Today I was able to check another item off my bucket list. Ever since watching the exciting, nail-biting, action-packed winter game of Olympic curling squeezed in on the television for five minutes during the day-time lulls between the figure skating freestyle championships or the giant slalom finals, I’ve said to myself, “Someday I must try curling because it just looks so darn fun.”
Well, that someday was today. Thanks to the advertising on the Otago Rail trail brochures, I learned that Naseby, New Zealand, only a 15 km side trip off the trail, is home to the Maniototo Curling Club which is the home of the New Zealand Olympic Curling team. After reading this I said to Eric, “We must go. It’s my birthday week and this is chance in a lifetime.”
After cycling about 8 km off our planned route and still riding on a bumpy gravel road, I was thinking to myself. “These Olympic curling athletes need to do some more fundraising and get the road to their rink paved.” (Actually, that wasn’t exactly what I was thinking. I was really thinking, I must be on the wrong road. What Olympic curling athlete would settle for this kind of drive every day to practice?!”
We did eventually connect to a paved road and arrived in Naseby. Naseby is sheep station out in the middle of nowhere. We cycled into the metropolis of Naseby never seeing another car of person except for an orange Morris Minor 1000 parked alone on the side of the main street. The cafe was closed. The library was empty. The park’s cricket field lacked players. The place was deserted.
After checking into our camp site we cycled back through the deserted town to the Maniototo Curling Club. From the parking lot we could tell that four of the five cars in front we tourist rentals.
I also noticed a Trip Advisor sticker on the window so I knew that some tourists had thought it was fun, too We checked into the office and were instructed to head upstairs and watch a training video before we were let loose on the ice.
The video was great. It was hosted by a handsome Ozzie wearing a fluffy, white down coat and claiming to be the Olympic team trainer. His warm-looking coat reminded me that I might get cold out on the ice so I pulled on my down jacket and put my rain coat on top just to be sure I , too, would be warm. Cute Olympic trainer guy then narrated while some actors and actresses (usually young kids or senior citizens because they are the only people who have time for this action-packed game) showed us how to push the stone down the sheet hard enough to cross the hog thus making the stone eligible for a point.
After the video I felt ready for the ice.
The receptionist/curling trainer instructed us to put on some grippers (rubber over soles so we wouldn’t slip on the ice) and walked us to the sheet. She showed us how to hold the stone, where to aim, how to use our legs for momentum, and how to release the stone with just a bit of twist to make the stone turn slowly and land perfectly in the ring at the other end of the sheet.
Our training was briefly interrupted when a female senior citizen two sheets over fell flat on her back and hip looking like she might need an ambulance. (She did manage to turn herself over, crawl to the edge of the sheet and push herself up to a stand…thank goodness!)
After a few practice stone pushes down the sheet, the trainer/receptionist left Eric and me to practice and play our own game.
We had a lot more fun than I would have anticipated and agreed that we would curl again when the opportunity presents itself.
More importantly, I can now watch Olympic curling and understand the thrill of knocking the opponent out of scoring range and sweeping a stone to successful winning position.