NZ Farmers' online trading resource

Past Editorials | Farming News Archive | Newsletter

Making a Break - by The Alderney

The gorse was tough on the bare legs and the lawyer gripped the socks and ankles. The path climbed steadily ahead of us over the alternating rocks and greasy mud patches, twisting around knobs and straightening again before circumventing a large totara or lancewood. The damp misty cloud hung about us, saturating every thing and causing large droplets to fall with every brush of a leaf or push of a branch. The air was cold. The packs pulled at the shoulders or chaffed above the hips as they hung doggedly to our backs.

 The first hour is always an acclimatizing time, where muscles start to loosen up, straps need adjusting, laces need retying and a steady pace needs to be found. From then on the rhythm started to settle in. The breathing became steady, the stride more relaxed and the pack moulded into one with the body, as it travelled unnoticed. It became easy to look about and watch the surroundings as the feet placed themselves instinctively on the firm or flatter spots, stepped onto the tree roots or skipped over the sloppy puddles. With the relaxation came the pleasure and the excitement of the new surroundings. Stands of beech trees laden with enveloping green moss created a surreal setting, as the mist drove into the lower branches. Roots formed an interlocking mesh that covered the path. Tall dead tree carcasses towered up along the ridge, the enduring memory of a fire that passed through more than 60 years before. Purple fungi pushed up from the ground and bracket fungi formed steps up a dead trunk. It all seemed a long way from civilization and bustle of mankind.

The gorse was tough on the bare legs and the lawyer gripped the socks and ankles. The path climbed steadily ahead of us over the alternating rocks and greasy mud patches, twisting around knobs and straightening again before circumventing a large totara or lancewood. The damp misty cloud hung about us, saturating every thing and causing large droplets to fall with every brush of a leaf or push of a branch. The air was cold. The packs pulled at the shoulders or chaffed above the hips as they hung doggedly to our backs. The first hour is always an acclimatizing time, where muscles start to loosen up, straps need adjusting, laces need retying and a steady pace needs to be found.

From then on the rhythm started to settle in. The breathing became steady, the stride more relaxed and the pack moulded into one with the body, as it travelled unnoticed. It became easy to look about and watch the surroundings as the feet placed themselves instinctively on the firm or flatter spots, stepped onto the tree roots or skipped over the sloppy puddles.

With the relaxation came the pleasure and the excitement of the new surroundings. Stands of beech trees laden with enveloping green moss created a surreal setting, as the mist drove into the lower branches. Roots formed an interlocking mesh that covered the path. Tall dead tree carcasses towered up along the ridge, the enduring memory of a fire that passed through more than 60 years before. Purple fungi pushed up from the ground and bracket fungi formed steps up a dead trunk. It all seemed a long way from civilization and bustle of mankind.

The track led us upwards for over seven hours with the odd sign or landmark giving us the feeling of the closeness of the hut. The eyes looked forward through the foliage for the straight lines of a building. So far on the journey the only straight lines were on the man-made track markers or the rare shafts of light that drove through the leaves. The hint of green paint and the outline of a window started the pace quickening and the salivary juices flowing. The hut meant hot soup and a rest.

With over four hours before the light would disappear the consensus was to push on to the next hut. The open tops made the travel faster but the razorbacks that carried the track across the course of the wind meant caution had to be taken. On the tops the view can be beyond belief but this day’s journey was blundering through cloud and looking down on either side to a sheer drop that fused into the swirling mist. Soon the summit came into sight, with its lonely cross standing like a sentinel guarding the peak. It is a simple war memorial, but one of the most dramatic. From there it was downward in the half light to the hut, to supper, the smell of damp clothing, the aroma of dirty bodies, the laughter and the recounting of tramping tales.

The journey, thus far, had taken over twelve hours of which ten had been spent travelling. The bodies were exhausted so it did not matter that the hut had no mattresses or heating to fend off the cold of the night. Sleep came easily. The hardest part of the next day was squeezing into the cold wet clothes of the previous day, before heading off down hill. Two hours on the open tops, two hours in the bush and then out.

Out at Otaki Forks.We could have been walking in any of New Zealand’s mountains but we had just walked the Southern Crossing of the Tararua ranges, which leads from Kaitoke over to the Otaki Forks. The names that the Tararua trampers throw about had, briefly, become real. We tramped up the Marchant Ridge with its dead fire burnt trees, over Mt Marchant, up the Golden Stairs before scrambling through the aptly named Hell’s Gate. We rested at the friendly Alpha hut and trudged up Mt Alpha. On the Dress Circle we crossed over Aston, Atkinson, and the Beehives, before reaching the summit of Mt Hector with its remembrance cross. Then we went downward to Kime. Next day was on to Field hut and finally the refreshing waters of the Otaki river.

So what has this got to do with farming?

Nothing, absolutely nothing.Farming is an insular profession that demands a total commitment. A farmer usually lives on the farm, works on the farm, phones half the night about the farm, and sleeps on the farm. Pressures of work build up and fuse into one jumbled mess that seem to never go away. A tramp, like the Southern Crossing, transports the worried soul to a new environment where all the cares and concerns are left behind like excess baggage. For several hours three farmers and an electrician forgot about their normal lives and pitted themselves against the mountains. They came back tired but mentally refreshed. The same old problems were still there but suddenly they seemed far less pressing and far more ordered. Each was easy to pick off, one at a time. The trampers brains had been rinsed and sanitized and were ready to use again.

Not everyone wants to spend hours trudging in the cold and wet, but everybody should find some environment to retreat to occasionally where they can make a complete break from the pressures of their life. With farmers being so immersed in their business such a safety valve is especially important.




NZ Internet Services Ltd - website developers and website designers New Zealand
 
All content copyright © 2003 Farmnet | Legal Disclaimer