The legendary tale of Reko

A three-legged pot, two explorers, one epic adventure.

Our story begins where many good legends do, in the stunning South Island of New Zealand. Journey back in time with us to 1853, when lush flora ruled the land, native fauna filled the air and the epic trails of today were yet to be blazed.

A pioneering explorer by the name of Nathanael Chalmers required the expert assistance of a local guide to lead him through the wilderness. What he found was a legendary story-teller and like-minded adventurer – Reko.

A Maori leader whose ancestors travelled the land for generations, a knowledgeable escort whose hospitality and respect for nature, place and people was unsurpassed. In return for his service, Reko asked for but one modest reward – Chalmers’ three-legged cooking pot.

Together they traversed into scapes yet to be explored by European settlers, from deep valleys, crystal-clear rivers and rugged mountains, to the wild interior we now know as Central Otago. Chalmers became the first of his people to lay wide eyes on the serene lakes of Wanaka and Wakatipu, Queenstown. While his discoveries are celebrated to this day, Reko’s story remains largely unknown. Until now.

As lovers of legendary tales, we traced Reko’s surviving descendant to Invercargill in the hope of hearing this magnificent story first hand. In true Reko style, Alexander Reko Hesselin took us on a moving journey to his ancestor’s grave in Tuturau and the three-legged pot, which up until recently sat as an ornament beside his fireplace.

With Alex’s blessing, we are delighted to bring you ‘REKO Private Guides’. A celebration of a legend. A continuation of an ethos to share, respect and preserve our unique environment, culture and history. An opportunity for keen explorers just like you to create your own worthy tale in the majestic South Island of New Zealand and form your connection to a land like no other.

Join one of our passionate, knowledgeable guides, craft a bespoke adventure and follow in the footsteps of Reko, made more than 150 years before us.

— Mark Orbell, REKO Private Guides founder and lover of legendary tales

  • Bespoke connections

  • Legendary story-tellers

  • Hands-on conservation

  • Celebration of culture and community

Following in the footsteps of Reko

We’ve spent years scouring Central Otago for the best guides, worthy of following in Reko’s footsteps. And what sizable footsteps they are to fill. Today, we’re proud to introduce our family of expert, passionate and knowledgeable locals who love, live and breathe adventure and don’t mind telling a story – or two.

“I gave Mark my blessing, as it ensures Reko’s story will be positively retained well into the future. So far there are two in my whanau bearing the Reko name, so long may it go on.” – Alexander Reko Hesselin.

Mark Orbell

I’ve been in the guiding industry for more than 25 years. I’ve either hiked or driven most of the South Island’s great tracks. Yes the scenery is world class but what really makes a great guiding experience is the relationship you create with your customers and the stories you share. That’s what people remember and that’s what makes this job rewarding and gets me out the door every day.

Top Tip: When in Wanaka make sure you take a walk on the Outlet Track alongside the mighty Clutha River, absolutely stunning and easy too.

Neil Robinson

My position as a driver/guide with Ridgeline Adventures is a natural progression following a lifetime of work and leisure in the natural world.
I really love sharing our amazing local attractions with other people, and especially enjoy the interaction with our guests.

My farming background came from 40 years on our 1000Ha family sheep and beef cattle property in West Otago, assisted by my wife Lyn and our three sons.
In 2001, when our eldest son took over the farm, Lyn and I shifted to Wanaka.
For the following 18 years I realised a childhood dream, and with my own team of dogs, worked as a shepherd on many Upper Clutha stations.
Although my dog team is now dispersed, I still regularly help out on various local farming properties.

Wanaka is a great base for all my current leisure pursuits; tramping, skiing, mountaineering, jet boating and bridge.

David Cooper

Having farmed sheep, beef cattle and crops in the Nelson/ Tasman district for 25 years, I decided it was time for a lifestyle change. My wife and I moved to Wanaka in 2017 and I started driving for Ridgeline Adventures enabling me to show off some of New Zealand’s fabulous scenery with it’s creations and history while retaining the ability to stay connected to and portraying farm life balanced with the seasonal cycles of nature.

Alan Richardson

I was raised on a sheep and beef farm near Invercargill. I joined the export meat industry, mostly marketing internationally – initially to USA/Canada but spending most time developing products for both North and South East Asian markets, where his interest in the local cuisines was helpful.

In more recent years, I worked for the New Zealand Government’s ‘Export Development Agency”, helping New Zealand businesses connect with opportunities overseas. Here, I also realised how much he enjoyed sharing New Zealand scenery and culture with visitors.

I have been a regular visitor to Central Otago all my life moving permanently to Wanaka in 2010.

Top Tip: Look out for the massive trout and eels from the end of the wharf on Wanaka’s lakefront. Hint: polarised glasses make them much easier to spot.

Lloyd Thayer

My former life was as a deer farmer in Gore for 32 years and my passion for people and community saw me heavily involved in Theatre both onstage and behind the scenes and 3 years managing a multipurpose theatre. Fun times but not as much fun as life is now.

Top Tip: Take a drive, or be driven across town to Forest Heights and Platinum Ridge and you will see why people want to live here. It is not only about the activities, it is the passive beauty of this place and our people.