Introduction to Bushcraft
In an effort to get out into the big wild world more, this past weekend was spent tramping through the Waitakeri ranges, getting covered in mud and water, earning some very sore shoulders and legs, and loving every moment of it.
The course is facilitated by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, a largly voluntary organisation, busy education people about safety in outdoor, land based activities.
The plan is to work towards the advanced Alpine Courses, and this is the first step in many towards that goal. While I admit, going into it, I felt that the introductory course was going to be a bit to basic, I quickly realised, while I might know the difference between polypropylene and wool, reading weather reports, topographic maps and the understanding of some of the finer points of Bushcraft and navigation were something I didn’t have a lot of experience in.
Our tutors for the course, Elizabeth and Philip carried a pile of practical knowledge between them, and have the additional interest of being part of what seems almost a sub-cult of the tramping community - Ultra-lightweight Backpacking.
This philosophy, focuses on the minimisation of weight carried, while always remaining within safe practices. While I may personally like to carry a few more comfort items, their philosophy meant that you became well aware of the amount of weight you were going to be on your shoulders, and additionally, made you think, and justify the equipment you planned on packing.
The course consisted of two nights of theory, and the tramp itself. As mentioned, some of the theory was known; however, this was counterbalanced by some completely new skills training, and it was all constantly related to practical experience from the tutors.
The tramp itself was a bit of physical challenge, but at no point did it detract from the enjoyment of the tramp itself.
Starting from the Piha Motor-camp, our group of seven headed into the hills. Regular stops to rest and check our maps to practice navigation skills meant the exertion levels themselves never got to much, although, arriving at the hut and being able to put down the pack was well enjoyed.
After unpacking, we went through a couple of exercises involving navigating in heavy bush, as well as setting up a bush shelter with only a tarp, lead by Alan, an additional instructor, who we will be meeting up with again in a couple of weeks for the Intermediate Bushcraft course.
After setting up and getting the fire going (I broke my fire steel, but was lent another to get the tinder going) we cooked a meal and got ready for a personal highlight – a night tramp.
While walking around in the middle of the bush with torches is always fun, once we reached the main track, we switched off the lights, gave ourselves some time to adjust, and started walking in the dark. Surprisingly, your eyes do adjust, and we were able to find our way, albeit a lot slower. Back up to a lookout we passed on the way in, checked out a unique night-time view, then back to the hut to bed down for the night. My Kathmandu broke within about 10 minutes of using it, but I was really surprised by the amount of light my backup 4Sevens Quark Mini123 put out. I have since acquired a headband and bracket for it – after seeing the setup on the NutnFancy Youtube Channel.
The next morning, breakfast was made, the hut cleaned and we headed back out.
Again, more stunning nature as we headed back down, with stops at a dam and a waterfall for lunch.
Overall, well enjoyed, and learn’t heaps. Met some new people, and can’t wait for the intermediate course, and beyond.
Grade:Moderate – well marked tracks, but lots of mud.