Otago: Southern seasons

By Pamela Wade

No matter what the weather's doing, Pamela Wade finds entertainment in Southland and Central Otago.
Aerobatics pilot Ryan Southam at work in a Tiger Moth over Mandeville, in Southland.
Aerobatics pilot Ryan Southam at work in a Tiger Moth over Mandeville, in Southland.

Boiling hot?

Chill out at Naseby's indoor curling rink. Though the classic bonspiel game is played, winter willing, on real ice at Idaburn Dam near Oturehua, the all-year, all-weather version is played by local and international competitors, and is great fun even for beginners. It takes up to a couple of hours for a 10-end game, sending eight stones 42m along the pebbled ice sheet to the bull's eye. It's darts, chess, bowls and billiards wrapped up in one cool game of skill and strategy. The Scottish granite stones each weigh 20kg, but it's all about sliding, not throwing and players from 8 to 80 can take part.

Sunny and calm?

Take to the sky. At Mandeville, near Gore, Ryan will fly you in a Tiger Moth up to 305m and, if you're willing, turn you upside down. This is back-to-basics flying in a leather jacket and helmet, open to the sky. Doing a loop-de-loop, a wing-stall or a barrel roll is an experience you'll never forget (there are tamer options).

Back in the hangar a flock of immaculate, airworthy vintage aircraft includes several very rare machines, one of which, the Pither, makes the Tiger Moth look like Concorde. Next door, see the painstaking craftsmanship in their restoration, and see the flimsy bones beneath their fabric skin.

Cloudy and cool?

Then dog-sledding's on the cards with seven friendly Alaskan malamutes. Nigel and Rose, of Real Dog Adventures, near Ranfurly, will tell you why these gorgeous dogs are so superior to the huskies you were expecting, and give you a tour of the kennels. Enjoy a photo-op with a fat, furry puppy with a grinning face and lolling tongue, then let the adults out one by one to be loaded into the truck. At nearby Naseby Forest, Nigel will hitch them up in their custom-made harnesses and take you for a spin, sitting low in the bicycle-wheeled rig as the dogs pull it along. Back in the shop, see the traditional sleds Nigel makes, and watch video of the dogs in snow.

Dull and dry?

Learn about the original No 8 wire artist, Ernest Hayes, at his home and workshop near Oturehua in Ida Valley. In 1924 he patented the chain wire strainer that farmers all over the world still use, the water-trough windmill, the cattle stop, and the boot-scraper. He and his sons were famously busy and inventive. Their workshops are marvels of ingenuity and make-do. On an open day see the belt-powered machines at work in the sheds that smell of oil and tar, or wander the grounds, have coffee in the little mud-brick cottage where the Hayes raised nine children, and explore the Big House, a reward for wife Hannah who cycled the Maniototo, New Zealand's first travelling saleswoman.

Pouring down?

Visit Gore's Hokonui Moonshine Museum which details the history of illicitly-brewed beverages in the region - distilled in the Hokonui Hills during the gold rush and through 50 years of Prohibition, when even grog made from cabbage tree sap tasted good. It's a lively story, told well in multimedia. For something more refined, cross the road to see the Eastern Southland Art Gallery's world-class collections of works by Ralph Hotere, Rita Angus and Theo Schoon, as well as indigenous art from Australia, Africa and the US.

Further information: See centralotagonz.com and southlandnz.com.

- NZ Herald

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