I stumbled upon news a mere two hours old, now this is nothing special, but the content was. It came from Reuters and even though I cannot tell who the writer was, it is not about the writer. For the most it is an account of details that had passed, it is the accumulation of acts by people so intensely short minded, that is what baffled me. As such you become what you are, you become dead as your brain was dead.
In the first we see Stephanie Simpson, no idea who that is, or who she thinks she is, yet the situation is given that she is from Essex. This is not against her, she might be an expert in the hiking field and for those feeling frisky and having an attempt at hiking in the Mount Aspiring national park I have one small advice, I have never been there, but hiking, climbing, diving and a few other options, YOU NEVER EVER DO THAT ALONE!
Nature does not budge, it does not give in and it does not compromise, the smallest kindness shown by nature could be the start of its next serious attack on your body and senses. This is not negativity, this is reality. Even when it is a fluke event like “Flash floods and incessant torrential rains hit New Zealand’s South Island last week leaving several hundred tourists stranded for days and forced many residents to evacuate their homes“, in these matters the expression changes, it becomes pain shared is optionally pain avoided. In natural places like New Zealand, that is very much the centre of the hurricane.
I even have some issues with the statement “In 2016, a Czech women spent nearly a month alone in a warden’s hut on a remote hiking trail on South Island after her male partner was killed in a fall“, I am not denying this, yet the larger truth is ‘How many deaths did this Czech women avoid whilst her husband was alive?‘
I got it, she made it and I am happy for her and sad because she lost her husband, yet as they were together, how often was stated ‘Watch out, that looks lose!‘, or ‘That road seems dodgy, let’s take the other direction?‘ for the simple reason that 4 eyes see more than two, gender was not part of this equation, nature does not care about gender, in its eyes both genders are equally worthless.
So even as we see: “Thousands of hikers visit New Zealand each year to explore its mountains and wildlife“, in this we do not get to see the parts that matter, even as there are dozens of pages with ‘Hiking Solo‘ some giving us their goods with “Adventure, depending on your taste in activities, is supposed to be exciting and fun! It should get you out of your comfort zone, get the blood flowing, the adrenaline pumping, and maybe if it’s really scary, make your heart pound and your stomach jump into your throat. Adventurous activities are not usually for the faint of heart. But they also aren’t just for a certain group of hardy people either. Everyone can be adventurous. It just takes the right people connecting, an open mind, an adventurous attitude, and responsible planning! Anything is possible when you make up your mind!“, we also need to realise ‘It just takes the right people connecting‘ which infers that they get their solo and hooked up, which makes perfect sense. Other places give us “Saying that, hurting yourself, getting lost and getting caught out by the weather can happen, so you still need to take proper safety precautions when hiking, especially if you are going it alone“, and when you go this trail, ‘take proper safety precautions‘ will be everything.
You see, we seem to forget that New Zealand is not rugged, it is not unexpected, it is sturdy as a rock, the weather breaks its back on New Zealand and with that crushing anything in its way as well. We oversimplify matters too often, we think of an earthquake and firmly believe that it does not hit us, yet in New Zealand the Alpine Fault is a geological fault that runs almost the entire length of New Zealand’s South Island, and we know that the last 7.8 was in 2016 and at that time “the recent massive earthquake pushed a chunk of coast several feet up“, yet a much smaller one (like a 4) could loosen a rock that shatters your leg, or if you are lucky your skull. Now, this is not some scary story telling, it needs to be firm that there is an important reason to be aware, nature will not give in. Consider “Every year GNS Science locates over 15,000 earthquakes in New Zealand. About 100 – 150 of these quakes are large enough to be felt“, a rock needs not feel, it merely needs to move, at times merely an inch. Still, from all pictures and accounts, New Zealand is more than just beautiful and the appeal to go there is there, I feel it too, but I feel that something like that is never ever to be done alone, it does not matter if you hook up with a team there, or if you follow a group, even a small tour, just do not do that alone. I also need to be clear, I am not talking about hiking tracks like the Queen Charlotte Track, or the Routeburn Track. They are hikes, yet it is different when you are alone, one of 10-20 alone on a clear given track, in the unspoiled terrains it is a different setting, the hiking places where others do not go. I get it, it is like skiing on fresh snow, not a piste, it is for many an overwhelming desire to do so, but at that point it is you alone and in nature, a little snow can become a blizzard, some rain becomes a flood or a flash flood, nature simply does not budge.
I have an additional feeling, the idea that an entire rescue team needs to become active for one useless person (me), offends me too and I used to be a rescue worker when I was younger. I have seen the impact of the sea and the ocean. You see on a large cruiser it seems harmless, on a fishing boat the ocean is something else. I personally still believe that of the three gods, Poseidon got the best deal of all three and I respect the ocean, it is not my element, as such one could argue that have no business being near it, but the call to the sea is strong.
I write this with a special view on the last part of the article, which was “a 22-year-old British backpacker was murdered by a man she met on dating app Tinder. A jury convicted the man in November and he is to be sentenced on 21 February“, which is (as I personaly see it) a different level of stupid. As such we need to realise that New Zealand is a safe place, it has been and optionally always will be, at times people are not safe and the weather is never ever safe. As such look at Australia, first that island scorches through the kind assistance of the sun and 11 million hectares was burned, including 23 people and over 2,000 houses, then the rain helped out flooding thousands (me included), and left 100,000 houses without power. I had rain damage, but not as bad as some who had to throw out the bulk of their living room, my landlord found a new way to live green, he ended up with a tree in his living room.
So lets realise that nature will NOT compromise and if it is devastating in a city like Melbourne, how bad can it get in rural conditions? Yet I still stand still with the Tinder girl, it is my personal believe that Kiwi’s (New Zealand natives) are not homicidal, they have been around a long time and tend to be friendly and at times direct and even now, this act stands out, it stands out a lot more than the people trying to hike in Australia (the movie Wolf Creek is based on it), to see such an event in NZ is weirdly uncanny to say the least.
So no matter if you agree and how you feel, remember that when you are alone, it is the weather you must fear and the moment you take your eyes of it, it swamps you. It stands out against something that happened a year ago “both men were experienced climbers, active in the Canberra Climbers’ Association. They were attempting a challenging route across the top of the Remarkables mountain range” this is not the same as hiking and we can speculate on the exact issues as much as we want, in these places we are out in the open, we are where we do not belong and nature does not believe in capturing or taking a prisoner, it merely kills you or it optionally makes you stronger. It has nothing to do with gender and nothing to do with expertise, in a match between you and nature, you will always lose, that is the reality of it all and whilst New Zealand has the most beautiful sites any place on earth offers, being overwhelmed by it is a dangerous stage to be in. My point of view was partially seen last September “Two tourists ignored advice against hiking the Routeburn Track in winter, and went out under-prepared for the conditions they faced, a Coroner’s report has found“, I see it as a double whammie, overestimating your own abilities and forgetting the power of nature, oh and there is also the stupid factor as ‘ignored advice‘ is part of all this, and they went to see the Department of Conservation (DOC) centre in Queenstown to get information before they went. As they were told “not to go because it was winter and there would be winter conditions“, so how high does ‘giving it a go‘ rank in stupid levels? As I said Nature will not care, it will simply carelessly kill you. Even as Stephanie Simpson took all the precautions, did everything right, she was seemingly alone and there was no one to raise the alert, give a hand if she slipped on wet rocks or chase her if the water caught her, all speculated options in what might never be known, my personal view is never go alone, even if it is just you and the guide, he/she can still take pics of you for you to show off when you get home.
I do feel sorry for Stephanie Simpson, it doesn’t matter who she is, her age, her interests, getting stuck alone in nature is perhaps the harshest death there is (apart from a rock pushing you in a crevice instantly killing you), being helpless and crushed by nature is something overwhelming, because you tend to have no hope at all to survive that.
Consider that the Czech republic has quality snow, harsh ice and real winter conditions to read “they had underestimated the snow conditions” is simply a new level of stupid (like flying from the UK to NZ to meet a tinder guy). And my view is not the only one, the SCMP (South China Morning Post) gives us “A growing number of tourists are getting into trouble while hiking in New Zealand. Local knowledge could help prevent these incidents” anyone needing a travel guide? We also see the Kiwi preemptive stage of “New Zealanders are being called on to talk to tourists in hotels, pubs and shops to educate them about the dangers of the nation’s countryside, after a spate of emergency rescues and fatalities“, which is awesome, it might not save the stupid ones who are willing to ‘give it a go‘ but those with genuine self interest (on living) might take notice that New Zealand nature is like a Cobra, it looks amazing in many ways, yet too close and it can turn deadly in seconds. Remember that nature never cared about you in the first place, so accept that there are no dangerous snakes and spiders in New Zealand (unlike in Australia), in New Zealand nature and its weather is a much larger danger and those unprepared pay the price with their soul, so never ever go it alone, even if the second person can only call for help, you could not move as you slipped on a wet moss covered rock and fell the wrong way. Yes you might walk alone on certain trails, but that is because there are well over a dozen on that trail and you will most likely be spotted, hopefully in time.
Even as we are given “the second preventable death“, it was not the fault of any Kiwi, it was the fault of the tourist not comprehending just how dangerous nature is and how deadly the weather can become in seconds.
That is how I see it!
My bucket list still has the need to visit Antarctica, its unreaped snow fields, the azure freshwater lakes and the direct view on a complet nature and weather setting has its appeal (and the appeal to photograph it), but I too know that it could kill me when I am alone. So just me and a local guide it will be, I prefer to be around one day later, that’s how I roll.