Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Huts of New Zealand 2017 - Part 2

You came back for part two? Wow, how bored are you? Well, it is January, so I’m guessing that the answer to that is very. Plus fed up of work, plus probably suffering from some kind of ill-health…Ooop, too real? Let’s get back to the huts.

July (31/07/17)
This is Awatere hut on the Makateru river in the Ruahine forest.
As you know, I always look for the story, but there isn’t always a story lurking, sometimes a hut is just a hut. The most details I could find were– ‘This is a basic three-bunk hut in the Hawke’s Bay region.’ What more could you need to know?

But there are two things to note. One, despite this being the 7th hut I’ve researched this year, I’ve only just come across the practice of ‘Hut Bagging’ which is as straightforward as – visit a hut and you’ve bagged it. There appears to exist a whole sub-culture around this practice, which is, of course, charmingly nerdy. For more information, go here -
The second thing is that this hut is only an hour and half’s drive away from where I’ll be staying in a couple of weeks. I have looked into the feasibility of actually going there, but I just won’t have the time, resources or money to pull it off on this occasion.
However, is does strike me that it might be pretty awesome to actually visit one of the huts at some point. But given that they are usually at the top of mountains, this is quite a challenge in itself. I suppose there are 5 more huts to go, so let’s hope that one of them was built to shelter people feeling a bit wan from climbing a small embankment, or a slight incline, or something along those lines…

August (30/08/17)
Yeah, I know what the date is, I know how close to the wire I am (again!) But give me a break dudes, I’m just not feeling it right now.
Having said that, I’ll be buggered if I’m gonna let such rampant introspection ruin this fun thought experiment, not 8 months in at least. So, without further faff…
August’s hut is the Pell Stream Hut in the Lewis Pass National Reserve, which is in the West Coast/ Canterbury area. The hut is pretty basic from what I’ve read, and not very well maintained (mattresses on the floor, with free bleach available to get them up to a “gingerly lay your head down while you frantically fever dream about what darkness that bedding has seen” standard) but the area that the Pell Stream Hut is in, is far from basic.

Lewis Pass is the northernmost of the three main passes across the Southern Alps, even higher than the Haast Pass (which, if you’re paying attention, I’ve talked about before) and this pass is in the saddle between the valleys of Maruia River to the northwest and Lewis River to the southeast. But I can’t really TELL you how awesome a place looks, for that you’ll need to have a gander at the pictures and this fantastic video filmed at the top of the pass, kindly shared on the YouTube by a generous tramper – thanks Greg, you’re the man - I hope you enjoy life too!
Besides all of the astounding beauty (as my friend Kirby would say – put it away New Zealand, really) there’s a not a lot else to note here except that one of the nearby mountains is called the Philosopher’s Knob (because if you could name mountains, you just would, wouldn’t you?) and I found a super charming blog by a guy searching for a wild kiwi that’s worth a read, if you’re in a procrastinating kinda mood.

September (29/09/17)
September’s hut is Shute’s Hut in Ruahine Forest Park. The Ruahine range is the largest of several mountain ranges (including the Tararuas and Rimutakas) in the North Island that form a ridge running parallel with the east coast between the East Cape and Wellington. It’s made of stone and its original form has been maintained in order to keep it as a place of historical interest, as well as a habitable hut.

It was built in 1920 by Alex Shute, described as a ‘rabbiter and practical joker’ who decided to spend 20 years wandering around the Ruahine back country, rabbiting and presumably practical joking... although I can’t find any evidence of what sort of japes he got up to. It does somewhat beg the question, if a practical joke is set up and paid off in the woods and nobody is around to see it, is it still funny? He also planted a small orchard of pine and gum trees behind the hut, which are mostly still there. The hut is only accessible from No Mans Road, which, I mean, if this was named on the basis of trying to accurately depict what to expect, it’s kind of like calling it Immediate Death Road or something. I hope the name just comes down to some hunting based posturing. Or maybe Mr Shute’s famous wit.
Hunting is quite a big thing in NZ, and while it does make me feel all wibbly wobbly at the thought of it (not in a good way) I can see how it does neatly segue with population control of certain introduced species that might otherwise run rampant. I guess this includes rabbits. And yes I’ve just made the connection between those two words, but let’s push past that if we can.
There’s not a lot more to say here beyond the obvious fact that the idea of just buggering off and living in the wilderness for decades, when the wilderness looks like this, is more than a little appealing.

October (24/10/17)
October’s hut is Jean Hut in the Whakaari Conservation Area, Otago.
Whakaari (meaning "to hold up to view") is found between Glenorchy and Mount Aurum and boasts two major walking tracks – the Mount Judah and McIntosh loops. There’s a whole heap of huts nearby, Jean hut being one of the oldest.

This area was important for scheelite mining during the gold rush times, hence the abundance of huts.
Jean hut was cladded using flattened drums, which has the effect of making it look like something straight out of a Pratchett Discworld novel. It has only 2 bunks, but is equipped with heating and a working toilet, so far more modern than the exterior would have you believe.
Scheelite became quite an important mineral during the two world wars in particular. It’s a pretty looking stone (known to be passed off as diamond on occasion, apparently) but its main property seems to be its denseness (I can identify with that) and the fact that it can be alloyed with steel to make, well, a super hard steel. This is me trying to interpret geological writings about it – so basically it’s like a kind of kryptonite then? Come on scientists - why not just say that?
Of course, there is the usual amount of surrounding NZ beauty but in my searching I came across a particularly stunning natural wonder – the willow trees of Glenorchy in Lake Wakapitu. The photos of this I have nabbed from a dude’s blog, which I will link to here because he went to an incredible effort to get these shots, so credit where credit really is due.

November (30/11/17)
Jesus, I nearly forgot about this! But how could I ever fail to come through for the 2, or possibly even up to 3 or 4 of you who are kind enough to read it?
November’s hut is Cameron Hut in Hakatere Conservation Park, by the Arrowsmith mountain range, in Canterbury.

Cameron Hut was built in 1952 but then re-built in 1982 with a new pre-fabricated hut having to be helicoptered to the site. You would think that this was due to it being somewhere particularly remote, but I’ve seen a few helicopters being used for similar purposes in Wellington, because everything in this land is either surrounded by jungle or atop an insanely steep hill. The hut has 9 bunks, is solar powered, and has a mountain radio for emergencies, but the toilet is outside which could be a little… chilly, I reckon.
Hakatere Conservation Park is obviously stunning (do I even need to keep noting this or can we just take that as a given now?) But more interestingly, two of the mountains there, Mount Potts and Mount Sunday, were used as locations for Edoras – the fortress city of the Riders of Rohan in the LOTR films. Apparently they built a fully realised set for Edoras on Mt Sunday. It took the production crew 9 months to build, constructing Golden Hall on top of the cliffs along with the other buildings and a gatehouse and yet more buildings at the bottom. It was all dismantled when they were finished and they left it as they found it, but the area unsurprisingly attracts a good number of fans each year. As does most of the rest of NZ for similar wizard and hobbit related reasons. Another fun fact: the filming locations for LOTR are clearly listed in the road maps here. We drove past the location of the Battle of Pelennor Fields on the first trip down to Welly. Also known as Paraparaumu to the locals.
Finally I realised that I actually have a few photos of the area we’re talking about here – the Southern Alps and the Canterbury Plains, due to going up on the gondola back in Christchurch. These photos aren’t quite as spectacular as the ones of the Arrowsmith range, but they’re still quite pretty, even if I do say so myself.

December (28/12/17)
December’s hut is the historic Cone Hut in Tararua Forest Park in the Wairarapa region.

Cone Hut is the second oldest hut in the Tararuas. It was built by New Zealand’s first tramping club, the Tararua Tramping Club, in 1946, and remains one of the best surviving examples of a ‘slab hut’ in New Zealand.
By the early 1980s, the hut had fallen into disrepair. After assessing the historical importance of the site and developing a plan, it was decided to rebuild the hut using the same construction method and materials as the original build. This work was undertaken by the Tararua Tramping Club with the assistance of the Department of Conservation.
Unfortunately, in 2015, Trampers discovered that their beloved hut had been trashed by vandals. This story was picked up by Stuff (think the BBC for NZ, so big time news) and they reported on the damage in detail. A 10-litre can of white acrylic paint had been tipped on the floor, mattresses had been slashed and one dumped in the pool of paint. The hut was strewn with rubbish and the hut book (which I’m assured is a vital safety tool when it comes to wilderness survival) was missing and its case smashed and burnt.

Club president Paul Maxim observed that it was the worst case of hut vandalism he had seen, saying ‘Why you would go in and do that wilful damage to a hut in such a beautiful spot? It just defies imagination.’
Right on, Paul, it is truly bizarre that people would tramp a full 2 hours into a national park to smash up a hut. That’s a great deal of effort to go to for a random act of vandalism. The perpetrators have not been caught since, despite a big push for justice after the story broke. But shaking off the sadness, the Tararua Tramping Club, together with a number of community groups, made good the damage and returned the hut to its former glory.
You know full well that I stumbled into this writing experiment with my tongue firmly in my cheek, because the idea of quaint back country huts is ridiculously Royston Vasey and intrinsically amusing. But it became a thing I was committed to, and every time I thought, what the hell could I possibly write about this hut? There was always a story to find and something to play off. I think the fact that the last story is one of resilience and endurance, is very fitting, because it rings true to what I have found about New Zealanders in a more general sense, they tend to take their knocks and roll with the punches. Kiwis are very aware of how beautiful this country is, and the pride they take in it and the lengths they go to to preserve and enjoy that beauty, has never ceased to impress me. Huts will continue to be around for as long as NZ is, because huts help to facilitate that close relationship between the land and its people.
So, yes, to confirm, this is the last hut of 2017, and my last entry in the series. I’ve got a whole other writing experiment to play about with next year, the ideas for which have already amused me a great deal, so I’m looking forward to it. But is the end of exploration into the huts of NZ? I’m doubtful on that score, because I gave a Huts of 2018 calendar to my awesome friend, Charlotte. And the idea of doing some kind of hot dudes in huts crossover, is deeply funny to us. So, is the end? Yeah, nah, probably not.
Finally, to answer a question nobody has asked, have I collated this hut series into one coherent blog post that can be shared shortly hereafter?
Well… what do you think?


I was going to write some kind of conclusion here, but I think I did that pretty well in December’s entry. From a writing perspective, it was fun to watch something that began as a complete piss take grow into something else, and I think you can see a distinct improvement in how I approached this as the months wore on. The lesson here is that you never know, once you start anything, where it’s going to take you, and writing is a continual process of making yourself do something, no matter how arbitrary, that forces you to find and develop different muscles that you didn’t even know you had. Yes I am still talking about writing here. Well, what do you know? I ended up concluding with another conclusion anyway. Jeez, writers, man, do they ever just shut the fuck up? No, no we don’t.

Sources of hut images (unless otherwise linked in the text)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Huts of New Zealand 2017 - Part 1

Back in January of 2017, through a series of odd coincidences, I was given a calendar for work all about the back country huts of New Zealand. I shared this on Facebook because, hey, look, a weird calendar celebrating a bizarrely niche subject matter! As a follow on, somebody suggested that each month I could write something about the featured hut, and share photos. The idea was immediately amusing to me because I knew nothing about huts or their purpose, and yet they seemed very, well, twee. I don’t think there’s another word for it.  So for no other reason than the idea made me laugh, I began writing monthly Facebook posts about the huts. I did this on my personal page only, for a number of reasons- I didn’t know how interesting it would be to other people, whether I would actually keep it up for a 12 month period, and to publish it on my blog would mean doing proper referencing so as not to be a dick in sharing pictures that were clearly not my own (but hey, that tedious work is now done!)

Surprisingly, I did keep it up, and throughout the year, no matter what else was going on, I made sure I found something to say about each hut. And some people did find it amusing and interesting (or at least claimed to!) I guess there’s nowt so queer as folk. But we already know that. Because this ended up being a somewhat successful writing experiment, I decided to collate the posts into a two part blog for you.
What follows is the posts, pretty much as they were originally written, with some edits to make it a bit flow-ier. I’ve (for the most part) removed the constant reference to how late in the month my posts usually ended up being (you’ll notice the dates started out fairly reasonable but soon devolved into a last minute approach to every entry) and what amazed me every time was that there was pretty much always something to say about the history or location of each hut. On the months where the entries are a bit sparse, this was usually due to me calling it in, rather than a lack of story. Although I protested otherwise, of course, but the truth is just that I got better at finding the story, and for this reason, it was the weirdest, most pointless, and yet one of the more consistent writing exercises I’ve undertaken thus far. Now, without further a to-do, let’s go on a journey through 12 of the most beloved huts in the New Zealand wilderness.

January (posted 16/01/17)
January’s hut should come as no surprise to you as it was the one on the cover!
This is Mungo Hut, located at the junction of Mungo River and Park Stream, in Hokitika, in the West Coast region of the South Island. 

Mungo hut was built in 1962 to replace an older hut. The local community look after it and it was given a good overhaul in 2015. It’s free to stay in and works on a first-come, first-served basis. Apparently it doesn’t get many visitors (only 5 or 6 parties per year) but it would be a steep walk if you were to make the trip only to find it ocupado!
It has 2 bunkbeds, a toilet, its own spade, a cast iron frying pan, a camp oven, 2 buckets, a bow saw, 4 billies (uh, what?), a small library (!), a small seat, an aluminium basin, a hearth shovel and a hand broom, a broom, an axe, and some spare louvre panes (um…) Basically, all your mod cons. Except for hot water.
As with most things in my life, this started out as a joke, but it became interesting somewhere along the way… Although do expect me to switch up the format for future months, because I can bore easily!

February (05/02/17)
February’s hut is Brewster Hut, accessible via the Haast pass and river, overlooked by Mount Brewster and Mount Armstrong, in the South Island. 

This recently built hut was designed to house the admirably insane individuals who like to climb incredibly steep mountains in freezing temperatures. I guess people do this for the view, but I also think it’s linked to that adrenalin junkie sense of achievement thingy, a gene possessed by my father (the mountain bike enthusiast) but not inherited by either of his daughters. Or at least, I can think of a number of other far more interesting activities linked to adrenalin highs that don’t involve any kind of extreme spots, or risk of falling from a great height.
In any event, this hut is a mere 3 hour vertical climb, located on a small plateau above the bush line (the bush being predominantly beech trees I’m reliably informed) There are 12 bunks, a deck with a pretty kickass view, an outhouse, it’s often surrounded by snow, and there is no heating of any kind. 

My favourite anecdote from Bewster hut related research came from a blogger who had bumped into a couple of older Kiwi dudes during their stay. These guys had decided to undertake a summit based exploration of the country as a twosome. They had only been travelling with each other for about a week by the time they reached the hut, but the journey was apparently not turning out as hoped, and the blogger soon learned that the pair had developed a deep dislike of each other. This resulted in one man taking off during the night, leaving his travelling partner a note to find in the morning that simply read ‘left to hitch a ride to Hokitika. Have a good life.’ Which begs the question: how annoying does someone actually have to be to make you want to set off down a track like that in the middle of the night?

Now, let’s take a moment to look at the pictures taken by brave individuals such as these, so that we can enjoy the view from the comfort of our warm sofas.

March (08/03/17)
I don’t know what to tell you with this month’s hut. I mean, I quite literally don’t know what to tell you.

I had a little google and nothing particularly interesting stood out to me. I think this may be related to my current mental state, which has my cognitive function somewhere around the ‘fire-bad, tree-pretty’ level. 

So in quick succession – this is Powell hut. It can accessed via Holdsworth Road end on the popular Mt Holdsworth Jumbo Circuit in the Wairarapa area. It has 28 bunks and costs $15 per person, per night. 

And why stay there? Probably because of that astoundingly breath-taking view I guess.

Seriously dudes, NZ has a good deal of the world’s pretty, and me (not so much with the pretty, but I am a lot of fun) so remind me again why you’re not here already? 

April (05/04/17)
It’s April already, and here we have the historic Cecil King’s hut on the Wangapeka track in Kahurangi National Park.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much American Horror Story recently (which is a whole other deal that I’ll articulate better another day. The only thing I’ll briefly say on that now is that it’s AWESOME to watch Kathy Bates being AWESOME #favouriteactressever ) but some of these photos do make the hut look incredibly ‘home of a serial killer-y/ there’s a witch in those-there-parts-y’ (such liberties I take with the English language, but I know you can handle it) It was also built by a Depression era gold rush dude, which has all the hallmarks of a potential ghost story. So, by all means, stay in the hut, the view is (as ever) amazing, but if all they find of you is a frantic journal that trails off with sinister sentences such as:
‘I think that tapping sound is getting louder’
‘I’m sure I left my climbing pick on the bed’
'The ground shakes, drums… drums in the deep’
Or at the very worst- ‘I’ll swallow your soul… dead before dawn!’
Then I will at least sleep better at night knowing that I gave you fair warning.
Although, for that last one, if this is immediately followed by a shout of ‘hail to the King, baby’ – you’re probably gonna be alright 

May (29/05/17)

This month it’s Colin Todd hut over on Mount Aspiring. 

It was built in memory of a young Dunedin climber who passed away in a motorcycle accident. The actual building of the site was stressful in the extreme, each attempt to get materials up the mountain was beset with constant weather problems and near death experiences for everyone involved. It took eight attempts to fly the materials up the mountain, and even on the successful attempt they ended up in the wrong location, and from there, well, I’ll quote a typically understated Kiwi account of what happened next:
‘To make things worse, a party sent in to retrieve the materials were lucky to survive when they flew to the Bonar Glacier in a ski-plane that botched the landing and flipped on its back. The occupants of the plane were able to descend to the valley floor on their own legs, but needless to say no work was done on the hut.’
All of that insane sounding hard work paid off eventually though, and now the hut is regularly packed out and can hold up to 12-14 visitors at a time. I did find this cool video taken from outside the hut of the mountain itself, so enjoy that ( ) And I’ll leave you with this final thought…
Look at that interior shot. Now look at the top bunk and the wall next to it. Then feel free to raise an eyebrow with me… I mean, really?! You’re a young guy (I’m assuming a lot here, but I think I’ve got good odds of being correct) you’re on holiday with your family, or your friends, and you can’t even go a matter of days without photos of titties next to you while you… sleep?

June (30/06/17)
Let it be said that I’m nothing if not woefully reactive and able to procrastinate until the last feasible minute until I actually do the thing I should have done at the very beginning, and on that note, here’s June’s hut, on the very last day of June.

This is Banfield Hut at Jagged Stream above the Rakaia Valley in Canterbury. The Rakaia Valley constitutes part of the belt of mountains that run all up the South Island, known as the Southern Alps. This area of New Zealand is arguably the most stunning, and that really is saying something given that, y’know, it’s New goddam friggin’ Zealand.
More details on Banfield Hut can be found on this link
This is not just me being characteristically slack, there really is no particular angle to spin on this one. It’s set within epically breath-taking surroundings, so I’m inclined to just let the photos I found do the talking.
One observation – I would imagine that the experience of a night here would bring a whole new meaning to the word ‘cold’. I think this therefore adequately explains the empty bottles of whisky in the interior picture. Along with what I assume is a jar of Nutella? Which would make sense, because whisky and Nutella sounds like a good time.


Eager for more mindless observations about random huts? Why not check out part two? If you’ve made it this far, I can promise you a distinct upswing of effort in part two. This is not just me blowing my own trumpet, on a re-read, the writing for the latter six months was much improved!

Sources of images for huts (unless otherwise linked in the text):

Friday, 29 September 2017

Deconstructed Memories

This is a collection of moments, told in various tenses, from various points in time. Any quotes from others are to the best of my recollection and should not be taken as gospel. Same goes for any quotes from myself. I’ve kept it anonymous, of course, but if some of it clicks that’s unavoidable because this stuff actually happened, albeit that the events have been prodded and poked about a bit to serve my narrative. What’s the narrative? Trust me, just go with it.  

Also, all quotes referenced are listed at the end, to avoid breaking the flow with excessive asterisking and footnoting.


Sunday, 17 September 2017

What IT means to me

If you read this blog on the regular you’ll be more than aware that I’m a fan of horror as a genre, both in literature and on screen, and last week saw the release of what would turn out to be the horror film with the highest grossing opening weekend of any R rated film, Stephen King’s IT. I also contributed to these stats, which is not like me, paying for media like a well behaved person. This was because I was excited to see what they had done with the material (also, in NZ, the cinema only costs $10!) and I have to say, I was really impressed with the result. But before I elaborate on that, I’m going to go back to the source material, to consider why this story means so much to me in the first place.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A review of American Horror Story (mostly)

If you keep staring at a really difficult problem you're never going to fix it. You need to walk away for a moment and shift your perspective because right now, you’re just too close to see a solution. As any of us can attest to, we’ve all experienced it at some point or another – there can be an eternity in a moment. You have to take those moments, you have to stop being you for a heartbeat and come back with fresh eyes. The pauses are important.

With that in mind, I’m going to change things up and launch into a review blog, of sorts, about a show I have watched recently that I feel is worth a review. I dallied a while over whether or not to recommend it, and my hesitation over this will become clear as I explain myself. But the main reason I decided to sit and write finally this was that the show made me think, and ultimately I believe that any story that makes you think is worth experiencing. This show has moved forward my ideas regarding horror, on why I'm drawn to it as a genre, and why I think it's an important part of our spectrum of experience.

The show I’m going to talk about is American Horror Story, hereafter referred to as AHS. Now, I predict that a few of you might react with ‘oh, but I don’t like horror’, and, I hear that, but also, I sincerely feel that you might be missing out by cutting off this genre entirely. It’s also in my vested interest to encourage you to like horror, if only in the hopes that you’ll then read my first book (I have no delusions of grandeur, it’s not like it’s going to be published, but it is going to be finished) So, please bear with me on the recommendation, and I’ll come back to why it matters later.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Act 2

The advice I find myself giving out most to people these days (solicited advice, I hasten to add) particularly when they are feeling directionless or unhappy or without confidence, is this – move to another country.

By this I don’t literally mean move to another country. But I don’t not mean that either. What I’m trying to tell people is, from my point of view, if you’re not happy with your life, don’t know who you are or what you want - throw yourself into totally alien situation. Plan a bit, maybe, but what you’re planning for is unknowable so by the same token, you can’t really plan for it. Because what happens when you turn your world onto its head is this - you deal with it, and while you’re dealing with it, you start to work the other bits out.

I’m really bad at taking my own advice, although who isn’t, actually? I write all of these blogs about loving yourself and being kind to yourself and being your own hero, and then when it comes to me I’ve carried this voice in my head that’s always said, ‘yeah, but not you, because you’re a dick.’ I know, proper unhealthy, right?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

We can be heroes, but not just for one day

Say that you had to create a superhero for yourself.

You could go with an obvious choice, from pop culture lore. Someone with preternatural strengths or abilities, God-like powers over their immediate environment, or unlimited financial resources. And most probably male. I mean, you'll get your Wonder Womans or your Black Widows, but odds are on they will be dressed in something tight and leather, otherwise how else can they remain strong but only in such a way as to still be sexually conquerable?

You could point out here that you have your Buffys of the world, and yeah, that's true. Buffy being a character I've always identified with, but not for the reasons you might imagine.