Working on the Greenstone Track

“Working in Paradise” 2008-2012. The Greenstone Track. Lake Wakatipu/Greenstone Conservation Area. The Greenstone Valley was my first introduction into the Hiking Guide role, and in my season with Ultimate Hikes I was on the first GT (Greenstone Track and Routeburn Track combined over six days). It was on this trip, as I stared at the pile of meat, veggies, fruit, cans and loaves of bread, I discovered part of our job was working as a pack horse! Th e first day is travelling from Queenstown to Glenorchy on the very beautiful and iconic road around Lake Wakatipu, and then over the Lake to Greenstone Station and the start of the track. Once everything is either in my bag or hanging off the outside, then it’s off to charming Steel Creek Lodge, located on a high terrace well above the Greenstone River. The next day is further into the valley and where the mountains start to close in around you and increase in size before you arrive at your next night’s accommodation – McKellar Lodge, which is located in a section of beech forest near the tranquil waters of Lake McKellar. It’s usually here that as a guide you discover your pack is full of chicken juice from the slowly defrosting meat you have been carrying for the last couple of days.

I’ll never forget on a GT from Steel Creek to McKellar I was guiding with just one other guide (Dan) and 8 clients, all from New Caledonia and most could only speak a small amount of English. I set off with the team while Dan finished the cleaning at Steel Creek and as we walked the group slowly spread out and I was in the front with the fast walkers, Marcel(72) and his wife, Sophia. I arrived at the chocolate stop, which is a well needed rest point after scrambling over a historic rock slip and now I was just with Sophia and there was no sign of Marcel. I grabbed the block of chocolate and made my way back along the track and after only walking about 20 meters I saw Marcel on the ground and not looking too happy. I ran back and got my first aid kit then ran back to Marcel and helped him into a sitting position on a large rock. Now of all the group Marcel spoke the least amount of English which was nothing, so we had to communicate with pointing and the universal ‘ouch’ noise. He seemed to be pointing at his hip and he seemed keen to stand up… not the best idea as this brought on shock and I now had to lay him down on his pack and wrap him up in an emergency blanket. Poor Marcel had shattered his Femoral Head (top of the femur bone in his leg) and also damaged the inside of his hip socket. Poor Marcel wasn’t going anywhere on his own now and I called in a helicopter rescue. The funny part of the story is when the medic asked if anyone wanted to accompany Marcel to the hospital as there was a spare seat in the chopper? No one stepped forward, not even his wife! They all agreed that as they were having such an amazing time and all really wanted to complete the GT he would be fine waiting in the hospital until they finished the hike in 4 days time!

Lake McKellar from the Look-Out Track

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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