Hugh Barr writes in praise of the local tramping club.
Most of New Zealand’s wilder areas, often with outstanding scenery, are publicly owned and set aside as conservation land to protect natural landscapes and native species. They are available for public recreation and are inspiring, challenging and can be great fun.
New Zealanders have tramped, climbed and hunted in these areas for more than 100 years. They have learned backcountry skills, including tenting, coping with the weather, route finding, and crossing rivers, to survive the hazards while enjoyed their challenge and outstanding scenery. Today, while many New Zealanders holiday in expensive overseas destinations, foreign tourists come here to enjoy our outstanding natural landscapes made famous by “Lord of the Rings”. Many of them too have the skills to enjoy our wildlands.
One way New Zealanders can gain these backcountry tramping skills is through a tramping club. Walking and tramping locally and taking in bushcraft courses, helps develop backcountry skills to prepare for more interesting longer trips to remoter areas.
My Club, the Wellington based Tararua Tramping Club ran a nine day trip to the Ahuriri Valley in North Otago over Christmas. Government last year spent $10 million buying up the remainder of the valley that was not conservation land, to form what will soon be the Ahuriri tussockland Conservation Park.
The Ahuriri is famous as a habitat for the endangered black stilt. It is highly valued as a trout fishing and canoeing river, one of the first to gain national wild and scenic river status. As well it is well liked for its forest and mountain scenery, and its deerstalking. It also provides relatively easy walking, apart from climbing the mountains.
The weather this Christmas was somewhat wet, but our party greatly enjoyed our trip. For some of the party this was their first long tramp. We had some great experiences. Up in the mountains, enjoying the views, seeing alpine wildflowers and Mt Cook lilies, viewing frozen tarns, seeing deer tracks and bumsliding in the snow.
We climbed to the tops of passes and mountains, clambered over avalanche snow left by winter storms and wondered at the destructive power of avalanche winds that devastated hectares of forest in one area. We found our way through untracked forests and alpine screes and climbed steep slopes, and withstood gales and rain.
We stood under flaming red flowering mistletoes in the beech forest. As there are no footbridges, the rain tested our river crossing skills. And we found several marvellous tent sites, often with million dollar views of forests, rivers and mountains.
We met others there too – trampers, horse-riders, mountain bikers, climbers, trout fishers, deerstalkers and day trippers. The party also gained confidence and experience for future trips.
The Tararua Tramping Club welcomes new members, and runs an introductory bushcraft, alpine and skiing instruction courses. The Club meets 8 pm Tuesdays at its Clubrooms, 4 Moncrieff St, off Elizabeth St in Mt Victoria. If you’re interested in outdoor recreation, locally or nationally, please come along.
Hugh Barr is a tramping enthusiast with the Tararua Tramping Club, and an advocate for outdoor recreation.