Walking with Ruud
The Milford Track came alive in December with its smaller inhabitants unearthed by the Bug Man. Ruud Kleinpaste, renowned entomologist walked with us on a memorable trip.
In December 2012, Ruud Kleinpaste, world renowned entomologist and 'bug man' hosted a unique group of walkers on the Milford Track Guided Walk with Ultimate Hikes.
Ruud has enjoyed a career in broadcasting, both on Television and Radio. He has created a reputation for knowing a great deal about insects and biodiversity, and has his own series on Animal Planet called "Buggin with Ruud".
Ruud's following on Newstalk ZB ensured the walk was very popular with New Zealanders, some of them keen to learn more about our native flora and fauna, and all of them to enjoy his enthusiasm and intelligence first hand. The kiwis were joined by walkers from Ireland, the US, Singapore and Australia, who soon saw the value in choosing this particular walk.
Ruud was a fabulous host - right from the beginning on the bus to Te Anau, he joined with Alec our bus driver to provide commentary on the landscape and on conservation programmes operating in the region. At Glade House on the first day of the walk, he led the nature walk describing the purpose of the mosses, lichens and ferns and the bugs that inhabit the area.
For us, it was an enlightening insight into the landscape we are proud to work in, and for our walkers it was a sure sign their experience was going to be a rewarding one!
While the walk took its usual course, it was enhanced by the presentations each night by Ruud about biodiversity and the ways nature can be imitated to create efficiencies and sustainability in the modern world. The weather played its part - providing stunning clear days in the Clinton Valley and over the Mackinnon Pass. And true to form the Arthur Valley was drenched with rain providing spectacular waterfalls and swollen rivers for the walk out to Milford Sound. Truly Fiordland at its best! - and the reason it is a sight only to be experienced is that none but the hardiest of walkers will risk their precious cameras to capture it .
A photo's worth a thousand words though and our head guide Shaun captured some wonderful photos on the first three days, that show the extraordinary plants and insect life that a little patience will reveal on the Milford Track - these are all native to New Zealand.
This was Ruud's first time walking the Milford Track, although he has spent considerable time in Fiordland, and he was pretty impressed with the setup of our guided walk.
In an email following the walk he was fulsome in his praise. "I had a good look at the Ultimate Hikes experience and compared that with what I have seen so far in the Tourism Industry, it truly is incredible; Yes - the Track is... it is also in pretty good condition! And yes the accommodation is fabulous too. The food is stunning (too stunning, really!) and the facilities spotless . The folk that run the Lodges are real people with real service and real smiles and real interests. I suppose if you think about running these outfits in out-of-the-way places and pull it off in such a grand manner, you can call it incredible".
He was particularly enthusiastic about the Guides and what they bring to the hiking experience.
"Now - the factors that really did it for me was your choice of guides. It's always about people, isn't it? Shaun is just the best. He runs his part with kindness and sharp vision, I'd say he chooses his staff with almost military precision and adds a human dose of personality and intelligence to it as well. Trying to get that mix right must be hugely challenging. No wonder then that Phoebe, Constance and Marco were like brothers and sisters, walking the track with us... not as guides, but as mates . Shaun himself is not a bad mate either :-) What this man does not know about botany and ornithology and people management is not worth knowing".
Shaun was gratified by that as they were pretty much maintaining a mutual admiration society throughout the trip, tag teaming each other in providing an overload of information for us lay people.
The experience ended for us as it does for all our walkers, with a cruise on the Milford Sound, though it was a particularly lively bus ride back through the Milford Road - normally a pretty quiet affair. Clearly this was a trip our walkers wanted to savour right to the end of the ride.