Letter of the month
It’s never too late
Despite a brief flirtation with tramping in my twenties, I sadly did not really discover its delights until my mid-fifties when I was invited by a friend on a trip to Te Puia Hut in Kaweka Forest Park. Lovely bush, hot pools, refreshing stream, great company – I was hooked!
Four years on, I have walked the Abel Tasman, Milford, Kepler and Rakiura Great Walks, the Old Ghost Road, and tramped to huts in the Tararua, Ruahine and Kaweka ranges. I have found new friendships with those I tramp with and am constantly being refreshed by the amazing beauty to be found in and above the bush.
I’ve discovered a whole range of equipment and clothing that makes tramping easier, safer, and more enjoyable. I’ve discovered the joys of Wilderness magazine, and see new adventure’s opening up with each month’s edition.
My biggest regret is that I did not start doing this earlier. For now, I can manage three or four-day hikes, but I know that one day I probably won’t be able to. Will I need to go on guided hikes? Or look for shorter, less strenuous tracks? What do others do?
It’s never too late to get out there and get going – but do start it sooner rather than later. Just get out there while you can!
– Margaret King, Wellington
Thru-hikers require more self-reflection
For many years I have had the privilege of living adjacent to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, while also returning regularly to the bush and mountains of my native New Zealand. The article profiling Elina Osborne and ‘her people’ of the Pacific Crest Trail brought me serious pause.
The PCT and the John Muir Trail trace through my US backyard. I have witnessed the explosion in numbers of people, generally younger, on both trails (as well as on the Te Araroa). It seems long-distance hikes have devolved into moving party trains with less regard for the wild.
Osborne quotes a Māori proverb saying ‘the most important thing in the world is people’. Surely thinking we are the most important thing in the world is what has got us into our environmental pickle. Osborne also claims that the PCT is ‘all about the people’. But if this were the case, how is it me and my neighbours go about business in our busy trail town without hardly ever interacting with or hearing from these hikers? Which people does she mean, exactly?
Osborne states she views thru-hiking as ‘privileged homelessness with intention’. The PCT permits allowing walkers to visit every US National Park along the way, are free. The hikers in town often enjoy a free lunch, a free ride, a free place to stay. What do the ‘privileged homeless’ give back? Every day brings another assault on our environment, which in order to resist, requires every concerned voice raised in loud protest. I would ask the same question of Americans who take advantage of a $NZ92 hut pass for six months accommodation on the Te Araroa: What are you doing to improve those routes you are using and to aid in the preservation of our mountain environment?
Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua – As man disappears from sight, the land remains.
– Robert SP Parker, IFMGA Guide, California
Inconsistent track times
I’m a 79-year-old who has been tramping for over 40 years. Most of my trips have been around Tongariro National Park, where I regularly achieve the designated track times.
However, recently I did a four-day trip in the Kaimanawas, traveling through Poronui Station to Oamaru Hut, on to Boyd Hut and returning. DOC’s website advised the track times were 4hr and 4-6hr respectively.
It took me 3.5hr to reach Oamaru, so I was expecting a leisurely walk on to Boyd the following day – despite the fact that the DOC marker pole had been changed to read 5-7hr.
As it happened, it took me 8.5hr to reach Boyd. My time to the Maungaorangi Track junction was 4.5hr – well within the 4-5hr shown on the marker pole, but it then took me a further 4hr to reach Boyd, which was well in excess of the 1-2hr shown.
And I wasn’t the only one having trouble with the track times. Shortly before I reached the junction, I had passed an older group who were on their fourth day. They said it had taken them 3.5hr to get from Boyd to the junction, and there was something seriously wrong with the track times.
And when I reached Boyd Hut, there were two entries about it in the hut book. One by a tramper who said ‘I must be getting old, it took me 7.5hr to come up from Oamaru’, and another by a group who said ‘the track times from Oamaru are very wrong!!! Allow 10-12hr’.
On the way back, after a good night’s sleep, it took me 3hr to reach the junction. This was still way outside the 1-2hr time posted. And it took me a further 6hr to reach Oamaru
I am sure the fit, young bucks can achieve the designated track times, but now that more of the older generation are continuing to tramp into their 70s and 80s, it is important that DOC’s track times are consistent throughout the country.
It would be interesting to hear about other tracks and track times that your readers have difficulty achieving
– David Holroyd, email
No peace at Mt Fox tarns
Regarding the story ‘Into the clouds’ (Wild trips, January 2020), the author described tramping up Mt Fox and camping at the tarns above the bushline.
The author said he found peace on the trip. I have done the same trip and was disappointed at the constant tourist aircraft noise, from both fixed-wing and helicopters. The noise did not stop until darkness.
I advise readers to go elsewhere if they are looking for peace and if tramping Mt Fox then take noise-cancelling headphones.
– Simon Garton, email