Having had such a great time in NZ, after summer(??) in the UK we returned to Invercargill for another 9 months or so. Having not lost our enthusiasm for this great country I thought an update for Christmas about some of the sights and events that we have enjoyed might also entertain you.Historic Marathon in Invercargill
Firstly, did you know that the first modern marathon in the Southern Hemisphere was run in Invercargill? Not only that, but it is the southernmost marathon in the world - we think. In fact, this year is the Centenary of the first run in 1909. Normally there are only about 30-40 entries but this year there were 280 and I was one of them!
The start is at Riverton (in two groups) in a small road and as you can see it didn't take 20 mins to get to the starting line after the official start as it does in London.
Not many people lining the route (but plenty of sheep and farmed deer) and you had to be careful to dodge out of the way of the lorries and cars as they drove past you, although the route was well marked.
It was a great day and I ran the first 27K with a local GP (Roger) which made the time pass quickly.
I did finish (5hrs as usual) and am now the proud owner of a very select Centenary Commemorative Medal (and T-shirt). Having no bath in our house, Jane and David Tulloch let me use theirs for which I was most grateful!Dead Bunny Toss Cancelled!!!
You will remember from last years blogs that NZ does have some unique and quirky events - not sure how we missed this one! As part of the Pig Hunting celebration in Waiau in Canterbury the children enjoyed themselves by seeing who could be the champion dead bunny thrower! Some spoilsport agency (similar to our RSPCA) thought it should not go ahead and so it reached the National News. There is a (?) happy ending in that one of the North Island towns was so outraged they held a competition and it is one of the weirdest things to see!! Follow this link http:www//youtube.com/watch?v=CMkvZ812OxI (may need to copy and paste onto your browser) for a clip from the Breakfast TV programme - It'll give you an idea of what small rural towns are like in NZ and what their TV is like.Southland Stags - like a box of fluffies
There were great celebrations around Southland when the Southland Stags (rugby team in the NPL - National Provisional League) won the Ranfurly Shield - nicknamed "the log o' wood" - having not taken it for 50 years.
It is the oldest competitive rugby trophy in NZ and it is quite complicated to win (or lose) it, as you can only lose it at a home game, and so it is now in the hands of Southland until their first home game next June.
There was a victory parade with the Mayor (Tim) flying back from Mongolia and the Deputy Prime Minister attending as well. The streets were lined with the equivalent of more than half the population of Invercargill and there was free ticker tape to throw. Since then we have seen the Shield at several venues (including the local Farmers Market) where we have personally touched it! Skiing NZ Style
We got back just at the end of the skiing season and we went to Queenstown with the Tullochs for a weekend. David and I skied whilst the ladies did a bit of walking in the spring sunshine, a visit to a 'bijou' cinema and a bit of shopping.
We skied at Coronet Peak - quite a different experience to Europe or the US. I spent 20 mins talking to the ski hire girl who was from Swansea! You can hire everything you need and the cost is much more reasonable then Europe.
The slopes are fine the only problem being there are no bars or restaurants except at the base so you ski too much! Being the end of the season it was quiet with no queues.
My thighs were killing me after a very short time - however, we did manage several beers in the brilliant sunshine.
You could easily travel to Queenstown for a days skiing from Invercargill although it is such a beautiful place it is worth staying there. Ate at a fantastic restaurant called Botswana Butchery - great name for a great place. Highly recommended. From tail to tip
Although Bluff is the southernmost town in NZ it is not the southernmost point. That honour goes to Slope Point in the Catlins, about an hours drive away.
It is on private land and is closed for lambing in early spring but, having not been there last year, we went along in November. It is certainly an isolated and wind-blown spot and not somewhere to linger with a picnic!
So having been there we wanted to go to the northernmost point of NZ - which is close to Cape Reinga in Northland. Like Bluff it is
not quite the most northern spot - this is Surville Cliffs, again only a few kilometers away. We flew to Auckland and drove to Kerikeri and from there went on a coach tour to Cape Reinga.
This is a very special place to the Maori and is where the spirits of the dead fly away from NZ to their spiritual homeland of Hawaiki. The spirits leap off a solitary 800 year old Pohutakawa tree, briefly looking back from Three Kings Island for one last look at NZ before heading home. There is a lovely peaceful atmosphere in the place.
Another interesting fact is that Cape Reinga is where the Tasman meets the Pacific and you can see the difference by the colours and movement in the water.
We went on a coach trip instead of driving ourselves so that we could travel along 90 mile beach, which is really only 60 miles long. The confusion arose because the average distance you can move cattle in a day is supposed to be about 30 miles and the people who did it took 3 days to go the length of the beach. The beach is actually designated as a highway but you are not usually covered on hire car insurance to drive along it. .
Part of the tour was dune boarding which was great fun - the worst bit is trying to climb the dune for the ride down. Too much effort really. The nearest town is Kaitaia which is about 100K from the Cape. It's not a very inspiring journey and the beach is not as interesting as Oreti beach here (17 miles long) and which is also a highway. Personally, I think the drive from Dunedin via the Catlins, Slope Point, Bluff and Oreti is a much better bet if time is limited (although the weather in the north is usually better!!).Waitangi and Bay of Islands
This is where the Waitangi Treaty was signed in 1840 which was the birth of modern New Zealand. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the interpretation of the Treaty which culminated in the setting up of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975 to look into disputes and redress any issues. The Treaty grounds are worth a visit if you are interested in the history of NZ.
The area is worth a visit just for it's beauty as it is set in the Bay of Islands - 144 of them, like emeralds sitting in a deep blue sea. Kerikeri is quite an 'arty' place with some good restaurants (highly recommend Cilantro, run by a couple of ex-pat Zimbabweans who are very friendly and produce fantastic food) and is close to the site of the Stone Store, which is NZ oldest standing stone building(1830s).
They have all sorts of souvenirs on sale mostly made from local material and based on items originally sold in the store, including cakes etc. based on old recipes. Just up the road is the Mission Station - the oldest European building in NZ(1820s).
. (There is actually a better mission house in Russell - the French Mission and there you get a personalised tour by a very enthusiastic and knowledgable lady, who is a walking talking encyclopaedia!). Opposite the Stone Store is the oldest european pear tree in NZ! Also a good cafe overlooking the water which is a great
place for a cool beer or chilled sav if the sun is shining.
Close by is Paihia and across the water Russell - the first capital of NZ. The drive to Paihia/Kerikeri from Auckland has some lovely scenery and you can go up on the Pacific side and down the Tasman side (although not right by the coast all the way. The roads are much busier than the South Island ones (it's all relative!!) although the West side is quieter and you travel through some ancient Kauri forest on the West side.
Kauri are amazing trees and are now protected. There are also so-called 'swamp Kauri' which have been buried for thousands of years and have been preserved. A few people/companies are allowed to dig these up and produce some really beautiful furniture and other wooden artefacts which have a wonderful colour and feel.
An hours drive or so from Paihia or Kerikeri is a small town called Mangonui which is worth a visit for the fantastic fish & ch
ip shop. It lies over the sea which you can see underneath you between the floorboards! They sell wet fish but also do fried fish and chips in newspaper. The fish is whatever was brought in that morning (we had snapper that day) and is cooked whilst you wait and is really delicious.You can wash it down with a choice of local beers and wines. They also have fantastic shellfish. A definite must do if you are in that area. You must be joking!
I've never really seen the point of fishing - apart from catching something worth eating and I think that's why most people fish in New Zealand. As I think has been mentioned before there is fantastic trout fishing available around the country but it is not allowed to be sold so you never see trout in fish shops or restaurants.
A few miles up the road is Gore (home of the gorons as someone once cruelly called the residents), the self claimed capital of trout fishing. It is also the home of the Hokonui Moonshine museum where you can a taste of the moonshine and join in the moonshine festival in February. It is also home to surprisingly good art gallery. Quite a combination I thought!
Not far away in the Catlins are NZ's very own Niagara Falls but don't go out of your way to go there! It is on the way to Curio Bay (which has petrified trees and the odd penguin) and Porpoise Bay (which has a resident pod of Hector's Dolphins) and there is a very good cafe there worth stopping at which has great food and a fine selection of local beers which can be enjoyed outside should you be lucky enough to be there on a sunny day.