Pure evil blisters which when they rupture can bring you to your knees in pain with a cry which will scare away any wildlife in a 3 km radius.
Tramping 14km through the Rangipo desert, wearing Jandals. Fun times!
Whether you’re hunting or tramping we all know how important a good pair of boots are. They’re the item of gear you subject to the most punishment. Rock hopping, scrambling up scree slopes, bush bashing, scraping on roots and just general walking means they take a literal hiding.
Most of us would spend hours researching, trying on, and agonising over which pair to buy. Leather, synthetic, or rubber? Weight vs. Durability vs. Cost. There are so many options and variables which you need to consider. We spend all this time up front and then fail to invest time when it’s most important. That is, when they’re on your feet and you’re humping 25kg of pack / gun / carcass over hill and dale.
Over the summer on the same trip where I almost wrecked myself we had a few other injuries which could have resulted in a catastrophic failure of the trip.
This article is dedicated to the humble blister. Everyone will have had a blister at one point in their life and it’s not normally a big issue. You get home, take off your shoes, throw them across the room in frustration and it heals by itself in a few days.
Then you have blisters you get when tramping / hunting. These blisters are often in a league of their own. Pure evil blisters which when they rupture can bring you to your knees in pain with a cry which will scare away any wildlife in a 3 km radius.
One of the guys on our trip, let’s call him Wayne, experienced blisters such as these. Now you may scoff and say what a no0b. But let me give some background:
- Wayne’s a very experienced tramper, he’s been doing it for decades
- His boots weren’t new or ill fitting
- He was wearing a thin liner sock under his thicker over-sock to reduce rubbing
So, we started off from the Chateau heading towards Waihohonu hut and stopped at Taranaki Falls for lunch. While we ate Wayne had his boots off, dressing a tiny blister on one heel and a hot-spot on the other. Seriously, we’re talking a blister the size of your pinkie fingernail. On with the Compeed to try protect the skin and then socks back on.
There’s no coming back from here.
When we got to the hut and Wayne took off his socks there was a collective gasp of pain accompanied by a group wince. Except our mate Nigel, who chipped in with a “Oh those are beautiful”. Wayne promptly told Nigel to go do something which would be anatomically impossible.
Wayne’s hot-spot had turned into a blister which wasn’t much of a concern. However, the tiny blister from earlier had somehow morphed into this swollen pustule. I swear it was pulsing with barely contained hatred. We’re talking old school 50 cent piece here; nasty!
An evening of air drying didn’t accomplished much and by morning the swelling hadn’t abated. However, Wayne’s a tough old bastard so on with the socks and boots and away we go heading towards Rangipo hut. Half an hour later the pain is too much to bear, the boots are off, and the jandals come out.
These weren’t no fancy Teva tramping sandals either. These were some hoary, old Jandals. The heels were so thin you could almost see through them.
Long story short Wayne proceeded to walk the next 14kms through the Rangipo desert in almost translucent Jandals. I must say he did very well, only stubbing his toes once, which for those who know that track, will agree it’s a decent accomplishment.
Our party eventually made in to the Rangipo hut with a lot of teamwork, swearing, talking bullsh*t, and only one other first aid emergency. We dressed Wayne’s heels as best we could and consumed copious amounts of whisky for medicinal purposes.
The next morning Wayne made the tough but correct decision to walk back out to the Tukino access road where our relief crew picked him up and drove him to the local GP. The nurse then proceeded to cut off several layers of skin and remove a fair amount of Rangipo desert dust to disinfect the blisters.
So, what did I learn from this funny-because-it-wasn’t-me experience?
- Your feet are one of the most important body parts when you’re out tramping or hunting
- Injury to them can put you and your party in a potentially dangerous position
- Prevention is the best approach
- Take time to dress hot-spots early before they become blisters
- If you have soft feet think about drying them out beforehand with some methylated spirits
- Pre-tape any known areas before you start walking
- Throughout the day (i.e. during lunch) take your boots off to let your feet breathe and cool down
- Tramping through a desert in the middle of summer at the height of the sun is a miserable experience so start your days early to avoid the worst of it
- Whisky makes a fantastic pain medication