Caravan Of Love

Over the years Waihi Beach Holiday Park has, for some, become a permanent home. Two such people are Pai and Marlene Tapaura, who’ve had a caravan site in the Park since 1988. Here is their story.

Every woman, every man…
Pai Tapurau arrived in New Zealand from the Cook Islands in 1953.  The majority of his family had already moved to New Zealand (he was one of fifteen children) and he was keen to be reunited with them.  At first he settled in Wellsford, north of Auckland, where his eldest brother was working but later moved from Northland to the central plateau township of Taumaranui where he found work in a timber mill.  It was in this small King Country town that Pai was to meet his life-long partner Marlene, who lived locally together with her family.  When Marlene’s family left Taumarunui and moved to Tokoroa, Pai, by now very much in love with Marlene, followed.  By 1959 they had married and were later to have four children together.

The place in which we were born…
Although life in New Zealand was good, Pai often dreamt of a return visit to the Cook Islands, but whenever he raised the subject with Marlene she would say ‘we just can’t afford it Pai’.  While not usually a gambling man, Pai’s friends one day encouraged him to join them at the local races and, using numbers he took from a discarded receipt, he placed bets on number 12 in the first race and number 5 in the second.  Incredibly, both horses came in winners and the proceeds allowed him to make the trip home which he had been yearning for.  When he returned to New Zealand it was with a new dream – he began to picture himself living in a small house somewhere by the sea, fishing in his boat.

Every body take a stand…
Time marched on and in 1988 Pai began a mining job in Waikino, near Waihi, requiring him to be away from home a lot.  His son-in-law Alan Peka was already working at the mine and living at Waihi Beach Holiday Park, so Pai joined him, taking up residence at the Park in one of the on-site cabins.

At the time, the Park residents were a mix of holiday makers, seasonal workers and blokes like Pai who were new to the Waihi area.  Pai enjoyed the atmosphere, a colourful circle of Fijians, Asians, Maori and Samoans who constantly kept the Park owner on his toes.

After a while Pai bought himself a small caravan.  It was in need of major repairs, so he set about rebuilding it himself and, when finished, he chose a favourable site at the Park and set himself up.  This is the site at Waihi Beach Holiday Park that Pai and Marlene still occupy today.

We’ll be living in a world of peace…

During this time Marlene remained in Tokoroa, their children had flown the nest and she was living alone in the family home.  Pai would travel back to Tokoroa every second weekend to be with her.  He was torn; while he longed to be with his family, at the same time Waihi Beach  had formed a strong hold on him, as did the Holiday Park, with its ever-changing array of guests and visitors and, of course, its proximity to the sea.  After six years of traveling back and forth between Tokoroa and the Park, Pai had had enough, declaring to Marlene that he wanted to live at Waihi Beach – permanently.

He reasoned, ‘Tokoroa is too cold, I will be dead before I am 70 if I move back”.  Marlene was initially a little bit surprised by his desire to live at the Park but soon agreed, saying ‘Wherever you go, I will follow.’  She did, however, have one condition – ‘If I come to Waihi Beach Pai, you have to buy a bigger caravan!”

Hand in hand we’ll take a caravan…
Pai set about selling the family home in Tokoroa and hunting down a larger caravan in which to accommodate him and Marlene.  One was found through a local dealer, and while both Pai and Marlene thought it perfect, it was far too expensive.  Pai ‘wanted to have a bargain over it’ but the salesman wasn’t interested and stood firm.  It was then that Pai’s daughter stepped in and tracked down the caravan’s owners through its registration details; a deal was struck and both parties walked away happy.

This is a better place for us to be…
Pai and Marlene now live happily together in their caravan, two of five permanent residents at Waihi Beach Holiday Park.  Pai finished working in the mines in 2002, early starts and long days driving the big mining trucks had become too much.

When Ian, owner of the Waihi Beach Holiday Park, asked Pai when he was planning on retiring, Pai thought that he was being a bit cheeky, but Ian had other reasons for asking. He had noticed Pai’s green fingers at work around his and Marlene’s caravan, planting flowers and beautifying their section and suggested he might like to work at the Park as a live-in groundsman.  Pai considered for a moment before deciding that yes, ‘sleeping on the job’ sounded like the way to go.

When Pai had first driven into the Park back in 1988 he had noticed that the grounds had heaps of potential to be improved upon.  He saw flowers that were being suffocated by the cooch grasses and other nasties.  Gardening is in Pai’s blood; his mother was a keen gardener and she passed her skills on to him.

You won’t see him on a Thursday or a Friday, ‘those days belong to me’ he says, but you will see him on other days tending the gardens and cutting the grass.  Pai loves his life at the Holiday Park.  Living at Waihi Beach Holiday Park allowed him to be close to the sea which he really loves and the friendly people that he meets at the Park are a reason he stays.  “They are always telling me how good the grounds look, I love that.”   He’s bought his own boat and often goes fishing, ‘I love fish, when I can catch them’, he grins.  Pai believes living and working by the sea has kept him healthy, he reckons the clear air is the reason he has never needed to go visit a doctor.  ‘It feels right living here,’ he says, ‘it’s the best life.’  He has his dream.

(Story title and paragraph headings are taken from the song ‘Caravan of Love’, first recorded by the Isley Brothers in 1985)