Visitor in no mood to savour the attractions

It seems Eketahuna has been visited in recent days by a highly disgruntled John MacGibbon, who maintains a blog titled Martinborough Musings.

He lives partly in Wellington, and partly in Martinborough, in the wine-growing bit of the Wairarapa. And he’s hard to please.

On Easter Saturday he headed for the Mt Bruce national wildlife centre.

We hadn’t been for eight or ten years and as it keeps getting trumpeted as a great tourist attraction we thought it was time to check it out again.

Unfortunately it was disappointing and gave poor value for the $15 entrance charge.

The wetlands at Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre were nice enough.

Mt Bruce is supposed to be a paradise for birdlovers, with all the endangered species that have been nurtured there, but they were mostly invisible.

Mostly invisible? Or well camouflaged, maybe.

But the bloody ingrates should have flaunted themselves and maybe performed a haka or something, so visitors got their money’s worth.

We saw very little in the netted enclosures. Perhaps if we’d hung around for an hour at each location we’d have seen more, but you’d have to be a serious enthusiast to do that sort of thing.

Ah, there we have it. A bloke in a hurry. No time to wait for the wildlife to come out to play.

All we saw in the enclosures was one kokako, one stitchbird and three or four kakariki. We vaguely saw a kiwi poking about in the darkened kiwi house. Outside the enclosures we saw a couple of tui (which we can see any time we like on our property in Wellington) and a single takahe. There were some eels in a creek. The bush and wetlands were nice, but nothing to write home about. I’m sure we saw more birds last time we were there.

Such are his expectations, in other words, that even the kiwi – a nocturnal creature – is supposed to defy all its natural instincts and show itself off in daylight.

He describes the takahe as “just a big pukeko really.” Perhaps the Mt Bruce people should fill the area with bloody pukeko for people like him, pass them off as takahe, and he would be happy.

There was one big improvement though – an audio-visual centre whose very clever exhibits, opened late in 2008, were better than the ‘real thing’ outside.

This “big improvement” is very grudgingly acknowledged.

But here’s what really sticks in Alf’s craw:

On to Eketahuna for an indifferent “baked on the premises” meat pie and awful coffee. Poor old Eketahuna – every time we go there, the place has declined further. Very few of the main street shops are still open. The 18-hole golf course seems to be the most progressive thing in town.

Obviously he arrived in town feeling utterly pissed off after blowing $15 at the wildlife centre, and nothing would have made him appreciate the finer points of Eketahuna. The ambience and the Tui that flows in the public bar of Alf’s favourite boozer, for example. Can’t please ’em all, eh?

5 Responses to Visitor in no mood to savour the attractions

  1. Pleased to have given you something to write about…

    You don’t do irony, do you? My comment about the takahe being just a big pukeko should have been obviously tongue in cheek – ditto re the kiwi.

    Even DOC’s own website for the wildlife centre concedes that the outdoors part needs to be sorted out.
    We did call into the public bar, where we discovered zero ambience. Not a soul there. Not even a barman. Once upon a time my sister might have been wetting her whistle there. She lived in Eketahuna and worked in the BNZ. No sign of a BNZ now. Nor the other bank. Nor most of the businesses I used to know.

    One nice thing I can say about our visit to Eketahuna – the weather was great, and that’s not my usual experience of the place.

    Not that I’m suggesting the Wellington weather is any better!

  2. Alf Grumble says:

    So you prefer a different sort of ambience from that preferred by the good people of Eketahuna. Each to his own.

    As to the banks, yep, they’ve gone (a matter taken up on Alf Grumble’s blog on 18 December). A raft of small rural towns lost their banking facilities at much the same time – the number of branches in New Zealand was slashed by 42 per cent between 1993 and 1999. Some communities, like Eketahuna, Maungaturoto and Waipu, established money exchanges.

    No banks, maybe. But where did the wonderful and clever Deborah Coddington and Colin Carruthers, QC, buy the pigs they are raising at their vineyard near Martinborough? Not in their own neighbourhood. They know where to go to bring home the bacon – Eketahuna.

  3. For some years now, Eketahuna has also been exporting empty nice old houses to Martinborough, filling in our empty sections. My parents’ former house got trucked somewhere too.

    Re the ambience thing: I’m sure Eketahuna pubs exude tons of fine ambience when they have people in them. They didn’t last Saturday lunchtime, but no doubt things got under way later in the day.

  4. Alf Grumble says:

    Yes, indeed, we do export empty nice old houses to Martinborough. Happy to help out. But we hold on to our mansions and lodges.

  5. […] only barbarians who come through our town are visitors from the southern Wairarapa who complain about the coffee and the […]

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