By Quentin, 14 March 2007Strange encounters of the Hunter kind
Bag: Benmore Hut (built 1977 by Malvern NZDA)
Location: Saddle between Thirteen Mile Stream and North Branch Selwyn River, Thirteen Mile Bush, Korowai Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Access: Access easement through Benmore Station (post-Tenure Review). Farmer Jim is friendly. 2WD carpark by farm buildings, 4WD carpark nearer bush edge.
Features: Intensively-farmed eroding pasture, gorse-infested streambed, sheep shit, slippery bush track, wasps, lovely mountain beech forest with bellbirds.
Time: 2-3 hours each way from 2WD carpark.
On my way from the Coast to Christchurch, I thought I'd pop in to Benmore Hut for the night. After an hour across apocalyptic farmland I am greeted by a scrawled notice on the fence: "G'day. Hunter and 2 dogs at hut for next 3 days. Les." Bugger, wanted it to myself. Oh well, little other option with no vehicle and evening coming on. It's only an hour to the hut, and the track is well marked and maintained, if a bit waspy, muddy and slippery.
Got to the hut to be 'greeted' with a not-happy-to-see me grunt by Les from Lyttleton. His two energetic puppies (not a euphemism!) were more friendly. I tried conversation but it didn't go far. At one point I noted today's paper on the bench and I asked if he minded if I had a read: “I carried the fucken thing up here mate, there's no way you're going to read it. And the axe is under the bed so you'd better cut some firewood”. Hmm.
He went off for his evening stalk, and I decided to stay on principle even though it was a bit tense. He came back all guns blazing, metaphorically speaking. I was "a bloody idiot to walk in when a sign said a hunter was there"; I had "ruined his 3 days hunting" because he was going to hunt the track that evening; the roar is coming and it's stupid to be tramping in 'hunting areas'; I was only there for a free night's accommodation; and best of all “I've phoned [who?] and indemnified myself: I put up a f* warning notice, so if you get shot, it's not my fault”!
Excuse me? I wasn't going to let him get away with all that so replied calmly that this was public conservation land; there was plenty of bush he could hunt (I was only walking in and out on the track); it's not his personal safari park just because he'd done some work on the hut and tracks; he was getting a free night's accommodation too; that hunters shared huts and areas with trampers all the time; and that he still has to identify his target whether he knows someone is around or not.
He gave up arguing pretty promptly and after a pregnant (like 30 minutes) silence, he started asking questions in a conversational way and we had a good chat about life, 1080, work (he Blacksmith me Greenie), wasps, deer, DOC, dogs... He'd got it off his chest and seemed no longer concerned. Apart from the dog licking my face in the night, there were no further problems and he left early for a hunt and I walked out before he came back. And, of course, I read the paper before I left, and cut some firewood!
Talking to Jim the farmer on the way out, I mentioned that Les was less than happy to see me, and the farmer commented that he does get a bit possessive.
Quentin, February 2007