Working on the Humpridge Track

“Working in Paradise” 2014-2017. Humpridge Track. Fiordland National Park. A good friend suggested a change of environment and after the 2014 winter to head to Tuatapere and the Humpridge Track. I had hiked the track with my parents before in 2011 and was blown away by the variety of environments experienced within just three days of solid hiking. The track isn’t short (far from it!), but the reward of the location of each lodge and the magnificent scenery along the way make it well worth the grind! My first role on the track was floating Lodge Manager, working at both Okaka Lodge and Port Craig Lodge for one season. I then became Track Manager and was responsible for the guided trips as well as track and lodge maintenance. I would often walk the track with a saw for downed trees and tools to fix broken boardwalk and often due to the location I would be accompanied by the chilly Southland weather, in which sideways rain in summer was quite common. The job was very satisfying, even when just working in the Tuatapere Visitors Centre, as I would check hikers in on their first day and then see them return after finishing on day three. The condition of each hiker ranged from fighting fit and ready for more, to a slow painful crawl, but ALL were extremely happy to say they had ticked this one off their list. Another very cool job was managing the helicopter loads for each lodge and, of course, the odd ride in a chopper.

I’ll never forget legendary Humpridge Track original Don Brown and myself travelling from Okaka to Port Craig, a distance of 21km, with a chainsaw, brush-cutter and fuel for both plus other assorted tools for maintenance. As we made our way along the boardwalk on the exposed ridge section fixing sections that had been damaged by trees, we were hit by a southerly front laced with freezing cold, sideways rain/sleet and big nasty chunks of hail. It was a real test of how much we loved working in such an incredible environment, no matter what the weather! We encountered possibly a couple too many large rimu and beech trees across the track and each one needed a lot of cuts before we could push it off the track. It was a massive day and just over twelve hours after leaving Okaka we staggered into Port Craig hungry and satisfied with what we had achieved on the journey. Another enjoyable part of the job was taking the odd guiding trip, either with the very well pampered guided walkers or sometimes school groups. The kids in the school group defiantly make less noise during the grunt up the ‘hill’ at about the ‘4km to go’ sign on their way up to Okaka Lodge.

Just another day in the office

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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