Caber needs wheels to get to games

Caledonian Society of Otago member Ian McDonald with the caber needing a lift to Queenstown for the New Zealand Rural Games. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery
Caledonian Society of Otago member Ian McDonald with the caber needing a lift to Queenstown for the New Zealand Rural Games. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery

Elegant caber, single. Likes long drives through the countryside. Desperately seeking company of suitable truck for Dunedin to Queenstown road trip.

An appropriate trailer would also be a suitable match, caber caretaker Ian McDonald, of the Caledonian Society of Otago, said yesterday.

The 5m-long, 33kg Douglas fir caber, property of the society, had a date with the New Zealand Rural Games in Queenstown for two days from February 6.

Its usual partner in such adventures - a trailer capable of carrying its length safely through Otago's roads - was this year otherwise engaged, Mr McDonald said.

That left the caber without a ride and the festival without a caber unless a solution could be found, though festival organisers were banking on a local trucking firm coming to the party, he said.

The caber would be tossed on the festival's first day, as part of the "Transtasman Highland Games Tournament''.

Games founder and trustee Steve Hollander said final preparations for the event were "going really well''.

The games would allow people to watch national-level competition while having a go themselves at sports including wine barrel racing, speed hand milking and cow pat tossing.

A notable difference from last year's inaugural event, which attracted about 3000 people, was the lack of an entry charge, he said.

"We had good numbers for the inaugural event last year but, by shifting to free entry, we're aiming for a bumper holiday weekend crowd.''

Free entry had been achieved through sponsors, major funders and rural sports associations across the country all chipping in, he said.

The event would help preserve an "important part of New Zealand's rural heritage'' for future generations.

That heritage included the constant tossing of cabers, Mr McDonald said.

The Caledonian Society of Otago had been running since 1862 and had been organising caber toss events since then.

Unfortunately, no historic Dunedin cabers were around, as they tended to become firewood after they'd dried out enough.

Cabers (gaelic for plank) had been tossed in Scotland as long as there had been axes, he said.


"Why do they eat haggis? I just don't know. The long winter evenings? It's just something they do.''

The sport itself was not sophisticated. There were no points for how high or far one tossed a caber. The skill was in tossing it in a straight line.

"It's just a traditional thing, really. It's just keeping the Scottish heritage going.''


Games highlights


• Speed tree climbing transtasman championship

• Wood chopping championship

• Rural Highland Games ‘heavies' competition

• Speed hand milking championship (to run over both days)


• Egg throwing & catching championship

• Gumboot throwing championship

• Speed shear championship

• Coal shovelling championship

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