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March 2012 Issue
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Pigeon Post, March 2012

Letter of the month

Jet boaters ruin more than peaceful atmosphere

I visited Paul Caffyn’s favourite secret West Coast Lake (as recounted in the December 2010 issue of Wilderness) over New Year.

Caffyn described the lake, South of Jackson Bay, on the West Coast, as a ‘magic lake only accessible by kayak or by bush bashing thorough an old overgrown track’.

Paddling the 1.5km access stream was particularly beautiful, even though we had to paddle between some fallen trees – but this only added to the feeling of being in the wild. The lake itself is a gem, surrounded by forested hills and higher mountains visible in the distance. It was incredibly peaceful.

However, just when we were ready to leave, we heard the dreaded noise of a jet boat. It made a few rounds of the lake, scaring birds and instantly changing the atmosphere. Following the stream on the way back we found that the boat’s occupants had cleared it of obstacles with branches freshly cut by chainsaw. As we were packing our kayaks, more jet boats were getting ready to invade the lake.

I visited the DOC office at Haast and recounted my experience. The DOC officer said that jet boats have the same right to use the lake as I do and no, noise is not considered pollution. I was so stunned that I forgot to mention the sawn-off trees.

I would be interested to hear what Wilderness readers think: Is there any reason to feel disappointed?

– Dorota Giejsztowt, Christchurch

* Our letter of the month correspondent receives a LED Lenser H7 headtorch worth $139 courtesy of Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

Fitness is relative

Recently, I walked up Foggy Peak from Porters Pass to The Gap, a prominent geographical feature.

I checked the vandalised map of tracks at the start and read ‘2 to 4 hours to The Gap’. I’m of high average fitness and hoped to get there nearer two than four hours. Around 90 minutes later, at the top of Foggy Peak, the broad ridge ahead showed no sign of The Gap. I decided it was going to take at least three hours.

After four hours tramping into the cold gale, negotiating sharp rocky ridges, I reached my destination. It was quite sheltered and beautiful, but I was disappointed it had taken so long.

Turning around to head back I was surprised by a young guy in running shoes appearing over the edge of The Gap. He’d come up the creek from the bottom of Porters Pass up a ridge to Mt Torlesse and around the ridge line, the technicality of which surprised him. He had less than a litre of water, no evidence of food and had covered at least three times my distance. He admitted to being “a bit stuffed”.

He took off and by the time I’d got to the first peak on the ridge back he had become a dot in the distance. I was now seriously re-evaluating how fit I really was.

It took two-and-a-half hours to return to the car. Exhausted, I rechecked the map of tracks. It was with some relief I realised I had misread the times. What it actually said was ‘2 to 4 hours from summit of Foggy Peak and Castle Hill Peak and experienced parties traversing to The Gap leave a day’.

Fitness is relative.

– Sam McArthur, Christchurch

Freedom camping hypocrisy

Now I know I am putting myself in double jeopardy here. Firstly by conforming to a national stereotype as a whingeing Pom and secondly as a foreigner criticising ‘God’s Own’, but there is some deep hypocrisy and xenophobia developing around the issue of tourists and the freedom camping bill.

I wouldn’t begin to try and defend tourists who pollute the environment, especially one as rare and special as New Zealand. Those responsible for it deserve the full weight of the law. However, New Zealand promotes itself as a paradise of outdoor freedoms. Tourists do not visit on a whim or as they are ‘passing by’. It’s not cheap to get here and even the budget backpackers are making a significant contribution to local economies. If the problem is predominantly non self-contained camper vans, then either ban that type of vehicle or make it a legal requirement for the hire companies to provide methods of waste and water containment.

I would also like to invite all those who single out visitors as the worst effluent polluters to visit some of the beaches around Dunedin where the city council pumps raw sewage into the sea, making the environment and beaches far less than 100% Pure.

Now that is a brown stain on the country’s image.

– Vince Godber, e-mail

Plane tail bivvy

The article on Angle Knob Hut (December, 2011) is an interesting piece on hut ‘culture’ of which such sites need more exposure.

Perhaps the most unique example, which ended up placed by accident, is the emergency bivouac in the shape of the tail section of a RNZAF Devon aircraft which crashed on Shingle Slip Knob in 1955. I would be interested in knowing if it’s still there. The crew did not survive that crash and were buried just above the crash site by some government deer cullers.

– KJ Pennell, Greymouth

According to Chris Lester, DOC’s Wairarapa Area Manager, the remains of the plane are still on Shingle Slip Knob. An engine from the plane was removed in 2009 without permission. DOC identified the person who did this and the engine was returned. As for using it as an emergency bivouac, Chris says it’s not unheard of: “I am aware of rumours that the tail section has on occasions been used as shelter by trampers,” he said. “Although I can’t think why one would camp on site for reasons other than severe weather conditions or lack of daylight.’

Clarification of Matukituki descent

Following up on my article ‘A day out on Rabbit Pass’ (November, 2011), I am keen to clarify our perception of the descent into the East Matukituki. Comments on our route-finding error and subsequent rather scary descent on this very brief section were edited from the article to make it a more concise telling of our trip.

In the interests of safety it is important to alert people to the fact that this section is steep and exposed, even on the correct route (which at present is well poled).

Once parties have ascended the Waterfall Face on the Wilkin side they are pretty much committed to descending into the East Matukituki – retreating down the Waterfall Face is not considered a safe option.

On a recent tramping trip I used a length of light rope on the East Matukituki side. The group following behind also used a rope.

For anyone considering this trip, talking to others and looking at some photos is a good plan.

– Vivien Eyers, e-mail