|Beach across from The Pavillion.|
Tip: Invercargill is blissfully flat.
My home away from home was the Ascot Park Hotel, near the track and more motel than hotel with an indoor pool and a good restaurant. Rooms were large and well equipped and the staff as friendly and helpful as any encountered in New Zealand, especially Peter Risdale, the genial executive manager. An avid hunter and fisherman, he even raided his own freezer so our group of travel writers could sample the Southland's wild delicacies. We might not have appreciated the locally esteemed mutton bird, but we adored his enthusiasm and generosity.
You can't miss the Southland Museum - it's in the largest pyramid in the Southern hemisphere (try that for a bar bet). I'm told it has some great exhibits but I went straight to the tuatara area where we met curator Lindsay Hazley and his protege, Henry, a sometimes affable lizard who is the patriarch of the breeding group. Hazley filled us in on tuatara (pronounced too-ah-tah-rah) lore.
|Female tuatara peeking out from her burrow.|
Once every two to five years the female will be ready to mate. If she's interested in the male sitting outside her burrow they will mate and eight or nine months later she will lay and bury six to 10 eggs. Then it's an 11- to 16-month wait for babies to hatch. If the soil around the eggs is warm, most if not all will be males. If it is cool, look for females.
|Harry has a shy moment.|
|One of Henry's male "helpers|
Once hatched the tuatara is here to stay. They mature sexually in 15 to 20 years and can live to be over 100. Perhaps we could, too, if we could do without water, breathe only once an hour and had a third eye on the top of our heads. And, dear readers, that's no doubt the most lizard lore you'll ever encounter in a travel story.
|Speedy Burt Munro Indian|
You may not care an oil can about motorcycles, but do stop in at E. Hayes & Sons, Ltd. It's the home of the original Indian, owned by Burt Munro, on which he broke so many land speed records. The speedy Southlander set the World Record class S-A 1000cc with an average speed of 183.568 (one way 190.07 mph). That was at Bonneville in 1967. Monroe had done all the modification work himself. The bike was 47 years old, Monroe was 68. The record still stands.
|Bikes and birdhouses share space at E. Hayes.|
Te Hikoi, Heritage and Cultural Centre , Southern Journey Museum, is about 25 minutes from Invercargill and well worth a visit. Start with a movie in the sailing ship theater and learn about the area's past and the wealth of characters who filled it.
|Owen McShane's products.|
|Carrot cake at the Pavillion.|