Sunday, 27 December 2009
There is some beautiful scenery on the Chatham Islands that I wanted my sweetie and sister-in-law to explore and my brother and I to revisit. A natural attraction heading out towards the western side of Chatham Island is the area of volcanic rock known comprising of basalt columns. The columns are a curious sight; each column stands individually yet gently touches the one next to it. They are accessed off-road via private farm land. Over the years, erosion has diminished their height and stature, but the columns are still a remarkable sight to see and unusual for this part of the world.
27 and 31 December are also race days on the Chatham Islands. More than a dozen races (gallops and trotting) are run, each with 3-5 entries. Held at the racecourse just opposite my family's land (and on land which is partly owned by us), race day is one of the highlights of the Chatham Island social calendar, where everyone goes to catch up with others and have a day in the sun. It's also a day for food and drink; my sweetie tried smoked eel for the first time, along with pipi and, later in the day, inanga. Here is a photo of the grandstand, although most cars drive into the centre of the racecourse and set up there for the day.
Various sweepstakes are operated and moderate betting takes place on each event. My sweetie and I are terrible gamblers. (We set ourselves a limit of $20 each and one hour at a casino on the Gold Coast last year, and left after 15 minutes, having spent just $1 between us!) Still, he was keen to have a punt on a local horse and blindly splashed out a big $3 on horse #3 in the last race. It might have been a better idea to have a look at the horses and jockeys in the holding pen before committing such a big investment to the cause; Wild Eye was the smallest horse on the field and sporting the largest rider. We should have been suspicious when the other two horses emerged to take their place at the starting line with very little fuss, but Wild Eye was mostly jumping around sideways, which is pretty much what he did throughout the race! Here is Wild Eye, bringing up the rear by quite a substantial margin.