Two for tea

David Round is adamant that tea bags have no place in the hills; for one thing, the ancient Greeks never resorted to such mean practices. Rather, his strategy is first to let less discerning people pour boiling billy water onto their instant coffee powder and herbal tea bags. He then throws a fistful of tea into the billy. It tastes all the better for being loose and David is guaranteed a second cup without having to fight off the herbalists for the remaining water.

GPS boosters

GPS’s aren’t too flash in the wet bush, but Doug Forster writes that an external booster or amplifier can improve performance. He uses a 200g GARATX re-radiating antenna, purchased via the Internet from Doug sewed a small sleeve inside his top pack pocket to house the aerial button and ran the wire to a ‘GPS pocket’ attached to the side of his pack. The re-radiator resides here, together with the GPS when he’s recording a route. It’s close enough to his arm that there is enough aerial cable to reach the GPS, or to insert the GPS into a wrist container he has sewn to leave his hands free. The re-radiator must be against the top front of the GPS to work. The wires can get caught in scrub when bush bashing, but otherwise the arrangement works well. GPS newsgroups reckon re-radiators can worsen multi-path errors. Doug thinks his helps, but he’s still deciding.

Multi-path errors (reflections) can cause inaccurate readings. Be sceptical of your GPS reading if you have only three satellites in the countryside with hills or bluffs off which radio waves can bounce.

Doug says the yellow Garmin Etrex is the most popular GPS with trampers because it’s cheapest. He dislikes its poor map screen and limited track log length, preferring the more expensive Garmin Vista. For me price is important. My friends who own a GPS nearly all have Etrexs and I don’t own a GPS, so the Etrex is what I normally use and it seems fine.

I prefer paper maps and compasses to navigate, using the GPS only to fix my position from time to time. Last year we navigated our way out of the Garden of Allah to Aciphylla Creek with 50m visibility using a GPS to fix our position and the map to first pick a likely route which we followed by compass.

Post-operative tramping

Margaret S- writes that she had a partial mastectomy, i.e. lymph node removal (plus radiation) 7 years ago. She was told there were no limitations on what she could do. She does not experience lymphoedema, nor was it expected to be a problem. Margaret says she was wearing a day pack within three months and carried a full pack when she returned to normal energy, post radiation. A tramping friend of hers had a full mastectomy about 15 years ago and has had no oedema, despite carrying day and full packs for years. Margaret adds that from her understanding of the lymph system, a pack should be no problem for Elizabeth Norton (UJCC, May 2004) after she has recovered from surgery. A chest strap could be useful. Margaret’s pack straps do not touch her lymph incision, which is under the armpit.

Because she finds the prostheses hot, Margaret’s friend sewed pockets on her tramping shirts and stuffs men’s hankies in, leaving the prostheses at home.

Aarn Tate suggests his Aarn Pack as a solution to Elizabeth Norton’s problem of pack straps putting pressure on the armpit area. It balances pockets in the front by pulling the shoulder straps away from the body in the armpit area. And if you slightly loosen the front shoulder straps, all the weight goes on the hip belt. The forward pull of the balance pockets balances the backwards pull of the backpack. Aarn says this also works fine for those with pacemakers.


David Castle has been tramping for close to 40 years, 20 of which have been assisted by (so far) three pacemakers. He gives a few pointers:

  • Make sure the pacemaker is implanted clear of the pack strap. Surgeons know about this.
  • Get an on-demand variable speed model. It’s no joke to be crossing the Tararua Peaks or blatting down through the moguls when your heart switches to pacemaker control and your pacemaker is set to a fixed rate of 50.
  • Avoid tramping for a couple of weeks after the operation (or any operation).
  • Don’t touch electric fences unless you want to die! David either avoids farm land or gets someone else to confirm that a fence is not live (don’t we all?)

Walking sticks

David Peppiatt likes cruising Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, mostly off track — just David, the birds, aggrieved-at-his-presence wild pigs, and peace. He’s not into fancy gear, so he wears gumboots, tatty shorts and a T-shirt which, after the first few minutes up-hill, ends up stuck into his shorts’ waistband. A kid’s backpack containing minor necessities completes his ‘ensemble’.

He writes:

It’s been wet up here of late, so the clay surfaces are like skating rinks. Having done enough vertical drops onto my butt on down-hills, I discovered the use of a 40mm diameter bamboo walking pole. Sunk into the mud, it made a great foot-stop. I then brought down my other foot, regained balance and equanimity, and moved the stick forward to repeat the downhill process. I found this technique kept me more often vertical.

However, I started to rely on the damned stick, and began prodding the blunt end into rocks. I had more unscheduled swims off the stream boulders than ever before. So I stopped using the blunt end.

I also began striding along, like some fine English gentleman, poking the sharp end slightly ahead to one side of my track. Unwittingly, I was beginning to lean on it. One day I did a prod-and-lean, only to find no ground where ground should have been. After a 50 metre slide (taking vast amounts of flora with me), I stabbed my new-found friend into the ground and hobbled away.

Add my advice to yours. Avoid walking sticks like the plague!

Hakili Matagi,

Robin McNeill
44 Duke Street
Invercargill 9810

This column was originally published in the November 2004 FMC Bulletin. We will be regularly re-publishing a number of stories from Uncle Jacko’s Cookery Column here on Wilderlife.