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April 2015 Issue
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April 2015: Pigeon Post

 Letter of the month: Even tutu has its uses

Congratulations to Matthew Pike for his article about his fateful foraging adventure with tutu (‘I ate tutu and survived’, February 2015).

I have never been quite so adventurous, my best effort being to chew on a horopito leaf to see if it really did pack a punch. It does!

Pike’s story just goes to highlight how even with due diligence the wrong plant can be picked. The knowledge of the bush developed by Maori over the years is something to be admired.

As well as the many culinary delicacies the bush has to offer, there is also a treasure trove of medicinal remedies. P.M.E (Pip) Williams’ book Te Rongoa Maori Medicine has something good to say about tutu: shoots were scraped and heated for use as a poultice for bruises and flesh wounds. Horses were also the recipient of its healing qualities.

The book gives wonderful descriptions of how Maori use native plants. One delightful example was of the great George Nepia. Returning from the 1924-25 All Black tour of England, his body battered and bruised, his health soon restored after daily hot baths prepared with kowhai bark.

So next time you’re in the bush, you might find yourself nipping the bud out of a koromiko and chewing on it to settle that rumbling tummy.

Just make sure it was a koromiko!

– Steve Williams, Dunedin

Trespass Act needs changing

As a law-abiding tramper who occasionally has wanted to cross or camp on private land, I agree totally with Mark Banham’s musings in his Out There column ‘Forgive us our trespasses’ (November 2014). It is usually inconvenient to ask a landowner for special permission, and a non-landowner can find it an intimidating experience when ‘no’ could be the answer.

Large landowners are already a group of extremely privileged people compared to everyone else in New Zealand and the right they have to shut everyone else out of ‘their’ property is repugnant and selfish.

Bruce Vickerman (Pigeon Post, February 2015) uses the standard argument ‘How would Mark Banham like to have people camping on his front lawn without permission?’ I have no problem with people having private front lawns, but it is beyond belief that a large landowner compares the whole of his property to a small garden and uses that argument to keep people out.

I would like to call for a law change, and it would be nice if a movement started demanding it.

– Stephen Conn, email

Glorify in lessons learnt

Over recent years a number of mishaps on the Te Araroa Trail have been caused by a combination of inexperience, poor equipment and bad judgement.

I was most concerned to read the article ‘An unexpected journey’ (February 2014), which seemed to glorify Naresh Kumar for being the first to complete the trail in sandals.

As a responsible outdoor magazine, Wilderness should have commented adversely on the obviously inappropriate behaviour, to warn and educate its readers. In particular, I draw attention to the following problems: setting a very tight schedule which created the incentive to push on regardless; attempting to cross a river so swollen that Kumar wrote a death note beforehand and was then swept 3km downstream; continuing in winds too strong to stand, injuring himself and then not taking a break to recover; crossing Waiau Pass in a blizzard; tramping through frozen conditions in the Tararuas wearing sandals.

While it is pleasing Kumar did not come to more harm than he did, the result could have been much worse. My concern is that the article glorified the behaviour rather than drew lessons from it.

– Dave Cox, email

I have significant admiration for Naresh Kumar’s completion of the Te Araroa Trail. However, I am flabbergasted that he should feel sufficiently uneasy about crossing the swollen Waipapa River that he wrote a ‘death note’ to his parents and still to chose to cross. Surely the sensible option would have been to wait for the water level to drop? Is this attitude partly because he was under so much time pressure?

Water Safety NZ statistics show 107 people died through drowning in 2013, 84 in 2014 and already 23 this year.

I think Kumar should have taken more notice of the uneasy feeling he had; it was his choice to cross the river and luckily he made it, but he could so easily have become yet another statistic – and I very much doubt the note would have brought his parents any comfort at all.

– Rachel Colpus, email

Zipper ripper!

One evening while sea kayaking around the Coromandel Peninsula, I changed out of damp kayaking clothes into dry shore clothes before stretching out on my Exped inflatable mattress to listen to the news on the radio.

Surprise when I heard the hiss of air escaping from the mattress! Dismay when I found a one-centimetre tear in the upper surface. Astonishment when I discovered the cause: my quick-drying outdoor trousers have a rear pocket with a zipper; and the zipper-pull has a very small but sharp spike on it that is meant to engage with the teeth of the zipper to prevent it from opening accidentally. It was also sharp enough to tear a hole in the mattress.

Perhaps readers should check their own clothing for zippers of this type?

– Colin Quilter, Auckland

What is ‘lightweight’?

I noticed the March 2015 single person tent reviews described a 1290g tent as ‘ultra lightweight’, and another at 1250g ‘one of the lightest around’. I beg to differ.

Even in 2011 you could buy a double walled tent weighing less than 600g. And today there are several superb double-walled tents available at less than a kilo. Tarps and single walled tents are lighter still. On this basis, a 1200g single person tent is no longer light, it’s rather heavy.

So too with packs. Multiday packs reviewed in Wilderness typically run between 1500g and 2400g. Yet there are numerous full-featured offerings in the US at under a kilo. A minimalist design in cuben fibre will be less than 500g. Now that’s what I call light!

These days genuinely lightweight, high quality kit from overseas is available to us all. It just takes some Google time and being comfortable with buying online. Pack, shelter and sleeping bags and mats each under a kilo are easily achievable, giving pack weights excluding water of around 8kg for an overnighter and 12kg for a week. This is today’s ‘light’ and I imagine will soon become the norm.

Perhaps it’s time Wilderness acknowledged some of the genuine lightweight, overseas-sourced gear more and more of us are using. A reassessment of what constitutes ‘lightweight’ would be a good place to start.

– Dennis Brown, Auckland.