We stayed at the Taupo Top Ten Holiday Park Resort for one night last week. There seemed to be some contrariness in that name. Top Ten Holiday Park meant camping to me but they tacked Resort on the end there. I scoffed when I read that on the sign. Trying to fancy up the name for the tourists I thought. We were met at reception by two young men with head phones on, taking calls while doling out keys and marking maps for happy campers, we duly handed over $207 for one night and walked out gobsmacked. This was Taupo at peak season. We needed to be able to park right off the road so really had no choice.
Key remote to lift the boom took us to manicured lawns and edging. We followed the map to our cabin looking to the left and right, speechless. Oversized chess sets, tennis and petenque courts, huge children’s climbing frames and rows of scooters and bikes of every description lined up for the night. Happy families playing rounders, cheering younger siblings on, Mums with armfuls of dishes and food making their way to the cooking facilities, big beautiful multi roomed tents and polished four wheel drives to bring all the necessaries there. It was bit like we had stumbled onto another planet.
We had a nice room with a deck and our own bathroom and kitchen. It was like staying in a Motel complex rather than a holiday park. In the middle of the night, after actually crushing my finger in the toilet door jamb, I was leaping around as quietly as I could with it wrapped in ice when I suddenly became aware that the place was pretty lit up for 3 am. So I took my phone out and from our deck took this photo.
I could not believe my eyes. The place was lit up like Eden Park. I walked out and looked around. Even the recycle area was fully lit. As we drove out of there the next morning we were still amazed that this indeed could be called camping…there was nothing rough about it. We looked again from side to side in amazement and then at each other. “Its not really camping” Gilbert said, “Well, not as we know it” I replied.
Back in the day as a child, we holidayed in an old bus. The first year Lindy, Johny and I were small enough to curl fetal style onto the old brown leather seats. I had the front one by the door and steps. Mum had made sleeping bags out of wads of kapok covered in old curtaining. Mine had a bit of a zip that came up half way as it had been taken out of something else and ties at the side to hold it together. Halfway down either side a line of seats were pulled out and Derek built sets of Bunks where Mum, Dad and the big kids slept. We quickly grew out of our ‘beds’ so a new set of bunks were installed and Lindy and I top and tailed on the bottom and Johny slept above. I think it slept nine or ten easily.
We usually had a cousin or a couple of friends with us and Dad would pick up hitchhikers. It was never dull and Dad careering around corners well over the speed limit probably left them wishing they had walked. We toured the country, sleeping wherever we stopped for lunch. Dad would send us off collecting driftwood and we’d pretend we were stranded on a desert island. At night he would light the thermette for hot water, Mum would start up the BBQ and before long a feast would appear. We were lured back to the bus by smoke and a hungry belly. I can only remember sausages or mince or fish n chips for a treat, but we ate our full and fell into a blissful slumber with the waves rhythm lulling us to sleep. No matter where we were on a Sunday however, Dad would find the nearest Catholic Church and we would straggle in late in the cleanest beach wear we had to hand and observe Sunday Mass. I wonder what the local congregation made of us?
There was sand everywhere, including our beds, so after breakfast we’d shake everything out before driving to the next beach. Trips were usually punctuated by stops at family and friends. One year Lindy and I were allowed to invite four girlfriends; Mandy, Patsy, Margaret and Helen. We had a tent for the six of us and gorgeous in bikinis we roamed the beach freely. Such giddy abandon, we laughed, sunbathed and swam, feeling like we were dipping our toes into adulthood, when really we were slipping away from our childhood.
As our own children grew up Gilbert & I would drive for miles to a DOC site in the wops. There was no reception desk, phone or person! You opened up the gates and drove thru the sheep until a sign told you this was where you could camp. They were some of the most beautiful spots in NZ with native bush, pristine beaches, a long drop toilet and a tap. If you were lucky there would be an outdoor table or two as well. A luxury one might have a cold outdoor shower.
Sometimes a few other campers would be there but no caravans, no power…just us and nature. At Tawharanui which was one of our favourite spots, a rough trek took us down a steepish slope to the beach which was awesome. The surf was fun and everyday we spent most of the time on the sand or took a cooling walk thru the bush for a change. We cooked before it was dark and if we mucked around we would be cooking by lantern and eating moths. Most things got burned but they tasted magnificent after a busy day!
I remember one holiday reading about the night time adventures of a hedgehog. One chapter each night. It was a beautiful story made more poignant by the closeness of the night and the Ruru and the flicker of the lantern light. Some mornings we’d wake to our campsite having been scavenged through and the children thought it might have been a hedgehog…but Gilbert and I knew it was more likely possums.
I told the kids I want my ashes spread at Tawharanui. We had the best of times there and the best ever was one weekend when the surf was CRAZY. The tide was in so far there was virtually no beach and surf was so high it was frightening. We’d been in for a while but it just kept getting better and better. The older ones and I were having a ball and I felt I was perfecting catching the waves. We were whipped up by the surf and in for a long thrilling ride to shore over and over. Gilbert came down, watched for a while and called it was looking dangerous and we better come in. I had to admit it was starting to feel scary so we reluctantly swooped in one more time and called it a day. We found out next day there had been a tsunami somewhere and we were experiencing the effects. There was a warning to stay away from the coast…whoops!
Now that’s camping!