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Bunks for all – but her

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July 2018 Issue

Hut etiquette is about having respect for other people when it comes to sharing space and resources. But a recent incident demonstrates how some people just don’t get it.

I arrived at Blue Lake Hut wet and cold after battling wind and rain in the Sabine Valley. The hut doesn’t have a porch or entrance shelter and water had pooled over the floor, laundry hung from the rafters, and people were huddled on bunks. 

I first noticed the four young boys from Canterbury – each of them oozing swaggering Southern Man attitude – because of the music they were playing from a portable speaker. That in itself is poor hut etiquette: it’s arrogant to assume that everyone else enjoys the same music as you. But it was the huge amount of space they occupied that really made them stand out. They hogged one of the two tables and had their gear laid out on a bunk each. Meanwhile, others were sitting two or three to a bunk, trying to avoid the water pooling on the floor. We repeatedly used the broom to push the water outside while it dripped from the ceiling and off wet weather gear. 

It transpired that the boys had been intending to camp and had arrived at the hut without tickets or a hut pass. One of the two hut wardens suggested, given the number of people in the hut, that they move their gear outside. 

Another hut user also challenged them for not buying hut tickets and said they should camp. I could see they didn’t take kindly to this, and later heard them referring to the woman in terms that are not fit for publication. 

The second hut warden later told them to camp. They argued back: “It’s first in, first-served – and we were here first,” one of them said. Eventually, the warden gave up and at their behest announced: “Nobody has any more right to a bunk than anyone else. The payment system is an honesty system – it’s a donation.”

“Nobody has any more right to a bunk than anyone else.
The payment system is an honesty system – it’s a donation.”
 Blue Lake hut warden

I’ve never viewed paying hut fees as an option. Each year I get a hut pass so I don’t even have to think about it. Frankly, I was pretty unimpressed to see four young Kiwi boys take such an attitude towards payment. 

As evening approached, it became apparent they were going to pitch their tents (sharing the hut with a bunch of trampers who clearly thought their behaviour was disgraceful can’t have been appealing) and they tried to allocate their bunks to anyone in the hut except the woman who had challenged them over not having hut tickets. Only she realised what was going on and managed to nab a bunk straight after they vacated it.

“That bunk has been given to someone, love,” one of the boys, at least 20 years her junior, said to her. She didn’t respond, so he fetched the young girl to whom he’d promised the bunk. 

“We’ve given that bunk to you,” he said to the girl. “But this woman has taken it.”

“You guys argued earlier that it’s a case of ‘first come, first-served’,” the woman said. “You left the bunk, so I got it.”

“This is f****** bull****,” one of them thundered. The poor girl who thought she was getting a bunk went back to her corner, embarrassed. 

That night, camped beside their tents, I overheard them concocting a plan to “teach that b**** a lesson”. Several tactics for revenge were discussed, but they settled on soaking her sleeping bag so she would have a cold, wet sleep the next night. She and her party were planning to climb a nearby peak, so they figured they would have a prime opportunity after she left in the morning. 

I made my breakfast and coffee in the hut and kept an eye on the woman’s sleeping bag. But their plans were scuppered when they discovered the woman had decided to stay at the hut. They weren’t brave enough to soak her bag in front of her.

“I was a bit wary of what they might do to my stuff,” the woman told me later after I had shared their plans with her. “They were pretty intimidating and I wasn’t comfortable being here alone with them, so thanks for sticking around.”

I’ve seen a lot of bad behaviour in huts over my time, but this was one of the worst episodes. It was a case of outright bullying and maliciousness directed at one woman by four arrogant little boys who didn’t like their masculinity and ‘right’ to take up as much space as they wanted to be challenged. 

And indeed, the woman said she regretted it: “I’d think twice before speaking up again.”

– The author of this article wished to remain anonymous due to the vindictive nature of the people described.