Toko Mouth, or, Why I can't stop talking about our beach holiday

One hour after arrival in Toko Mouth: Feeling very unsettled due to lack of the necessities of life, such as the Internet. Consider carving a keyboard onto the kitchen table, but remember that I packed my laptop, "just in case". No phone line, so still seriously handicapped. Decide to write a blog:

Alex drops by and we discuss the finer points of the Highlanders' 2003 performance.

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Toko Mouth is East of Milton on an incredibly corrugated and pot-holed gravel road. In the middle of Toko Mouth thereís a road-sign indicating the presence of judder bars. None are to be found. Frankly, the road through Toko Mouth is the only corrugation-and-pot-hole free stretch we saw during our entire stay.

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Most of the cribs are on leasehold land, a few are freehold, and a significant number, on the edge of the estuary, are squatting on what is currently DOC land. Theyíve been there for decades, by the look of them, and certainly give the place character. Alison canít help noticing the contrast between the age and makeshift state of the cribs, and the modern cars and SUVs parked outside. Iím not sure what the sanitation arrangements are, and how that affects the estuary. The soil is very sandy, with solid rock not far below the surface. Our toilet facilities are of the non-flushing variety. That takes me back 35 years. My bowels go on strike and I donít do a poo the entire time weíre on holiday, despite eating mountains of fish. My bowels are fine now. Thank you for asking.

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There are a lot of dogs in the settlement, and none seem to be on leads. Something tells me that attitudes to dog control are not the same as those in urban settings. All the dogs seem to be in holiday mode, though. Theyíre in too good a mood to menace anyone and their attitude to guarding property seems to be "Not my problem, Iím off-duty".

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Toko Mouth has a store - a windowless building open for an hour each day over most of Easter. I get the impression that these are extended hours, rather than reduced hours. The blackboard outside advises that baked beans, ice-cream, toilet paper, lollies and jiff can be purchased there. I hope thatís not all that is sold. Where does one go if one runs out of balsamic vinegar ...or fish-bait for that matter? The store blackboard also reports that an iron bed-head has been stolen from one of the cribs. I feel as though the dark under-belly of Toko Mouth is reaching out to ruin my Easter. Will I be accosted by a stranger and offered bedroom furniture at a price that is too good to be true?

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We pop over to Dianne and Graemeís crib to watch a rugby game. Itís a delayed telecast - yes, weíre really roughing it. Graeme is the current mayor of Toko Mouth. He has the chains of office and framed aerial photographs to prove it. The chains of office look to my uneducated eye like a loop of dog-lead chain and a bottle-opener, but the aerial photos look pretty convincing. I helpfully point out to His Worship that the street lights seem to have failed, and he promises to sort the problem.

Thereís a near-full-moon. A few hours after sunset, the moon rises, just like a fried egg doesnít, on the seaward horizon. Later, moonlight reflects off the surf on the bar. The full moon and clear skies help ameliorate the serious problem of inadequate street-lighting, but forecasts of heavy cloud, and a waning moon leave the situation very dicey. I fear a crime-wave and am sure Graeme is a deeply worried man. By the end of the evening I can tell that, indeed, Graeme, is consumed with the problem of the street lighting, although possibly his mood is also not helped by the rugby scoreline. Iím not sure what the difference is between a score and a scoreline, but scoreline sure sounds better.

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We take a trip down the coast to bustling Kaitangata - known to the locals as "Kai". Local signs proclaim ĎKai Restaurant and Barí rather than using the townís full name in the title. Understandable, really, since kai means food and tangata means human body. Do I need to spell it out? Over a century ago there was a major coal-mine disaster in Kaitangata, but thereís not a lot to commemorate the event. A coal wagon, filled with concrete and black-painted granite rocks, along with a sign that never went near the Right Words office, and a stone plaque with about a dozen names on it, are about all we find. Iím still a bit worried about the potential for a Toko Mouth crime-wave, and am not reassured by a sign in the window of the Kaitangata Service Centre informing me that a cop is in attendance at Kaitangata for an hour each Friday, provided there arenít any other operational requirements. The thin blue line seems to be seriously stretched.

While we are visiting thereís a reasonable swell running, and offshore winds. Conditions seem pretty good for surfing, but I see no-one catching waves. Thereís a golf tournament on about 15 km down the coast, and quite a few boats are being launched, presumably for the recreational fishing.

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