Saturday, February 17, 2007

Yes, It Sure Has Been A Long Hard Climb

I once heard it said that if you run, jog, lift weights or swim, you will likely extend life by 5 years. The only problem is that you spend all those years running, jogging, lifting and swimming.

So what have you really gained?

These Kiwis are sort of like that. They are all interested in keeping fit. Everybody has a bike, kayak, they run, hike, climb, swim, compete. If I let one more 70 year old woman whizz past me on a trail while I am resting on a bench...I'm gonna say something! Dammit.

But the most painful and torturous of all New Zealand physical endeavors is Tramping.

Tramping is like hiking but in the same way that dining at a fine restaurant is like munching on something salty that you find under your car seat.

But I was elected to accompany Kimberly on our first tramping adventure, so I had to make the best of it because that's just the kind of guy I am.

There were 5 of us and the deal was that we would stumble through the bush, wade through streams, cross swinging bridges, climb up to a high place where there would be a hut. The hut sleeps 2. The rest would sleep outside or use their imagination. It was also going to be raining.

We made a tea break stop at Marge's farm. Marge is a cool 73 yr. old granny type who gave us great snacks and coffee and a break from the rain. She's involved in some dairy situation where there are 750 cows. I found out that they like to be milked twice a day, but they could get used to once. Marge agreed with me that brown cows gave chocolate milk. I admitted that I had never touched a cow, unless it was carved up and on a plate.

She also makes her own butter, cream, cheese, bread and lays her own eggs, but she can only do one a day. Very self-sufficient. She still helps milk the cows every morning just to stay fit.

See, I told you.

It was raining so hard that we changed the plan to a different tramp where there would be no rain, no big streams and a hut built for 8 with fresh water and a long drop. Music to my ears...Yahoooo! I asked about Internet access, but there wasn't even dial up.

Earlier, I packed my rucksack with what turned out to be twice as much as was needed. The other girls, also nurses, packed the food and "stoves". *(Note to self - always tramp with 3 nurses.. and a handful of Vicodan)

The hike began after a 3 hour drive through Lewis Pass heading into the Southern Alps. We loaded up like Sherpas and started out on the Nina Track. Round trip would take 2 days and cover 13 km.

It started fairly fun and easy but soon turned ugly and painful. There were sand flies when we stopped to rest. There was mud on the trail. There were countless streams to ford. Early on, I tried to balance on rocks to cross, but soon I plodded right through like a golden retriever. My socks and shoes were soaked. The path was quite non-maintained, with roots as steps and branches to grab for pulling yourself up. My pack seemed to get heavier with each pace. And for some reason, my pants kept falling down as I forget to wear a belt. If I had tramped the first time we came to New Zealand, we'd probably be living in Vista, Ca. today.

The path was marked with these orange triangles. After 3 hours, I was ready for the hut, even if Hitler was the architect and it looked like the bunks at Auschwitz. But every time I lifted my gaze from the ground, all I saw was more friggin' orange triangles. Jan, our leader said we had about 30 minutes left. I figured that I could collapse under a log and rest for 30 minutes and then we'd be there. But I guess she meant 30 minutes more of tramping.

I am told that during that final half hour I whined, bitched and moaned like a little girl. I won't deny it. My story is that all that mud and jungle gave me flashbacks of the 'Nam.

We did finally get there and the hut was pretty nice. There were 3 other people there. One of them was a girl named Nina, oddly enough. The bunks had nice mattresses, the food was excellent, good company and talk.

Shirley snored all night. It was so loud that Phil and Jan went out to sleep on the porch where they were snuffled by possum. In the morning, Kimberly was happy to use the long drop. I decided to just hold it in.

We dressed and packed and headed back to the vehicles. Basically another 4 hours going the other way. It was easier climbing down.

Kimberly brought out the Scroggin and we feasted all the way. Scroggin is a New Zealand version of trail mix, or Gorp. Each letter stands for an ingredient.

Scroggin: sultanas chocolate raisins orange peel (candied) ginger (crystallised)

glucose (barley sugars or the like) imagination nuts (any kind, roasted is OK but not salted

As much as I grumbled and hated the first day, when we finally got back to the car, all of us were pretty tired, but had a feeling of doing something challenging. Kimberly and I agreed we would do it again, but maybe a a wee bit shorter time getting to the hut.

By the time we finally arrived home and got all cleaned up and used the bathroom, I for one, sure felt as fit as I'd been since the 'Nam.


At 6:08 AM, Anonymous robin said...

Too damn funny. And the shots of you in hiking gear, well, lets just say they just might end up being my new screen saver. Proud of you challenging yourself like that, even with the whining but that was to be expected was it not? Danny would agree that he would have also 'waited' and would not have used the long drop. Cheers to you mate! love robin

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The closest you got to the NAM was sucking on buttered popcorn while watching The Deer Hunter. We were thrown out of the Lyric and ended up at that movie.
As for the cow comment...remember the time you drank rum and coke and visited old Jim's barn? You told me that you had some new respect for cows and sheep.
I enjoyed the blog.


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