Polity by Rob Salmond

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Polity: Leaving only footprints

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  • Rich of Observationz,

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    It’s called “hiking” or “walking” outside NZ. People do it a lot, probably more than NZers, if the numbers on a sunny day (or even a crap day – if you only hike on nice days in the UK, you don’t hike at all) in Snowdonia or the Lake District are anything to go by.

    In other countries, it can be super civilised, as shown in this picture of some “randonneurs” enjoying a nice drink and snack at 2400m:

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Was it just me or did everyone else have an inordinately high proportion of trampers among their high-school teachers? Perhaps it was just the time, but many of mine seemed to be mad for it.

    School tramping trips were thus serious affairs. Although there was one awful incident when a student fell during a river crossing and dragged a couple of others down. One of the teachers was swept away and, horrifyingly, later discovered dead downstream.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • artig,

    Unfortunately it's only within the last few years that I have started tramping, and arthritic knees and other commitments keep me from doing overnight or multi-day tramps. Fortunately there are numerous day-walk options within reasonable driving distance. To maintain an interest in tramping, and hopefully help others who may be looking for inspiration or further information about the tracks, I started a blog (see website) about 18 months ago with currently more than 60 walks described and illustrated.

    BoP • Since Oct 2010 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    Hi Rob. Which Tararua valley, if I can be so bold to ask?

    up the Rimutakas’ only mountain

    Do you mean the highest point? It's called a mountain range for a reason. :)

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    My dad was mad keen on it, having got a taste with the varsity trampling club. I did enjoy it, although as a child the exhaustion could be quite extreme - humping packs for miles over mountains with little legs was not the part of it I enjoyed. But getting there and camping, and the pack-less smaller hikes, were enjoyed.

    I'd love to teach my kids to do it. Unfortunately, it's not really a sport for the vision impaired, as my older son is. Gonna have to be the little bloke for that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Ram,

    You might be interested in these folks, based on Palm Nth. http://whiowhio.weebly.com/

    Since Mar 2008 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Russell Brown,

    One of the teachers was swept away and, horrifyingly, later discovered dead downstream.

    Yikes. Sorry to hear it. That’s a horrible thing to be involved in.

    The Mountain Safety Council, which grew out of Federated Mountain Clubs in the 60s, has been running river safety courses for a long time, until recently. It had a great non-commercial format where people would be encouraged to train to be instructors, rather than just qualified attendees, which in turn would result in people being able to go back to their clubs or schools or whatever else and continue to train more people. The training programme was typically done at cost, thanks to the volunteers, with fees just covering expenses, so it was cheap and very accessible.

    Sadly almost the entire course programme was killed off very recently, much to the frustration of many of the volunteers – instructors and others – involved in the training programmes. The structure was considered unsustainable, but I think also it was decided that the MSC wasn’t reaching many of the people actually having accidents in modern times, notably international visitors but also probably as a consequence of groups like clubs and schools no longer being as ubiquitous in the outdoors as individuals. Nevertheless it’s left a big training void in that domain. Now MSC is more focussed on trying to collect information about accidents (potentially a useful niche because it’s difficult to collect reliable information on outdoor accidents), and printing leaflets, or something like that.

    Meanwhile though, if anyone’s looking for some good qualified training, or an instructor, in bushcraft, navigation, river safety, outdoor risk management, outdoor first aid, etc, look up Outdoor Training New Zealand which has collected a heap of former-MSC instructors and is working on restoring something resembling the old model that’s been so useful for clubs and schools and community groups until now. It's likely it'll now be competing with the MSC for some of the funding it used to get.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to BenWilson,

    Unfortunately, it's not really a sport for the vision impaired,

    This?

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to izogi,

    competing with the MSC for some of the funding it used to get

    the joys of neoliberalism

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19594 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to izogi,

    Sadly almost the entire course programme was killed off very recently

    At first I thought that must have been one hell of a bad tramping accident, then I read it properly.

    I've never tried hiking overseas - the absence of large predators and small poisonous things has a lot going for it. Here, it's just the weather and the terrain to worry about.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 975 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to B Jones,

    Uh, sorry. That was a bad choice of words.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to B Jones,

    I’ve never tried hiking overseas – the absence of large predators and small poisonous things has a lot going for it.

    Another fabulous thing about NZ tramping is the back country hut and track system. I've done a fair bit of tramping in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and with a few exceptions (there are huts in the Rockies) you are a lot more on your own in the back country. Two Canadian friends of mine are over in NZ at the moment on a five month tramping sabbatical, and they really enjoy the brilliant hut system, and the lack of bears. It's difficult to relax, tramping or camping in bear country.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 821 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    In other countries, it can be super civilised, as shown in this picture of some “randonneurs” enjoying a nice drink and snack at 2400m:

    Where is that, Rich? The Vanoise?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 821 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I grew up in a tramping family - Mum and Dad met in the local tramping club, we got lugged around in the back of their packs until we could walk - wandered bits of the Routeburn at 5 - easters at Howden, and MacKenzie, hunting easter eggs up the Dart . As the family got bigger Mum helped form a family group within the OTMC, which meant monthly day trips, xmas at Ohau (I biked up from the train from Oamaru once, before we had gears ....) etc

    Dad freedom walked Milford (it used to be controlled, closed, mere NZ citizens were banned from walking it), was the FMC rep on the Aspiring park board until forced off by the Muldoon Govt, he was also treasurer for the Save Manapouri committee, possibly the first big conservation campaign ... but he still voted National his whole life.

    I've done a little in California, never really ran into bears (food must be in a bear proof container, pref hung from a tree) there's lots of poison oak though.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2592 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Dad freedom walked Milford (it used to be controlled, closed, mere NZ citizens were banned from walking it)

    The guaranteed right of free entry to National Parks (s4 of the National Parks Act) and Conservation Areas (s17 of the Conservation Act) is one of the established rights I really treasure in New Zealand. DOC can charge for use of facilities, but it can’t charge for entry to the land. There are definitely some issues with privilege around access to the back-country, which I dislike, but the law itself doesn’t discriminate. These places prioritise the welfare of the park, but as long as it’s on foot and a few rules are followed to avoid damage, anyone can enter National Parks and Conservation Areas.

    The legislation barely even mentions “tracks”, even though they make up so many people’s main experiences. Legally, for the most part, they don’t exist in New Zealand, which means they’re just abstract lines through the wilderness, or partings and markers which indicate where people have been. For me is a licence to explore the back yard. Track Closed signs on conservation land don’t legally mean anything on the public conservation estate (except sometimes good advice), though in some very unusual cases it’s possible for access to be restricted to an area if there’s good reason as defined in law and management plans. When Te Maari Crater erupted in Tongariro National Park in 2012, destroying Ketetahi Hut in the process, DOC didn’t close access to the land. It published information with maps showing people where they really shouldn’t go for their own safety. This all fits the caretaker-not-gatekeeper role.

    Sadly the user-pays topic is a recurring one, which means that adding barriers to entry is also a recurring conversation. It’s being discussed again right now, starting with a recent Listener article (entirely online) when Lou Sanson (CEO of DOC) noted that DOC’s looking for ways to implement differential pricing between New Zealanders and visitors for use of DOC facilities. Since then, Fairfax has run a series of articles talking about the massive giant impact of tourists on the estate, and then openly supporting charging a fee to international visitors.

    There are reasonable arguments for this, but to me the bigger problem is chronic underfunding compared with what we’re doing to our public land. New Zealand’s been driving a huge tourism campaign based on our natural environement. It’s bringing countless new visitors, created new jobs, created new businesses and allowed existing businesses to expand. Consequently, tax income from all these businesses and employees has sky-rocketed, even without counting new GST paid by visitors who frequent the conservation estate, yet DOC’s budget to manage all the resulting added externalities when tourists visit it has ultimately remained completely flat. I find it disturbing that the government’s choice to simply not allocate new money to pay for the real costs of the campaign, and stick to it, means that we’re now seriously talking about trying to directly charge tourists even more.

    I think it’s easy for people to scream that there should be user-pays, whether for everyone or just for “foreigners”, but even if that were decided on it’s always been implementation that’s the problem. Even the current user-pays system of hut tickets doesn’t work. It’s effectively an honesty system when there’s almost never anyone looking over your shoulder. Thus honest people end up subsidising dishonest people.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I’m not sure of the details but at the time “freedom walking” was a protest against the track being closed to ordinary trampers (of course this was 20 years before the National Parks act was signed)

    Now days it just means going without a guide

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2592 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to izogi,

    Yes, you've nailed the problem very well.
    The hut ticket system works OK where there are hut wardens (who are usually volunteers).
    I was up at Lake Angelus, in Nelson Lakes, in January, and the warden told us that there were eight hut bookings for the night, including the three of us, but that 24 people turned up. There were several groups of young overseas backpackers who were clearly a bit taken aback to find a warden there.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 821 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    It’s the Cabin Mt Fort above Verbier, Switzerland.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to izogi,

    charging a fee to international visitors.

    Why would you do that whilst at the same time pouring massive subsidies into the tourist industry (casinos, airport runways, sporting events)?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Why would you do that

    ...to stop the great walks turning into Venice?
    imagine whole cruise ship loads with
    their all-terrain pull-along luggage...

    if more people take the tracks,
    it won't be the empty space they all came for...
    (unless night hiking and becomes a thing)
    and more people means more infrastructure.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7787 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The hut ticket system works OK where there are hut wardens (who are usually volunteers). ... Why would you do that whilst at the same time pouring massive subsidies into the tourist industry

    That's a really good point. I'd much rather see DoC get a fee per tourist entering the country than have chunks of central Auckland given to rich people. Or "tracks of national significance" given the same priority and guarantees as "roads of futility".

    I've been a hut volunteer once and it was awful. Turns out I'm not really into people in the required way, I spent two weeks wishing the noisy fuckers (wouldn't that be a great name for a bird species) would just go away and leave me alone. And stop shitting in the woods.

    (munged the quotes from Carol and Rich together)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1142 posts Report Reply

  • st ephen, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    It’s called “hiking” or “walking” outside NZ.

    Yeah, nah.Tramping in New Zealand is not the same as walking in Europe. Or at least, it wasn't in the past. You can certainly 'walk' our Great Walks, and end each day at a large lodge with flush toilets and gas lighting and cooking. (Now that DOC is feverishly rubber-stamping tourist concessions, it won't be long before European-style catering is added). But you can't 'walk' a traditional tramping track - ie. one that hasn't been formed by a digger, drained and surfaced with a foot of packed gravel. And since tramping was never popular in NZ beyond a tiny white, middle-class minority and is even less popular with moneyed tourists, the whole sub-culture with its etiquette and taxpayer-funded playground are pretty much doomed. I'm sad about that, but understand why others are not.

    dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 254 posts Report Reply

  • Rosemary McDonald, in reply to Moz,

    And stop shitting in the woods.

    And in the sand dunes.

    Seen this at one of the few beach side, vehicle accessible DOC camps.

    When challenged (because I am that way inclined) Young Fraulein declared that the roll of toilet paper under her arm was to dry her hands after washing them in the tide. Why she had her breeches and undies at half-mast and was mid squat when accosted by moi went unexplained until the DOC ranger extracted the $6 per head camping fee from her and her two van mates. (The simple expedient, of blocking their vehicle with his DOC ute.) It transpired that the (perfectly acceptable) long drop toilets were not to her liking...preferred flushing toilets thank you very much! The irony was that had she wandered 60 meters along the track to the day parking area she would have found her excretory paradise.

    I say charge a flat fee for tourists. Its hard to hike with a wheelchair in tow, but we do frequent vehicle accessible DOC sites. We pay about $170 per year for a pass through our club for the privilege of camping on DOC land. So many tourists don't pay, won't pay and share tips on how to avoid paying.

    Get them at the border.

    Waikato, or on the road • Since Apr 2014 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    That's quite cool, and I guess I chose words poorly. It's not that hiking for the vision impaired is impossible. It's just that it's a huge mission. There are plenty of sports far more within his comfort zone. Unsurprisingly, he prefers those himself. On of the greatest attractions of hiking - all the amazing sights - are basically lost on him.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    So many tourists don't pay, won't pay and share tips on how to avoid paying. Get them at the border.

    That. See also "freedom campers", otherwise known as "shit everywhere" campers. Although I have to admit it is another case of the problematic few giving the other 1% a bad name.

    I frequently am one of the "freedom campers" and have been for a long time. The subtle difference is that I stealth camp and it's usually hard to know I've been there (occasionally I leave bike tyre tracks that are really obvious). It's not hard to do, and I have a great deal of experience with shitting in the woods (a poo shovel is necessary), and also sponge bathing in the sinks of public toilets (unfortunately necessary now that the rivers of shit are so often unsafe for that type of contact between body and water).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1142 posts Report Reply

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