Tramping: A New Zealand History

By Shaun Barnett and Chris Maclean (Craig Potton Publishing, $69.99)

As a country that has become synonymous with Middle Earth, New Zealand’s natural beauty is well and truly part of the collective consciousness, regardless of whether you’re a bushwalker, skiier or just a casual visitor.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

Travelling back to a time long before director Peter Jackson thrust his entire homeland into popular culture with his adaption of Lord of the Rings, Tramping: A New Zealand History delves into the accounts of those pioneering men and women who first thought to embrace the country’s outdoor spaces on foot.

The fact is, New Zealand’s awe-inspiring landscapes have produced some equally revered adventurers, not least of which being the South Auckland beekeeper Edmund Hillary, who’s otherwise known as the first person to visit both of the Earth’s poles, as well as the first to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Tramping doesn’t spend any time boasting about national heroes, however. Instead the reader is treated with a more historical orientation, drawing on the writings and experiences of adventurers as far back as the 19th century.

Helpfully, Barnett and Maclean include a treatise on the evolution of the term ‘tramping’ in the opening chapters, introducing readers to the unique flavour of Kiwi adventure walking before launching headlong into the history of the sport through time.

Not only are we provided information about the origins and exploits of many of New Zealand’s prominent walking clubs and personages, but the book also delves into related art, literature and cartography in a straightforward, factual manner.

For anyone that has spent time walking in New Zealand, or has any plans to do so, this book is surely a prerequisite. Through the central mission of providing a comprehensive overview of the local tramping tradition, the book accesses a much broader cultural heritage, which makes it a novel experience for international visitors, while still providing new depths of insight for locals.