Q&A with Dulkara Martig: Expedition Leader & Outdoor Teacher
Dulkara Martig is a 29 year old woman from New Zealand who has built a life around her love for adventure. She’s a passionate hiker, packrafter, sea and whitewater kayaker, mountain biker and light mountaineer. She has spent the last few years working all around the world as an expedition leader and a teacher in the outdoors. Most of her spare time has been spent embarking on long personal trips into some of the world’s most remote places.
She is currently on a month-long traverse of the Southern Alps in New Zealand with three other kiwi women, Anna Loomes, Inga Booiman and Tara Mulvany. The team of women are all aged between 27 and 29 years old and they have all spent the last decade working within the outdoor industry in New Zealand and overseas.
Dulkara is using this trip as an opportunity to share stories of kiwi women in the outdoors with the hope of inspiring other people, especially women, to pursue careers - and lifestyles - in the outdoor world. We managed to catch up with her a few days before they set out.
2017 has seen you in the likes of Alaska and Iceland on some pretty incredible wilderness trips. What is it that inspires you to get outdoors and to remote places?
Regular outdoor adventures have been part of my life since I was born...I can’t fathom a life without the outdoors. We lived in Mount Cook village and then in the Paparoa Ranges on the West Coast of the South Island when I was a kid. All of my childhood was spent exploring wild places and my thirst for being outdoors continued to grow each year.
Being in nature and moving my body keeps me grounded and happy. I guess I feel most human when I’m outside. I love the sense of freedom and the simplicity. I love wide open spaces and never-ending horizons. I think humans need a strong connection to nature and that’s something that we’re losing in modern lifestyles. Spending time in nature is also a social experience for me - it’s where I go to spend quality time with friends and family.
What was your most recent latest big trip? What were some of the highlights?
I’ve been on many memorable expeditions lately. One that springs to mind as a highlight this year was a ski-mountaineering packrafting expedition in the Fairweather Mountains in SE Alaska. We started on a remote, uninhabited stretch of coastline and spent three weeks traversing a series of glaciers on skis before packrafting out a river to the small coastal fishing town (and heli-ski mecca) of Haines. The trip was remote and wild, the logistics were complicated and we were combining different sports. At one point we were moving with 22 days worth of food, packrafting gear, mountaineering gear and skis! On our first day we set out from the beach wearing ski boots, and we bush-bashed through a thick, prickly forest with our skis catching on absolutely everything. We travelled up a creek until we hit a huge wall of ice, with a forest growing on it. No kidding. It blew my mind! We were post-holing through moss into crevasses, in a well-established forest. With grizzly bears! Two days later we were on skis, skinning up towards the Grand Plateau Glacier and we could hear wolves howling in the valley below. At that point we were only three days into a twenty-two day adventure.
Alaska holds a special place in my heart. The wild open spaces make me feel small - in a really good way. I’m reminded that I’m only human and that my time is finite. Being in these places keeps me accountable to living a life in line with my values and passions.
You’re currently planning for an expedition ‘Girls Traverse of the Southern Alps (New Zealand)’ with three other Kiwi women - can you tell us a little more about that? What inspired this trip?
I’ve dreamed of doing this trip since I was a teenager and around 5 years ago I started thinking about it more seriously. Earlier this year I was working on a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) hiking expedition in the Kahurangi National Park with my friend Inga. We talked about doing the traverse almost every night for an entire month. We decided the timing would never be perfect so we should just commit to it now, we could make it happen. With two kiwi girls committed we thought it would be really special to try and pull together an all-kiwi girls crew. Two weeks later we had a team of four women and the countdown began - the trip was 6 months away. So many things have to come together to find a team for a trip like this. People need the right skillset, personalities, enough time to spare, money and resources to make it happen. So being able to do this with a group of women is extra special.
It’s the journey that inspires us. It’s not about completing the most technical route or conquering peaks, it’s about connecting to a place that’s special to all of us. We have all spent time living and playing right by the Southern Alps and we all call the South Island home. There’s a concept in Maori culture that I love: Tūrangawaewae. It’s often translated as a ‘place to stand’. Turangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home. Another Maori concept I love is ‘Whenua’ - it means both the placenta that connects a baby to the mother’s womb and the land. It recognises the importance of a human’s connection to the natural world. The older I get, the more important I view connection to familiar places. For me that’s definitely New Zealand. This trip for us is about connecting to our homeland.
30 days is quite the time out there! And you’re self reliant the whole time. What considerations have you had to make for the logistics to work?
The biggest difference with a long trip is the amount of food needed - it’s too much to carry in one load. For this trip we have divided our time into 6 different ration periods so we are never carrying more than 10 days of food at any given time. We have two food drops being flown in by bush plane (cached for us, so they will be waiting when we arrive at that point). One food drop is being delivered by 4WD and one is being walked in for us. Other things to consider on longer trips are good repair kits and first aid kits, so you can actually be self-reliant. For example, stuff to repair our tent and extra strapping tape for our feet. You also need to think about extra batteries for things like cameras and headtorches.
I bring the same amount of clothing and equipment on a month-long trip as I bring on a 6 day trip! I will literally wear the same clothes every single day for 32 consecutive days. A set of clothes to walk in, and a set of clothes for around camp in the evenings. Then there are a few extra warm layers.
You’ve done quite a few trips now where you have been the sole female or one of few. What things do you appreciate most about travelling with a group of women?
There’s often a different style. I find that I play a bigger role in decision-making and navigation. In a group of men I often stand back more, despite having the competence to contribute just as much. There’s definitely a difference in leadership styles between men and women. I’m not saying that everyone is in a box, but there often seems to be a softer dynamic in a group of women. Typically I find it’s less competitive. There’s also more giggling!
What’s one item that you always bring on your trips?
I’m in love with my 0.5L nalgene bottle! I use this as a water bottle, hot drink vessel and also as a hot water bottle. It’s so versatile. I’m totally addicted. Shout-out to NOLS for introducing me to the mini nalgene revolution!
What’s the best way to follow your adventures?
These days I’m mostly sharing things through Facebook and Instagram. I’m always stoked to connect with other like-minded women so feel free to get in touch.
Dulkara’s Instagram link: www.instagram.com/dulkara.martig
Dulkara’s adventure page link: www.facebook.com/dulkaramartigadventure
You can follow our upcoming Southern Alps traverse trip on Facebook and via our tracking page. Our Facebook page will be updated (via satellite texting device) regularly throughout the trip.
New plans on the horizon you’re ready to share with us?
I’ve been living a very nomadic life for the past 7 years. My current goals are around finding more balance and reconnecting with communities at home. Next year I’m going to be teaching Outdoor Education at a secondary school in New Zealand. I’ll be paying normal rent for the first time in four years. It will be a huge transition for me - it’s almost a bigger adventure than embarking on a month-long outdoor expedition!
But I don’t plan to settle down in the stereotypical way. And I definitely don’t plan to stop adventuring! In March I’m competing in GODZone, the world’s biggest expedition adventure race. It’s a 10 day adventure race in Fiordland and involves packrafting, hiking, sea kayaking and mountain biking. After that I’m excited to embark on some more multisport packrafting trips and spend some time ski touring in New Zealand. I’d also love to put some energy into making some short adventure films. I often make short films but I’d love to create a really high quality one that’s good enough to get into some international mountain film festivals.