School  Rathkeale College Tramping Club

Rathkeale College teacher, and tramper extraordinaire, Joe Nawalaniec, describes his experience in re-booting a school tramping club.

After a long period in abeyance, the Rathkeale College Tramping Club was reconstituted in 2012 on ‘The Three Ps’: a peak, a pest and a pact. The peak: the summit of Mt Bannister, in the middle of the shrew-like, oatmeal-like Tararuas. The pest: a hapless possum, flushed out by club mascots Sushi and Floyd, and summarily dispatched by Keith, James and other lads. And the pact: amid the beauty of the summit and the gore of the possum, the boys vowed to re-establish and resurrect a longdefunct and forgotten institution, the Rathkeale College Tramping Club (RTC).

Since this time, we have taken out a small mortgage on the Tararuas. Not because they offer the least resistance, but, rather, because they offer the least distance.

The trips so far have been dank, muddy affairs, with the occasional false hope of a ray of sunshine, or the tweet of a warbler. There has been a sundry smorgasbord of mishaps: requisite blisters (the raw badges of initiation), knocks to the head, a broken bone, assorted lacerations, pints of blood. Our mantra, whether descending an icy gorge, or being spattered with sleet, or basking in a solitary sunbeam, has been: ‘A rotten day in the Tararuas is still better than a great day in the classroom’ (followed by the rousing chorus of our patron, Mr Barr: ‘No it’s not!’).

We’ve wandered through some far-flung corners of the range. Highlights have included floating descents of the Hector River and the mid-Waiohine River gorge; a pea-souper Bannister Crossing; visiting the historic wreck of the World War II Airspeed Oxford bomber on the flank of North King; descending the waterfalls of remote Aeroplane Creek; arriving at Mid King Biv to a large pot of hot water (left by Mrs Nawalaniec and Mrs Pitney) so we could make needed cups of hot soup to thaw out; and

Dr Murray Presland’s magnificent synchronised drowning impressions while descending the Waingawa gorge. Priceless.

The final quote must be left to a pupil, Banon, traversing the Three Kings in a screaming gale: ‘Sir, when does it get so windy that we turn back?’ (I couldn’t actually hear him – this was relayed to me, via Chinese whispers, so it remains just a rumour.) Character is forged from adversity. And so, some say, is madness.

This article first appeared in the FMC Bulletin – November 2015

Wilderlife