'Eyes and ears of the camp'

Maire Carlyon, left, with Merv Carlyon and Barbara and Jim O'Connor, from Christchurch, at the Waitaki Waters Holiday Park. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
Maire Carlyon, left, with Merv Carlyon and Barbara and Jim O'Connor, from Christchurch, at the Waitaki Waters Holiday Park. Photo by Andrew Ashton.
After two decades holidaying at the same camping ground every Christmas and New Year, Oamaru couple Merv and Maire Carlyon are so much part of the furniture at the Waitaki Waters Holiday Park that they also double as an unofficial welcome committee, tourist guides and camp detectives.

The couple said they discovered the holiday park at tiny Waitaki Bridge, south of the Waitaki River, 22 years ago, by chance, but they liked the feel of the place so much they now consider the holiday park their ''home away from home''.

Mr Carlyon said they did not know the park existed until they were invited to a family reunion at the site in 1990 but they now came to the park every Christmas, and any other time they could.

''We come all year round, even in the wintertime.

''We used to stay in the cabins until we bought a caravan. It's just such a nice place to relax.

''We just came out here for the fishing. There's both salmon and trout in the river, but I'm mainly out for the trout in the Waitaki River mouth.''

The holiday park recently won the coveted AA Spirit of Hospitality award and Mrs Carlyon said they were just as pleased about the win as the camp owner was.

She said the couple had now seen the camp pass through four different owners, and had enjoyed ''a lot of fun'' at the camping ground over the years.

''We get to know a lot of people, and there are a lot more coming now the park won the award.

''They are always people coming up to us to talk when you're doing the dishes. It takes a long time to get them done, because you're yakking to someone.''

The couple regularly take camp newcomers under their wing, and first-time campers Jim and Barbara O'Connor, from Christchurch, said they would have been lost without the help of the Carlyons.

''If it wasn't for their local knowledge we would still be in the dark. They have given us their knowledge of where they come from and where they are going to,'' Mr O'Connor said.

Holiday park owner Derek Chapple said the couple had been an invaluable source of information and help for him and the previous owners.

Mr Chapple said when he took over the camp the previous manageress had left a note to say he should regard the couple as ''the eyes and ears of the camp''.

''They know what goes on, and they are great at passing on information about the camp, which guests may have caused trouble in the past or who to look out for. They certainly make good detectives.''

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz