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Archive for February 19th, 2008

Punakaiki

We are staying in a hostel type house in the sub-tropical rainforest where the tree ferns are nearly 10 meters tall. There is a huge high pressure system sitting over the Tazman Sea so the weather is hot, sunny, and dry which based on the vegetation is a very uncommon state. John and I have a private room with one bed (he is on the floor). Other guests are in a loft on single mattresses. We joke, that they are likely thinking we are “pink dollars” as that is how gay couples are referred to here by the tourist industry.

We stayed at one of New Zealand’s alpine clubs hut at Athur’s Pass last evening. Great place and we were the only ones at the ~20 bunk cabin that was built before World War II when climbers had to take the train from Christchurch to reach the coastal mountains in the west.

Good story in the Press (NZ News paper) today about how the department of conservation (DOC) refused to rescue some Australians hikers who claimed an emergency due to a rising river. “it was raining, naturally the water was going to rise”. We saw something similar when a group of trampers requested rescue because one of their group had a sore knee and could not walk. The DOC ranger gave them a walking stick, an ace bandage, and told her hiking partners to carry her pack and walk themselves out in a few days when the leg got better. This is a culture of self reliance and that suits my taste very well. That said, in a true emergency the DOC has an outstanding search and rescue program; they simply do not consider rising rivers and sore knees as emergencies. We could take a lesson here.

Conversely NZ is infamous for one lane bridges and these things are dangerous to your health if you do not understand the right of way rules and many a frequent head on collision occur.

I was not sure if I would like the back country “hut” approach but given the very demanding and often dangerous weather, and the lack of suitable camping spots, I really see the merit in the approach. Don’t want to see it on the PCT but I am really enjoying it here and the social networking is a real bonus. It is very different from camping out in isolation but the differences do not make one or the other a better experience, just a different one.

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