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Published: March 6th 2018
Day 9: Owhango to Whangarei, 160km on (mostly) gorgeous asphalt
Before getting into day nine we need to go back to the previous evening. The only other guests in the hotel were a couple of horses travelling on motorbikes. The two horses had matching black tea-shirts on with a dazzling silver logo of a motorbike. The male horse could hardly walk, he shuffled and his legs seem to give away on him with every step. The Donkey put two and two together and asked the lame horse if he had been involved in a motorbike accident, as it very much looked like it. No mate, the horse answered, I walked the Tongariro crossing today and I am bloody sore. The Donkey had walked the crossing once, in fact, he had run it, and it was a pretty spectacular route and quiet tough, but not so tough that he had been unable to walk afterwards like this geezer. The horse explained that he once was a rugby player and his joints were shot, so he had not been able to do any training for the walk. He also explained that his partner, who still looked as fresh as a daisy, had
not done much sport, not even netball, but walked every day for miles with her girlfriends. She had suggested to her husband that it would do him good to do the Tongariro Crossing. Funny that is, thought the Donkey, how women know what is good for their men. It happened with most married couples, in particular when the women became a bit older, and it did not only apply to horses, most animal marriages were affected by this phenomenon. The Donkey had not been immune from it himself.
Anyway, the horses went to bed early, straight after dinner, while the Donkey sat down in the lounge of the hotel and pulled out his laptop to do his administration. The Donkey had come to realise that he was the only rider carrying a laptop. He was a bit embarrassed about that but was reluctant to part with it. He was just finishing up, ready to go to bed at 9.30 p.m. when there was a knock on the window of the lounge. In the dusk he could see the outline of two grizzly bears, gesturing if there was accommodation available. It was obvious that they were tour riders. The Donkey
considered for a moment what to do, to let them in or not. When you are a donkey, or any other animal for that matter, perhaps except for the lion, you have to be very careful when there are grizzly bears around. But the Donkey knew that they would get in anyway as the front door of the hotel just around the corner of the lounge was still wide open. So he let them in and explained that all the staff of the hotel had gone home. They looked pretty shattered and growled and groaned and grumped. The Donkey felt sorry for them but was worried that they were hungry. He asked them if they had dinner and they nodded there big heads up and down. The Donkey relaxed but to make sure he asked them if they carried their breakfast with them for the next morning. Again they nodded.
The donkey happened to sleep in large room which contained 4 beds. It was all very old and rickety, as this was Owhango, but it was comfy enough. The Donkey took the brave step to offer the spare beds in his room to the new arrivals. It was a
restless night for the Donkey, with the grizzlys growling, snarling and burping in their sleep. They got up early and showed little interest in the Donkey, ate their breakfast and left as quickly as they had come. The Donkey sat down for a moment and let out a big sigh of relief. Not many donkeys could tell the tale of having slept with two grizzly bears and still come out alive.
The Donkey had decided for day nine to take the “chicken” route, an alternative to the mud of the Kaiwhakauka track. The Donkey had enough of all the shaking, shuddering, stopping, starting and falls at the single tracks. The alternative route was a bit longer but all asphalt, State Highway 4 through the national park for 55km before turning off on a back road to re-join the more hardened and experienced mountain bike riders, who had done the challenging Kaiwhakauka Track, at Pikiriki. Spot was not happy with his master’s decision as he liked the rough but he did not say so as he knew that his master was a bit fragile.
It was another good weather day with not too much wind and moderate temperatures. Mount
Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe were peeking out above the morning cloud and everything was perfect. The Donkey got down on his aerobars and admired the asphalt flashing by under his bike, time to let his mind wonder. There were regular orange sign saying 'shoulder closed' with red cones all along the side of the road. How could the road have a shoulder, the Donkey wondered, if it has no neck and no arm, as that is what the shoulder does, connecting the neck and upper back to the arm. Perhaps the road had a back? Or was a back? The road definitely did not have a head, so could not talk, or could he. If the shoulder was closed did that mean that the road had a frozen shoulder? That would be very painful, hence perhaps the cones? The Donkey was rudely awakened from his contemplations by a large truck which came thundering past and nearly side-swiped him. The Donkey got a fright and took more notice of the traffic coming from behind. He wondered what would be worse, getting lost in the jungle of the Kaiwhakauka track or ending up splattered on the highway as roadkill. A quick death to
be preferred over a slow one? This was too difficult for the Donkey to answer and he moved on to more cheerful thoughts. For example why do other animals call easier routes chicken routes? He had first heard of the expression when he learned to kayak and was told that to take the chicken route you take the inside of the bend in a fast flowing river. It is flatter, safer and less scary than staying in the middle of the river where the water flows faster and is much wilder. The chicken route was for the less brave, he was told. The Donkey, during the kayak course, became a fan of the chicken route. He thought it unfair on the chickens to call the easier route after them. How would they know? Chickens don’t know anything because their brains are so small. They don’t know anything about easy or difficult routes, they only scatter. None of the chickens the Donkey had met in his life, and he had met quite a few, could kayak, the Donkey was sure of that. The Donkey liked chickens, he even had some as pets for a while but they kept escaping and dug
up Butterfly's vege-garden so they had to go.
From Pipiriki the country road besides the Whanganui river was also mainly asphalted with the odd road works but the Donkey was used to that from Christchurch. Slowly the confidence of the Donkey returned. His health was improving as well; the stinging on the back of the head was replaced by a dull ache, which was more tolerable. The medication must be working, the Donkey thought. Spot was bored out of his brain but did not complain, happy that his master felt better.
Riding along the Donkey was suddenly confronted by a small settlement with the name Jerusalem. The Donkey knew that because it was on a big sign on the side of the road. The donkey blinked his eyelids and stopped. Low behold, a bit further along he saw a small hut which looked like a stable. Could it be?? Was little baby Jesus born here? The Donkey always believed that Jerusalem was somewhere in a faraway country, but no, it was right here, smack bang, in the middle of the North Island. The Donkey suddenly felt a bit religious even if he is not really religious. He does not believe in a God, in fact, he beliefs that God is nature. He read that in a book by Spinoza, a well-known Dutch philosopher who lived a long time ago. Spinoza was expelled from his church for saying that God is nature. They insisted that their God is the only God. The Donkey felt that churches should be more tolerant and open for discussion rather than be so dogmatic. The word dogmatic consists of two syllables, dog and matic, the Donkey thought. He did not like dogs too much, they were way too smart for him and matic sounded a bit like metric and the Donkey hated calculus. To the Donkey dogmatic churches were a double threat.
But he was excited by discovering that Jerusalem is actually located in New Zealand and not somewhere else, even it if looked different from what he had imagined. He was going to tell the world about his discovery and would become famous, or would he? Who would believe a donkey uh! He decided not to tell the world yet but discuss his find with Showpony first, next time he would see him, he will know what to do. Then, within an hour he came through London and Athens, all along the same road. The Donkey’s mind boggled. The world had it all wrong.
Spot and the Donkey rolled into Whanganui at 6 p.m. and checked into the Anndion Lodge for the night, just before the rain set in.
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