A round up of news from the wild
Toilet paper shortage sparks chaos in bush
The national shortage of toilet paper has led to chaotic scenes on tramping tracks and free camping sites around the country, with overseas tourists forced to use real toilets instead of defecating and leaving toilet paper strewn on the ground. DOC rangers are reporting a sudden lack of human waste around huts, and hardly any toilet paper sighted in the long grass.
“This is very concerning behaviour,” a DOC spokesperson said. “Tourists – and some locals, I might add – are clearly unable to obtain enough toilet paper to spread around the environment, and many have complained they’ve been forced to use actual toilet facilities or even carry their waste out with them. It is causing a lot of disruption and angst among the tramping community.”
The situation is being monitored closely and authorities hope to have piles of waste and used toilet paper back in their rightful position around campsites and huts in the coming weeks.
Stimulus package for wilderness areas
The Olivine Wilderness Area in Mt Aspiring National Park will become the first wilderness area to benefit from a recently announced government backcountry stimulus package, aimed to counter the global economic downturn caused by Coronavirus.
In a press release sent out this morning, Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage said all designated wilderness areas would receive a significant boost in infrastructure funding.
“It is vital for the country that money gets circulated and spent in rural areas. That’s why we have announced $4.75 million in funding for track cutting, signage and new eco-lodges to be built in previously barren, useless areas of the country.”
Round two of the initiative will kick off in November and see kiosks installed at Cloudmaker Lake and Volta Glacier. The minister is also calling for tenders to build a travelator to expedite travel on Williamsons Flats.
An FMC spokesperson said the minister’s announcement had their full support. “This initiative will funnel much-needed investment and facilities into our most neglected areas of backcountry,” she said. “It is sage advice.”
Call for fairer walking conditions
The days of 10-hour slogs through the hills could soon be a thing of the past if the government heeds the call of a powerful new tampers’ lobby group. The newly formed Backcountry Union for Limited Labour (BULL) is calling for a maximum eight hours’ daily walking limit for trampers to be enshrined in legislation.
“All we’re asking for is a fair day’s walk for a fair day’s pay,” said BULL president Donna Hill. “At the moment our members get neither.”
A recent survey found that 85 per cent of trampers said they felt pressured to walk overtime, and 75 per cent said they feared they would lose their bunks if they refused to walk the extra hours. “Some DOC signage is blatantly misrepresenting the actual walking hours required, or assuming that our members are mad, fit bastards, which they clearly aren’t,” said Ms Hill, who added there was also an increase in the number of casual walkers walking on the weekend. “These walkers are our most vulnerable, forced to walk irregular hours with little or no rest stops.”
If successful the union said it would push for a move towards four-day walking weeks.
Huts for health
In a move hailed as “courageous leadership”, Prime Minister has announced a radical scheme to isolate patients diagnosed with Coronavirus in little-used backcountry huts.
From midnight on Monday, anyone testing positive to the virus will be escorted to one of 250 specially selected huts in remote New Zealand forest parks and conservation areas. The Prime Minister said the huts were the ideal place to quarantine patients due to their inaccessibility and lack of popularity.
“This is a unique opportunity to utilise these otherwise ignored facilities and provide a place for people to recover. Many of these huts only see one or two visitors a year, usually a beardy old dude from Permolat and his geriatric dog,” she said.
Abundant reading material makes these huts ideal isolation stations, according to a person in a puffer jacket. “For years these huts have been stocked with at least 14 days’ worth of FMC Backcountry bulletins,” said the anonymous person. “Plus many also contain various magazines, which takes care of the toilet paper situation (unless, of course, it’s a Wilderness magazine, Ed). These huts really are the perfect place to self-isolate, or self-flagellate.”
The first intake of patients will be helicoptered into Westland’s Mungo Hut on Tuesday morning.
Outdoors book awards finalists announced
An eclectic mix of budding authors has been rewarded for their toils this summer, with the finalists for Outdoors Book of the Summer announced at a glittering ceremony on Thursday night. The nominees are…
Just add hot water: the untold story of Back Country Cuisine, by Gavin Gout.
I didn’t think it was that deep: an unauthorised history of bog, by Mary Freewire.
Blank pages in the clag: top ten reasons to go tramping in the Tararuas, by Alex McTopple (still awaiting manuscript).
He smelt of old polypropylene and had porridge in his beard: a Ruahine love story, by Michelle Futbridge.
So cold it hurts: 99 instantly regrettable dips in New Zealand rivers, by Billy Catlins.
A search party has been dispatched to the Kaweka Range after a tramper was reported missing his bowl. It was last seen on a benchtop at Makino Hut on Saturday morning. Police say they hold grave concerns for the tramper but are hopeful he may have the resourcefulness to eat out of his billy.
Booking system to be introduced for booking system
The booking system for huts on New Zealand’s Great Walks will soon be subjected to a booking system as their popularity increases, a DOC spokesperson said.
From May 1 trampers wishing to book a stay at the most popular huts on the Milford and Kepler Tracks over summer will need to book a place in the queue to access the already stretched booking system.
Lars Larsson, a Swedish hiker speaking from his home in Stockholm, said he spent three hours online this morning and was thrilled when his booking was finally successful. “I’ve booked a spot on the booking system for November 14, at which point I’ll hopefully be able to book a bunk at Dumpling Hut for February 2021. It’s so exciting to be this close, I can almost feel the sandfly bites on my ankles.”
DOC meanwhile is handing out $100 gift vouchers to anyone willing to spend a night at Waiotauru Hut in the Tararuas in a bid to ease the pressure on Great Walk huts. So far no one has taken up the offer.
‘Way too far’ – bid to alter Te Araroa Trail
Momentum is growing to alter the dimensions of the Te Araroa Trail after complaints it is just way too far to walk. The Te Araroa Trust is considering a proposal to re-route the trail from running the length of New Zealand to instead spanning the width of the North Island at its narrowest point.
Trail founder Geoff Chapple said he didn’t think anyone would actually walk the length of New Zealand in the first place and was surprised anyone took his original idea seriously.
“I mean, come on,” he said, in an exclusive interview. “I’d had a few beers that night and it was clearly a joke. Some people just don’t have a sense of humour.”