Southland: It's a bit shit
Currently down South on routine business and had an opportunity to get out of the delightful Queenstown office of Tumeke! today and head even further South. I've never travelled further south than Gore (on that occassion our team noticed a local inhabitant, seemingly human, like you or me, but he was drinking his cappaccino with a straw - another startling and extraordinary anthropological marvel discovered during that legendary expedition: I must thank the Phrenological Society of the University of Auckland for the use of their equipment - the species Homo Sapien Goreaccino Inbreedus is still awaiting verification). The Shire never seemed so far away. I'll post images when I nag someone competent into telling me how to do it. But in summary:
Impressions of Southland
After passing through Kingston at the end of Lake Wakatipu and leaving Otago one enters Southland. Southland's motto, as stated on their welcome sign, is "Spirit of a nation" - and so taken with that profoundly resonant assertion of patriotism (despite the vaguely white supremicsist overtones) usually reserved only for events like netball - they have a website: spritofanation.co.nz. (Leading the vote on what part of Southland is best I note that Invercargill (321) is running a very close second to a place called Thornbury (325): which means that Tim Shadbolt hasn't got an internet connection yet?).
One is taken by the dull monotony of the landscape and it's cold empitness as one ventures west from Mossburn. At this point I was going to say that Southland's saving grace is the magnificent Manapouri and Te Anau Lakes - with their awesome breadth, serene water and virgin forest backdrop they must be one of the most becalming invocations of sublime solicitude in the world... and then I realised they are really in Fiiordland - not Southland and were not historically part of the Province either - so, sorry Southland has no saving grace. Never mind.
The first thing to mention here is that the Didymo infestation is ruining the rivers of Southland (as well as others). Biosecurity is useless and has mishandled this from the beginning. I was heartened to hear a seeming reversal of policy from the Green party the other day when they criticised them - I hope this is meaningful and not the usual bullshit - as the last thing Frogblog had to say on the matter was how wonderful Jim Anderton was and how the great his policy of doing nothing to halt the infestation was. My team and I inspected the Mararoa and Oreti rivers. The former was covered in a brown sludgy muck that was quite thick in places: this is why they call it "rock snot." It is slimy and has a 100% coverage across all rocks, plants and anything else in the water (Have pictures - will post later). The Oreti has the beginnings of the slime and appears as a fine sort of brownish residue at present. This shit is invasive and the only thing that is supposed to stop it is an A3-sized sign by the river telling people to please clean everything that touches the water! Highly distressing.
After Manapouri we head south. Boring. The only interesting thing on the 100km to Tuatapere is the biggest possum I've ever seen lying dead in the middle of the entrance to a one lane bridge. Should have ducked - shitty luck.
Tuatapere proudly boasts it is the "midway point on the Southern scenic route" and is famous for sausages (which we couldn't find). So that was a bit shitty. Like most of Southland it has a railway station without any railway. So that's got to be a bit shit for them.
Riverton is like a down-market version of Lyttleton in a dodgy part of Onehunga/Sydenham/Petone sort of a way. It's too manky to have "charm," but could manage "eclectic" on a generous day. So that's still quite shit. Huge racecourse though - absolutely gigantic in proportion to it's population. Obviously a big gambling problem - that's shit.
Invercargill. What can one add that hasn't already been said? A grid city for a grid population of Christians. It was 5:10pm and the street lights came on because it was dark already. It was also 6 degrees. The "city" was filled with a smokey coal stench and the southern half was even worse - blanketed in a thick, acrid, grimey smog that was absolutely filthy and made me nauseous. Every man and his dingo had a fire going - the chimneys were pouring it out like a Filippino rubbish tip. Invercargill is dead flat, dead boring, and if the standard of housing and dress sense is any measure, also dead broke. Most of the time trying to converse with locals so they would say "r" with that rolling accent (which is cute) was for naught. The girls, like most in Southland, were fairly chubby and looked to be closely related to one another. It couldn't have been more completely crap if it was raining shit. But then, just to really put things into perspective, to put the icing on the cake that is New Zealand's Southern-most region there is...
Bluff. The small town sits at the end of a bleak penninsular, at the end of a bleak province, at the end of a bleak island. A dirty great aluminium smelter squats across the treacherous-looking harbour entrance which quickly turns to muddy tidal flats where old boats are left dumped and rotting. The foreshore esplanade is littered with wrecks, strewn with abandoned buildings and blighted with fuel tanks. It's like a post-apocolyptic version of Devonport of the 1960s. It is one of the few towns that doesn't even seem to have any entrance or marker. No proud moment to proclaim their existence - just a fertiliser plant and a string of delapodated factories to welcome visitors curious enough to see where State Highway One ends up: which is a signpost at the end of a small carpark above the lolling sea breaking around the kelp leathered rocks, indicating 4,800km to the South Pole. Would be a great place to eat fish and chips. But I didn't have any. So that was a bit shit.
And so back to Otago through the second most boring drive in the country after the Christchurch-Ashburton stretch of the suicide-inducing Canturbury Plains (I now understand why people burnt it all down - pure boredom). Invercargill however is so boring and so filled with smoke one wonders whether the population aren't trying to burn it all down in their own way, day by day. The main road goes right through it - north-south without deviating - all the way, basically, the entire length of Southland. The inspirational names appended to the townships line the route: Winton, Dipton, Lumsden, Athol, Garston... Emotional, vesceral! And one cannot help but remember as one speeds as fast as practicable northwards the leaders from the loins of Southland that have given their mana to raise the province to the stratosphere of greatness: Mark Peck and Bill English to name just all of them.
In conclusion, Southland is a bit shit.