Otago University Tramping Club members, from left, Alice Murray, Mahina Walle, Adrienne Le Pelley and Liam Hewson. The four recently walked the Tin Range route on Rakiura Stewart Island.
Bashing through the bush on one Aotearoa New Zealand's lesser-known walking routes was an opportunity for Otago Master's candidate Liam Hewson to connect two of his primary interests.
The experienced tramper recently took on the challenging trek in a remote part of Rakiura Stewart Island as part of the Tin Range Traverse expedition.
He says he has always loved Rakiura and being in the native bush there makes it very special for him.
His undergrad was in chemistry, with a minor in plant biotechnology, while his Master's project is looking into bioactives of the kānuka plant.
He was looking over a topographical map when he first spotted a potential route on the Tin Range route on the southern end of Rakiura and says taking it on was a meeting of his tramping and academic worlds – a “crazy” tramping expedition in a place full of flora he loves.
The Tin Range route indicated in red.
He and three others, Alice Murray, Adrienne Le Pelley and Mahina Walle (supported by Amy Bennie) from the Otago University Tramping Club applied to the Federated Mountain Club (FMC) for a grant to help fund the trip, explaining what they would use the money for and what they would get out of their journey.
Not directly linked to recipients' fields of study, FMC scholarships are about promoting the “unexplored corners” of the backcountry and encouraging people to get out into the wilderness, he says.
The four students took the trek on in April, dealing with a “mixed bag” of weather – three or four good days then four wet ones, followed by a few nice ones to round out the trip.
The “really rugged” terrain is part of what makes the trek challenging and best suited for experienced trampers - waratahs guided them for the first three kilometres in, but after that they needed to put to use their backcountry navigations skills using maps, compasses and GPS, says Hewson.
There aren't any huts along the route either, so trampers need to be entirely self-sufficient, taking with them tents, suitable clothing and food – as well as an emergency supply of food.
Hewson says the Tin Range route was challenging but enjoyable.
The team made some “interesting choices” at points of their journey.
“We attempted to bush bash our way through some interesting very, very thick dense bush, which probably wasn't a good idea in hindsight, but we had safety precautions in place and evaluated the risk – it was something we could take on.”
He says he would likely do the tramp again.
“The views were amazing… we all really enjoyed it.”
Taking shelter during wet weather, from left, Adrienne Le Pelley, Mahina Walle and Alice Murray.
The team was lucky to be sponsored by Bivouac which gave them a couple of groundsheets and fly that were used to make a sturdy shelter when the weather got rough, and by Back Country Meals which generously provided all dinners for the expedition.
Hewson says the University's tramping club is a good way for beginners to get a taste of the outdoors, as it gets people out there and improving their skills.
“I started out with Scouts and now here I am having done this expedition.”
Tramping gives people a chance to see some special places and connect with the environment, he says.
“It's definitely worth learning to tramp, you get to see some incredible places.”
-Kōrero by internal communications adviser, Koren Allpress