The Lions certainly roared throughout New Zealand during June and July. The team drew the series with the All Blacks and their huge supporter base spent up large in bars and restaurants from Northland to Dunedin.
I went to a few games in 2005 with a mate, the last Lions tour, and we had such a great time that there was no way we were going to miss them this time.
I went into the ballot for test tickets and although I had several entries, I only got tickets for the last test in Auckland. I was gutted about this as I thought the series would be all over by then, two–nil to the All Blacks. How wrong could I have been!
Anyway, our tour schedule included a trip down south for the Highlanders game, the Maori match in Rotorua, Hurricanes in the capital and the third test, which to the joy of many became the decider.
The four games were a memorable experience. We went mountain biking in Queenstown, where after my mate Tim got injured, we turned our interest into tasting Central Otago wines. It was during our Sunday wine tour that we met up with my old school mate Chris Keys, now the head winemaker at Gibbston Valley.
Chris gave us a tour of the winery, where he talked to us about the success of the tourism side of the winery and in his words: “Central Otago is well ahead of Hawke’s Bay when it comes to the wine trail experience.” Chris is featured on pages 8 and 9.
Queenstown was abuzz with star spotting with the likes of Tom Cruise in town for the filming of Mission Impossible 6. Another Hawke’s Bay export – a cellar door rep at Peregrine – suggested we go and have a drink at Atlas Bar where we might bump into some of the film crew. Her tip was spot on as we meet up with the technical sound crew, with one of the guys saying, “Superman will be joining us soon”.
We thought nothing of it but soon after a tall muscular guy turned up and was warmly welcomed by the crew. We talked for a while but I had no idea I was talking to Henry Cavill, the most recent Superman star.
Superman stayed for about an hour before flying off to rescue some damsel in distress (joking) while we moved on to a restaurant with the others, shared a bottle of Craggy Range Syrah and had a great evening.
We exchanged emails and urged them to visit Hawke’s Bay, if they got the chance.
We weren’t the only ones trying to lure visitors to Hawke’s Bay…
Hawke’s Bay Tourism set up a mini Hawke’s Bay experience in Wellington the day after the Hurricanes and Lions game. Local entrepreneur Rick Kirkland offered one of his two dome tents to Annie Dundas to promote the region’s tourism scene.
Rick bought two awesome large-scale domes last year and won the contract for Lions tour sponsor DHL to create a fan zone on the waterfronts of Wellington and Auckland, as well as the other match host regions.
Annie says the idea of ‘taking the Bay to the capital’ paid off, with many Lions fans visiting either between the Hurricanes game and the second test (also held in Wellington) or on their way back up to Auckland for the third test.
It was great to see a collaborative initiative in action. Craggy Range and Trinity Hill shared a tasting area, Annie was cooking up New Zealand’s best bacon (Holly Bacon) and
selling the quintessential English breakfast, bacon butties, while Takaroa Trails promoted our extensive cycle trails.
So back to the third test … Tim and I were still confident of a big win in Auckland. Well, we all know the outcome and to be honest, it was a well-deserved result for the Lions. Some fans spend more than £50,000 and for that investment, you do want some return!
I look forward to the next tour in 12 years’ time!