Dream ride restores one's faith
Food and drink find their way to weary travellersMATT RILKOFF
The River Road
If you should ever start to lose faith in mankind, a six-day paddling trip up the Patea river will sort you out.
Neither photographer Cameron Burnell nor I were searching for such reassurance but the river gave it to us anyway.
It started with Marg Newlove waiting on the side of the river to feed us with fudge, and carried on with the McColl family and a plate of hot stew the next day.
Then at the Patea Dam we met Dexter Kennedy and his elvers and on the side of Lake Rotorangi Matthew Francis welcomed us onto his 5000 acre Glen Nui Paradise.
"I can't keep it all to myself," he said.
Then on our last night on the river there was an introduction to the delights of croquet with Jean and Maureen Gauvin at Caniwi Lodge.
Despite what you might imagine, croquet is a game for ruthless people and just in case we forgot Maureen warned us regularly.
"This game can get very nasty," she said. "Sure it can", I thought, just like you can cut yourself on candyfloss.
But it did and it was good. So good that I am currently considering getting a croquet set of my own.
Much of this considering actually took place on Saturday night at the inaugural Huinga Hall Homebrew Festival, which coincided quite nicely with our arrival in that neck of the woods.
Cameron had actually entered his own Apricot Wheat Beer one week earlier and we got there just in time for him to recieve the People's Choice award for his drop.
"I'd like to thank my understanding wife for allowing me to indulge in this homebrew obsession," he said, or perhaps should have, when accepting the award.
The hit of the night, apart from the music and Peter Ardell's roast lamb, was a Smoked Paua beer, which was fantastic enough to have a few mugs of.
At the end of the night most of us found ourselves together at the old Huinga School now leased, tiny toilets and all, by Vaughan Wood, an enthusiastic brewer and one of the festival organisers.
"You want some coffee, Matt," he said to me the morning after.
Though I thought for a while, he must have been reading my mind, a quick look in the mirror made it plain to anyone coffee was just what I needed.
"And help yourself to some breakfast," he said, again picking up on my thought waves.
In fact it seemed everyone along the Patea river had the ability to pick just what we needed and in most cases, more than we needed.
I suspect, though of course it is just a guess, the people we meet on the Waitara river will be the same.
Even so, it is with a small amount of regret that we must make our leave of the Patea. But I suppose, and even though it doesn't feel like we have left, we have to make our way home some time.
-Today: On the Waitara river to Purangi with Karen Schumacher.
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