to be grateful or thankful.
Far too often we take what’s in front of us for granted.
It’s why it’s so important to take the time to appreciate what we have, and it’s an important lesson I learned from the one and only Dan Steele.
I’m Aziz Al Sa’afin and I am on leg four of my journey Rediscovering Ruapehu. I’ve teamed up with Torpedo7 and Visit Ruapehu to explore what’s in our own backyard, and discover the gems within it.
I’m all kitted up and read to take on any challenge that comes my way.
I started my journey four weeks ago in a Waka on the Whanganui River, with a man called Willie Huch, in Owhango.
The following week I found myself camping in the Ruatiti Domain with amateur photographer Alex Pearce and adventurer Tom Patrick from Torpedo7.
Last week I was kayaking with Tom and Blue Duck Station’s own Dan Steele, one of the most engaging people I have ever interviewed in my ten years of broadcasting.
Today I’m sticking with Dan, and meeting the wonderful Anna Wilcox, New Zealand freestyle skier and Torpedo7 ambassador.
First port of call is to figure out what we’re doing today - and to do that I need to see what’s in my Torpedo7 bag of goodies. Most important lesson learned so far - have the right gear or else you really are setting yourself up for failure.
Along with her beautiful smile and infectious energy, Anna’s come with some light but sturdy hiking boots, breathable shorts (which is just as well because it’s shaping up to be a hot day and there’s going to be a lot of movement today), and a light shirt (which is just as well because I needed a clean shirt to wear today).
I’m obviously going swimming. No I’m joking (although some would have very much believed that’s what I actually thought - hiking it is!)
I’m equipped and ready to go! Dan turns to me and says we’re going to “the top of the world”. Just the name alone excites me.
Now this is something I do quite regularly in my life. There is nothing quite like escaping into our greater outdoors and letting go of all of life’s stresses. Hiking is actually one of my favourite things to do.
The Blue Duck Station really is one of the most beautiful spots in the region. There’s not a single bar of reception, and both the plant and wildlife is breathtaking. Leave your worries at the gate and put that birdsong on repeat.
Dan’s love for the land is incredibly infectious too. He speaks with passion and mana and conveys just how much he cares about mother nature. Where we are today - the Kaiwhakauka - is quite literally Dan’s backyard. He says to us it’s actually all of our’s too.
We start our hike and Dan says the top of the world isn’t too far away -- again the excitement builds.
The Blue Duck Station really is every adventurer’s dream. Europeans came to this area and over-optimistically tried to farm the land from Maori. Farms were given to the soldiers after World War One but it all failed because the land was unfarmable. Dan says his mission now is to regenerate it and give back to mother nature.
Dan highlights to Anna and I the importance of preserving what we have, and rejuvenating what we have taken from the land, and the little guys that live within. Little guys like the Blue Duck, the region’s namesake. It’s that same Blue Duck you see every day on the New Zealand ten dollar note, which by the way, is even more endangered than Kiwi.
As we make our way up to the top of the world (more excitement), I’m so thankful I’m in the right gear thanks to Torpedo7. My chucks wouldn’t quite cut the mustard for this day.
Much like me, Anna is also taking in all the scenery. This is something she does in her spare time too. We talk quite openly about mental health, and just how important it is to get out. It’s true. Big problems become smaller problems, and smaller problems disappear entirely. That’s nature’s medicine -- something I like to call perspective.
It’s at this moment I realise just how important it is to appreciate what’s right in front of me. Our environment is so special, especially here in New Zealand. It goes hand in hand with how we are brought up here - it’s our natural taonga.
It’s at this point I learn why Dan refers to this place as the top of the world.
It’s the way this place makes you feel. Here I am looking at the most incredible scenery. Lush native bush as far as the eye can see. Mountains lining the horizon, and here we are quite literally with our head above the clouds - on top of the world. The icing on the cake is we are now in eyeline view of the great Ruapehu - breathtaking.