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Published: March 15th 2018
Day 18: Reefton to Kumara, 120km. The Donkey fools Headwind and Rain with the help of Showpony
It was going to be a quickie, on asphalt, 80km from Reefton to Greymouth. The Donkey had decided to take another chicken route. The off-road option, called the Big River Trail, 56km long was introduced in the course book as a 5-7 hour challenging stage, not passable if it had been raining as there are several river crossings. Heavy rain was predicted for later that afternoon. The Donkey was convinced that he would not get through the Big River Trail by late afternoon, or late evening, or ever, for that matter, so he had a valid excuse.
The Donkey had a ball on the asphalt of the back countries of the West Coast. Low hanging cloud and a bit of drizzle once again added to the mysterious landscape of lush native bush, gentle rolling hills and at times, mountain tops peeking through the mist. The Donkey made good progress and arrived in Blackball mid-morning. Blackball was once a flourishing mining town, famous for the daring strikes by miners in the early 1900s for better pay and working conditions. In 1908, on the
back of one of the first miners’ strikes, the New Zealand Labour Party, Princess Jacinda's party, was formed in Blackball. In 1925 Blackball became the official center of New Zealand radicalism when the New Zealand Communist Party shifted its headquarters from Wellington to Blackball. Donkeys are generally interested in history (see also the Jerusalem story) and they are also known to have left wing tendencies so the Donkey was looking forward to visit this bit of history and have morning tea in the 'Formerly The Blackball Hillton'. When it was originally called 'The Blackball Hilton' the hotel owners had a lawsuit on their doorstep from the big Hilton hotel chain within no time which the Donkey thought rather petty. They could have looked at it in good humour and considered it as a compliment and given the town one percent of their profit as a donation and the township would have flourished from that for another 100 years. But that is not how big profit making companies work. They would not make big profits if they thought like that, the Donkey contemplated, but they might well be much happier if they did.
As it was the 'Formerly the Blackball
Hilton' was closed and the Donkey had a lukewarm instant coffee at the local shop instead. Showpony also showed up in Blackball and together the two friends rode to Greymouth, the Donkeys initial destination for the day. They arrived at the Top 10 Holiday Park just after lunch and the Donkey got ready for some rest and relaxation for the afternoon when he realised that he had missed a photo control point at the Greymouth Bar, famous for drowning more ships than you could throw a stick at (the Donkey had to think about that one as sticks tend to float, so it would be hard to hit a ship once it was under water). The Donkey had missed the photo control point in his excitement as Butterfly would be arriving that afternoon in Greymouth and he wanted to be clean and smelling like roses by the time she arrived so he had ridden Spot straight to the Top 10 Holiday Park, not looking at the instructions.
So the Donkey had to put his bike pants back on and all his luggage back on Spots back and handlebars to correct his mistake. An hour later the Donkey was back
at the holiday park. Showpony and the Donkey discussed the plan for the next day. Heavy rain was in the forecast. Showpony suggested to the Donkey that there was enough time and daylight for the Donkey to ride another 30km to Kumara that day, and that he would pick him up with his car and bring him back to Greymouth and drop him back of in Kumara the next morning, so the Donkey did not have to ride so far in the pouring rain the next day.
The Donkey thought that a brilliant idea, sometimes it is useful to have animals with larger brains as friends, he thought and for the third time that day he strapped his bags on Spot, put on his bike pants and set off to Kumara with Tailwind as company. Fooled Headwind and Rain, he thought and he got very excited as he had never managed that before and he had tried many times. Rain and Headwind thought the Donkey was in Greymouth while they were doing their business elsewhere, but in reality the Donkey was already covering part of the next day’s ride. On the way to Kumara the Donkey wondered if hitching
a ride back to Greymouth with Showpony could be considered assistance. The Tour Aotearoa was supposed to be a non-assisted event. But then, the Donkey thought, if a car brought him the opposite way of where he was supposed to be going, that was not assistance, that was almost anti-assistance, or even hindrance. But the Donkey decided that was neutralised the next day when Showpony would bring him back to Kumara. Anyway, the Donkey felt he earned some brownie points that day, for outsmarting Rain and Headwind, by doing a few extra kilometers because he missed a photo control point and for having it made this far in the first place.
Rain discovered what the Donkey was up to at the last moment, just before the Donkey reached Kumara. Rain came thundering up from the South, spat at the Donkey from a distance and when he reached the Donkey drenched him with an angry shower. But the Donkey did not care as he was already in Kumara where he arrived just when Butterfly flew past, coming from Christchurch, on her way to Greymouth. The Donkey cherished the look on Butterfly’s face when she spotted him and Spot (she spotted Spot, get it?) coming towards her. They met Showpony at the Kumara hotel and it was a happy reunion for the three of them. It had been a good day for the Donkey with fooling Headwind and Rain as the highlight. The Donkey knew that they would not be happy and that they will be back with a vengeance, but he decided to worry about that later.
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Maria and John
I got all worried when on the map it said you hadn't moved for 24 hours, from a spot on the road close to Kumara. Thank goodness for the blog, so we know you weren't road kill!! Which makes us wonder if the car ride back to Greymouth did something fatal to the "prison bracelet" on Spot? Sure hoe not because a) that would be REALLY mean, and b) we love to see where you are. Hope it shows back up again soon! It really was super to catch up with you in Reefton, and it feels great to think we have done our tiny bit to help you along your way on this incredible journey. xox