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Tim Mulholland's Illuminata Photo | 2013 | February

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Invercargill

Looking west across Invercargill; Fiordland National Park's mountains are in the background; the Water Tower is on the left side.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for several months.  But, being the photographer, I also wanted some nice photos to go along with my story. Which brings me to the first piece of the story – Invercargill’s weather.

 

 

I do have to write that the weather the past six weeks or so has been marvelous.  It’s wonderful to enjoy the long, warm days here while reading about blizzards, snow storms and cold weather back in the States.  Yes!, we do miss our “normal” seasons, but not so much so that we’re going to deprive ourselves of enjoying life here.  During the austral spring, the weather here was fine, especially if you’re a duck.  Seriously, it rains more than back in Madison.  And, the wind blows quite a bit harder than there, too. But, the nice thing about the rain here is that there will be a pleasant (or hard) shower for just a few minutes, and then it’s over for a few hours, and the sun will break through the clouds.  People here tend to not get too worked up by the rain – it’s a part of life.  Some people will be wearing rain gear, while others are just grinning and bearing it in their “normal” clothing.  Also, it’s our understanding that if it doesn’t rain for three days in a row, then they consider it a drought.  The weather in the Invercargill area should be pretty pleasant through February.  It’s certainly not at all hot, but it is nice to run around in shorts & t-shirts, and to then occasionally put on your warmer clothes.  And, it’s still not so warm that I’ve brought myself to swim too much in the cool southern Pacific waters, although Aras & Julija have certainly taken advantage of the opportunities.  But, the common grey periods did keep me from getting out and collecting a nice gallery of local photographs in a more timely manner.

 

 

Invercargill reminds me of many midwestern towns/cities.  It’s one of the major cities in New Zealand and the largest in the southern part of the country, south of Dunedin (which is a very beautiful city!!).   Invercargill is primarily an agricultural center for the region’s sheep and dairy farms, and row crops.  In this way, it sort of reminds me of Platteville, Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa.  There’s a large aluminum smelter, Tiwai, just to the south of Invercargill that is a major regional employer, and Tiwai consumes about 85% of the electricity produced by the Manapouri Hydropower Plant. Invercargill sits on the coastal plain and it’s pretty flat, and there are a lot of stream/drainage channels around town because of rain and the flat topography.   And, with all of the flat topography, on a clear day, you can see the snow on the mountains in Fiordland National Park in the west, as well as all of the mountains to the north.

 

 

Invercargill also feels like a safe place to live. Asta’s been walking a kilometer to and from work without any complaints other than the occasional rain. And, we don’t miss the gun violence of the US – ugh! In fact, US gun violence is one of the most common things that locals bring up with us. I’ve left the garage door open while we’re away from the house more times than I’m willing to admit and we’ve not had an intruder – whew!

 

 

Our home, like most homes, is small relative to American standards, but it’s also very pleasant and tight having been built in the past couple of years. Most houses in Invercargill are single story; I’m not certain why, but it might have something to do with the strong winds, the possibility of earthquakes, heating or just culture.  Speaking of heating, most homes here are heated with either a small heat pump or a wood- or coal-fired stove.  In most cases, the heat pump or stove resides in or near the living room.  In colder weather, you hope that the heat migrates to your bedroom!  Electricity is relatively expensive, compared to the States, as is LPG (liquid propane gas).  Our home uses LPG to heat our water, and we’ll have to replace about a bottle a month. Now, with the expense of heating and understanding how windy it is here, it also is very interesting how many people will have windows opened in their homes, even on some of the coldest days, just to let fresh air circulate!  I’ve asked a couple of people why and they don’t know why – it’s just a custom.  And, they do think twice when I ask them about leaving the windows open and the cost of heating.  But, it is a nice custom because the air in our Fitchburg home does get kind of stale during the winter!

 

 

All of the coal and wood heating does produce an interesting issue here that you don’t find much any more in the States – localized air pollution.  There are many cool, quiet mornings when you can wake up and smell the smoke and sulfur in the air.  I’ll end up sneazing a time or two most mornings, usually because of something in the coal smoke.  Fortunately, the wind picks up and it’s not a major issue through the rest of the day.   But, it is a significant enough issue that air quality is measured and reported here in Invercargill by Environment Southland.

 

 

In Invercargill, we’re easily able to find everything that we need for a comfortable life.  Now, “everything” might be slightly different from what we know in the States, but it’s still here.  And, if it’s not here, then we don’t need it.  If you’re interested in visiting Invercargill, we have a McDonald’s and Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway sandwiches, television, radio and internet (off course we have internet or you wouldn’t be reading this!).  Just because we’re at the end of the earth doesn’t mean it’s not civilized!  I’ve found the national classical music station, but do miss my Wisconsin Public Radio fix! The local cuisine is nice and pleasant, and might also be described as “understated.” 🙂 We’ve come to enjoy our times of eating at Little India restaurant and have learned to order our food’s “spicieness” as “Indian medium to hot” rather than “Kiwi hot” (which is mild to medium, according to our palates).

 

 

Invercargill also seems to be a very sports-minded town, but that’s probably true for most Kiwi cities.  Muir played at Queen’s Park golf course when he was here, which is in the biggest park in town, where you can also find cricket fields and lawn bowling (gotta remember that English heritage!).  The Southland Stags rugby team are an important part of the local scene and we’re looking forward to taking in a match or two during the upcoming season.  One of our favorite places is the Splash Palace, a beautiful indoor pool/aquatic center where the kids took lessons through school in October and November.  We also have access to the ocean via Oreti Beach, which is about a twenty-minute drive west of town.

 

 

Bicycling is also a very important past time for many people in Southland. You’ll see quite a few bicyclists out enjoying the open country on any given day.  The major local bicycle club is Cycling Southland and Invercargill is home to it’s own velodrome.  More importantly, Invercargill and Southland are the home for several London 2012 Olympic and Para-Olympic cyclists. While visiting her parent’s Niagara Fall’s Cafe in Waikawa a few days ago, we were very fortunate to be able to gently hold Laura Thompson‘s gold, silver and bronze medals that she won in tandem cycling this past August.

 

 

And, Invercargill is home to Southland Hospital and the Southern District Health Board, Asta’s place of employment:

Health wise, Invercargill seems to be “typical” to me, but you should talk with Asta.  What I can tell you is that there are fewer morbidly obese people in Invercargill when compared to Wisconsin!

 

 

Finally, here’s a gallery of photographs so that you might briefly appreciate Invercargill like we do!

 

 

If you’d like to enjoy your own little piece of Invercargill, I’d encourage you to watch the movie “Two Little Boys.”  It was filmed in and around Invercargill. You’ll particularly enjoy this movie if you like dark, childish comedies…  But, don’t blame me if you don’t like it (although, I enjoyed it!)…

 

 

Again, thank you for reading and viewing!

 

 

46 S. EnZed signing off…

Posted in Invercargill, New Zealand Tagged , , , |

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