Tramping the Abel Tasman

Packing for tramping feedback, what worked?

Well, everything worked, really.

The Abel Tasman is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and one thing we do well in New Zealand is walking. The National Park was nearly at full capacity, and while there are day trippers you’re not exactly tripping over them. There is plenty of space to breathe, a 60 kilometre trail winding through the bush. I tramp in a bit of a trance usually,  wandering along in my subconscious. Continue reading “Tramping the Abel Tasman”

Packing for tramping

What to pack for a 5 day hike

Packing for a multi-day tramp is all about balance. Mainly so you don’t fall over. We’re walking the Abel Tasman National Park, staying in tents, 6 days, 5 nights and it’s going to rain. I tried to get the pack under 10kg which I like for tramping, but with the tent and mattress this comes in at 12kg. I could leave out one bag of muesli and the mattress? Yeah, nah. Continue reading “Packing for tramping”

The rafting fallout (yes, we did)

White water rafting truths

  • Wear a helmet. You will fall in. There will be rocks.
  • Not all dry bags are equal. Pay for quality.
  • When a water-tight barrel explodes open in a rapid, dry things get wet.
  • Securely tied items can do a Houdini and wave goodbye as you’re clinging to the upside-down raft.
  • If you lose your heavy camp stove at the bottom of a river and a waif dives for it, it will miraculously light first click.
  • Chilly bins need to be tied shut.
  • Waterlogged bagels are inedible.
  • Sunnies should be tied on. What did I tell them?
  • A cairn piled on a rock on the side of the river may indicate a ledge wide enough to pitch camp. Stop!
  • Memories of past trips are rose tinted. Add an extra few hours and serious amounts of fear to any memory. I would argue (and did) that a rafting trip is nothing at all like giving birth, but it is true you soon forget the pain and turn around and do it all over again.

Continue reading “The rafting fallout (yes, we did)”

Packing list for rafting

Summer camping on the river

Here’s my packing list for an overnight rafting trip. (There’s no rain forecast and someone else is looking after the raft!) Off down the Ngaruroro river tomorrow.

Newbies often asked what to pack for a multi-day rafting trip. You need to be fairly tight, to fit in on the raft, but weight is not as issue like it is for a tramp. Continue reading “Packing list for rafting”

The Three Legged Pig

A Camp Fire story by Peter Lugg

My friend Peter Lugg has always kept us entertained at the fireside (though I’m still wondering why we call him Sparky when he couldn’t light a fire to save his life). Here’s one of his stories that can be extended to be as shaggy as you like. Just keep on adding to the feats of this remarkable pig.

Not really a shaggy dog tale but you may be interested that I was walking past a farm on the Mendips the other day when I saw a pig with only 3 legs. I thought this was pretty strange so, when I saw the farmer, I had to ask.

“A long story,” he explained. “Last winter was particularly cold. Snow everywhere and a deep frost that didn’t rise above freezing all day for weeks. Our pond froze over and, against family rules, our young daughter ventured out onto the ice. She fell through into the freezing water. Unbelievably, the pig eased gently out across the ice and reached through the hole, grabbed my daughter by the collar and pulled her out. Then the pig dragged her to safety into the barn, wrapped her in straw to warm her and came to fetch me. Absolutely incredible!”

“But why the 3 legs?” I asked.

“Well, not long after the iced pond incident, we had a fire in one of our outbuildings,” continued the farmer. “There were a number of sheep in the barn and we couldn’t get close through the flames to rescue them. We were faced with the horrific prospect of watching the poor sheep burn to a crisp when the pig suddenly grabbed a tarpaulin with its teeth and covered itself, ran through the heat and smoke, leapt up to the barn door catch and released the sheep who ran out to safety. As I said, unbelievable!”

Again I asked, “But why the 3 legs?”

“Well,” the farmer explained at last, “if you had a pig like that, you wouldn’t eat it all at once, would you?”

Camp fire story

A shaggy dog story by Tristan Bayliss

Stories are the best way to entertain the kids around a camp fire, and they need to be adaptably long, shaggy, and with a structure that makes them easy to remember.

Last week, rafting and camping on the side of the Mohaka river, our storyteller had a group of kids enraptured by The Ballard of Henry Tidwell, the last man to suffer the death penalty in New Zealand. (Only he wasn’t, I found out later.)

I asked him how he did it and here is his advice.

When I tell a very long shaggy dog story, people ask how it is possible to remember so many details, and often dismiss it as impossible for themselves. The truth is, if you follow these few simple tips, anyone can (and should) tell a long and complex story to entertain friends and family around those campfires or on long trips. For the purposes of explanation I have included a very long story, The Ballard of Henry Tidswell, a version of which  was told recently on a camping trip.

  1.     Punchline  

The shaggy dog story starts with the ending, with an idea of a pun, or a joke. It doesn’t have to be uproarious, as the whole point of this sort of story is the journey to get there. In some ways, an ending that makes your audience groan rather than laugh is a good result. In this example it started with an old joke around the ambiguous meanings of the term ‘conductor’.

  1.   Structures

This is the most important rule for successfully telling a longer story. This is the skeleton that you hang the story on, and what makes the whole thing possible to remember and achieve. The structures can be familiar pictures or simple sequences, with a finite pattern or infinitely expandable. The example story is full of different structures, some obvious, some less:

  • Henry keeps one penny for each shilling, then 2, then 3 etc. For the purposes of this story, it finished at 4, but could easily have expanded to 12
  • The time between Mary’s spending sprees halves each time, first 2 months, then 1 month, 2 weeks, 1 week etc. Also the cost of each purchase rises; first a shilling a week, then 2, then 3 etc. These structures build tension by creating the sense of rapidly approaching disaster
  • Each time Mary makes a deal, she gets a new dress of a different colour, and the sequence is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Not only is it easy to remember the rainbow, but the darkening end of the spectrum matches the story as it darkens towards the end
  1. Visual Associations

This technique is what enables you to include the richness of detail which makes a good story. It requires developing a pictorial thinking and memory, which is far richer and more effective than a language or conceptual one. Make a visual picture of each scene, and when it comes to that point in the story, simply recall the picture in your mind’s eye and describe what you see. It will be different each time as you forget some things and include others, but it will be more alive and the amount of detail possible will be limitless. Also you can include visual themes that are connected to the structures, which aid the memory.

In this story, for example, the things Mary purchases are associated with the colour of her dress, e.g red for Rosie the house help, orange for the copper and brass washing machine, yellow for the yellow curtains and furniture etc.

  1.  Repetition

This also is related to the structures, as you naturally have repeated scenes and dialogues, but if you can focus on a particular catchphrase and repeat this at opportune moments, this is like a little homecoming within the story and can bring great delight to your listeners, especially children. If done well, you can merely suggest the line and the audience will finish it for you. In the example, we have the repetition of “because she was clever with her hands” which has been given subtle variations for the benefit of an older audience. Also the punchline itself has been used as a catchphrase in this story, which rather than lessening its impact as an ending, enhances it, for the listeners have to think twice before realizing it now has a new meaning.

  1.  Characters

These are what bring the humour and life to a story. Give your characters a back story (even if you don’t relate it, but just for your own sake to bring the character alive). Use mannerisms, accents, speech impediments, anything that makes them interesting. The only caution I would place on this is to leave your main protagonist quite plain, as it can be tiring for an audience to listen to a constant put-on voice, and also it allows their imagination to inhabit the character easier if it remains slightly amorphous.

  1. Practice

Lastly, eloquence is not something you are either born with or without. It requires practice to develop, and then constant practice to maintain. Take whatever opportunities you have, the best practice being, of course, telling bedtime stories to your children. Start by memorizing traditional folk tales or fairy tales (practise using your pictorial memory) and telling these without the book there (perhaps by candlelight). This will build up a rich store of phrases, characters and story archetypes which you can use in your own made-up stories later.

Happy storytelling

Read The Ballard of Henry Tidswell, adapted by Tristan Bayliss.