Saturday morning all participants gathered at Wellington Station where Richard picked us up with one of the club vans. After the drive to Catchpool carpark we met up with the other trip leaders, Kevin and Pete.
We started with some practice using our compass and other navigational skills taught by Kevin, analysis and interpretation of weather forecast from Pete and gear inspections. There was quite a large variation in pack weight, starting from 11 kg up to 22 kg. Luckily the heaviest pack was not belonging to one of the participants.
After the initial preparations we divided into three separate groups each lead by one of the trip leaders. We started walking the Orongorongo Track towards the river and had several navigation training sessions in-between, orientating our map, setting bearings and identifying and using landmarks. Of course it is always handy that the compass points north, but on the second day we had a case of reverse magnetism of a compass (Fig. 1). We are almost certain this was caused by the magnets associated with some types of water bladders (Osprey). These bladders have a magnet in at the end of the mouth piece and one with can be attached to a pack strap so you are able to fix your bladder mouth piece at a desired location. Shamefully this is not very safe in combination with wearing your compass around your neck.
In between the navigation training and the tramp we stopped a few times to look at some flora and investigated a possum trap. Soon we arrived at the river bed and enjoyed our lunch before continuing with the section on river safety. After the explanations we practiced several different ways of river crossing, although not everybody was looking forward to getting wet feet. Unfortunately the water levels were rather low with made the crossing less than a challenge or good practice.
Shortly after we arrived at Paua hut where, while sipping on a cup of tea, we got more instruction and explanations regarding gear, dangerous flora, first aid, emergency procedures, shelters and cooking pyromania. We all joined in helping with the communal dinner preparations and Kevin cooked a nice dish. With ours bellies filled we talked a bit more about tramping in general and got to hear some exciting stories from the trip leaders.
Next morning we had breakfast and cleared out the hut, before setting off towards the Catchpool carpark via Browns Track, Cattle Ridge and Butchers Track. On the way we did some more navigational training (Fig. 6) and had lunch near Baker Track. At the Catchpool carpark we had a short trip evaluation and last minute questions before heading off to the nearest dairy for an ice cream. Although the trip back was a bit delayed by a car accident we arrived back at Wellington Station right on time.
Many thanks for the effort Kevin, Pete and Richard put into the Bushcraft introduction course, the good advice and stories. I think this weekend has left many of us craving for more.