Monday, August 25, 2014

Winter's Foil

Maybe the best journeys are the ones that are worth repeating, and are repeated.
— Rebecca Solnit

15 August Evening...Sunrise hut
 I wrote the quote above down in my little notebook long ago after reading it on a good friends blog. He was also in the Ruahine, on a track he has walked perhaps hundreds of times now and pondering the dichotomies of returning to our favourite wilderness places time and again...

 Does this represent a lack of imagination, a lack of curiosity about other places? Or, does it indicate a love for the place, the gradual building of a relationship with it so, finally, it becomes home?
...Pohangina Pete

This particular track I have walked up now perhaps nearing 100 times. Mostly heading slowly upwards, like today, with heavy pack and the intention of heading much further into the mountains for a number of days. Others on a simple day walk with nothing more than a small pack with a bit of extra gear and the makings for a cup of tea before heading down again. I must admit that at the end of a long trip and returning to the car the lower part of the track can seem monotonous, the zig zags that take the steepness out of the ridge tiring and my thoughts turning to home and a cold beer at the Onga Onga pub. Where as the start of such a trip is always filled with more excitement, even nervousness, and I can measure my progress not against time passing, but by a familiar tawhairauriki grove, a bend in the track, the appearance of the first tupare, or hearing the first gust of wind blow over the high open tops, ears tuned to if the music is gentle enough to allow the saddle to be crossed. Yet even with all those familiar and the emotions they invoke, neither this place nor I are ever the same. There is always something different about both this place and myself. Sometimes very subtle, sometimes not.

Today the difference was quite apparent as I approached the Ruahine and the car park. There was snow all the way down to 400 metres and I parked my car in 3-4 inches of the white stuff. Having had to open and close 3 farm gates on the way in I also knew it was intensely cold. Not a below freezing dry Wisconsin cold like I grew up in, but rather a bone marrow chilling damp below freezing cold of the lush North Island of Aotearoa. I have often seen snow on Sunrise track fairly often in winter high up above 800-900 metres in winter, but never down this low, and never this cold. Even the sheep which roamed the paddocks seem surprised as they huddled together. I shouldered my pack and headed off into the mist...

The snow covered forest seems silent
the frozen coating settles upon the tawhairauriki branches
Bending but not breaking under the strain and weight
Of the unfamiliar burden
Even the crunching of my own footsteps in the snow
Seem muffled and hushed
The only awareness and connection is my own
Measured and laboured steamy breathing
Climbing slowly upwards with heavy pack
Then the forest accepts my presence and folds back around
The piwakawaka gather in noisy fluttering groups
As if excitedly chattering about the snowstorm
Or trying to keep warm
Snow laden branches dump their loads, like sugary sounding waterfalls
Most often upon me as I try and fail to avoid
the low drooping snow covered limbs
The sharp rifle like crack of a beech branch unable
to withstand it’s load
Life and death
Fat chubby kereruru burst from the branches
In explosions of icy white crystals
Their cooing and clumsy whoosh of wing
Die quickly
Muted by the frozen surrounds
The forest seems silent
But is not
It is only Quiet

15 August Evening....It is -8 Celsius outside. In spite of the wood fire being lit inside the hut it is only 2 Celsius outside the small radius of warmth around the stove. The snow continues to fall and the wind howls over. The storm adds a bit of remoteness to my solitude even here at Sunrise. Being the only person in the world to be up here in this storm makes the snowy slog worthwhile. Or maybe I am the only person in the world crazy to enough to have walked up here in this weather. Either perspective is fine with me.

I have my doubts as to being able to get across the saddle in the morning. The winds were supposed to be dying down this afternoon before rising again to gale force in the morning. A window that has never really opened. Plodding through the hip deep drifting snow out to the open tops was difficult enough when I went out for a look. Not being able to stand in the wind and being being pelted with shard like ice and snow crystals made the decision to stay here much easier. One of the positive aspects about repeating a journey many times is that the familiarity with it also means "experience", which hopefully translates to well informed judgement and decision making. I know that saddle very well, have fought a few battles out there so I feel quite calm and at ease with choosing not to fight this one. The glow of the fire and the 16 year old Bushmill's also helps.

16 August, Ruahine early morning. Sunrise hut
How many mornings have I have been here? How many sunrises have I been witness to here? Some with brilliant blue cloudless skies and nary a wisp of wind. The promise of the day ahead lies clear and true. Some cloud obscured, or like today blasted by gales with the view coming and going with the vagaries of the wind, and nothing for it but to either climb back into a warm sleeping bag or put the billy on for a cup of tea. The sun rising out there on the South Pacific Ocean is a constant. My bearing witness to it is not. So the nuances and subtle beauty of each one, no matter if I can see it or not, and my memories of them, bind me deeply to these mountains. I think I will go put on the billy for a cup of tea...

The wind was still relentless, the temperature still below zero, and snow continued to blow and drift. I packed up and decided to at least venture a bit out onto the saddle to see if the conditions improved enough to pass. Top Maropea would have been like a freezer, and with the snow likely all the way down to the Maropea river, walking in ice cold water and then snow for 3-4 hours held somewhat dubious appeal.

The moment I pulled the pin out on Armstrong saddle. Hip deep snow and gale force winds were one factor. The biggest is seeing the colours literally drained from the scene. When life becomes black and white, forward or back, and all the senses are tuned into the importance of what you choose in these next few moments. A glimpse into our very souls...

16 August...Late morning: Brewing a final cup of tea before heading back down. The wind has not abated, the cold is intense, and the feeling emanating from the quiet voice within whispers that this is not the time. Aside from having to walk down with an equally heavy pack I am at peace with that conclusion. The Ruahine will be here for some time yet. Certainly as a younger man I would have felt anger and rage at SOMETHING, perhaps even tried to force my way through for good or bad. Maybe I am just at a more peaceful place myself. Time to go home...

The forest......

Till next time....


Monday, May 5, 2014

Pondering in the Pohangina

23 April..camped on the Ngamoko tops just below the high point at Toka.
I scribble in my notebook by headlamp as the tent gets buffeted by an occasional low reaching gale. Overhead they scream past with the sound of a freight train. Reaching the tops we were headed north along them to Toka Biv but the increasing gales caused us to pull the pin on that, and by luck we stumbled upon this spot below the lip of the main ridge. It is out of the gale, replete with fresh water from the tarn and a nice cushion of tussock to pitch our tent upon. I think we made a pretty wise decision to pull back from Toka Biv.  We will assess the situation in the morning as before crawling into the tent the cloud rolled in and the rain began. Cloud hidden indeed..

Campsite below Toka high point out of the wind...mostly.

Clagged in and drizzling just before we retire inside the tent for the evening...

24 April Leon Kingvig hut on the Pohangina river...

The wind howls over and occasional great gusts reach down here into the relative narrow confines of the valley and whip everything into a momentary frenzy. Even the water ripples and lifts against the flow of the river. Then all settles into the symphony of the wind overhead and the river passing by.

During the night camped up top the wind buffeted the tent and then steady rain began to fall. We emerged into cold drizzle and near white out conditions. With the wind still ripping over the thought of heading further in did not seem too appealing. An early morning coffee would have helped, but in these conditions it would have been far less enjoyable than where I write these words on the hut porch. Had I been on my own, and certainly if I had been with Charlie, I would have packed up and headed back down to the car to return another day. With John however I felt a bit more confident. That can be the crux of getting in trouble or not. Being with John does not make me any better at route finding, or dealing with unpleasant conditions, but it does give more reassurance in numbers. When people wonder about my safety as an often solo tramper, there are times I think I may actually BE safer on my own as I am so much more aware of my limitations.
John and I packed up and headed into the mist and wind and immediately became "lost". It took us 20 minutes and finally getting out the map and heading where we thought the route would be soon found the poled route down the ridge. A few times we had to hunker down and absorb the gales till they subsided a bit and then carried on. Further down the "track" becomes a bit more distinct but it was a great relief to finally get into the tupare corridor and down into the forest and out of the wind.
I arrived at the hut, wet, cold, and tired, to be greeted by John holding a large hot and strong cup of coffee, which I had been thinking of for several hours. To sit on the hut porch and sip that nectar brought a smile rising through my tiredness. Seconds later a pair of whio flew into the pool across from the hut, singing and frolicking as if greeting us and approving of our presence and efforts to arrive here. Suddenly not tired at all we went down to the river to watch them, the soul of these mountain rivers. I took their arrival as a sign.

Whio outside Leon Kingvig hut on the Pohangina river. Photo by Pohangina Pete..

24 April evening.. In the late afternoon  John and I were sitting down by the river as the wind continued overhead in waves of relentless gales, enjoying the fact we were here, safe and warm, and congratulating ourselves on having the hut to ourselves as no sane person would be out in conditions such as this. Suddenly I saw some movement across the river and high up on the steep track from the forest. Out popped Pohangina Pete who had traveled in through the inclement conditions to join us! He knows this area pretty intimately and judged, correctly, that he could make his away across the tops. What a pleasant and very cool development indeed. I am about to prepare a dinner of Moroccan couscous, with pistachio's, cashews, toasted sesame seeds, and green beans. More than enough for the three of us and a pleasure to cook for such fine mates. The wind continues to whip overhead. Inside this hut it is warm and peaceful. I am once again reminded of Emerson...

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Interesting that evening when Pete appeared the whio returned to greet him as well. They appeared again in the morning as well for an extended visit.

The Pohangina river just above the hut...

Leon Kingvig hut. Pohangina valley.
25 April...mid morning...I have a sense of unease that has come over me. A feeling related to a few things. John and I yesterday discussing the possibility of climbing to and crossing Sawtooth ridge here in the Ruahine this coming summer. We tried many years ago and ended up spending two days hut bound at Howlett's hut as the weather did not permit a crossing and we finally pulled the pin. It is the one major route we have not done in these ranges. With that came my own personal realization of the changes needed within myself to do that, to both mentally and physically have my ducks in a row. And from there I have come head on with the reality of how much I really do love being in these places, or are the words scribbled from my pen mere bullshit? Am I willing to pay the price to make the changes I need to keep traveling here? As I wrote yesterday, had I been on my own in that wind, mist and cloud in the morning I would have doubted myself in unfamiliar terrain, and probably would have turned back. Perhaps that would have been the smartest decision anyway. Yet as I gaze across the river to the start of the track back up and across the Ngamoko the thought of climbing up there into a gale does not fill me with the same sense of challenge I might have felt 10 years ago. It fills me instead with this unease.

I also understand as I grow older the difference between saying we love someone, or some place, and the reality required in actually doing that. Nothing with any of that is static and secure. It is often confronting, painful, and difficult. Sometimes it seems easier to just walk away. So I know the hard work that lies ahead.

The light of the early morning tawhairaunui forest.

26 April...below the Ngamoko tops of the Ruahine
We had spent yesterday close to the hut, going down to the river to greet the visiting whio a few times, and between the gales of wind blasting down from above to fill the billy from the river for another cup of tea or soup. Then early in the evening the rain began in earnest, and between the wind blasting on the tops, and the possibility of not even getting across the river looming with the incessant pounding on the tin roof, we began making nervous contingency plans. A few more moments of doubt...
I woke up before dawn to silence. No rain, and the constant roar of wind gone. Only the muttering song of the river could be heard. Stepping out on the porch I saw stars flickering up in the sky!
I left long before John and Pete who remain at the hut tidying up and no doubt enjoying a few brews before getting underway. Not only because I am far slower but also that I love being on my own in the dripping quiet but not silent forest in the early morning light on such a day as this...sitting here in the depths of the Ngamoko surrounded by blue sky and the myriads of green and shimmering gold I find myself feeling reassured and hopeful. That is love as well.

“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.” - John Muir

John climbing up to the Ngamoko with Pete cruising up behind.

John just below Toka, with the ridge down to Leon Kinvig behind. Photo by Pohangina Pete...

Surly and bruised grey clouds roil and roll above
pushed on by blistering gales
fluorescent on the edges of the setting sun
glinting of yellow and reds
that lead to the dark heart of the matter
the measure of my own time
in a timeless place
what must I do for one more day?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Autumn Thoughts

27 March 2014..Top Maropea
I think back a few months ago, waiting over at Sunrise with Tara for the gales to subside and allow us to dash across the exposed tops to here and beyond. The gales never did, and we had to head home thwarted. It happens.

My experience today one of blissful blue skies, sunshine, and the slightest gentle breeze from the south. A crossing to relish, to move slowly and deliberately, to enjoy each moment in the knowledge of what it can be like up there on a bad day slightly unsure, even afraid. I wonder if how much I appreciate being here is also in direct proportion to the number of times, like with Tara, when I have not been here, or have been up there fighting fierce winds, rather than the pleasant stroll I experienced today.  Perhaps that also can apply to people in our lives as well. I have another handful of cashews while I ponder...

                                           Approaching Armstrong saddle just beyond Sunrise hut.

                                      Time to lie in the sun and enjoy. Even the flies were feeling lazy.

                                         Top Maropea just before sunset......

Late afternoon....I was last here in September of last year. John and I came through from Sunrise and stopped for a cup of tea before heading down to the valley and Maropea Forks for a few days, and on the way back Pohangina Pete met us along the way and joined us for a night here at Top Maropea. It was a fine evening, one of real contentment and camaraderie in the company of two men I hold in great esteem. It feels like if I close my eyes and listen deeply there is Pete's quiet chuckle and John's more cynically tinged laughter rolling by on the breeze. It's a nice thought anyway. There are a lot of such echoes for me here.

Evening...settled into the cozy confines of the hut for my 42nd evening. The fire is blazing away nicely as I had plenty of time to gather and saw up my wood supply. The warmth here is mostly illusion for as soon as I let the fire die down and climb into my sleeping bag this hut will turn into an ice box. I accept that. Right now with the glow of the candles, the crackling of the fire, a few wee drams, and dinner to prepare, I am as warm as I need to be....

I will never tire of seeing the sunset painted upon the far off ridges, peaks, and valley. Each one unique and new, some vivid and alive, some shrouded or hidden in mist and cloud. On a still quiet evening like this I can sit here quietly and observe the changes. The minutiae in each subtle moment.

                             "When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep."....W.B. Yeats

Early morning light on the the tawhairauriki. Steeply down the ridge to the stream, then river.

28 March late morning....Camped at the confluence of the stream and Maropea river on an open river flat where the sun beams down. I was going to head further down river but arriving here just felt right and soon the tent was up. I am going to explore up the west branch of the river where I have not been before. There is  a grove of beech across the stream where I once camped with Taylor and Nigel. Taylor was only 8 years old and the next day we headed down to Maropea Forks for a few days. The campsite was an old culler or hunters camp. The old dilapidated stone fireplace is still there with a few old blackened billies hanging from it, and the remnants of an old tarp still half buried covered with rocks. There are echoes here as well.

``28 March...late afternoon camped on the Maropea river.
"I had a nice long nap in my tent to escape the blazing afternoon sun. Then I had a strong cup of sweet tea before wandering down to the river and bathing in the icy river. I feel fresh, clean, and alive. As if the cold clear water not only washed away the dirt, sweat, and grime I have accumulated through the toils of getting here, but has also cleansed me inside as well. The unnecessary burdens in my very soul that have been washed away by the mountain river and carried down to the sea where they will be absorbed into it all. Baptized in the wild waters of the Ruahine..

The Maropea. A bit too far up I suspect to see any whio, but a very spectacular stretch of river I had not seen before.

Evening...inside my tent writing by headlamp. Once the sun disappeared over the valley it got cold very quickly. It is cozy in here, at least right now. I am using Charlie's small down bag more as a blanket than a bag, as my big but 15 year old MacPac fell apart at the seams after the last tramp. It is a little bit like trying to snuggle my large frame under a tea towel. Oh well...time for a new sleeping bag.

It was a lovely walk up the river. It is very tight and suddenly on bends opens into large flats with sheer cliffs and side streams heading up into easier forest. If I was still hunting deer it would be country where I would be hanging out a lot.

I'm feeling much lighter than a few short days past. At least of spirit. A busy period of work and stress over and behind me. And instead of deadlines, administration systems, emails, and phone calls, all I have had to focus upon is when it is day or night, tea or coffee, cashews or macadamia nuts, and the entire simplicity of just being here. And the ease of putting away my pen, turning off my light, snuggling somehow into my tiny nest and listen to the sound of the river outside lull me to sleep.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!  ~John Muir

I melt into the decaying softness of the old tawhairaunui
What ancient flood and moody day brought her here?
Sitting upon the mosses which claim her I ponder this
as a wisp of breeze blows through
Like the forest around me I simply sway with it's passing
then settle into the old log once again
The river slides past
joyful murmurs today over the greywacke
mountains once far away
like the tawhairaunui
also on the way to sea
I came here to shed burdens
now trivial
for all around me is a dance to join
the old log, the greywacke, the river, and me....

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Footsteps...Summer Tour December 2013

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.

To Tony:
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...

Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro under the muted pink hues of the dawn, the mist yet to be burned off by the new day's sun.

Early morning light as the day unfolds upon the open tops of the Whanahuia range

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."

Afternoon...along the Oroua river.  I have walked up the river, climbing up over the gorge not far from the hut. The day is clear, the skies are blue, and the sun is warm. The wind has picked up a fair bit, which might be a concern were I up high, but down here on the river is not. Tomorrow I travel down river, and  while rain might be a concern, gales are not. I am reminded of John Muir.." Beside the grand history of the glaciers and their own, the mountain streams sing the history of every avalanche or earthquake and of snow, all easily recognized by the human ear, and every word evoked by the falling leaf and drinking deer, beside a thousand other facts so small and spoken by the stream in so low a voice the human ear cannot hear them. Thus every event is written and spoken. The wing scars the sky, making a path inevitably as the deer in snow, and the winds all know it and tell it though we hear it not."... So the wind feels welcome and refreshing. I saw a pair of whio, frolicking about in the rapids, and while attempting to get closer for a photo opportunity dropped my camera in the river. It happened. It is just that. Any photo I would have observed I could obtain far superior images of from Pete. My little point and shoot camera no match for really good gear. Perhaps it is more the moment and the challenge than the result. Still, the near 300 bucks I paid for it nothing to sneeze at losing. Out there in the world,  this would have me really angry and upset. And what if it had been Tara, or Charlie whom had dropped the camera? Anger and rage that serves no purpose. I accept totally it was just me. I dropped the camera in the river. A mistake, an accident, but not really a tragedy. This is too rare a day to ruin with my anger. The Ruahine always offer me these subtle, and not so subtle, Lessons. I must keep working at Listening to them

Sitting down by the river and contemplating these thoughts of my day. The recognition of my own reaction to a circumstance here in the mountains as opposed to out there. I am reminded a bit of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Nature. Perhaps I find a more transcendental connection here, yet I know it is not that simple, that the reaction is still emanating from within me, even if I feel more part of a whole something when I am in the mountains. I think of others  whom may have contemplated other such thoughts here, Tony Gate's name is here, so is Pete's. That seems to add to my remoteness here, not detract from it....

"Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in Nature, but in Man, or in a harmony of both. It is necessary to use these pleasures with great temperance. For, nature, is not always tricked in holiday attire, but the same scene which yesterday breathed perfume and glittered as for the frolic of nymphs, is overspread with melancholy today. Nature always wears the colour of the spirit. To a man labouring under calamity, the heat of his own fire hath sadness in it. Then, there is kind of a contempt of the landscape felt by him who has just lost by death a dear friend.The sky is less grand as it shuts down over less worth in the population." - Ralph Waldo Emerson - Nature 

22 Dec. Iron Gate hut.... as if reading my thoughts on Emerson last evening the clouds rolled in on the wind and it began raining and hammered down upon the tin roof all night and into the morning. The river held well but in the continued rain I thought it best to head down river while the getting was good. A pair of whio greeted me and escorted me down river while I found my water legs. Walking in the river with a heavy pack and slippery boulders is an acquired skill. There is a side stream an hour or so down river in which a track of sorts climbs up into it where it joins a spur and down the other side to avoid a nasty section of gorge in the river.  It is tough, vertical slippery climb up it before it veers away, and then another equally steep descent into a creek on the other side before rejoining  the Oroua. When I settled in with a cup of tea I grabbed the hut book and the first entry in the book is this...."5/1/2011 - Hi fellahs, wetter than the Tararua's here! Hut ticket WA4386...Wet, warm weather, river in flood. Back down valley to Heritage, misty wx..9:00am Blue skies! so exit via tops and Tunupo peak. Tony Gates."

It has been a pleasure to walk in the footsteps of such a good keen man. My own mortality and time left amongst these beautiful ranges has been heavy on my mind. I'm not getting any younger, my knee is sore and  I seem to find a new bump or bruise with every quiet cup of tea. Still, I am here! And I am still smiling. What else can I do?

In the river with the early morning light
driven by the relentless patter upon the tin roof
and restless sleep knowing my path was
along her quiddity
when the sun sparkles and glimmers upon her
it is convivial 
when yet to endow her charms
the near alpenglow leaves all enigmatic
I seek to be in tune to the river
yet slip and slide, furtive steps
then hear the literal trumpets call
the whio!
have come to show me the way...
Kia ora!