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May 2012 Issue
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Pigeon Post, May 2012

Letter of the month

Theme park madness

I would like to congratulate Mark Banham on writing such a fabulous article about the new Fiordland theme park (Out There, April 2012). I was highly entertained from start to finish and cannot wait to see Americans on Segways eating ‘Milford Burgers’ scooting past the Sutherland Falls!

I have worked as a horse trekking guide in Glenorchy for three years and I will be devastated to see it change if the proposed development goes ahead. Part of the charm of this area is its peaceful, yet graceful stature. With few people around, you feel as if it’s just you and the mountains.

I now live in earthquake stricken Christchurch and worry about the relationship between the Te Anau faultline and this tunnel.

Is the drive from Queenstown to Milford really so bad that we need a fast, dark fairground ride of a tunnel to get us there quickly?

I think not, everyone please help end this madness.

– Beth Ryden, Christchurch

* Our letter of the month correspondent receives a Black Diamond Icon headlamp worth $129 courtesy of Southern Approach ( Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

Educate tourists before building tunnels and monorails

I greatly enjoyed Mark Banham’s witty and incisive article on the desecration of Fiordland.

I think it is not merely ignorance of the concept of wilderness but also a blinkered Victorian-era notion of ‘progress’ that drives these proposals. These developers see Milford Sound as a destination, not a journey. I always tell visitors intending on going there that the drive to Milford is as spectacular, if not more so, than the sound itself. Bypassing that journey by flying or by any of these ghastly proposals is lopping off a huge chunk of the experience.

I can’t help thinking that what is most needed is education of tourists advising them that the best option is to stopover in Te Anau or Manapouri, both wonderful destinations in their own right, before and after visiting Milford. Milford as an enjoyable day trip from Queenstown has always been a daft idea, driven by corporate greed.

– Richard Holmes, e-mail

Little spotted kiwi found in Wellington

Shaun Barnett recommends places to see kiwi in the wild with a slant towards more easily-accessible locations (March, 2012). He said little spotted kiwi are confined to offshore islands and that the best chance of seeing one was to take an overnight trip to Kapiti Island.

In Wellington there’s a patch of mainland where more than 100 little spotted kiwi live wild, kept safe from predators by an 8.6km fence. It’s more easily accessible than any offshore island, in fact, you can get there on the local bus.

Zealandia (Karori Sanctuary), where I’m lucky enough to work, offers guided night tours every night, rain or shine, where part of the evening’s activities includes looking for little spotted kiwi. We have a very good rate of sightings and can also encounter tuatara, takahe, glow-worms, weta, Maud Island frogs and much more along the way.

I’d like to offer readers of Wilderness the chance to win a couple of free tickets to come on a Zealandia by Night Tour, just email with the subject line ‘little spotted’ for your chance to win. Entries drawn May 31.

– Lauren Schaer, Zealandia

Keep it challenging  

The article on the Hillary Trail (‘The Pilloried Trail’, March 2012) contained some great descriptions.

Writer Josh Gale said: ‘But then we encountered Hamilton’s Track. It is hard to find the right words to describe it. It is, essentially, two hours of bog, of sloshing through giant mud ponds clutching at trees and wondering when the torment will end.’

Great description! It is true but this is part of the legend and what people love to talk about – it’s one of the challenges.  There were no escalators up Mt Everest and Tamaki Drive is available for those who can’t handle a bit of mud and anguish.

– Craig Thomson, e-mail

The more rugged the better

In his description of the Hillary Trail, Josh Gale opens an important debate as to what the trail should represent.

Should it be a walk in the park on nicely prepared tracks that appeals to Sunday afternoon couch trampers or should the track have a taste of ruggedness about it that allows for an experience that proves a challenge, tests foot placement, kit preparation, planning and fitness?

At 70km, the Hillary Trail will never be a walk in the park, especially if completed in one through trip. Is the Hamilton Track an issue? Well the Scouts I take on the track don’t seem to think so – isn’t that why we wear tramping boots and gaiters to help cope with such conditions?

I think the slightly more rugged track is more appealing and reflective of Hillary’s name as an icon of the wilderness and achievement.

– Nick Tarr, e-mail

Piece by piece

I was pleased to see the article on the Hillary Trail. Of course, it’s not necessary to do the Hillary trail as a multi-day trip.

Although a Wellingtonian now, my first tramping experiences were in the Waitakeres so since the Hillary Trail was opened I have been walking a section of the trail most times I visit Auckland. This has been an excellent experience, reintroducing me to tracks that I had not walked since my teens, and which have changed markedly since then. And of course, there’s the spectacular coastal scenery described in the article.

One issue with the trail is the lack of public transport. Buses to Huia and Piha no longer exist, so any walk on the trail means organising drop-offs and pickups, or a long round trip to get back to a vehicle. Perhaps there’s a business opportunity here for an enterprising van owner, along the lines of the shuttles that ply the ends of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?

– Alastair Smith, Wellington

Mantell named after Gideon

In the story on Mt Mantell (Wild Trips, March 2012) the author wonders who the mountain was named after. It is most likely named after Gideon Mantell, the famous British geologist, rather than his son Walter. In the same district, the place names Lyell and Murchison commemorate famous 19th century British geologists who were contemporaries of Gideon Mantell’s.

Mt Mantell is a survey trig station and when the survey was done, Walter Mantell was little known in New Zealand.

I discuss both Mantells in my recent book New Zealand Racism in the Making: The Life & Times of Walter Mantell (Panuitia Press 2010).

– Harry Evison, Christchurch