Beyond the Granny

Basics in knot tying

Learning to tie knots can be infuriating. Often the best ones are counter-intuitive, requiring you to untangle the wires in your brain before you start on the rope.


The deadly poison of the tutu berries

New Zealanders can be smug about our lack of harmful animals. The bush has no snakes, no wolves or bears, and our only native poisonous spider is a threatened species. But one threat we don’t lack is poisonous plants. There’s a whole smorgasbord of berries, fungi and leaves that will make you crook or even kill you if you make the mistake of eating them.

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.


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