All it took was a tiny information blurb in Hawke’s Bay Today, back on February 16, to trigger recent riots at the elite resort, Cape Kidnappers Lodge. Strenuous efforts have been made to keep what transpired last week from the media. But BayBuzz’s exclusive source, Cape K’s head greenskeeper, Archie Annibald, appalled at what she witnessed, gave us this firsthand account, since confirmed by other eyewitnesses.
It started innocently enough with a notice in HB Today that the Cape Kidnappers Lodge would offer steeply discounted rates from April 1 to August 31. Rates would plummet to only $700 plus GST per night on the weekends (however, all food and beverages, including water and ice, fireplace wood, plus use of the polo field, helicopter pad, sheets & towels, limousine service and golf course would be charged at normal rates). The ad noted that special tent accommodations and port-a-loos would be available at extra cost for servants of guests (heating extra).
However, as early as the weekend of March 25-26, eager guests were beginning to queue outside the massive gates that block access to the resort off Clifton Road in Te Awanga. At first the guests, being of high breeding, were docile enough. Most had sleeping quarters, hot tubs and toilets in their stretch limos. And gourmet food and wine baskets were supplied regularly at only $500 up by entrepreneurial Clearview Estate and Elephant Hill. Elma van de Camp at Clearview says: “We stayed opened virtually around the clock for these discriminating guests of the Bay … I’ve never seen so much champagne consumed in such a short period.”
Only official guests were allowed to dine at Clearview and Elephant Hill. Jacket and tie required for men. Their limo drivers, hairdressers, personal valets, fitness and yoga coaches, masseuses and other personal staff were required to eat at the Clifton Cafe. “At first, we didn’t mind getting the lower class crowd,” says Dora Appleby, manager of Clifton Cafe. “But many of them were using employer-provided credit cards, and the charges were being rejected by the dozens.”
By Tuesday the 22nd, the crowds were growing to unmanageable size. “I never expected that guests of such maturity would be such avid users of Twitter,” said Cape K manager Jay Robertson. “Everyone began twittering their friends back home about the party atmosphere, and pretty soon the whole jet set descended upon us. I’m told that Hawke’s Bay Airport had no parking space left for private jets.”
Crowd size alone, however, didn’t trigger the bedlam that ensued. As usual, alcohol played a key role. When the gin ran out, the elegant guests shifted to vodka, then with much grumbling to rum. Tempers began to fray. And then, on Wednesday the 23rd, all of Hawke’s Bay ran out of tonic water! Ugly incidents began to occur as prowling members of the upscale mob began to accost others who were hoarding private stocks of tonic in their limos. Drivers were sent desperately as far as Dannevirk and Lake Taupo in search of tonic water. Some guests were seen to even drink beer.
But the last straw was the spread of a rumour that Cape K’s had overbooked for the duration of the Special Rate period. A crowd estimated at nearly one thousand had collected by now outside the Cape K gates. Many had clearly expected to winter at Cape K for the entire six months of the special. “At $700 a night, this was supposed to be a terrific bargain,” said would-be guest Count Ernst von Rothschild. “We’ve rented our chateau in Provence for $10,000 a night, and expected to pocket a tidy profit indeed … Now I could be hosed,” he lamented.
As the overbooking rumour spread, the crowd advanced on the gates protecting the Cape K road. Cries were made by the elite mob to “Set the gates on fire”, but servants could not be located with matches or cigarette lighters. Soon the crowd began to set upon itself, first attempting to eject those lower class pretenders who had arrived at the site in non-German cars, and then those without servants to protect them.
By this time, the first Police squads appeared on the scene. When the crowd realized that the Police had orders — not to force open the Cape K gates, but to disperse the crowd — mayhem ensued. One white-haired gentleman was seen poking at an officer with his ivory-handled cane, shouting “Damn Bolshevik!” Many guests were flailing at officers with riding crops.
For awhile, according to eyewitnesses, it looked like the guests had the upper hand. But eventually the Police resorted to pepper spray to control the mob. Before long, negotiations between the Police and mob leaders reached a successful outcome … soon helicopters arrived with fresh supplies of gin, tonic water and ice.
Several dozen of the rowdiest in the bunch, who had rallied around a fiery leader, Sam Smelt, were being stuffed into paddywagons. “Traitors” … “Snitches” … “Wimps” … they yelled at their compatriots, kicking at the doors of their limos as Police hauled them off. Wasted cries on those remaining, who were already mixing drinks and organizing croquet matches to pass the time.
From just down the road at Clifton Cafe, cheers were heard from the servants as the paddywagons departed.
As for the Cape K Special …
It seems that on the afternoon of March 31, staff had distributed flyers pointing out the fine print in the Cape K offer … Cash Customers Only. By the next morning, when the gates opened on April 1, miraculously only a dozen or so limos remained … including some brand new BMW’s with government plates. Their occupants were accommodated.