The North vs South Curling Challenge

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September 28th 2014
Published: September 29th 2014
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As the weatherman had forecast we awoke to 0C temperature although there was no frost. The sky though was again clear and the sun making an appearance an hour later than what we had been getting used to as daylight saving had kicked in at 2am this morning.

Today is the day of the return of The North versus The South challenge with the Benvie’s representing the North and the Roughton’s, the South.

This time though it is to be in a sport that you do not hear a lot about unless you live in Central Otago or perhaps have an absolute passion for that you would travel all the way from Auckland to Naseby, as apparently some people do, just to play it.

The sport of course is curling.

For the Northern representatives this will be our first time gliding a 20kg flat, oval ‘stone ‘down the ice to have it stop in a house or bulls eye about 35 metres away. So we are hoping that a little tuition beforehand will get us up and running straight away.

We partner each other at Golf Croquet in doubles events and we have been together nearly 45 years so it shouldn’t take too long to gel and the get the idea of what to do.

First though it is another hearty breakfast to start the day off right

With the quails down from their nesting place eating their breakfast in the backyard Gretchen then spotted the possum that didn’t make it home last night and immediately switched places with me at the breakfast table so she wouldn’t be tempted to catch it out of the corner of her eye as we had breakfast.

Possum’s are a problem here as they are everywhere in the country eating the green growth in the garden and vegetable patch. Chris later ‘dropped ‘him/her off next to a road chip dump up the highway for the local falcon’s to devour.

The township was quiet as perhaps the locals hadn’t realised daylight saving had started and the hour had jumped forward from yesterday as we headed off to explore and visit the vast basin of several valleys that make up ‘Central’.

Heading north east on Highway 85 passing through Chatto Creek where Marilyn’s mother had grown up and spotted her home on the main road.

We then took a right hand turn off the main highway crossing the historic Dan O’Connell Bridge and cruised into Ophir,the town that got left behind when the railway came through Central in the late 1800’s and the railway developers chose Omakau for their station rather than have to build two bridges to pass through Ophir.

Ophir also holds the most unwanted New Zealand weather record of having the lowest temperature ever recorded in the country at around – 20C.

We carried on over the Raggedy Range and down into the Ida Valley and onto the small settlement on the Central Otago Rail Trail of Oturehua where we stopped at the general store to admire a huge collection of grocery items dating back over the years presented very much like a museum. They also sold grocery items including very original tasting liquorice allsorts.

It was getting near the starting time for the North vs. South Curling challenge and so we pressed onto the old gold mining town of Naseby.

Here, the International Curling Assoc have established in conjunction with the local community (most of whom we guess play the game) an indoor arena with 4 lanes of ice where you can hire a lane and play the game.

After some tuition by way of a video and then some personal instruction down on the ice the challenge got underway.

The first end saw the South score 1 point with the only stone in the ‘house’.

However the North hit back in the second end to equal the score as we got used to getting the right weight in gliding the stones along the ice and went ahead in the third end ,again with a single point.

However, Marilyn got a stone to finish very close to the bulls eye and then added a further stone making it difficult to move either one of them resulting in the South going ahead 3 – 2.

With the final end before our time ran out it was crucial for the North to be accurate and Gretchen’s first stone was an absolute cracker coming to a stop right over the centre of the ‘house’. She was able to add to that and with some defensive stones and Chris just missing a couple of times the North came through with 2 more points winning the North vs. South Challenge f0r 2014 by the narrowest of margins 4 – 3.

After shaking hands and declaring that this was great fun we adjourned to the Royal Hotel for a late pub style lunch and handle of beer in the sun.

We took a detour off Highway 85 to the historic settlement of St Bathans with its charming Vulcan Hotel and across the road the remains of the hillside that had been sluiced to find the gold that was found here in the 1860’s.

A further short detour took us up to Cambrians which was settled by the Welsh, to see the daffodils which a local with a shaggy grey beard, by the name of Bob gave us a free guided tour after a big hug each. Apparently anyone visiting gets ‘the big hug’.

We stopped in again at Ophir for a late coffee with Marilyn’s brother and sister in law who have ‘rebuilt ‘and renovated what had been the old butcher’s and Pitches general store into a boutique and very expensive B&B and cafe.

It was just after 6pm by the time we got home and by a unanimous vote it was fish and chips from the takeaway in the town for tea.

Having missed out on an hour of sleep this morning because of the start of daylight saving plus the factor of a busy day tripping around Central and the curling challenge we were not long in hitting the sack.

A most enjoyable day in the sun with great scenery and fun company.

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