Nothing beats drinking a cold beer while standing in a hot shower as you wait for the anti-inflammatories to start working. Nothing!
But I get ahead of myself which may have been the problem all along.
‘I’ll take you fishing,’ he said. He; being an old friend from Medical School – a man who has been outrageously fit throughout his life, a man who regularly goes into the back country, skiing, fishing, tramping, mountain-biking and generally communing with nature. ‘Kate (his sensible wife) is going to visit her mother,’ he said. ‘We can go up the Waiohine Gorge and do some fishing. It’s only a short walk. Easy’. He said.
The words, ‘gorge’ and ‘easy’ used blithely by aforesaid MM in the same paragraph should have been the first inkling this might not be such a good idea. Pride and falls being what they are. Supremely confident in my ability to tackle the most difficult landscape, I took no notice of the great bronze bells peeling their warnings in the background. After all, I’ve run marathons, half marathons, run up hills and down dales, I swim every day, walk the dogs every day- what could be so hard?
I donned my fishing vest laden with tackle, over which I shouldered my back-pack stuffed with a jacket (bright yellow- much to MM’s disgust) lunch and a thermos of coffee, and over all this I slung my rod in its case. MM carrying only a tiny foldaway rod in a small velvet pouch and wearing his back-pack forged ahead up the first hill, and down it and up the next one and down the next one. I’m talking sheer drops. Tree roots – nature’s hand-holds – needed on both the way up and down. Loose shingle treacherous underfoot, the track giving way in places over drops down to the river. I made slow progress. Now and again I would catch sight of MM in the trees on the other sides of valleys as he waited patiently for me to catch up.
The first time I fell, I only bruised an arm and my right knee. Gash is probably too strong a word to use, but there was blood when I peeled off my leggings later that night.
The second time I tripped, I pitched head first into a tree trunk. Today, the resulting haematoma is threatening to slide down the left side of my face but the aforementioned anti-inflammatories did eventually relieve the splitting headache after I got home.
MM kindly stopped. We had chocolate brownies and a coffee.
We carried on. MM insisting I go in front. Self preservation, he explained. He did not want me falling into him when I tripped the next time going down a steep hill.
An hour and half later we were at the first turn off which took us down to the river bed.
Beautiful. Clear clean water, shallow (ish) and warm. Each rock with its own different ankle bending shape unique to itself. MM negotiated the river bed with ease. Needless to say the klutz didn’t.
MM gets his rod ready and with a few flicks of the line on the water proceeds quickly upriver. I wave him on. And he disappears behind a bend to what I imagine was welcome peace and quiet away from me.
I’ve come all this way I reason. No point sitting and waiting. After untangling the line on my reel I surprised myself by remembering how to attach the fly, then wearing my Polaroids to see into the river, off I went. A joyful half an hour of casting and not catching anything and I was starting to wonder where MM was. Turning around a foot caught under a rock. I face plant into the river. Luckily only half of me got wet ( the half lying in the river) and my ankle didn’t hurt that much. Not really.
A sandwich, another piece of chocolate brownie and no MM. I set off upriver, hoping nothing had happened but checked my phone just in case. No service. Excellent. Reassuring even. Not. After an hour negotiating boulders, noting the deer footprints at the edge of the water, the possum droppings, the pig rooting signs and with only the cicadas to keep me company, I was starting to get worried. Silly I kept thinking, but how come I hadn’t seen him. We were in a narrow valley, the river the only highway. How was I going to tell Kate I’d lost her husband? Silly. Could I make it back in time to call in search and rescue and would there be enough daylight for the helicopter to find him? Less silly. I turned around and started back concentrating hard so I wouldn’t fall and bugger up the rescue operation I was about to set in progress.
MM was sitting on the side of the track (I hadn’t seen it) waiting for me when I staggered back down the rocks on my way to get help. As I pointed out to him after I stopped yelling, living alone means I use language not usually heard in polite company. He said he understood.
The track back was as bad as the track in, only in reverse. In the interests of us both getting out before nightfall MM relieved me of my rod and wet fishing vest. My left ankle went first. And then it did it again. Twice I collapsed into the undergrowth as my joint betrayed me. I staggered on. I’m not sure if the bee stung my finger before or after I sprained my right ankle. The last hour had become a bit of a blur.
Surprisingly today I don’t feel too bad. My knee is swollen and hurts, but the bleeding has stopped. My head is tender and my vision is only slightly blurry. My right ankle is puffy and aches but the left one is as good as gold. The bee didn’t manage to empty his sting into my finger so that’s fine.
I must be fitter than I thought.