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

“On a Mish” #294 Early Birds (Part Two). Hanging Valley Track. Patea / Doubtful Sound. Fiordland National Park. 10.8.2021. As a kid I would have never pictured myself as an educator. I love guiding and telling stories, but dealing with kids I usually leave for someone else as I am usually at a loss as to how to deal with them. Looking back it is incredible what kind of journey my life has taken over the years. Wrecking my back years ago led to a massive change in lifestyle and work, and I still credit that injury as one of the most important points in my life…

After my hip accident in 2020 I thought many times that my career working in the wilderness of Aotearoa was over. There were some very dark times sitting around doing very little but thinking about the days I used to roam the hills. I needed something and luckily a new path was put before me.

The new direction my life took was first work at the Te Ana-Au Glowworm Caves on the shores of Lake Te Anau, and then the opportunity to work at the school camps in Deep Cove. The buzz word I heard was “work at Deep Cove” so I was in and I was keen.

After doing a few trips I got used to the job and how to deal with younger humans. It was long before I began to really enjoy passing on my love, passion and enthusiasm for Fiordland.

The norm on most school caps was to do a couple of walks in the area and then finish off with a cruise on one of the Real Journeys boats around Patea / Doubtful Sound. I was blown away by how keen the team was to do all of the walks in the area. Normally there isn’t enough time to do everything so after cramming a lot into the first day I figured we would have a reasonably chill morning before the cruise.

During the evening a very cool part of the job / adventure is showing the kids and adult kids the magical glow worms that are only a short walk away from the hostel. It was during this evening stroll that the adult leader told me the team wanted to head up the Hanging Valley Track at 6.30am the next morning. I thought he was joking at first.

To my absolute surprise the early birds were all ready to go at 6.30am. At first I let their very keen leader lead, but when he failed to find the start of the track I took over. With only the lights of our head torches lighting the way we began to climb. Also as if it wasn’t challenging enough scrambling up the track in the dark, it began to rain and rain hard!

It was tough and my ailments were aching the whole way, but with a massive smile of satisfaction and enjoyment on my face I congratulated the adventurous team of early birds at the top of the track. It was a real Fiordland start to our day.

What goes up must come down and the hike was painful all of the way down. The excellent connection with the kids worked like a bandaid on my old-man-hips, and knowing I was struggling the kids became the guides helping me all the way down with the distraction of songs and jokes.

Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the cruise with the team as I had travelled as far as I could and needed to get off my feet. After such an epic couple of days it was sad to say goodbye to the inspiring little dudes. Hopefully the experience gave the little fellas an appreciation of what they can do with a little effort, I definitely appreciated their help getting down the Hanging Valley Track! Also hopefully their time in the fiord with me had sowed the seeds to a future some of them to have a career of excitement and enjoyment in New Zealand tourism just like me…

Heavy Rain Falling on the Hanging Valley Track

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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