A Tramp In The Park

Now where did that image go?

Lovely as it may look, this landscape takes its tourist toll every year with unprepared trampers getting caught out in bad weather or simply disappearing.

I have gotten hooked on tramping. That statement does not mean that I am now addicted to brothels. No, tramping in New Zealand means something in between trekking and hiking.

Everyone who has ever told me about their experience in the land of Kiwi, has always stressed the importance of tramping around the rugged alpine landscape. New Zealanders are absolutely mad about it. Every single Kiwi I have spoken to has a passion for tramping around the pristine national parks whenever they get a chance, and one can’t help wonder if this might be one of the reasons for the many earthquakes around here. (I know. That was a dad-joke.)

The lovely Inna about to cross one of the countless "creeks" en route.

The lovely Inna about to cross one of the countless “creeks” en route. She also thinks that was a dad-joke.

So it was with considerable excitement that I recently was invited on a tramp with my lovely guide Inna from Tui community. She is a veritable encyclopedia of tramping on the South Island and upon learning of my inadequate equipment she promptly arranged for me to borrow a proper sleeping bag, thermal underwear, woolen socks etc. Great Mystery knows it all came in handy when the weather turned.

Now where did that image go?

Even deep in the national parks where no vehicles have any chance of getting to, the Department Of Conservation has somehow managed to build great bridges and establish good pathways to get the trampers safely through the parks.

One of New Zealand’s most well-known government departments must be “DOC”. The Department Of Conservation looks after the 14 national parks with more than 1000 huts being maintained for the use of trampers to stay overnight. I am deeply impressed with the accessibility of the national parks to the public, and for a complete newbie tramper like myself, it is definitely comforting to come across a sign every hour or so, assuring me that I am on the right way…

Now where did that image go?

One of DOC’s many shelters is this beautifully improvised platform under a massive rock overhang. Wonderful place to wake up in the drizzling rain.

One thing is paramount to a good tramping experience and that is the weather. A proper Kiwi has a perpetual internet tab dedicated to the NZ weather site, banking on a sunny day for tramping up the mountain. Even so, one must be prepared for the weather to change at any moment.

Inna and I definitely took a chance, knowing there was quite a bit of rain forecast for the weekend. But it still came as a shock when, suddenly, we were caught in a rather brisk blizzard!

Now where did that image go?

Gordon’s Pyramid as seen from the nearest place with four walls and a roof.

Our tramping route was taking us past the Gordon’s Pyramid summit, a hill in the hills, barely reaching past the tree-line with its 1498 meter. It was the 2nd day and a dozen miles up the Cobb Valley foot hills that the pack on the back colluded with the cold and biting wind to make me whimper. The old danish pop-song  “Står På En Alpetop” naturally came to mind…

I was over it, as they say, and practically ran all the way to the nearest hut about an hour away. Inna was differently cheerful throughout, just grateful to be out for “a walk in the park”. The park, however, is big enough to get lost in for weeks as Kahurangi National Park covers about 10% of the size of Denmark!

Now where did that image go?

The Gordon’s Pyramid summit, on a bitch of a Sunday afternoon. At least the only way out of here isn’t up…

At the edge of the tree line we came upon an old gold mine with a rail line into a rough tunnel in the rocks. This is called Clousten’s Mine and  I reckon it was he who struck a promising gold ore and Gordon who lost the money on it. The last gold rush in this neck of the woods was in the 1930’s and I sometimes can’t help thinking that there’s gotta be just one more lump of this alluring metal floating around here, just waiting to be picked up by someone exactly like me (and the rest of us hopefuls).

In the hut I slowly warmed up to an evening in the New Zealand highland with Inna’s excellent company. Certified Perma-Culturalist Inna (AKA gourmet-tramper) is what John F. Kennedy aspired to be – a Berliner – but the best part of a decade into living in New Zealand, she is still passionately in love with the stunning landscapes that we have all seen in the truly epic Tolkien films by Kiwi director Peter Jackson.

Now where did that image go?

Another impromptu immigrant, Inna moved from Berlin to live in Tui Community, raising her 3-year-old daughter in an intentionally organic paradise and living the dream that few of us even know can be dreamed.

Rumor has it that Golden Bay – where Inna lives – has a 20% German population followed by a score of Dutch, English and other continentals. With its sub-tropical micro-climate, the nearly circular Golden Bay is Europe Enhanced and I understand why these, often first-generation, immigrants have been drawn to here. It’s a perfect menu of Scandinavia’s greatest beach, served with some choice Mediterranean hills and followed by the ravishing Best of The Alps dessert plus a bottle of Pacific Ocean.

Now where did that image go?

My latest contribution to alpine fashion. If you get caught on a mountain in the snow without water-proof pants don’t fret, simply cut two sheets out of old coal-bags and tie them around your legs. Thank you Department of Conservation for letting me get out of trouble with dry legs.

After a “lost-in-the-snow” themed nightmare I woke up the next morning to a steady drizzle of white flakes and a slippery snow layer concealing the paths that had in turn become melting water streams. The big official poster on the wall illustrating the dangers of hypothermia wasn’t exactly comforting either.  It was going to be a wet boot day but at least the snow gave way to a blue sky as soon as we dropped below the tree line and meandered through the forested hillsides and back to the road some 7 hours walk away.

I had barely gotten safely through my first Kiwi tramping experience and yet I was already dreaming up the next trip into the mountains  as I dozed off in the car on the way back to Tui. I had been initiated into the world of mountain-trampers.

Wanna go for a walk in the park?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: