It was a busy few days in Invercargill for the Sparks New Zealand Development Group. As mentioned, we were hosted out of the Waihopai Rowing club and the group put nearly 50 miles on the beautifully flat river over the three days we were there. The technical focus of the first day and a half transitioned into speed work on the water in the latter rows there, prepping for some on-the-water trials in Queenstown.
Around the water sessions, the group got in a good amount of sight seeing and team bonding. Our few short days in town found two of the group, Malcolm and Sasha, celebrating birthdays which the rest of the group thought a great occasion for all sorts of birthday traditions from the normal cake, to the more obscure, rowing specific birthday toss in the water. All had a good time sharing in the fun and the sugary treats.
The group was also able to make a quick trip to the Bluff, one of the oldest settlements in New Zealand and home to the famous Bluff oysters. Bluff Oysters are considered a New Zealand delicacy and a must-try when traveling in the Southland. While at a lookout tower at the Bluff with majestic views of Stewart Island, a rural reserve and of the only places where Kiwi birds will come out during the day, the group was given an opportunity to try the delicacy of raw Bluff oysters and all but one took advantage with a hilarious range of reactions.
Finally, Peter Sinclair, our host at Waihopai, introduced the group to the wonderful boathouse past time of the gum boot toss competition. With the group getting used to launching without docks by wading knee deep into the water, many have taken to wearing “gum boots” (rain boots, or wellies in many other parts of the world) to keep their feet dry upon launching and as a result have become quite proficient at tossing them ashore from a distance as they row off. Peter hosted the first annual Sparks Program Gum Boot Toss Competition, and it was a tremendous showing of athletic prowess by all.
After a few busy days of training and adventuring, the group woke early Wednesday for a trip into Milford Sound, considered one of the most beautiful places on the planet and the subject of the next upcoming post!