Tuesday, 19 August 2008


http://www.pinnaclesbakpak.co.nz/ Sorry I'm so computer handicapped I can't work out how to make this a working link.

This is how the Hostel looked when we sold it to PJ & Jelte in December, 2004.

In May 1998 our daughter had begun to settle back into life in New Zealand when she saw the For Sale sign outside the Hostel after spending a weekend at our family holiday home, Simpson's Beach, Whitianga. TWJ and I had passed her as we went to the beach for our holidays. Shortly after we arrived we received a call from Jay asking if she could borrow $20,000 from us. It was made with faint hope but she had come back from her travel & adventures around the world with a strong desire to own a Backpacker Hostel. This was a small one, about 20 beds and the owner wanted to go home to Holland. Tairua is a slow little seaside town and not a 'known destination' for backpackers so there wasn't much business to sell. In essence we were buying the right to lease the building and operate the Hostel.

We found the money by increasing the mortgage on the Rotorua house,(since purchased from us by our Paraplegic son). We discussed things at length and decided that I could manage it through the remainder of the winter and up to Christmas. TWJ and I would commute to and from Reporoa, south of Rotorua and about a 3 & 1/2 hour drive. He was working 12 hour shifts, 4 on 4 off and the commute was not too stressful for him. Jay was nursing at a big city hospital, and when she could get enough days in a row she would come and relieve me so I could go 'home.' This crazy idea had some appeal because we had been told the big Dairy Company, now Fontara, was closing the Reporoa Factory down in 6 months and at 63yrs TWJ would be made redundant.

It was an adventure and we sometimes joked about the 'unconventional' things our family got into. TWJ & I had a Market Garden, gate sales, and for a time a vege shop for a number of years. We left that in tears, bankrupt on paper in 1992. We had just begun to enjoy some financial security again, after taking 3 years to repay all outstanding debts, and here we were committing to another business with no real income. I enjoyed the winter and spring, turning the run-down hostel into a homely comfortable place, on the smell of an oily rag. I robbed TWJ's wages quite often to purchase things I thought we needed to make things look better. We had a sprinkling of backpackers, sometimes none for a whole week. At that time we were firmly on the radar for Japanese language students in Auckland and from time to time had one stay for free in exchange for a few hours cleaning and painting/decorating.

I bought yards of calico to make new curtains as the existing ones were shredding. I heard that I could dye the calico in a very week solution of acrylic paint. This was a brilliant idea as the paint gave the fabric some body, saving the curtains from hanging like rags. I designed a border using a template with shells then randomly we stenciled various fish and sea creatures that I'd found. Once I'd worked out what we could do I handed the job over to the Japanese girls and they did a great job, signing each curtain as they were finished. A neighbour with time on her hands offered to make up the curtains and do a professional job. So we had these unique and colourful curtains. You can get away with a lot in BackPacker Hostel.

An English guy on a cycle came through prepared to stay a week or two. By this time I was asking all likely candidates if they had any artistic skills. He owned up to being a draughtsman for bridge-building. He willingly did a small mural which always made me giggle. It had mountains, sea, volcanoes, cyclists, sheep, white & black, kiwi style fences, America's cup yachts, English style light-house and more. I also asked him if he could make me a template of a 5 foot dolphin to paint onto the four curtains at the front picture window/ranch-sliders. He did an amazing job and cut them out of thin board, another thing lost when we sold because I had nowhere to store them. I got them painted up by a Japanese guy then David came back a few weeks later and painted in the eyes and gave them some shape, shading the fins etc. I was very proud of those curtains and tried not to feel pipped when the new owners threw them out without offering them to us.

We had our busy moments at long weekends but mostly just small numbers and it was like having independent guests in your own home. I loved chatting with them and it kept me thinking young. Most people coming to Tairua had their own transport but those that came by bus often took advantage of my offer to take them to the local 'hot spots' for tourists. I had some wonderful days taking people a circuit that included Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and Cook's Lookout at Cook's beach. We would stop at the Purangi Winery where we tasted a variety of home made fruit wines and liquers and had coffee and cake at Eggcentric Cafe. The owner was called Fowle and he kept his own chooks as well as many sculptures in the garden. Another outstanding day was taking a Swiss family for a walk at Broken Hill, a failed gold mining area with pleasant bush walks and because we had time before their bus we went on to Sailor's Grave Beach, a delightful small beach which had no houses overlooking it then. They were rapt to be able to go for a walk in the hills and a walk on the beach all in a morning.

A favourite memory of Hot Water Beach is a beautiful sunny day in winter. I took some German men there in the middle of the day, the tide being low at that time. I guess there were about 20 people on the beach. They had dug holes in the sand and the hot water had seeped in giving them a natural spa. The water could be hot so a little channel had to be made to let cold water from the sea in so you didn't get scalded. One hole was the size of a 6 person spa pool and this couple were sitting back enjoying the warm sun. She had on a bright yellow bikini and they had beers stuck in the cold sand, within hands reach as they soaked.

We owned the Hostel for 6 years and it wasn't until the last season that we got it right regarding the summer influx. The first year Jane took leave from her job and decided to make room for as many as possible, we needed to make money, at New Year. This is a prime holiday area and it peaks at New Year. Jane found places for so many people. We had a local school boy living with us while he worked out things with his family. On New Years Day I walked into Jane's kitchen and fell over him sleeping on the floor. We had been sent to Mum's to make room for paying guests. As I went up the hallway a girl came out of one of the rooms, a room with three single beds, saying, "so many people, it's kind of scary." She was one of 12 English friends, some of whom had booked earlier in the week and begged Jane to let them stay. They didn't care how, they just wanted to stay. We had space for a few small tents on the back lawn. That year they kept coming, begging for somewhere to put up their tents and the next door neighbour, the same one who made the curtains, offered their lawn as they has a double section. There were people asleep on the couches .... people everywhere. We never did that again. Jane spent the whole time rushing around cleaning one bathroom and toilet after another, as she could get into them.

Another time we took bookings only to find they were mostly Kiwis who had come to the beach for New Year to get drunk. Not good, especially for the genuine BackPackers. TWJ & I were caretakers another year when we had booked out to two main groups with no check-outs over the 4 day period. We freaked when we realised they were very young .... like 16-18 year olds and being dropped off by Mummy & Daddy. I heard one parent saying, "You'll be OK. You have your cellphone!" And they were no bother but we didn't want to do that again either as they had friends, city friends who thought the Hostel was a good place to party. TWJ had to be very firm about sending the extras on their way ..... back to Pauanui. Kiwi youth at New Year are such a bother.

Finally we decided that we needed to look after our core market at peak times and if it meant more work with people only staying one night or the odd empty bed then we'd still do it. We turned on a BBQ Christmas Eve with some traditional Christmas fare like rich fruit cake and gifts. We were getting the idea of how to run a BackPacker Hostel that had good ratings from travellers.

There's more but I think that's enough for today. I'm supposed to be spring-cleaning our bedroom .... I know it's 2 weeks early but it really needs doing.

Still gluten free and down to 2 coffees today. I would love a nice buttery sandwich filled with meat and salad. I can have the meat, I can make a salad of baby silverbeet, (chard), carrots & tomato but there is no suitable bread. I guess that's good because I must have reduced my fat intake more than 1/2lb/300gm this week.
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