Today’s columnist, Tracy Annenberg: Looking forward to return

Milford Sound, New Zealand. Picture by Duncan McEwan.
Milford Sound, New Zealand. Picture by Duncan McEwan.
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I love tramping. That’s Kiwi for hiking. It’s akin to taking your life in your hands. ‘Paths’ are often merely suggestions, only infrequently marked by poles.

The last one I ‘walked’ was on vertiginous slopes that defy the definition of walking: solid rock, steep and smooth with vertigo- inducing drops.

Going up is grabbing the rock face with your hands and scrabbling for a foothold, going down is heart-stoppingly terrifying and safest just to sit back and slide on your bum, hoping desperately that your flailing feet find ledges to slow you.

Never mind a hard hat and crampons, this is wings and prayers territory.

Bridges are for wimps. If a watercourse must be crossed you either jump between slippery rocks, risking landing in the fast flow beneath you, or simply paddle through and get your feet wet.

Water levels rise rapidly after rain, which is usually sudden and heavy. At these times you are warned against crossing, risking being swept away to your death.

I’m coming back to Sheffield next month. Thanks to my niece and a February wedding, I’m leaving a southern summer for a northern winter but I don’t mind.

I’m looking forward to feasting my eyes on the local sights and my tastebuds on the local delicacies (solid and liquid).

I’ll be relishing the choice of more than one department store to shop in.

I’ll be doing my best to find my way around the city without getting lost because of road changes or new or missing buildings.

If you see me out and about, shout me a friendly hello and give me a wave.

If you see a hire car with frustrated driver and a mildly perplexed passenger gesticulating towards a recently changed junction, please wait patiently while I figure out where the hell I am and how to get to where I’m going.

I’m bringing my rucksack and boots so I can go hiking. The type that involves walking as dictionary defined, one foot in front of the other; where streams are crossed by bridges that are older than New Zealand, and where preparation doesn’t involve programming the emergency services number into your phone.

I’m excited about walking on paths that lead towards villages. Villages that have pubs, ideally pubs that serve a decent pint and a nice steak and kidney pie.

Well, you can’t picnic in February in England, can you?

* Tracy Annenberg, Sheffield ex-pat in New Zealand