Catlins Woodstock South Island 17 to21 January 2008
1 Feb 2008
Prior to arrival at Woodstock I had been quite apprehensive at being designated the keeper and defender of three spaces for motorhomes and two for tents, for our friends from Invercargill. I could envisage myself telling burly drivers they must move on as I had reserved the spaces, and they were not allowed to hit me because of my back. It's that yellow streak that runs right down it. Russell, the Woodstock owner, could not have been more helpful. He took us to a place along the elevated part of the camp field which would not get filled before our friends arrive tomorrow. It was very windy at first but it died down before nightfall; that was the worst of the weather all weekend.
The new camp meeting area was near by which had a wide covered veranda. This proved to be very useful for artists to set up their equipment and perform in the shade, or under shelter from the rain which wasn't a factor at this festival. During the evening a very fine singer guitarist entertained us for over 2 hours. The new sound system was very good and we had a choice to sit inside or outside our vans, or take chairs closer to the singer.
Early Friday morning, as I was returning from the 'long drop', (too much information?), I fell into conversation with a lady named Joy. She had viewed our lonely van and was interested in doing the tour, so she and her husband were invited to call upon us during the day. About lunch time Darren and his family arrived with their van and the family car. In the area between our vans they promptly put up 2 tents, one for his daughter and her friend, and one for his son and his friend. They were helped by a Swedish male youth whom they had picked up some distance back. He eventually declined the offer to stay for the weekend and was given a lift to the waterfall area of the Catlins by Darren and his family, who took the opportunity to visit the waterfalls whilst they were their.
Soon after our Christmas hosts Wensley and Rodger arrived. It was great seeing them again and we were greeted as valued long lost friends. This friendship has certainly left a mark on me; well Rodger has. He was probably the best saddle maker in New Zealand when this was his trade, and before Christmas he mended a hole in my hat with a patch of leather. The patch emits a red die on hot days when mixed with the sweat from my brow. This caused quite a bit of merriment amongst my so called friends, and my wife. I am not keen on being called Red Head Jeff; in fact I resemble that remark
During the afternoon members of the local Country and Western Club entertained us, and we had a special treat of a 13 year old boy playing the bagpipes; he was very good. To support him I wore my 'C U Jimmy hat and went to get his photograph. Near the performing area I again spoke with Joy, who on finally recognising who was under the tartan bonnet with the ginger hairy bit round the sides and back, introduced me to her husband Ed. I was surprised and pleased to learn they were part of the entertainment. They accompanied Sylvia and I back to our van and then insisted we viewed their very nice motorhome, introducing us to other entertainers parked along side of them. It is a shame we will not be in their home area in the future to meet up again.
Tonight's entertainment was held inside the meeting room. First we viewed a professionally made DVD of 240 photographs of the Catlins, to a sound track of Russell on his key board. Afterwards we were entertained by Russell on key board and Joy's husband Ed playing his electric harmonica. The music was good and I was pleased I had bought one of Ed's DVD's earlier in the day. The young lad played the bagpipes, and Russell accompanied him. What a treat, we not only heard 'Amazing Grace' but such as 'Camp Down Races', what a star this young fellow should turn out to be.
We had been talking with a group of friendly acquaintances from the Herriot motorhome rally, held first week in December, and as they were asking about the welfare of Squeaker I got him out of his cupboard. Needless to say, Squeaker made a lot of new friends. While I was talking with some visiting holiday makers from Queensbury in Yorkshire, not too many miles from our first home, Robert and his wife, (our new years neighbours), arrived. He parked across the front of our vans so making a three sided square with the banking behind us. We were Billy no mates last night; now we are part of a cosy group.
On Saturday morning we had a visitor. Knocking on our door was Russell, the camp owne,r and on recognising the occupants said, "Oh you are the Monkey Man". Well this caused more merriment with Sylvia, 'Red Head the Monkey Man'. Russell wanted me to take Squeaker around during the festival as a treat for those attending. His big idea was for me to go up on stage and prat about behind the entertainers to the enjoyment of all those watching. Not the best idea I have heard. I know where the entertainers would have shoved my monkey if I had followed that suggestion.
Me and Monkey Woman took Squeaker out for two extended walks during the day and he was very well received. At one of the stalls we were playing with the toys and Squeaker was quite mesmerised by one of the springy rubber spiky toys with big eyes. My favourite stall was the mini fresh donuts. Amongst the products on one stall was a tub of cream powder which you make up with milk. This was recommended to us by one of our friends and surprisingly it is very good. The hot day was enjoyed by all and a lot of children swam in the river. Most of the motorhomers had arrived and it was easy to see why Woodstock was viewed as an unofficial rally as there was no chance of leaving a regulation three metres of space between the vans.
Tonight was a shared meal with Darren and Rodger doing the barbecue, Robert making his Paua Patties, (a sea food treat), and the ladies providing the salads. A fine meal consumed in good company.
The Country Club had provided good entertainment throughout the day and a fine singer who operated a karaoke provided the evening entertainment. Tamara, Darren's 16 year old daughter had brought her own backing tape, and she compared favourably with the entertainers we had already enjoyed. Other acts from the audience did well especially a male gypsy who was spending some time with our group; he and his wife had parked near by in order that they could do so. His small motorhome, built on an old Morris, got my vote as the most interesting van present and was definitely the most photographed.
Sunday arrived along with a lot of day visitors and more of the good weather; and the water was turned on at the top of the mud slide. This proved to be the most popular attraction and as the hours went on the area at the bottom became muddier. One woman used the excuse of taking her young child down the slide to go on it about 10 times. Squeaker was told he could not go down the slide unless Monkey Woman took him, and as this offer did not come, we had to buy him his favourite toy from yesterday to keep him quiet. Two young ladies about 13 years old came to speak with us. I told them that some people, from a distance, think the monkey is real, and they said, "We did". Squeakers crowning moment was when some people wanted their photographs taken with him.
Today's music entertainment was from the big stage and provided by professional acts who would have been working on the Friday and Saturday night. It was a mixed bag of music styles and well received by the audience. We were very impressed to learn that all of the entertainers who had done so well over the days of Woodstock had given their time for free. All profits made at Woodstock are used to benefit the community such as providing special hospital equipments. The hardest working person of all had clearly been Russell who had also provided the venue for the festival.
With the going down of the sun the temperature drops considerably and we donned coats to watch the singers and musicians on stage from the top of the hill. The final entertainment, a jam session of several artists, ended at 11.45pm. Next year will be the 20th anniversary and should be even more special.
Our group was one of the last to leave Woodstock on the Monday. We had said goodbye to all the friends we had made previously, and to new friends including our Yorkshire couple whom we met on our first night, and who we hope to meet up with again in a few weeks time. The hardest part was saying goodbye to our special friends, the three families from Invercargill who during the last few weeks have become a part of our lives; especially Rodger and Wensley.
It was 3pm and time to go. At the end of the lane leading to Woodstock were a young French couple and their large back packs. Darren had taken them down to the roadway in his car about an hour before so they could get a bus to Dunedin; and the bus hadn't come. Well, it was now time to try out the passenger seat belts for our fellow Woodstock attendees. Tonight we will stay at Balclutha where we hope to arrange health insurance as ours has now run out. The young couple were very pleased to be taken 30 miles from the rural area of Woodstock to the main road leading to Dunedin where thumbing lifts should be far more rewarding.
We did not get our health insurance but were greatly helped by being put in touch with the main company who could help us, and this can be done on line. We will pursue this when next in a suitable internet café. Tonight is going to seem very quiet now we are back to being on our own, still we are definitely not Billy No Mates.