November 2009  Uncle Jacko Gets the Last Word

Uncle Jacko reveals Darwin’s lesser known law, ‘Survival of the Unfittest,’ and takes the opportunity to have the last word in a hut debate.

Cloud Computing

I love so-called Web 2.0 apps (those clever interactive applications found on the Internet). The Google guys in particular have made inroads, with the latest being a very accurate track map for New Zealand (found at prepared in conjunction with DOC. 

Sensitive as I am to FMC’s President Rob Mitchell’s deep rooted suspicion about these new-fangled Internet things, I am sure that the first thing he will investigate when using this particular Web tool is a zoom-in of Lake Monowai. 

Here he would have found that the generic term ‘cloud computing’ for which Google is so famous is indeed a completely accurate description of the technology. So, it’s not perfect, but you get the idea of where this sort of thing is going. I already know of people who spend their weekends touring the world from their computer desks instead of tramping. 

Owners of Apple iPhones will no doubt also have started assailing you with the wonders of iPhone apps. They will proudly demonstrate how their cell-phones can be highly accurate navigation tools, able to instantly transform them to find the International Space Station, take photos and operate as music tuners for singsongs around campfires. Thankfully, they come with earphones enabling these people to convert them to iPods and so tune in and turn off. But I love the technology!

Survival Bags

Ex-pat David Samson, on a recent visit back to the Land of Long White Clouds, pointed out to me that plastic survival bags used as a pack liner are all very well for keeping gear dry, but asks if you will really be in any position to use the bag when caught by a sleet-driven gale on some godforsaken exposed tops. He notes that it’s hard enough to open your pack to find gloves under such conditions, let alone empty it in order to extract the survival bag. At least, not in a way that prevents everything hitherto in your pack getting saturated, or dispersed into the adjacent valleys. 

David usually trogs around the north of England where the trees don’t grow and shelter is hard to find, so he packs a Bothy Bag. Google these things to find out more, but essentially they are an almost-sealed nylon bag that you climb into. While single person Bothy Bags are okay, I am reliably informed that even in atrocious weather, cramming six people into larger ones will soon warm you all up. Don’t get me wrong, they are not designed for comfort, just survival, but they do work. They are especially suitable for youth groups. I’m sure many trampers could easily make their own version.

Floors in Huts

When my German mate Fisch and I arrived at Brewster Hut earlier in the year, members of the Oamaru Tramping Club greeted us with mild amusement. Contrary to our predictions of an empty hut, upon which we had decided to leave our sleeping mats behind, there were no spare bunks. But the Omaruvians were all good sorts and offered us a surfeit of very comfortable sleeping mats with the result that everyone got a good night’s sleep. “Make sure you advise in UJCC to always carry a sleeping mat to huts”, were their cheerful parting words the next morning. I could, but reaching Brewster Hut requires a fair hike up the hill. If others are willing to do the hard work for you, then why encumber yourself with unnecessary weight? If that sounds ungrateful, then trust me, I’m very grateful, but as writer of this column, I also get to have the last word.

Darwin’s Other Law

Darwin’s famous law concerning the survival of the fittest is just over 150 years old. Less famous is Darwin’s unknown corollary, ‘The Survival of the Unfittest’. It is a special case that particularly applies to peanuts in scroggin bags, but also rolled oats taken tramping. Simply stated, the most unattractive food in your pack will not get eaten and will remain for your next trip. In an attempt many years ago to disprove this corollary by only taking food from the leftovers box, we were, by the end of the trip, appropriately dubbed ‘The Very Hungry Party’. But it reinforced the fact that most of us eat too much in the Hills, kidding ourselves that we need lots of extra energy.

Who Do You Call?

Who do you call when coming home late from a trip? Loopies on occasions have failed to turn up after a tramp and later on have been declared missing or dead, which is not good. Once upon a time, you could leave your intentions with DOC, or police, but as the loopies are often less diligent about signing out than signing in, this has led to some lack of enthusiasm within those organisations involved in unnecessary search and rescue efforts. This leaves us with a problem. Family or flat members who are not coming on the trip are always good to leave intentions with, but what if everyone you know is also heading out into the Hills? 

Non-tramping friends and acquaintances are okay, but are not always sure of their role. Someone once declared us overdue at 6:30pm on a Sunday evening in spite of everyone being told to bring torches and spare batteries. That led to quite a lot of police work and embarrassment all round.

Unless you turned to this page first, by now you will have realised that some of us are really concerned by suggestions of mining in the areas where we go tramping, Unthinkably, this is actually back on some agendas. 

Hopefully you will read the articles on Schedule 4 in this Bulletin and take the time to print a tramping photo and post it to the Minister of Conservation, Tim Groser. I’ll be sending a photo and it would be awkward if mine was the only one he got. 

Hakili Matagi,

Robin McNeill
44 Duke Street
Invercargill 9810

This column was originally published in the November 2009 FMC Bulletin. We will be regularly re-publishing a number of stories from Uncle Jacko’s Cookery Column here on Wilderlife. 

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