Elisabeth Easther talks to John Priest, of Waimeha Camping Village, Cape Palliser.
I grew up on a farm in Cape Palliser in the late 1960s. It was covered in gorse so we didn't have many holidays because mainly we were clearing the land. (But when we did take trips, we'd go to places like Taupō and Rotorua, staying in motorcamps, having fun and being naughty.) I left in 1990 to do my OE — but you never really leave the farm, and it's always expected that, as your parents get older, you'll come back.
My first stop was America because I wanted to see their National Parks. In Jackson Hole in Wyoming, thousands of elk come down to feed and nurse and the whole town is built of antlers. Yellowstone National Park's landscapes and views are amazing. I also went to the Grand Canyon: hiking back up took a lot longer than going down.
After America I went to the UK and when I wasn't travelling, I worked on a farm between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, mainly contract fencing for coin. It felt quite close to home, because my ancestors come from the Shetland Islands. I made sure I visited Loch Ness. I didn't see the monster, but I definitely looked for it.
I did what everyone does in Europe. I went to the Munich beer festival and drank beer. I went to the Greek islands, Corfu and Mykonos, and hired little scooters, ending up on beaches where everyone is naked.
After seeing most of Europe it was time for Africa. I started with a month in Maasai Mara, in Kenya. At night, we slept in tents and our guide would guard the camp with a spear, in case of lion attacks. The naughtiest animals were the monkeys, they'd steal the bus driver's food. And there's not a lot of food anyway, so if something went missing that was it for the day. Baboons were the rudest, they'd come up and urinate on people. A lot of times you're not allowed out of the truck because it's so dangerous. Seeing packs of hyenas pull down live animals and kill them; it's part of nature but was pretty awful. And seeing a hippopotamus bursting out of the water with a roar, that'll give you goosebumps.
Leaving Nairobi, going down through Mombasa and Tanzania by public transport, the trains would often derail and just fall over. We had that happen heading to Malawi, and you'd get out and there'd be trucks waiting, Then you're travelling for another couple of days on the back of someone's truck with goats and chickens. Going on to Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls was pretty special. We ate crocodile there, it tastes like a cross between chicken and fish. And in Botswana you'd barter anything from America. If it was American it was valuable and you could swap things like pens and T-shirts for little stone carvings of animals.
The trip ended in Cape Town and there was this little racetrack where you could ride ostriches. It's much like riding a horse, you get your feet under the wings, and away you go. Aside from that, pretty much the only other thing to do in Cape Town is talk rugby.
On the way home I went to Egypt. I'd always had a fascination with the pyramids so I rode around them on a camel and in the evening, we'd sit down for the most beautiful sunsets, sucking on a big bong with chunks of heavy tobacco on a piece of charcoal. I went right up the Nile on a long skinny boat. Eating the street food, I always had a crook gut. I've always been up to eat anything. In Bangkok, I ate those deep fried chooks' feet and I'm shocking at the Wild Food Festival in Hokitika. I've eaten wild possum stew, and huhu grubs. I've had sautéed worms on toast. I've never eaten rat though.
A few years ago, I decided to bring overseas to me so, after about three years of planning, I opened Waimeha Camping Village. It's a real blast, taking people on adventures like kayaking, or cray potting, fishing and sightseeing on the charter boat. We also have sheep, a big kunekune pig and a neat goat who we've taught to ride the four-wheeler. And you can go surfing because we're right in front of one of the top breaks in New Zealand. Surfing's so much more popular these days, people are really getting the buzz.
I want Camp Waimeha to be like a mini resort on the rugged Cape Palliser coast. We have amazing sunsets over the Kaikouras and I'm a big part of it too. It's not a campground where you just turn up, you get my service the whole time. We have the fire, and in summer we're cooking on the carbeque. It's small and unique, just a great environment for meeting and mingling.
For information: See waimehacamping.co.nz