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Posts tagged ‘back country’

HI! We’re invading your privacy!

One feature of thing about living in a remote part of New Zealand is scruffy men prowling through your garden with knives and/or rifles, preceded by a pack of wolves.

I’ve spent most of my life in cities, where the automatic response to one or more strangers snuffling around your gnomes is to check the doors are double-locked before calling the police.

However, in a small community, placing a 911 is considered bad form. In any case, you just KNOW the dude with a lazy eye and a claw instead of a hand will turn out to be your neighbour’s son/mother/best friend/beloved family pet or – even worse – the only hairdresser within a 100km radius.

The first time we encountered pig hunters on our premises was a few months ago; Husband and I were in the garden when a dog appeared out of the surrounding bush. While Jed investigated whether he could insert his entire head up his new friend’s arse, two men strolled down our drive followed by three more hounds.

I secured my squirming dog by the scruff while the pack of hunting dogs sniffed my ankles suspiciously. I’m thinking, “this had better be good”.

I expected an opening salvo along the lines of, “Hello- terribly sorry to disturb. We weren’t aware there was anyone here, our mistake. We simply can’t apologise enough. We assure you it won’t happen again.”

Instead, the man I’ll call ‘Claw’ (even though he didn’t actually have a claw), said, “Have you seen a pig?”

My instinctive response would normally be some loud advice based on a solid framework of expletives. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to do that here (see above). They were also better armed than us – even though I’m pretty sure Andrew could have taken Claw’s mate with the trowel.

However, I was so miffed I didn’t even invite them in for a cup of tea. If you’re Irish, you will appreciate quite how VEXED I was.

It’s lucky the situation was contained, because of course Claw turned out to be The Sherriff‘s brother from another mother, and is – according to The Sherriff – a lovely bloke when he’s not skulking.

The other day, our landlord The Mustachioed Muchacho called to let us know he’d given ‘Pail’ permission to hunt their land. The Mustachioed Muchacho explicitly told Pail to avoid our house, but we decided to keep Jed inside just in case. Any pack of dogs has the potential to gang up on one; and I’ve yet to be thrown into an envious rage by the control hunters have over their animals.

We were in the living room when Jed sprang up with the meaty WOOF! he uses to make us spill our coffee. Next thing, two men, a boy and a swarm of dogs trotted past our house. They waved in the window at us. Kind of a, ‘Hi! We’re invading your privacy!’ wave. Which was . . . nice?

They carried on down our track to the promontory. One of their dogs took a crap and I know it’s what dogs do and when you’ve gotta go you’ve gotta go, but NOBODY EVEN WHACKED THE TURD OFF THE TRACK.

On their return, they waved in the window again.

(Even though I didn’t want to I waved back and even employed all fingers.)

All this time and for the next half an hour, Jed paced, groaned, whined, yodelled, barked and howled. He alternated pacing around the living room with trying to scratch a hole in the sliding door.

Some time after that we took Jed for a walk. With Andrew’s permission, Pail had parked at the top of our drive, by the gate. On our return – an hour after the hunters said they would be gone – I thought I heard our gate clink as we rounded the bend in the road.

I grabbed Jed and called, “Hello?”

The van was still there; and so were the hunters, Pail wearing a bloody pig as a scarf.

“Are your dogs friendly?” I asked, but before Pail had even finished saying, “Aw, yeh, friendly AS,” two of his dogs set into Jed with a flurry of fangs and snarling.

Jed tore back up the road yelping, a dog swinging out of his backside by the teeth.

Long after Jed had forgotten all about it – including, conveniently, what a great big cowardy custard he was – I still had my ears flattened against the side of my head.


The Pinnacles

Now, I can’t report JohnO’s contribution to the conversation verbatim, because I don’t listen to him much. The gist of it is that he said, “The Pinnacles? Are you sure you’re able for it?” And I said, “*scoff!* YOU walked it, didn’t you? How difficult can it be?”

On occasion, JohnO says something that is relevant and/or important. In retrospect, this was potentially one of those rare occasions; and instead of saying, “The DOC says it’s only 5 hours and we’re pretty fit. So, you’re building a shed? That sounds pretty uninteresting,” I should perhaps have said, “Able for it? Why do you say that, JohnO? Is the walk particularly challenging from a distance, climb, terrain or predatory animals perspective? Please impart the specifics while I pay attention and perhaps take notes.”

Thereupon he might have told me that most of the 759m climb to The Pinnacles takes place along a ½ km section that redefines the word ‘savage’.

Whereupon I would most likely have said, “Eh, we’re hardy.”

Evidently, I was going to have to learn from experience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We woke at about 05:00 hrs on Friday morning to a sullen day with low cloud cover. Having packed the tent, we struck out for The Pinnacles. Minor detour back to the car to retrieve the suntan lotion, just in case the sun made a guest appearance.


For a while, we were stuck behind a couple who persisted at walking at the same pace as us. Thankfully, they had an absolutely rip-snorting argument about who had forgotten to pack the map, and we passed them when they stopped to point at each other.

After a gentle 3km meander up the valley criss-crossing Webb Creek, we hit a series of steps hewn into the natural rock. In the early 1900s, packhorses used this trail to carry supplies up to the logging camps of the back country. They must have been fairly gnarly back in the days, since some of the steps required pitons to scale.

We stopped at Hydro Camp to catch a few gasps, then pushed on to the Pinnacles Hut and Dancing Kauri Dam, where we had ‘smoko’ (coffee break to the rest of the world).

Kauri dams allowed kauri logs to be flushed out of the inaccessible back country using a tripping mechanism that released the front gate of the dam and blasted logs down the floods. A plaque advised us that Dancing Kauri Dam was built in 1924 by Jim Angel, who happens to be Husband’s maternal great great great uncle. For the sake of posterity, it is worth mentioning that the bauld Jim was a champion two-man saw master in his day.

He is immortalized in the famous song, Jim Angel (really needs to be accompanied by a fiddle):

When Jim Angel was a baby
He was the size of three grown men
Could pound rocks to rubble
With the flat of his bare hand

Oh! Jim Angel he’s a mighty man <fiddle fiddle fiddle>
Washes his face in a rusty can <increase fiddle tempo>

When Jim Angel was a boy
He was the size of two pack mules
And could do the work of three or four
Made other boys look like fools


When Jim Angel was a man
He built the Dancing Kauri Dam
Kept the leftover trees for picking his teeth
Just because he can


In the book, Tramping in New Zealand (40 great New Zealand tramping trips by Shaun Barnett), kauri dam technology is described as ‘ingenious but destructive’. Evidently his mother’s bloodline is prevalent in Husband.



It is another kilometer and a half to the top of The Pinnacles, a pretty steep climb involving steps, rungs hammered into the rock, and – in two instances – ladders. Because I’m weird, I counted the steps from The Pinnacles Hut to the peak. It was 555 on the way up (I was gutted when I counted only 552 on the return).


The track up to The Pinnacles, photo taken from the hut

I followed Husband, concentrating more on hauling air into my flaming lungs than where I was going, which is probably how I ended up scaling a fairly sheer rock stabbing out of the side of the mountain. Balanced precariously on top, I looked around for any sign of the track.

“Husband!” I quavered, and his head popped up over a rock about 200m beyond me. “Hey! How the hell did you get up there?”

“More to the point, how the hell did YOU get up THERE?” enquired Husband. Then he laughed at me as I tried to get off it without tumbling to certain death.

After lunch at the top, we returned to the carpark via the Billygoat Track. I didn’t notice very much about it, because I was distracted by my thighs screaming in agony.

Since they’re still at it three days later, my ears are now ringing too





Pinnacles Hut from the summit

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