Day 35: Middlemarch to Dunedin

Sun 26 February 2017

I have a prize draw to do this morning for the Roxburgh fruit competition. I want to do it at the Kissing Gate Cafe as I had heard it was the place to go in Middlemarch. I looked yesterday and couldn’t find the cafe however this morning I discovered I had gone in the wrong direction. So that small but significant detail rectified I settled in the cafe with coffee and cheese roll to plan the draw. Fortunately the lovely cafe staff were on the same dial and Joan (a local) was roped in from the adjacent table. We plotted how the draw would run and made hurried preparations. It was suggested that the local police officer could adjudicate but I thought that was a bit too much for a draw for fruit. 10 out of 10 for attention to detail though. The cafe owner became the videographer and after a quick run through we launched into the draw. Joan performed her part with aplomb and I didn’t stuff up so we needed only the one take. My Aunty Rosemary will be enjoying some delicious Roxburgh fruit shortly – thanks to Barbara and Fairview Orchard. There is a duathlon finishing in Middlemarch today which is completed along the Otago Central Rail Trail. Competitors of all ages are completing the race in the main street which has been closed to traffic. They mostly look surprisingly composed at the finish line. There is a great atmosphere with many supporters cheering on every competitor. I am on the Taieri Gorge train today. The service occasionally departs from Middlemarch rather than the usual stop at Pukerangi, which is about 19km closer to Dunedin. It is a long train as there are many people doing the return trip from Dunedin or are on the rail trail. I am in the cafe carriage which has three passengers and some of the train staff, who are all welcoming and friendly. The train departs right on time at 1300 and will take about 2.5hrs to reach Dunedin station.

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I meet Caleb, the Guest Service Manager who makes an announcement over the tannoy about my walk. Then we begin to compose an impromptu raffle onboard the train to raise money for St John. Caleb quickly calls Larnach Castle, where his wife works, before cellphone reception is lost in the gorge. Excellent, we have tickets to visit the castle as a prize! Caleb is a pro at this and soon we also a bag for money and a second bag filled with numbered tickets. Another announcement is made about the raffle and we set off through the train. In each carriage Caleb revs up the passengers with details of my walk and we make our way down collecting money in exchange for raffle tickets. The response from passengers is extraordinary – well exceeding my expectation. Nearly everyone on the train donates, even the kids. There are many Kiwis on the train and they are all happy to support St John. I barely look out at the scenery during the journey to Dunedin and before I know we need to do the draw for a winner. Now the question is, how do we choose a random number from the range we handed out. Play Store takes care of that with a quick app download. Then to keep it above board we nab a passenger walking past. Lara gets to operate the random number generator. The tension builds. The first number is a no draw as the ticket wasn’t given out, the next was also a no draw as it was train staff (sorry) but third time lucky reveals Yvonne as the winner. At the Dunedin station we count the money and end up with $270 from the raffle which I will bank tomorrow into the Everyday Hero account. Caleb hasn’t finished with helping me just yet, he is making calls to find me a bed. It’s the first week of university and the city is chokka. That sorted I catch up with some Dunedin friends and before shut eye have time to reflect on the generosity of New Zealanders. What a great day it has been.

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