What Americans call hiking, the New Zealanders call tramping, which if you want to be silly and immature, (and I always do) it makes describing an afternoon of healthy activity giggle-inspiring because to be a “tramp” in the USA is kinda naughty.
Sam actually has a connection to the Bethell of Bethell’s Beach above which we were tramping. And listen, if I could claim it, I sure would, no matter how far up the family tree I would have had to climb. The place is spectacular!
A few things one needs to know while tramping. This is not a clean activity. No, I don’t mean that, I mean that New Zealand is a very, very, moist place. There’s a reason it’s so green and lush and that reason is spelled w-e-t. Te Henga Swamp is plenty wet – it is Auckland’s largest wetland.
What that means on the ground is that most walks will play havoc on your shoes. I took this photo of my New Balance sneakers just a few steps after starting our walk. I should have been wearing what New Zealanders wear, black gumboots. Or even sensible hiking shoes, but I’m on a six week trip and everything in my bag has to serve multiple activities or it doesn’t fly, so these sneaks would have to do for touring, exercising and – even if unsuitable – tramping.
The second thing is that weather cannot dissuade one from tramping because as soon as you strike out for a trail under one sky, you will find yourself under another. To say the weather here is constantly changing is to blather through several meteorological phenomena even as you are forming the words. New Zealand is a land of seasons, all of which can be experienced in a single afternoon.
With this in mind, Sam, Ed and I left the house in a drizzling rain, parked the car at the trail head under a grey sky and ascended the bluffs over the Tasman Sea in a gusty wind.
Tramping is hugely popular in New Zealand both for tourists who are attracted to the unspoiled beauty of this remote country and for residents. In his book, Kiwi Tracks Canadian Andrew Stevenson writes of many of the characters he meets on his tramping adventures on government and private tracks. While Stevenson spent weeks tramping New Zealand, my walk with Sam and Ed was just a small two-hour section of the much larger Te Henga Walkway.
As we climbed the cliffs the sun started peeking through the clouds. I took a glass-is-half-full-approach telling Sam and Ed that it was just a matter of time before the sun would break out in full. And at last, it did.
And if that isn’t worth a wet and windy, chilly bit of exertion and even mucky shoes, then I don’t know what is.