On The Road: No clothes needed in New Zealand – just bring a torch
Saturday 19 September 2009
I found myself in Milford Sound on the day of the annual Great Naked Tunnel Race. Well, surely it would be rude not to take part?
Begun in 1935 and completed in 1953, The Homer Tunnel is a remarkable feat of engineering and a monument to human endeavour. It provides the essential link between the dramatic fjord of Milford Sound and the outside world. But this is no Channel Tunnel or Sydney Harbour underpass. There are no guidance systems; no tidy tollgates or hamburger stands thoughtfully placed halfway through for your convenience. When you first encounter the entrance to the Homer at the base of what can only be described as a massive face of granite, the word "drain" springs to mind. To travel through it fully clothed and in the comfort of a vehicle evokes enough horror – but running through it in the dark? Naked?
Ol' Homey has become the venue for perhaps New Zealand's most unusual annual events – known in these parts as the Great Annual Nude Tunnel Run. The race was originally conceived in 2000 and now attracts over 50 participants (this year including yours truly). Competitors run completely naked from east to west (as distance of 1.2 km) carrying little except a torch.
The fastest male and female runners have their names engraved on the trophy, which for men is "Ken" doll and for women a "Barbie" (naked and in a running position, naturally)!
So did I win? No. I didn't even try. Too busy having a chat en route with a charming local (let's call him "Ken", too), who says of the event: "It's an invigorating feeling being naked and makes one realise how natural and beautiful it is to have no kit on. Group nudity is definitely non-perverse, a good way to make new friends and influence people and something we should all do more often."
Absolutely, Ken! Let's start now – at Auckland airport preferably.
'Footprint New Zealand' is available now (£14.99)
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