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Published: March 14th 2018
Day 17: Murchinson to Reefton, 122km. Further contemplations and the Donkey is cheered on by a couple of turkeys.
The Donkey wanted to get away early as there were two high passes to cross on the way to Reefton, the Maruia Saddle and the Rahu Saddle, both 600 meters high. The Donkey had packed plenty of food as there were no services till Springs Junction, 80km into the ride. The Donkey set off in the dark at 6.45 and soon met up with an old workhorse from Auckland, a builder, who was very strong. The Donkey had met a few animals on the trip who were builders and they were all very strong. Sometimes the Donkey wished he was a builder rather than a Donkey. Then he could make things. The Donkey was good at braking stuff but not at building or repairing things . When he tried to build something there were always some pieces left over at the end or the whole thing ended up crooked. The workhorse had similar ancestry as the Donkey so they got on well and talked about this and that, but the workhorse was too strong for the Donkey and the Donkey had
to let him go. That gave the Donkey time to contemplate while he worked himself and Spot slowly up the gravel incline towards the Maruia Saddle, but not before he had taken in the scenery. The soft light, which comes with the breaking of dawn, revealed low hanging clouds, thick native bush, and mountain streams with crystal clear water. The Donkey felt at peace. Suddenly princess Jacinda came into his head. The Donkey was worried about her. She had been elected to run the country but she also carried a little prince or princess in her tummy and the Donkey wondered how princess Jacinda was going to combine motherhood with her busy job.
The Donkey always thought that you have to have a big brain to be able to make it to prime minister but recently he had started to doubt that with an arrogant rooster being the leader of the United States of America. Roosters have notoriously small brains so perhaps a large brain was not a prerequisite to do well in politics. He wondered if princess Jacinda had a large brain. He knew she had big teeth, nice, white pearly ones, like donkeys teeth, which made the
Donkey wonder if princess Jacinda could be a donkey. That cheered him up as donkeys have only a moderately seized brain, and if princess Jacinda was a donkey it meant that donkeys can also go into politics and even become prime minister. The Donkey had read that princess Jacinda was married to a fishing guide, who caught the biggest fish ever, which made him into a legend as anyone who can catch a really big fish is called a legend. The Donkey did not agree with that. He thought fishing was cruel. Imagine being a fish, just swimming along, minding your own business, day dreaming, nibbling at some seaweed or a crab or a piece of dead squid, and whammoo, before the fish could scratch the back of his head he had a hook through his lip, or his eye or his ear, no, not his ear, it was called something else, what was it, yes, a gill. Fish were breathing through their gills, it had taken the Donkey many years to get his head around that, but anyway, next the fish was jerked up to the surface and into the air, which a fish does not like as they
cannot breathe air, they can only breathe water, which is why they have gills. For a moment the Donkey thought he was very clever to know all that. The worst thing for the fish however was still to come which is when the fisherman or woman tries to take the hook out of the fish's face. It needs a firm hand and not all fishermen have that and in particular many (not all) fisher women are not good at that part. Princess Jacinda’s husband was very skilled in taking the hook out, the Donkey had seen him do it on t.v. and the other good thing was that Jacinda’s husband threw the fish back in the water, to give the fish another chance. The fish would float on his back for a while, gather his thoughts and thank his lucky stars, despite the fact that his lip was bleeding or an eye was missing or half his gill, before quickly swimming away. The Donkey wondered if princess Jacinda’s husband only threw the fish back when he was filmed, to look good. Perhaps at other times he would knock the fish on the head and take him home for dinner, who knows. The Donkey was happy not to be a fish. People say fish have no brains and therefore feel no pain. What nonsense, the Donkey thought. Look at the fish flounder and wrestle and wriggle when he is caught. You can only do that when you have a brain. And for gathering your thoughts, which is what the fish does when he is given a second chance, you also need a brain. And thirdly, a fish has a memory as when he has been caught a few times he is more careful and it gets harder to catch him. To have a memory you also need a brain, so, there is all the evidence you need that fish have a brain. It might be a very small one, as a larger brain would make the fish notice when there is a big hook dangling in front of their nose, but it is still a brain. Princess Jacinda’s husband had promised that he would take time out from fishing when the little prince or princess was born to look after it so princess Jacinda could carry on with looking after the business of running the country. But it is not easy to look after a baby 24/7; fishing is much easier, princess Jacinda’s husband might regret it and want to go back to fishing. Ah well, time will tell, the Donkey concluded.
In the meantime the Donkey had made good progress and arrived in Springs Junction at lunchtime. The Donkey treated himself on a large omelet with ham, cheese, tomato and no onions. With the omelet on board the Donkey tackled the 8km climb to Rahu Saddle. The final 36km into Reefton was all downhill and on asphalt so the Donkey and Spot could turn it on, which they did.
When the Donkey raced into Reefton two turkeys stood on the side of the road to cheer him on. They were friends of the Donkey who had traveled to Reefton from Christchurch in their camper van to say hello and bring him some donkey biscuits. The Donkey did not know that turkeys could drive, let alone a camper van! But these are two very smart turkeys who will be living to a ripe old age. Many turkeys don't as every year at Christmas more likely than not they end up on a dinner plate. These two turkey friends of the Donkey must have larger brains than the average turkey as they make themselves scarce every year around December. They take off in their camper van and nobody knows where they are and they live for another year.
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Yay, Reefton! You made it! Enjoy the Big River/Waiuta trail. Loving your blog.