You don’t have to suffer along gruelling tracks in appalling weather for your journey to become an adventure. In fact, if you’re trying to get tramping newbies to love your pastime, it’s best if the experience is far easier.
I once hiked to Kauritatahi Hut in Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park with my friend Jane. She’s a tramping ninja and has been hiking ever since she could remember, so it all comes naturally to her and she’s very resilient. We also had another friend with us, Kate. She’s resilient too, but in her case it’s thanks to regular Les Mills classes and a very slim physique.
I was new to tramping and found it hard going: a muddy slog up Thompsons Track was followed by some creative navigation that included instructions such as ‘turn left at the plastic bag tied to the tree’. It was cold, even for July, and it started raining just as we got there.
On arrival, Jane oscillated between tending to the fire and starting dinner prep, humming as she went. Kate curled up on the top bunk and began reading out celebrity gossip and Facebook posts from her phone (you do get good reception up there). I got changed immediately, chilled to the bone, and sat on the bottom bunk and rocked myself back and forth to ease the suffering.
Jane and Kate were more robust than I was, and they didn’t feel the need to get changed or to rock themselves back and forth like a baby. I was embarrassed and vowed to harden up.
Over time, I became more robust and resilient (although it’s always a work in progress), but I try to keep the Kauritatahi Hut episode in mind when I’m with newbies. And while on a light and easy womble in Kahurangi National Park, I got to thinking that you could create a ‘super-adventurous non-adventure’ for people who haven’t done much tramping but are keen to try.
Throwing yourself in the deep end is doing it the hard way, but there’s also the easy way. So here’s my ultimate super-adventurous non-adventure for newbies.
Friday night, arrive at Flora Saddle car park in Kahurangi. Doesn’t matter if it’s dark – in fact, if it’s dark, that’s better because it feels more adventurous but the track is easy to follow by torchlight. Wind your way up the first track on the left five minutes after leaving the car park and head to Mt Arthur Hut. It’s a beautifully well-appointed hut, right on the edge of the bushline. The track going up is protected but the views from the tops are spectacular. Bonus: the fireplace is easy to light and soon gets the hut nice and warm.
Saturday, option to climb to the tops to get some views before heading back down the same track to Flora Saddle. Warning: don’t take them down the loop track to Flora Hut direct unless they’re up for a rougher track. The route looks more direct, but it’s harder going – and remember, the objective is to keep it very easy. Follow the Flora Hut Walk track, picking up the headwater of the Flora Stream, and womble down to Flora Hut itself. The hut is historic – with separate men’s and women’s quarters – and has had a beautiful makeover, courtesy of the Nelson Tramping Club, as a tribute to tramper Ruth Hesselyn who died in the area.
Now, you can either stay at Flora Hut for the night, with options for further walking without the pack, or head on to the Gridiron Rock Shelters where there’s a shelf shelter with an overhanging rock and ladder up to it (and an excellent open fireplace and general outdoors setup) or a small three-bunk hut that’s been built into the rock face. Both are exciting options.
The track to Gridiron doesn’t require any navigational skills or water crossings, plus the gradient is very easy.
Sunday, simply retrace your steps out to Flora Saddle car park.
There are plenty of options for similar extremely easy adventures around the country, such as Canterbury’s Woolshed Creek Hut, Waihohonu Hut in Tongariro National Park, Te Puia Lodge in the Kaweka Range and Meg Hut in the Pisa Range.
I reckon the super-adventurous non-adventure is a great way to get newbies into tramping, without scaring the horses – or putting someone off tramping forever. What are your suggestions?