Nice work if you can get it

On behalf of you, the taxpayer, who - after all - is footing at least part of the bill for this great international festival which, allegedly, has something to do with a game played with an oval ball (I'll leave the salient details to the sports department), I have taken it upon myself to venture out in to the wide blue yonder.

I am reporting from the field on the "visitor experience" for the "RWC". I have forgone the comfort of routine, the soothing rhythms of life on the newsroom floor, the dopamine buzz which comes from having wrestled with the world's problems and sorted them out - in the space of a 700-word editorial.

Your gratitude is touching, but please ... it is a small sacrifice on my part, the column writer's occasional occupational hazard. I had, unbeknown to them, enlisted nine others from all corners of the country to help make the assessments.

To Nelson, first stop Mapua.

It has been in the news of late because of a fire at the aquarium. Had this put a damper on life for the residents of this small Nelson town?

To gauge this we sat in the sun outside the adjacent Golden Bear pub, and eschewing ridiculous qualms about culinary incorrectness, scoffed our fish and chips - deep fried, not poached - and the cooling local brew.

The locals seem unperturbed.

Next up was Motueka, to test the charms of a country golf club, a links course - albeit one with enough trees to turn the intermittent golfer into a keen arborist; and sufficient housing bordering the fairways to test the curiosity of any wayward roofing specialist. We did have at least one in the party.

We did not quite have the course to ourselves, but it would be fair to say that turning up half an hour late for tee-off was not a problem.

And does anything taste better than a cool ale and a toasted sandwich after 18 holes on a mild spring afternoon?

I promise that being called "sweetie" by the hostess only strengthened my resolve to remain detached and professional. If any of you are passing in this direction, I heartily recommend this splendid facility and its fine and accommodating committee.

So much for the strenuous work involved in spoiling that 6km walk, of trudging up and down the fairways exercising vocal cords on loud and abrupt four-letter words such as "Fore!"

Much has been written about the expectations to be placed on the country's hospitality industry by the influx of visitors, so it was high time to test it. We headed over the Marble Mountain and into Golden Bay - a long and winding road, which less intrepid reporters may have gone to some lengths to avoid.

But my mission was in part to see whether the festive spirit had leached out into the farther reaches of the countryside.

On Sunday evening the Mussel Inn at Onekaka was its usual unruffled self. It had evidently done its homework, creating a dark treacle-infused stout-style brew, the "All Black", for the occasion, which some of the crew gave a good lashing (though not half as good as they gave to the house red).

Being tour guide, bus driver and trip archivist - in addition to being the eyes and ears of the Fourth Estate - naturally does require discipline and a certain killjoy mien, so I sulked over my single pint of Captain Cooker manuka beer, which made up for in quality what it lacked in volume.

The next morning, the adventure tourism market beckoned. I use the term "adventure" advisedly. It was a bit of an adventure rousing some of the crew from their previous evening's reveries, but what has to be done, has to be done.

Into the Abel Tasman National Park, a testing wee drive over a dirt and clay road, to Totaranui, where a water taxi would be waiting to deliver us to the next destination: Awaroa Lodge for lunch. No extreme of distance or hardship would divert us from the task at hand, and I knew that the fresh sea breeze and the whiff of salt about the nostrils would put the chaps on their mettle.

Needless to say it did. They were in fine form at Woollaston Winery at Moutere, too, sampling several of the establishment's quality refreshments.

In Nelson last night (actually two nights ago, as you read this), we went to Rome. It was almost deserted.

The Italians must have eaten earlier, but undeterred we did out best to fill the restaurant.

We are here, apparently, to see a rugby match: between Italy and Russia. Do they play rugby in Russia?

We shall see.

And so will you, from the results in today's sports pages.

But that's the easy stuff. Some of us get the dirty jobs.

Simon Cunliffe is deputy editor (news) at the Otago Daily Times.

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