22km, 4.5 hours

We were planning to take a sick day, but this close to the journey’s end its too tempting to press on instead. Last nights coal mining town of Nightcaps gives way to the farming town of Otautau. There is still only pub accommodation, but it’s a nicer pub and a bigger room.

What’s odd about all these small towns is the food. You have a dream that farming communities would have the best, freshest meats and vegetables around. Fruit stands, farmers markets, picked-this-morning-berries. After all, they grow it right here. Not the case.

Farms seem to send all their meat to far away processing plants. What these small towns get is a tiny supermarket called Foursquare. These are not much bigger than a convenience store (like 7-11 in the US). They are resupplied probably a couple of times a week, and since the towns are small, the inventory turnover is slow. The result is they have very little fresh stuff, which would spoil, and often even their meats are all frozen. Ironic, given that the cow grew up less than a kilometer away.

I’m a city person. Or at least city-adjacent. Cities have farmers markets with populations big enough to support artisanal cheeses, jams, and odd fruit (like guava berries at the Matakana market where we live). They have jobs that aren’t farming or the farm industry.

You would think months on end in nature would make me more of a rural person. I am more certain now that I’m a city person who likes to visit the country than ever before. The food is just fresher and healthier in cities.