I’ve begun to hate the sound of the generator starting up, which demands my consciousness early in the morning. On this day though, the fourth day, I’m practically leaping out of bed with anticipation. A helicopter has been scheduled – unfortunately on the first day, one of the dinghy’s outboard motor was damaged and a new one must be flown in. The flip side for me is that I get to go on my first helicopter ride and I am beyond excited. We meet the chopper on the shore of the cove at 7.30am. The old motor is swapped out for a new one and three of us trappers jump in the helicopter.
It’s a textbook, calm, blue morning – the first blue sky of the trip. As the chopper rises out of the cove, sunlight streams in and I get a view of the beech forest from above. The valleys and peaks are quite impressive. We follow a ridgeline up and burst over the top to a panorama of islands scattered around the entrance of the sound, and the open sea beyond. It was so surprising I am only just registering the beauty when we start descending to Philips bivvy, on a spur below. We jump out, grab our gear and the pilot is off. My first helicopter flight is over in all of two minutes, but I am on cloud nine.
The three of us each have a trap line to run from the bivvy down to the sea in various directions. Mine (number 7 and 8) takes me through the alpine tussocks and up and over a knob with a view back to the bivvy. In the tussocks I find Powelliphanta carnivorous snails. I’m extremely excited as I have only read about these in books. Several species are in danger of extinction due to predation and loss of habitat. I’m lucky to see one in broad daylight as they are usually nocturnal! I carry on my way and can’t help but take pictures on my way down the ridge. I can see the whole entrance to the sound and all of the nearby islands (Anchor, Pigeon, Parrot, Indian and Long) as well as the five fingers peninsula stretching out. Even from up here I can see the raging white waves crashing into the shorelines. Over the radio, Louise who was also dropped at Philips bivvy, informs everyone she is being snowed on! It’s a bizarre thought when I am so close to her and in such perfect weather but is a harsh reminder of how careful you have to be in Fiordland. On my way down I have several encounters with curious birds, including kaka, robins and rifleman. The island is abundant with birds and as I rhythmically check my traps (all of which are empty), I am reminded of the importance of my task.
The sunlight seems to highlight every colour in the bush, and it’s not long before I am at the access track at the bottom of my line – still with no captures. I scramble down this and make my way to a river nearby, and using my GPS, navigate my way down to the shore. I radio for the boat, but it’s busy with others so I put up my feet on the little beach I have descended to and take in the scenery while I wait. I can hear the chainsaw of other groups who are cutting a new A24 line.
When I am picked up, a few of us have an early finish so we set up the rods for a spot of fishing. Within five minutes we have three large blue cod. Hamish is off crayfish and paua diving around the rocks with Pete – we have the makings of a seafood buffet. We are missing Jamie for the night, who has spent the day walking up to Mt Clerke bivvy and is staying there overnight to walk another trap line out tomorrow. The bivvys are equipped with food, bait, sleeping bags and all equipment so trappers don’t need to carry anything other than their usual day pack with them. The bait quantities required at each bivvy have carefully been calculated beforehand and helicoptered in. The bivvys are removable so they can be transferred by helicopters as and when the trap lines are moved. We finish the day with some planning for tomorrow.
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