March 2014  What Comes Around

Uncle Jacko discloses his favourite YouTube videos ranging from ‘cooking eggs and bacon in a paper bag’ to ‘ice axe self-arrest,’ as well as shares a heartwarming story about the benefits of hospitality.

What Comes Around

A former Southland flatmate of mine used to feel sorry for lonely looking German tourists at Manapouri, so took them on a fishing and hunting tour of the lake on his fizz-boat for the weekend, then brought them home to the farm for a decent feed. He enjoyed showing off his favourite part of the world and they enjoyed seeing it. Twelve years ago he was nicely rewarded when one of the tourists noticed his visitors’ book and copied out the addresses of other Germans who had enjoyed his hospitality. She then organised an all-expenses paid trip to Germany for him, where he was passed from one of his benefactors to another, with them all chipping in for his airfares.

The rewards can be more indirect. My daughter recently found herself taken into a family in the south of Germany for a week, which became one of the highlights of her OE. That family’s daughter had spent six months with us a few years earlier as an exchange student and we had taken her tramping. She stayed with us because she was the god-daughter of my good German tramping and climbing mate, Fisch. I met Fisch 24 years ago when he was push-biking around New Zealand and he was a friend of my brother’s sister-in-law who asked if I could take Fisch tramping. I took Fisch up Mt Earnslaw and got him to do hard labour building the new Esquilant Bivvy, so cemented a warm friendship.

Climbing in the Dolomites with Fisch many years later, we found generosity everywhere. Other parties would offer us their wine and chocolate hauled up on their backs from the valley floor. It leaves you with an urge to treat all trampers in New Zealand well, no matter their origin. But we do, anyway, so why am I writing about it?

Go Lightly

I guess there is some truth in Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ Holly Golightly’s confession: ‘I’ll never get used to anything. Anybody that does, they might as well be dead’. Rob Brown tells me that, it is now some time since he was 25 years old, and lightweight tramping gear is suddenly attractive. He has been testing lightweight packs. The Aarn Pack has quite a track record and more recently others weighing as little as one kilogram are available. Lightweight gear won’t necessarily last long in horrid monkey-scrub, but that isn’t their intended playground. I sometimes wonder if horrid monkey-scrub isn’t my intended playground either.

For me, lightweight boots are even more important than a light pack. The actual net increase in energy expended to tramp in heavy boots is not so much, but for each foot, it seems a different story. While those of us with weak ankles should indeed use high ankled boots, most people are able to forgo that requirement. I have tramped in Fiordland with people who have had no trouble with gym shoes. For years I got around in Ashley lace-up gumboots. Neither gym shoes or gummies work in snow as they are cold and downright dangerous when you need to edge, but that’s okay if you avoid those places. I used to call my gummies ‘Fiordland Friction Boots’. Conversely, I certainly wouldn’t use tramping boots on any of the Great Walks.

Former Bulletin editor John Rhodes with a lightweight pack, Tararuas; Photo credit: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography

Go Easy

Some people have asked for more technical advice and tips in UJCC. Herein lies a problem. When I first started this column in 1995, the Internet was not very mature and it was very slow. Step forward to 2014 and if you can’t find the answer to something on YouTube in a few seconds, you don’t have Broadband. In this light, is there still a need for UJCC? YouTube is North American centric, with a lot of the outdoors stuff dominated by survivalists with big knives, camouflage clothes and tattoos. Even the good videos seem to attract gormless semi-literates who have run out of spray paint and so resort to tagging videos instead of walls.

More concerning is that many of the New Zealand tramping videos on YouTube seem to be made by overseas visitors. Regardless, here are a few interesting gleanings from the Cloud (it used to be called cyberspace, remember?): shows you how to inflate your Thermorest without hyper ventilating, using a plastic bag. If I described this in print, you wouldn’t give it another thought. Our smaller FMC plastic bags look ideal for use as an inflator.

I also liked which tells you how to cook bacon and eggs in a paper bag on embers. The trick is to grease the paper bag before you layer the bacon on the bottom of the bag and break the eggs on top. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to cook the eggs and you may want to crisp the bacon directly over the fire afterwards. I had read articles about boiling water in paper bags, but this looks infinitely more useful. I want someone to show me how to cook porridge in a paper bag to save cleaning the pog billy.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the Mountain Safety Council video setting out the Outdoor Safety Code at While it would be indispensable as an instruction aid for a bushcraft course, it doesn’t quite come across as authentic. Someone telling you about tramping, dressed for a tramping trip, but wearing a three kilogram pack (you can tell how heavy someone’s pack is by how far apart they space their legs when they stand) doesn’t smack of the real McCoy.

In theory, YouTube should offer you unlimited training resources. I found 7,680 search results for ‘ice axe self-arrest’ and indeed, you can find plenty of good instructional material, ranging from doing it right, to coming spectacularly unstuck.Whittling down the choice simply involves looking at the number of ‘views’ each clip has (not that that is fool-proof). For the record, I liked the British Mountaineering Council’s instruction video: With grey skies, grotty snow and a gnarled face on the instructor, it has to be the real oil.

But, there must be better stuff for New Zealand conditions. Recommendations from readers are welcome.

Ka kite,

Robin McNeill
‘Altagore’ 85 Sunrise Drive
Seaward Bush, Invercargill 9812

This column was originally published in the March 2014 FMC Bulletin. We will be regularly re-publishing a number of stories from Uncle Jacko’s Cookery Column here on Wilderlife. 

Go to Top