Te Araroa: Southland

Momma always said ladies shouldn’t play in the mud10986924_10101213099979970_4424074243081075396_n

After 100 miles of mud slogging through the bush, I find myself in the small town of Riverton, just 38 miles from the end of the Te Araroa.

Fiona, who owns the Riverton pub/inn will tell you Riverton was New Zealand’s first settlement. But the guy down the street tells me it’s a toss up between here and Russell.

Outside the pub I smoke a cigarette with Gary “the reformed smoker,” and a man in overalls named Alf who owns a small sheep farm.  They talk about the rising and falling prices of the fishing industry and something about exporting to Asian countries and Russia.

This is my kind of town. I’m over the tourist destinations where big buses puke clueless people into cafes and gift shops. They get off the bus, spend money, get back on, go to the next town, spend money…A lot of them are young too! Pale and clean and bored.

Tourism is New Zealand’s second biggest industry, farming its first. The farmers are good to me, and they aren’t gun crazy. I don’t feel threatened when I cross private farm land. One farm manager even invited me to dinner and I got to play Barbie with his granddaughter.

I wash the caked mud from my legs and pick at scabs and squeeze a little pus from a small wound I didn’t notice before. My legs are hairy and they are scarred from bush whacking through prickly plants like matagouri, gorse, and speargrass. There is one larger wound on my shin from when I missed a rock hop at a creek weeks ago. That one reopened when I scraped it against a fallen tree.

I will miss these beautiful messy legs dressed in mud, adorned with blood, hair, scars, scabs, and muscles. They have carried me far. You can’t get that riding a bus.

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