Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Perhaps the biggest allure of the mountains to me is the opportunity to live simply, thus finding myself capable of taking so much more on board, to observe, learn, and grow. How can I not appreciate the warmth from a cup of tea after walking in an ice cold river for 3 or 4 hours, or the feeling of putting on warm, dry socks after battling wind, rain, and possibly snow, on exposed open tops, boots wet and muddy, body cold and tired. How can I not appreciate the metallic clanging of the Corker wood stove door, knowing the hut will soon be as warm as I desire. To learn through experience the simple skills of navigation, using a map and compass, recognizing physical features, learning to read what the mountains are saying by the wind and clouds. Surely the ancient Maori learned the same way, and history tells us they treated the mountains with great reverence and respect - perhaps even a certain amount of healthy fear.
Any man, or woman, will surely benefit in some way, by being able to carry all the gear one needs on one's back and travel amongst the mountains living simply, yet relatively few seem to actually do so. Which from a selfish point of view is a good thing. The crux of which is this, simplicity has opened other doors for me in Nature. The relative luxury of traveling in a remote range I know now fairly well has allowed me to start viewing the ranges from a micro point of view as well as macro. Traveling over well known areas allows me to lose myself in thought and suddenly I have arrived at my destination, particularly when solo.
To live simply is to live slower. Time, particularly after a few days in the mountains, takes on less importance except in terms of that days travel, and with little in the way of interference our days are full and complete.
The hardest part, for me, is to apply these moments to my life outside the ranges - which Nigel once pointed out to me is a far greater portion of my time - and become a better person, father, husband and friend. What the mountains have given me is a tool to battle the demons I carry within, and slowly become a better man. I use to wonder if this was not me putting my expectations or projections on the Ruahines, as when I am emotionally together out here it is easy to approach the mountains, just as it is to cross a saddle or open tops on a beautiful wind free day, or travel a river when it is quiet and the pools clear and sweet. Crossing open tops when the wind is howling and it is snowing, or the river now flooded and raging does, I suppose, offer a certain synchronicity to traveling the mountains when life out here is not so easy. I have found that Connection in the Ruahines both ways. Either way the endless continuity of Nature points out the Truth to me. There is something very reassuring in that sort of Simplicity.

The following poem was written by the late Mike McGee, a North Island hunter, fisherman, writer, a man who lived simply and loved the mountains. He spent a lot of time in the Ruahines, and in the year 2000 on a rugged crossing with RTC members Parduhn and Davidson we straggled into Wakelings hut after batting two flooded rivers and a very wet and cold ridge, as Steve wrote in my notebook, quoting Taylor, "getting your boots wet will be the least of your problems", we found that not long before our arrival Mike himself had spent 3 days holed up at Wakelings waiting for the rain to stop and the river to settle. Needless to say, he spent a great deal of time writing in the not often used hut book, and we amused ourselves in front of the fire reading his poems out loud. The following was particularly meaningful for me, and I was surprised a few years later to find a book written by Mike with this poem and a few photos of Wakelings as well. The book is called, For Those Who Understand, and is a treasured possession. Mike passed away a few years ago after a battle with cancer. I am sure his spirit travels on the beech ridge summer breeze.

For Those Who Know, by Mike McGee

When you leave me can you leave me
Where the big trees bend and sigh
Where theres birdsong in the morning
And a river running by
I'll find a big rock overhang
Enough to keep me dry
With a gap or two amongst the trees
So I can see the sky
When you leave me can you leave me
With a breeze upon my cheek
Where the crystal clear bush water
Murmurs gently in the creek
I'll hope the place you leave me
Will have leaves to make my bed
And if I'm in luck there'll be
A mossy bank to lay my head
When you leave me can you leave me
A billy can or two
And a heap of dry red totara chips
So I can make a brew
I'll live in hope a Robin
just might visit now and then
With maybe just a verse or two
still flowing from my pen
I'll hope that when you leave me
My mind is crystal clear
So I can picture faces
of the ones that I hold dear
Then I'll settle down and make the most
of everything I've got
And you can rest contented
I'll be happy with my lot
- Wakelings hut book, 23 March 2000 -

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