Holidaying Little Owl Gully Style: Part Two
Our four person canvas tent with poles and pegs weighs 31 kg. Our three person (at a squeeze) tramping tent: 3 kg.
The hefty tent, carted by car to our campsite, the lightweight one hefted in on my back. Either way, you just want to get that dead weight out and up when you reach your campsite. The survival instincts of the ‘cave man’ kick in – you want that ‘cave’ to crawl into when darkness descends.
We camped in the Ahuriri Conservation Park for four nights at the end of January. It was a 4WD only road for the last 10 kms or so; it got us deep into the Ahuriri Valley and surrounding mountains.
Nice! No walking for hours along monotonous access roads (we’ve done that before), just to get into ‘them thar hills’.*
When we got to the DOC carpark there was a solid post and rail barrier. We found out why on our first day tramp. The 4WD track continued for several k’s – but it had been washed out in several places by torrents of water that had chundered over and down typically sober mountain streams.
The carpark and surrounds was open country, pretty much at the mercy of whatever wanted to whistle up and down the valley. Closer inspection revealed vehicle tracks in the long grass above the carpark that headed in the direction of the mountain beech up the slope.
We walked up and found three areas: all of them “not ideal”. Those of you who’ve read my earlier blogs will recognize “not ideal”** as a mantra of mine.
They did have the positive of being close enough to where the vehicle tracks ended for hauling the gear to the site. Hard to imagine any of them magically delivering, under all those stones, fallen branches and long grass, a flattish area the size of our double mattress.***
In the end we rejected all three sites and went for one that didn’t look any better at first glance but had the advantage of being right next to the end of the car track, so we’d be able to snuggle the car in close.
There was no patch of struggling, somewhat yellowish grass to suggest a tent had been put up within the last few months. Just ashes and charred firewood logs in defiance of the ‘no open fires’ rule; an abuse of privilege we wouldn’t be copying.
We spread the tent out on the ground with its door and awning to the north-east to benefit from the wind and sun filtering provided by some small, regeneration mountain beech.
I went to bring up the car and June stayed to pinpoint (yep, there was no margin for error!) the best patch for the tent, and to clear it of lumpy stones and straggly branches. I thought it a vain hope that June would find a flattish area the size of our double mattress. But she did. The proof – no slipping and sliding around of us or the mattress for the duration of a night’s sleep.
The mountain’s boulders (under a skim of dirt and grass), once cushioned by the mattress, could be blissfully ignored; the same couldn’t be said when it came to digging the dunny. I was prising out boulders the size of the spade head! That was one rugged piece of gear.
You go for tough shovels – and light and compact when you’ve got a Suzuki Jimny. The ‘Ironman’ three piece combo, which screws together to make either a spade or long shovel, fits the bill, and sure proved its worth digging that hole.
We’ve all seen, in our public loos, the diagram with the big red cross over the squatter. Cultures where squatting’s the norm would be right at home over our hole in the ground. June said she was grateful when ‘nature called’ that balancing and the squat pose are part of her standard yoga routine; I rely on the physical demands of Little Owl Gully to keep the muscles strong.
Speaking of exercise and flat land: there’s plenty of exercise but little that’s flat on Little Owl Gully’s ten acres.
June drops down into the gully and then clambers up the slope on the other side that doesn’t completely flatten out till she’s pretty much at the first goat shed. A trek of close to 200 metres each way – and she does that twice a day. At camp, we benefit from her home routines as we tuck into our breakfast muesli generously soaked in chilly bin chilled goat’s milk.
Wait, there’s more of a workout – as long as the weather’s okay, she’ll bike to her piano lesson: half hour each way.
And I’m getting stuck in to fencing a paddock next to the drive. There’s a hell of a lot of digging and ramming involved. The top half’s quite steep – under snow, a short but fun toboggan slope as the children would testify. I’d testify, after a mind-numbing number of trips up and down it, to its value as both aerobic and resistance training.
It’s our physically active home life and the good food and drink we produce as homesteaders that keep us ‘match hardened’ – um, perhaps not. How about ‘tramp ready’?
Base camp (I like the Everest associations!) good to go, it was time to find out just how ‘tramp ready’. With settled, warm weather forecast for several days, day tramps were planned for our first two full days in the Ahuriri Valley. Our final full day would be R & R. Better add ‘recovery’: Rest, Recreation and Recovery!
I’ve got some good pics of the Ahuriri Valley to share with you next Monday. Till then, I guess I’ll hunker down at Little Owl Gully for a week – not Base Camp but Home Base.
What else do you expect from someone like me? My friend Ray calls me “Homey”.
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for this week. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.
*Apologies to Laurel and Hardy – Them Thar Hills was the title of their 1934 film. Now they were two seriously funny dudes.
**”Not ideal” – my first use of ‘the mantra’ was in my TB Tests post. TB Tests
***See last week’s post for a description and picture of the mattress. https://grahamrcooper.com/2021/02/08/holidaying-little-owl-gully-style-part-one/