Postcard from Waikaremoana
By Julianne Jones
"We’ll treat ourselves this time," said my husband. "We’ll book a cabin – hot showers, heating, cooking facilities. How does that sound?"
I smiled. No cold baths in creeks; no squeezing seven people into a tent designed for four; no cooking over a campfire; no going to bed when the sun went down; no contortionist acts trying to get dressed. It sounded wonderful!
Six hours driving along narrow, winding roads before we could reach our Eden – roads that at times barely deserved the name.
"I feel sick," we heard from the back seat.
I grabbed a bucket and thrust it behind me. "Use this. We’ll stop when there’s room to pull over."
"It’s all in your mind. Don’t think about it and you won’t get sick," was my husband’s advice. Obviously he’d never experienced the misery of carsickness!
"I think I feel sick too," from another.
Oh no! I searched the road ahead for a place wide enough to pull over. But it was too late!
"Yuck," cried an unfortunate traveling companion as our senses confirmed the truth of his exclamation.
We were only halfway there, but I consoled myself that things could only get better.
Finally we arrived at the campsite. The proprietor shook his head when the older kids said they wanted to sleep in the tent.
"Not tonight. Storm coming."
We shrugged. There were six beds in the cabin: I would have to share with the youngest but the beds were wide enough...and the cabins were heated. Tomorrow would be time enough for the older children to set up the tent – if that was what they still wanted.
The lake looked magnificent – glowing sapphire in the sun, the cliff face and trees reflected in its depths, a gentle breeze teasing its surface, it lived up to its name: sea of rippling waters. Surely this was one of the most beautiful places in creation.
We woke next morning to a silent world covered white. Their first taste of snow, the younger children gleefully romped and played in the knee-high drifts. By midday they were up to their last change of clothes.
"Don’t worry about it," my husband said. "You can put the stuff through the drier."
I looked at him.
"What?" he asked.
"The power’s out. There’s no hot water, no heating, no clothes drier, no cooking. I can’t even defrost our food for tea."
My husband placed an arm around me. "Don’t worry. They’ll have the emergency generator up and running or else the power will be restored soon. Let the kids enjoy it."
There was no emergency generator. The proprietor informed us sadly that there had never been a need for one.
Day two and still no power. The roads were blocked; there was no way in or out. The whole east coast had been hit by the Spring storm and we were only a small proportion of the population affected. Restoring our power wasn’t a high priority.
The proprietor moved his gas barbeque into the kitchen and provided small gas burners for cooking and heating. My husband and a friend smuggled some of the women into the men’s bathroom where there was still some hot water left in the tanks.
The day wore on. Ducks waddled through the snow to the lake; children – their feet encased in plastic bags to protect their shoes and socks from the snow – played outside; friends gathered in cabins and visited. My eldest son wore only torn jeans and a long sleeved tee; he was trying to impress the girls.
I sat in our cabin, wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets, and froze. My husband tried to entice me out, but I just glared at him. This camping trip would definitely go down in the family annals as the worst holiday disaster of all time.
The kids tried to cheer me up.
"Remember that time we went camping and there was that rat that tried to steal our tea, so Dad killed it and then the next day we discovered that it was actually an endangered species? Guess it’s extinct now."
"And remember that time when we were all camping and Mum thought she saw a snake and couldn’t move? We had to drag her the rest of the way."
"What about that time when we camped near that lake and we all got itchy and Mum said it was probably lice, and she covered us all with baby powder so that we could get to sleep because there was no water to wash in?"
"And when we had to walk through all that speargrass just to get to the trig station?"
"Is that the same place where that hunter got stuck in the flying fox over the river and was there all day?" our youngest asked.
"And he could see the storm coming and was getting worried, so he fired his rifle and everyone thought he must have shot a deer. Only he hadn’t," added another.
"Do you remember that time when we saw the seals? And dad was trying to take a photo when a great big one came straight at him?"
My husband turned to me. "Do you remember when we were first married and we went camping and discovered leeches in our sleeping bags?"
I smiled. "How could I forget?"
As I looked around I realized that this was what families were about: memories and sharing and pulling together. I pulled the blankets closer. "Do you remember …?"
Julianne Jones is a wife, mother, and early childhood teacher. She currently lives in New Zealand with her husband and five sons where she is involved in music, drama and youth ministry in their local church. The family have courageously tried camping again! You can write to Julianne care of the Letters page of this magazine.