"A Bunk for the Night | A Guide to New Zealand's Best Backcountry Huts"

Authors | Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown, Geoff Spearpoint
Publisher | Potton & Burton
Publication | 2016
Cost | $49.99
Buy | good bookstores, or online (with free postage) at Potton & Burton

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Show Bunk to tramping enthusiasts and immediately stories of various trips start flowing. People are rivetted.

“Remember when . . .”

Or, “I always wanted to go there . . .”

The memories create a glint in their eyes, or from plans quickly being formulated for possible new expeditions.

Now A Bunk for the Night has been published it seems astonishing a book like this has taken so long to appear.

The New Zealand backcountry huts are a remarkable resource that are available for use by the public, some requiring booking and pre-paying, others are the best price—free.

With almost 1000 huts to chose from Bunk is a taster, with newly taken images and information for about 224 huts, scattered across the landscape. A fair representation of the various types of huts are shown.

The authors are some of New Zealand’s most well-regarded landscape photographers, and they show each of the huts in its unique setting. The images of Mueller or Chancellor Huts, for instance, just inspire you to experience the landscape.

Shelter from the Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts, by the same authors, also published by Potton and Burton back in 2012, was a more scholarly history of various hut types: tramping club; alpine; national park; New Zealand Forest Service; musterers’; etc. That book mentioned many huts, and gave some focus to a few, but mainly concentrated on telling the story of those particular hut genres. There is some crossover between the two books, a few are featured in both, Whariwharangi, Bobs, Mintaro, etc.

A Bunk for the Night is a more fundamental resource than Shelter, and more useful for those intending to get up in the hills.

Bunk provides the raw material about these “best” backcountry huts. In the forward Geoff Spearpoint discusses the hut selection criteria, after all there are more than 950 huts, small timber cabins, that are administered by the Department of Conservation in New Zealand from which to choose. The authors wanted to cover the country, but the individual selection was, well, individual. Huts that had been “memorable”, and somehow “special”.

There is clearly scope for one, or more sequels.

Everyone will have their own favourite huts that have been omitted. Why the dull Port William history, and not the fabulously located Bungaree Bay, or Long Harry Huts? There is nothing from the Hurunui catchment, although this area had some representation in Shelter.

But Abel Tasman is spot on, put ‘em all in, and there is little to quibble about in Kahurangi, although the newish, 5 star Venus, or the remote and pristine MOW Hut could well have been included. Bobs Hut is an old favourite with the mysterious “grave” and timber cross outside the door, and the ancient “Bob” photo on the inside wall.

Yup, there could be four of these books and still not cover the full complement.

The team took the opportunity to visit some truly awkward places to access: Robin Saddle, Ivory Lake, Sir Robert, etc. They take some getting to.

There are a few improvements which could be incorporated in a second edition.

Shelter managed a couple of maps to locate each hut, Bunk does not.

Surprisingly for a book that has “bunk” in the title bunks do not feature prominently. There are few interior shots. After all, in many respects the interior is where many hut memories are created.

And there is little hint about the unique New Zealand backcountry hut experience—strangers being bundled together under one roof after a day’s physical efforts, and sharing moments of their lives in close confines.

Or how sharing a hut is a peculiar New Zealand leveller, entirely egalitarian. How people exist elsewhere is totally superfluous. Rich or poor, it matters little. What concerns is how people present themselves at that moment—everyone is taken entirely at face value. Facades are quickly seen through. Pretension the heaviest of baggage.

This attractive volume will no doubt inspire many to get off the more popular tracks that are often overly saturated at peak times.

Bunk makes us aware of a whole more adventurous world to be engaged with out there.

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