Strangely enough, the most interesting things of the day were dead and stuffed.
Bored out of our wits driving for hours on end between stops, we happened to see in Pleasant Point in Canterbury, a brightly-lit room filled with a menagerie of stuffed animals so we stopped.
The O'Rourke Brothers taxidermy has been doing taxidermy for almost 60 years and of a quality that is high enough for their work to be contracted by the likes of the Auckland Museum and the Department of Conservation.
The new owner (who still employs one of the O'Rourke Brothers) Rob Morrison has a direct connection to the business- he is an avid hunter- which is really the first stage in someone wanting an animal (which they have shot) to be stuffed. I guess you either eat it or put aside some serious cash (prices start at $1000 for game heads) to have it stuffed and mounted. Rob took me to the back to see how it's all put together and it's not pretty. But then there is nothing delicate about hunting, or even the processing of meat for food.
The back-end of the shop is literally a sort of butcher-shop; the animals after all, like any shot game, have to be prepared and prepped. For a moment, I thought I would puke at the smell of flesh, sinew and blood, but then I think- it's like when I was 15 again and my dad was teaching me how to de-feather and dress a snipe.
I expected to also smell again, the last part of that process when you singe the skin over a flame to burn off the nubs from where the feathers had been plucked. But there was none of that bitter, acrid fume. Instead, the smell was of cold death- he opens a walk-in freezer the size of a shipping container and brings out a fish waiting its turn to be reincarnated, the sallow flesh, resilient and shiny again like something fresh out of water. The container is filled with wrapped dead animals or parts of them as far back as I can see like some serial-killers grisly cache of unfortunate victims.
The waiting time to get a medium-sized animal done is 10-15 months.
Back in the front of shop, I spy a small fawn in a sitting pose- prices are also determined by how an animal is posed- and it looks unequivocally lifelike, perfect and immortal...I think we should consider ourselves lucky if we had the same fate.