Racing into the New Year

Christmas, check. New Year’s, check. Plans for the New Year that are both fun and responsible, check. Nothing to blog about, check. Here I am content as can be and nothing to write about. For days I’ve told myself get it together, come on Jill,  wrestle the computer away from the ever photo editing husband and write about all the quirky experiences that just keep a comin’.

So Gisborne is my town, for now. It is my sweet, little beach meets vineyard, forgotten about by everyone else oasis.  Except it is the first city in the world to ring in the New Year. Cue the Jaw’s soundtrack because they come, not sharks, even worse, people, lots of people.  The First City deal is enough reason to launch several days of festival style music in several different venues.  We briefly considered volunteering at one of the festivals but quickly thought better of it.  Usually Gisborne has a population of around thirty-three thousand. Not bad. The New Years’ celebrations bring in another thirty thousand to an area that the rest of the year is considered to be the complete wop wops – that’s Kiwi for out in the sticks.  And remember this isn’t like New Year’s in the Northern Hemisphere, here it is summer break as well. For the past week Gisborne has felt more Panama City, Florida than small town New Zealand. Ocean front parks turned into crowded campgrounds. The grocery store aisles were jammed with carts full of beer and barely dressed young, tan sorts. The line of cars coming from the beach went on forever.

We made a plan and even with our town invaded, we found nice ways to spend the week. We had to drive all the way past the airport, an extra kilometer or so to find some relatively empty beach but we found it cause again this is Gisborne – even when the main beaches are busy you can still get away from it all. We walked to a lighthouse that is only accessible at low tide. We bought wetsuits. We ate fish and chips on the beach. We watched the First Night celebration fireworks on the first. And on New Year’s eve day we were off to the races.

Tolaga Bay, an hour north of Gisborne, had New Year’s Eve beach horse racing. I dressed up in my new summer dress. I had a suspicion a dress might be a bit much for the event but come on it’s horse racing. This was a down home, casual affair. They lined em up on one end of the beach and men, women, big and little, young and old, raced their horses of the same description down the beach. Fifteen or so horses galloped down the beach, some practically in the surf, nothing between them and the onlookers except the good sense to stay out of the way. Betting was a bit different. These were considered charity races. You paid a dollar for a card with a letter on it then right before each race they would assign a letter to each horse. Go horse D!  Riders could enter the races right up until race time for just a few dollars. There were six races, the internet said start time would be at 10 AM, we arrived at 11, the program said first race at 12:30. First race turned out to be at 11:15.  Who knows?  That’s how they roll down here.

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