That very first Tramp! How old were you? What instigated it? Where did you go? What influence did it have on you?
Where I was concerned it was 1964, and I was just a few weeks shy of turning 17. Hadn’t long been at work as an apprentice. A friend of mine that my parents had taken in as a boarder suggested that easter would be a great time to go for a tramp into the tararuas. He had already mentioned a little of previous tramping trips and I was more that interested to see what it was all about. Me? No experience what so ever, his? I wasn’t all that sure. In the end after cobbling some gear together and 5 other likely sorts, 2 of whom had cars, well sort of we were ready to go on easter Friday.
We arrived at the end of Upper Plains road out of Masterton around 10 am Good Friday, I can only imagine what any one looking on would have made of this unlikely looking raucous crew. Struggling with overweight ill fitting packs and not looking at all like we had any idea of what we were doing. I for one had no idea as to how long this walk would take, but looking at the map we had it did not appear to be far. Following the track across the farmland we passed old Bert Barras hut just before the drop down to the river and the commencement of the track proper, this being the Barra Track as pioneered by Bert himself. I obviously didn’t know him at the time but got to know him in due course. His dogs certainly kicked up a racket as we passed.
And so the adventure began. I later learn’t that most Trampers on the day covered this track in approx 2.5 - 3.5 hours. We 5 loons finally staggered into the Mitre Flats hut of the time after being on the move for 7.5 hours. If we had had to travel another 100 metres I doubt any of us would have made it. Mitre Flats hut at the time was a tin shack, with 2 small windows, on facing vaguely towards and up the river, the other facing scrub and bush on a bank. It was supposedly capable of sleeping 12 along the rear of the hut on a wooden bench type arrangement. Did we have anything to sleep on apart from our sleeping bags? No! But then this seemed to be the norm because neither did anyone else that arrived whilst we were there with the exception of one person who had humped a blow up lilo in with them.
On exiting the hut door if you bore right you carried on around the end of the bank and arrived at the toilet in amongst the trees. The door of which was missing. Going by some of the firewood lying about I suspect I knew where it went. Right alongside was a big rubbish pit that actually smelt worse than the toilet, if that was possible. It was also not a great place to visit in the dead of night. There were any number of other visitors to the dump seeking any tasty morsel that might be in the offering.
Saturday was recovery day. I doubt any of us could have moved far even if a forest fire had descended on us. The other aspect was we had way too much food, thus it was a day of eat as much as possible so we didn’t have to carry it back out. I don’t think we moved any further than a couple of hundred metres from the hut, and then it was simply for a quick clean up at the river, wash dishes clean teeth etc. That night like the previous, the hard wood sleeping bench we didn’t even notice. For once we lay down it was good night nurse, never felt or heard a thing.
In talking to other visitors to the hut that weekend, and there were many, we learnt that going out via the river was much quicker than the track. Oh! Yea! Quicker, flatter, easier? Yeah Right!
If only we had listened more closely. Did we hear the description on boulder hopping, the number of times the river had to be crossed, and the number of crossings that actually had to be pack floated. Well? We did hear the word easier. I don’t think too many words crossed our ears after that. We left somewhere around 11 am. We reached the road end around 3:30 pm. Where we congratulated ourselves on a fast time compared to the efforts via the track
We arrived back home in Wellington about 8 pm, having made a couple of stops on the way to eat and keep ourselves awake. I slept most of Monday. Tuesday it was a real effort to drag myself from bed and head to work. I think it took the good part of a week before I was moving freely again. Strangely enough I enjoyed myself. The camaraderie, the cursing, swearing, laughing each other’s occasional misfortune. The slips in the river, and the shear and utter exhaustion of it all. On the other hand I got to see another part of this country, to revel in the peacefulness of it. And most of all wonder at the wonderful scenery that was on offer. I suddenly had more interest in everyday small things.
It took me another year of planning, slowly gathering more suitable gear and learning more about how one went about doing something similar. From there I was hard at it for just over ten years. Every possible moment I could I went. Lots of Tararuas. Ruahines, Mt Egmont. Occasionally further afield. Milford Track, Nelson Lakes, Heaphy Track being on the agenda. Then life interfered and zilch followed for a long time. Over the last few years I have started back in. A lot more coming later this year and next. I have missed those places, where nothing but the natural noises intrude. Well at least until some bastard in a helicopter flies over.
What about you?
16 at school in our tramping club. We got dropped off from the train at Mt White bridge and walked up the Hawdon to the hut. But only the teachers got to stay in the hut. We girls slept under flies on ground sheets. The leader enticed us to attempt Walker Pass, on Sunday morning saying it was the main divide.
We didn't actually have enough time to get right to the pass that day. We walked out and caught the train back. The weather was great. One of the grown ups boulder hopped and kept his feet dry on the way in. It was great to finally go on a tramp as my sisters and brothers had done quite a bit of this and I was very keen to experience it as well.
By the time I went overseas when I was 21, I'd managed to do 3 more weekend tramps but when I was overseas I vowed to base my life around tramping, not the other way around. So that's what I've done since.
I was 24 and went up and over the Cascade Saddle. I found the height and bluffs quite intimidating, however I was with a very experienced friend who guided me through. We had bluebird conditions and camped the whole time. Certainly was thrown in the deep end!
Day walks with family and an uncle or family friends from a very young age. First hill climb from valley floor to tussock tops was a day trip up Mt Brown and back soon after turning 12. Once thirteen proper multi day tramping started. After a few months of this myself and mates (all school boys) were left to do trips of up to a week with no adults in the party. Things progressed from there with some quite challenging group and solo trips being done from a young age. Still going about 50 years later!
day walks with boys brigade from the Wainuiomata camp when i was pretty young, ten years old or younger.
they servied up dinner and I didnt like it that much and didnt eat much, same with breakfast, then we went off for a hill walk without food.
I ended up with hypoglycemia, I struggled to keep up and just managed to stagger back into camp. I had no knowledge of the surrounding area, or exactly whre i was , i was reliant on being able to follow the track i was on to not get lost. if i lost that i'd have been stuffed, no map or compass. no extra clothing, wearing cotton.
there was no one senior minding the tail end charlies, and i was the last one. at the end of the weekend I went home and slept for 13 hours. It was a shocking experience, I knew if i got lost or couldnt keep going i could be pretty stuffed..
Overnight camping trip to Donnelly's Flat, summer of '69. My mother was pregnant with my sister, I had just turned 2. I have a picture of myself and my mother there, mother in tramping boots and shorts carrying a large axe.
I don't remember that trip, think the first one I can clearly remember was also to there, I remember sitting around a fire at Donnelly's Flat singing all the tramping songs as part of the HVTC 50th anniversary celebrations, presumably in 1973. Aim to be there for some of the 100th celebrations in 2023.
My parents ashes are scattered near Donnelly's Flat...
This post has been edited by the author on 16 September 2017 at 12:52.
Age 13 school tramp. Like Honora, we caught the train and walked to Hawdon. I borrowed my brother's kidney crusher pack (without hip belt + unpadded shoulder straps) and by the time we reached the river I was in agony. This silly teen took all the wrong stuff and too much of it.
Amazingly it didn't put me off as I spent the next five years as a Venturer tramping in APNP and Lewis. I worked and saved for a better pack and sleeping bag. Still have both.
Overnight, first time was to old Dobsons hut I think, in the southern tararuas. About age 13. we were typical hoons from upper hutt. Dobsons suffered a lot from school kids from the Hutt, wellington etc.
Then progressed further, Alloway Dickson, Cone, over to Totara Flats.
Lived in Upper hutt so used head to Kaitoke every weekend.
before the Tararuas, it was up Mt Climie and behind cannon Point, Mcgees gully, whakatiki.
Got a rifle at 14 and ended up going into alpha, cow creek, kime, neill forks.
time at college was spent plotting trips into the hills, only maths I knew was adding up pack weights. probably beginning of my lightweight tramping :)
there were lot of hutt valley kids doing similar. used meet them on Friday nights at huts like mt house, alloway Dickson etc+
used hitchhike to kaitoke, or train to Masterton then taxi to roadend. and hitch hike home, often on my own
in 5th and 6th form was spending holidays on 10 day hunting trips, main range, Mid waiohine
also trips down hokitika (cousin was NZDS DPF ranger) into Mikonui, Hokitika, Whataroa, waitoto etc
Inevitably, ended up deer culling in the Tararuas and Ruahines in 1966
learnt about the bush, from mates who were bit older, was never in a club.
tramping club activity was probably in its hey day then. Huts were crowded then, but no one thought of a booking system. sleeping on the floor was accepted
it will never be the same