Go Highlanders!!

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, April 20, 2012

Crossing the southern tip of the South Island was all about dodging sheep (there are a reported 20 sheep for every person on the South Island- very believable as the little fur balls are everywhere), but the cows are omnipresent as are the deer farms (apparently the deer are captured via helicopter in the massive Fjordland National Park and moved to venison farms outside the boundaries- they are not native to NZ and are destroying the sensitive local flora).

We rolled into Dunedin with just enough time to get Big Blue comfortable for the night and race down to the local stadium for our first taste of top flight New Zealand Rugby. Rugby is a religious state of mind in New Zealand in much the same way that the sport of hockey is in Canada. And with the success of the All-Blacks in the recent World Cup, most Kiwi’s seem to be walking just a couple of inches taller. Our trip to New Zealand would just not be complete without taking in one of the top end professional games on offer here.Dunedin has a new stadium, built for the World Cup, and the local team, the Highlanders, is doing well in the standings this year, and they’re playing a North Island rival, the Blues from Auckland, who usually do well but are having an off year- this mixture of ingredients made for a boiling pot of enthusiasm and we were joined in the stands by most of Dunedin including the University students who dress like it’s Halloween and apparently own the end zone seats. Initially we weren’t sure who we were cheering for given DH’s tribe of cousins from Auckland, but then a band of Scottish bagpipers marched in causing DH to experience a flood of memories from her many recent retirement parties, and we were Highlander supporters from then on. Neither team did the Hakka as an opening, which was a big downer for DH (a number of Kiwi’s openly complained that just about every sports team does the Hakka before playing and they’re getting a little tired of it- I even talked to a member of the New Zealand Ice Hockey team- really??- and he said they do it before their games). She spent the rest of the game trying to start the 'wave' and a chant of “we want a Hakka, we want a Hakka…” but it remained a one person crusade.

Rugby isn’t one of the big sports in Canada- you usually only play it if you’re not tough enough for hockey or football (was that Gary L.  I heard hitting the floor??), but I played it for a few years in order to stay in shape for the real sports (did he fall down again??), and I was amazed at how much came back as I was watching the game (my playing days are outside of my normal memory thresholds). It was a bit of a choppy game and the referee seemed to be campaigning for 'star of the game' honours (both teams were loaded with All Blacks so it was surprising to see the number of off-sides and basic mistakes, but maybe they were distracted by the Highlander cheerleaders and their skin tight body costumes?). It came down to the final seconds, with the Blues going for a win instead of the tie, before 'our' boys pulled off the improbable win. We joined a very happy crowd on the way out of the stadium.

The next day was another day of DH surprises- after starting the day at a farmers market offering up all sorts of made-in-New-Zealand products, we wandered the city aimlessly until stumbling across a Cadbury Chocolate Factory which offered tours. I was trying to envision what sort of financial penalties we might face if DH was caught doing the back stroke in a vat of liquid milk chocolate, but she decided to not do the tour because she wants to visit the original Cadbury factory in England. This is a woman who can become decidedly dangerous with unclaimed chocolate in the room, so I was shocked at her decision but we did spend a lot of time in the factory store which contained products I had never heard of before- DH just stood in the middle of the room inhaling deeply until we were asked to leave because she was creeping out the other visitors. DH then decided that she did want to do a tour of the Speights Beer Factory tour despite being a non-drinker. It was a pretty good tour of a legendary local business that combined beer making insight with the history of New Zealand.

After pulling some pints, the Princess wanted to do a quick trip up the Otago Peninsula to see the rare Royal Albatross, and before you know it we were heading for our next destination. 
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Marlene on

Are you going to do "The Lord of the Rings" Shire Tour?? - I was told to ask you that. I don't even know what that is.

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