By Sarah Mankelow
A wife’s gift to her husband of a day out with DOC rangers proved to be a life-changing experience for both recipient Grant Vincent, and for Aoraki/Mt Cook staff.
Each year, DOC staff at Aoraki/Mt Cook fly into Mueller Hut to prepare it for winter. The chance to go along on the flight was offered as a prize on a Trademe auction as part of the Million Dollar Mouse campaign. This trip provided a rare opportunity for members of the public to experience firsthand some of the work that DOC does daily to protect our unique wildlife and special landscapes.
The Mueller Hut trip in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park was always going to be one of the gold star experiences on offer, but even DOC staff were amazed about how wonderful it turned out to be.
The trip was won by Wendy Vincent of Gisborne, as a gift for her husband Grant. Grant’s brother Murray had died in 2008, after falling at Barron Saddle while tramping in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.
Dave Winterburn, Programme Manager Visitor Assets, explains how the trip went:
“We arranged for Grant to come for a week, and this gave us some leeway with weather. As a result he became a ‘villager’ for a week, joining the DOC crew at quiz night and smokos.
“The weather was terrible all week, but Friday dawned ‘blue bird’. Grant joined DOC rangers Marcus Reid and Karen Jackson on a flight to Barron Saddle to switch the toilet tanks over. They flew via Freds Stream and the Dobson Valley, the route Murray intended to take on his last trip in the mountains. They landed at Barron Saddle Hut where Grant read Murray’s last entry in the hut book, and then wrote his own entry.
“They then flew onwards to Mueller Hut where Grant was able to spend some reflective time in the mountains, while DOC staff winterized the hut. After lunch and a brew they flew back and joined the full DOC crew for dinner that evening.
“From talking to him, I gathered it was quite an emotional day for Grant. I’m not sure it was ‘closure’ but he was certainly happy to visit the place his brother died.”
And in Grant’s own words…
“Tomorrow (Friday 27) is exactly four weeks since that amazing helicopter flight to Barron Saddle and Mueller huts. Thanks again for a really special and unforgettable day!
“Thanks again for everything, making my visit something I can tell my grandchildren about, so that Murray can be remembered by his family. I have the ‘terra/link’ Aoraki/Mt Cook alpine area map on the floor at the moment and it’s hard to believe that I was there this time a month ago, doing all that I did. I feel a real affinity for that stunning area because of Murray and my visit, and will certainly be back.
“Cheers for now and regards to all—and carry on protecting our natural heritage.”