All you need to know
By Lucy Podlucky I think we’ve all been there, camping in adverse conditions where you’re laying in your tent with the wind howling outside and you’re hoping that the guylines on your tent are going to hold or that the poles won't snap and you’ll be sent of tumbling down the mountainside. Or it’s pouring down with rain and you’re thinking about, “did I set up my tent in the right location, so I don’t get flooded?” or “is my tent waterproof enough? Is it going to start dripping inside?” I’m sure most of you have an interesting camping story to tell.
Having grown up with adventurous parents who tried to go on as many weekend trips or week-long trips during the school holidays we sure had our share of interesting but fun camping experiences.
My earliest camping memory was a road trip over the worst hill in the world, Takaka Hill. The windy, twisting road went on and on and on. Continuously asking mum or dad to stop the car, so we could catch some fresh air or take in the breath-taking views or just to throw up that mornings breakfast. That damn hill. It never got any easier.
Slightly green faced we made it into the beautiful Golden Bay, the beautiful bay separated by the Takaka Hill and from where we live in Nelson Bay. We carried on with the drive, driving our parents insane with the classic Shrek quote my brother and I picked up “are we there yet?’ five minutes later “are……we……there……yet?”
This would go on and on and on and on until our parents threatened us to walk the rest of the way (they didn’t really say that but you know, somehow you have to get your kids to stop driving you insane!!!) For sure we didn’t say much after that.
We had one last hill to go, prettier than the Takaka Hill but just as windy was the narrow gravel road taking us the final few kilometres into Totaranui (a popular camping spot for families, adventurers, hikers, kayakers or boaties alike).
Falling out of the car, nauseous, pale and over the holiday before it even started. I explored around the Tea Tree hedges dividing the campground into different sections. Playing with toys and building stuff in the trees while mum and dad set up camp (thanks mum and dad!!!) These trips to Totaranui we a regular during our young lives during the Christmas holidays. And we looked forward to them most of the time.
As I grew older I became more and more intrigued about what was hiding behind Mt Arthur (also a popular day hike – or easy multiday hike up to the Mt Arthur Hut or more challenging hikes depending on your fitness level) which is on the eastern side of the Kahurangi National Park. Most hikes we did there were mainly all too the hut or slightly further depending on how high our parents dragged us (not literally) but coaxing us higher with the temptation of yummy homemade lunch or sour worms. And who wouldn’t want to go further with great treats like that? With great opportunities that I had growing up with the Tamaha Sea Scouts to a participant and volunteer instructor at Whenua Iti Outdoors to High School to studying Adventure Tourism at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) learning great foundational skills which led into more curiosity and I wanted to see what lay behind this intriguing mountain which I always saw as a razor-sharp edge rising up from the fiery sky, but as I explored it was like anything I had ever imagined. This became my playground for quite a few years.
Experiencing sleeping under the star lit night in rock shelters, to navigational training and sleeping somewhere in the bush. All of it was challenging but fun.
I’ve always been camping with others, whether it’s a bunch of friends, family or an outdoor group, there were always people around which made the experience more enjoyable. Especially sharing it with like-minded people who have a passion for the outdoors.
Now the first time I ever ventured out by myself (yes, I find this highly intimidating and nerve-wracking). Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere is a great feeling for sure, but having been traumatised by one movie in the series of Harry Potter (which sounds weird, I know) but I am easily frightened of being alone at night. So now I do everything during the day and make sure I am in bed before it’s pitch black outside (I have gotten slightly better, not much, just a little).
This trip was in one of the busiest National Parks, but at the time it was shoulder season, so not many people hiking along the popular Abel Tasman National Parks Coastal Track.
Most of my camping experiences where when the weather was nice, so when it all of a sudden decides to pour down with rain and wind gusts threatening to suffocate you in the middle of the night, you start to wonder why you are out there.
Let me take you back 7 years ago, it was school holidays and we had planned a long family road trip holiday exploring the South Island. I had just celebrated my 18th Birthday in the beautiful seaside town of Kaikoura the weather was nice and we had planned to drive Southward, my memory taunts me but I can’t remember where we ended up at the end of that day, maybe somewhere around Timaru (who knows, maybe mum would know – she’s good at that!!!)
Everything went well, the weather was still playing nice nothing was out of the ordinary, or nothing felt like things were going to go wrong.
The day after, we carried on towards the great peaks, the great peaks that are known at the backbone of the South Island, the Southern Alps. Aoraki (Mt Cook) being the tallest standing high and proud among the rest at 3,724m (12,220ft). Driving through the dried tussock lands of the Mackenzie Country, the cool mountain air greets us as we stop in Takapo to stretch the legs. This barren landscape with snow-capped mountains to rolling hills of endless tussock and turquoise lakes as fed by Glaciers tucked away in their mountain valleys.
You definitely start feeling very small as you wind your way up the side of Lake Pukaki. As the valley walls get closer and closer together and you see the hanging glaciers frozen but moving on the sides of the high peaks, it’s as if your going to drive into a wall of ice the further you get up the valley.
Setting up camp behind the glacial moraine, we planned on what was to come over the next couple of days.
The next day setting off from camp dad and I were ready to tackle the (number of steps – which I didn’t count) up towards Muller Hut past the Sealy Tarns. Today was the last day of sunshine we would have, but we didn’t have a clue of what was about to hit us. With every hike up there is always a way to have to come down again, unless we grew wings to fly down we hiked the steps all the way back down, and boy our legs felt it.
Sleep overcame any chance of conversation that night whilst laying snuggled up in our sleeping bags, ready to dream about the adventures we’ve had that day. Throughout the night you could hear the distant rumbles of avalanches tumbling at speed down the mountains at frequent intervals throughout the night until the rain made it’s presence by tapping on our tents. But I knew for now we were safe.
I don’t recall what time it was but I awoke to the tent ceiling being around 10cm above my face as the wind forcefully battered our tents. It subsided, then it would tear up the valley and hit the tents over and over and over again. I had to think if I was dreaming or if this was actually happening. As much as I wanted it to have happened in my dream, it was very real. It very, very much as real as it gets.
It wasn’t a dream, this was really happening. During the night the wind had picked up speeding across the lake until it hit our tiny wee tents flattening them like pancakes. Luckily, I was on the windward side of the tent so my brother took the full impact, to the point of me not being able to see him as he was engulfed by tent fabric. Being exhausted from the day before, I (pretended) to be asleep while my poor brother fought most of the night keeping the tent upright. Sorry Tim!
In the early hours in the morning we packed up and left, reassessing the damage in Wanaka. At least the guylines held and the tent was waterproof!!!