Friday, August 29, 2008

Hut Days, Thoughts on Gear, Vicarious Longing


I was suppose to leave on a two night solo foray into the Oroua head waters and Triangle hut this afternoon. A late afternoon jaunt up to Rangiwahia hut for the night, then carry onto Triangle early Saturday morning. The stars seemed lined up, a near perfect weather forecast, excellent timing with our busy schedules, and a strong calling I have been feeling from this area I have not seen in almost two years now. Two things happened since Tuesday when I sat gazing at my pack loaded and ready to roll. The first is Charlie had been sick with a very chesty cold, and sure enough it exploded in me, and I am coughing and hacking and feeling rather crook. Tara would call it the Man Flu. And secondly a man I know died in a truck accident Tuesday afternoon. He was one of the first people I met when I moved here and began working in the trucking industry - a real adult portion of a way to cut one's teeth in a new and unfamiliar land. Let's just write I paid my dues. Ben, the man who was killed, was one of the managers of the firm. He made a point of coming over and talking to me each and every day as I made my way through this testing time. I will never forget that little act of kindness. I since came to know his sons as well and though I do not see them often, it is always with joy that I do. Ben was Maori, and held much mana, or esteem, within his tribe. His tangi, or funeral, is being held this weekend, and I think it more important I be there to pay my respects to someone who treated me with respect and simple kindness.

So the mountains will have to wait. As much as I long to be amongst them, and in terms of time I will be soon enough. And they really never leave me anyway, I just close my eyes and there they are......







Hut Days : One of the finest aspects of my interactions with the Ruahines was discovering and implementing into my trips hut days, or simply days spent at a place doing everything and nothing. When I first started traveling in this beautiful and rugged place I was in a frantic rush to see as much as possible, traveling long and hard each day, spending a relatively few hours at these amazing spots, sleeping, then packing up and moving on. It began to occur to me that perhaps I should slow down a bit, particularly when Nigel moved away and I was forced to begin my period of solo tramps. I recall waking up one morning at Maropea Forks and realizing for the first time I was staying there for this entire day and night, I walked out onto the porch of the hut, the river sleepily rolling by, and just being filled with joy and euphoric harmony and I knew this was the path for me to be on. What to do on a day with absolutely no restrictions, time is meaningless except for light and dark. Some are daunted by that, bored without those worldly constraints of being productive and efficient. Not me. And what is productive anyway? Is it being able to climb a ridge to open tops with only a small pack, or walk up an unexplored creek or river, create karma for the hut by cleaning and chopping wood, writing in my notebook, reading Walt Whitman, having another cup of tea, or just sitting in some quiet spot and absorbing the energy of all this life around me?















"Hut Day at Top Maropea"

Firewood chopped, sawed, stacked nice and neat

Warm dry socks upon my feet

What to do now - well let's see

I've had another few cups of tea

Checked all the straps on pack and gear

Kept myself full of good cheer

I've had a nap

took a crap

checked all the places on my map

We may think this is a realm of man's

Though the Ruahines care not

for my insignificant plans

In fact they do not give a damn

So I guess I'll just pour myself

a wee small dram

and raise a toast

To the next time I see ya

It has been a lovely day

hut bound here at Top Maropea


Written 31 September 2005. Hut bound and forced to stay an extra day and night due to inclement weather. A crude attempt at rhyming prose I know, but hey, with the wind howling over, and rain beating down on the tin roof, it sounded pretty good in that moment.




Gear: Above is my favourite photo of my pack. It was taken in a part of the forest on the spur that leads from Upper Makaroro to Parks Peak ridge. A relatively flat enjoyable stretch of an otherwise grueling climb. These beeches and forest literally pulsate with energy, and one thing that always amazes me about Ruahine forest is the very symmetrical pattern to the big trees, look how they line up to make the best use of the sun, of the meagre soil depth, each one unique and solid. So I stopped and took a photo, forgetting my pack was even there. It is a Mac Pac, at that time a New Zealand made product, made here and for, the interesting conditions our mountains present. All four seasons in one day would be an apt description. A model long since made redundant, it was the first pack I ever purchased in the modern era of "harness systems" and I paid top dollar for it. We became fine traveling companions over the last 11 years. It has carried for me many heavy loads and I in turn for it carried those loads upon my back. An even trade. The Ruahines are not kind to gear, even when the gear is cared for properly. I have gone through four pairs of boots, my poles are bent and one locked into place, my 10 year old Reflex rain jacket has a few spots rubbing through, and I won't even get into the state of my thermals and socks. I never even noticed until my last winter trip with John. My threadbare thermals seemed fine, my old gaiters still work, but all the sudden after a brief rest on Parks Peak ridge and I shouldered my old friend the Mac Pac, the whole side of the shoulder strap I always pick it up from tore loose. Not good. Thanks to the straps Nigel provided years ago to lash my Camel Bak to the pack I was able to improvise a repair and carry on for the next 4 days, but I knew this was a significant moment. The end had come.



So I have new bought a new back. Something called a Deuter with an "Air Contact Harness System". Pretty flash sounding. I felt no loyalty towards any New Zealand product as they are all now made off shore, as are most of the worlds packs these days. So I bought the most comfortable pack I found, one with a bit more space, and one that felt reasonably comfortable on my hip. Still, no way to tell until I get a few trips under my belt. And just as I felt a bit guilty about staying in the new Parks Peak hut, I find myself feeling the same about looking at my new loaded shiny pack sitting here waiting. I am sure we will become good mates in due course, but saying good bye to my old Mac Pac is also a representation of my own time moving on in the hills. We climbed many a ridge, traversed many rivers, sometimes muddy and angry, sometimes calm and serene, we endured storms and sun lit days amongst the golden tussock, I sat with you during moments of doubt and indecision, and sometimes just to enjoy the moment. You were a good friend. I toast to your endurance and loyalty. Rangimarie and Aroha. Travel safely.

27 comments:

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Robb, I'm so sorry you're sick. (Weren't you sick not long ago as well? Are you taking your vitamins and getting enough sleep?) ... the mommy in me always 'bleeds through'.... can't help it!

And I'm sorry your son is sick too. Our daughter has had this same cold/flu you describe and was home with fever and hives yesterday. No fun. Luckily the rest of us have managed to avoid it thusfar.

And, secondly, I'm sorry that your friend died a sudden and tragic death. That is always very hard, because you don't have a chance to say good-bye.

Take care, rest, get well, and you'll be enjoying your beautiful woodlands and mountains again before you know it.

Blessings to you, Tara, and the boys.

PS: Hubster's back surgery went very well... he's recovering nicely. :-)

Bob McKerrow said...

Kia Ora Robb

Sorry your good mate passed away. Sounds as he was a man with a lot of mana and aroha. May he rest in peace.

I hope you are feeling better now. I wee dram may help out. You wrote again with such feeling and passion. Enjoyable reading. I am glad you like Walt Whitman. I have had his collected works for about 40 years. I love the one about " A woman contains all, nothing lacking...."

Take care my brother.

Bob

D'Arcy said...

This idea of longing you write about is in each of us.

This large pack you take with you also accompanies each person, whether physically or metaphorically.

And the simple hut you rest in is a necessity for all.


But how many of us really take the time to think and describe and decide what we will long for, what we will carry, and where our hut will be?

I'm a literary person at the core, so stories always come down to symbols and those symbols come down to how they apply in my life.

I long for things, sometimes I receive them and sometimes I don't. I will always long for nature..it's a part of me. I will always long for love and friendship and peace. I think when we allow ourselves to long, we allow ourselves to start creating and shaping our worlds to include these things in our daily lives. Imagine what the world would be like if people stopped longing for fortune and fame but simply united in longing for peace.

Some days my pack is heavy, some days it is light. Some days I know exactly what's inside and somedays I've forgotten that I put a huge cast iron skillet in the bottom and that's why I can't make it to the top of the hill. The idea of the pack is daily with me.

The hut. A simple, clean, beautiful place without too many distractions, a place to connect, to enjoy, to build a simple fire and dream and simple dream surrounded by people you care about and love.

Robb, I think you've got the most important things in life down. Thanks for reminding me of them often.

D'Arcy said...

I am sure your friend would be flattered and surprised with just how much his influence, though he may have considered it small, had in your life.

To me, more than any loud praise or huge ado, the people who live lives of simple kindness and human decency are the people who make this world a better place.

Patry Francis said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful hut days. The air here feels clearer, and my vision is expanded just reading about them. My condolences on the good man
and friend who was lost. Simple kindness means everything.

ophelia rising said...

Robb, I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. I hope that he is resting well with the earth from where he came, and that he is well remembered by all who loved him. My thoughts are with you.

I have a difficult time discerning what is productive, and what is not. I love working, moving, getting things done, but also to sit and reflect and muse on each moment; to walk and to hike and to exert physical energy without obvious purpose - these are precious, too. Productivity can be many things, which is perhaps the way it should be.

So sorry about your old pack. I have a pair of boots that I CANNOT say good bye to. They have served me well, through multiple hikes, to a couple of marches in Washington, to simply skulking around on fall nights. I love them so much, that I rescued them from a certain departure from the Goodwill bag on a couple of occasions. I think they'll be with me until a major hole appears - amd then, I might just frame them and hang them on the wall (kidding). I understand the karma of such things.

Hope your new pack brings you lots of great new memories and experiences.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora HWHL,
Just that time year of here. There is a flu bug dropping people like flies at the moment. Charlie is fine thanks, kids have such resilience. I also suffer from asthma, and at least a few times a year it causes me problems - particularly in winter. So I suspect the bout of flu I had last month just left me a bit suseptible to this rot, which is diagnosed as bronchitis. Just have to ride it out.
Cheers for your words about Ben. It was quite a shock though I had not seen him in a long time.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
The tangi was on a marae in Levin with the background of a beautiful day and the Tararuas snow covered and brilliant in the recently rare sun filled day. The Tararua's are the guardians of Ben's iwi and their presence was magnificent. It was a very emotional gathering, and per Ben's mana there was a huge turn out, and a huge feed afterwards. He touched a lot of lives. I stood near the exit point
where his body was taken from the marae proper to the burial ground and the men from the tribe gathered to do the haka. The energy flowing from it was palpable and stirring. A fitting send off to be sure. The Maori honour and grieve their departed so much more openly than western society.
Cheers Bob, a few wee drams will certainly be looked forward to in a few days. Tara has taken a real recent shine to Whitman and we have taken to reading each other poems we enjoy from his prolific works. Kia ora Bob.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
Cheers for that analogy. I rather like it actually, and in re-reading my words I suppose in a way writing good bye to my pack could also be seen as writing good bye to Ben. And yes, we do all carry many things with us, and just as important as what we carry is how we choose to carry our burdens. I am still learning. Your definition of a hut is perfect. Kia ora D'arcy.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Ruahines said...

Tena koe Patry,
Simple kindness is something that can make a huge difference in our lives, you write so elequently about it. The little things that can impact us as we go about our lives. Ben probably never knew what his simple kindness meant to me, but judging by the turn out at his tangi it was something he practiced daily. I will strive for that. Cheers for stopping in, I am glad you can find some connection here. Have a lovely day Patry and kia kaha.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Robb, I hope you and your son are better now. Jeff had the same thing and was sicker than a dog.

{{{HUGS!}}} for the loss of your friend. I'm sorry for your loss.

Lucky you have the mountains you can surrender your thoughts to when life becomes hard.

Your photos are amazing!!! The first hut photo has the color I want Jeff to paint our house! I smiled when I saw it inviting readers to come and enjoy the woodstove. :D

Your imagery and prose are FANTASTIC!!! How great it is that I can show Jeff your posts and we can muse over your adventures in the mountains together. You have a way of connecting souls. :D

Blessings! JJ

D'Arcy said...

Robb,

I was thinking about your lost pack too. It's true, in a way, that we get really accustomed to our packs in life, so much so, that we might not even question why we are carrying them...we equate it with life or survival and don't go past that. I feel like my recent religious experience was symbolic of my carrying around a beloved pack for years and years. I knew the pack had problems but I patched it up as best I could because I NEVER had been taught to think that I could simply take the pack off...but I didn't realize that until the pack actually broke and I realized I had to get rid of it.

I am enjoying the lightness I feel of having no pack at the moment....but I am sure in time, it will be right to get a new one.

Marja said...

Sorry to hear about your friend who seems to have been a very nice person.
Love to read about your trips again
Would be my perfect way to spent the day a bit of tramping, writing, reading,dreaming, reflecting and taking in all the beauty surrounding you. I wouldn't replace anythin just the tea for the coffee.
Talking about backpacks, reminds me of a young boy who was on a track lingering behind and was literally bending down under the load of his backpack. We opened it and saw that his mum had packed it with loads of apples and other food. We took it all out ha ha
Hope you and your pack will make many more trips together

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Ophelia,
Yes, Ben is resting in his original whenua, and his tangi, or funeral literally meaning wail or mourn, was a fitting way to say good bye. The Maori are very aware of the iwi members being returned to their home earth and it was a very moving ceremony.
I just feel at times that so many in our society are so disconnected from themselves, and Nature, that being "productive" ONLY means that which brings in money or something like it, school, mowing the lawn, washing the car, ect. So much so that just sitting under a tree listening to the birds sing, or reading poetry, listening to music, becomes frivolus and wasteful. Of course there is a need to balance these things, lawns need mowing, money does need to be made,and so on. It just seems too many are too daunted by doing "Nothing".
Kia ora for understanding about the gear, and I love your words about the karma of such things. I do feel like I form a bond with certain items that perform important tasks for me. And I still have my first pair of boots I started tramping with here as well. An old pair of Timberlands I refuse to throw awaay as well! I even wear them from time to time on social occasions simply to honour them. Strange eh! Kia ora Ophelia, happy tramping.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Ruahines said...

Kia ora JJ,
Cheers, we are all on the mend though this bronchitis will slow me for awhile.
I have always wanted to live in a simple cabin type place based on a simple hut like design, obviously a bit bigger, but using old wood and a rustic look. That orange paint would make your place easy to find! And, of course, that is why they are painter that colour, as Ruahine mist and cloud can easily obscure lesser obvious colours.
It makes me happy to read of you and Jeff sharing thoughts of these things so far away, and I certainly enjoy viewing and reading about your interaction in your stunning back drop as well. Kia ora JJ.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Ruahines said...

Tena koe D'Arcy,
Yet the memories of that old pack are with you and part of you. I think you do have a new pack on D'Arcy, you just have not felt it as bearing weight yet as it only loaded with what you need and bring. Love, Values, Ethics, Friendship, Nature, Beauty, and Virtue. It may even be the same pack my friend, you have simply removed a few items that have made your burden easier to bear, but the core essentials remain with you. Travel well D'Arcy. Kia ora.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
Oh I drink lots of tea out there! Those tubes of Nestle's condensed milk are so nice! Interesting as I rarely drink tea out here.
I recall a wee story as well. Some friends tramping to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, very inexperienced in those days, and one guy with a very heavy pack began lagging behind, soon to drop over with sun stroke. They emptied his pack and found he brought no water and instead bottles of tequilia, canned meat, and beer! He never made it to the bottom.
I will keep you posted on my relationship with the new pack. Kia kaha Marja.
Arohanui,
Robb

Gustav said...

Brother

Your friends life should be celebrated and I trust you will heartily participate.

Here is a toast to your fine pack and the memories it has given you.

Let us also celebrate the new pack and allow it to earn its horns.

Anonymous said...

condolences rob - always hard to say goodbye eh on all levels
tom
ps
hope my macpac lasts that long

adam said...

Hiya, Robb-
I'm very glad to hear that Charlie is feeling better; though they bounce well, it's hard to see them ail. The whole home always seems different; somehow backed off and bleak.
So sad to hear of your compadre's passing, though. I hope that the space he filled so well is taken by someone of equal mana. I wish his family all the best a guy on the other side of the earth has to give. Life is different for those left behind, my heart goes out to them, especially inasmuch as you saw him as such a good being.
School started a couple of weeks ago, and I've had a time of it rebalancing myself to having the two jobs at once after a relatively unconfined summer. My children, blog, relationships and soul have suffered for the process. I can tend toward the manic-depressive side, especially at these junctures.
I reckon that comes by way of explanation for my scarcity and thanks for your kind wishes yesterday. I very much appreciate you, sir.
I wish you speed in full recovery and blessed faith in attending the funeral for your friend.
Thanks for the elegy for your pack, by the way. I can relate!
All best to you, mate.
Adam

Ruahines said...

Cheers Gustav,
Yes,absolutely,the old pack retires with scars of battle, thye new one eager and hopeful, and I must let those horns be earned. I am sure Spike the Little Viking would concur brother. Kia ora.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tom,
Cheers. The Ruahines ain't easy on the gear thats for sure. Hope to see you and your Mac Pac there one day soon.
Ka kite ano,
Robb

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Adam,
Glad to "see" you back my friend. Charlie has bounced back fine as kids do, me, a bit slower which gets very frustrating.
Adam, I feel very kindred to you in many ways. I too battle with those dark spots at times and things can seem very over whelming, maybe that is why I checked in on you, some sort of innate connection. Sometimes that is all it takes. Happy to be of service. Kia kaha my friend.
Thanks for understanding about the pack. It is more than just material grief.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Robin Easton said...

Hey DeaR Robb,

I hope by the time you get this that you are feeling better. I was touched that you stayed to be with the spirit of your friend and his family. It felt like something you would do. And like you said about your mountins:

"And they really never leave me anyway, I just close my eyes and there they are......"

I sure know this feeling. I also LOVED the whole passage about TIME and being bored, etc. Boy, I could so relate to how you feel. I lose myself in Nature and forget all time, except light and dark. I cannot even imagine getting bored in the wild. That's like someone being locked in a HUGE supermarket over night and saying they were starving and had nothing to eat!!! :) :)

ALSO, this poem is wonderful; I loved it. It's playful and full of heart and soul. I wouldn't change one thing in it. And your photos here are so amazing. They tell as much story as your words. You could publish these entries. They are just excellent and really do convey your soul.

Thank you so much for sharing this part of your life.
Hugs,
Robin

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Robin,
Isn't it cool when time just disappears? I think perhaps you have had more moments of that than I, but the brief glimpses I get are so amazing!
I am feeling better kia ora, but there are clouds on the horizon I have only discovered.
I am so happy you enjoyed that poem. I can recall each second in that hut, the storm outside, and I laughed and laughed when I wrote that. Then probably had another cup of tea.
Thank you Robin, you make me smile.
Rangimarie,
Robb

PATERIKA HENGREAVES, Poet Laureate said...

Kia ora Robb

I'm happy that you are feeling much better now. And your son is doing well too. You are truly a guy who is so much in love with nature it wells out in your written words. I wished The Long White Cloud was not so far away then my visits would not be so sparse,but I hope to return there with my son when he is ready for the trip. Its environmental appeal is powerfully attractive and an excellent place to be when in the muse. You are not only a excellent tramper but your poetic lines do add heaps of joyful reading from words spoken so sincerely. In that regard, this extract is particularly beautiful:

"Hut Day at Top Maropea"

Firewood chopped, sawed, stacked nice and neat

Warm dry socks upon my feet

What to do now - well let's see

I've had another few cups of tea

Checked all the straps on pack and gear

Kept myself full of good cheer

I've had a nap

took a crap

checked all the places on my map

We may think this is a realm of man's

Though the Ruahines care not

for my insignificant plans

In fact they do not give a damn

So I guess I'll just pour myself

a wee small dram

and raise a toast

To the next time I see ya

It has been a lovely day

hut bound here at Top Maropea

Simply musical and cheery---ditty-like the opening lines. I love it.

By the way you speak much about huts. These structures dot the tramping trails and pictures are beautiful. "collateral damage to nature" your words is minimized, I woould say. Now, how far is Lower Hut from the Ruahines?

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

Warm regards
Paterika

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Paterika,
Again, thank you for your thoughts and feed back. It means a lot to me. I am so happy you enjoyed that poem, it gives me confidence to write.
The huts are very unique to New Zealand, really a system put in place to control introduced and rampant deer populations which were severely impact the fragile mountain environments. Men lived in the huts and roamed the areas shooting as many deer as possible, brutal but necessary. This was in the the 1950's to the 1980's and now these huts remain. I have visited some so often it is like seeing home.
Now Lower Hutt Paterika is a mere 2 hour drive towards Wellington from my home in Palmerston North. When you visit I would love to meet you in person and show you the Ruahines. Cheers Paterika, again thank you for your support and time. Have a lovely day.
Rangimarie,
Robb