313832592_4d91ffb524_mIn New Zealand, any hike that doesn’t require staying overnight is called a walk.  Even if you’re hiking for 8 hours over alpine scrub, it’s a walk.  But an overnight hike – now that’s a tramp.  (Bloody Kiwis.)

Now, I’ve done heaps of day hikes, but overnight?  That’s a whole other set of complications, and what with having no one to go with and no experience, I’ve never gotten around to it.  Where to sleep?  What to eat?  What to dress?  And the horror of not being able to take a shower at night.  But my friend is a very experienced tramper, and when I heard she was going tramping in the Tararua Mountain ranges over the holidays, I more or less played Poor City Canadian Girl Who Wants a True Kiwi Experience.  Being incredibly generous, she was happy to initiate me into the joys of tramping.

Three days later, I have a blistering cold from washing in the spring mountain stream.  I can’t walk down the stairs without feeling and looking like an old, old woman.  And man, do I feel great.  It’s not just the nature (which is pretty phenomenal) or the sense of accomplishment (which is gratifying), or even the companionship (which was pretty darn perfect).  It’s all of it combined to make a wonderful experience.

Anyway, here are five things I learned after my prolonged commune with nature:

  1. Dirt.  Don’t think about it.  Just…don’t even go there.
  2. Mosquitoes.  Go in the spring or autumn, as I did, not just because the weather is neither too hot nor cold, because then you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes.  And if I could extinguish one animal on this planet without damaging the chain of life, it would be the mosquito.
  3. Caution.  Better be over-cautious than over-cocky.  I believe in leaving the track uninjured, even if I am slower than a slug.
  4. Preparation.  It’s true.  You can never be over-prepared.  Cause you bloody well never know what will crop up.
  5. Humour.  Possibly the most important tool in your kit.  Because when you’re a schoolteacher who went tramping to escape high school students, and landed in a 12-person hut after hours of tramping, and wanted a nice, quiet, relaxing evening with other trampers, then looked out the window at 7:00PM to see a horde of 15 high school students swarm in with their iPods and dripping wet clothing – that’s when you’ll need your sense of humour the most.

Have you gone hiking or tramping?  Any memorable experiences?

– Jean AAR

10 thoughts on “Tramping

  1. Susan/DC

    My husband and I just came back from self-guided walking tours in Derbyshire, England. We spent the nights in B&B’s, so had the luxury of real beds and hot showers, but otherwise the walks were much as you described. The lessons learned include:

    o Learn to read Ordnance maps. We had them but were hopeless. Luckily we ran across intrepid British hikers when we were lost, each of whom pulled out his/her ordnance map, pointed to our location, and told us how to go on. If we ever do this again, we’re learning to read the maps before we go.
    o Bring a compass. Sometimes the instructions we had were “walk NNE through 3 fields until you get to a stile”. We could get our bearings when the sun was out, but it was cloudy much of the time and a compass would have helped.
    o Bring rain gear. Luckily this was something we had thought to do, so when it rained we were prepared.

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  2. Molly O'Keefe

    WOW! My husband and I are planning our New Zealand trip for this time next year and we were just talking about “tramping” and how much we thought we could do with our kids – amazing coincidence!! How was the weather? lots of rain?

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  3. Jean Wan

    @kathy – I have heard so much about Washington State’s parks, about its beauty and majesty and grandeur. Dammit, I’ll have to go soon.

    @LinnieGayl and Susan/DC – It’s not for everyone, I’ll admit, even though I’ve caught the bug, and caught it hard. I can’t speak for other countries, but New Zealand has a phenomenal park system, with huts and camping grounds and whatnot that are impeccably organized. (Well, as impeccably organized as a national organization can be.) And there are just some walks that you can’t do without staying overnight and roughing it. I loved it. Every minute of it. Luckily, we didn’t need Ordnance maps because the trails might be nonexistent, but the markers are dead clear. Lucky us.

    @Molly O’Keefe – Talk about coincidences. In a nutshell: 1) You’re going to have the time of your life. 2) The weather depends on where you’re going. NZ is more capricious than most countries, and this winter/spring you couldn’t predict the weather 24 hours ahead. Normally I understand it’s equally wet and fine, in the central-lower North Island. If you would like a more detailed response, feel free to message/e-mail me – I’m always happy to share the Kiwi love.

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  4. LeeB.

    Jean: Great blog! I’m definitely not an over-the-night walker or camper (actually have never been camping) but I’m glad you had a fun time even if pesky schoolkids showed up! ; )

    Kathy: Since I’m a city girl, I just admire looking at the mountains from Seattle. Sort of wussy I know but better than getting lost and having volunteer rescue teams come after me.

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