When my mum arrived in New Zealand she was disappointed that as an Australian they barely looked at her passport and there was no way it was getting stamped. Like many travellers she loves looking at her passport and remembering where she's been, but she missed the chance to get one of the rarest stamps while she was here in Kiwiland.
For an afternoon Simon and I slipped across the guarded border (an unmanned toilet) from New Zealand into the Republic of Whangamomona. This plucky nation state declared itself independent when local councils tried to move this staunchly Taranaki town into the district of Wanganui/Manawatu. To pass safely through the area you have to buy a passport from the cafe or the pub which usually means stopping for some home-cooked muffins or the national beer. I buy a passport and feel obliged to try the local ale.
As ambassadors of our nation, Simon and I meet the current president, Murt Kennard, who also runs the cafe that serves up some rather nice muffins. Over a cup of coffee, Murt gives us a quick description of the town's history. Since 1988, Whanga has had four presidents including a goat (the JFK-like Billy, who was much-loved but taken from his citizens too early) and more recently a poodle, but Murt came to power in 2005 on the country's Republic Day. This bi-annual event attracts more than 5000 visitors with a special train from Auckland bringing people in to watch pig races, possum skinning, the Gutbuster run and, of course, the swearing-in of a new president.
Murt doesn't seem to take his office too seriously and reckons it hasn't changed his life too much. He casually conducts our diplomatic discussions in his tracky dacks, but he draws the line when it comes to the presidential chain of office. When I ask if I can try on the chain of beer tops, pig tusks and dried fruit ('for long meetings'), Murt's mood changes and it's like I took the name of former Prez Billy in vain. It's clear some things are sacred and not for the common people, but I still should be able to apply for the job as Town Jester at the 2007 Republic Day.
List of the Day
Best Price of the Day: Soy milk in coffee $1 - soy beans don't require milking, huge amounts of pasture and several corny ad campaigns, but why not whack an extra dollar onto a three buck cup of java? This is the kind of thing that makes people secede.
Treat of the Day: Kalahari Meaty Treats - this store was only open on Saturdays, but we wanted to come back to see if these treats were for humans.
Best Local Sports: Pig hunting and motorcycling - I'm hoping there's some kind of combination of both that will appear in a coke ad soon.