Chris Daniel Plays with Explosives

This is a throwback piece to when I was in New Zealand hiking around Lake Waikaremoana.

There’s too many details in this story that involve getting picked up by an unmarked white van that was full of jumper cables, running into ten topless women at the top of a mountain, and camping with a man who experienced a spider bite so venomous it caused him to hallucinate. But for the sake of succinctness let me fast forward to the end of the trip.

The last quarter of the Waikaremoana trail had been closed to the public because the Department of Conservation was doing trail work. This meant the trail ended at the edge of a lake where a boat would come to pick up hikers and return them to the trailhead. I reached the end of the trail before the boat was to arrive, so I decided to explore past the sign that said the trail was closed. It involved some rock climbing and river-wading but I eventually found the beat up trail that was to be fixed. Actually the picture on my Instagram is from a section of the trail that is closed to the public.

Heaven on Earth. This was my paradise.

So I’m meandering on this path, climbing over trees, stopping to take pictures, and casually enjoying myself. I reach an inlet where the lake curves around and there’s a sign that reads “Do not go past this point. Blah, blah, blah.” I disregard it and keep walking. I find a weird construction landing that’s floating on the hidden part of the lake. I hang out on it for a bit before I keep walking. Then I come across another sign that says “WARNING! Do not proceed past this point.” Again I disregard it and venture on.

The only picture I have of the inlet. You can see an edge of the floating construction dock in the bottom left corner

I go about two miles past where the trail was originally closed before I turn around and walk back to the boat landing. When I get there, there’s more people than when I left. We get to talking and they tell me that they’re doing blasting in the part of the trail that’s closed.

“Wait, blasting? Like explosives?” I said.

They nod their head, and then right on cue, a booming, thunderous sound comes from the inlet and echoes across the lake. Undeniably it’s the sound of a large explosion.

Whoops. Maybe I should heed sign warnings next time.


This happened about two weeks later. I was staying in Franz Josef and decided to do some hiking. It was the same setup where I went up a trail only to be met by a sign telling me it was closed. But I didn’t fly 7,305 miles for some rectangle to tell me how to live my life. So I went past the correx sign and created my own trail. Now the path I created ended up bisecting another trail. This was unexpected but I had to explore it. Cutting out some of the details where I cross a suspension bridge, find a waterfall, and a young Asian girl scares the life out of me, and I end up in front of another sign.

This is a sign I understand. None of that vague, open to interpretation “Danger. Warning. Do not go past.” junk that the other signs had.

Again, I was in the middle of nowhere and not really sure where I was. But I mean, come on. I had already survived traversing through one area lined with explosive material. Maybe I would survive going through another area… Or maybe I had already pushed my luck as far as it could go.

Alas, (Gosh. Writing all of these stories I’m beginning to realize just how often I make dumb decisions) I decided to press on. About two hundred yards past this I came across a dark, green box that said EXPLOSIVES.

I would apologize for the blurry zoomed-in picture, but I’m pretty sure I did the right thing by keeping my distance.

I paused and thought about what to do next. Turn around and walk back to the hostel? Carefully walk past the box and keep exploring? In the end I did what anyone would have done. I tried to open the metal box that was covered in warning signs and boldly marked with the letters E-X-P-L-O-S-I-V-E-S. I pulled the handle but the door didn’t budge a bit. I still don’t know if the box being locked was a good sign or not, but here I am writing about the experience six months later so it certainly wasn’t a terribly bad thing.

And that was the anti-climactic climax to this story. When I couldn’t get the box open I returned to my hostel. Fortunately these are the only two run-ins I’ve had with explosive material. Even more fortunately, I managed to live through both encounters. So the now the question becomes have I really used all my luck? Or is it that I’ve already made it through two close calls so a third one should be no problem?

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