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Last year, Ranfurly massage therapist Blair Jones set up a mobile business to cater for the Otago Central Rail Trail.
The 38-year-old holds a bachelor of therapeutic and sports massage degree as well as a certificate in relaxation massage.
“Many tired bikers are happy and relieved to see me and they really love having a massage outside listening to the sheep, birds and breeze and looking across the paddocks and mountains,” he said.
Under the trees at Wedderburn Cottages was a magical spot for massages, he said.
“It’s quite a unique and neat experience for them, especially for those that come from larger cities where peace and quiet can be hard to find.”
However, since setting up his business he’d found it wasn’t just rail trailers who were calling on his services.
“I’m having more and more farmers wanting me to come out to see them. It’s convenient to have me come to them because they are busy and it saves them time commuting.”
After eight and a-half years overseas, Mr Jones returned to New Zealand last August, and decided to set up his own business.
Being a biker himself, he saw an opportunity from the rail trail, which runs through his hometown. Rail Trail Massage fulfilled a dream he’d had from the time he went to Maniototo Area School in Ranfurly.
“I was always interested in sports and anatomy and guess I always wanted to combine the two, so physio or massage was a way of doing that.”
During his training at the Southern Institution of Technology and before going overseas, he worked with sports teams, such as the Southland Stags in Invercargill, and in sports medicine and physiotherapy clinics, as well as doing mobile massage.
“But I really did want to travel. A friend of mine was over there [in South Korea] and suggested I go over and teach English.”
It was supposed to be for a year, but South Korea proved to be a good base for exploring the rest of Asia, and all it had to offer in massage and relaxation therapy.
“I travelled a lot and learned lots of different styles, which I’ve brought into my work.”
The best massage he had ever received was from a blind practitioner in Cambodia, where he spent time while based in South Korea. Many of them belonged to an organisation, the Professional Blind Massage Therapists, who were trained and certified by the NGO Association of the Blind in Cambodia.
“I think it’s the touch — they’re very intuitive, and the sense of touch is heightened because they’ve lost another sense. I do find myself massaging with my eyes closed from time to time.”
Back in New Zealand, his first foray into his mobile massage business went well. Then Covid-19 and the lockdown happened, during March-April — the busiest months of the rail trail season.
Unable to practise his profession during Level 3 and 4, he based himself in Dunedin as a support worker for the intellectually disabled.
Since Level 2, he’d been going back to Ranfurly regularly, where his family still lived, to look after clients there and in the Ida Valley and Omakau.
“I really do love it. Looking back, I’m glad I made the decision to come back when I did.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this season. ‘‘It’s going to depend on whether the Rail Trail bounces back.”