Oil and Bone Dust

Sailing into Whangamumu Harbour

The last stop before rounding Cape Brett and coming into the safe waters of the Bay of Islands is Whangamumu Harbour. Deep and circular, it has a narrow entrance and a barrier of steep hills to protect it from the open ocean and gusty winds.

Visiting an Old Friend

The topo map

I’ve never been to Lake Waikaremoana or Frasertown, but a cartoonish abstraction with its bright reliable colours and reassuring post offices and primary schools is like visiting an old friend. You don’t have to go there to get an idea of the shape of the land, where key items are, how to get in, how to get out. And that is what the topo map strives for, reassurance.

Not Waving but Drowning

How to signal for help

Learn from the story of Carl McCunn. Five months after being dropped in a remote corner of backcountry Alaska, the Texas born wildlife photographer began to worry. The details he had left with friends and family were vague. He thought he had organised a plane to pick him up, but had he made it clear to the pilot? And then, one day as his hope was low, he heard a plane.

From the Entrails of the Earth

The secret life of eels

From my classroom you could see the river or at least the willows that hung down over it. It was a branch of the Heathcote, and although it was only about three metres wide and half a metre deep it was full of eels. They were vicious creatures with teeth like needles.

Not the Next Kelly Tarlton

Lawrence Patchett rediscovers snorkelling

Before Norfolk Island this winter, I’d never enjoyed snorkelling. As a kid I wasn’t a natural swimmer. My technique tended to be splash, panic, and freeze. And previously when I’d tried snorkelling, the mask had leaked, and I couldn’t work the snorkel. Blocking my nose with plastic underwater made me panic. Plus it was freezing, up in the rivers behind Nelson.

Bangers and Mash

Quick and hearty camp stove fare

Elaborate meals of fresh produce, fine cuts of meat and quality condiments are great when you have kitchen cupboards and a fridge full of supplies. But when you need to carry everything on your back, they tend to lose their appeal.

Thankfully, simple fare is just as satisfying after a long day’s walk. A particular favourite of mine is that humble dish, bangers and mash.

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.

Bright and Fine

Panning for gold

Spend it in the winter
Or die in the cold.
One a pecker, Tuapeka
Bright fine gold

Gold fields folk song, writer unknown.

The Drop Scene

Whanganui National Park

Halfway along the Whanganui River is a spot where the hills come straight down to the water. In the 19th century this was dubbed the Drop Scene, and was famed for its beauty and similarity to a theatrical backdrop. The river itself was described as the Rhine of the Pacific.

The Surest Winner

Making a list

Things get interesting with a list. The best part of expedition leader John Hunt’s account of the ascent of Everest is the appendix setting out all their equipment and food right down to a list of suppliers (George Romney Ltd provided Kendel’s mint cake. A total of six different firms kept them stocked with tobacco and cigarettes).


Subscribe to Up Country RSS