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January 2015 Issue
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Pigeon Post: January 2015

Letter of the month: Room for bikes and boots on tracks

I would like to make some observations regarding the story about dual use trails ‘Does dual mean a duel’ (May 2014).

My family of five, including three kids under five, were recently joined by my in-laws who are in their 70s on the Clutha Gold Trail. We had a fantastic time pottering down the Clutha River over three days.

Andy Dennis was quoted in the article as saying he ‘believes nature should be enjoyed at its own pace’. I defy any tramper to walk as slow as I was when following my two-and-a-half year old on her runner bike. There was plenty of stopping to smell the roses, watch the lambs, observe a bird’s nest, get excited by the daffodils and, of course, snack stops.

If the issue is speed, does Dennis also think we should ban running on tramping tracks, including the famous Kepler Challenge? Walk the section of the Kepler Track from the control gates to Rainbow Reach and you may well have commercial and private jet boats alongside you in the Waiau River. A float plane or helicopter can take off (from within the National Park boundary) and fly over your head. A hunter is allowed to fire their rifle. But my children cannot ride their bikes.

The point is, people enjoy national parks in different ways. I see no reason one form of recreation should be given preference over another. Fiordland has 1.2 million hectares of National Park; surely there is room to share?

If DOC allows mountain biking on the Kepler, trampers will still be able to find some ‘wild’ experience ‘away from vehicles’.

Stephen Hoskin, Te Anau

Stephen wins a Buck 770 Flashpoint knife worth $89.99 thanks to Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

Stephen wins a Buck 770 Flashpoint knife worth $89.99 thanks to Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.


Top tramping town

Thank you for writing such a positive article on Te Anau (‘New Zealand’s top 10 tramping towns’, November 2014). Te Anau is, as we who live here know, an amazing place to live. And yes we do have a great community. Over the last few years we have received a considerable amount of negative publicity and, to be fair, mostly of our own doing.

Hopefully articles like this one will be commonplace now and we can promote our town and area for what it is: an awe-inspiring and awesome place to live. Though I don’t know for how much longer we will be able to leave houses and cars unlocked.

We now need to play our part and tell the rest of the world what a great place this is and what we as a destination have to offer.

Russell Wisely, Fiordland Frontier Supplies

Sock filter not your best bet

The article Making Sure Your Water’s Safe (Wild Skills, November 2014) contained some useful information about selecting a source of water but I fear your information regarding filtering could lead people to become unwell.

In general, filtering water using commercially available products will remove all protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium and all bacteria like E.coli, however, filters struggle to remove very small organisms like viruses. The filtration method you have described should not be considered for water purification. At best it will remove particulate matter like dirt and rock silt but it will not remove any water borne pathogens and could still make you unwell.

Boiling water is the safest method to purify water. Current evidence for wilderness water treatment states most pathogenic organisms are killed when the temperature is between 50-1000C. All organisms are killed within seconds at 1000C and it is not considered necessary to boil water for a number of minutes as previously recommended.

In a survival situation, careful source selection is your best bet to prevent illness. If water is dirty it can be coarsely filtered but then must be boiled to ensure it is safe to drink.

David Short, email

Scare kea for their own good

Coming down Bealey Spur we arrived at the six-bunk hut to find four people already ensconced and another two camping outside.

We said our hellos and began chatting when seven kea swooped in to the delight of everyone except my wife and I. There was lots of ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ while we warned the campers to watch the tent. Within minutes the tent was down and the hut gained two more occupants. The kea chewed on everything including the steel chimney.

My wife and I thought the hut was now more than cosy and didn’t fancy the idea of defending our tent all night. So on went our head torches for a lovely walk to the road with a splendid sunset then the dark silence of the beech forest.

I have watched kea strip a cover off a ute to get at the food beneath. I have been up nearly all night scaring them off my tent at Klondyke Corner, and up again one night when two decided to bite anything they could reach under my van. My daughter had one walk along a rail she was leaning on and try to tear holes in her jacket.

I know I am in their territory and accept this completely. But I think this familiarity kea have with humans will finish them as they ingest non-food items, anger people into harming them and fall off moving vehicles they are pecking.

They are a wonderful bird and it would be a sin to lose them, so we need to make them wary of humans any way we can – we need to be cruel to be kind. I have bought a powerful water pistol to ward them off and apparently they don’t like paprika.

They would soon learn to avoid people if everyone starts treating them badly rather than feeding and cooing over them.

Does anyone know any other ways of getting rid of them without causing harm?

Dave Hammond, email

Battle for our birds enabling stoats

My son used to trap stoats for DOC. He used eggs for bait, not poisoned rats.

Stoats are clever killers which will also eat fresh roadkill because, I believe, they know how it died because there is blood.

Yet DOC keeps saying stoats will eat poisoned rats. I don’t believe that.

They have been 1080 poisoning our bush for many decades, killing the mice and rats. This leaves the stoats with only the birds, their young and eggs for food. This is why the bush goes quiet after a 1080 drop.

It is getting worse with DOC trying to poison more than half our bush in its Battle for our Birds campaign.

Of course, DOC will keep saying stoats will eat poisoned carcasses, just lying there with no obvious cause of death. They forgot to tell the stoats.

But I am right and it is DOC that is responsible for the decimation of our birds.

Their pet word is biodiversity, I call it biodestruction.

Les Clarke, Reefton

Why return?

With a perfect weather forecast and no family commitments, I was gone: Gouland Downs Hut on the Heaphy Track at the end of the day. Roaring fire, listening to kiwi calling and feeling as though I could touch the stars.

I first tramped the Heaphy in 1972 and it was very muddy compared with the beautiful, graded dry track it is now, along with its million dollar huts and bikers for companions. Congratulations to DOC for its continued focus on progressing the Heaphy to make it such a pleasurable and stunning experience.

What is it that keeps us wanting to return to the wilderness? Spiritual, social, personal, physical, historical, recreation, flora and fauna? No doubt many other reasons can be added to the list. What are the core values of wanting to protect our natural environments? Respect, sustainability, cross-cultural, non-confrontational, honesty. Again, I am sure, this list can be added to.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all those people on the ground in progressing and implementing these values within Kahurangi National Park and in making mine, and many others, a more intense, enjoyable, memorable and exciting experience.

Rex Hunt, Richmond

Bush best place to die

Denis Shuker (Pigeon Post, September 2014) doesn’t appear to have read my original letter (April 2013), but his response is predictable!
When I was tramping in the early 1970s, I didn’t tell anyone where I was going – I didn’t know myself exactly – so no-one would have had to waste time looking for me if I had gone missing because they wouldn’t have known where to start.

Shuker mentions the possibility of dying in the bush. The bush was my home and if I had broken a leg, I wouldn’t have minded dying there because my lifestyle was so rewarding. It would have been a much better death, in the countryside I loved and doing my thing, than that facing me now in old age in Nelson.
I was tramping and living close to nature for several years, and I recommend that lifestyle to people who want to get away from civilisation. I thought I was the luckiest person in New Zealand at the time, constantly exploring new country and conquering hardship, and perhaps others can feel the same if they try it today.

Stephen Conn, Nelson


I am an avid reader of Wilderness magazine and have read many letters and articles in its pages over the years that chronicle the inadequacies of the ‘overseas trampers’ that come here to enjoy the wonders of New Zealand.  Whether it be small transgressions such as lighting the hut fire when the temperature does not warrant it and crinkling plastic bags at all hours, or major failures in preparation or judgment that lead to death or serious injury, there seems to be an impression by some that only a kiwi can do NZ tramping properly.

There is a certain species of kiwi tramper that espouses this opinion most loudly that I like to call ‘the curmudgeon kiwi tramper.’

Anyone who has tramped much in New Zealand has run into at least one of these characters. They are easy to spot by their uniform.  A long tramping jacket (PVC, not that high tech breathable rubbish!) that covers the shorts if it is raining, and polyprops worn under the shorts if it is cold.  A green hunting fleece and Meindl boots. A pack with no external pockets or anything lashed to the outside of it. Their skin and their gear will be worn and weathered to a wonderful patina, telling of age and extensive exposure to the elements. And yes, I have also met the female of the species.

As they approach you, they will cast their rheumy, sunburnt eyes over your total inadequacy. Your Italian boots are probably made in China, your walking poles will have the wrong locking mechanism, your jacket is too short and made of the wrong material, and the list goes on. Your outdoor accomplishments and knowledge are worthless to them if they were not earned in New Zealand.

If you are ensconced in a hut with a curmudgeon, they will most likely regale you with tales of foolish ‘overseas people’ engaging in dangerous or stupid behaviour in the wilderness. When you tire of being insulted by association, all that is required for relief is to bring up the subject of DOC or 1080. A colourful diatribe laced with conspiracy theories will burst forth, but at least it won’t be directed at you anymore. They are impossible to placate. A safety wire or railing on a track is ‘dumbing down the wilderness experience’, but its absence is a woeful oversight by the powers that be.

As I sit on the hut porch in the morning, drinking the wrong kind of hot drink, heated on the wrong kind of stove, out of the wrong kind of mug, I wonder how these characters behave when they go tramping overseas.  Is the kiwi way still the best way elsewhere on the planet? Or do they defer to the local curmudgeons and adopt the local ways? Stories of silly tourists being dragged from their food filled tents by hungry grizzlies abound in Canada, so it is hard to say.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for the knowledge and experience of the curmudgeon kiwi tramper. I am a convert to wearing shorts over my polyprops, merino base layers and wet boot tramping.  Local knowledge is absolutely invaluable when venturing into the wilderness anywhere in the world and I always seek it out whenever possible. But maybe there should be an acknowledgment that some visitors to New Zealand are fit, experienced, have sought the advice of locals, and are of sound judgment. After all, if Reinhold Messner walked into a back country hut, you could hardly call him a loopy could you?

John Holmes

Sometimes in Wanaka, sometimes in Canada.