Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Logbook: Gore - Ranfurly

Goreranfurly1Heading north out of Invercargill on Saturday I had made arrangements to stop in the small town of Gore, the attraction of which was a nearby airport that was highly publicized as having an extensive collection of antique aircraft and an elaborate restoration shop. I'll probably never know if this is true, because -- true to form on The Voyage -- the entire facility was closed when I arrived. I was able to peek in a window and see a couple of old biplanes, but the facility didn't quite seem to live up to its hype (Note: Exaggerated promotion is another aspect of New Zealand's tourism marketing that I am becoming familiar with. Not everything is quite as good as it is advertised to be!) Also true to form for The Voyage, however, Gore turned out to be a good choice of places to stay due to a couple of unexpected coincidences. The first was that Saturday just happened to be the annual "Moonshiners' Festival" -- celebrating the region's long and glorious history of Hokonui Whiskey -- and I was treated to a delightful afternoon at a small town festival of food, music, history and pretty decent local whiskey. Lucky break!

Goreranfurly2The second fortunate turn of events for me was striking up a lively conversation with one of the festival volunteers named Allan who invited me out to visit his nearby sheep farm! So it was that after breakfast on Sunday I drove down the road and found my way to his place, a thousand acre spread with almost ten thousand sheep and lambs on it. We spent about an hour cruising around in his 4x4, talking about general agricultural in New Zealand and sheep farming in particular, as wells as a wide variety of other topics of mutual interest. It's impossible to describe the magnitude of his farm, but clicking on the photo will at least give you a representative glimpse. Allan and his wife very graciously invited me to stay for lunch and we dined and talked until mid-afternoon. Once again, the "kindness of strangers" has given me yet another very interesting and enjoyable experience on The Voyage!

Goreranfurly3I spent yesterday morning driving generally north, through mile after mile of landscape that ranged from fertile farmland to barren badland. One of the things that amazes me about New Zealand is how varied the terrain is in such a small place, and I'm hopeful that my photos will show this during my exploration here. I stopped for the day in the small town of Ranfurly where Sandra from Incargill had set me up at the delightful little motel of her good friend Cindy. After checking in and dumping my gear, I walked into the charming but also slightly creepy little town center. Ranfurly has carved out its tourist niche as "A Rural Art Deco Oasis." Following a series of disastrous -- and suspicious -- fires in the early 1930's, the town was rebuilt with an Art Deco theme. It is charming in a way, but the middle-of-nowhere location combines with it being a little "over done" to make it -- as I said -- a little creepy. Nevertheless, the people are just as warm and friendly as everywhere else around here and I enjoyed my afternoon visit.

Today I drove to the nearby town of Naseby for lunch via a series of dirt and gravel roads which -- had it not been for the road signs at every intersection -- almost had me believing I was lost in the badlands. Talk about creepy, Naseby was the major town of the area during the gold rush of the late 1800's but is now a sort of a semi-historical, practically deserted town. Proof of what happens when the railroad bypasses your town, Naseby is a small collection of buildings that have well-noted links to the past but little evidence of current prosperity. A bit farther afield, I stopped at the historical "Hayes Engineering Works" which once made all sorts of farm tools. It was worth a brief visit but hardly lived up to its promotion or even its slick color brochure, providing further data for a formula I'm developing as an informal rating system for NZ attractions: "Marketing x 80% = Reality" Nevertheless, it's been another couple of good and interesting days on The Voyage.

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