Easter time at Spencer Beach Holiday Park is not your average bunny or egg atmosphere.
The camp is fully out sourced to an external party to conduct the coming together of religious denominations to celebrate the biblical aspect of Easter. They come from all over the South Island to take part.
Permanent caravan stalwarts are moved from parts of the acreage to either vacate the camp or squeeze in beside other permanents in designated areas. Police checks are enforced upon us to ensure we tick off precautionary law abiding citizenship – otherwise you have to vacate. Our designated area is fenced off so as mobility around our home is restricted to being able to come and go freely, although if you aren’t able to produce the ‘yellow’ wrist band at the camp barrier arms then entry is forbidden. The only other zone of allowable access to are the urinals, toilets and showers commonly shared.
Otherwise, it’s total lock down!
Leading up to Easter, traffic in and out was continuous as what was once bare land soon becomes tent city – similar to housing the homeless after a natural disaster or refugees fleeing their home land to neighbouring countries because of internal turmoil. Marque tents are constructed for eating, socializing and praying – the largest tent can hold up to 3000+ people. A Ferris Wheel ride, Merry-Go-Round ride and other fun park attractions were stationed to entertain as part of the festivities. Orange coated ‘Team CARE’ soldiers parade the compound as security as much as in readiness to marshal the attendees when they start arriving.
For four days, Spencer Park’s population was to swell by 4500 – mostly teenagers both young and older.
Confinement for us was embraced. Why?
Because for a small snippet in time, we fit into a system that has the atmosphere of one big happy family where smiles, laughter and conversation is uplifting and contributing. It’s a happy place to be observing kids living life with purpose – living our lifestyle free from the realms of malls, television and fast food takeaways.
Everyone is equal.
However, on Thursday night as the hoards started to arrive, the inclement weather during the day had turned the access roads to Spencerville; to Spencer Beach Holiday Park; and to camp sites awash with rising flooding waters – knee deep in lots of places!
People not driving to the conditions ploughed into the water at speed causing a tidal splash to oncoming cars without fellow road user regards.
And the rain tumbling down did not abate as daylight became darkness.
Cars pulled up to drop off teenagers with their worldly ‘three-day’ belongings. Anything without protection were at the mercy of wet and dampness. Puffer jackets worn was the trend – rain wear worn was sparse – only the Orange-coated marshals were weathered up to the conditions – that’s because they were conditioned from being on site during the day getting hammered. Some of the arrivals had already converted to bare feet if no gumboots were part of their packing list. Anything else was bound to become sodden within the first few steps of leaving the warmth of the car.
Traffic flow was one way, our road frontage was used to exit the camp. Impatient parents happy to drop and go left the road to drive on the green grassed field. It wasn’t long before it turned the field into mud slop whereby convoy followers slid, spun or became stuck needing push or tow.
Some kids thought splashing in puddles was fun and it certainly looked it. What they didn’t understand was that being wet in such a damp environment with the temperature yet to drop another 5 degrees invites the cold to sleep over. Did they even know about hypothermia or were they putting their faith in the big-fellow up top to see them through the coming days. Group leaders looked concerned but I wondered if they were just miserable themselves because of the rain.
The rain kept falling.
And then confusion started to appear with new arrivals. Registering at the camp kitchen/television room had groups pointed in the direction to where their abodes were. Re-turning back sometime later because tent sites were under water now had some err of panic presenting itself. What is plan-b regarding where to get dry, warm and sleep for the night. Grins were now grimaces.
It was the start of the end for the Easter Camp.
Parents were returning to pick up again. Buses dropping off the out of town attendees were boarded to head to churches made available as temporary accommodation around the city. Wave after wave the camp started to empty.
Full compliments to the organisers to effecting a continuity plan so as it didn’t turn into some state of emergency.
We ventured out to socialize with friends for the evening, returning home at some un-godly early hour of the following morning. By then, the camp was silent. Only the Orange-coats silhouetted between shadows doing security watch. I would say that for some of them, it was a long night.
The rain was now joined by a wind from the south.
By the time we rose to peak out our caravan window, the Easter Camp had been cancelled.
Although the place we call home was a mess, it will recover.
For the event organisers and the 4500 believers who made the pilgrimage, there were feelings of empathy.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature took on God, and won!
Perhaps a positive, Easter eggs taste the same … no matter the weather.
Nor who is in charge.