I've never liked tramping. I think of it as trudging. Where's the fun in being sweaty and mud-splattered, with your lungs burning and your feet aching, through forest that you never even look at because you're too busy avoiding that cliff you're about to walk over, while it's steadily raining on you?
My first 'tramps' were:
* walks around various lakes in Tongariro National Park 1983 - rain, rain and more rain
* a climb up Mt Pureora during Form 1 camp 1984 - extreme muddiness sucked my shoes off my feet
* a climb up Mt Tarawera 1985 - nobody talked to me all day because for some reason everyone hated me, and although the craters are stunnig, I was sure I was going to get blown over by the gale force winds we endured
All my ventures into tramping or bushwalking or any of that sort of thing have usually been very humiliating, my incredible un-fitness exposing me like I'm tramping naked. I'm not big on discomfort, so wet feet, smelly pits and muddy knees aren't really my idea of a good time.
So when Deb said I should come with her and Gus and Monique on a tramp to a hut in the Orongorongo Valley over Labour Weekend, I was not that keen. Monique lent me a pair of boots, some gaiters, a hat and some gloves. We bought food to take to a hut with us, only three hours up a track.
But I now get it. I get tramping. It's about having the right gear, lots of food, actually choosing to tramp rather than being forced to do it by sadistic teachers, being with people you like rather than kids who hate your guts that particular day and want you to know it, and good weather.
After three hours of pleasant up hill down hill with lunch at the river, we arrived at our luxurious hut. It even had a coffee plunger it was so cool. It was like the Raffles of tramping huts, it was shangri-la, it was an oasis of warm cosiness. Gus went about sawing up the wood that Monq and Deb collected from the riverside. I built a fire good enough to roast on, and we played cards, drank bad vodka, made cups of tea, ate dinner and read trashy magazines left behind by other people. By 8pm, it still wasn't dark and Deb was campaigning hard for dessert.
The next morning, we woke to rain. A few hands of world championship gin rummy, a breakfast of sausages, asparagus and corn thins, followed a couple of hours later by more gin rummy and porridge. A last burst of branch sawing for Gus and we were out of there. On with the boots, the gaiters, the full kit and caboodle and we were tramping, along slippery slopes, through muddy crevasses. Talking about alien invasions and what planet Gus is actually from. It was choice.