Hut serves mince pies – and highland games

OCH AYE: Department of Conservation ranger Clive Rule.
OCH AYE: Department of Conservation ranger Clive Rule.

Christmas in Fiordland National Park is part of the deal when you are a Department of Conservation hut ranger.

Working his 18th season on the Routeburn, Clive Rule is renowned for ensuring trampers have a memorable stay at the Mackenzie hut during the holiday period, including feeding out more than 400 homemade Christmas mince pies.

"My son Martin helps me by cutting the pastry. He's done this since he was 4 years old and is now 20 years old. Why do I make them at the hut? Simple, there's no way I'll carry 400 mince pies in my pack to Mackenzie hut ... I do walk in.

"I cook the mince pies for the independent trampers and the guided walkers to eat after we sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve and Christmas night."

This year about 60 trampers were to celebrate Christmas at the Mackenzie hut on the Routeburn track.

Those staying tomorrow night will also be able to take part in Mr Rule's annual highland games.

The day includes tossing the caber, shot put, golf, highland dancing and Mr Rule's homemade haggis, Scotch broth, baps and Christmas cake.

"I've done the highland games for five years now and the reason for the Scottish theme is because of Lake Mackenzie."

Three years ago, trampers at the hut enjoyed the highland games so much they sent a trophy complete with a handknitted highland hat to add to the festivities.

Te Anau DOC programme manager Ross Kerr said Mr Rule really got into the Christmas spirit.

"He manages to decorate his quarters so it looks like Santa's grotto and his highland games have such a reputation that people tramp the five to six hours into the hut to attend," Mr Kerr said.

During the summer season the DOC employs 17 hut rangers and three campsite rangers, who clean all the huts and toilets, ensure gas and water supplies were adequate as well as do some work maintaining tracks.

They could also find themselves giving first aid or organising a medical evacuation, unblocking a sewerage line or clearing a track of snow in mid-summer.

The Southland Times