Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 22, 2008 - Opotiki, East Cape

While in the Marlborough Sounds last weekend, I booked all of our accommodations for this past week, as we'd been warned that Kiwis all travel during the 4 day Easter holiday and that there would be no vacancies anywhere. As requested, on Friday I called to confirm our booking for Saturday night at the Opotiki Beach House. Booking confirmed, we showed up this evening, after a really long day of driving, introduced ourselves and paid our tariff to the owner, brought in our overnight bag, pillows, and towels, stowed our chilly bin in the fridge, unloaded our cooking gear in the kitchen, and went for a walk on the beach. When we got back, the owner was all out of sorts.
"You're not Julie!"
Um, no, I'm not. "I'm Danika."
"Your reservation is for Sunday night, not tonight," he said tapping his reservation book.
"No it isn't. I booked for Saturday. I can show you my notes from the call."
"You must have made a mistake. I have you down for tomorrow, not tonight."
"I called to confirm tonight's reservation on Friday. Nobody said anything about the booking being for Sunday."
"Well, Julie is coming and I don't have rooms for both of you."
At this point we didn't really want to stay, but we weren't going anywhere on this holiday weekend without another reservation. So he called around and managed to get us a room in town. We got our money back, got all our stuff, repacked the car and headed back into town. In retrospect, we should have fought to keep our room by the beach.

Our lodging in town was on the second floor of an old hotel with a restaurant and bar underneath - never a good thing on a Saturday night. When we arrived, the woman who checked us in struggled to get the key for our room to work, while we waited in the oven-like hallway. She offered us the room across the hall instead, which overlooked the roof rather than the street. We didn't care about the view, but the kitchen fans whirring away on the roof outside the window were a deal breaker. She eventually got the key to work in the door to the room overlooking the street, so we went in to investigate. The room, facing the setting sun, was even hotter than the hallway. I went to open the window, and the woman started protesting that we couldn't leave it open as it might come falling down. Losing my patience with the whole situation, I tersely explained that we needed a way to air out this room. We also needed sheets for one of the beds. She went off to find something to prop the window open and some sheets. While this whole scene was playing out, an English couple sat at the dinner table in the hallway with knowing looks on their faces.

We brought our stuff up, and went out through the kitchen, which shared a wall with our room, to the balcony to have some wine and wait for the room to cool down. One look at the cramped and ill-equipped kitchen, with a headless whole fish airdrying in the fridge, and we decided not to try to cook dinner in there. While we were sitting on the balcony, the English couple came into the kitchen to try to clean one of the pans they used for dinner. After a cursory attempt accompanied by many noises of disgust, they left it to soak and came out to welcome us to "the arsehole of New Zealand." They had wound up throwing out the meat they started to cook in that pan when they realized that it was blackening from the layers of old grease coming off of the pan, rather than from any natural browning process. We explained how we had wound up here, in a room that we were afraid to try to lock. They laughed and said that at least we could lock our room - their lock didn't work at all.

While we sat on the porch enjoying our wine, the hotel's long-term residents arrived to cook their dinner. Based on their meal, we think they were Chinese. Whatever it was they were cooking, it smelled pretty good. After a while, we couldn't stand it anymore and went off to the Double Lucky Takeaway to get some dinner. When we returned, a strange woman was trying to show our room to another set of backpackers. Her key seemed to be working much better than ours. We stated our claim to the room and went back to the balcony to have dinner. After a bit, I went to the ladies and discovered a guy shaving in the sink and that the light in the toilet was out. I did my business in the dark and returned to the balcony where we and the English couple spent the evening watching the local cop do laps around the downtown district - all four blocks of it. We saw him quite a few times. The local kids were also out cruising. At one point, Sten started hooting at them, and getting them to hoot back at him. Exhausted from such an exciting evening, we called it a night around 9:30. We shut our window and went to bed. At that point we noticed the music from the bar below us reverberating through the floor of our room. Good times.

In the middle of the night, I woke to the sound of voices in the kitchen, on the other side of the wall from my bed. Thinking that maybe it was 4:30 and that someone was getting up for an early Easter morning fishing trip, I rolled over and tried to ignore them. They moved their party out onto the balcony, right next to our window. With my brain half awake and bladder demanding to be emptied, I stumbled down the hall to the bathroom. On the way, passing the kitchen, I realized that it was not the pre-dawn hours. I diverted to the balcony and confronted the three guys yacking it up next to our window. Pointing at the window, I told them that our room was right there and that they's just woken us up. They made apologetic noises. "What time is it, anyway?" I asked. "Dunno," the youngest responded. A slightly older guy glanced at his cell phone and said it was around 2:30. Now I was pissed. "It's fucking early!" And with that I stomped off to the bathroom. While sitting on the toilet, in the dark, I realized that they had been too young to be backpackers, and had likely wandered in the unlocked front door. I went back to bed and laid there considering telling them to leave, but concern for our vehicle parked downstairs kept me quiet. Within a few minutes they were gone anyway. The room was back to roasting temperatures, so Sten opened the window when he came back from going to the bathroom. We lay awake for the next two hours, listening to the traffic, howling cats and barking dogs, finally drifting off to sleep sometime after 4:30.

Around 6:00, with it still pitch dark outside, the local street sweeper came by to sweep the sidewalks and empty the rubbish bins. Groaning, Sten rolled over and shut the window again. He needn't have bothered. Within an hour the first of our fellow guests started making breakfast on the far side of our bedroom wall, making any further attempts at sleep futile. We gave up and got up. This ranked as one of the three worst nights of sleep we've had on this trip (other than offshore where we don't really expect to sleep well). The other two nights were in Dominica and Aruba where we were kept up most of the night by discos going until dawn. We would have asked for a refund, but there was nobody around, and we weren't about to spend another minute in this place waiting for someone to show up.

1 comment:

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