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September 2013 Issue
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Pigeon Post, September 2013

Letter of the month – Backcountry hut colour schemes

While perusing copies of Wilderness over recent months I cannot help but notice the trend in the magazine of DOC’s backcountry huts being painted in one-off colour schemes. I assume either DOC staff or enthusiastic volunteers are using products supplied by a partnership paint firm. In many cases I consider the selected colour schemes to be incompatible with the huts’ natural setting (for example Mt Brown Hut, p29, May 2013).

I could be labelled a cynic, but I hope the paint freely supplied under the ‘Protecting Our Place’ relationship does not contain a provision that insists the huts have to visually stand out from their immediate background when using the company’s products.

In the early 1980s I was involved with the standardisation of colour schemes for huts within Fiordland National Park. The colours chosen were considered appropriate for three different landscape settings: sub alpine, bush clearings and open grassland. This restricted colour palette meant the park’s workshop only had to stock three basic colours of exterior paint. More importantly, as external cladding on huts had to be replaced, the new panels could be pre-painted in the workshop in the exact colour. Additionally, the perennial problem of endeavouring to paint a hut during inclement weather conditions did not arise.

Under the present arrangement, I can visualise maintenance patch-ups being undertaken on huts with no real co-ordination or control on paint finishes.

However, my main concern is that backcountry hut and other manmade structures should remain visually subservient to their natural setting with only alpine huts, for safety reasons, being painted in ‘safety’ orange or similar bright hues.

– Alan Petrie, Te Anau

Otago the home of rock tors

Bream Head, Castle Hill and the Hump Ridge New Zealand’s top tor destinations (‘See more rock tors’, August 2013)? You have got to be kidding!

Central Otago is the ‘home of the tor’ – we have literally hundreds of square kilometres of rock tors that for sheer number, size , height and dramatic form dwarf anything in those three places. Look on any topomap of Central Otago and observe the uncountable number of rock symbols, each of which represents a tor or more likely a group of tors.

The very names of our mountains tell you this: Rock and Pillars, Rough Ridge, Obelisk, Mt Pisa (as in the leaning tower of), Column Rocks, Raggedy Range, Old Man Rock, Old Woman Rock, Knobby Range, Rocky Mount, Leaning Rock, Cairnhill and Stonehenge to name but a few.

That tors are the very essence of the Central Otago landscape is well illustrated by Vincent Pyke’s (the first Otago Goldfields Commissioner) description of them in his  History of Early Gold Discoveries in Otago as “huge unshapely masses of rock – weather beaten geological veterans – blackened and scarred by I know not how many centuries of conflict with the elements; some prostrate, some erect, others inclining earthwards; all scattered at irregular intervals, like relics of a vast Druidical Temple”.

Peter Dymock, Alexandra

– Fair point Peter, however, See More columnist Shaun Barnett did point out in his introduction that his knowledge of Otago’s rock tors was ‘severely lacking’. His column is also about tramping destinations – many of Otago’s tors are more suitable for 4WDs, mountain biking or cross country skiing. – AH

An outdoors country

Not everyone can camp or tramp, but many people do love the wilderness and make their way there to stay and enjoy the unique beauty of New Zealand’s pristine environment without being able, or inclined, to go above the snowline.

For 40 years my husband and I have been true South Island Kiwis: can’t fly, can’t swim, but can explore the amazing country that is only hours from home.

Recently we acquired a Canadian caravan which gives us a comfortable base to continue our journeys of discovery.

My husband is a keen fly fisherman, so while he is out on the rivers or lakes I go walking. Together we also explore the 4WD routes that were a vital part of New Zealand’s history, such as the Rainbow Road and the Oreti. Other favourite areas are the high country lakes of Canterbury, each one a jewel set in awesome surroundings.

For the last six weeks I have been at home recovering from surgery, the only bonus being a chance to catch up on reading Wilderness. We have already decided to re-visit the Catlins to do the overnight walk (‘Slowing down in the Catlins’, June 2013).

We must be among the most privileged people on this planet, to have so much and be so few.

When I was at a Nelson lake once, some German tourists asked me: ‘Which city is supplied by water from here?’ I explained that there were no cities nearby. ‘Then why is the lake here?’ they asked. ‘Because it rains a lot around here and this is where the water goes,’ I answered.

Long may it be that way.

– V Burton, Christchurch

A welcome light

After being a loyal monthly (shop) buyer for the last 3-4 years, I finally decided to subscribe to Wilderness. Not only was I stoked at the savings made over buying it over the counter, but the offer of the free headlamp was a great gesture. After receiving an email to say to expect 5-6 weeks delivery of the LED Lenser headlamp, you can imagine how happy I was that it arrived in about four days – on my birthday in fact.

So thank you Wilderness for my extra little birthday treat, as well as creating such an amazing magazine that has done so much to inspire me to get back to nature and bring my family up to appreciate this beautiful country we live in.

Our current adventures are pretty tame having three and five year olds in tow, and one on the way, but they are already avid outdoor enthusiasts in progress!

 – Ryan August, email

Knife surprise

There we were, my husband and I, sitting on the front veranda, tying our laces when along rides Maggie the postie.

Out of her basket comes a wee box with my name on it. I open it up, and there’s a Swiss Army Knife, compliments of Wilderness magazine.

Well, I was totally blown away! I’ve always wanted my very own Swiss Army Knife, but it always seemed easier to whine (I’m a whinging Pom) at the husband to borrow his. Now, when we stop for lunch on the track I can cut my own slice of cheese – and whatever else.

Thanks so much. It was particularly special to get that pressie on the very day we were starting off on a series of walks that we hope will eventually see us reach Bluff.

I consider the Swiss Army Knife a good luck omen!

– Katie Cloughley, Nelson

– Pleased to hear the knife will come in handy, Katie. Readers, you can win subscriber prizes like Katie did – see p58 for this month’s haul of goodies. – AH

From our Facebook page

Some of the choice comments posted to the Wilderness Facebook page:

‘Is it not ironic that Gareth Morgan is pictured proudly holding a trout in an article discussing freeing New Zealand of predators (‘NZ’s greatest challenge’, July 2013)? – Barrie Wallington

‘I prefer a map in the hand (just like I prefer a book in the hand to e-readers) – there’s something nice about something basic that can’t be affected by software issues or flat batteries, and it leaves more challenge and one’s skills fresher than some of the fancy technology now available.’ – Amy McNabb in response to our online survey on mapping preferences.