Crikey, no post since 23 Dec, I have gotten slack.
As you can imagine, it has been a busy 8 weeks since last post. I am still really enjoying the job, though some days I could happily walk away.
It is can be, but not always, be very physically and mentally demanding. The track is around 54 kms, and that is over 3 days, which depending on a lot of factors can make for a pleasant, or miserable trip.
For each trip, there are three main factors that impact on how well things will go, these are the weather, the walkers, and your guiding group. Yes, your guiding group, they are all very good, and very capable, but we are only people, and some people work better together than others, so who you work with is a big factor. But generally I have been lucky in who I have guided with.
Weather is self explanatory, the walker groups vary each time, on a whole they are usually good. But you can get some very slow walkers at time, I had two late finishes in a row on my last trip, 7.05pm into Quinton which is usually 4ish for the guide role I was in, and next day 8:50 pm into sand fly point that can be anything from 2:50 till 5pm as a rule for last guide, so 8:50 is very slow.
Unfortunately people over estimate their abilities, and under estimate the track. For a fit, experienced tramper/hiker used to normal back country tracks of New Zealand, its a doddle, a very beautiful, wonderful, must do walk. But for walkers not in aforementioned group, it can be a foreboding, rock strewn, very steep, very long 3 days. Don’t let me put you off, if you are moderately fit, and done some long day, or over night hikes in the past, you should be fine. But if you are not overly fit, a lot over weight, have a medical condition or two and not done a lot of walking before, you should remedy a couple of these first. Two days in is a bad time to discover that you are not really up to it.
Heck, when I first did it, I was in the severely obese weight category, not very fit, and loved it. But it was a very tiring 3 days hiking. But, then I had had a lot of tramping experience before I went on to the track.
OK, enough ranting. I am still on track, and generally loving it. I am fitter than I have been since I was 19, my weight is now where is was about 15-18 years ago, and I am learning so many new skills, and meeting so many cool people.
I am currently hanging out in the guide house, sitting here typing listening to various conversations, there was 11 of us in the house last night, though I suspect one stayed away, four went out on track this morn, and so six of us in today, because we all love similar things, we generally get along. I do miss having other Sci Fi fans around, others who will get excited a new episode of “The Orville”, “Dr who” or “Star Trek Discovery” is out, or discuss the finer points of a Peter F Hamilton novel. But you can’t have it all.
Oh well, life’s good. May do some photos today if I can be bothered.
Had a great 3rd guided trip. They just get better, at some point I will have to get a crumby group. But not so far.
Have 5 days off and Katharine, my daughter, has joined me for a quick trip. We have so far taken a boat to Glade House and she has meet some of the staff I work with. Had a great time.
We were going to go camping, but just too wet, so staying in Te Anau roughing it in a hotel. Got an upgraded room, 2nd in a row, not sure why, but hey, who is counting. Me actually, I love it.
Tomorrow out Milford Sound.
Some pics below, from first couple of weeks, will do some more soon now I know how too.
From next Tuesday I am out on a back to back, so that’s two guided trips over nine days.
Will post to instagram while I have 40 mins between trips. Instagram is “brendon_goes_south”
These should be better quality. Hard to tell until I publish.
Will set up another option if needed.
Some images from track.
It is late Friday night. Quick recap.
Enjoyed a few days at home. Caught up with a guide who is off track this year. Mowed lawn, got hair cut.
Flew back to Queenstown, such a lovely place to work.
My second trip had 23 Koreans on it, fortunately enough spoke English, as none of the guides spoke Korean. The rest were from Australia, US, and Scandinavia with a two from NZ. A great group all round who got a great trip, almost no rain over the 5 days. A drought feared.
I took my first group out on the Milford Sound boat tour. Very cool.
We have a pretty cool English bus driver, so far I have had him for every trip. The walkers enjoy his commentary which is both informative and entertaining, As guides we sit up front, so we tend to chat with each other and the driver, which has made the long drives enjoyable.
Today I brought a new roof rack for the wing road, and accompanied by my Guy Williams look a like guide friend, I drove to Clyde to recover Kayak. So hopefully some kayaking soon.
Dinner at the restaurant and bar 1876 with about 9 other guides, very pleasant.
It November 6th, and I am home, in Auckland that is. Taking a week off to catch up with family and rest.
While I managed to blog on my cell phone while on the training trip. Did not happen on my first actual, with clients walking trip.
So with the benefit of a natural keyboard, my super quick pc, I will go back to Nov 1st as much as I can remember it.
So, what I failed to mention in below post is we were late leaving Queenstown due to road closures. We got to our boat at Te Anau Downs a little late, and headed to Glade House wharf.
This is my first group, and from the start they were a great bunch. Pretty safe to say a incredibly varied group, from multiple countries.
After a group photo we settled into the evening routine, myself and the other guides changed showered, ate our dinner, and got ready for the evening meal service. Part of the role as guides is to serve the guests their meals. Many reasons for this, which I won’t go into, but to say the least, the walkers love it.
The food is top notch for both the walkers and staff. We are feed well. Dinner done, an evening briefing and bed.
The walk the next day to the second lodge was straight forward. I was back guide for this, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
That afternoon, after arriving at Pompolona House, a chopper flew in for doc and removed bridges form a nearby stream. This was not a good omen, and the promised rain fell most of the night, heard a rock-slide/avalanche some time around 5.20 am.
Because of the risk factors involved, the operators of the hike had some hard decisions to make. We four guides get to enjoy the walk and meet interesting people, but behind the scenes a slick operation is in place making all the tough calls.
Evening dinner service went well, again we ate very well. An evening briefing for walkers and bed. They were in for a treat next day.
Because of the danger presented with the rain, we could not proceed without a little help. The walkers were briefed at breakfast, and about 2 hours later we where ferrying our 50 hikers and 4 guides the approximately 3 kms from Pompolona Lodge to the Mintaro Hut (Doc) in a helicopter, so much fun, loved by almost all.
The climb over the pass was great but very cold. I arrived at Pass Hut shaking with cold, but that is part of the job, and very quickly I changed into warm gear, was feed, rested and ready to go. The conditions for the afternoon where strong winds and rain, and on several occasions I found my self standing in flooded streams assisting walkers.
I absolutely loved it, for some reason the words to “No Rain” by Blind Melon came to mind and I am singing (loose description) this song at the top of my voice while I waited next to the stream for walkers. It was so cool to be out there, pushed to perform professionally in a challenging environment, I have not often been happier.
As is a case of rinse and repeat, dinner, briefing and bed at Quinton lodge. Next day was wet, but no where near as much rain.
Final day sees us walking under the watchful eye of Mt Ada, covered in snow, and looking awesome.
Dinner at Mitre peak lodge in Milford Sound, a visit to the glow worms, and bed.
Then it is a pleasant drive back to Te Anau and then Queenstown.
Final Comments: I had the greatest 5 days ever in terms of a job. I am happy to be out and home, but can’t wait to go back. I think this is going to be the best 6 months of my life for the longest while.
Thanks for reading. New update soon. And I promise photos, I need to get software on my phone sorted, the only image software I have either reduces the photos to 3 mb, which is beyond the 2 mg limit of blog, or too small to be much use (see earlier post). So hopefully I will get this sorted in the next few days. But I have some great photos to share.
We caught the real journeys boat from Te Anau Downs. From there Glade wharf is an hour away. Very cold on deck, learnt some history of the area. Many guides, a couple of lodge staff that missed earlier boat, and a dozen independent walkers who do the track and stay at the Doc huts.
20 minute walk to Glade House where we did a nature to learn some of the plants and features.
Then room allocation, in a bunk room with 3 others. But yay, after a shower Graham and I got upgraded to a twin suite. Very comfy.
A briefing followed, then a very yummy dinner. More briefings. And bed. Feeling a bit flush, but came to nothing.
Next day, no hot water, teething issues, but all good. Yummy breakfast of eggs, sausage and bacon.
Walk to lunch hut. And then on to Pompalona Lodge for a coffee and scone. A bunk room 4 others. And then yes Graham and I got the upgrade again.
We had the walker briefing followed by dinner and a guide briefing. Then some free time, do some stretches, chat with other guides and then an early night, lights out when generator goes off early at 9.30 instead of the usual 10.
Slept well and up for coldish shower, and then bacon and eggs bene. We eat well out here.
Light rain off and on most of day. Starting to question my sanity doind this. But body is holding out so far. All the training is hard going, a lot of stops as we go to learn about different areas in terms of risks, history plants etc…
When we were about 20 mins out from Pompalona Lodge we heard a massive avalanche crashing down the valley further up. And today we saw one, quite high up in the walls of the valley but very cool. We also heard some massive ones this afternoon under the Jervois Glacier. We got into Quinton Lodge about 4.40pm. Dinner was very nice. Again we are feed well. I will cover off some the history around the lodges in later blogs.
We had a quick briefing tonight followed by some free time.TThen bed.
A full day at Quinton Lodge. This started with breakfast, the briefing then with near full packs out Sutherland Falls. Snack break, photo ops, and back to lodge. On the way we had a scenario to deal with. We have come across a barely conscious hiker who is down with a suspect able break.
The training has consisted of many such scenarios, this along with recollections of incidents where they happened along the track has left us all feeling like we can also manage a crisis situation with confidence.
We have a huge amount of support on the track. 3 other guides, Queenstown base and of course the lodge staff.
After our return to lodge we had shelter training and visited an old replica hut built from beech using Old Time tools and techniques by one of the lodge managers, Bill Anderson about 70 years ago. Will do a separate post on him later, quite the charector.
This was followed by more briefings then a welcomed lunch of mince pies, sausage rolls, salads and sandwiches.
Afternoon was map training, followed by some freetime. I joined about 8 others who headed to a swimming spot for a swim. Very cold beautiful and well worth it.
Dinner that night was fantastic, dory fillets followed by a very nice caramel dessert. We are the test subjects for the lodge staff getting ready for the season. We all happily played our part.
More briefings followed by some free time before the generator goes off. I went to my room early collecting clean and dry washing on the way from the drying room. Pack packed and ready to go I was in bed by 9.40 ready for lights out.
Up at 6, shower and out to make lunch. A table set with bread, meats and spreads along with salads is set up by staff early for walkers and guides to make lunch that we carry on track with us. Breakfast, quick briefing and we are off down the Arthur Valley to Milford Sound.
Rain for the first hour or so. We passed Dumpling Hut, then quick break and boat shed, and on to lunch at Giants Gate waterwall. Lying in the sun eating my lunch. A few brave souls went for a swim. I passed on this today.
Shortly after lunch we did whats called a guide pace mile. In short that is legging it as fast and safely as you can between mile markers. The entire track has a green post with the mile number on it. While this is nice for walkers, for us it means we can safely estimate how long it will take for us to get to another guide if assistance is needed, for example there may be a tricky water crossing that requires 2 guides to assist walkers across at 100 yards past the 6th mile marker, I may have just past the 5th, so the guide waiting knows that he will have assistance in about 15 minutes.
Needless to say sustaining such a pace for a mile is not easy. But we all did it, and have a better understanding of our own and each others abilities.
Sandfly point lived up to its name, another procedures briefing, followed by a boat ride to Milford Town Wharf.
A quick bus ride to Mitre Peak Lodge. A quick briefing given by lodge manager and off to our rooms for a quick shower and some freetime.
We had all shortly gathered into a huge circle of chairs as we chatted, with us all having been dry for 5 days, it had the eary feeling of an AA meeting.
One more presentation, a briefing followed by the bar opening. Then off to dinner. The food was quite brilliant.
I will cover of meals and our involvement in these in later blogs.
We had a great evening, played a game called fish bowl, a great opportunity to get to know the other guides. The last time the Milford guides will all be together for a while. We join the routeburn guides for dinner tonight. But that really will be the end of us all being together, we then start work and there will be guides I may not see again till end of season next April.
Early morning rise again, knee a bit dodgy, breakfast, some un packing of new lodge furniture and another briefing then on to the bus for our return trip to Queenstown. I put on my earphones and turned on music and just watched the beautiful landscapes passby. What a very awesome experience. The skies are clear, the mountains have snow on the peaks. Wow, just so awesome.
For me, I am up at 6.45 tomorrow for a 7.30 departure to join 3 other guides and meet of first 50 walkers all keen to experience one of the most awesome walking experiences in the world, but then I may be bias on that one.
We spent Thursday morning doing last minute gear purchases. Got a new puffer jacket and a pack liner.
Then it was back to guide house for lunch and chill time.
Then the packing started in earnest. With many guides in the house there was gear, packs and people all over. Short time later we were weighing and finalising contents. Mine weighed in at 11kgs so pleased with that. About middle for the group.
Ate pizza at lake edge fighting off ducks, they are a menace here.
Quiet evening at home, earlyish night.
Woke early, the Routeburn Guides were up first and out by 6.30. Then it was Milford guides turn, we had a later start with a 7.30 departure from house.
Quick briefing at office, we received our guide manuals and reference books. And then on to bus.
As I write this we are travelling next to Lake Wakitipu heading to Te Anau for a lunch break, then on to Te Anau Downs where we get on boat and out of cell range.
We are at Glade House tonight.
Will fully update when we get back.
Today we had our last day of training in the office we covered off the workplace manual.
We had a couple of reps from different trusts to talk about the work they are doing,
The first was from the “The Kea Conservation Trust” (https://www.keaconservation.co.nz/). This was a very cool talk about a very awesome bird. We are going to be working with this group to help tag and access the Keas in the Routeburn and Milford track areas.
The second was the “Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust” (https://rdwt.org/) their main focus is to eradicate pests in the general Routeburn dart conservation areas. In doing this they are help the numbers of rock wren, mohua (yellow heads) and one of my favorites, the riflemen recover. I recommend visiting there site. The company I work for are now working with them on this project and helping with funding.
On a different note, I got my laundry washed and dried. So wee hee clean clothes.
Tonight’s the night my flatmates decided to have a flat warming. They all got dressed up in funny shirts from Salvation Army, put on food and a had a great night. I only stayed for a couple and then headed out for a night walk. Unfortunately I had picked up the wrong head lamp, not bright enough for night hiking, so only did a short bush walk, and then stuck to street with lights.
Tomorrow we have a break before we head out for our training on the track, we got rosters confirmed today, I am going out on the first of November so this means I will get back from training on the 31st and have one night at home and straight back out on the track next day so I need to make sure all my kit is ready to go tomorrow because I’m not going to have a chance to fix anything after the training run.
After my first guide trip I have a break of five days and will head home to Auckland for a few days to catch up with family and friends, very happy about this.
We spent the day doing first aid training with St Johns. Big group of 60 plus guides. Still meeting new ones.
Caught up with Kelvin who was one of our guides when we did the walk as clients back in March.
Not having the computer to kill time has been a bigger adjustment than would have thought. Reading a lot more, so that is a positive.
Starting to tell people about blog now there is some content.
Living and working down here with such beautiful back drops as the Remarkable Range, Walter Peak, Ben Lomond etc is just crazy. And the lake is stunning.
Went for a walk around part of lake Hayes, again, so picturesque.
Funny thin about Queenstown is most of people here a either young, as in 20 something, or retirees, very few in the 30 – 60 age group. unless you count family groups. And then not a lot of those.
I will do a round up of photos at some point.
We have one more day in the office, then a day off, then we are on the track for training for 6 days. We stay at Glade House, Pompolona for 1 night a piece, Quentin Lodge for 2 nights then Mitre Peak Lodge for one night.
Then it’s out and back to Queenstown. And next day November 1st and start of season, will let you all know when I go out for my first trip as soon as it is confirmed,
We had a quiet evening, flat party tomorrow night, that will be interesting.