Climbing/Tramping Poems
Rod Thomson (2010)

Climber Bill by Rod Thomson

This character recalls the author's one and only climbing lesson, in 1966(!). Verse adapted from Kipling's Gunga Din.

Far along the Main Divide
Where we trampers used to stride
All the peaks are steep, and even passes scary.
You depend for very life
On good sense and sound advice
From an older hand who helps to keep you wary.

Now in Arthur's Pass mixed clime
Where I used to spend my time
A-tramping with the Rangiora crew,
We would sometimes venture out
When the weather was in doubt
For a 'sunny rocky scramble' with Bill Pew.

'I've a little peak' he'd say
'Where I'll take you straight away
For it's eastward, where the nor'west doesn't get.'
'It's a trifle steep at first
But you'll soon be past the worst,
And these ropes and pegs are just so you don't fret.'

Bill had climbed (or so he said)
With some experts now long dead
And his spiel was such to have us gape in awe.
He would roar out 'On Belay'
And such confidence display
That we followed him like spiders up that wall.

From a handhold here and there
We gazed down on - just thin air!
And we understood the meaning of 'exposed'.
When we made it to the top
And looked over at the drop
Even hardy types among us nearly froze.

But the mighty deed was done
And we strolled down in the sun
On the easy slopes to where the cars were parked.
Bill displayed such great good cheer
That he shouted us a beer
Down at Springers for a final roundup yarn.

Then someone, daring, asked
Bill about his climbing past.
Had he done that climb before, and when was that?
'No' he said, he hadn't quite
It had given him a fright
Near the top, way back in nineteen sixty-eight.

He was human, after all!
Though we did feel rather small
When he told us of the Andes and the Alps.
But you have to make a start
And though climbing is an art
You need a chap like Bill to lose those doubts.


The Geebung Tramping Club by Rod Thomson

The 'author' is better described as 'adapter', as this effort is mostly borrowed from 'Banjo' Paterson's immortal 'Geebung Polo Club', first published 1893.

It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Tramping Club.
They were sage and wiry natives from the rugged mountain side,
And their packs were worn and faded, and their boots were rough rawhide
And their style of mountain tramping was irregular and rash --
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash.
And they used to train on weeknights, racing headlong through the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Tramping Club.

It was somewhere down the country, by a city's placid stream,
That a tramping club existed, called `The Polyprop Machine'.
As a social institution 'twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by their youth and careless dress.
They were used to charging ridges at a speed to make you pale
And the peak was never mentioned that the Polys couldn't scale.
There were numerous among them who had done the Coast to Coast
Not just once, but times a-plenty; though you wouldn't hear them boast.

And they knew by reputation of the Geebungs' guile and speed
But the Polys were undaunted, and reluctant to concede
Even inches to the Geebungs in a proper mountain race -
You could see determination scored on every Poly face.

Now a race had been concocted by a devious old sport
With a modest fee for entry, and a very rugged course
From the Bealey Pub to Jacksons - up and over the Divide
With the Geebungs and the Polys starting level, side by side.
So the Polys drove to Bealey in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
Once the challenge had been issued, they had trained like men possessed -
And that was just the women - gawd, you should have seen the rest!
Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung team got going it was time to clear the road;
And the pace was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator's leg was broken -- just from merely looking on.
For they elbowed one another up the rivers, heading west
And they fought for space on boulders as they splashed towards the crest
Then they hurtled down the valley till the highway came in view
'Twas the bitumen beneath them, for the last surviving few.

And these few became a twosome, as exhaustion took its toll
Leaving just the Polys' captain, and the Geebungs' leader whole.
But they gamely staggered onward, with the Jacksons pub in sight
Till they both collapsed together, so the race was called a tie.

Up the old Deception River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There's a row of little gravestones that the trampers never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, `Stranger, shed a tear,
For the legendary Polyprop and Geebung teams lie here.'
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the trains roll slowly past,
You can see their shadows flitting from the grim Otira's grasp;
Or you hear the muttered curses as they jostle for some space,
In the first few hundred metres of that awful deadly race,

Till the terrified spectator runs like blazes to the pub --
He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Tramping Club.