Monday, January 15, 2007

VISITING MURIHIKU IN AOTEAROA

Our journey, down south, went through the small southern city of Gore. On our way towards Invercargill, we did not make a stop over in Gore. It was intentional since the next day we were supposed to visit Jayantha’s home for the lunch. Directly we drove down to Invercargill, the southern most city of Aotearoa ( New Zealand). Invercargill is called the capital of MURIHIKU in Maori which means the tail end of the land.

Like Dunedin, IC has preserved its essentially Scottish heritage. Many of the streets bear names of Scottish rivers. The city has a lot of Victorian architecture if one is particularly concerned about architecture. From my professional point of view, IC hospital was an attractive site. I was told that there are numbers of Sri Lankan doctors working in the hospital as permanent staff as well as post graduate trainless from our very own Post Graduate Institute of Medicine. We met Dr. Viraj who happened to be a graduate from the medical academy in Moscow. It was a couple of years before I finished though. He was not known to me at that time though I had faint memories of Viraj. Just prior to his migration , he talked to one of my registrars about his impending visit to NZ when I was a trainee anaesthetist in the National Hospital of Colombo. He was a senior anaesthetist then at the NHSL. Who says world is a bigger place ? Technological revolution has made world a closer place to access than it was a decade or so ago. No wonder, I met him in the furthest corner of NZ closer to the South pole quite unexpectedly after a decade .

Ours was a busy schedule. We did not have enough time to skip from one site to another. Everything was made in a haste. This was not a sight seeing tour per se. Nor it was a planned trip. We started late from Dunedin and by the time we got to IC, it was too dark as it was the winter. We stayed at Raja’s place and next day, travelled to BLUFF , the furthest point of the South Island. We were able to climb up the hill to visit a look out point towards Stuart Island .This place was informative as it displayed a lot of historical information on IC , uniqueness of indigenous fauna and flora and the devastating effects of pests introduced by European settlers to the island. Some people who were with us had the slightest interest in these information . One has to bear it up when you acct collectively though, sub consciously I regretted the opportunity to store some information in my brain. I once again realised the importance of travelling with companions or peers having same sort of interests. We were able to spend only a couple of hours at Bluff since we were expected for lunch at Dr.Jayantha’s .In that way, we were pretty unfortunate to visit places of interest in IC. Though we missed, there are some places, any visitor to this peaceful city should visit.

The Art of Christopher Aubrey was in display when we were there. Christopher was a new generation of amateur artists who documented NZ country side in later part of the 19th century. His paintings are reported to reflect aspects of European colonisation of NZ. European settlers at work, deforestation, paintings of freshly constructed buildings are few of his areas of art works. Southland museum and art gallery is quoted in many travel guides as a place worth visiting in IC. The museum displays tuatara, the world’s only living relative of the dinosaurs that roamed the earth 220 million years ago. These living dinosaurs are a unique feature of the Southland museum. Closer to the museum, Queens Park is an ideal place for a retreat.

I have another interesting place in IC. That is the rugby stadium of the Southland rugby team. Invercargill is the birth place of one of my heroes, Jeffrey Wilson. Jeffrey was a double international. He first represented NZ in cricket. His greatest moment was scoring 44 runs to beat Aussies when all odds against Kiwis as a 19 year old cricketer. Later he realised the dream of any New Zealander of being an ALL BLACK. Jeffrey was one of the all time great ALL BLACKS and NZRFU should be grateful to him as he was instrumental in placing the full stop for WRC rugby.WRC rugby was a business manoeuvre similar to Kerry Packers division of the cricket world in 1970s. He played as a phenomenal winger with legendary Jonah Lomu. Jeff was a die hard Otago and Highlander player. Our common link is through the Otago university as I read in his autobiography that he pursued a course in UNI as an all black. Additionally, I am a highlander fan as well. After his retirement, he came back to represent cricket for NZ. In a match against the world XI, he captured 3 wickets for six runs. Jeffrey’s dream was short lived when he was sidelined from action in 2006, when a chronic ankle problem acquired as a result of rugby troubled him. Even visiting his birth place was a joy to me as a die hard rugby and cricket fan.

On the way to IC, another interesting place is the private house of a collector who has buried oyster shells brought from all over the globe in walls. A fascinating past time. Is not it?
On our way back, we made our stop over in Gore for the lunch. Gore is a small, rural city in New Zealand with the Hokonui hills in the backdrop. It is well known in the world as the capital of trout fishing, however smaller and rural the city may seem . From October to March, Gore district apparently becomes an international venue for anglers to pit their skills with the local brown trout. The last inter tribal wars were recorded to have occurred in Gore. Gold discovery and illicit whiskey industry were other aspects which have places in the history of Gore. Drive from Dunedin to Gore through stunning landscapes is amazing and spectacular. Peony roses, rhododendrons, roses, magnolias and bulbs are in abundance with brilliant colours due to the combination of richness of the soil, magnificence of the climate and the light. Among other things, Hokonui Moonshine museum, Eastern Southland art gallery, Gore fishing museum project are some offers to visitors which we were unable to visit during our brief stay in Gore.

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