Making tough decisions aka. Tramping with the shits


The Sandwich

We were heading off to our annual Gentlemanly Excursion.  You may have read about the adventures from last year when I busted my knee and blisters ruined the trip for one party member.

We gassed up at the petrol station and grabbed a sausage roll for the journey.  My friend Wayne, see blisters story, decided he wanted a sandwich too and grabbed a traditional ham and egg.  4 hours later we were pitching tents at our road-end campsite before beginning our trip up the Umukarikari Range to Waipakihi Hut.

Next morning dawned frosty and cheerful.  Except for the grumbling of Wayne, who was trotting off to the bushes with a roll of toilet paper under one arm.  Breakfast ensued and we broke camp while Wayne paid the bushes another visit.  And then a third.  And then a fourth.

Finally, we set off and right away it was obvious it was going to be a long tramp.

The Science

Diarrhoea is when you have frequent loose watery bowel motions.  It can be more commonly referred to as “the shits”.

Accompanying signs and symptoms may include:

  • urgent need to go to the toilet
  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • general body weakness and tiredness.

The most common cause is bacterial when harmful bacteria form in the digestive tract and wreak havoc on our systems.  Bacteria similar to the stuff growing in a petrol station ham and egg sandwich.

Because most cases of diarrhoea resolve on their own within a day or two, self-care to relieve symptoms is usually sufficient for treatment:

  • rest
  • drink water
  • avoid caffeine and greasy, high fibre, or sugary foods
  • avoid anti-diarrhoeal medications that slow diarrhoea (e.g. Imodium) as they prevent your body from getting rid of the bacteria.

The Choice

So when faced with the shits at the beginning of your tramp what should you do?

Option A:

  1. Stop before you begin
  2. Think about what you have planned for the tramp which may involve an uphill grind to the tops, a whole day of stream crossings, and then an absolute bitch of an ascension from riverbed to ridgeline spread across 3 days.
  3. Think about your own well-being
  4. Think about how this will affect your party
  5. Decide its best not to go and check into a motel where you can use a flushing toilet for the next 2 days to purge yourself of evil.

Option B:

  1. Drink 3 cups of coffee and have a cigarette while you mull over your situation
  2. Pop 2 Imodium tablets you find in your first aid kit
  3. Begin your tramp
  4. Eat sodium laden dehydrated meals, fatty salami and cheese, and have sugar loaded gel sachets to keep you going
  5. Drink yourself happy each night with copious amounts of whiskey
  6. Curse the person who thought up this whole tramp (yours truly) to an eternity in the deepest pit of hell.

The Impact

You can guess which Option was chosen.

Basically, what happened was the whole party was slowed to accommodate the now slower pace.  Also, we had to change our intended plans to make the trip shorter and easier.  Not that some of our more senior party members complained about this.


The Conclusion

Now dearest reader, you may scoff at the decision, look at the situation from a bystanders viewpoint, and judge Wayne harshly; but please put yourself in Wayne’s shoes for a moment.

You’ve been looking forward to this trip for the last few months, you’ve spent the last 4 days preparing all your gear, you’ve driven all the way from Auckland to be here, and last year you had to pull out after day 2 because of your blisters.  Basically, you’re so heavily invested in completing this year’s trip you’re going to complete it through sheer force of will and stubbornness.

It is very easy to say with hindsight maybe he shouldn’t have started.  Or at least turned back halfway through day 1 but when you’re in the moment it can be very difficult to make that call.  We’re New Zealanders, we suffer through a lot for the things we love, and it’s in our nature.

In the end it was a very enjoyable trip with heaps of laughs, plenty of banter, and fantastic teamwork to make sure everyone made it home safe and sound.

And most importantly we discovered for ourselves that the Waipakihi River is amazingly beautiful.  I will definitely be returning to this part of the country for a 2nd look around, maybe with my rifle next time.