The Backcountry of the Mind

Pat White encounters a wildly disorientated man

Come evening in a hut when strangers meet. Quiet surveys made of the appearance of packs, each tramper’s clothing, how a person moves into and around the hut, allow that first and often superficial impression to be drawn. How do we treat our new company?

Hell, That Cloud Seems to be Moving in Pretty Fast

The National Film Unit vs. Hypothermia

Moody electronic soundtrack, genre blurring, jump cuts and abrupt edits - the experimental classic of 1971 is a warning on the dangers of hypothermia. The year of A Clockwork Orange and The Last Picture Show, was also the year of the National Film Unit’s What a Stupid Way to Die.

A Day Dreamers Bible

Reading South Sea Vagabonds

After getting fired from his office job during the height of the Great Depression, Aucklander John Wray did the most sensible thing in the circumstances: he built a 35 foot yacht and headed for the Pacific Islands.

The Best Intentions

Reading the intentions book

A sturdy hardback in solemn green, the intentions book is as much a part of tramping as crossing rivers. And while there was outrage at the replacement of roadside and DOC office intentions books with an online form, the hut books remain. For the most part they contain a simple list: party members, hut ticket numbers, and dates. All essential should someone go missing or try for a free stay.

A Billy of Black Tea

Going bush with Man Alone

The man is Johnson. He comes to New Zealand after the First World War. He moves around, working on farms, on boats and in a road crew. Then things turn bad and he heads for the bush, tramping through the Rangipo Desert, the area known to most Kiwis for the Desert Road, and hiding out for months in the Kaimanawa Ranges. He carries only flour, tobacco and tea, a gun and an axe.