19 December, 2013 Early evening....
Trying to light a fire in the newly installed wood stove here in Rangi hut. Proving to be hard work as the wood supplied is very damp and even wet due to a leaky shed. There is little hope in finding any wood at all up here above the tree line so I persist. A Ruahine fire built for those whom have taught me. I think I have cracked it finally, and have little better to focus upon right now, as the wind cranks over the hut and the rain pelts on the roof. I was going to proceed along the tops and camp further on, but finding the hut unoccupied and having walked up in a polite, but relentless rain all the way, I am happy to adjust to this alternative. Looking out upon the plains below the weather appears as if it may break. I must write that being dropped off by Tara far below earlier that I was far from eager to shoulder my heavy pack and begin climbing. Yet I did, and three hours later arrived here, wet, a bit chilled, and feeling good. It seems to get harder for me to be able put aside the pre-trip thoughts of nagging doubt, fear of the uncomfortable moments ahead, being alone for the next 5 days and what that represents. I used to only imagine blue skies, glistening rivers, and easy travel. Now it is thoughts of bad weather, heavy loads, and physical and mental hardship that seem to dominate my thoughts before a trip. I must be getting old....
Part of my somewhat maudlin mood is finding out yesterday afternoon, as I was preparing my gear, that a man Tony Gates had died. A Ruahine wanderer since long before I set foot in these ranges, his name appeared in virtually every hut book, and his love for the wilderness of Aotearoa and many other places very apparent in his entries. I have met many people who knew him, most notably my good friend Pohangina Pete, but our paths never did cross. He was only 53 years old, my age. This was an area in particular he roamed a fair bit. The grey day and rain seem a fitting tribute. As does the possibility of the sun that lies behind the storm.
Sheathed within the grey and mist
not revealing the faded footsteps
I will follow
perhaps only a mere wisp away
now not to be
and never will
Instead I shall carry that
furtive glimpse within
These mountains today it seems
weep for you
20 December, 2013...Triangle hut
The first puffy clouds begin to appear over the Whanahuia high above..I had flawless blue skies the whole day amongst the tops and tussock. I left before sunrise in order to be with those special early morning moments when on such days being born as this the alpenglow bathes all in the wonder. The bulks of Ruapehu and the volcano's to the west swathed in pink and purple hues, Maungahuia to the east shimmers in shafts of gold. A day ahead to roam slowly...
Tea time mid morning...the tarns on the Whanahuia.
How many times have I passed this very spot with my head down battened up inside warm clothes and rain jacket buffeted by gales? Far more passing by quickly than a moment like this. One where I can unburden myself from my pack and dig within it to find my tin cup, billy and stove and brew up a hot drink while enjoying a bagel and salami. And more than that to sit shirtless in the sun and have time to scrawl these words in my little notebook! The main Ruahine range looms across the Oroua valley which drops off steeply below me and these lovely tarns, with the Ngamoko further south, and to the north the bulk of Maungamahoe and the Hikurangi beyond. Time to linger awhile in the foolishness of things...a rare enough occurrence here and one to be enjoyed. A perfect day.
Broken Ankle Spur, dropping off the open tussock tops of the Whanahuia and into the head waters of the Oroua valley and Triangle hut far below. It is a beautiful view, but one to be appreciated when stopped and feet firmly planted. The upper forest is in sight but getting there seems to take hours, sliding the feet along to find a stable step in the steep tussock terrain. Sweat pours into my eyes, and the occasional curse word is uttered as I hit a hole and stumble down, always down. At times it seems easier to descend on top of the vegetation rather than through it...hearty customers to survive in such elements. I think of the forest and the sweet cold water which awaits below. And carry on...
20 Dec. Evening Triangle hut....Sitting on the hut porch watching the last of the sun fade away over the tops above and enveloping the forest down here in the valley in heavy shafts of dying light. A few puffy clouds drift lazily overhead, the first I have seen all day. I arrived here hot, sweaty and tired, and not long after was embraced by the icy coolness of a lovely pool just above which left me cleansed, exhilerated and tingling. Not long ago a solo male whio landed in that same pool and drifted on past. I have had many such brilliant blue sky moments in the Ruahine, some even here in this very spot, yet I am still finding the finest moment always seems to be the last one. The apprehension and fear I felt while preparing, and then
yesterday in the rain are gone. Taking action has once again proven the most honourable course. I have pitched my tent down here by the river and will be serenaded by her lullaby. Time for a wee dram before dinner...
21 December - camped on the Oroua river..."a day of river wandering, the waters sparkling and shining like jewels in the sun, water coloured only by her stones. The whio seem to guide me along their unerring way, and the emerald deep pools call to me on such a day of blue skies and sunshine. Many already occupied by the lazy flickering of the rainbow trout. I rejoice in the knowledge of being in such a place with all day to do nothing but be here."