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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4 (August 1, 1933)

Tramping in New Zealand — A Health-Giving Exercise

page 43

Tramping in New Zealand
A Health-Giving Exercise.

In the heart of the mountain wonderland of Otago, New Zealand.

In the heart of the mountain wonderland of Otago, New Zealand.

Let every young fellow now join in this song,
Vive à la Compagnie,
In love and good fellowship let us unite,
Vive à la Compagnie;
Vive à l'amour …

Thus we sang as we left the train for the waiting lorry.

“All O.K. back there?” The lorry driver gave us a glance (a contemptuous one, I thought) before he started up his engine. Apparently the joy of tramping were unknown to him, so we took it in good part and off we went—twenty light-hearted trampers with twenty heavier packs. How we sang as the old lorry roared along the road, for it was holiday-time and we had seven glorious days before us.

The lorry dropped us at the foot of the thickly wooded hills and from there we climbed over ridges until we reached our little hut, miles away from the town.

I can visualise it now, sitting here at my desk. But the holidays will come again and we shall be off. How we shall tramp and tramp and tramp; I can imagine the journey home to the base though misty driving rain; up densely wooded slopes and down slippery muddy hills, where one false step means a fall; the swirling rivers beneath; the rocky canyons; the rivers to be waded; the muddy creeks; tired out, wet through, hungry. And then the hut in sight, with the smoke curling up from the old tin chimney, up and up among the beautiful native trees. Once inside and off will come our wet boots and damp clothing, while the hardier trampers will prepare the stew. And those camp stews! Everything goes into them—raisins, rice, vegetables, chops, sausages, etc., with soup powder to thicken them. Up to us in our part of the hut—the crazy “second-storey,” will come the delicious “stewey” aroma that means so much to the hungry tramper. It will permeate the little hut and urge us on in our frantic efforts to find the necessary dry garments. Down the ladder-staircase again; the stew will be constantly stirred and frequently tasted and at last declared ready. A rattle of plates, knives, forks, spoons (all needed if it is desired to get the full enjoyment from our famous stew) and a sort of silence while we start on our first course. Soon the edge will be off our appetites and we shall start to chatter, quietly at first, but gradually raising our voices until we are shouting in the most riotous fashion in order to make ourselves heard. So warmed, dried and fed we will sit for awhile at the rough-planked table, exchanging views on the day's tramp and planning for the morrow—all the hardships of but a few hours past, forgotten. Then we shall sing; there will be solos, perhaps a sacred solo, a classic number, gay little folk songs, jazz—everything. Coffee at ten and so to our sleeping bags.

Up next morning at seven. Some of us will prefer an easy day, so we will stay at the “base” and swim, and classify the specimens we gathered on the previous day (for trampers are usually very keen botanists). We may spend the day deer-stalking, or perhaps we may go for a little scramble in the bush. If it is very cold we might sit by the log fire and knit or play bridge and listen to some of the sterner sex (who think they are having an easy day too) chopping heavily at the big rounded bush timber which will make logs for our fireplace.

And so the days go on, thrilling care-free days that only trampers can know. I am singing now—

“… Vive à l'amour
Vive à la Compagnie.'