The devastating earthquake in Christchurch on February 22 may have ruined the city, but it also brought out the best in members of local tramping clubs.
Alan Ross, a member of the Christchurch Tramping Club, says after the first quake last year, instead of continuing with trips, club members helped the community and this spirit of cooperation has grown.
“There’s a strong bond that forms when you go on long twelve or six day trips and that contributes to the relationships in town with club members reaching out to each other,” says Ross.
None of the CTC’s members, as far as Ross knows, were killed or are on the missing list, but one member was in the CTV building at the time of the quake and had her arm broken.
An engineer has deemed Ross’s house unsafe to live in and told him it will be “uneconomic to repair”. Ross is now living with his in-laws.
“Half of Christchurch is broken, the other half is pretty good,” he says. “Members living on the good side have been helping members living on the broken side.
“We’re helping affected members, including their friends and family, with digging silt, boarding up houses and moving home contents.”
All club trips were cancelled immediately following the earthquake so members could focus on helping one another, but now the club has run out of jobs and is resuming its trips.
However Ross says he won’t be going along. “I can’t see myself heading to the hills for a while because there is lots of stuff to do. Mentally, I’m just not ready.”
Avon Tramping Club President Joy Burt says some of the club’s members living on the east side of the city have lost their homes and moved in with family, but as far as she knows none were killed or are missing.
Her own house was shaken with everything knocked over, but it has been deemed safe to live in.
“Some of the members on the west side offered showers, washing and things like that,” says Burt. “One of my members came and collected all my big heavy washing and is bringing it back tomorrow.”
Burt says having outdoor skills and experience has made coping with the “rack and ruin of the city” easier. She is camping on her own property and says she is using all of her outdoor skills to survive.
“My next door neighbour packed up and left immediately when her landlord said she’d have to dig a hole in the garden, whereas I think we’re used to coming across a situation where we have to use our head and work out how to cope,” says Burt. “In some respects it’s actually easier than staying in a tramping hut. I’ve still got a comfortable bed to sleep in.
“It’s the simple things like how to cook a decent meal in one pot [that make a difference]. There are people who can’t do it.”
CTC’s Alan Ross agrees people with tramping and camping experience are coping better. “There’re people I’ve heard of who have no idea how to dig a long drop and people who just freak out at the concept of pooing into a hole. For trampers it’s obviously much less of an issue,” he says.
Christchurch University Tramping Club (CUTC) committee member Sharon Hornblow says trampers and outdoors people are better at making the most of living in difficult circumstances.
“Instead of lamenting [about how] you’ve got no TV, you make the most of it and sit around talking to people and playing cards and music,” says Hornblow. “I quite like having no power because it brings people together more.
“For the first few nights when most houses had no power, a lot of people found that quite hard because they’re not used to it. But for me and my flatmates we had all this tramping gear in the garage so we set ourselves up basically camping in our own house.”
The CUTC has been shut down since the earthquake and the club rooms are waiting to be inspected by an engineer.
The quake happened one day before the university’s clubs day which has stymied its annual drive for new members.
With official club trips only just starting again, Hornblow says some members with engineering skills have been helping to inspect buildings while others have been part of the volunteer student army.
But despite 12 hour days digging silt or offering manual labour, Hornblow and a few friends have found time to go tramping.
“It’s good to get out and get your mind off things for a while,” she says.
Peninsula Tramping Club President Leo Manders agrees. He says one of his members is on the missing list and many others’ homes will be demolished. Despite the scale of the tragedy, his club is running a “business as usual policy”.
“It’s a good opportunity for people to get out and talk and socialise,” says Manders.
Members have also been helping one another with removing silt, transportation, moving belongings and providing storage. One member has offered her counselling services for free.
The New Zealand Alpine Club’s head office is based in Christchurch and chief executive Ollie Clifton says a high percentage of Christchurch’s outdoor community members live in the Port Hills area which was hit hard by the quake.
“Outdoor people live there purely because they like to be close to the climbing crags and good mountain biking and walking trails,” says Clifton.
While it may be good for people to escape the destruction by going into the hills, Clifton says people are “focused on the core stuff of life”.
“Heading into the hills to go tramping or climbing for a few days somehow feels a little frivolous,” he says.
Clifton agrees the resourcefulness gained from outdoor skills and experience has come in handy for many Cantabrians.
“I’ve definitely noticed in my circle of friends there’s not the same level of stress and anxiety about the circumstances we have in Christchurch now.
“It’s a nice example of how outdoor skills and experience spills over into other areas of life and equips you for a number of different things life throws at you, not just earthquakes or natural disasters.”