Monday 5 January 2015

Where Family Memories Are Made

Nothing speaks more of an idyllic New Zealand summer than the wonderful family memories that are made when families go camping. Whatever the accommodation or location, it’s a time that everyone looks forward to; where they can leave their everyday life behind for a few days or weeks, where they can relax and unwind, enjoy each others company, revel in the hot summer sun and play & swim in the warm waters of the many beaches, lakes and rivers that Kiwis have access to.

The hot Hawkes Bay sun was still beating down on us as we arrived at the river after a wonderful Christmas Day at Eskdale Park. We were keen to get sorted and set up camp before it became too late to enjoy the last of a perfect summer’s day. We’re camping with two of my aunties and their husbands; Pam & Gerald and Joy & Kevin. Pam & Joy are more like sisters, they are only a few years older than me and our families have grown up together so we are all very close. Both couples have recently moved from caravans to motorhomes and have spent a lot of time camping around Hawkes Bay and elsewhere over the years.

After a bit of maneuvering we had the vans lined up on a small plateau overlooking the river with awnings extended, ground mats laid, chairs, loungers, BBQs out & water toys at the ready. With the sun shelter/come meeting dome erected it was time for a well needed cool drink.

It was the lull before the storm. The next morning three of my cousins and their families arrived to set up camp beside the vans for two nights; Pam’s two daughters, their partners and 3 children & one of Joy’s daughters, partner & four children- Joy’s other two daughters, their partners, one set of in-laws and 4 more grandchildren came to visit for the day. Oh, and did I mention there were two dogs too.

Along with two friendly horses & a mule who must have wondered what on earth was going on at their watering hole. After getting mobbed every time they approached the camp, they decided it was safer to visit the river for a drink after night fall. They also thought it was necessary to check out the tents and rubbish bags before dawn, heavy breathing & stomping around the tents just in case we wanted to say hello again.

Chaos reigned around our quiet little oasis in the centre of the camp, but what fun it was to sit and watch and occasionally join in the activities. Although it would seem our main activity was sitting in the shade catching up with everyone. Mum, Dad, my brother & his two children came to visit for an afternoon too.

Number one activity was riding the river rapids which started just up from the camp; although they are more riffles than rapids but they still caused a bit of consternation because of the large rocks with pointy peaks sitting just below the surface. These were to be avoided at all costs unless you wanted to end up stranded atop a rock with flailing limbs trying to bounce off and back into the flow. You’d also return to camp with not only a sore bum but a dirty one too! Laying on your inner tube instead of sitting in it might have alleviated this problem but it’s nowhere near as much fun. It always looks way scarier from the water line than it does from the river bank too. I’d love to be able to post some of the photos I have of the faces of the kids as they approached each rush of water but I couldn’t do that to them. Could I?

Once past the rapids it’s an easy float down the river for another kilometre or so before climbing out at a shallow section and awaiting the ride home! I say ‘easy’ but in fact you do need your wits about you, there are a couple of swift sections that threaten to take you under the overhanging willows and wipe you off if you don’t paddle fast. I didn’t paddle fast.

The second most popular activity was fishing, both for the kids and adults although not one trout was caught. Oh they were hooked alright but not one stayed on the line long enough to be brought to shore. One fish in particular lived in the pool across from the camp site, he must have been a wily old fellow because I’m sure he was hooked at least a half a dozen times by various fishers but managed to spit the hook out just as many times.

Zara & Hunter had fishing lessons from their Pa while Samuel was sure he was going to catch that elusive trout, the one that Opa tried to catch morning, noon & night. Building memories.

Construction of the Tukituki Hot Pools took place one hot afternoon; a series of rock pools deep enough for the littlies to safely play in and for the adults to soak in. Problem was the river water was luke warm and the pools really did become ‘hot pools’- too hot to cool off in anyway.

There was great excitement amongst builders big & small when someone shifted a large rock and found an eel slithering away. “Quick grab a net” someone shouted, and out came a pink net- belonging to Zara- to scoop it up. The tiny foot long eel was released in one of the pools where all the kids watched it squeeze under the rocks and swim away again.

Playing in, on and around the river for the most of the day was the number one choice for the children, no iPads, cellphones or TVs in sight. Just one budding young photographer, Charlie, with his new GoPro camera on hand (or head) to record the activities. Whether it was to float about on an inner tube, cart water for Opa, do dive bombs in the swimming hole, learn to throw stones from an aunty or float about with your best mate Betty on board, the kids had a ball. They also slept well each night, tuckered out from the day’s activities and the hot sun. Memories are made of this.

Betty, the French Bulldog & Razz, the Fox Terrier had a great time too, joining in the fun along the way. Betty at 8 months old is new to this camping (and swimming) game but Razz is an old pro. Both were very well behaved and a joy to be around. Although with her old head knowledge and keen sense of smell, Razz knew who around camp was a sucker for a cute forlorn face when you’re eating bacon for breakfast. No prizes for guessing who the sucker was.

Another popular activity once everyone had finished with the river for the day was the mighty slingshot which shot water balloons off into the distance. Two of the guys held the sides while the kids loaded a balloon into the sling and then pulled it back as far as they could before releasing it. The excitement & squeals of delight and laughter as the kids lined up for their turn was priceless. As was the expression on the kids faces as they strained to load the sling.

Some balloons made it to the other side of the river, others burst upon release showering everyone nearby with water. Some of the younger boys tried catching them down by the river- the kids up top using them as targets, a few ducks over the other side got a short shift too. Some turned around and shot them high over the vans where they landed and exploded on an awning. Our awning. A stop was quickly put to that. Nana Pam was not impressed.

I wondered what would happen to Hunter(bottom photo) if he forgot to let go!

Happy Hour tradition with Pam & Joy dictates that they dress in their ‘camp evening dresses’ before drinks, ring a bell and shout ‘shop’ at their husbands everytime they need a refill. They both have a number of dresses that they wear for ‘Happy Hour’, ones that look lovely but ones that they normally wouldn’t wear in their everyday life. Its something they like to do after a day spent in togs, shorts, bare feet etc looking after husbands & family and/or relaxing. It’s a demarcation line between a busy day and preparing the evening meal (although depending on how long Happy Hour is, the meal might not eventuate).

Pam bought four dresses for the first night’s ‘Happy Hour’. One each for her & Joy and two for her girls, it was their first night camping altogether. Don’t they look great. That’s Joy on left, Pam next, then my two cousins Lynda & Jayne.

Not to be outdone, Kevin made an appearance later on in his onsie which encouraged, first Lynda to appear in hers, and then Pam in hers. I’m afraid I can’t show you the photo of one of the other guys in his pink onsie- needless to say it wasn’t a pretty sight! Fun & hilarity all around.

After dinner and a few too many drinks the night was danced away to the sounds of the ‘50s (and a few from the 70s to keep me happy)

Fun family times indeed.


  1. Goodonya...perfect family fun, great start to 2015.

    1. Thanks Jimu, you've got to keep a balance when you're living on the road- the family pull is very strong.


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