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Sweepers, sliders and brooms, houses and hog lines, sticks and stones... it all sounds, well, a little Harry Potter-esque. But it’s not the wizard’s sport of quidditch we’re talking here, rather the ancient Scottish sport of curling. And with the southern hemisphere’s only dedicated indoor rink located in Naseby—the curling capital of New Zealand—it’s a must-do experience on any trip through Central Otago, summer or winter.

Basically, curling is a bit like bowls on ice. Players slide large granite stones towards a target area—the house: the closer the stones are to the centre of the house, the higher the score. And, like pretty much most games, the highest score wins.

Getting to Naseby is easy. Head towards the mountains from the township of Ranfurly and fifteen minutes later the road descends through plantation forest to the 1860s’ gold-mining village: population –120, curling clubs – 5. When locals say curling’s not a sport, rather an incurable disease the passion is palpable.

And it’s one they’re happy to share with visitors. Spread over an hour and a half at the international and Olympic standard rink, this really is Curling 101.

First, it’s upstairs to the viewing gallery and a five minute introductory video. Watch carefully; it could mean the difference between a win and a loss. 

Then, back downstairs, get fitted for the essential anti-slip shoe covers before heading through to the rink. The balmy seven degree celcius air temperature belies the sheet-ice playing surface, making it easy to concentrate on instructions from the coach as well as eye up the opposition.

So far so good but the stones each weigh 20 kilograms so there’s technique to be learnt, and skill to be mastered: how to deliver the stone (using a stick, slide or a ‘throw’); how to sweep the ice and make the stone move faster; how to keep the stones in play between the hog lines; and, of course, how to curve or ‘curl’ the stone.

Then, well practiced, let the games—and the fun—begin. Two teams, eight stones each. Listen to the ‘roar’ of the stones on ice, and the cheers of supporters as technique improves with each curl of the stone.

Finally, head upstairs to the bar for a little Scottish ‘reward’ or into the village to sample some true southern hospitality.

The Maniototo International indoor curling rink is open all year round, with the summer months of February, March and April being the busiest. During that period, bookings are essential. Many local cycling tour operators include a curling option in their itineraries.

www.curling.co.nz

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