The pastor, sitting at the table inside the living quarters
of the Danseys Pass Holiday Park, confesses at times to being
close to sinning.
"I have to fight off idolatry because I love this place so
much," he said.
"I have to pinch myself - I get to live here?"
As false idols go, though, this one is quite something, and
American owners of the park, Scott and Margie Brown, have
been tending to its altar since 2008.
The "high-school sweethearts", who have seven children
between the ages of 13 and 21, holidayed in the South Island
in February and March of 2007, walking the Milford Track and
spending 12 days on motorbikes.
When they returned home to Maryland, the pastor and
stay-at-home mother resolved to move to New Zealand with
their children to run a bed-and-breakfast establishment.
They quickly found that was not to their liking.
"I was in minor depression because I really wanted to move
here," Mr Brown said.
Then a friend directed them to Danseys Pass Holiday Park,
nestled under the hills beside the Maerewhenua River, opened
by Bob and Ina Hutton in 1955.
A century earlier, in 1855-56, a group of four men including
North Otago run-holder William Heywood Dansey took an
expedition into the mountains inland from Oamaru, from the
Waitaki Valley to Ranfurly and Central Otago.
Alluvial gold can still be found in the Maerewhenua River,
which wraps around the campsite; its pools getting deeper as
it curves towards the entrance on Danseys Pass Rd.
The Browns took over management of the park in September
2008, but did not take ownership from the park's third and
previous owner, Neil Thorpe, until 2010 due to "unexpected
Mrs Brown said the park's natural pools had been packed of
late, with the variable depths allowing for safe swimming for
The couple said they had been informed of the park's various
virtues by faithful campers upon their arrival.
"Many of the people have been coming here for decades," Mr
"We've had people coming up to us telling us not to change a
thing, and asking us not to advertise."
Running the park was an informative experience, he said.
"They teach us how to camp - we're Americans. They come set
up and enjoy each other for weeks, which is outstanding.
"It's a different paradigm - we feel guilty if we take more
than five days."
Mrs Brown said she felt no such guilt, but added such
opportunities to relax were a rarity back in the United
"You work a long time in the States to get two weeks' annual
holiday - you don't get it automatically," she said.
The pair said running the camp was like having a large
extended family, and attributed a full park with many new
families to word-of-mouth.
The move from the US was "value-driven" and Mr Brown said the
pair were not at the park to make a lot of money - because
they would not.
"The pace of life here is so different," Mrs Brown said.
"It's not unusual for me to be walking in [Oamaru] and see
four or five people I know, and they all say hello."
Virginia Terpstra, of Auckland, who had stayed at the park
four of the previous five years, said it was one of her
favourite places to visit while in the South Island.
"It's just a really fun, family-friendly, safe place," she
"We can leave the kids for a couple of hours and know they
will be fine.
"It's great to see them out playing and doing things instead
of watching TV or playing video games."
Her, nephew Hamish Lamb (11), of Timaru, had an expert
understanding of the various pools a stone's throw away from
the park's centre.
"There's small trout in the small swimming pool and eels in
the big one sometimes," he said.
He and brother Alex (14) had been enjoying the large rope
swing over the river and had jumped into the deep pool from a
platform formed in the surrounding rock.
Their sister Grace (10) had ventured on to the rope swing
after being too afraid last year, but had not yet progressed
to the point where the jump into the big pool was a viable
Tony and Miriam Morton, of Waimate, were impressed after
travelling to the park for the first time with their four
children and retired guide dog Zeus, who had been spending
his days bathing in the river's shallow pools.
"We can't complain, it has fantastic swimming holes and is
both dog-friendly and child-friendly," Mr Morton said.
"I've never been to a prettier camp ground."
He had not planned to fish this week but on reflection,
wished he had been able to get in some successful angling,
having seen the quarry.
"I've been watching the fish in the pool, there's a really
big one that comes out at night at about 10pm."
Mrs Morton said it was nice to see the children skimming
stones and said a lot of work had obviously been done to
beautify the site.
The surrounding area includes many geographical features,
including slate limestone boulders, Rattling Rocks, Clay
Cliffs and Elephant Rocks - which featured in The
Chronicles of Narnia movies.
The area is also rich in fossils, with whale skulls, dolphin
vertebrae, sea urchins and sharks' teeth all found on the
All about Danseys
• Danseys Pass Holiday Park, 15km southwest of Duntroon on
Danseys Pass Rd.
• Nestled beside the Maerewhenua River.
• 2-bedroom cabins, 4-bedroom chalets, bunk-house, 30 power
camping sites, tent sites.
• Amenities in the camp and surrounds: Fly fishing for trout,
Elephant Rocks, Maori Rock Art, rock climbing, flying fox,
kitchen and shower facilities, mountain biking, horse
trekking, swimming pools, tramping in native bush, fossils,
gold mining for alluvial gold, short drive to Waitaki River,
• Attracts fishermen from countries as far-flung as Japan and