Buying packs and buying spinach

Wow — the Tararuas have had three weekends of fantastic weather in a row, and I haven’t been there for any of them. I guess I did at least get out to the Ruahines a week ago, though. This Saturday and Sunday I stayed at home, however.

For a while now, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a new pack to replace my disintegrating Macpac Glissade. It’s not really disintegrating, but I’ve patched it up with tape in a couple of places despite it only being a couple of years old. The major problem I’ve been having is that if and when I replace it, I want to make sure I’m getting something that I really want, and honestly there’s not a lot of selection in Wellington retailers right now as far as packs go. Just about everything is the same basic design, with pockets and openings all over the place. This is unfortunate because in essence I’m looking for a simple, relatively light single-access-point tramping pack without lots of zippers (which add weight unnecessarily) and without lots of bits hanging off it (which add more weight, and get caught on things).

Yesterday, I was wandering through Bivouac in Wellington and noticed that they’re actually stocking a Deep Winter pack from Cactus Climbing. It’s marketed as an alpine pack, but it’s about the right size for what I want and for a large pack, it’s quite lightweight (1.75 kg). It’s intentionally designed without a frame, though, which is an interesting idea but also makes me more cautious about it without trying it or talking to other people first. Actually seeing it caught me by surprise because, especially with the demise of brand-independent outdoor retailers in Wellington over the last couple of years, it’s become difficult to find a lot of brands on shelves. I was almost thinking about buying it for a couple of minutes, but in the end decided not to.

Cactus Climbing, based in Christchurch, is a company that makes more simple packs of the sort that I’m actually interested. Unfortunately, because the packs aren’t very adjustable (that would add extra weight which is ultimately pointless if the owner will only ever use the harness on one setting), it’s important to get one that definitely fits from the start, and I’m not sure I want to make that decision without actually using it. With some great initial enthusiasm, I managed to borrow someone’s Hector pack some time ago, filled it with 15 kg and walked around the Tinakori Hill for a couple of hours, and it was only after that that I was able to tell the particular harness wasn’t really fitting me very well, especially once I started walking on different angles and sidling around trees and such. It was disappointing, but I’m glad I didn’t fork out several hundred dollars for something that wouldn’t have fit. A DeepWinter pack might be different, or an alternative harness size might be different, but I’m not sure I really want to make that choice on a non-adjustable harness without actually having an opportunity to try it.

Today (being Sunday) I went shopping for Spinach, which Stacey wanted for some reason relating to an idea for dinner, and through some kind of abstract thought process I decided it’d be a good excuse for me to check out the track that leads up from the flax clearing at the back of Otari Wilton’s Bush to the Skyline Walkway. I’d never been up via that route before, and I discovered that after a nice and short bush-walk, it joins on half-way up the Chartwell Drive entrance to (or exit from) the Skyline Walkway. I guess I’ll remember that for future reference. There were lots of flies around in the hot weather, but I noticed that for some reason they seem to congregate around rocky out-croppings. I tested this several times once I had a suspicion, approaching and walking away from a variety of different rocky areas several times, and each time I was buzzed by a small horde of flies as soon as I stood on the rocks, which promptly disappeared when I returned to grassy farmland. Weird — I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. Maybe the rocks absorb more heat than the grass and they like sitting on them more.

I kept walking to Mt Kaukau and eventually down to Johnsonville via the Old Coach Road, which I’ve only walked along once before. Coincidentally I met Alistair and Sarah along this stretch (from the Tongue & Meats tramping club), who were wandering up Bell’s Track onto the Skyline Walkway just as I got there, so that turned into a fun natter as usual. Today was one of those days when the views from Mt Kaukau and surrounding areas were exceedingly clear, including towards the northern parts of the South Island, and also with a very clear view of the snow-capped Mount Tapuaenuku, often known as Tappy and probably most famous because it was Ed Hillary’s first mountain. I sat down for a couple of hours near the top of Kaukau to read more of my book.

The only disappointment of the day was that once I reached Johnsonville, the Countdown supermarket in the Johnsonville shopping mall didn’t actually have any spinach, at least that I could find. This ruined my plans to ask the people at the mall’s free gift-wrapping counter to wrap up the spinach as my girlfriend’s christmas present. Maybe next year.

What a great day.

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