New Zealand was not putting on quite the Kiwi summer we were expecting. Although almost always hot and humid, days would flux from being sunny with brilliant blue skies, to drizzly, wet and miserable. Today was one of those types of days. We were going stir-crazy. It was time to explore a little of our surroundings. After a quick fifteen minute drive we left Otorohanga for Waitomo.
Waitomo is a well-known tourist attraction town (?) / village (?), I’m not really sure what you would call it, but its fame as a tourist attraction arises from the glow-worm caves in the area and the assortment of tourist activities available, from abseiling, black water rafting in caves, to cultural shows. It is a must-visit destination to anyone new to New Zealand. Today, however, was not a wonderful showcase for the area. The heavy rain, although making everything look lush and green, was also rather cold and not inspiring for a day in the cold damp depths of the ground such as exploring caves. That, we decided, would be left for another day. Instead we made use of the local information center, or the i-Site Center, as it’s referred to here. While there we stocked up on brochures on attractions and things to do locally and all over New Zealand, and grabbed the free maps and novel-sized accommodation guides we thought might come in useful in the future. But we still wanted to do something now! And so we decided on an inside cultural show five minutes up the road. In truth, I decided… and twisted Martin’s arm. The cultural show was a bit of a celebration of New Zealand farming culture, and as I was brought up on a farm, a very, very, long time ago, I wanted Martin to experience a taste of it while I saited my nostalgic cravings.
The Woodlyn Park Kiwi Culture Show was a one man show performed by Billy Black; the picture of a true Kiwi Farmer bloke. Driving up to what reminded me of a classic woolshed, we entered into Billy Blacks domain, and with time to spare before the show began we explored. Not just looking but also smelling like a woolshed; wood, oil, dust, damp, and sheep poo, mingled together to fragrance the place as we explored what looked to be both a bar and a large dining area. Long wooden tables capable of seating large groups spread out in the center of the large room where an assortment of old and odd furniture, tools, and farming equipment, stood against or hung from every wall.
The second room we entered was stranger still, and obviously where the show was to take place. A makeshift stage complete with handmade curtains, obviously sewn together by a farmer and not a seamstress, lined one wall. Almost all of the rest of the room was mix-matched tiered seating for the audience. Very filthy and dusty with spider webs and bird poo everywhere, it seemed to only enhance the organic experience awaiting us.
And so the show began. Dressed in classic farmer attire Billy Black graced the stage as comedian, and farmer, and former Sheep Shearing Champ. As he shared the history of forestry and farming in New Zealand he brought kids from the audience on stage to cut wood, me to blow wood up, and Martin to be his muscle as he demonstrated old-time sheep shearing, (before electricity was used to power the shearing piece). And then there was an introduction of some of his friends. With the ingenious use of levers and pulleys to open gates outside to allow particular animals to march their own way into the building, (saving him getting wet as it was still raining), we were introduced to a donkey, trick-performing pig, a renegade chicken, a demonstration of sheep-herding by his dogs on stage, and a Kiwi Bear.
I had never heard of a Kiwi Bear before and wouldn’t have put it past him to have invented a strange hybrid creature to entertain us. But as the audience’s ohhs, and ahhs began it was obvious that the Kiwi Bear he referred to was a possum. I had seen pictures of American opossums before, and to all those people reading this who haven’t seen a New Zealand Possum before – they do look quite different, and extremely cute. Similar in size and looks to a cat with a slightly bushier tail and narrower face, it is easy to forget they’re considered rather destructive pests here. With Billy Black holding him like a baby it was rather hard to comprehend this.
And for a climatic finale Billy Black graced the stage on the back of a giant steer, (for you non-farmer folk – riding a castrated bull). What he hadn’t counted on was the fact the bull seemed to be suffering from explosive diarrhea and as the audience in the front row fled for their dignity, a straggling middle-aged man narrowly missed what could have been an unfortunate intimacy with a bulls backside. Martin and I remained safe, being smart enough in the beginning to have chosen seats a few rows back, but the ending hilarity made the show all the more memorable.