What you need to ken…
There was a Scotsman, an English Lass and a Kiwi – probably the only time in history that a Burn’s supper celebration has had such a composition! For those of you who are not familiar with the traditions of Burn’s celebrations, I’ll give you a rundown. The 25th January is the birthday of Scotland’s most loved and celebrated poet: Robbie Burns. Robbie, whilst being loved for his poetry (which was mostly written in the Scot’s language or dialect), is also celebrated as a bit of a party animal and romantic (he slept with a lot of people). Every year, on the 25th January, Scots all over the world hold Burn’s supper celebrations. This means you recite some of Burn’s poetry, eat some Haggis, drink some whisky and generally have some fun with your friends and neighbours. When Gareth and Myself lived in Scotland, the hillwalking club we were part of there would rent out a lodge for the occasion every year. It was the most popular trip of the year, and there would be plenty on snowy hillwalking preceding the Saturday night Burn’s supper celebrations (on Sunday we all lay in bed and did nothing). This year Gareth and I decided to organise such a trip to the club’s Paua Hut (although probably without the Sunday lying in bed and doing nothing). Initially we had a lot of interest, but as the trip approached interest waned until there was only Myself, Gareth and Harry left.
I had the critical mission of procuring the Haggis. I had previously had this role in Scotland where it was not such a hard task. Haggii are small dumpy creatures, often seen wearing tartan, that run around on remote Scottish hills. Indeed, they are well known for their amazing anatomy: they have one leg shorter than the other because they only ever run round hills in one direction. To catch a haggis you just need to climb a Scottish hill, ideally in the rain, sniff one of the honkin’ creatures out and grab it. It generally doesn’t take more than a couple of hours. Haggii have never made it to New Zealand, which is probably a good thing. I’m quite sure that, if they had made it here, they would definitely be considered a pest and DOC would be setting traps left, right and centre to catch the blighters! Anyway, not being able to catch one, I had to resort to the Island Bay Butchery, which is the only establishment that sells real Haggis in all of Wellington.
We decided that, with such a small group, we’d wait to see the weather forecast before deciding our exact route. Gareth and I fancied Mt Matthews, but didn’t see the point in doing that on a dreich day. As it turned out the weather forecast was glorious, so we set off on Saturday morning and made speedy progress along the Orongorongo track to deposit our packs at the auld hoose of Paua. We had a variety of ‘less than light’ ingredients for the evening’s celebrations, and we certainly didn’t want to lug them up the hill. I had tried to persuade Gareth to carry in his kilt, but he didn’t seem to feel that he had enough of an audience for the full garb, so shorts and t-shirt it was. After exploring the hut (it was the first visit there for myself and Gareth), we set off along the glen.
Criss-crossing the Orongorongo burn it took about an hour to reach the turn off for the Mt Matthews’ track. Our first view of the ben came into sight! The day was heating up, and with temperatures in the high 20s, the conditions were somewhat different from our memories of Burn’s trips back home (when the temperature was generally around freezing). The slopes of the hill certainly did look steep and they would make for hard work on such a hot day. Never-the-less we pushed on and made it up to the south saddle for around 2pm and a well-deserved piece or two. Och! Aye! The views to Wellington and out to the South Coast were braw!
Harry had had enough of the heat and widnae carry on to the top. He assured us he widnae get scunnered, so we left him on the South Saddle while we carried on to the top. It was a steep climb in places, but the views over the Wairarapa and out to Palliser Bay were well worth it. The vegetation on the summit had even been chopped back so we could admire the view.
We returned to the South Saddle, reunited ourselves with Harry, and made good speed back down the hill. By the time we got to the bottom we were pure dun in.
The Haggis, Tatties and Neeps
Back at Paua Hut we found some unexpected friends in the form of Alistair and his crew, who had been doing an epic bush bash along the tops. We quickly set ourselves up in the scullery and got aboot cooking the Haggis. This took 40 minutes to boil which gave us plenty of time to chop the tatties and neeps, but also to blether and even recite some Burn’s poetry. We had special permission for some bevvies, so we partook in one or two. Once the food was pretty much ready I kicked off the official proceedings with the Selkirk Grace. Gareth did the address to the Haggis and we tucked in. The general agreement was that the Island Bay butchery’s offering was not at all bad…. Full marks for flavour, just a little bit on the dry side. For pudd we enjoyed some Scottish shortbread, but we were too exhausted for any whisky. We skipped the other traditional speeches, but Harry read us ‘The rhyme of the ancient mariner’ before we all headed off to bed. It was such a beautiful clear night that we all decided to sleep oot under the stars.
In the morning, I shoogled Gareth up and we made our porridge. Harry had decided to spend a couple of days walking out to Eastbourne by the river and coast, so we bade him ‘Fare thee weel’… ‘Haste ye back!’. This left Gareth plenty of time to play on the Paua Hut swing before we headed out.
We had ample time for a bit of relaxing in the sunshine, so we dawdled along by the river and had a play with nature’s jenga set before retracing our steps down the Orongorongo track and oot.
That’s pretty much it for this trip report, so ‘Lang may yer lum reek!’… goodbye for now, see you soon!
Disclaimer: I’m English. I lived in Scotland for about 9 years. My usage of and translation of Scots words may not be perfect. Apologies if I have used any Scottish words incorrectly. As an English person I cannot, and never will, pretend to be an expert on Scots. I refer you to Gareth if you want expert Scots translation etc…
- Bonnie = beautiful
- Wee = small/little
- Abune = over
- Brae = hill/slope
- Ken = know (commonly you will hear the phrase ‘Ah dinnae ken’ = ‘I don’t know’)
- Honkin’ = with a very bad smell
- Dauner = walk
- Dreich = dull, overcast, drizzly, cold weather (which is common in Scotland!)
- Auld = old
- Hoose = house
- Glen = valley
- Burn = creek or river
- Ben = hill
- Braw = good or brilliant
- Widnae = would not
- Piece = sandwich or snack
- Scunnered = bored or fed-up
- ‘Pure dun in’ = common Scottish phrase meaning ‘worn out’ or ‘exhausted’
- Haggis = a delicious mixture of offal, oats and spices cooked inside a sheep’s stomach
- Tatties = potatoes
- Neeps = turnips
- Scullery = kitchen
- Aboot = about
- Blether = chat or talk
- Bevvies = alchoholic drinks
- Oot = out or outside
- Didòmhnaich = Sunday in Scottish Gaelic
- Shoogle = shake or wobble
- ‘Fare thee weel’ = Fare well (from Burn’s poem ‘Ae fond kiss’)
- ‘Haste ye Back’ = common Scottish phase for farewell
- ‘Lang may yer lum reek!’ = ‘long may your chimney smell’….may you live long and remain well