7 December 2014 Whanahuia tops of the Ruahine ranges...
For the 14th summer in a row John and I are on the first night of our "Ruahine Summer Tour". Each one adds to our experience and knowledge of these ranges, teaches us a bit more about traveling amongst them, and most importantly, how to enjoy them to the fullest. In spite of the other worldly burdens we carry. Worries and concerns that seem to weigh heavy upon us in he world. I have learned it is best to set them down before I enter this place. They will be waiting when I return. After all these years of roaming with John I know he understands that as well. It is good to have such friends.
Tonight finds us camped high on the Whanahuia tops, nestled into a small gully out of the gusty nor'west winds and replete with tarns for water and soft moss to pitch our tent upon. To escape the heat wave far below feels liberating and I write this sitting upon a comfortable lean of hillside tussock wearing wool hat and my warm gear. We have 5 days ahead to be immersed in the mountains. To roam high on the tops and climb down to the rivers below. As invigorating as that will be, a small part deep in my soul wants to just fold this golden tussock over me and stay here for always. Kia ora!
27 December late evening.... I scribble these words by headlamp in the cozy confines of our wee tent. John and I climbed up and along the gully and crossed over to the lee side of this long spur. There we watched the sunset over the main Ruahine range, Te Hekenga and Taumataomekura sharp on the skyline, the headwaters of the Oroua valley catchment lie before us. A fantastic spot to enjoy this bit of Aotearoa, a wee dram of Glen Morangie, and the company of an old friend with whom I have shared many a moment in these beautiful mountains. We seem to fall into old rhythms quite easily. When to let John walk ahead with his faster pace, when to rest, or brew up the billy, and mostly the unspoken words which often say the most. When silence is not uncomfortable but rather seems appropriate. That is a special quality. Taking some time with my quiet friend...
smiles and joy
Layered upon me
until the difference
is no more
Or the difference between
The whio and a blue duck?
the muted green ridges climb to them
The spurs lit like golden flame
Drop steeply to the unseen river
and the sinew that connects
each essential piece
Lies as well within me..
The last rays of the day fall over the main Ruahine range. A fine place to sit and appreciate the ending of another day in our lives.
John enjoying an after dinner dram. I like this moment as it gives a good indication as to the the steepness near our campsite. He is sitting straight up in the tussock. A cozy spot.
“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.” ...W.B. Yeats
28 December, 2014 Triangle hut...evening...
This is far from the first time John and I have arrived here at Triangle hut. In this, our 14th year of doing this summer journey at least three of those have included this lovely spot up near the headwaters of the Oroua river. Very few entries in the hut book are from those whom do more than merely pass by this place, a destination on the way to somewhere else. I do not write those words as a criticism. Years ago I too was in a hurry to see it all, to write I had been there and there as well. There was always this nagging feeling though as I packed up to move on that there was more here on offer, and eventually I learned to listen to the nagging. Now after 15 plus years I can sit here and observe the subtle changes in the river and landscape, and within myself. Boulders once there in the river and seemingly unmovable, now disappeared without trace. Pools I once swam in now gone moved else where. Or the little stone gorge a few hundred metres up river. You never notice these things passing by. You must sit here and observe.
28 December...I think also of the people I have been here with. Most heavy on my mind my oldest son. He has been here twice. The last time when 12. He is now going to be 22. A burden I left behind perhaps. Yet one whom never leaves my heart. It sometimes seems places like this are where I feel closest to him. Yet I remain very far away.....I cannot walk steps for him or anyone, but perhaps it is my fault in not teaching him how. After all I nearly lost him here once as well. Thoughts and more thoughts...even here deep in the mountains I cannot escape the painful part of love. Like the river flowing by that is easy to love on a fine day such as this when the water sparkles in the sun and calls to me, on a stormy day when the same water becomes turgid, muddy, and dangerous it becomes much harder to love. Or maybe I just love it differently..
" I too saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water, Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams, Look’d at the fine centrifugal spokes of light around the shape of my head in the sun-lit water, Look’d on the haze on the hills southward and southwestward, ..." Walt Whitman
29 December, Triangle hut, evening...
The sun has poked in and out all day. When it appears it grows hot very quickly, and when it becomes cloud hidden we are reminded equally as quickly as to where we are. The sunny moments have led to a few "swims" in a few of the handy pools and we walked up the Triangle stream for an hour climbing over increasingly huge boulders and log jams and an ever narrowing stream. We were hoping to spot any whio ostensibly. Mainly we were having fun. We then did the same on the main river, climbing up and over the gorge and beyond. Same result. No whio today. We did hear one early this morning so once again I must content myself with that.
Later in the afternoon, led by John's sterling efforts, we emptied the entire wood bin, cleaning out the refuse, sorting the wood and sawing it up into useful pieces. It is a wood box I would love to come upon after a long hard day and in need of a warm fire. Creating karma.
Late last evening as the last of the afternoon light was fading we were joined by two trampers. Gentleman in their late 60's. One whom a few months ago had heart surgery. They were on a massive Ruahine tramp and had come that from Howlett's hut. A long hard day in any person's book in these ranges. They literally had their tea and collapsed into their bunks. This morning they awoke, had breakfast, packed up and left. We were talking to them and one in particular was asking what John and I were doing this day. We said nothing. He looked at us, looked around this amazing spot, and I could tell he understood. Yet he and his mate shouldered their loads and headed down river towards Iron Gates and beyond. John and I just smiled.
I linger now, writing in the last of the sunlight on this porch. I reflect on my many visits here. Taylor again enters my thoughts. We are both roustabouts. It is just this is where I choose to be one.
John saws up wood at Triangle. We always carry a small pruning saw on these trips and it comes in handy.
30 December, 2014.. Iron Gates hut. Ruahine
John and I left Triangle mid morning to make our way down the river here to Iron Gates. We are meeting Pohangina Pete here later this afternoon as he making his way up river from the road end many miles away. It seems appropriate to reunite with Pete here. The very place I met him over 15 years ago. A very fine friendship has resulted from that chance encounter at a remote Ruahine spot. Or maybe it was meant to happen...I like that thought as I scribble these words.
The route is pretty much in the river for a few hours, then up and over a very steep spur to avoid a section of gorge and deep pools. The river is fairly low, though we still waded in places waist deep. We debated tackling the gorge. Plenty of time and it was only the grey skies starting to spit a bit that put rest to those notions. I let John climb up first and followed a while later. Pretty much a vertical climb up into a side stream then out of it and onto and up the spur. Repeat after reaching the top except in reverse. Very steep. At one point I could look out below and see the river twisting around other spurs, the mist rising around them, and hear the thunderous sound of fast water rolling through. We made the right decision I thought.
When I finally reached the side stream on the other side I saw John sitting there waiting and smiling. I joined him and turned back to see just a stunning scene. A stream falling gently behind us, the green mosses and lichens shining brightly, the water then gaining strength right before our eyes and falling over a noisy fall just below us. It felt as if we were part of this living breathing thing. The essence of the whenua herself. We got up and made our way to the river and here. We still had not spoken a word...
― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
The Oroua valley.
There are times in a vast Ruahine forest that within it's vast canopy a tiny sliver can stop me in my tracks. Sunlit moss consuming an old tawhairauriki tree, the leaves of others scattered golden, red and brown amongst it as if placed there individually and carefully by the gentle Hand of Nature Herself. I stop and stare and a lump rises in my throat. I walk on slowly, misty eyed and content.
30 Jan. Evening.... this trip, just as this year draws to a close. 5 days spent in the Ruahine. Though I have a fine forest walk to look forward to in the morning I can't help but feel a sense of regret right now. Wishing that John, Pete, and I were heading on to someplace else in the morning. And another part of me that is ready to shoulder what I left back there at the Rangiwahia car park. I am especially looking forward to seeing Tara. And Charlie.
As always with John Nash, my old companion, a time we truly enjoyed to it's fullest potential. It is good to write that and mean it. We have been traveling in these ranges together nearly 20 years now. You learn a lot about someone doing such things. The words we have not spoken just as important, and just as understood, as the words we have shared. To be joined by Pete, even for this brief day and night, whom has become a treasured friend and mentor in so many ways, at the very place I met him 15 years ago just adds to another special Ruahine experience. Kia ora!