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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 44 - Rain, Rain (Part Three)

…. I replayed the sound and sight of the wall of water coming at us over and over in my mind at night in the small sleepless hours for many months to come…

Gayle Woodward and her family pick themselves up and dry themselves out after the National Park site where they were camping was flooded – a disaster which made the national news..

The next morning I realised the error of my ways. I had no clean underpants to wear. But I had bought hair rollers. What, I thought, am I going to do with these? What had I been thinking? There was no hot water for showers and we had no combs or toothbrushes or soap.

I tried to make light of it with the boys and they did not seem to be upset. They were more annoyed with the breakfast which was served to us in the kitchen. There were piles of toast with honey or jam as toppings and pots of tea to drink. Mark wanted special orange and Jeff wanted Milo. Neither of them would eat the toast.

We heard that Owen had been found by rangers and taken to a camp a little way from Mokau Camp. He was safe and well. Carol was so happy. She still did not know where their car was and I did not know where Woody had gone to .The rain started again and we spent the morning in the lounge room talking as children played around us. I noticed that Mark had gone missing. I tried not to panic but another loss was hard to face. I asked Carol to watch Jeff and set off to find him.

I went into every room and the toilets and bathrooms. I passed the dining area and into the kitchen. He was not to be found. Suddenly a woman said to me, “Is this yours?” She had found Mark hiding under a long table. It was covered with a tablecloth that reached the ground and he had found a perfect hiding place. For he had the honey pot and a spoon and was spooning honey into his little mouth as fast as he could and grinning!

The disaster that had befallen us was national news and newspapers up and down the country were full of it. There were stories of a camper ill with asthma trapped by flood waters which later made Owen smile for he had had nothing but fun with the rangers. The stories told of tents swept away and holidays ruined. They were read by Mum, Dad, Mary and Peter. Peter determined to get in touch with us and come to our aid.

That night Woody returned and Owen was brought around from the other campsite by boat. We managed to phone my parents and got a message to Mary that if they were coming I would really, truly love some clean underpants. That night the two families slept in two different rooms and slept well. There were no complaints from our boys about the stew that was served up for dinner that night. Once again it was delicious. I wondered how you would know how much to cook for all these people. Would I ever be a good cook like that?

The next morning Mary and Peter arrived, travelling in from the Gisborne end of the Waikaremoana Road. Mary had pants for me, bless her! Woody went with them back to the Mokau Camp. They helped him pack the tent and all its contents onto the trailer. Everything was stiff with mud. The car was still tied to the tent ropes and they found the boat and returned it to the camp.

Woody drove our car and trailer out of the camp which he left looking like a battle field. The toi tois lining the stream were flattened and roadways around the camp had disappeared. The lake was stained with mud far out into the distance. When they reached the Lake House, we said goodbye to the O’Meagher family and left in tandem with Mary and Peter. We had to travel out of the National Park through Wairoa and Gisborne. It was a long trip but we were eager to get home. The boys slept. I decided that I never wanted to go back to that camp again. It had been the scene of six years happy camping but I did not want to go through such a frightening episode again. I replayed the sound and sight of the wall of water coming at us over and over in my mind at night in the small sleepless hours for many months to come.

At home, Morriggia Place in Glenfield, we spread all the beds and bedding out into the hot summer sun in our backyard. What could be washed was washed, and everything else salvable was brushed with stiff brushes to remove caked mud. It looked like a flea market on the back lawn.

A few days later we decided to go north and find a beach camp where we could spend the rest of Woody’s holidays. I had had enough of the bush for a while. We loaded up the trailer again and headed for the Far North. We knew that Mary and Peter had been camping at Taipa and thought we might like to camp somewhere around there. A couple of the camps we came across were full and we finally settled on the camp at Taupo Bay.

We were horrified when we found that we were expected to keep our whole campsite within the marked boundaries we were shown, including tent ropes. We had gotten used to arriving at Mokau, staking a claim to an area and making it our own. We thought this would have to do for now but we would never camp in a regimented camp again. The beach was gorgeous and we spent a happy week there, except for the closeness of our neighbours. I hated for Mark to cry as it would disturb those close by to us.

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