A few weeks back Charlie and I were a bit bored on a late Sunday morning and decided to rectify the situation. We jumped in the car and drove out to the Totara Reserve, which lies in the Pohangina valley as it emerges from the Ruahine ranges, still clean and relatively pure as it enters the real world of man and her ultimate destiny already foretold in the path beyond Charlie pictured above. It is a great spot to have a roam and a swim, though even here the danger of wild rivers still is present. Three years ago three beautiful children were drowned less than 400 metres from Charlie above, when some huge cliffs that lie beyond sent a fall down from above the river. A place where so many people have frolicked and swam for generations. It now lies empty, sign posted to warn against entry. It really should read - Swim at Your Own Risk.
I am not trying to trivialize the death of those kids. Losing either of my boys, even the teenager, would quite possibly damage me beyond all repair. I still will teach my boys to swim in mountain rivers, already have.
There was still a heavy feeling of unease that accompanied me on our little journey, this nagging feeling that came over me while Listening to the Song of the Pohangina. At one point Charlie and I came to a bend in the river with a huge amount of log jam gathered up against the true left shore, the side we were on. Which meant a deeply gouged out river below the jam and the possibility of getting mired amongst this tangle. We would have to cross it to get to a point where we could cross the river. To get across such a tangle of vegetation and logs slowly rotting means testing every footstep, at least for me and as I kept an eye on Charlie and his path, and chatted to him, constantly warning him and guiding him, he suddenly stopped and said, "dad, I know you are just trying to help me, but I am actually better at this than you". I realized he was far ahead of me, and picking my route carefully with my pole and bad hip, my beautiful son was only concerned with being six, and his steps much more confident than mine. That literally stopped me in my tracks.
The Pohangina valley is beautiful. It is even more beautiful up in those mountains, its head waters sheer grey wacke, so steep it allows little vegetation to gather way up there. After you get down the water falls and the forest emerges it is stunning. A few hours walk from there will bring you to Top Gorge hut, really just a good camp site as the hut is an old three bunk affair not in the greatest of condition and not being maintained, and due to lack of visitors is to be removed, but a pretty amazing spot in the Ruahines. It would take me at least two more days to walk to farmland, another good stretch to where Charlie and I were.
I would dip my tin cup in any part of the Pohangina river before it leaves the Ruahine ranges. I would not dip it in any part after that. By the time it arrives less than a few miles down river from where Charlie and I are, quite often the human fecal measurements should close swimming in areas where people picnic and perceive they are getting in touch with nature. How out of touch are We?
Every once in a great while we may get a chance to enjoy a mountain river. Above is me a few summers ago enjoying a water fall on the Maropea river just below Otukota hut. The day was hot - the river low, and I truly believe I am the first person to sit in this whirlpool Gifted by Nature for this one brief moment. How can water be so pure here? Why can I slake my thirst here just raising my clenched hand to mouth? What happens to this river, this water, between here and there?
Pool and waterfall on the Makaroro river.
Oroua river just above Triangle hut.
Just playing in the Pourangaki river.
The Waikamaka river.
I was trying to come up with a point to make about these beautiful rivers as they flow out of the mountains looking for the sea, and instead are pressed into servitude to man, their water rights even sold as a product that someone is arrogant enough to OWN. My friend Anne-Marie from http://mightier-than-any-sword.blogspot.com/ wrote a post last year called Healing the Tuki Tuki, and has allowed me to share part of it here:
I am not sure what can be done to help these rivers, to reverse the damage done already. We have come to view them as a commodity and the waste we dump in them, the dams we erect, the flow we alter are simply part of our way of life. How long will it be before we need to intrude further and further into more and more wild places to sustain our needs? The Mokihinui river, on the West Coast of the South Island, and ranked 7th in all of New Zealand in terms of natural value, has been lost to a Meridian energy hydro scheme, and now Contact Energy is after the Clutha Mata-Au river where it wants to erect up to four hydro schemes. The Clutha Mata-Au is New Zealands largest river, and a significant treasure to this land. Rather than write here I will direct those interested to the Clutha Mata-Au River Walkway project, whose mission is to protect and improve the Clutha Mata-Au by establishing New Zealand's largest regional river park, including a river length Clutha river trail. http://www.cmrp.org.nz/ . Please visit as well Donald at http://www.likeminds.co.nz , and go to his weekly blog where his most recent post is on the Clutha. It is his backyard.
The Pohangina. Photo by Pohangina Pete.
"Song of the Makaroro"
I lie beside this river
basking in the sunlight
I Listen to Her Song
Here where she is young and beautiful
sparkling like a jewel
Precious nectar which sustains Life
The crystal clear magnificence
of Her symphony lulls me to sleep
wrapped in Her embrace
Enjoy beautiful river
all too soon you leave this paradise
and your Freedom
Servitude and Slavery to man awaits
as we foist upon you
all we no longer need
we steal your song, your essence
and before you reach the sea
I lean over you
and let my tears fall down upon you
and create briefly
I become you
and my Voice is yours
7 April, 2009