Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Burt and the Albatross

Invercargill lies near the southern tip of the South Island and was the home of Burt Munro. The story of Burt and his early 1920s Indian Scout racing bike was brought to the public in the 2005 movie, The World’s Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins. Burt was bit of a speed freak, mechanical genius, and eccentric all rolled into one. His dream was to race his bike on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and the movie details his exploits in gaining his dream. The E. Hays and Sons Hardware store in Invercargill has some of Burt’s bikes on display along with several other old motos. It is sort of fun to admire the machines scattered amonst the paint, chain saws and other things you find in a big hardware store; it was a memorable visit.

Highway 1 ends just south of Invercargill in Bluff, and the AA has installed a sign post indicating the mileages to several distant parts of the world. The Drunken Sailor Restaurant sits on the bluff overlooking the cape and was a good place to chow down before the long ride to Dunedin.

We took the coastal road through the Catlins for the next 250 km. For the first time on our trip, the horizon was not punctuated by a mountain or two, but that did not last long and soon we were winding and twisting our way through more curvy roads.

The next morning (Jan 28) we rode out along the edge of the Otago Peninsula to the Royal Albatross Center to see these huge and graceful birds. They stand over three feet tall and have a nine foot wingspan; they are experts at energy conservation and swoop and soar with very little wing flapping involved. As a pilot, I admired the aerodynamics they so naturally exhibited. Our tour also included visiting the Armstrong Disappearing Gun at Fort Taiaroa which was built in the late 1860’s when the Kiwis thought they might be invaded by the Russians (never happened).

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