Monday, February 23, 2009

Don't want to carry it? Eat it!

I saw this linked to a friend's Facebook page and just had to share it. I'm somewhat ashamed to say how long I considered whether this might be a real company producing edible outdoor equipment for campers! (At least I haven't responded to any of those e-mails telling me I've won an online lottery - yet...)

For pure entertainment value, go check out the EAT website where you can learn all about the joys of edible gear, from tarps made of "gummi skin" to sleeping bags filled with "veggie loft". There are even trekking poles in meaty flavours like chicken, shrimp, beef and for the vegetarians TVP.

Edible gear means you won't have to carry all kinds of food with you, and your gear gets lighter and lighter (and smaller and smaller) over the course of your trip.

OK, maybe an edible sleeping back or backpack will never really be a good idea, but I think they may be onto something here. What about edible packaging for the food you bring along? What if your cup-a-soup came in a gelatin envelope that dissolved right into the soup? No more empty packaging to carry around! Any food scientists out there? Hello? Bueller?

Anyway, have fun with the website. It looks like it's been kicking around since 2003, but then I'm a bit slow to notice these things!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tararuas Southern Non-Crossing

One of the classic tramps in the Tararua mountain range is called the Southern Crossing. It is usually done over two days plus one evening.

The first evening is spent walking up onto the ridge where Field Hut is snuggled beneath the bush line. This is a three hour walk for someone like me, but I'm sure there are some trampers out there who do it in two hours.

The second day takes you onto the ridge, past Kime Hut, another three hours along. From there it's about an hour to the summit of Mt Hector, where the "tops" part of the walk really gets started. The ridge tops in the Tararuas are known for their fierce winds, and most local trampers who brave the tops have tales to tell of crawling on hands and knees at some point to avoid getting blown away. The tops lead you to Alpha Hut, the stop for the second night.

Day three is less precarious, but quite a long haul. You descend back below the bush line, and spend most of a day (6-8 hours depending on your downhill speed) making your way down a long ridge to Kaitoke Regional Park in the Hutt Valley.

G and I had been hoping to attempt a Southern Crossing this summer, but once we looked at it in detail I lost my nerve. Days one and two seemed do-able, but the long final day seemed beyond my current endurance. I tend to get wobbly after a few hours of downhill, and there's no hut between Alpha and the end of the track if you decide you can't make it all the way.

So instead of the crossing, we decided to just walk the first half (well, not quite half) of the route and then head back the same way.

We started in the morning, reaching Field Hut in time for a late lunch. A helicopter could be heard in the distance, which we later learned was searching for a lost tramper in the park. (She was found the next day, in good shape.)

From Field Hut we continued up above the bushline and the clouds moved in. Although we were walking along a ridge, the view on either side was completely obscured. I realised at some point that not having a view, and therefore a constant temptation to stop and take pictures, was actually moving me along much better than usual. I began to wonder how much time I add to our average day of tramping by stopping to take pictures so often. Not that I think the time is wasted, or plan to stop - but it was an interesting thing to ponder.

We finally crossed a flat on the top of the ridge, and almost out of nowhere Kime Hut appeared in the mist. It was a welcome sight after six hours of uphill travel. The hut was busy that night (I seem to have a knack for picking the busiest huts!) with a grand total of 24 people eventually spending the night there. But the mood was relaxed and friendly, and there was enough room for everyone to squeeze onto the bunks.
The next day we decided to play things by ear. It was still pretty misty and cloudy up where we were, and we set out towards the tops not knowing how far we would get. The ridge narrowed, at times dropping off steeply on both sides. The track was pretty well defined though, despite the marker poles being quite sparse.

Eventually we got to the top of Mt Hector, and had a look at the memorial cross up there which is a tribute to the Kiwi soldiers lost in WWII. It was up at this exposed point that we could feel the full force of the "breeze" blowing that morning. It certainly wasn't the worst that the Tararuas can offer up, but it was strong enough to make continuing onwards an unpleasant task. So we decided to be nice to ourselves and head back the other way at this point.
As we turned to go, the clouds around us actually parted, and gave us a view of the farmland far below. This was precisely the same moment when the batteries in my camera died, of course. Within 30 seconds the clouds closed in again and the view was lost. But I did put new batteries in my camera as we made our way back along the ridge, so that I could grab a few pictures of the track itself.
After a quick snack stop at Kime Hut, we made our way back down to Field Hut in increasingly sunny weather. We saw the rescue helicopter once again (this must have been right around the time the lost tramper was found) as we descended the ridge.

At field hut we stopped for lunch, and I noticed that someone had hung his (0r her) smelly socks out on the upper window. Probably a good idea! Some socks shouldn't be allowed inside.
By the last hour of the walk it was actually quite hot out, and I wished I had brought something to wear in the river at the bottom. It was a perfect day for a swim, but with so many others thinking the same thing, it was way too populated for skinny dipping or even a swim in my underwear. Instead I had to settle for a quick change of clothes at the car, and air conditioning on the way home.

I'm hopeful that some day I'll have the endurance (and speed) to complete a Southern Crossing, but in the mean time I've at least knocked off part of it.

And as for my recovery time - well, it's Wednesday and my legs are still pretty stiff. Guess I still have some work to do at the gym!