A road trip to the Gisborne Wine & Food Festival is a hilarity-filled affair for Sarah Ivey and friends.
As we sped through the gorge, reaching top speeds of 100kph, the girls tightened their seatbelts against the leather. If not for the table and full kitchen beside them, they could have momentarily mistaken our Maui Motorhome for a V8 on the Bathhurst track.
We wove our way between steep, bush-clad hills and the Waioeka river below, cornering like we were on rails. Except that we weren't, and as we flew off the road and down the potholed track into the rest area, all I could hear from the back was a high-pitched yelp and then uncontainable laughter.
The problem with using the toilet while travelling, we discovered, is that if the vehicle corners too fast, you fly off the toilet, hit the shower lever and get drenched. This set the standard for our trip and from that moment the air was filled with the giggles and laughter of five courageous women, all of whom had vowed to tackle the challenge of a girls' weekend on the road.
Packed to the gunnels we'd left Auckland. With hair straighteners, makeup bags and enough pairs of shoes to start a Mi Piaci store, we headed towards Gisborne.
The fridge was large enough to keep our thirst quenched for quite some time and after six hours of driving, we sure needed it.
Taneatua is a little Bay of Plenty town known for its colourful characters and a few hair-raising stories that have headlined the newspapers in past years. However, all of good South Island stock, we decided that we wouldn't let this deter us, and parked up in a quiet rest area by the river. The awning rolled out perfectly over the concrete picnic table and the cheese platter was out in no time. After a couple of vinos and a few mosquito bites, we were all tucked into bed with a chick flick in the DVD player.
Day two was met with more than one or two shivers. The icy air cut through that camper like an axe to kindling. We hit the road and it wasn't long before we disproved the theory that campervans are slow - we were the ones doing the passing.
Having survived the gorge, we rolled north through Gisborne city to Tatapouri-By-The-Sea - a minimalistic campground situated on the beachfront. We found ourselves a nice level piece of ground and plugged her in. The deck chairs came out and we had quite the set-up. Tunes were blaring from the surround sound system and our tans were coming along nicely. However, we did notice that the power supply was slowly draining.
After playing around with every switch we could find, we'd all but given up when one smart cookie checked the input cord. And yes, as we knew all along, you don't only need to plug the cord in, one also needs to flick the switch to the "on" position.
The Gisborne Wine & Food Festival is an annual event held at Gray's Bush Scenic Reserve every Labour Weekend. Thousands flock to the region, all armed with their sunblock, ready to tackle the day. We were up at 6.30am (and among the first in the world to see the sunrise) and got into the mood with a bottle of Tattinger popped by half seven. Walking into the festival venue, the native forest around it sets the mood. The earthy fragrance clears the senses, preparing you for the alluring tastes on offer.
The wineries play off against one another, lined up side by side. You're invited to fill your glass to the brim, or perhaps just sample a taste. There is also delicious food from Gisborne's restaurants and cafes, and this year guest appearances and workshops by chefs Simon Gault and Al Brown. Live music creates a laid-back atmosphere, and by the time we got a lift back to the campervan we were happy to stretch out and sleep off the effects of the region's wine and produce.
The next day it was time to roll in the awning and hit the road back to Auckland. We couldn't resist stopping by the winery of one of the labels we'd tried the previous day, and spent a very pleasant hour at Matawhero sampling the offerings and meeting the vineyard dog.
Later, cruising back through the Waioeka Gorge at a respectable speed, I couldn't help having a chuckle to myself. All those car-drivers who bag campervans don't know what they're missing.
* Maui Motorhomes, ph 0800 651 080.
* Tatapouri-By-The-Sea Holiday Park 516 Whangara Rd, Gisborne, ph (06) 868 3269.
* Gisborne Wine & Food Festival, Grays Bush Scenic Reserve, Labour Weekend 2011.
* Matawhero Wines, 189 Riverpoint Rd, Gisborne, ph (06) 867 6140.
Be in to win!
Maui motorhomes and Weekend Life are giving you the chance to win a five-day getaway in your very own "apartment on wheels" valued at up to $1825. The winner may choose the size of the motorhome - 2, 4 or 6 berth.
To enter the draw, email your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org with Maui Motorhomes holiday in the subject line or post to Maui Motorhomes Holiday competition, NZ Herald, PO Box 3290, Auckland by Thursday, November 25.
Prize must be redeemed between April 1 and June 30, 2011 (excludes Easter weekend), and is subject to availability. Pick-up/drop-off locations are Auckland/Auckland or Christchurch/Christchurch.