Saturday, 31 March 2007

Away again, did you miss me?

In an attempt to wring the last out of our southern summer we decided to get out of town and go camping (oh and because we can't sit still, we should be Gypsies). This time we headed down to Southland, as south as you can go in mainland New Zealand (about 3 hours drive from Dunedin). Now if you aren't familiar with New Zealand we are a lot farther south than what you would imagine we are, get out your map and have a look. We are on the same latitude as southern Chili and Argentina. Next stop is Antarctica.

Tomorrow we will get back on track with my knitting news because I have a lot of it; the good, the better and the ugly.

You know that place that you always heard about growing up, the one that would be the ultimate punishment to go and live in, the one that jokes are always made about, and yet the one that no one you had ever met had ever been there. For me that place is Invercargill. A town of some size, about 50,000 residents. A town that interested me greatly in seeing it up close and personal. There is an urban myth (it may be true, who really knows) that the mayor Tim Shadbolt moved there after declaring "I will move anywhere that will have me as their mayor and Invercargill said we will!". Tim was in politics in Auckland, he used to represent the area I lived in, and is a flamboyant, larger than life character, just what Invercargill needed. Then there is the Southern Sting. The hottest ticket in town. The craziest fans, people who will camp out all night to get their hands on a ticket. Their progress is talked about in the newspaper, cafes, pubs and on worksites, by young and old, men and women. The team members are treated like rock stars. So what? Well this is a women's netball team. Now tell me where else are female athletics given the same hero worship usually reserved for men and I tell you I want to visit there also.

So this trip we explored Invercargill and the surrounding beaches and countryside. It is different from the other parts I have shown you. First of all it is more of what you imagine New Zealand to be like. There are sheep, lots and lots of sheep.

Lots of dairy cows and cheese factories. And flat, really really flat. Flat confuses me. I always get lost in flat. And green open spaces. Unlike the Catlins the beaches here are quite protected by outlying islands and harbours and are quite peaceful. It is a beautiful, isolated and tranquil area, an area that is usually missed by tourists and locals outside of Southland alike and that is a shame. It is overshadowed by the fiords to the west and the mountains to the north.

A little freedom camping in the local town park. Yep as it sounds. The locals recommended we do it that way so who are we to argue. Besides it is Riverton, New Zealand, nothing is going to happen to us here!

Invercargill? I hear you ask. Well I am pleased I went. I now know that I could never live there. (This is my gold standard for towns, I usually go through the whole 9 yards; getting the local newspaper, checking out the local library and bookstores, having a good look at the housing market, shopping the local Asian market, eating at the alternative, nutty crunchy, vegan cafe.) Ummm, no vegan/vegetarian/organic options at any cafe, no Asian market, no good bookstore, no go. It is not a diverse town and that my friends is it's downfall. And I am afraid that the gene pool is a little shallow. But it is friendly and welcoming and we easily whiled away a couple of days exploring it before returning to the beaches, the real attraction in this area. It does not deserve it's reputation but I guess that is the thing about reputations, you often don't.

But the coolest thing about this trip. I got to stand on the end of New Zealand at Bluff and imagine if I could throw a stone hard enough and far enough and if I could just clear Stewart Island well I could hit Antarctica because there isn't much between me and it and that is cool.


Jill said...

The best part about your blogs is I can actually hear your voice as youa re telling the stories. Thanks for that.

Stell said...

camping in march! the word mad spring to mind, but as a knitter you all would have been wrapped up in warm soft goodies. See you wednesday?