Wednesday, December 5, 2018


             "When you find out that there was never anything in the dark side to be afraid of...Nothing is left but to love." - Alan Watts

25 November 2018
Rangiwahia hut

   Sitting here at Rangiwahia hut on my own. There is a chilly southerly blowing over in great gusts, shaking the hut which momentarily overwhelms the rain. Then it settles and the constant drumming of the downpour on the tin roof resumes. The soft hiss of my camp stove joins in, creating a sort of comforting lullabye, as it heats the billy full of water for another cup of sweet tea.

    My plan was to have some lunch and a cuppa here then travel along the Whananhuia tops to the tarns below Maungahuia and camp. However the windy southerly, the clagged in tops, and the rain are, once again, making staying here a very attractive option. And with the stormy weather meant to settle in for a few days I may have to re-think my whole 4 day trip. Still, aside from day walks, I haven't been in the hills since early June and hauling the benches up to Top Maropea. So it is just good to be here in the Ruahine, and even walking up in the rain was not unpleasant. Even less unpleasant to find the hut empty.

And as my stove does its work and the rain pelts down I sit here and scribble these words, stopping often to reflect, ponder, and gather my thoughts. And there are so very many thoughts to gather.

The stream 10 minutes or so below the hut and just inside the open tussock and tupare zone. On a good day

The same stream after 20 hours of constant rain.

The pool, normally quiet, peaceful, and a place to ponder

Such as on a day like this. 

After coming back from visiting my family in the States this past July, I found myself highly discombobulated. I know that saying goodbye to my mother impacted me like never before, and the anniversaries of the deaths of my brother and father loomed large, as did my normal anxieties and realizations in having two very different places in which I put my feet. The only common factor in both being me. As even in myself, my one presence, I felt like two very different people. I was feeling lost and out of touch, and quite simply not coping very well. There were other issues as well that had been lying there for years. My growing dependence on alcohol, ignoring my relationships, and past behaviours and traumas I have never acknowledged much less address in any meaningful sense. I may have pretended to at times, even thought I was being honest and truthful in trying to grasp my own self, only to slide back into old patterns as soon as the waters seemed calm

A few months after our return the watershed moment came with Tara. She'd had enough. She was done. I saw it her eyes and felt it in her voice. My growing untrustworthiness in being a partner, my continued and growing unavailability, my drinking and growing numbness.

And I realized I had absolutely no defense or valid response to any of it. None. So the dam burst, well and truly and there was no turning back. I began crying and didn't stop for weeks. And it felt unashamed, and I began to welcome the moments of tears. Tears that were welling up from the ages. Tears from the past and more tears from the present.

I quit drinking. I went to talk to someone and found more strength and support in seeking help with anxiety and depression than fearing what that might appear to look like to others, or to myself. I turned my attention to our long neglected whare, house, and all the things that needed to be done. I cleared the overgrown gardens, cleaned out and cleaned the gutters, moved the ultra-heavy clothesline to a better place, water blasted the entire house, driveway, footpaths, fences, barbeque area (water blasting is highly therapeutic), cleaned out the garage, cleaned all the windows and framework, pruned out and removed trees and bushes to the tune of 3 huge trailer loads. What I didn't do wasn't worth doing.

By the time I looked back a few weeks later a small degree of calmness and clarity arrived. The therapy was helping me to understand the deep seeded causes, and the relief of not feeling isolated was enormous. The biggest discovery was that this was my own self-care, to save me not my marriage, and though related they are very separate. The "therapy" with the whare? The hard work on our house merely a manifestation of what I had allowed our house, my life, our lives, to become. A messy, untidy unsafe and unloved environment.

Kaikawaka in the misty and rain filled forest

Even in the mist a path is revealed

"As I watch you
take that 
first drawing sip
my chest
in anticipation
of too much talk
with too little substance
the face I love
becoming slack
those mostly kind
brown eyes
I am...
to a blurry shape
on this couch to be ranted at
yelled over
or sentimentalized
either way
I don't exist
for you
the tinkling 
of ice."

written by Tara Kloss

In a period such as this reassessment of everything comes into play. Relationships, friendships, social media, eating, and for me drinking. There is no ego left. There is no place left to hide either. I had slipped slowly and comfortably into a separate existence for the most part. Sitting in my comfy chair numbing myself against pain, and the reality of what it was doing to me and to the people I love most. I'm currently in a place where alcohol has no place for me. I know full well the allure of the ice tray, the sound of the cubes tinkling in the glass, the glug of the pour of my whiskey and searching for the that perfect zone of exhilaration and absence of pain with measured pulls at my glass. That perfect numbness. It doesn't last long, like the whiskey, and there is always more ice, and more whiskey. See the problem?

I haven't had alcohol in that comfy chair, or any other chair for that matter for nearly two months now.

So, while I know all to well what the whole process with the booze feels like, before, during, and after, what I am finding unfamiliar, and new, is sitting with discomfort, pain, and having to feel the reality of it all. It lets me know I am alive, it makes me realize what I must own, and what I need to acknowledge and then either let go or learn to live with.

And here I am, alone in the Ruahine on a stormy afternoon. It seems, and feels, appropriate. Yet I feel invigorated and alive. I had a fairly heavy pack on, with my tent, as intend to stay out 4 days. I noticed immediately another effect of no booze and better eating. That being carrying over 20 less kilo’s of body weight. And though tomorrow will be a far tougher test, it was apparent how much better I felt both going uphill and more so down. I just walked lighter and easier, better balanced and fitter feeling. I arrived here in a little over 2 hours which is far faster than the past years of slow plodding. And while I wouldn’t describe myself as moving fast I certainly felt less clumsy and more in tune. I am lighter both mentally and physically.

I have written in the past of the concept of Te Whare Tapa Wha, a Maori focused view of our health. The whare, known as Te Whare Tapa Whā, has four walls and each wall represents a different dimension of health. Right now, in this moment, my own Te Whare Tapa Wha, feels in the best condition it has been, well, perhaps ever!

The Four Walls:

1.    Wairua (Spirit) …My own developing spirituality has always been nature focused. I am realizing now, here, how much easier it is alone, and yet how crucial it is to bring that with me elsewhere and around those I love. There is little point to Wairua unless it shines within. I have not. In particular with receiving the aroha, love, of those I profess to love with genuine grace and presence. For me, it is to realize my own vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather strength. And to have wairua be a sense of lightness.
2.    Tinana (Physical well being) …I am lighter. Certainly physically. I have been physically fitter, but never fitter in conjunction with the opposite 3 walls of my whare. Which means my foundations are firmer, better rooted. Or at least the newly poured cement is setting.

3.    Hinengaro (Mental well being)…I can scribble words here on these pages, but none will do justice to the reality of my mental well being. I have really only begun to pay attention to the importance of my own self-care. I have only just acknowledged and owned the hurt I have caused. Or hurt I have had caused to me, to the past and present pain, trauma and what that has left in it’s wake. I have only recently allowed myself to the feel the shame and tears of weaknesses that have led me to such places, and also the strengths I never knew I had in merely coping. To reach out for help, to be vulnerable without fear of weakness, and constantly seek to be a better man. To seek integrity.

4.    Whanau (Family) …Tara, Taylor, Charlie, Monique, Noah, family here, and my family back in Wisconsin. I have not been very good at making this the most important wall of all, though if the other 3 are out of whack it all is out of form. A very circular and connected system. What I appreciate most is the noticing of even small changes and new behaviours by them merely observing.

Tara watches and wonders. As she should, she also has her own self-care to ponder and figure out, her own demons to wrestle with, her own healing to undertake. And for her to not be absorbed by my own battles. She needs to that on her own, as do I, then focus on our relationship. As she described it as the raw nerve that still jangles between us. 

26 November 6:00am

The rain is still coming down. It has beat on the roof measured and steady all night. The barometer remains low and flat indicating little change ahead. The winds have mostly died off in the stillness of the grey misty morning.

So, do I go or retreat to fight another day? Though I know the route very well it is more the thought of a touch 5 plus hour grind and arriving to find the Oroua in a raging torrent, the hut in in sight across the way. That thought has me glancing towards the plains and car far below. And to what awaits there.

Saturday, August 25, 2018


Maori Dictionary - Tangata whenua

1. (verb) -  to be natural, at home, comfortable.
Ki te tīmata mai te ako i te reo i te wā e nohinohi tonu ana ngā tamariki, ka kōrero Māori ngā tamariki rā, ka mau, ā, ka tangata whenua te reo ki roto i a rātou. / If learning the language begins when children are little, those children will speak Māori and the language will be natural to them.

  2. (verb) (-tia) to be naturalised, acclimatise, established, adapted.
Ko tēnei rākau kua tangata whenuatia ki ēnei motu  / This tree has become naturalized in these islands.

3. (noun) local people, hosts, indigenous people - people born of the whenua, i.e. of the placenta and of the land where the people's ancestors have lived and where their placenta are buried.
Ko te tangata whenua te hunga pupuri i te mana o tētahi whenua. / The tangata whenua are the people who have authority in a particular place.

Thoughts of having put my mokopuna’s (grandson’s) feet upon the Ruahine has been stewing within over the past week. The significance continues to grow as I reflect upon him being the third generation of Kloss men to step foot upon its temperamental yet beautiful valleys, rivers, streams, ridges and golden tussock. I am Manuhuri, Visitor, to this land. Even though I have lived here close to half my lifetime, my original place lies elsewhere. Yet over time my relationship with this country and certainly the Ruahine has become close to the first two definitions of tangata whenua listed above. My sense of place belongs here as well. And though Noah’s feet have only walked a short distance into those mountains, there are steps there for him. There are memories there for him that swirl in the in the forest breeze, or flutter the waxy leaves of the tupare up high. That is a fine legacy should he choose to find it one day.

Reflections also come to mind of both my sons and their place in this story and in my heart. Thoughts of both my sons and different moments shared with each. The common element with both is the Ruahine. And me. I was neither the same man, nor the same father with either of my sons. How could I be? The one piece of true knowledge I have gained over time is that my own growth is never stagnant. I have never arrived. The process constantly evolves and unfolds. So now my mokopuna, grandson, awaits to be introduced in full to these mountains, and my own continuing unfolding. Lessons that bind fathers to sons, brother to brother, brother to uncle, and grandfather to grandson. Like an ancient grove of tawhairauriki deep in a mountain forest so our own roots live, then die, yet nourish the next generations. 

With Taylor and Nigel on Taylor's first trip to Top Maropea.

Taylor's frst fire at Top Maropea
I first set foot in the Ruahine in late 1993. I was invited by a friend I had met here in New Zealand to go on a day tramp with and his mate up Gold Crown ridge. His mate turned out to be John Nash, whom I am still tramping with to this day and whom has become a treasured friend. Which in itself is noteworthy for me. I had never experienced anything like it. The walk across farmland with the ranges looming above, and then starting up the unbelievably steep and relentless Gold crown spur. Yet climbing up into that forest, seeing the dripping mosses and lichens, and breathing deeply  the earthy aroma of Aotearoa, the fantastic twisted and unreal shapes of the tawhairauriki, was like nothing in my experience. I was mesmerized. Gaining the ridge we ambled down towards Park Peak ridge for some time before having to turn around. Being a hot day we ran out of water and I recall vividly climbing down with John. Far below us we could see the green clarity of deep pools in the stream below us and the hushed sound of the water out of reach. Fortunately back at the car we had a chilly bin full of ice and beer. Some of the finest beer I have ever chugged!  Since that day I have done countless tramps into the Ruahine. Some of those linger more than others and at the top of that list are the ones which placed the feet of my own two sons upon the hallowed ground of the Ruahine.

Taylor on his first trip to Top Maropea.


12 January 2001
Top Maropea hut

Here at Top Maropea. Once again with Nigel, but also, in a presence that makes my heart swell, Taylor Quinn Gustav Kloss, entering his name into the hutbook and entering the Ruahine mountains on his first real adventure at age 7.

This has been, perhaps, my finest day as a father, both in guiding his young legs on a long day and a fairly daunting stretch of open tops and down to here in cloudy, misty and very wet conditions. It took us 6 hours of walking all up. We arrived at Sunrise in decidedly poxy weather but after a rest. A hearty lunch and a group discussion we packed up and set out in the rain for Top Maropea at 3:00pm. Taylor negotiated a wee tricky bit of tramping in very good cheer. I am bursting with pride!
 We now sit in front of the fire. Our bellies are full of steak, rice and broccoli and about to indulge in hot cocoa with pieces of chocolate stirred in. Staring at the fire and letting the days memories wash over us. Not sure what the morning will bring but tonite we are together, safe, warm and smiling.
 10 March 2001
Gold Creek hut
Abridged story…after a long of just Taylor and I getting into Gold Creek hut:

As we approached the empty hut we could see far below us, we were both wet and tired, and I too, knew we had put in a good day. Now soon we would have a safe, dry place, plenty of good food, hot drinks, dry warm clothes and especially good company. It took us over 6 plus hours to arrive here but we soon had the fire and a supply of very dry wood cranked up and roaring in the wood stove.
 Taylor organized all our supplies on the small hut table, then went and dragged in some more wood and then went to the creek to fill our water bottles and billies. Then I heard him down by the creek, playing the games that seven year old boys play in such places as a wild mountain creek. I stayed in the hut, reading the hut book which went back to the 1980’s. No one has been here for over 3 months. With the rain bouncing on the tin roof, the sound of the creek outside, and the excited voice of my son it felt like a magical, remote place indeed. Later we got dinner ready and Taylor stirred our potatoes while I got our sausages and gravy. We ate in great contentment, just enjoying our little home for the night.
 Taylor drifted off to sleep still talking and mumbling about the day till all I heard was his gentle breathing, the plops of the rain on the roof, the crackles and pops of the dying fire.

We awoke just before sunrise. After a breakfast of Hopple Popple, which consists of bacon, eggs, potatoes, onoin, garlic green pepper and cheese, all coming together in a big feast. It is delicous and we ate with great gusto. The sky outside was now a deep brilliant blue. Everything felt right. I repacked our gear and made Taylor's load as light as possible. I decided we would head own the creek to the river instea of climbing back up to the ridge. The park topo map indicated it was shorter, though a few mixed reviews in the hut book had me somewhat dubious. Still, it was a beautiful morning, we had all day, and I knew that eventually we had to meet the river.

Taylor thought it was a grand idea, until 15 minutes in when he slipped and fell head first into the cold water and got soaked.Within an hour I arrived at the conclusion I had made the wrong decision. The creek falls pretty steeply from the hut. This means lots of fast water but worse, a large number of waterfalls, some as high as 15 feet or so, and lots of log jams to scramble over or around. It was tough going. A lot of falls I had to climb down, leave my pack, go back up and get Taylor's pack, take that down, then help Taylor down the fall as well. It was all a bit nerve wracking, never mind tiring. At the biggest fall I looked up to see Taylor's lip trembling and then crying saying, "It's too big! It's too dangerous! I want my mummy!" I climbed up and we had a big cuddle and just let him have a cry. Then I explained as softly as I could we had to carry on. I didn't tell him I was scared too.

I held his hand in the fast water and over the slippery rocks and we soon came to a rhythm getting down the creek. At one point I slipped over and fell flat on my face, banging my arm hard on a rock. It hurt! Taylor came rushing over to cuddle me and make sure I was okay. In the bush we take care of each other.

That walk down the creek took us 5 hours. Finally the creek opened up and we could see the upper ridge we had been on the day prior. We stopped at the first sunny spot we came across and had a rest. We munched on cashews and drank water from the stream. We didn't say much. We didn't have to say much. Even though we had both scared in the stream, for different reasons, we helped each other through, we made it together. Possibly we both learned something about ourselves, each other, trust and love. I know I did.

One moment stood out in particular for me. We came around a bend after our rest and su
ddenly the sun was shining on brilliantly on the water, highlighting the green clearness of the pools, and each pebble shone and glowed like jewells. The big trees loomed and the bush a thousand shades of green, while high overhead we had glimpses of the open tops far above. The whole scene was vivid and alive with colour and energy. "It looks like a painting!", Taylor shouted. He was seeing exactly what I saw and summed it up far better.

We stopped in at Craig's hut after crossing the main Makaroro river for a hot brew, dry socks and a rest. Taylor had put in a long day, longer than yesterday, and was getting tired and looking forward to the car and hot chips in Dannevirke. We still had a 30 minute walk down the old logging road and a final river crossing to the car. Once there I loaded up our gear, started the car and drove towards the farm gate. By the time I opened and closed the gate Taylor was fast asleep. he had walked almost 8 hours today. Not bad for a 7 year old. 

I drove home as my son slept. Listened to Van Morrison and ran the past few days around in my head. Lots of lessons learned. Some good moments, some hard ones too, a few laughs and a few tears. Together with my son. We never had those hot chips in Dannevirke. I carried him into the house when we got home. Still fast asleep. 

Charlie's first trip to Top Maropea. 

13 Jan. 2011 Top Maropea

Robb Kloss
Charlie Kloss
In the "backyard" at Top Maropea once again, and so soon back in the Ruahine after my last interaction. I like that. I am absorbing the last of the sun's warmth, crossing the saddle this afternoon the wind died, the clag lifted, and suddenly it was a glorious day.

And with me now lying stretched out in the sun yawning and napping is Charlie Kloss. To celebrate my 30th evening here at my favourite Ruahine spot with him makes my eyes brim as I write this. I can think of no other finer company to share this moment with me, aside from my other son Taylor. Introducing Charlie to this walk, this spot, Charlie's Cairn, to see him today and watch him endure a long walk and interact with these mountains, was, is, a Gift from the Ruahine. Such days are rare up there.

Taylor has been here many times, Tara has been here once, this is my 30th night here, and Charlie's first. This place has meaning for us. It is part of our story, part of our history. It is beautiful. This is a powerful place.

Camel Back spur. About to drop to the hut.

Charlie by the cairn underneath which his placenta is buried. Connecting him to the Whenua, Land.

A ways to go yet.

The ridge across Camel Back spur leading to Te Atua Para Para.
14 Jan. 2011

This photo was made by Charlie just after we had emerged from the forest onto the open Camel Back ridge before climbing it and dropping to the saddle. It made the hair on my arms stand up as in my experience that ethereal hue to the light and sky, and the wind blowing above meant danger. The wind picked up stronger, though in gusts and bursts, and I hurried Charlie along to The Gut, where I knew we would be sheltered and could see the whole route from the saddle to the protection of Buttercup Hollow and Sunrise hut. From the saddle to the hut is only 15 minutes or so, but also the most narrow, open, and exposed section. When the wind blows from the northwest, which it most often does here, it funnels through the valley above the mountains literally pulling down the high winds which have been rolling over the open sea and narrow island gathering strength. Often it makes the saddle uncrossable, and most often makes it windy. My concern observing the route from The Gut was just how much wind was on that final stretch. I have been knocked down there in the past, and while not so worried about me, I was about Charlie and I could see the anxiousness upon his face. This was wind already such as he had never before seen. The mountains had a final test indeed. 

When we got below the saddle the wind really began to howl relentlessly. I had Charlie hang on to my pack straps which I had looped together, and I was getting shoved around pretty good, and then I felt him go off his feet. I quickly pushed him into a bit of tupare and scrub on the lee side of the wind, just enough so that our heads were out of it as we lay on the ground. Charlie was scared and crying. I knew instinctively I had to let him rest and gather himself. I thought very clearly and calmly as I stroked his head, and after a few minutes he looked up at me. I told him what we had to do. I strapped my poles and his to my pack, and the second the wind howled a fraction less, we were on our feet and off. I had Charlie in a death grip by the arm and literally dragged and pulled him as I fought through the wind. A couple times I looked back and literally saw his feet off the ground. There is a little tunnel in the tupare and tawhairauriki which lean decidedly against the nor'west wind a few hundred metres before the actual track drops to the hut. Once I saw that approach my heart lifted, I knew we had made it. I pulled Charlie ahead of me and down into the tunnel. The wind stopped and we were in sudden calm, which is somewhat disorienting after being in a blowing gale. I yelled and whooped and screamed. We were alive and we were living! Charlie started staggering down the rough track the wrong way and I called him back. His eyes were wild and unfocused. I pulled him to me and hugged him and told him I loved him, how proud I was of him, how hard I know that was for him, and the courage it took. It may have been my proudest moment as a father. Since that moment Charlie and I know something more, about each other, about these mountains. He is indeed connected to the Ruahine. He met Tawhirimatea, The God of Wind, he met the Ruahine....

And of course it was Charlie whom accompanied me on my very first trip bak to the Ruahine after having my hip replaced. To be honest I was full of anxiety prior to that trip, simply not knowing how it would go, or if those connection to this place were even real. He was so kind and gentle with me over those two days, much like when I fell in the river with Taylor and he came rushing to my aid. I felt loved and cared for by my sons. That is a wonderful feeling.

4 June 2010

Sunrise hut - late afternoon
Robb Kloss
Charlie Kloss

I have pulled out my little notebook a few different times in the past few hours here at Sunrise hut to try and gather the thoughts running around inside my head, but each time till now I have failed to put pen to paper. I could only stare out at this place, and even if only here at Sunrise today that is a huge step, and a wonderful place to be as I reunite with the Ruahine. I came here back in October of 2009 with Taylor, and on a stormy day where crossing the saddle was not an option we stayed here and had the place to ourselves. Today as I sit here on the porch I watch a well used swan dry garment once worn by Taylor as a little boy, now filled by another little boy, Charlie, buzzing about the tussock and tarn looking for ice and snow and taking in this huge new environment. His first over night trip into these mountains, age 7, the age I first took Taylor beyond here to Top Maropea, the first of many trips for his young legs. I sit and stare at Charlie, yet I think of Taylor and that time gone in the blink of an eye. And, of course, this is also a homecoming and a first for me. My first connection here since November of last year, and my first outing with this new tin hip. Wow!

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, stunned to have walked up here with a reasonably heavy pack, and discover the joys of walking which I have not experienced for almost 5 years now as I look back. To actually enjoy walking and climbing rather than it being simply an arduous and painful price to pay for being here. As I walked today I kept waiting for those signs to flare up, which they did not. I felt light and giddy, walked slow, steady, and easily instead of a painful lumbering gait. I walked with a smile upon my face rather the mask of grimace I have been used to. I felt like I was having some sort of a religious experience. Maybe it was I just felt normal.

5 June Sunrise hut - just after sunrise
As I sat with a cup of coffee before sunrise I saw Charlie stir and then wake up, (he had over 11 hours of sound sleep). So for the first time in my life I watched the sunrise in the mountains with my youngest son. How wealthy was I in that moment, sitting on the porch of this place, the only ones in the world watching the sunrise from here, Charlie snuggled into me and my arm around him.

My thoughts cannot help but wish we were heading in deeper into the Ruahine for many days, but this first journey for us both was more prudent and the results satisfying. Charlie and I will experience that, differently perhaps than I did with Taylor. I want to one day come with both my boys together. But to be here now, not just with Charlie, but with this new hip, to have set my mind to getting back here, to have accomplished that, to know they will still be the part of my life I need so much. I can only bow my head in Thanks. Kia kaha!

Charlie and I outside Top Maropea.


“Going to the mountains is going home.”
― John Muir
Today was an important one. Certainly in my life and one that one day, when I am mere dust, my grandson might see as relevant to how his life is unfolding. I hope so. Today Tara and I took our moko out to the Ruahine. His first steps into a sacred and special range of mountains. The third generation of Kloss feet to be placed there. A distinct honour and a humble privilege. We walked only a very short distance into the forest along the Number 1 Line track out in Pohangina valley. Up to the huge Rimu tree. We said a Karakia and stared at this ageless giant . Noah loved it and got quite stroppy when we had to leave. He kissed the giant goodbye. My sun is setting and his only begun to rise. On the short walk back to the car all I could think of are the possibilities we have in the few short years ahead when our lives intersect with real meaning.

Noah and Tara


“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman
A favourite moment from placing my grandsons feet in the Ruahine. Noah found a cozy spot and sat nestled and happy. It seemed the roots of the stately old Rimu were giving him a cuddle and pleased for the company. He sat there for a long time. I joined him and told him of a few places I love in these mountains and hope to show him. He just sat and looked around, listened and it all felt very comfortable, very natural. Like sitting along a river on a beautiful calm day, or resting after climbing a long steep spur with a treasured mate. The smiles always tell the story. A simple dream I hold onto is to one day and one evening climb up and to Top Maropea with my sons and grandson. The completion of a huge circle in my tiny life.  Tihei Mauri Ora!  (top photo)

What a privilege it has been to be able to first be introduced to place that has become so important to my own well being and learning its charms and character one step at a time. Then being able to introduce my own sons to that place, to have experiences there we will always share. And now my mokopuna, grandson. What might await? For Taylor and Charlie even if they do not have the same passion and yearning for the Ruahine, or any wild place, as I do, so be it. At least they know they are there. And like a dusty hidden present forgotten on some shelf it will always be there to discover and open. Tihei Mauri Ora!

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Kia ora!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Mana Heke Iho - Inherent Dignity

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

2 June 2018
Sunrise hut  Mid afternoon

I arrived here after a rather chilly walk up through the cloud and mist. It was drizzling when I left the car and shortly turned to rain and sleet as I trudged upwards to here.  While trying to be cognizant that I would be carrying a near 18 pound bench lashed to my pack, I also had to have gear and equipment for a 3 day winter tramp. Thus my load, both mentally and physically was very heavy. It has been over 5 months since I have spent any real quality time in the mountains, and combined with the duty of hauling this bench along to replace ones which had been at Top Maropea for 60 years, until being burnt, made it a tough effort. That someone chose to burn 60 year old seats in a mountain hut that is actually a Historical Site because they were cold still astounds me. The total disconnection, disrespect, and sheer self entitlement of such an act filled me with a melancholic gloom.
 I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts as I climbed slowly up here and reflect on my relationship with both Top Maropea and the Ruahine, perhaps find some inspirational insight that will soothe my soul. The truth is really I felt blank and simply felt the weight of that bench strapped on my back with each step. Maybe it was some type of penance and more sanguine and lucid thought will come as I sit by the fire with a cup of tea, or something stronger.
 In the morning I will head over the saddle to Top Maropea and be joined at some point by a few other lads hauling the other two benches. It is completely clagged in and grey with rain and sleet, though only a slight wisp of wind. It seems as if the mountains too feel the melancholy.

On the way up.
Late Afternoon..

 There was a wee break in the rain and I went out and sat amongst the tussock up where the track to the saddle begins. Though I could see no more than 10 metres in any direction I knew that Te Atuaoparapara loomed above to the southwest, and that Armstrong saddle was just to the north and the highpoint and start of Camelback spur directly to the west. The mere fact I knew they were there made their presence important and significant. Then as if the cloud lifted and those peaks and places suddenly appeared clear and vivid, the fog in my head lifted in the same momentary reflection. What came to mind was holistic model of Maori health and wellness developed by Sir Mason Durie, one I had learned the basics of in my Probation officer training and read more about on my own, that of Te Whare Tapa Wha. Simply explained meaning there are 4 dimensions to a person’s  well being, akin to the support of 4 legs of chair we might sit upon. If 1 or more of the legs is wobbly or broke it will not support us and we are out of balance. The 4 areas are:
1.    Taha Hinengaro – our mental health and well being
2.    Taha Tinana – our body and physical well being
3.    Taha Whanau – our family and relationship
4.    Taha Wairua – our Spiritual well being
 So sitting there all bundled up on a wee knoll of moss and tussock enjoying a wee dram with the tupare and stunted tawhairaunui as soothing, knowing, and wise companions, I realized the issue was with my own wairua.  The bruised and battering my own wairua, spirit, has taken was not so much related to the burning of the actual benches themselves.  They are simply representations of a place, and mountains, I love and have become connected to in so many ways. And perhaps it is simply being in these mountains again that has help lift my wairua. I suspect as well that the load I carried up here to begin restoring mana and karma to a place I love also has a role in my own spirts being lifted.

The rain has resumed in earnest and the temperature remains 0 degrees Celsius. Everything outside is still muted by the quiet mist. I am off to bed and in the morning I shall venture into the mist shrouded track over to Top Maropea. My Quiet Friend and I will travel together. A hint of breeze fluttering the waxy leaves of the tupare, greywacke rock falling down a slip like broken shards of glass, the rise and fall of my own breathing and heartbeat, and always on days like the one ahead the cacophony of water, plopping, dripping gathering and flowing into nearby waterfalls I will never see. It is hushed and quiet but never silent. Tihei Mauri Ora!

3 June 2018
Top Maropea hut

The rain and sleet picked up quite heavily during the night at Sunrise, joined by the odd blast of wind which had me nervously tossing and turning in my sleeping bag. Rain, cloud and sleet are not deal breakers on a route I know very well, but strong winds definitely can destroy the best laid plans. However when I awoke just before light it was fairly quiet and though it was drizzling steadily the winds were still with just an occasional gust. A few cups of coffee, some cabin bread and peanut butter, and I packed up and was on my way.

While I got very wet I was only hit by blasts of chilly wind when turned into the easterly cold wind and just plugged along through it. As I neared the middle section of Camel Back spur a small section of cloud cleared and across the valley a section of the snow covered tops emerged out of the mist for a few brief moments. (It was to be the only glimpse of any tops I would see all three days). Walking in the cold and mist was actually not uncomfortable travel given my heavy load. After the steep climb down through the forest I arrived at Top Maropea and unburdened myself of my heavy load. I said a Karakia for what was old and what is new and that Mana Heke Iho, or Inherent Dignity be restored to this mountain treasure. Then I just stood in silence and listened to the plopping drips of water all around me and thought of my connections to this place….

I, and the bench have arrived. Haere Mai! Welcome. Always glad to be here.

The original hut. Things still swirl here.

The above photo, courtesy of the New Zealand Deer Stalkers Association, is Top Maropea in 1959. I came across it and just sat staring at it. It seemed to speak to me, almost as if waiting for me to discover it. How many nights, or hut bound afternoons waiting out a storm, or even fine ones lazing about doing not much at all, have I wondered about this place, the men whom have spent time here culling deer, the storms this hut has withstood, the changes in the mountains it has been witness to observe.
 A hut was first proposed for the area in 1956 with the site chosen by NZFS field officers Evan Meredith and Des Torrance. In early 1958 a tent site was set up and 14 loads of materials were parachuted in by fixed wing airplane. It was built in one week in Feb. 1958 by NZFS bush carpenters Jan van de Lagemaat, Des Torrance and Bob Norton. It was built before hut construction was standardised and as such this hut had its own special uniqueness.
 The hut was less than two years old when this photo above was observed. Though it has been refurbished, most of the structure today is the original hut seen above. The chimney, roof, guttering, interior lining, and fireplace all have been replaced, and the hut has been designated as an historical land mark, one of the original cullers huts in the North Island, and certainly the Ruahine.
It was not, apparently, the most popular place amongst the cullers to pull duty in. It is relatively high at 1242 meters, burnable wood for a fire hard to come by for a night, much less to cook on and warm one's self morning and night day after day. Also observing the above photo and noticeable lack of a water tank to capture rain off the roof, getting a drink or boiling the billy would have been the best part of an hours journey to and from the stream far below the hut. In winter, after the fire dies, it is like sleeping in a refrigerator.
 Still, this place calls to me and always will. I have seen it on the most sublime of days and nights.  On blue sky sunlit days when flies buzz lazily in the air, and cool clear nights when stars light up the skies. I have woken up and got my stuff packed and dressed at 3:00am when I thought the hut was going to be blown away. I have had to stay extra days and ration out my food supply because of raging blizzards. I have seen the snow glow translucent on the surrounding peaks on a full moon. I have just sat in the hut contemplating, looking out the fly specked window, the rain beating down on the tin roof. I have had many wee drams in my tin cup, a candle illuminated in the hut window with the smell of wood smoke in the air as I sit outside observing the scene. My sons Taylor and Charlie have both shared this place with me, and Charlie's placenta is buried here. Tara has been here with me at a time I needed her most. I have shared the charms of this place with many special friends, and spent many nights as well in the solitude of my own company.
 So this photo echoes strongly for me. As if I can sense men like Des, Evan, Jan and Bob still have their spirits swirling about the place and understand exactly why those bloody benches were indeed so important.

Taylor and I in 2001. On the way to Maropea Forks. 

Taylor at Top Maropea in 2011. Little did we know the trip ahead!

An absolutely awesome fire, well built and well earned.

Charlie at Top Maropea. One of my favourite moments in the Ruahine. His placenta is buried beneath that cairn the sunlight shines upon. I took it, and still do, as a sign from Papatuanuku, Mother Earth, that all was correct.

Charlie in front of a well built Top Maropea fire.

Charlie. On the way to Maropea Forks. Another good fire.

Tara. I would carry a bottle of red wine in for no else in the entire world. Enough said.

2008 and the celebration of the 25th night spent under this orange roof.

All three benches have arrived. A fine evening!

3 June Top Maropea
 I am now joined now by the other two benches hauled in by David Dodge and T.J, and Tyson. I met David at Upper Makaroro back in 2001 when he was a young lad. I was with an American friend and he was there with a mate fly fishing. One evening we shared a freshly caught rainbow trout that fed the four of us. Ten years ago or so I was spending a few days at Top Maropea and doing some day trips. I was down on the Maropea river on a lovely day strolling along when I saw two guys come around a bend staggering under heavy loads and large Red Stag head. It was David and he immediately recognized me from our time at Upper Makaroro. We climbed back up to Top Maropea and renewed our acquaintance over cups of tea. We have remained friends ever since. The person with him was Tyson. So the connections are very relevant and very strong. Tyson had a snow boarding accident a few years ago and broke his back. This is his first trip into the Ruahine since then. It seems significant he is here and representative of the healing process for all of us. Kia ora!
 It is still raining and we sit inside by the fire as these new seats become part of their new whare.  We sit in the ambiance of a job well done, laughing and telling Ruahine stories, sharing our food and several well earned drams of very nice whiskey.
 I am proud and honoured to be here with these gentlemen and share this moment. The new seats look and feel like they belong and with their long journey over the misty mountain terrain they have truly gained character. Mission accomplished.

David, TJ, and Tyson on Camel Back spur. Weather conditions not pleasant.

Nice job lads!

When it is wet, cold, and no firewood there is work to be done.

Home Sweet Home!

Meeting David Dodge at Upper Makaroro back in 2001. The trout was tasty.

David Dodge and I in 2018. Kia kaha e hoa!

Tyson and David Dodge hauling out that deer from Top Maropea way back when.

The view from the "backyard" at Top Maropea. To appreciate it most sitting on a nice bench and contemplation is required.

4 June: Sunrise Hut
Still raining but across the saddle. I have chosen to remain behind while the other fellahs walk ahead. Once here there is no more risk involved. Just a big walk down the mountain to my car. So I just wanted to stay behind and reflect a bit. To all the times I have been here doing just this. To all the times I have managed to cross the saddle and venture beyond. And those I have not.  To all those I have crossed that saddle with. Each equally important. And now, as I sit here alone with stean blowing off my breath, I know the efforts of many have added up to a meaningful experience. 

E hara taku toa
i te toa takitahi,
he toa takitini,

My strength is not
as an individual
but as a collective.