Blue Range Hut – Navigating old and new technology

Blue Range Hut is the perfect spot for newbie trampers to test their fitness and learn some navigation skills.

Who knew that tramping-fit is totally different to walking-fit? Or that ending up slightly off track from your planned route, does not mean you are lost? Or that lightly salted mango and biscuits are considered gourmet?

Day 1 – Wellington to Blue Range Hut

We left Wellington around 5pm and stumbled into the cute 4 bed Blue Range Hut at 10.15pm. The 3.5km tramp and 648 metre ascent from the Kiriwhakapapa campsite took 2¼ hours (15 minutes slower than the sign post said). Fuelled by determination and delicious kebabs from Carterton’s Olive Branch Cafe, the newbie tramper in the group (me) learned the first lesson for the trip…

Lesson 1: Half marathon walking fit does not equal tramping fit

Blue Range Hut
Blue Range Hut when the sun is up. Photo credit: DOC
Apple Watch tramping information
Apple Watch evidence that this newbie tramper is NOT tramping fit!

Lesson 2: No need to fear nighttime tramping when you have a head lamp

Fear of the unknown is a strange thing. This newbie tramper was determined to cover as much of the steep root-strangled climb in daylight hours as possible. For some reason, the thought of tramping in the dark and using a head lamp was terrifying.

It did not take long until practicality gave out to fear, and the head lamp was switched on. Magic! Turns out tramping with a head lamp is much easier than stumbling in gloomy half light. Nothing to fear here.

Day 2 – Learning to get not lost

The tramping was much easier than the previous day, and the views out over the Tararua ranges were gorgeous. We practiced our navigation skills using maps, compasses, and navigational apps on mobile phones.

Lesson 3: You are NOT lost if you don’t get to the spot you were aiming for – you are simply off track

We picked the Te Mara marker and a spot on the map, lined up the compass, and “put the red in the shed”. We did not quite get to the spot on the map we were aiming for, but as Maarten explained, that did not mean we were lost. We were simply slightly off track.

We worked out where we were using Jane’s device, picked another point on the map, put the red in the shed, and this time we landed exactly where we were aiming for!

Te Mara marker
Plotting our course from the Te Mara marker. Photo credit: Jane
Using a map and compass
Plotting our course using our map and compass. Photo credit: Jane

Lesson 4: Trust but verify – Nav apps can be wrong!

Maarten discovered that his device was giving false directions, so we switched it off and trusted Jane’s mobile phone and our paper map and compasses. This was an important reminder not to blindly trust technology.

Lesson 5: Cover your legs when bush bashing

Going deliberately off track involved pushing through some scratchy shrubs – wearing gaiters is a good way to avoid scratches.

Tramping through thick vegetation
Jane sporting practical gaiters and a bare-legged Meredith (ouch!). Photo credit: Maarten

Lesson 6: Always pack a spare shoe lace

Back at the hut after a solid day of navigation practice, we put a big billie of water on to replenish our water bottles. The bench was bumpy and the billie was unsteady, so rather than stand and hold the billie while it boiled, we thought to ourselves “what would MacGyver do?”. That’s right – we improvised.

Using some spare shoe laces and the beam above the bench, we secured the billie so that if it did topple, it would not fall too far.

Attaching a billie to beam
Maarten (aka MacGyver) and Meredith secure the unsteady billie with a shoe lace. Photo credit: Jane
Two people sitting at a table outside
Relaxing with a hot cuppa. Photo credit: Jane

Dinner was delicious! We cooked a chicken curry from the WTMC recipe book. It was considered to be gourmet with fresh coriander and mango chutney garnishes and salted mango and biscuits for pudding.

Day 3 – Leisurely loop track

The walk back down to Kiriwhakapapa campsite was much easier than our moonlit walk up.

We filled in our time waiting for the other tramping group to get back to the club van with an easy walk on the loop track.

It was a gentle, family friendly track and provided a sunny bench for us to have our packed lunches.

We headed home mid afternoon, stopping at the Pinehaven Orchard fruit and vegetable road-side shop for delicious ice creams.

It was a wonderful introduction to the world of tramping and the WTMC. Many thanks to Maarten for leading and to him and Jane for sharing their tramping wisdom with me.

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