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'Cinder-fella' moment after curious kea steals trampers' shoes

Apr 29, 2022

A hiker in Wānaka was left with cold feet after a curious kea stole one of his shoes whilst he was camping.

Doctor Hannah Morey, 29, came to the rescue - tracing the thieves, recovering the shoe from their clutches and reuniting it with its owner via Facebook.

Morey and two friends were walking up to Cascade saddle in Mt Aspiring Park near Wānaka, a well known spot for kea.

The native New Zealand alpine parrots are known for their bright plumage, curious nature and tendency to steal from hikers.

Morey said on their climb up to the top of the saddle they saw a man with only one shoe on his way down and moments later friends who had camped at the top the night before told them the hiker had lost a shoe overnight to kea.

"They said to us 'Oh yeah, that poor guy he was up all night with the kea pecking him and they took his shoe'."

Morey and her pals did not have an easy night camping either.

"We were up all night. The kea were crazy, they were unpegging our tent all night (and) it collapsed on us. I woke up to the kea having nibbled a hole in the tent and they were pecking my stomach. I was in and out of the tent all night trying to shoo them away and re-peg the tent.

"At one point I was wearing my friend's shoes to go in and out and we had to bring them inside so the kea wouldn't take them, but in my sleep deprived state I left them out and her shoes got taken.

"So the next morning we were out and I was doing a massive search for her shoes because I felt so bad that I lost her favourite shoes. When we found her shoes luckily and his (the other hiker who lost footwear to the kea) shoe was right next to it.

"I was like, well, I can't just leave this here. I'm going to have to try to get it back to him, but we had no idea what his name was or anything like that so I carried it down and then once we got signal I messaged my friends that I'd seen walking down the hill and asked if they knew him as they had camped the night up there with him."

The friends did not know his name but did know he was Australian, based in Christchurch and liked mountain biking.

Armed with this information, Morey posted on a 'Tramping in NZ group' Facebook page.

"I was like 'This is kind of like a Cinderella love story'. So I posted there (Tramping in NZ) and he was on the page and we found him which was crazy.

"I ended up back in Christchurch over the weekend and that's where he was, so he just he had messaged me and walked down to meet me with just his one shoe on and then I got down on my hands and knees and placed the shoe on his foot and it fitted perfectly.

"I was like 'You are my Cinder-fella' and yeah then he had bought me very kindly a box of beers for my troubles and yeah it was quite pleasantly awkward.

"He was very happy to have it back."

Scott Lange said it was about the funniest single item the kea could steal. Photo: Supplied / Scott Lange

Shoe owner Scott Lange said he never expected to see the missing footwear again.

"As soon as the keas took my shoe I thought the situation was hilarious but I didn't expect it to get this much attention.

"It is just about the funniest single item they could steal from you on a hike."

Main image (RNZ/supplied): Hannah Morey returns the tramper's shoe after tracking him down on Facebook.

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