Signal Hill, With Dogs II

A walking diary - read part one

I spend a lot of time trying to put words to sounds and it is never very successful. There are distinct bird zones on the hill. The top half —where the forest has been cleared — is home to sparrows, chaffinchs, greenfinchs, cirl buntings, paradise ducks, and eastern rosellas.

Signal Hill, With Dogs I

A walking diary

As soon as I open the car door the dogs jump out. The smaller dog is attached to the headrest by its lead but never learns to wait. It dangles by its collar, legs scrabbling against the sill and seat until I unhook it. Immediately it runs towards the monument car park, looking for boxes of Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds and pizza, discarded during the night.

Espresso Cowboy

Making campfire coffee

Tea is the New Zealand backcountry drink. If a tramper says they’re putting a brew on they invariably mean a cloudy cup of Bell. But for those early starts, those cold mornings when you wake to find the fire long gone out, there is nothing like a mug of strong and piping hot black coffee. Here’s a few methods for making sure one is always within your reach.


Thou Hast Bound Bones and Veins

In praise of rope

Along with a knife and matches, rope is one of those items to never be stuck without. I carry a length in my pack, in the boot of the car, in various places on the boat and of course in the kitchen drawer, third from the top. From rafts to hammocks, makeshift tents to traps, there are very few things that can’t be fixed, or built, with rope.

Keas Rule, OK?

An interview with Philip Temple

Philip Temple is an explorer in more ways than one. At 23 he was part of the expedition to first climb the Carstensz Pyramide in West Papua, one of the seven summits of the seven continents. A feat he followed with the first ascent of Big Ben on the Antarctic Heard Island.

Just a Dot

In and around Arthur’s Pass

We left Christchurch early on a frosty morning, the shuttle bus rattling along empty streets as the sun was rising. Hours later, it was still morning, still cold but bright now and we came to a stop in the mountains. The driver slid the door open, and my friend and I carried our packs out. ‘Enjoy Cass,’ said one of the passengers. ‘There’s nothing there.’ He laughed as the door slid shut.

To Build a Fire

Techniques for the perfect campfire

Despite dropping out of Cubs at age 8 and never making it to Scouts, I have always considered myself well versed in the art of constructing and maintaining a campfire. Newspaper was my preferred tinder, and I usually opted for the teepee design. I also felt that I had an intuitive sense for such things as kindling size, and when to add more wood.

No Need for Embellishment

The story of cabin bread

Cabin bread, also known as hard tack, sea biscuit, pilot’s bread or ‘worm castles’, is the quintessential ration for those on long journeys through remote places. Usually large, square and thicker than your average cracker, it’s mainly known for being dry, very dry, dry enough to suck all the saliva from your mouth and leave you chomping away at sawdust.

Camping Out

Mount Somers Conservation Area, late December

We wanted to squeeze in a short tramp between Christmas and New Years while we were all in Christchurch for the holidays. At around three hours, the walk to Woolshed Creek Hut in the Mount Somers Conservation Area fit the bill. It was summer, the days were long, and we knew it was an easy walk, so we took our time getting out there.

You're in it

A storm at sea

The captain and expedition leader suggested we stay in our rooms and read, the storm due to last for a couple of days. Up until that point we’d had uncannily good weather, sunny days and mild winds, perfect for watching albatross and petrels glide over the waves. Now it seemed we had crossed over some invisible barrier into another sea.


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