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June 2014 Issue
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So, where are you from?

Daly's Clearing Hut - JAFAs welcome. Photo: Hazel Phillips
Auckland tramper Hazel Phillips finds it’s often best to dance around the question of where you’re from and offer a little white lie from time to time

We tramped into Daly’s Clearing Hut in the Kaimai Ranges recently. I’ve been there before a couple of times, once, notably, when we busted a couple of young kids smoking dope and burning the mattresses on a bonfire outside. My ‘inner teacher’ (I trained as one but never taught) took over and I lectured them on public assets, property care and the conservation estate.

They took off out the window some time during the night and slept in the bush.

But I digress.

Daly’s Clearing Hut is an oldie and not particularly a goodie – it’s been painted a couple of garish shades and had a bit of a do-up, but it’s still not much of a destination. One day some bright spark at DOC will probably decide it’s too close to the road end and take it out, and it’ll be one of those ‘remember when’ stories.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s the sort of hut you go to not for the hut itself, but for the sake of going to a hut, because there’s not much else around in the proximity of Auckland.

But I digress, again.

There were three of us and four others, and as we settled in for the evening, getting acquainted with our hut-mates over red wine and two-minute noodles, we began The Dance. The Dance!

The Dance deserves capital letters, because that’s how I always think of it in my head. The Dance begins as you approach the hut and it can continue for a couple of hours, depending on the location and the politics of the situation.

There’s a bit of thrust and parry, back and forth, give and take, until someone finally says, ‘So, where are you from?’

And then you have to either lie, or confess that you’re an Aucklander.

This particular evening, turn by turn we did The Dance and confessed to coming from Auckland. Once we realised that we all came from Auckland, there was an almost audible sigh of relief, as an atmosphere of mutual acceptance fell over the group.

Our secret out, we sat and wallowed in the abject filth of our Aucklandness. And boy, did it feel good. Dirty, but good.

I spend a lot of my time out of Auckland – tramping, diving, skiing or just being a general munter. The majority of my holidays are spent in the South Island, enjoying the splendid range of huts we upper North Islanders are largely deprived of, as well as the excellent scenery and tracks.

But I’ve got to say, I get a bit tired of having to do The Dance, with its self-deprecating ‘Yes, sorry, I’m a Jafa, ha ha I’m a Jafa’ jokes. That night at Daly’s Clearing, it was a thing of beauty to be able to just be an Aucklander and not have to apologise for it.  

Late last year I took a couple of weeks off and spent most of them in Central Otago. One of the shuttle drivers to a track end asked if anyone was from Auckland, then cracked a (rather insulting) joke. I asked if Aucklanders were routinely rude to him (as in, unprompted rudeness) and he said no, but he loved ‘giving those f**kers a serve’. He told me he had once threatened to pull over and shove a couple of Aucklanders out of the van for telling him they thought his jokes weren’t called for.

On that occasion, I pretended to be from Nelson. It’s the ultimate in diplomatic immunity – I mean, who hates Nelson? It’s far south enough to be innocent of any ‘big city’ charges, but not so small that you’d get caught out by having to actually prove it. I’ve got a whole fake life based in Nelson right there in my back pocket for anyone who wants details, though. (I live in The Brook. Only just moved there. Thinking of moving again. Two cats and a nice garden. Love that new coffee place on Trafalgar Street.)

I’m hoping that one day we can reach a place of acceptance for our fellow New Zealanders, no matter where they come from. I mean it. And I mean it even for West Aucklanders and Hamiltonians. I want one big group hug.

And then we’ll all make a bonfire, smoke dope and burn the mattresses together.