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December 2012 Issue
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Pigeon Post, December 2012

Peter Vella
Letter of the month

TimTams a great currency

It was the league of nations: Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Israelis, and a smattering of other nationalities at Angelus Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park; a mature group under the light of flickering candles enjoying delicacies and a final beverage before retiring.

The Kiwis at the far end of the table opened a pack of TimTams. This resulted in a comment in Hebrew from an attractive Israeli which caused a chuckle amongst her group. They had also offered me a delicacy (nougat, marzipan with a taste of Turkish delight). I responded with some TimTams which the Israeli eagerly accepted causing quite some mirth in her group. My puzzled look prompted one of her group to explain in English the humour. When she noticed the Kiwis with their TimTam’s she said: “I would give my body for a Tim Tam.” This caused quite some laughter, however being the gentleman I am I then offered her the whole packet!

I have never received a standing ovation; the house came down. It was rather a restless sleep with a thousand eyes watching you!

The moral of the story? I now carry two packets of TimTams on tramps.
– Peter Vella, email

* Our letter of the month correspondent receives a Swazi Bushshirt worth $89.99 from Send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

 Clements Mill Road not so infamous

Reference to Clements Mill Road as gaining infamy in 1996 (Wild Trips, October 2012) set me thinking, especially as I and fellow trampers travel the road on our many forays into the Kaimanawa Forest Park, both on DOC tracks and wandering at will on unmarked trails.

Nothing in the road’s history indicates that it is well known for some bad quality or deed, or for any morally shocking behaviour, although no doubt the bushmen and batten splitters did get up to a few antics in the earlier part of last century.

The road is the gateway to a forest area, popular with hunters and trampers who enjoy its generally underpopulated tracks and trails. It was named after Jack Clements, a timber yard owner from Hamilton who ran contract splitting gangs and a mill in the forest from 1937. After the death in 1960 of Jack’s son, Roy Clements, the mill operations ceased, mainly because of fluctuating markets and because the cost of road building outweighed any profits made.

The discovery of the Kaimanawa Wall in 1996 referred to in Nina’s article did bring some fleeting fame to the road and the area, but not infamy. There was much speculation in the national media as to the origins of the wall: was it built by a group called the Waitahas, pre-dating Maori settlement of the country; was it possibly the remains of an old mill; or was it simply a natural rock formation? An Internet search of Kaimanawa Wall will reveal the daft and not-so-daft theories on this rock formation.

Dr Peter Wood, a specialist geologist commissioned by DOC, gave his opinion on the wall, declaring it to be a natural rock formation – an outcrop of jointed Rangitaiki ignimbrite, a 330,000-year-old volcanic rock that is common in the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

New Zealand has quite a few famous tramping areas but, happily, none spring to mind that are infamous!

– Barbara Morris, Taupo

 ‘Brazen act’ questioned

It was with interest and confusion that I read Josh Gale’s opening paragraphs (‘Caring for huts the Coaster’s way’, November 2012) about DOC suggesting that over 50 per cent of the Ruahine Huts might be killed off and the community succeeding in talking DOC out of this ‘brazen act’.

Where exactly did this information come from? My experience of what has been happening is that DOC has held a number of public meetings to inform communities that there is not enough funding to maintain all the huts in the Ruahines. At these meetings DOC has encouraged interested parties to indicate the huts that they feel are priorities for maintenance and has also asked community groups to take on responsibility and work in partnership with DOC to maintain huts that are important to them.

This is the reality of conservation and recreation on our public land now. Funding is decreasing, as are staff numbers within DOC.

I can assure you that none of this makes DOC staff happy.

– Nina Mercer, email

Miracle boots

The article ‘Good footwear essential for backcountry trips’ (November 2012), reminds me of a trip I made into the bush behind Hokitika about 40 years ago, when I didn’t have tough footwear. My shoes were just on the verge of being useless when I landed at a hut with a pair of beautiful strong studded boots on a rubbish tip at the front of the hut. They were my size too.

I don’t believe in god, but it was a miracle actually. Who would throw away good boots? And how did someone manage to walk out of the bush without them? And what would I have done if I hadn’t found them? No-one knew where I was so there was no chance of anyone coming to look for me.

So if you are still around and remember leaving them there, thanks whoever you are.

– Stephen Conn, Nelson

Cleaning up

I was most bemused by Nick Kensington’s angry correspondence (Pigeon Post, November 2012). Reading between the lines, perhaps there may be an affiliation with DOC?

I believe Kensington may have missed the initial point of Adam Roys’ letter in the September issue. A simple request/observation to clean up after one’s self became a target of abuse and negative assumptions. DOC is not a free service, no more than the residential refuse collection or the police force. DOC is funded by the New Zealand tax payer.

On a tangent, Kensington did have one pertinent point: DOC achieves plenty of good work in various locations. But, there is a flipside – DOC often goes way over the top, wasting time and resources with unnecessary stairs and walkways. There is nothing wrong with walking in a bit of mud, nor is there anything wrong with walking up and down slopes – in fact, it’s part of being in the great outdoors.

In the opposite direction of DOC’s good work, various locations are overlooked with extra materials left behind.

Requesting to keep our country beautiful and simply remove unused materials after construction of a project is not expecting a 24 hour service. As a builder, clean up is the actual project completion.

– Trevor Johnson, email