These are the earliest photos I have of my time in the Ruahines, taken on my second outing with Nigel back in autumn of 1994. We did a crossing of the southern Ruahines over Maharahara. The ranges are relatively narrow at that point and it took us about 8 hours to cross over where Tara was waiting for us with food and cold beers. It was another eye opening experience into traveling in such country. I recall Nige and I heading up through farmland on the western side in a persistent drizzle looking up very concerned at the grey and forboding looking hills above. I was carrying a rubber pack I used for canoeing in the Boundary Waters, wearing a very sub standard pair of boots, and a heavy cotton sweat shirt! Nigel was wearing blue jeans. And check out that authentic Russian hat Nigel is wearing. We had a bit to learn yet we headed on up into the mist where it began to snow. As the snow fell the sun also poked out in places at times illuminating the droplets of moisture in a myriad of colours that simply took our breath away. Once again I knew I had entered a place that was never going to let me go. Nige and I probably got away with making a few mistakes back in those days, bad gear, wrong gear, dubious navigation skills, yet we always came through and we always were eager for more. The Ruahines had entered my soul.
Nige standing above the Pohangina river and Leon Kingvig hut, a long steep climb up the Ngamokos awaits!
Robb, just outside Leon Kingvig hut after a very long day.
Nige by a tarn up on top of the Ngamokos, a quick task to refill the water bottles in a gale like wind.
In 1996 we upped the ante, having decided that while doing day trips was a rewarding experience, the buzz we got being amongst such places would be better served by venturing further into the mountains, to some of the many huts contained in this wonderful place, and staying for a night, or even longer.
The first trip we attempted I found out later was, is, called the Apiti track, and is another crossing of the ranges from a much wider point than Maharahara. We would go in from the east side of the ranges, climb up and down, up and down, and drop into Pohangina valley and Leon Kingvig hut. Then the next day climb up to the Ngamokos and out to the western side via the now familiar Knights track. Once again we had a steep learning curve. Our gear and food were mostly fine, but we badly under estimated how much water we might need, especially me. It was a brutally hot day, and a lot of up and down steep climbing and dropping, and hell, even then and pretty fit, it is just a long way from the road end to Leon Kingvig hut. I am sure I was quite dehydrated when I finally stumbled down to the hut, and straight into the river where I tried to drink it all! And as I have since come to relish, a change of clothes, a cup of tea and some salty chicken soup and the world comes right, a very simple recipe. There were hunters at the hut so Nigel and I set up his tent a ways down river, built a little fire and had a lovely time. I was just buzzing. I remember thinking how I wish we did not just have to pack up and go the next day, that we should have more time here to wander and explore, and enjoy this wonderful feeling that comes to me. The next day was beautiful, though very windy and we battled through it to meet up with Knights track and down to where the beautiful Tara, with 3 year old Taylor in tow, once again met us with cold beers at the road end. As we drove away I looked back at those Ngamokos looking golden and majestic, and I was more in love than ever.
Perhaps the greatest gift of having such a person in my life was the confidence it gave me in bringing my son Taylor, now almost 16, but then 7, on his first mountain tramps. Nige had, has, his own bond with Taylor, and to have him along was again a silent blessing, another pair of experienced eyes, ears, and hands to help guide this precious boy. And man we took him on some trips! Places not many 7-8 year olds would normally go. Maropea Forks, Parks Peak, Triangle, Daphne to name a few. Taylor earned his stripes. Now Charlie awaits as well.
Taylor, age 7, on way to Top Maropea.
Taylor and Nigel above Armstrong saddle in inclement weather. This was on our return trip from Top Maropea on a decidedly unpleasant day. Another group of far more well attired trampers appeared not long after this photo, coming from Waikamaka and a different direction. They were very impressed by Taylor's efforts. It was a proud moment for me really, and for Nigel too, knowing we had come from such humble beginnings here in these ranges, to confidently taking others.
Taylor, age 12, and Robb, on Camel Back ridge.
The Journey Continues! Kia ora Nige!