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April 2019 Issue
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Escape the dark side

Suze Kelly,' Secrets of the guides' feature

When you spend more than 100 days in the wilderness each year, as many of the trekking and mountain guides who contributed to our ‘Secrets of the guides’ feature, you develop a keen sense for what works and what doesn’t.

For instance, you’re less likely to eat dehydrated meals and opt instead for fresh food because it’s more nourishing, fulfilling and more likely to put a smile on people’s faces. As Dave McKinley from Alpine Guides says, “I’d take three days of fresh food before I start sliding into the dark side” of dehydrated meals.

McKinley’s number one tip for fresh food: spring onions, of which he says “there’s a lot of flavour for very little weight”.

I’ve long been a member of the dark side, refusing to take anything fresh on my tramps, even for overnighters.

Sometimes I inflict my preferences on unsuspecting trampers, as I did last year in the Tararua Range. Our group of five had been divided into two cooking groups. Poor Dave and I made up one group – the one, in hindsight, everyone else was thankful not to have been a part of. While Shaun cooked up a masterclass of fresh capsicums, pasta, salami and other colourful and enticing ingredients in quantities that surely could have spread to five hungry souls, cooking groups be damned, I boiled my billy with enough water to hydrate two packets of dehy.

Dave grinned and assured me that any food is good food, even though the out-of-date dehy was clumpy and not quite hydrated in parts. There could be no denying the sideways glances to the other’s plates. One saving grace for my meal was the parmesan cheese I’d brought. As if that little touch would compensate for the ugly gruel on our plates. Well, to be fair, mostly ugly in comparison to what the others were eating.

I couldn’t help but notice their contented grins afterwards. I didn’t see the same on Dave’s face, but then I couldn’t really bring myself to look at him, such was my embarrassment.

But spring onions. Now, there’s a game-changer. Dave, if you’re reading this, next time parmesan and spring onions, OK?