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THE TALE OF DORIS THE MOUNTAIN DUCK

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

A Young-Wilkin Adventure – written by Sylvie Admore, Blair Ramsdale, Matthew Battley, Finn Drummond & Carmen Chan.


This story was written on the back of a printed map of the Young-Wilking Valley. Passed on from person to person at the dinner table throughout the expedition, the tale of Doris was soon born.


Siberia Hut: 25th of November 2014

Once upon a time, there was a duck named Doris. Doris spent most of her time foraging for dropped morsels of food in Western Springs park and dreaming of the future. One day, an intrepid bunch of hardy AUTC trampers were dishing out bread and talking about lofty peaks, wide open space and the Life of Brian. With their Happiness and Contentedness rubbing off on Doris, she was inspired to turn her life around. Using a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel, Doris stealthily hid in one of the tramper’s bags, nestling between some scroggin and polyprop for a ride into the wilderness. Disguising herself as a duck sleeping bag, Doris snuck through airport security and was loaded into the aircraft for her flight into an unknown South Island location. Initially, Doris ended up in Westport. However, terrified upon landing in the desolated landscape, she followed her homing instinct, got the duck out of there and flew to Wanaka.


Upon seeing the approaching mountains, Doris suddenly had a Significant Realisation: She was neither a mallard, or even a paradise duck. She had realised her calling – she was a mountain duck! With inspiration coursing through her avian veins she headed west, the rising summits of the Southern Alps shining in her eyes. From her eye in the sky, she suddenly spotted the same bunch of trampers! (They must have got a connecting flight further south). Swooping down towards them she lands in the panoramic mountain town of Makarora! ‘Thank God it had a Pub!’, she ejaculated. After a contented sleep in the Visitor’s Centre Campground, Doris woke to see the morning light creep slowly into the valley, unveiling an awe-inspiring vista.


Kerin Forks Hut: 26th of November 2014

Doris decided to tramp into Wilkin Valley. Starting at the Young River she floated upstream towards Gillespies Pass. However as Doris approached the head of the valley she noticed that that mountains and snow were not what she expected. These were no Auckland ‘mountains’ but two kilometer high peaks carved out by ancient glaciers! Realising that there was more to this ‘tramping thing’ than she’d thought, Doris floated down the river to find someone to show her the ways of the tramper. At first, she tried the Visitor’s Centre, but no one would serve her, because she was a duck. Feeling dejected, Doris walked slowly along the Makarora River when she noticed a kea flying high above. Quacking as loud as she could, Doris attracted the kea’s attention. The kea wolf-whistled and swooped down to land beside her. They gaze into each others beady eyes and recognize within each other a kindred spirit – the call for the wild. ‘Quack’, said Doris. ‘Keaaah!’, said the Kea. ‘Do you come here often?’ Doris, distracted by the kea’s sleek plumage stood open-beaked for a second before replying with a strangled quack. The kea cackled, spraying shards of a recently destroyed hut onto the riverbank. ‘You’re new around here, aren’t you’, he said. ‘From Auckland by the sounds of it’. [*insert tramp talk then…] ‘This is how you tramp yo!’.


Top Forks Hut: 27th & 28th of November 2014:

Doris slept soundly and awoke early at five in the morning to head into the wilderness. Fortunately Doris was travelling alone and did not have to make a consensus to decide the get up time. Doris’s city legs soon tired easily from the hard work paddling and walking up the Young Valley. However, with a stout spirit, she was undeterred by the looming steepness of Gillespies Pass and approached a tarn at Gillespie’s Basin. Seeing the red markets ascend upwards 890m into the distance, she spread her wings to prepare to flap up to the summit. As she was spreading her wings however, Doris remembered the call of the mountains that had grasped her as she arrived in the South Island – the call that told her that she was a mountain duck. She should walk the hills – not fly above them! Doris was stumped. Her eyes wandered upwards, gazing at the snowy peaks above. If she were to give up the gift of flight and accept this new course, how was she to learn the many skills needed for land based mountain travel? Just as she was pondering this dilemma, Doris noticed a flitting shape darting amongst the rocks a little further onwards Intrigued, she called out ‘Hello – who’s there?’. At that moment the shape skimmed over the tuft of tussock towards her, the green blur slowing until it resembled a tiny bird with gleaming eyes and a proud, white breast. ‘Y-y-your different’, piped the bird. Doris nodded, declining to point out her respective, and similar opinion. ‘I’m Robbie the Rockwren – rock and ice climber extraordinaire!’ the wren peeped. ‘How can I help?’ ‘Well’, said doris. I’ve been internalising a complicated situation in my head’. I don’t think I should fly. I’m a mountain duck… could you teach me to climb a mountain?’.


‘Well’, said the Rock Wren, ‘One of the most important skills I know of is how to self arrest’. ‘What’s that?’, asked Doris. ‘Does it involve any policemen?’ ‘No silly!’, tittered Robbie, ‘self arresting is how you stop yourself sliding down the mountain if you slip. Grasp your ice-axe in your uphill wing and if you slip, position yourself over the ice-axe with your knees on the ice Alternatively you might want to use your beak if you don’t have an ice axe!


Epilogue:

Doris ended up learning the ways of the mountain, and became world famous in New Zealand as a mountain duck extraordinaire. Her adventures through New Zealand’s snowy peaks were passed on for duck generations, and were eventually immortalized into duck legend. A mountain in the Southern Alps was eventually dubbed ‘Mount Doris’ in her memory. To inspire future ducklings, Mt. Doris can be view today nestled in between Mt. Awful and Mt. Dreadful from the top of Gillespie’s Pass.


Submitted by Carmen Chan