valley we went back to Wellington Island Bay. The house is locatedvon the top of a hill and from their living room, you can view the sea!

The children from this family have learned to speak Dutch to their mom and speak English to their dad. In the Netherlands sometimes you can not sleep because of the loud traffic but here this night the wind was even louder! The wind was howling and went through every hole in the house. I couldn’t sleep because of it!

I just can not get used to see a cyclist riding next to my car on a big road. They don’t always have special cycling paths.
Onces we met a couple and they just finished their journey on their bikes from England to NZ! It took them 24 months! Respect for them!

On Thursday we went back to Jasmine’s family. They are a really warm family and they are used to inviting overseas people to stay with them for a while. We enjoyed our stay and will definitely come back.

We also came back to the family with the sea view where the wind was so loud. Luckily for us this time there was no such a wind. We went babysitting and watched Sinterklaas journal (news) together!

In the Netherlands we celebrate Sinterklaas on the 5th of December. Children get presents from Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. It is controversional on the moment for some reasons, I will not discuss it her. All I like to say is that most children love it, so do the children with some Dutch blood in New Zealand! And happily after all, Sinterklaas even made it to NZ and on Saterday we all went to the Dutch clubhouse and the children had a good time!


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We have our own Storytimebus

Freke and Isabelle are two friends travelling to New Zealand and Australia (2015). With a special Storytimebus we will read aloud in villages we visit. You can invite us to come over to your home, school, club or society.

We are so happy to be invited to stay at our friends home! It gives us the opportunity to experience the life of a Kiwi, to make friends and to not having to worry about “where to stay tonight”. We use this time to find our own special van!

Houses in NZ are similar to American houses, most of them are ground floor. Many houses are made of wood. This house has 4 bedrooms, filled with three guys because one guy has just left to travel. We can make use of the empty room until they have found a new flatmate. The guy have left a mattress and a desk, that is all we need.

But how do you find your own car? You can rent a car for a month, like we did, but if you stay longer than 3 months, it is profitable to buy and sell a car. You can go to a supermarket and read the messages on a noticeboard, but the easiest way is to use internet. There are special FB groups for NZ travellers who want to sell and buy their car. But how do you know it is a good car? A car from a backpacker has been sold many times before and travellers travel a lot, so “good” is a generalisation. Let’s hope for a good car in this price category. You can buy a cheap car, hoping it will last until the day you sell it, but the chance that it will have a breakdown is high. The costs to repair things are even higher. Or you buy a more expensive car, but you need to have the money and there is still a chance that something will happen with this car. When you invest in a car, it will also have better facilities and because you have to live and sleep in it, it better be a nice one! We have been following the messages and posts for some weeks and out of the blue, our eyes where focussed on a Nissan Homy. The guy really took care of his car, he is a mechanic and knew how to maintain the engine etc. He had adapted, painted and decorated it by himself. He has constructed a bed which can be easily turned in a couch and there is a kitchen and a small wardrobe which can be used as a desk as well. The van is from 1990, so it is an old van, but the chair covers, dashboard and belts are retro. The colour of the belts for example are gold, so the van really looks cool!

I knew it for sure: I want this car to be ours! The owner of the van likes our project, so he was willing to reduce the price of the car to an amount that we could afford to buy it. Our friend gave us an address of an garage, they checked the car for free, just to be sure that there is nothing strange or wrong with the car and he gave us a blessing. This car is well maintained! We made our decision, let’s buy this car! All what was left was paying him the amount and go to a post office to change the ownership! Great!!


We would like to THANK every person who has donated an amount, big or small of money. Because of you guys, we are able to buy this amazing car. We and the children are very grateful.

But not everything goes easy! Just like in the Netherlands, there are many safety rules, so you can not just withdraw a big amount of money at once. Sometimes we felt hopeless how the bank system works. Even if you have money, it is not easy to open a bank account. We are 5 weeks in NZ, but still we had not managed to open a bank account yet. Rule number one: you need to have a permanent address and a letter with your name and address on it. Rule number two, you need an IRD number (for work). And of course, to get an IRD number, you need an address as well. Finally we where able to open an account. But you can not open an account in one day. First we needed to wait a week, because we had to make an appointment and they had to send us an official letter and from that day it took another week before we received our debit card. But officially we are now allowed to work and we are able to receive money!!! We will have to work soon, because living in NZ is expensive.

If you want to offer us work, you are welcome to send us an email: storytimebus@gmail.com, we are now in Christchurch and heading North. First to Blenheim, later on Wellington.

There is more good news! Dutch publisher Lemniscaat has donated us Dutch children picture books! Because we now have an permanent address, they where able to send it to us. We are so happy with the gift! It includes classic picture books such as: Monkie, Amazing Animals (Gewoon gek), Like People (Net mensen), Platvoetje, Ravenstreken etc. by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert. We are also very grateful and happy with the book “Netherlands” by Charlotte Dematons. This is a great book with detailed illustrations of the Netherlands. Everything has a meaning and a special book “1000 things about the Netherlands”, will tell you more about it. We are really happy with this gift and we are excited to show them to the children. Even adults like it!

Photo: Dutch books, donated by Lemniscaat Uitgeverij, have arrived! We are very content and excited to use them! Especially the books of Nederland - Charlotte Dematons and Ingrid & Dieter Schubert. Thank you for this important gift!DSC_1772.jpg wordt weergegeven

There are Dutch communities all over NZ, so we have send them emails to introduce ourselves. We were lucky because the new Dutch ambassador is in Christchurch to get to know the Dutch community and they have invited us as well. That same evening we where introduced to everyone and they welcomed us. Everyone was excited about our plans, but most of the people are grandparents and they would definitely sing it forward. One of the ladies is a teacher on a democratic school in Christchurch and she invited us to come to her school next day. It is a school with a special character because the children are free to choose whatever they want to do. The philosophy is that they learn by playing and the children are involved with decision making. They will call a meeting and the children will discuss certain points.

It is a very interesting system, we were completely surprised, because there are no classes! They do have different rooms, where they can do different things, but the children seem to like the playing garden the most. There are also no lunch breaks, because they decide by themselves when they want to eat. We wander how the children learn how to read and we wander what the level of education is, but the children seem to amuse themselves and all of them can read.

Isabelle started sitting on the couch with one child, showing our illustration book about The Netherlands. It is a large book, size A3. More and more children wanted to see with their own eyes what was going on. They saw things they haven’t seen before. An illustration about all Dutch amusements parks. Another illustration about the traffic jams, the flood of 1953 and Madurodam. Enough to see and to talk about for hours!

During our stay in Christchurch I felt a student again! Our flatmates are around the age of 22 years and they like to party and to have a drink. They invited us to a birthday party at someone’s garden. It was a great party! Summer is coming up and students have finished their last exams. So of course that had to be celebrated too!

During one weekend we went on a trip to Castle’s Hill, one of the locations of Lord of the Rings, and it was amazing! What stunning nature! All those rocks! You realise the power of nature when you stand on the rocks, overlooking the view.

The boys had to go back, but we stayed for another night at the Pearson lake to see more of the Arthur’s Pass. This was our first trip with our new car. It’s a diesel so you really hear the engine, but that’s cool. The real test would be uphill.. Castle Hill is the beginning of the Arthur’s Pass, which can be very steep. You have to be very patience and nice to your Homy, because our maximum speed was 15 km p/h on the steepest moment. We where so happy when we reached the top of the hill!

Last weekend it was Cup day, that means horse-racing! Everybody gets dressed up as best they can and you bet on a horse. We had no idea how it works, but we guessed right and won the last race! Unfortunately it was a 1 dollar bit so my gain was 8 dollar!

It is time to say goodbye to Christchurch!  Soon we will continue our adventure heading highway 1 to Blenheim. We are so excited because we received some invitations from Blenheim and places around Wellington. Invitations are always welcome! We love to read stories to the children and to have a chat with them. You can also invite us to come over for dinner if you don’t have young kids, but still in for a good time. Just send us an email to storytimebus@gmail.com. Or chick on http://www.storytimebus.wordpress.com/invite-or-contact-us. We are looking forward to meeting you!

Last but not least, we would like to thank Mike, Steven and Jason, for hosting and helping us for so many days!



A week full of exitement

A few days ago we did not have the chance to see the Franz Josef glacier because of bad weather, but considering the fact that we are two girls who are aware that everything happens for a reason and bad things will turn into good things eventually, all the signs pointed out that our visit to Mt Cook should be amazing! And it was!
Our aim as to take a helicopter flight above Mt Cook. Someone recommended us to sign up for the last 2 seats, they may give you a discount. And it worked!! How nice, flying for an hour but paying the amount of a 20 minutes flight. The loop includes Mt Cook, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. Because we were the smallest of the group, he directed us to sit on the front seats. These are the best spots because of an open view.

I don’t know if I have ever done anything more exciting, in a way that every view was amazing! There was a clear sky with endless views, the snow was so white that it hurts your eyes without sunglasses. I have never seen so much untouched snow. And I was even more surprised when the pilot pointed out a little dot on a glacier telling us that’s a helicopter. Wow! The area is bigger than I ever imagined. After a while we even landed on a glacier. We took many pictures of the nature and of my big smile. A smile says more than a thousand words!

We went for a walk as well, but it couldn’t top the flight. So after a walk of an hour we went back to the car, heading north. After calculating how many days we still had left, we decided that our next destination should be Kaikoura. This is the place to spot wild sea animals like dolphins, seals and maybe whales. We chose to swim with seals. The water was so cold.. Brrr (yes even with wetsuits).
It was hard to see underwater, but still we saw so

me seals swimming just underneath us! They have strange big eyes under water! Afte

r a certain point I decided to go out of the water. Let all the others swim in the water, I can see them also perfectly from the boat and that is warmer. It was a unique experience.

During the round trip we skipped Abel Tasman National Park, hoping for better weather and more time with our own van. But because we had still some time left, we decided to go back up North. To reach Abel Tasman, we had to take highway 6 via Nelson, a road we already took before. It made us realise that discovering new things is adventurous but being at a place you have been before brings you a calm feeling. When you are at a new place your brains have to register everything for the first time and that costs energy. Recognizing a tree, house or roundabout can actually make you happy too! We stopped at the same nice beach at Tahunanui before we continued our journey.

At Motueka we researched the skydive possibilities and the lady said it would be best to just do it today, otherwise you start thinking and may not dare anymore. So a few hours later we found ourselves in a small airplane flying higher and higher in circles untill we had reached the height of 13.000 feet! There we were attached to our buddy

, luckily an older man, telling us he has been doing this for 25 years. He gave us some instructions and told us when the door opens lift your legs over the railing, do what we had discussed earlier and don’t forget to breath normally and smile!

The first 45 sec is a free fall, thereupon the parachute would open. Your speed is about 200 km p/h during the first part and I remembered that it was cold and I found it difficult to breath normally. But the view was amazing! The sea on one side, Abel Tasman on the left side, many vineyards underneath me and mountains on the other sides. We were lucky again because we had a clear view. And than suddenly the parachute falls open and you fly more easly, just cruising around in the sky!

For a couple of days we just said to each other, man.. we actually jumped out of an airplane!

You can’t drive through most parts of Abel Tasman with your car. You can discover it with a kayak, with a watertaxi or walking. There is a carpark at the beginning and at the end. We drove all the way to the end and hoped to hire a kayak over there but they weren’t hiring them because of the windy weather.

We walked over a beach and we were almost alone. The beach was not sandy but consisted of many little stones. The sea had washed up many beautiful kinds of shells and shellfish. On our way back we discovered a path to a waterfall. They said is would be an adventurous path and it was! Sometimes we had to cross a small stream by jumping or stepping on a big stone and one time there was a swinging bridge where just 1 person was allowed at a time. It is still one of our favorite walks and waterfalls.

We would go back to Christchurch by passing Hanmer Springs, known by it’s Spa Resort. Travelling is great but sometimes you have to charge your own battery. The journey to Hanmer Springs was beautiful through Lewis Pass with all it’s trees. The Spa was relaxing, but also exciting at the end, because Freke couldn’t quite handle the differences in temperatures and passed out for a second. We enjoyed the forest as well. We found out that there was another waterfall nearby and it would take a three hours return walk. They said it would get steep at the end but we thought, let’s just do it! During our walk we were like: where is the waterfall? We are walking and going higher and higher!! Almost at the top we reached the waterfall. What a great high but small waterfall.

After a month, it was time to return our van. We had been looking around for our own car for some time, but we had not found one yet. So for a moment we were walking with our backpacks again, feeling lost in the streets of Christchurch. The city who was demolished by big earthquakes not so many years ago. It is so strange to walk through this city. The centre has been hit the most, streets are still closed and under construction. Shopping malls are gone and replaced by temporary containers. As a Rotterdammer, I do like this invention.

Thanks to the social media we have found a guy who likes our project and offered us a room in his house. His roommate has just left and went abroad and untill there is nobody else to fill the room, we are welcome to make use of it. Soon we will inform you about our latest developments.
If you are too curious check our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/storytimebusadventures for quick highlights and more pictures.