Stranded but contented - in Eketahuna

By Don Farmer

An elderly British artist who embarked on a six-month campervan holiday in New Zealand as a way of healing the hurt of losing her husband has sung the praises of tiny Eketahuna.

Rosie Perkins, 73, visited Eketahuna "unintentionally" after wind damaged her campervan but emerged from the experience with such fond memories of the small North Wairarapa town she decided to commit her gratitude to the townsfolk to paper.

Having now returned home to Suffolk, England, Mrs Perkins penned a letter to a friend who passed it on to the Times-Age.

Mrs Perkins writes that during her long holiday in New Zealand, which ended in May, she had visited some magnificent sites but the kindness of the people of Eketahuna remained one of the "outstanding memories".

She said when she had telephoned her step-daughter in England telling her she was "stranded" in Eketahuna, the younger woman was horrified.

"That's where tribal wars go on," she was told.

"But, as it turned out, I was met with nothing but kindness and friendship.

"I had crossed the Rimutakas from Wellington heading to Napier on a very windy day.

"As I struggled across the flat plain by Mount Bruce I heard a loud noise.

"In my rear vision mirror I could see a large object twisting and tumbling down the highway.

"I stopped straight away and could see what had been a pop-up roof was now a popped-off roof."

Mrs Perkins said a couple of "elderly but very fit gentlemen" had stopped and took charge, escorting her to the nearest town, Eketahuna.

At the Commercial Hotel, staff had been very helpful, allowing her to telephone her step-daughter.

"There I met two other stranded travellers who had put their lives at risk in the incredibly windy weather.

"The men and women in the bar were wide ranging in age.

"Some did look rather interesting, but never judge a book by its cover.

"There was certainly no sign of the predicted tribal wars and everyone was, in fact, very friendly and polite."

Mrs Perkins said she couldn't access her campervan so spent the night at the hotel where she was loaned a pair of pyjamas.

"I slept well and the next morning the wind had died down."

She had met several women who worked as volunteers to help the Eketahuna community and, among other things, learned you could buy a calf for $20 or less and that Eketahuna was the place to buy bone pendants and paua shell bracelets.

With her campervan repaired, Mrs Perkins had visited Pukaha Mt Bruce wildlife centre where she learned about the white kiwi.

"I also took a photo of the town's Royal public toilets."

Mrs Perkins said she wrote an appreciative message in the information centre's visitors book but then left her handbag behind when she drove away.

A woman volunteer had chased her in a car to return it to her.

"I travelled 8000km from the top to the bottom of your amazing country," she said.

"I skydived in Queenstown and kayaked in Milford Sound.

"I enjoyed the fantastic countryside and met many people who were amazingly generous and friendly to me.

"Among my happiest memories is the time I got stranded in Eketahuna."


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