Monday, May 12, 2008

Hurihuri - Changing

The days grow shorter, the nights colder, winters presence gently, for now, taps my shoulder. The roar has run its course in the Ruahine ranges, the stags have fought their battles, have serviced their hard won harems of hinds - the lucky and dominant ones that is! And when the helicopters cream off the easy pickings of mad hungry stags and hinds feeding ravenously after this brief and brutal mating season, fattening up as best they can before winter takes over, the mountains will again fall quiet.

And even though winters grip on the mountains can be icy, cold and even unwelcoming to the unfamiliar, for me it is my favourite time to travel amongst them. My quest for solitude enhanced by winter. Not many like to travel in such country when the winds blow cold, when one is likely to encounter rain, sleet, and snow, having to traverse freezing rivers for hours in water so cold it burns ones throat when having to drink from its flow, arriving at a distant hut, wet, cold, and shaking from the days labours. When the damp coldness can settle down upon a mountain valley like a weight on your shoulders. There is no way to escape these "pleasures" in winter, and no romantic way for me to describe them. It is hard travel.

Yet, this time of year offers many compensations as well, at least enough to endure and persevere with the above conditions. First off it can rain, sleet, and snow any time of year, rivers rise and fall quickly, or slowly. The odds are simply increased a bit. Winter, in general, allows a journey into solitude, into using my experience to travel well and safely. The same cold and conditions described above, the ice cold rivers, the damp chill, all act as barriers in keeping out those less inclined to take them on. Four or five hours on a Ruahine river in winter can be quite a different experience than the same time frame on a summer day, a cold wind on the open tops in summer an annoyance, being in that same wind in winter in the wrong place at the wrong time can possibly kill a man, or woman. The winter adds to the remoteness, and hence quite possibly deepens the connection I feel in the Ruahines. The pack is heavier, more food, extra clothing, most often compensated by a longer stay at a favoured hut, enjoying the ambiance at a more leisurely pace, a day walk, tidying up the hut, chopping and sawing wood, or just ambling along a river with the hut in view, wood smoke drifting lazily from the chimney, thoughts of a cup of tea come to mind....

So the changes upon us here in Aotearoa I find stimulating and exciting, and the Ruahines call to me gently but persistently.

Just as the changes come to the mountains I feel the winds of change blowing over my own life as well. And though that can be at times a frightening prospect, for once part of me also welcomes what may come. Tara and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in a few days. Two short years ago we did not even acknowledge its passing, much less celebrate, such was the state of our marriage, and more so such was the state of my own well being. As a man I just continued going deeper and further into my own place, a very dark place, irregardless of the fact I was dragging everything, and everyone I loved with me. Tara confronted me, pulling me back to a place where I could feel something, anything, even pain. I don't think she went down this path to save our marriage, it was to save herself, and looking back I cannot at all blame her for the hurt inflicted upon me. I felt completely undeserving of anything connected to happiness - except the mountains. I recall us talking about things we wanted, and the only thing I could think of was a wood fire in our home, and even saying that was like saying I only wanted to fly to the moon, which is how disconnected I was from my own life. How could someone like me deserve a wood fire? Tonight as I write this, my two boys are lying in front of that wood fire, I can hear it crackle, I can feel its warmth. Maybe it was representing my worth as a man, to find wood, chop and prepare it, build a fire and keep my family warm. I am not sure of its significance to my life, but at times when I am alone I find myself looking at that wood fire and tears come to my eyes.

I am not even sure how Tara and I survived 15 years, much less the past few years. Tara would say the past year or so it is because of changes in me, and that might be true enough. I feel her, I feel me, I can share my fears with her, as well as my thoughts, and all these things we share become more relevant. Yet I also think it is Tara who has changed as much as I have, perhaps more. I have always thought Tara was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, even if those words choked inside me, yet this past year she has truly blossomed as a woman, finding focus and a path in her own life, which demands that I participate wholly in our lives together as partners and parents. That is fair enough. A marriage, or relationship is only worth saving if two people deem it so, and even then it is a hard road. We are, and always will be, a work in progress. I see a few forks ahead, but for the first time I see the forks as part of a whole, and not just me alone. Happy Anniversary darling, kia ora, and aroha to you and to this journey.

Winter Thoughts : Maropea Forks, 29 July 2003, 4:50pm:

Darkness falls over the valley, a blanket of cold draped over the mountains. I sit on the porch of Maropea Forks with a wee dram in hand, inside the Corker stove warms the hut. The river flows by, ice cold and crystal clear singing its song. I traveled 4 hours in its icy embrace today, and arrived at the hut cold and shaking, even though the day was clear and sunny. How do I describe the feeling of changing into a warm dry clothes, boiling the billy for hot soup and a cup of tea, and crawling into my sleeping bag and falling fast asleep? Bliss, relief, and privileged, are a few words that come to mind. Then to wake up a few hours later here at this place in the Ruahines. Only myself about to turn 43. And this valley, mountains, and river my companions for the next 3 days. We have much to talk about.

Winter Thoughts: Triangle Hut, 27 July, 2004, 6:00pm:

It is good to be back here after almost 2 years. 0n my own to celebrate my 44th birthday in this special place. The hut looks good, refurbished, painted, new wood stove, very tidy. I am a wealthy man. Still a grunt to get here, and the route from just below Maungahuia is in very rough shape, footing is diabolical. Taylor getting in here twice now before age 10 is a credit to him. How I love arriving at such a spot as this, fresh gear, a cup of tea, read the hut book, and wander about the river a bit. Just absorb the refreshing comfort of doing not much at all. I was emptying out the water from my billy full of pasta outside the hut when I heard a familiar call by the river. I looked up in the fading light and saw the sight that sends my soul soaring. A whio flew right down the straight stretch of river in front of me. It was a moment of slow motion connection with this place, and I just stood there smiling, stunned and drunk on this beautiful moment, this wonderful day.

Winter Thoughts: Sparrow Hawk Bivvy, 29 July, 2005, 2:20pm:

John and I left Sunrise at 7:30am and arrived here at noon. The weather was drizzly with a fairly gusty nor'west wind with low cloud swirling about. Yet we turned north at Armstrong saddle rather than the familiar route via Top Maropea. It is a stunning mountain environment on the main Ruahine range, and hard work to negotiate with steep climbs, big drops, narrow saddles and more climbs, not to mention route finding. A very rugged part of the ranges. The wind picked up and the rain turned to sleet, and we started noticing the cold. Having this option to retreat to was an excellent one. I never felt in danger, but I was cold and in need of a hot drink and seeing the sign to Sparrow Hawk loom out of the mist was a welcome relief. This is a very nice spot to be in, almost a micro climate of its own, above we can hear the wind howl over and see the clouds swiftly rush by, here in our protected bowl off the main range we sit and drink tea in the sun. We will still have a few days at the forks to enjoy, and to celebrate my 45th birthday, but pushing on with open top work in bad weather and short daylight is not a smart move. After some lunch and discussion of our options we have opted to stay here. This is life in the Ruahines.

Above is a photo of a Whio (Blue Duck) family. This photo has been graciously lent to me by Pohangina Pete. Pete took this photo near Wakelings hut while participating in a Ruahine Whio survey. Pete's blog is at: , and his post Danger from December 2007 has this, and many other fine photos of this endangered and rare native New Zealand bird, and an exceptionally well written and emotive piece on the state of the Whio. Changes are in store for the Whio as well. Having thrived and evolved in the clear streams and rivers of Aotearoa for thousands of years they are now under threat by man, stoats, deteriorating water quality, and are now down to perhaps six hundred pairs in the North Island, now driven to the high mountain waters which still offer the abundance of purity they require. The Ruahines one of the places holding a small population and still offering sanctuary, for now. These are not common ducks, they have evolved in Aotearoa over some 30,000 years, physically (and spiritually?) perfectly adapted to the mountain environment. To see a whio for me is a very emotional experience, a symbol of my love and connection to these ranges. To witness their ballet of interaction with the clear rivers and rapids, to be fortunate enough to watch their unerring flight down a narrow mountain river gorge, to hear that increasingly mournful call, would be the highlight of any Ruahine day or Journey. Kia ora Pete!

The first photo in the sequence above is of Sparrowhawk Bivouac, mentioned above, taken during a winter 2005 trip with John Nash. When I write of changes I think this was perhaps when I first realized that where I felt at peace and felt ANYTHING was starting to be only on my trips to the Ruahines, and that this was not a healthy way to live. Conversely, Tara was coming to her own realizations, and the next few years we worked through a series of issues with our marriage, and for me an even more important battle for my own soul. The person I was then seems far away, at least far enough to appreciate how fortunate I really am, and the worthiness of accepting the challenge of continuing that process and growth. I recall feeling fear before this trip that I would be unable to connect with the things I normally felt in the mountains, which proved to be something, the one thing, I did not have to fear.

Sparrowhawk Biv is located just off the main range, at around 1300 plus meters. It's initial presence was simply an emergency shelter, and was the back tent like part of the structure, the alcove, big enough to stand up in, and with a small shelf to cook on and bench to sit inside. Before the alcove was added, trampers, such as John and I, would have come down from gale type winds, sleet or snow, or the route cloud obscured, and happily crawled inside for a cold and damp sleep in the metal shelter. The alcove adds a certain charm, and on this day with only the wind and sleet as our foe, and out of the elements, we quite enjoyed our stay. It is a lovely area, and once the sun came out and out of the wind it was quite pleasant.

The second photo was taken by me on the flanks of 0rupu, 1475 meters, and just north of the Sparrowhawk biv location. John can be seen in the lower center of the photo as a little blue dot near the end of the slip. A very steep climb ahead of him, and ahead of us to gain 0rupu, which is the second photo on the post. Tying into this photo is the very first one on this post which is me looking north from the other side of 0rupu and towards Te Atua Mahuru -1534 meters, Maroparea to the front -1511 meters, and Remutupo-1529 meters. We sidled the flanks of Remutupo then climbed to another high point before dropping down and into the forest and right on top of Maropea Forks. I would rate this journey as one of the finest one day open top walks the Ruahines has on offer - and it has plenty!

The next photo in the above sequence is John on the the flanks of Maroparea and looking down into the head waters of the Mangatera valley, in which lake Colenso is located. After being on the open tops it was quite stunning to come across this view, which we only stumbled upon as a place of refuge to escape the wind for a bit. We stayed there and talked for some time. Not a bad spot for some realization time.

The final shot is John and I on a cold winters day outside Maropea Forks. I think it gives that sense of the heavy winter chill that can settle over the mountains. Good thing that fine Corker wood stove is waiting to be brought to life once again. As was I.



Lynda Lehmann said...

A very touching and emotionally poignant post, and your photos are wonderful. I would love to live in such a rugged and gorgeous place! Good for the soul, for sure!

pohanginapete said...

Kia ora Robb,

I found this a moving and evocative account of some of the most important things in life. Beautifully said. I'm glad the whio photo found such an appropriate home here in this post.
Long may you continue to enjoy the delights of your family and the Ruahine :^)

MB said...

Kia ora Robb,

It sounds like you have been doing some courageous traveling, in more ways than one. Here's to finding beauty and connection.

Happy anniversary!

Ngā mihi nui me te aroha nui.

Marja said...

Seems that you are very able to verbalise your feelings and thoughts. That will help you enourmesly along the way. For many a marriage will be a work in progress. It is not always easy. I am happy for you that things are going better. You have such a beautiful family.
And all that talking about cold and ice makes me to want to snuggle up by the fire. have a great day

Gustav said...

Kia ora my fine friend

Congratulations to you and Tara - 15 years has flown by hasn't it?

I remember meeting Tara for the first time and thinking what an exotic beautiful creature she was. Her powerful gale force spirit is a mighty counterpoint to your mountainous essence.

Winter is a time of reflection and deeper thoughts. The fire becomes more important, the warmth of another body more precious. Enjoy!!!!

Bob McKerrow said...

Steady on there mate. Pretty heavy stuff for an early Saturday morning in Indonesia.

It is all a chequer board of nights and days
Where destiny for men with pieces play
And hither and thither move and mate and slay
And one by one back in the closet lay

I think Omar Khayyam summed life up in the four lines above.

We mate and slay like the deers in the Ruahines, or mate like you and Tara. But in mating there is love, longing and I feel your love, devotion and oneness with Tara, and she for you,

Brasch, the great New Zealand poet said,

"Man must lie with the mountains like a lover, earning their intimacy in a calm sigh."

You, I and some others struggle, sometimes confuse, sometimes fuse our love with our women with our mountains. Many times I have had to choose between mountsains and the women I loved. " If you go on that expedition to Peru, I won't be here when you get back," said one. I replied, "if you wait for me for six months, you will find the brash boy has become a man with purpose." She didn't understand. This happened so many times.

Now my dear Naila, says, " Bob, go to India, walk and love your Himalaya, and you will come back strong, purposefull and more tender.

Possession, passion, wayfaring, meaning, nountains, love, jealousy all parade in different guises in relationships but in the end the mountains shape the people and the people shape the mountains.

Have a good weekend brother and keep up the essays on mountains, love and women. Blake's " Bring me men to match my mountains" could be changed to "bring me mountains to match my woman" ? Yes or no ?

O, it is so early to be writing coherently as the a pale yellow sun pokes it head over Jakarta's polluted horizon.


Beth said...

Bonne anniversaire, Robb and Tara, from the other side of the world. I'm glad to find your blog, Robb, and to read these musings about your life. Our marriage is almost 30 years old now and still a work in progress, still hard work but not in the same way as when we were younger. I wish you both all the best.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lynda,
Thank you for your thoughts. It is indeed a rugged and beautiful place. It is, in some ways, where I found my soul. Cheers.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Tena Koe Pete,
Kia ora, and I am glad you approve of the Whio's place here. I am not sure how this post became so much about myself and Tara. I really meant to point out the changes I feel in myself and in our lives - and then I read your eloquent post on the End of the World - which in a much more inferior way was what I felt rattling around inside me. But then I guess I cannot get around to changes in my own life with out breaking it down to the basic and real issues in the bubble as it were, before moving to a wider scope. Kia ora Pete.
Noho ora mai ra,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
Just to clarify, by inferior, I was meaning struggling to get my thoughts out into words in comparison to your eloquent offering! Have a great day.

Ruahines said...

Tena Koe MB,
It has been a journey at that! It is something of a revelation to find beauty and connection where it may not have been before. Or maybe its not seeing what is right in front of us all the time.Very much a similar path between relationships and a trip to the mountains! Kia ora MB.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Tena Koe Marja,
I have always written in journals, and looking back, perhaps aware of my own personal struggles, learning to verbalize them, and share them, a much harder, but much more rewarding and enriching experience. I hope you got to sit by the fire! It was a cold week end up here. Enjoy your day.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Brother,
There have been many mountainous moments shared in our lives. You were there in those early days with Tara.
Fire has always been huge with us. Dancing in the storm while the fire blazed in Roaster's old weber grill! Or the nights we had a huge blaze roaring in the cabin we rented in Tasmania, drinking beer and whiskey, going outside to howl at the skies, no one to hear our bellows but each other brother. Kia ora.

Ruahines said...

Tena koe Bob,
Could it be true that I had to love a place, the mountains, in order to in turn love myself, and in turn others? Fortunately Tara has always, like Naila, understood that need for me to retreat to the Ruahines. There just came a time when she needed more.
Interesting that a lot of the direction I started out here in this post relates to what you, and Pete, mentioned in your repective posts. "Drinking Tea with 0bama" really impacted me, as did Pete's post. These changes swirling about me, but a challenge I need, the results worth the effort.
Kia ora Bob, always enjoy your thoughts. Have a great week!
Noho ora mai ra,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Beth,
Thank you for stopping by, and I have been enjoying your writings and photos as well. It has been reaffirming to read that others are on this journey as well. Kia ora and have a wonderful day!
Ka kite ano,

Bob McKerrow said...


For some of us, me included sometimes the love of a mountain, helps us love ourselves and others. Leonardo da Vinci said, "If you know the oblect but little, you can love it but little."

And then as I quoted Brasch before, " Man must lie with the mountain like a lover. earninmg their intimacy in a calm sigh."

It is an interesting theme and you just need to read Mallory and Melove and see their take on mountains and love, or lack of love in some cases.

Sometimes I just give up and say to hell with all the philosophising, and have a wee dram while I count the stars from my balcony.

Had a great week as I took my 8 year old to Yogyakarta on the other side of Java and the pilots on Garuda Air let him in the cockpit twice. try on their hats and play with the controls. They don'y give a toss about 9/11 and all that crap here. They still let kids in the cockpit and treat us all as human beings as we fly.


D'Arcy said...


What an honest, poetic, complex and yet simple post. Thank you for your thoughts. Thank you for taking me out of the city that I reside for the ten minutes I can read your post and transporting me to the lovely mountains that mean so much to you.

Your family is beautiful, and Tara, especially, has to be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, not just for her outward appearance, but for the details of the journey that you two share. I grew up in a home with parents who fought to stay together, though many, many years of hardship and loneliness was evident in both their lives. Now, finally, after 32 years, they seem to have finally gotten everything in perfect harmony and I have never seen two people more happy. As a child, watching it all, wondering what I would do in their situation, debating on whether or not it was worth it to fight for something that it was hard to see the value of for a while, now the magnitude of my parents' simple lives breathes deeply and openly and thrills me to the very core.

As your winter begins, I hope it hold many fires and moments of warmth for you.

(and one day, you need to translate your beautiful phrases for me...but to repeat, and I think I know what it means....Kia ora Robb)

Patry Francis said...

Congratulations to you and Tara. Thank you for sharing the warmth of that wood fire you've built for your family. I can truly feel it.

Anne-Marie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne-Marie said...

Some what belatedly, congratulations Robb and Tara. You are a lovely couple and I am privileged to have met you both. Fifteen years! Whew! Here's to many more years.

Ruahines said...

Tena Koe Bob,
Appreciate the affirmation, and the quotes. Being very honest I think the mountains have given me far more than I them - particularly out here. A way of dealing with my life I did not possess in the past. So perhaps that is their love for me? I too have gazed up at the stars wee dram in hand! I am sure Yogyakarta had an experiencehe will never forget, I also enjoyed your post of taking him on his first mountain walk. Have a great day Bob.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
I often think of reading other blogs as taking a journey to someplace else, and the ones we return often to become interesting, informative, and even familiar places. I am happy to read you enjoy the mountains.
Kia ora for your kind words and your astute observations of your own parents journey, as well as your own. We have become such a disposal society it seems, and sometimes we want to throw things away before its time, i.e. relationships. My own parents struggled much the same way as you write, and only in the last 10 years, maybe less, before my dad passed away, did I sense a true partnership between them. How do you know when the time to part has really come, if at all? Sorry I am rambling here a bit but I really like your thoughts. You have made a friend in Tara! Have a great day. Kia ora D'Arcy!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
Cheers! Yes, the wood fire is so lovely, and much work to keep it clean, stocked, and ready to warm us, yet that work is a pleasure. Slowly getting there. Kia ora.
Ka kite ano,

Ruahines said...

Tena koe Anne-Marie,
Kia ora to you for your well wishes! We both appreciate your thoughts, and it has been our pleasure to spend time with you. I look forward to catching up very soon! Rangimarie.

PATERIKA HENGREAVES, Poet Laureate said...

Kia ora Robb

This is a magnificent account of your trekking through the mountain now that the Hurihuri is changing into its wintry wear. Your have captured my interest throughout the reading should I say "mountain high" and I love the poetic flair you have injected into it. Magnificent and eloquently done. The opening paragraph is a profound example with its rhythmic flowing cadence that seeps throughout the well written essay. Gorgeous pictures and magnificent imagery so well placed. Oh, I love the way you have introduced your thesis on the beauty and changing scenes of Hurihuri these opening lines fuelled my appetite:

"The days grow shorter, the nights colder, winters presence gently, for now, taps my shoulder. The roar has run its course in the Ruahine ranges, the stags have fought their battles, have serviced their hard won harems of hinds - the lucky and dominant ones that is! And when the helicopters cream off the easy pickings of mad hungry stags and hinds feeding ravenously after this brief and brutal mating season, fattening up as best they can before winter takes over, the mountains will again fall quiet."

The reading was most enjoyable as usual.

Your family pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them.

I am feeling much better. Thank you for asking. This tropical heat I no longer can enjoy. I'm thinking that I need to get away from it soon.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Paterika,
I am so pleased to read from you! I am glad to read you are well, and I highly anticipate reading, and listening, to your next poem.
You are so kind. I would love to have had you as teacher when I was young. You teach me now, and I am old. There are always lessons to learn. Kia ora Paterika!