What the Phark is this?
You might wonder what the phark is this? Even this word (phark) I write and you have never heard before.
No, no, this is not correct. You HAVE heard it before. You have only not read it this way.
Read it out loud – with a long a and neglecting the r - and you will know.
I assure you, I normally do not even use this word. Believe it or not. Better not. But I normally do not write it. You can believe this.
We are in Phar Lap town, as Timaru is the home of Australasia’s most famous racehorse ever.
Get into the details of this story in my Off the Beaten Path tip. You might not be from New Zealand or Australia and most probably have no idea who the phark this horse is.
You cannot really escape the Phar Lap pride in Timaru anymore, as they have commissioned a second huge sculpture of the horse and placed it near the entrance of the Racecourse at the northern end of the township. (I wanted to write “city” but when I discussed the city or town issue with a friend some young ladies walked past us and said: “This is not a city!!!” So be it. Timaru Town.)
The reason for this pharkin tip is classic Kiwi humour, as you find it in rural areas. I have not seen anything funnier in the whole country.
And it started like this: My friend has apple grower relatives near Timaru, and we visited together. It comes out, they live not far from the old sparkling white Phar Lap sculpture which stands outside the property in Seadown where he was born. I was rather proud of my knowledge about Phar Lap that I had studied for a newspaper story and my VT tip. But Peter said: “I bet you do not know everything about him.” I answered: “I sure know where his two sculptures are, and all the history.” Peter insisted: “But I will show you something you do not know.” And so we drove off in his 4WD.
Soon he stopped in the middle of the road (no traffic as we were more or less in the middle of nowhere between paddocks and orchards) and pointed to a farmgate where fresh eggs were advertised.
But he did not want to point out the eggs sign on the ground but the sign in the centre of the gate. It read: “Phar Cup”. Phar Cup? (And a yellow plastic cup beside it on a board.) Read out loud… Phar Cup!
We were still laughing when Peter stopped at the next gate. “Phar-Kit”, said the sign.
The next one was: “Pharkinoath”.
The next: “Phar-Coff”.
A huge sign beside it damned the guy who wants to quarry in the middle of this quiet rural landscape, with the words: “Phark-off Quarry”.
Finally someone signed the gate to his walnut plot with: “Pharkin Nuts”.
And then we finally arrived at the white Phar Lap sculpture I had visited before.
What a laugh!
I thought it was extraordinary that a whole, admittedly small community demonstrates such a unique and united sense of humour, blowing a fresh breeze into the soon one century old tale of the legendary racehouse, not taking themselves too seriously. I hope never ever a bureaucrat dares to think that those signs are inappropriate. Believe me, this country of free speech and relaxed attitudes also is a country of political correctness where some killjoys spoil everything. Let me thank those funny guys for those hilarious minutes, making us scream and laugh from joy.
We had driven this road (Seadown Road) before but I would never have given it a thought to look at the names on all those gates. Thank you, Peter, for revealing this masterpiece of local humour.
Best you follow the directions (and sign) to the Phar Lap Memorial from SH 1, north of Timaru. Seadown Road starts in Washdyke, north of Timaru. Turn right here if you come from Timaru. After about 5 km you will see the white horse sculpture on your right. Carry on SLOWLY straight ahead and look at the gates on your left and your right, and you will find all the Pharkin signs. If you are not interested just Phar-Coff ;-)))
If you come from the north, 5 km after the southern end of Temuka turn left into Beach Road. In Seadown (after about 2 km) turn right into Seadown Road and look out for the gates.
See all those pharkin signs in the travelogue about NZ's most hilarious road at the bottom of my Timaru intro page.
- Arts and Culture
Phar Lap Memorial for the greatest Race Horse
You will not just drive past this memorial even if you visit Timaru. I did not even seen the sign that leads to it for several years – if the sign has always been there… ;-)
It is located 5 km east of SH 1. You have to turn off the highway at the northern end of Timaru into Seadown Rd and follow the (yellow) sign, saying “Phar Lap Memorial”.
You can also turn off SH 1 further north at a big sign to the "Ravensdown Fertilizer" plant.
The memorial that honours the most famous race horse New Zealand and Australia have ever seen, stands at the intersection of two narrow country roads, surrounded by shrubs, at the corner of a property where Phar Lap was born on 4 October 1926. The a little smaller than life-sized statue is made of white Oamaru stone, and was unveiled on 30 October 1988.
BTW Timaru's racecourse near the turn off on SH 1 is named after Phar Lap, and in November 2009 they have unveiled a life size Phar Lap sculpture on the grounds of the racecourse.
Let’s make one thing clear from the start: Although Australia hails Phar Lap as its wonder horse of all times, and they celebrate him as a national icon, this chestnut coloured gelding is a New Zealander. But like so many New Zealanders nowadays who want to pay less taxes and earn more he went to Australia – however not on his own accord, of course ;-)
At least the Aussies admit this fact, and when Phar Lap died after a mystery illness – or after being poisoned by arsenic, as Australian researches claimed in 2006 - on 5 April 1932 in California, his remains were shared between the two countries:
The heart went to the National Institute of Anatomy in Canberra (now the National Museum). The skeleton went to the Dominion Museum (now Te Papa in Wellington). The hide, now mounted, went to the National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne, where Phar Lap won many of his richest races. In total Phar Lap won 37 of his 51 races, got three second and two third places – and won 36 of his last 41 starts. He became the Aussie’s hero during the Great Depression when they needed it most. The National Museum of Victoria has dedicated many pages on its website to Phar Lap. This reflects how big a hero he was and in their hearts still is.
Anyway. Phar lap was foaled in Timaru on 4 October 1926. A Sydney trainer named Harry Telford who passionately studied thoroughbred bloodlines, and so discovered the horse that was going for sale in New Zealand. He was sure the horse was a future champion. But as he was broke he talked an American businessman living in Sydney – David J. Davis - into buying the horse. Harry Telford’s brother Hugh who lived in New Zealand, won the bid for the horse at the Trentham Sales in 1927. It sold at 160 guineas. Nobody had seen Phar Lap until then – and when the new owner saw the big, gangly animal, the face covered in warts, he did not want anything to do with it. But again Telford could strike a deal with Davis: He agreed to cover the costs of training and would in return keep two thirds of the winnings…
After having dominated the local racing scene and won every national race, some even twice, and being the third highest stake-winner in the world, Phar Lap was set to conquer the USA. The trip included a six week break in Auckland, his home country. By then he was called The Red Terror and Big Red. Then the gelding won North America’s richest race, the Agua Caliente Handicap, near Tijuana in Mexico. Two weeks later he was dead.
Links to museums' websites and Wikipedia article:
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Our drive to the Lake started off very good, but by the time we reached Lake Tekapo, the weather was not the best. The wind had come up in this area, and was blowing our Camper Van around, and the Lake, well, it wasn't like any of the lovely photo's I had seen. It was like the ocean with heaps of white caps and not a pretty blue! What a disappointment, but you can't do anything about the weather!
We did see the Sheep Dog statue on the lake’s edge, which is in memory of the hardy mustering dogs “without the help of which the grazing of this mountainous country would be impossible.”
Nearby is The Church of the Good Shepherd built in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country. Congregations of the three main faiths worship in this Church. If it is open, which it wasn't when we were there, the views of the lake and mountains through the altar window are meant to be beautiful!
- Sailing and Boating
Nail your Shoes to the Shoe Tree in Temuka
If we did not have friends in Temuka, a nice, little town north of Timaru, and if they had not told us to turn our heads when we passed it, we would not have noticed this extraordinary tree. Yes, they have a shoe tree in Temuka! The trunk is covered in all kinds of shoes, from jogging shoes to high-heels, and it is amazing to which height people got to nail their shoes to the giant pine tree.
It started in the mid nineties, a bit like the famous and now demolished bra fence in Cardrona. Somebody nailed a pair of shoes to the trunk, probably after one drink too many, and others found it so funny that they followed the example, and now you can admire an impressive collection of footwear. It is a bit like an open-air museum for shoes.
The tree is located at the Domain, on Domain Avenue, opposite Gammack Street.
If you travel south on State Highway 1, you turn left right after the town centre, into Domain Avenue. There is also a yellow sign indicating "Holiday Park". The Domain and the tree are on the right side, half way down the Domain.
On the way back to SH1 you can turn left after the Domain and have a look and/or relax at the Torepe Fields which is another big park. It is named after a very distinguished Maori leader.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
the yellow eyed blue Pinguin
when driving from Timaru towards Dunedin, you can't miss the wee Town of Oamaru, it's beautiful white Buildings and the Homeplace of Janet Frame, one of NZ best known Writers...if you like to know more, mail me or visit my Oamaru page
but most people come for the little yellow eyed blue Pinguin, I don't blame them, just so unique to NZ and so in danger. signs will greet you all over the place..so take care..especially when on the Road at nite...they're crossing!
- National/State Park
- Road Trip
Moeraki Boulders - Otago
About an hour and a bit drive south of Timaru you will find a town called Moeraki. A little fishing village on the coast south of Oamaru has become famous for a geological wonder on its windswept sands.
Huge Concreations have appeared out of the cliff, and litter the beach like pebbles.
Moeraki makes a fascinating stopover point, both for the dramatic coastal scenery and the curious geological phenomenon on the beaches.
Make sure you have a change of clothes if you wish to climb over the boulders as sometimes waves wash up onto them (I got drenched just after the photo was taken)
Also a good pair of shoes that you dont mind getting dirty or a pair of Gumboots for walking on the beach.
- Budget Travel
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This is a small beach walk around the coast from Caroline bay.
My friends and I used to go here on the odd weekend to have 'Bonfire Parties'
I'm pretty sure these were illegal back then (drinking in a public place, Open Fires) But this is a nice place just to walk out to. it is called Dashing rocks because the Water washes up against the cliff and crashes (looking like its Dashing up against the rocks then leaving again) Very Spectacular and something just a little different. There are also rock pools, that you can look at starfish, crabs and other little creatures, Depending on the Tide. Good for keeping small minds occupied on wintery afternoons (those clear sunny winter afternoons) Keep an eye on your kids especailly around the cliffs, that are easy to climb, but because of erosion there isnt always a top to the cliff face.
I shall try and put some photos up in the next couple of months!
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