Day 5: Salmon Fishing?

It was not until after another lovely morning hike that the family decided to go salmon fishing.

The morning hike, at the Grove Scenic Reserve, wound its way through the jungle. Trees grew on the tops of boulders, their roots creeping down the sides like snakes, or dangling like woody vines. Moss grew on the rocks and on the sides of trees. There were caves and crevices to explore. Annie was happy to run along and sing Moana songs at the top of her voice.

At the end of the hike, after a deep ravine with cool stone walls, the family suddenly found themselves high up on the side of a steep mountain, with a breathtaking view out over a valley.

Annie recognized this as an excellent place to pretend to play Moana, so she started climbing up the railing which protected hikers from a dizzying fall down a cliff face. Her mother tried to stop her.

“I have to play Moana!” Annie insisted, aggrieved.

“Moana never climbed railings! When did she climb up railings?”

One of Annie’s gumboots got stuck between the metal rails and she wrenched it out. “I’m making it up from my head,” she said, and continued climbing.


No one in the family knew anything about fishing, other than Daddy, who claimed that he had been fishing in his childhood. But Daddy also kept voicing fears about getting stabbed with a fishhook. And he was clearly nervous about the idea of holding a live fish.

However, a friend of Mommy’s had recommended it, so they decided to go. It was at a salmon farm, so the pond was well stocked with salmon. Next to the pond was a restaurant where they cooked the fish you caught, so you could eat it for lunch.

Annie did not have any say in this decision, but she nevertheless expressed her abhorrence at the idea. She was a vegetarian and the idea of catching a fish and then eating it was anathema. The rest of the family was on the fence about the idea. Cora didn’t much care one way or the other, as long as there was food and her mother wasn’t going to sneak off.

On arrival they walked down a path and found what appeared to be an abandoned petting zoo. Behind a fence, there was a goat, some pigs and piglets, a lot of chickens, and some juvenile cows. There was also a dilapidated building labeled “cafe”, which had leaves littering the outdoor seating area along with rusted pieces of furniture. And there was an ominous dark building that said “Eel Museum” above the door. The family did not choose to venture into the eel museum but, not seeing anyone around, walked over to see the animals.

The first thing Annie saw were the little brown piglets. They were so cute!  She watched them for a moment, cooing over them. Then she found the mommy pig, who was slouched against the side of a fence, sleeping. Annie immediately switched to a whisper, so as not to wake the mommy. One of the roosters crowed loudly.

“Shhh!” Annie cried in a heated whisper. “You’ll wake the pig! Shhh!”

The rooster crowed again, louder.

“You don’t want to wake her up!” Annie continued. “Be quiet! Shhh!”

The rooster crowed again. The pig made no sign of moving, or even breathing. One of the other roosters walked over to her, climbed on top of her, and stood there, while she continued to sleep.

Then one of her babies trotted over and started rubbing noses with her while she slept. She twitched her nose but didn’t open her eyes.

“Poor thing,” said Mommy. “I know how she feels.”

A little white goat trotted over to them at that point, eager to make friends. He was extremely friendly.

Annie laughed at him as he sniffed the stroller. Then he walked over towards Annie. She gave a shriek and ran away. The goat happily scampered after her. Annie shrieked even more loudly, the sleeping mommy pig forgotten.

After this, Annie kept her distance with the young cows. They weren’t very interesting anyway. The turkeys, however, were far more interesting.

Mommy mentioned that she was a little afraid of turkeys, because they were mean. This was fascinating to Annie. Her mommy was usually brave, and here she was scared of a big bird! There must be more to the story. She prodded her mommy for more information.

“Are you afraid of this turkey?” she asked.

“Well… I don’t know, but I would be careful around him.”

“Is he mean?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes they’re mean.”


“I don’t know. They just are.”


“I don’t know why. I’ve heard sometimes they attack people. But I’m sure this one is okay.”

“Would he attack me?”

“No, they wouldn’t let a mean turkey at a petting zoo,” said Mommy, sounding doubtful.


“They wouldn’t want him to hurt little girls.”


Mommy shrugged. Annie looked at the turkey. He was strutting around, making silly gurgling noises, and every few minutes fanning his tail up.

“He looks like a fantail! He’s a fantail!” Annie exclaimed excitedly. Annie liked fantails. They are friendly little birds from New Zealand that frequently fans out its little black and white tail. Annie laughed at this funny joke. “He looks like he’s going to a party. He looks like he’s going to a turkey party! Turkey, are you going to a turkey party?” She paused. “He says no,” she added thoughtfully.

The goat came back over. It started nosing into the stroller. It was about to nibble on Cora’s extra sweater but Mommy moved it out of the way. It took an exploratory gnaw on one of the metal poles of the stroller, and then saw Annie and started frolicking around again. Annie shrieked and ran away, and the goat chased her for a bit.

“He thinks you’re his friend!” Mommy called after her.

Not long after, a group of peacocks and peahens came strolling over, hopping over fences and moving like the royalty they knew they were.

Annie was entranced. These birds were beautiful. She and her mommy walked over slowly, so as not to startle them, but they weren’t startled. “I think that one is the lady,” she said after a few moments, pointing at the male.

“No, that’s the man. Usually with birds the man is prettier than the lady,” her mommy explained. Annie expressed skepticism. “Because ladies like beautiful things,” Mommy went on. “So the gentlemen peacocks are beautiful, so the ladies can look at them and admire them.” Annie was not totally convinced. Ladies ought to be beautiful. She had learned that from her books and her movies. She agreed to call him a gentleman but registered her ongoing doubtfulness.

The peahens all wandered off when the peacock wasn’t looking, jumping over a fence and moving into the forest area, so Annie tried to point them out to him. “They went that way!” she said. “The ladies went that way! Look over there!” The peacock regarded her beadily and refused to look in the direction she pointed. “Go on! Look!” 

Meanwhile, the ladies, rustling in the undergrowth, disappeared from sight. The gentleman peacock, for reasons known only to himself, opened up his tail and fluttered it around. He rotated one way, and then the other, and stopped when he was facing Annie. “Wow!” said Annie and Mommy at the same time. “He’s so beautiful,” Annie whispered, awed. They stood and stared at the peacock. He stared back at them. They pointed out his beautiful colors to each other, in quiet voices. The peacock accepted the adoration in stony silence. Annie moved a few paces closer. He stared at her. She moved a little closer, just a little outside of touching distance. The peacock carefully folded up his feathers and sauntered off. Annie and Mommy followed him. They followed him all around the farm. He pretended not to notice them.

After the petting zoo, it was lunchtime, and everyone was hungry. It turned out that there was another, real cafe, and Mommy and Daddy were both relieved to discover that you could just order freshly caught salmon; you didn’t actually have to fish for them. And there was a playground next to the cafe.

Another little girl was playing at the playground. By the time Mommy and Daddy arrived (walking slowly of course), Annie had already met the little girl, who knew Annie’s name.

“Annie! Come over here!” she said. Annie obediently went where she was told, then forgot what she was doing and wandered over to her parents.

“What’s her name?” Mommy asked.

“I don’t know. She told me but I forgot,” Annie confessed, and then the little girl called to her and barked an order, and Annie went back to doing as she was told. Although sometimes she didn’t seem to hear the little girl and went on doing what she wanted to do, which was a skill she had perfected with her mommy and daddy at home.

Mommy and Daddy went and got settled at a table. The next thing they saw, Annie was climbing around on a wobbly bridge with the little girl, and her mouth was full of chocolate. She was having trouble holding on because one of her hands was holding chocolate as well.

“Where did you get that?” Mommy asked.

“She gave it to me,” said Annie, through a mouthful of something that now looked bright yellow, and eerily like the horrible Perky Nana Lumps that the family had tried not long after they arrived in New Zealand, the most horrible candy that Mommy and Daddy had ever tasted.

“I gave her two, and I gave him one, too bad for him,” the little girl told Mommy, matter-of-factly, gesturing at an older boy who was undoubtedly her brother.

“That was very nice of you,” said Mommy. “What’s your name?”

“Neva,” said the girl.

Annie fell off the bridge and probably hurt her ankles, but managed to preserve the chocolate she was holding, which was more important. She climbed back on but was not very stable. After considering for a second she shoved the second piece of chocolate candy into her mouth as well, so her mouth was stuffed with chocolate and yellow taffy. Now she could cross the bridge safely.

Cora had a good time at the playground, too.

Annie ate garlic bread for lunch, along with snacks that her parents had brought. She watched her parents eating fresh salmon with disgust. Cora Rose, however, was enthusiastic about salmon. It was not on her very short Do Not Eat list (avocados, raw onions, etc), so she scarfed down all the salmon that her parents let her have.


But the trip would not have been complete without eels. Naturally there were tame eels here at the salmon farm/petting zoo. The family walked down to the little pool where the eels lived but didn’t bring any food.

A few eels came out from hiding in the shade to cast sad looks at Annie. “Please, give us a little food,” their eyes said. “Just a little. We’re so hungry.”

Annie regarded them very seriously. “I don’t have any food for you. I’m sorry. We’ll come back another time and bring you some food, but we don’t have any food for you now.” The eels continued to look at her, pitifully. “We have food for us but it’s our food. You wouldn’t like it, okay? Of course you wouldn’t.” The eels were unconvinced. “It’s food that we eat, not food that you eat.”

“Are they listening, those silly eels?” Mommy asked.

“He’s not listening,” Annie answered.

“Maybe he thinks you’re kidding,” Mommy suggested.

“I am NOT kidding,” Annie assured the eel.

Eventually Daddy caved to the sad eels and agreed to go get some eel food from the cafe for them.

“I will get some food for you in just a minute, but Dad has to get it. I don’t see Dad. He must have gone out to get some food for me to give to you,” Annie reassured them.

When Daddy came back with the eel food – which was a cup of bloody fish carcasses – Annie threw them into the water. Initially the eels just ignored them. And then they realized that they were being fed. An eel snatched a fish carcass with lightning speed. Then another fish carcass disappeared, so fast they didn’t even see which eel grabbed it. And then the water was alive with slimy, writhing eel bodies. There were so many so close together, it was like a horrifying black sea monster, thrashing just below the surface of the water. They started snatching the fish carcasses from each other.

“Annie, I would back away from there,” said Daddy, nervously. Annie was right up near the water, watching closely.

“I want to do more!” said Annie, reaching for the cup of fish carcasses.

The food cup was empty.

Annie stared down at the writhing mass and shook her head seriously. “We don’t have any food,” she said. “We just gave those fishes and that’s all what we had.”

“They don’t appear to be listening,” said Mommy. They watched the eels a little more. “I mean, it’s wonderful, they’re so… cute, aren’t they, Annie?” Mommy was trying not to put a damper on the experience for Annie.

“No!” said Annie.

“No? You don’t think they’re so cute?”

“No! They’re so creepy! They’re so creepy because they have the things sticking out of their mouth!” Cora started to scream. “Silly eels,” said Annie, watching with fascinated horror as the last fish carcass was devoured. Most of the eels glided silently away, but a few stayed to stare up at the family.

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