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Heels 1970

Bushcraft Course

Bushcraft Course

From the newsletter:- This is a weekend where all can come and learn something about the art of the bush. Firelighting, shelter construction, river crossings can be fun. Note: primi, huts, bridges and boats are banned this weekend.

After the usual train ride into Upper Hutt, we were taken by car to Kaitoke shelter. From there we plodded our weary way up the Puffer, except for one carload who risked their lives with the maniacal driver along the slippery road and vertical cliffs, to save nearly half an hour of tramping. Not that it would have made much difference to the car if it had gone over a cliff, but it might have affected the people inside.

Even Keith's car was too good to be taken on this slippery track, or so he said.

Then down the short cut, slipping and sliding all over the track along the "easy bit", or so our beloved leader told us.

We admired the new bridge over Smith's Creek, but when Keith expressed interest in taking home the old "cross at your own risk" sign, which was lying unwanted on the ground, Mary suddenly took it into her head that she wanted it. Wharry descended upon Keith with a view to taking it for Mary, but Keith then decided that discretion is the better part of valour and disappeared up the hill, to reappear a few minutes later without the sign. On the way back, however, Mary recovered it from the hiding place and carried it home.

Continuing our merry way along this track, we soon levelled out and arrived at Tauwharenikau hut, where we had lunch.

The "Cricket Pitch", for those of us who had never seen it before, was a very strange apparition. Two hundred yards of absolutely still, calf-deep and perfectly clear water, with grass growing underneath. What with Colonel Eggwater's massive frame charging along it, it was a wondrous sight indeed.

At our dream campsite of spongy moss and old shoes, beside the river, we spent a busy afternoon, making bivvies, which we quickly pulled down in order to construct others, and fires, all of which succeeded. At least they succeeded as far as they got before being abandoned to the gods. A fire transplant was even attempted - what next - but this was not successful.

However no confidence was expressed in our bivvies and we slept in tents - except for Colonel Eggwater, who slept in his one, which was made out of corrugated iron and a kitchen sink, presumably from the hut which was burnt down nearby. His bivvy was between two trees and being only 5 feet long and 2 feet wide, with Colonel well over 6 feet tall, it's a wonder he had a comfortable night, as he told us - or perhaps he didn't.

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In the morning we were given a spectacular display of what happens to people who kick other people's sausages into the fire. "Cook on your own bloody fire, not mine," was part of the insults and remarks which, together with kicks, were hurled at the offender, whose fire was fortunately successful. This fight, between two leaders too - what an example.

As part of the morning's activities we were told how to avoid drowning in rivers and then proceeded to practise this in groups of four, using the pole method and the hand on pack method. Unfortunately we were not told how to avoid freezing to death after crossing.

After being told that if a river needed a rope pendulum crossing, it shouldn't be crossed anyway, we were nevertheless given a demonstration of it by our racing demon - Pete Radcliffe.

Then we all tried to find Keith who had "lost" himself about 200 yards from camp. Although supplied with compasses and directions, none of us managed to do so, though he was only just missed by one searcher. If some of the searchers had trusted their compass directions, he would never have been found.

We left the campsite immediately after lunch, originally intending to do a bit of practical map and compass work, but this idea was soon quashed. However we did return via a different route; straight up a steep and seemingly never-ending spur from Smith's Creek to the Marchant ridge-line.

When we joined the main track, one member of the party was quite certain that to get back to Kaitoke, one should head northwards, i.e. into the Tararuas, but was soon shown the way to go.

From there we sloshed our muddy way to the top of the Puffer, amidst a noisy debate on capitalism versus socialism.

At Kaitoke Shelter we crammed into the two cars - Andy's and Keith's - with five in Keith's and seven in Andy's, and came fairly uneventfully back to the Hutt and Wellington.

Party: Peter Radcliffe (leader), Keith Jones, John Atkinson, Andy Wright, John (Wharry) Keys, Mary Atkinson, Brian Davis, Tricia Healy, Sarah Maclean, Noel Sissons, Margaret Keys, Terry Pinfold.