Early Birds (Part One) – An Epic Way to Start the Day

“On a Mish” #294 Early Birds (Part One). Deep Cove. Patea / Doubtful Sound. Fiordland National Park. 9.8.2021. It is strange how this world can give you something unexpected but then take it away before you get the chance to really appreciate it. A series of coincidences led to a job as Team Leader on the Fiordland Navigator. However before I could really settle into the job I was ‘fridged’ off the water and into the medical world. With my ability to return to the Navigator taken away I had to follow another path and on that journey I would not only discover a whole new side of myself, but I would also have an encounter with some very keen early birds…

Not being much of a water person did make it ironic that I worked on a boat. As strange as it sounds, I wasn’t there to sharpen my skills as a sailor, I was far more interested in the magnificent area surrounding the waters the vessel travelled through. Fiordland has fascinated me from the moment I walked into it from the Greenstone Valley on my first Ultimate Hikes training trip a long time ago.

I really look up to Sir Les Hutchins and his goal to show as many people what he called ‘his backyard’ as possible. No doubt the addition of the Manapouri Power Station Road has opened the door into a wild part of Fiordland National Park to pretty much anyone.

After a very unexpected end to my work on the Humpridge Track, I headed north to live in Te Anau with my girlfriend who worked on the Milford Track. I needed some form of income so I got a job at the Real Journeys Cafe in Manapouri. Not really my cup of tea (pun intended), but it was a foot in the door of the massive company that began showing people Fiordland’s epicness back in 1954.

It was only a matter of weeks before I got my first opportunity to go to the place many say they would love to go to, and after working in a place covered in pictures of Doubtful Sound I knew I was in for a treat (unless there was a lot of photoshop work in the pictures!).

Thankfully my adventure into Deep Cove wasn’t a one off and after my first trip I have had many, many opportunities to cross Lake Manapouri and drive over Wilmot Pass(671m). The trip into the Fiord never gets old, and as I am fond of a snowy peak or two, winter is one of the best times to visit the place.

Unfortunately my winter in Fiordland during 2020 was written off by my fridge related hip accident. Over a year later and with many hours of physio I was back and keen to make the most of winter 2021.

At the worst points of my injury recovery my accident had me thinking that I might not ever see the mesmerising mountains of Doubtful Sound again, as working on the Fiordland Navigator is far too demanding for someone with a bad hip like me. It made me very sad and depressed when looking at pictures, I did think that a normal life out of the mountains was beckoning. But it was as if life was listening and feeling my yearning to visit Doubtful Sound again, and to my amazement I was gifted the opportunity to work as the Nature Guide for school camps at the Deep Cove School Hostel.

Awesome job life! Once again I had a job that involved the mission of getting across Lake Manapouri and over Wilmot Pass(671m) just to start work. A morning commute I will never grow tired of.

I was nervous my hip might be an issue during the job but I’d rather try and fail than not try at all. So on a snowy day in the Fiordland mountains I caught up with the next school group I would be the Nature Guiding for in Deep Cove. The group seemed like a rather motivated bunch (especially the team’s leader), but little did I know that the next morning these early birds would all take flight up a steep mountain track…

Patea / Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass(671m)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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