Finding more fish tales on tour down south
An inside joke with a friend has attracted the interest of hundreds throughout the country for an American traveller.
Tom Chapman, of California, is a regular visitor to New Zealand.
The 62-year-old has visited the country more than 60 times and and has seen more of it than most Kiwis.
He was in Bluff last week, after returning from travelling the length of the country, from Bluff to Cape Reinga, and back again, with his plush toy Dori, from the Finding Nemo saga.
The traveller has toured every state in the United States and for the past year has done so with his ‘‘alter ego’’ Dori, but this was the duo’s first international trip.
Chapman, who was a selfdescribed introvert, said Dori was an ice-breaker and opened up conversations with hundreds of people he has met throughout his travels.
‘‘She’s always happy, accepting of everyone and curious.’’
The pair returned home to the US on Monday after four weeks.
Dori started as an inside joke with a friend who was always forgetful, just like the character, before it generated public interest, Chapman said.
‘‘The fish took a life of its own.’’ With no spouse or children, touring was his way to transition into retirement.
The former schoolteacher said he found purpose in touring with Dori.
But his journey will not only be remembered through memories, because Chapman has documented the trip to more than 450 Facebook friends, with 100 people who closely followed his journey. Some of his friends could not travel, so lived vicariously through him.
He shared photos that were based on humour, irony and some serious posts from landmarks, funny signs, cultural experiences and food.
‘‘She [Dori] just kind of adds an element.’’
On his first trip to New Zealand, in 1979, he visited as a member of a heavy metal rock band and performed at several schools. He was billeted out to various Kiwi families. ‘‘Since then I’ve gotten to know more people here than in California.’’
Southland had changed throughout the years, even since his previous visit three and a half years ago.
‘‘There’s a buzz about it, with new restaurants and cafes.’’
Tom Chapman, of California, with his plush Dori toy travelling from Bluff to Cape Reinga.