What does the year ahead have in store for your tramping plans? Ricky French gazed at the stars to find out
It’s hard to get you out of the house sometimes. People say you’re like wet firewood: stubborn to start and constantly hissing. Sounds like you need a big challenge this year, so make it your mission to learn how to spell Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku. A wise man once said: you’ll never cross the same river twice, you’ll cross it 200 times. Go with the flow, embrace wet socks and take comfort that someone in the Tararuas probably has it worse than you.
Cheer up, old thing. You sometimes feel like a rarely-visited remote hut; forgotten, off the beaten track, loved only by a few loyal friends and a crazy guy from Westport. It’s time to get where the action is. A Great Walk looks likely in autumn, so for heaven’s sake try to be sociable this time. You’ll need to spend much of winter in a snow cave to recover, so pack a good book. Meditation is good, but remember to walk with your eyes open – you-know-who could be lurking behind a tree….
It’s time your talents in the bush were recognised. You have a knack for stepping in the deepest bog, missing every orange track marker. Smoke from every fire is magically drawn to your eyes. How do you do it and stay so positive? Fellow trampers love your kindness. You are the heart and soul of every hut, always willing to lend a pocket knife, collect firewood and give directions to the long drop. Your good deeds will be rewarded with prosperity. Did I say prosperity? Sorry, I meant perspiration.
After a big, bloated Christmas, it’s time for a life less sedentary. February will see you expand your horizons, rather than your waistline. Fling yourself to the far-flung corners of the country: East Cape, Cape Reinga, anything with a cape suits your superhero persona. If you come to a fork in the river, pick it up. If you find a knife on a rock, check around carefully, it might be a murder scene. Your imagination runs as wild as wapiti, but your fitness is easily tamed. See your cardiologist and maybe stay away from Cape Farewell; it could be an omen.
You didn’t get outdoors as much as you would have liked last year, but don’t beat yourself up. The outdoors is so far away; who can be bothered, honestly? Muhammad had the right idea, willing the mountain to come to him but in the end, even he had to pack the car. Lower your eyes: the outdoors is really just outside your door. Discover local tracks and make a topo map of your neighbourhood. Take on the Walk1200km challenge, or at least a 12-step programme. Either way, this year looks like a lot of fun.
You’re a gung-ho type of person, always aiming high. Try lowering your expectations. A winter ascent of Taranaki Maunga might seem like a good idea (it’s not). Ease into the year with something more city-based, like Eden Maunga in Auckland, Victoria Maunga in Wellington, or simply wander the flat, maungaless streets of Christchurch. You’re in training, remember? By June you’ll be match-fit for the foothills of Whirinaki. Book a white water rafting trip for spring, and practise your swimming.
The mountains are your safe place. Is there a better feeling than dragging your sleeping bag out onto the hut porch at sunrise and watching the steam rise from your tea as the mist rises over the tussock? Savour every moment, avoid every Spaniard and swim in every tarn. March will see a stranger cross your path; be friendly and ask where they’re going in life, you might be able to tag along. Confess your darkest secrets only to the trees, but please don’t overburden them. Pack spare toilet paper – you’ll soon know why.
Your sunny disposition will make up for the rain heading your way. Oh well, that’s why God invented $900 raincoats. Head for the West Coast this (alleged) summer and get some use out of your wet weather gear. You’ll have a close call with a hunter spouting conspiracy theories, and forget to pack an important piece of equipment. Work on ticking off the Beauty of Tramping bingo card: a pair of whio riding the rapids, a perfect sunset over the Tasman Sea, arriving at a hut with replenished firewood. Scour small town op-shops for cheap merino underwear and clean your boots regularly.
Who needs anti-vaxxers when there are anti-cyclones? Take advantage of the good weather and head to Nelson Lakes. Romance will come your way, but only in the form of a battered paperback romance novel left in a hut. Share your rosy disposition, but not your drink bottle. Observe Covid-safe practices and wear a Gore-Tex facemask. Take note of current trends and do something to get on the news. If you haven’t been airlifted off the Robert Ridge you haven’t really lived.
Pack the Southern Comfort because you’re off to the Southern Alps. Choose your companions wisely. Taurus and Pisces make great tramping partners, but best not to let them drive. Stop at every lake and pick up every hitchhiker. Be generous with both scroggin and hand sanitiser. A German tourist will ask you directions to Methven and a hut warden will say something boring about fire exits. Winter is a good time for laying low and drinking somewhat to moderation. Try to be sensible. Remember, packrafting is as silly as it sounds.
When you’re feeling lonely just remember that you’ll always have a friend in Back Country Cuisine. Seek comfort in a meal in a bag, and sob yourself to sleep without needing to wash up. A new tramping buddy will enter your life – thank God – and your broken old boots will exit. Fine days are something that happen to other people, so swot up on old-school map and compass navigation on the tops, and learn to love clag. Write long, rambling entries in every hut book and remember to put the long-drop lid down when you’re done. Avoid the Ruahines and instant coffee.
It must be exhausting being you. Always rushing on ahead, full of energy, climbing every mountain, fording every stream. Never change! Having said that, it’s time for a serious safety talk. A hip flask of whisky is not a first aid kit and hasn’t been for over 30 years. A wine cask bladder is not a floatation device. Pay less attention to Instagram selfies and more attention to your footing. Remember, tramping is not a race (unless six people are heading for the same four-bunk hut, in which case forget everything I just said).