Everyone’s a winner
Iwas heading home from Mt Maunganui on Easter Monday, crossing the great divide that separates Bay of Plenty and Waikato, joining the inevitable queue that snakes over the Kaimai Range on high days and holidays.
The traffic slowed to walking pace at the summit. Sure enough, in the distance, there was a behemoth of a truck lumbering down the western flank. Everyone got in behind, picking it off one by one on the passing bays. No tooting, no aggressive driving, no point really because options are limited on this mountain crossing. Not much room to manoeuvre.
Nowadays, there are prominent road signs to cheer you on your way: Have a Safe Trip Over the Kaimai Range, said the freshly painted ones I spotted on Monday.
They signal both a message, and a victory for Matamata kaumatua Will Murray, his story reported in the Chronicle earlier this month.
The signs initially said Have a Safe Trip Over the Kaimais. Murray, a fluent te reo Maori speaker, took exception to the incorrect grammar.
Although the mountain range is usually referred to colloquially as the Kaimais, there is no "s" in the Maori language, and Murray was dismayed that it had been used on an official sign which visitors from around the country, and the world, would see.
The Western Bay of Plenty Road Safety Committee, which installed the signs as part of a road safety campaign on State Highway 29, moved quickly to rectify them (ditching the plural by changing Kaimais to Kaimai Range), and said it meant no offence by its mistake. Murray graciously commended the apology.
It’s a small thing, a big thing. It’s easy to let errors and annoyances like this slide by. It takes energy and effort to tackle them, and sometimes there’s a backlash.
Not in this case. Bad grammar is unacceptable in anyone’s language, and I admire Will Murray for reminding us of the correct usage of Kaimai. I like his uncompromising attitude.
I like the rugged Kaimai Range, too. It’s hard to tame, its uncompromising terrain means that although engineers and other experts have done their best to develop a decent road across, you still have to treat it with respect and caution. You do something silly, and the mountains will have the last say - as they have done on many occasions.
I’ve been driving the road since I was a teenager, I’ve observed it in all its changes and encountered many of its challenges.
I’ve nearly been blown off the top in high winds, I’ve been blanketed by fog on winter mornings, I’ve danced dangerously with laden trucks, been stuck behind cumbersome campervans, navigated endless roadworks, and been overtaken on tight corners by hooning kids with surfboards strapped to their roof racks.
The day after my wedding my husband thoughtfully pulled into the lookout car park at the top so I could throw up into the bushes. Oh, the shame of it. No, I wasn’t pregnant, I still blame the oysters served at the reception, and maybe one glass of bubbly too many.
Later, we were quite often in that car park, waiting for the engine of our unreliable yellow Vauxhall Viva to cool down after overheating (or something) on the way up the steep hill. We’d nip across to the shop (long gone) for an ice cream, and to collect water for the engine from the popular roadside spring. When we finally got a better car we’d cheer loudly as we reached the summit without incident.
Two years ago, I pulled over into the same car park to take an anxiously awaited call from our younger son, announcing the birth of his baby daughter.
The view from the lookout is spectacular, the Waikato heartland laid out below like a magic green carpet (droughts notwithstanding). Then, on the eastern descent, there are tantalising glimpses of the ocean, and always a whiff of the holidays that lie ahead.
Last weekend, new things to observe - the grammatically correct Kaimai signs.
Thanks Will Murray, and the Western Bay of Plenty Road Safety Committee, it’s a good result. Everyone’s a winner.