Of Tracks, Bridges and Backcountry Huts

Green trees, earthy smells, tranquillity, harmonious bird calls, cicadas chipping, a gentle breeze rustling through tree tops, and gently bubbling streams. Bush walking is a great way to get away from fast paced city life for a day, weekend, or even a week for the more adventurous. Many New Zealanders and tourists alike enjoy tramping in our bush, and it is commonly agreed our country has spectacular and dynamic scenery. You may find yourself walking down a gravel track, along board walks spanning swampy ground or across a narrow swing bridge, and you look around yourself taking in all the greenery, birds fluttering overhead, or in awe down at a cascading river far below your feet. However have you ever taken a moment to think, I mean really think, about how those structures you are walking over got there in the first place? I know I originally didn’t. But a few years back after the combination of working off track in the bush, and spending a few days doing physically demanding track work, I found myself really appreciating the hard work that DOC track workers do. It was with a certain relief that I would find myself bounding out of the bush onto the track after a day spent baiting, as I would be able to stride along without having to constantly step over things (or tripping in many cases!). I wouldn’t have to push past stabbing branches or somehow find a way across a ravine with tall and very slippery muddy banks. I would find myself silently thanking whoever had put in the hard work building that track as I walked out.

Swing Bridge in Tongariro National Park (Photo: Erin Bowkett)

Swing Bridge in Tongariro National Park (Photo: Erin Bowkett)

I think the work that goes into building tracks is under acknowledged. If it wasn’t for these tracks much of the amazing scenery everyone talks about would be largely inaccessible to the majority of people. But as a result many people enjoy our natural environment; they are able to see and get a feel for why conservation is deemed so important in our country.  My thinking eventually lead me to the ultimate construction DOC workers make, huts. Over the years I have made use of many of these buildings, they are a luxury as it takes the weight of a tent out of your pack, and often have a tank full of clean rain water. This certainly beats having to boil stream water for at least five minutes, and then having to wait for it to cool down to drink. But if you want to go for the cheaper option, or enjoy a more down-to-earth experience often flat areas have been cleared specially for pitching tents on.

Magaehuehu Hut, Tongariro National Park (Photo: Erin Bowkett)

Mangaehuehu Hut, Tongariro National Park (Photo: Erin Bowkett)

Bivy on Cleared Ground (Photo: Erin Bowkett)

Bivy on Cleared Ground (Photo: Erin Bowkett)

Whenever you are out in the bush remember to stay safe and follow outdoor etiquette. Always take a first-aid kit, and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. If you stay in or camp near a hut remember to always write in the hut visitor book. If you go missing this can become helpful to search and rescue for narrowing down your whereabouts. Leave any huts or campsites as you found them. In areas without toilets, always bury your waste well away from any tracks, campsites and waterways. Respect the environment and others. This may all sound like common sense but it is surprising how many people do not follow this simple etiquette. And remember, you can never be over-prepared, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Always be prepared: you never know what might happen (Photo: Erin  Bowkett)

Always be prepared: you never know what might happen (Photo: Erin Bowkett)

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