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May 2022 Issue
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Māori stories enrich Tongariro Great Walk

After reading ‘There’s something missing from the Great Walks’ (April 2022), I’d like to share my experience tramping the Tongariro Northern Circuit. 

While we loved the range of landscapes, varied terrain and company of fellow trampers in the huts, the highlight for us was the cultural connection facilitated by the DOC rangers. 

The nightly hut talks were consistent in their respect for the land and for iwi Ngāti Tūwharetoa. The repeated use of the phrase ‘Ko Tongariro te maunga’ (Tongariro is the mountain), reinforced this importance in a poetic way. 

As someone who loves hearing te reo but has very little capability myself (I have a Māori name but a British passport), I appreciated the importance the rangers placed on speaking it first and then ensuring it was understood with translation and explanation.

From their personal mihi, I presume the rangers each had different fluency in te reo and that varying degrees of practise had taken place in the pronunciation. 

Our family talked often as we tramped, of the purakau (stories) we had heard and how they were reflected in the landscapes. It helped us understand our privilege as manuhiri (visitors) welcomed to this sacred area by Ngāti Tūwharetoa.

My understanding from the rangers was that they undertake training based at the local marae as part of their preparation for each season. This model of partnership enriched our tramping experience and it would be fantastic if it could be extended.

Tui Hambrook

Tui is our letter of the month correspondent and wins a $100 voucher from Readers, send your letter to for a chance to win outdoor gear.

We all benefit from acknowledging the true ‘firsts’

Kia ora Tania Rae for such a heartfelt, gracious and entirely reasonable request that the actual ‘first’ people here, their creation stories and journeys, be acknowledged in the Great Walks hut talks and place names.

This is being achieved elsewhere. On the Hollyford Track, for example, Ngāi Tahū-trained guides share stories of the rangatira, Tūtoko, and other ancestors. They also discuss Pākehā history; the colourful Davey Gunn and the tragic settlement of Jamestown.

It is telling to read in Rae’s story how place names from his home country anchored the tauiwi / hut warden in our landscape yet evoked disconnection for Tania, born here of Māori descent. Happily, through Treaty settlements and Geographic Board / Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa processes the restoration of place names is well underway.

Rae acknowledges the challenge and dilemma of telling other peoples’ stories. She also exhorts people to be brave, and to try. Korero between hut wardens and tangata whenua would surely help. We can still hold onto all those rich legacies of early European adventurers, but let’s also acknowledge those who came before them, starting with the first. It’s about respect. And truth. We would all benefit.

Kathy Ombler

Old packs going strong

I was interested to read the story ‘Every pack tells a story’ (March 2022). 

I thought you may be interested in the accompanying photograph, which shows volunteers of the Summit Road Society in Christchurch who still use their Mountain Mule packs on a regular basis. A Mountain Mule can take 16 young plants at a time, up to 50 plant cages, and is great for carrying two, or at a pinch, three DOC 200 traps strapped to the outside.

One volunteer has owned his pack since 1961 and both he and it are still going strong.

– Murray Smith

Walk1200km is a good incentive to get outside

I am a keen walker and tramper. Last year I decided to walk up Mt Kaukau near our home in Wellington 100 times before my 74th birthday, which I achieved.

I have been doing the Walk1200km challenge for over 12 weeks now, and I have also encouraged a few friends to do the same.

Even though I am a walker, I have found the challenge is an excellent incentive to actually get out and walk each day, even if only for a couple of kilometres.

It’s been great to see people who haven’t previously done much walking are taking up the challenge and getting active.

– Val Elmey

In defence of the Shewee

I agree with your reviewer Amanda Collins that using a Shewee takes practise and I also found the shower a good place for this (Broken In review, March 2022). 

I have been using my Shewee for many years and think they are right up there with moon cups as priority gear.

For my part, rarely do I experience dampness issues, perhaps because I pull clothing down from my always elasticated waistline rather than aside. 

I also carry a small microfibre pee rag in my pocket where I can easily access it in case of issues and rinse it out later. This allows my pack to stay on. I’ve never bothered with the extra pipe that comes with the device.

After many years of squatting, it is nice to be able to avoid unpleasant things like prickly grasses, hook grass, unnoticed nettles, speargrass, exposure to rain and driving snow of more rear than necessary.

But do practise first.

– Robyn Scott

Lost on the Milford

In November last year, on the Milford Track between Clinton Hut and Mintaro Hut I discovered I was lost even though I was on the track with my map and my muscle memory confirming my location.

For some unknown reason, maybe the effort of climbing the slope to Mintaro Hut, I failed to locate the side track to the hut even though I had previously stayed at Mintaro on three occasions. On one of these occasions, I was detained in the hut for two nights listening to the deafening rain on the tin roof – a wonderful memory.

Bewildered, I dropped my pack and walked back along the track to locate the hut entrance which I confirmed against the map, which suggested the track to the hut should be visible. But it wasn’t.

It was as if the hut had vanished, or my memory was disappearing. I questioned myself.

My response was to grab some scroggin and think this out. Presently, a fellow tramper dawdled along and rescued me, telling me that her Garmin watch indicated the hut was 1km farther along the track.

I was no longer lost but disappointed that DOC had not posted a sign saying this location was the site of the previous location of the Mintaro Hut, which has been moved to avoid being threatened by rockfall.

Martin Tolich