By Kimberley Davis
If there’s one thing that going on an overnight tramp with an 18-month-old teaches you, it’s that success is simply a matter of perspective. Or, at least, that’s what we learned the first time we took our toddler with us to stay in a hut.
It was the start of June, a Saturday, and it had snowed up on the mountains during the week, so the Matukituki Valley was clothed in winter glory as we wound our way along the gravel road towards Raspberry Creek carpark. Two friends followed in their rental car, and every now and then their Rav would shrink in the rear-view mirror as they stopped to take photos. It really was breathtaking. It was also effing cold.
In the back of the car, our little girl watched everything pass by the window, stating matter-of-factly, ‘Cow! Moo! Cow!’
I was relieved that she seemed in better spirits than when we’d been packing to leave earlier that morning. (I say ‘packing’, but what I mean is that we put things into our packs only to have them removed by a pair of tiny, curious hands the moment our backs were turned.) Her cheeks were violent red – teeth (it’s always teeth) – and she’d been upset at the four adults rushing distractedly around her. She wandered among us grizzling, hiding things we needed, packing things we didn’t, and I’d had this sinking feeling that I was staring down the barrel of having my hair pulled for several hours by a small, grumpy human on my back.
Doing things with a toddler is, by nature, high admin. Just getting out of the door to go to the supermarket deserves a medal – especially when one or the other of you (or, if you’re really lucky, both) are feeling tired, cranky, sick. Nerves get frayed. Food gets smeared on clean clothes. Boogers get smeared on everything. Keys get lost. It’s controlled chaos (and, honestly, not all that controlled).
So, committing to activities beyond the strictly necessary calls for a particular brand of determination, maybe a touch of masochism.
Taking your kid tramping is a classic case in point. It’s something you have to really want, really believe in. It’s easy (said from experience) to wax lyrical about teaching your kid the wonders of nature, the value of physical challenge, the pay-off of perseverance … but the reality is usually that, in simply trying to put these valiant ideals into action,
you find out the only one really learning about perseverance and challenge is you, while your sprog stuffs their face with the muesli bars you were saving to placate them with later on.
Anyway, in an attempt to share our love of the outdoors with our daughter, my husband and I go walking with her as much as we can. We’ve done so since the day she was born – and, in all seriousness, the joy does seem to be rubbing off.
Off for a day tramp on the West Coast
She genuinely loves our adventures, even if they’re invariably punctuated by bouts of shouting (her and/or us) or demands that someone sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ (her, and usually perfectly timed for when you’re halfway up an especially ruthless hill) followed by ‘More!’ (growled threateningly) if you dare to so much as pause for breath.
Our little girl is well used to long walks in the pack, but until that weekend in June the last frontier still loomed before us: staying overnight in a hut. Being able to stay in huts with her would open up a whole new world of possibilities for our family tramps, but the prospect filled me with dread. Which, I know, sounds ridiculous.
Isn’t the difficult part of tramping with a toddler the actual walking and carrying-them-and-all-their-stuff bit? Not for me. That’s the part I enjoy. Sleeping, on the other hand: terrifying.
Every time I thought about how, exactly, I’d execute this whole sleeping-in-the-hut business my mind whirled with questions. What would my daughter sleep in? Heaps of clothes? Her sleep sack? My sleeping bag? All of the above? And where would she sleep? What if she made noise and woke people up? What if other people made noise and woke her up?
I knew the only way to quieten these questions was to just do it, and that’s how we found ourselves en route up the wintry Matukituki. We’d deliberately picked an easy first overnighter – the walk from the carpark to Aspiring Hut, tucked into the entrance of the valley, is only around three hours and mostly flat. Plus, the picturesque stone hut comes complete with a log burner. And, on a winter weekend, we could pretty much rely on bunks when we got there.