Letter of the month
Great ranger on Great Walk
My wife and I had the pleasure of tramping the Heaphy Track recently.
Everyone we met on the track was friendly and enthusiastic about having the privilege of experiencing this wonderland.
However, the highlight for me, as far as human interaction is concerned, had to be the DOC Ranger – Vince – at Perry Saddle Hut on our first night. Vince was fantastic at mingling with the people enjoying the comforts of the hut (including those brave enough to camp outside on a very wet and windy night). He would meander around each group with a genuine interest in the people and what their intentions were while they were on the Heaphy.
Later that night, Vince talked to the whole hut collectively about the Heaphy Track and its features such as the takahē, kiwi, Powelliphanta snails, mistletoe and the caves in the Enchanted Forest.
Vince also talked about predators – the stoats, rats, possums – and the damage they inflict on the bush and wildlife.
He was engaging and comical – if you ever get the chance to meet him, ask about the cheese and eggs!
Thanks, Vince, for a great introduction to a Great Walk.
– Darryn Watts, Motueka
– Darryn receives a Kiwi Camping Legend Chair worth $99.99 from www.kiwicamping.co.nz. Readers, send your letters to email@example.com. Our Letter of the month winner in May receives a pair of Keen Gypsum tramping boots worth $300.
Ruahine access trouble
We are a couple of 70-something trampers who recently planned a four-day hike in the Ruahine Range, involving stays at Purity, McKinnon and Kelly Knight huts.
From our research, we learned that farmer permission was required for Purity and Kelly Knight huts. The first farmer, Richard Gorringe, gave permission. I then rang Kohunui Station but got a recorded message which said that if seeking permission for Kelly Knight, to not leave a message but keep trying to make contact. This we did – again and again. Several times that night and all the next day we rang, always to receive the same recorded message.
In the end, we decided to try to make contact on our way from Hamilton. Just in case we couldn’t get through, we devised a plan B which involved returning via Purity Track – which is what we finally settled upon as we could not contact Kohunui Station.
Arriving at the entrance to Gorringe’s farm we found a stern message in capital letters on the front gate saying, ‘No entrance, no visitors, no trespassers, no exceptions’.
It was the ‘no exceptions’ that concerned us because at no stage did Gorringe tell us we could ignore his gate sign.
It seems as though the farmers have their own ways of denying access, and any agreement with DOC is not being honoured. One has a ‘no exceptions’ sign on his gate; the other just does not answer his phone.
It would be far more preferable for them to just deny permission in the first place so trampers do not drive the long, winding road to be frustrated by their actions. It is that frustration that causes tempers to fly and disharmony to flourish. I feel that less tolerant people than us would have gone on anyway, further fuelling the negativity between parties.
As it was, we undertook our tramp in another part of the Ruahines.
The bonus for us was that we got to consume the gifts we had bought for the farmers.
– Judy and Keith Hitchcock, Hamilton
The article, ‘Near misses’ resonated with me so much I’d like to share a couple of my own experiences.
The first was in January 1984 when I undertook a solo tramp from St Arnaud to Lewis Pass. In Blue Lake Hut, I bumped into a friend who had traversed Waiau Pass from the south. ‘On the southern side, it’s a good rocky ridge most of the way and then you have to pick your way through some bluffs’ was his description of the route.
Everything went well until the approach to the bluffs. There was a couloir on my right and a track seemed to follow its edge. It then began to get progressively steeper and instinctively I crossed a narrow gully to cautiously view beyond when I found myself perched precariously over a major drop of 50-60m. Being in running shoes on steep snowgrass, I retreated very slowly, breathing deeply and ensuring that I had three points of contact at all times. As I extricated myself, cursing that I’d missed the route, I noticed a bent waratah towards my right. This was visible from below but I’d completely missed it from above.
The second near miss, in 2008, was after overnighting in Anatoki Forks Hut. We were enjoying the wide bench track contouring high above the Anatoki River, on our way to Takaka. My partner Sandra was 100m ahead of me when the track narrowed in its approach to a surprisingly wide creek. Part of the track had collapsed when Sandra had placed her weight on it and she would have fallen six metres onto the stony creek bed had she not held onto a thin sapling and got her ankle around a tree root. With a rush of adrenalin, I lifted her up, full pack and all.
It goes to show, you can never let your guard down when in the outdoors.
– Tony Kunowski
Kiwis, do the TA
What an amazing experience and privilege to be able to tramp sections of the Te Araroa Trail recently.
My aim is to walk the South Island, and I have just finished the first two sections from Ship Cove to St Arnaud. The Queen Charlotte Track is absolutely stunning – scenically beautiful, socially invigorating, and spiritually significant.
Time spent viewing one of NZ’s oldest rimu trees, estimated to be up to 1500 years old, was life-changing.
The Richmond Hills section was equally meaningful, with its mountain views, alpine flowers, and river swims. I felt so fortunate to watch a pair of rifleman feeding their young nesting in a small hole in a beech tree.
It was my intention to do the South Island in one go, but I found myself heading home because of the stresses of a serious drought. Now I feel relaxed about doing the trail in time frames that fit in with myself and family.
I cannot emphasise enough to fellow Kiwi trampers to think seriously about doing the TA – I only met one other New Zealander during my two weeks on the trail. It is such an enriching, fulfilling and life-giving experience.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this incredible trail.
– Rex Hunt, Richmond
Regarding the story ‘A ladder in the wilderness’, the Tararua ladder is actually constructed from steel, not aluminium as stated, and was hot-dip galvanised to protect it from the harsh conditions.
I have tramped along the main range many times over the years and it is always comforting to have the solid feel of steel in my hands when traversing this section of the Tararua Peaks, particularly in the galeforce winds that frequent this area often.
– Steve Hudson, Paraparaumu