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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 16: Waterproof Tent

Mike and Ellen drying sheetsI wake without a hangover to look out of my window. Paradise is waiting for me just the other side of the log wall. Mike and I mess about for much of the morning trying to dry the various sheets and anticipating the camp out.

We escape from the sawmill at lunchtime in the little Hughes. From the air we can see the paths that the local rivers have taken over the last few centuries as winding depressions in the flat grassland near the coast. Even today the rivers constantly change course.

We approach Mt. Rangitoto, which for a short while will be our home and soon land in the tiny clearing. This time we are filmed, and have to be very careful to get things right. Our pilot, Chris Cowen, does a superb job. As the helicopter flies away the cold hits us.

While we are on the mountain Chris' ground crew, Peter, will be looking after us. He is a great bloke and helps out with a chainsaw. He knows a bit about the bush and has strong, sensible views about the ecological problems that New Zealand is suffering. In particular the huge culls of Thar, which he thinks is tragic.

Mike and Mike by tentBy mid-afternoon the shelter (nicknamed 'the Edifice' by Martin) is all but finished, so Mike and I start on a bottle of brandy that we brought up with us. All too soon it is dark. Martin has sorted out a makeshift kitchen in the porch of the old miners' hut, which is the only part of the place that isn't rotten, and together with Peter, Derek and John (the cameraman and sound recordest) we have some dinner and drink more brandy and wine.

By the end of the evening Mike and I are amusingly intoxicated. Neither of us are capable of talking any sense to the camera and at one point Mike ends up laying on the ground amid frozen blades of grass claiming that he is going to sleep right there under the stars. I can sort of see his point. The stars are the best that I have ever seen and in the Southern hemisphere look very different to home. I crawl into the tent. It is surprisingly warm because of the hot rocks and would remain so until early morning. Amazingly it was one of the most comfortable nights that I have ever spent in a tent.

Note about filming this challenge
The tent sequence was filmed on private land (not government land administered by NZ DOC) with the full knowledge and co-operation of the owners. The production team were advised by a member of the Westland District Council and accompanied by an experienced bushman.

The area where the vegetation was cut down is a landing site for helicopters for the owners to access their land (the vegetation is cut back regularly in this area to allow safe landing for helicopters).

The production team worked closely with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand to minimise any impact from filming.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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