Saturday, October 23, 2010

Waiata o te tawhairauriki ( Song of the Beech)

17 October 2010

Robb - solo
Parks Peak hut
The wind howls over the hut like a thousand freight trains that never slow down, shaking and rattling the hut at its moorings. So much so I cannot even hear the rain bouncing on the tin roof. No matter, inside the hut I have the fire going just quietly, I have a cup of tea in hand, I am dry, warm, and well. Originally I was headed for another part of the mountains, but then saw the weather forecast calling for gale force winds and rain, and that is not even in the mountains! So I instead, on the basis of my now eleven trips up and along that long steep arduous, but oh so beautiful ridge, knew I would be relatively protected from the elements by the tough and gnarly tawhairauriki (mountain beech) whom would ward off the most intense of the wind, as they do all their lives. It was a decision based upon experience and knowledge of these mountains. I feel good about that. It meant a longer, tougher walk with a very heavy 4-5 day pack, and one I felt a bit wary of with my new hip to be honest. It is a long ridge, a long day in the saddle. In the more exposed places today I could feel the ground rolling underneath me as the beech battled with the wind, I heard trees falling over in the forest. And I did huff and puff up that ridge, stop at times and gather myself for the next steep climb. Almost 6 hours. I am here.

Looking down into Makaroro valley from the ridge

Winding through the tawhairauriki. A wonderful place I am always glad to see. A long climb is past.

A section of Parks Peak ridge, the constant up amongst the up and down nature of the ridge can be seen.

"Sitting here now at Park's Peak hut

I might consider a form of Heaven
I've walked up that steep ridge a few times now
By latest count eleven
I've done it alone
I've done it with mates
I've done it with my son and his friend
The one common factor in all the above
that bloody ridge never seems to end
Though now I am here full of good cheer
Planning my next mountain trip
I may have walked slow
I may huff and puff
but it ain't from no pain in my hip"

The mountain meadow outside Parks Peak hut. A plethora of alpine plants, lichens, moss, tupare, and tawhairauriki.

The wind still howls over, but the rain stopped and the sun came out, allowing me to get outside and roam this lovely high mountain meadow a wee bit. At the other end of the meadow lies the site of the old Parks Peak hut, an old 4 bunk affair, small, cold, with a cranky wood stove and dubious wood supply. But how I loved that hut, was always glad to see it's orange roof appear, knowing the walk was done and the billy would soon be boiling. I gaze across to where it was through the rain streaked window of this new comparatively luxurious hut at the other end of the meadow. I loved that old hut, yet I have now created memories here in this one as well. I am falling in love again at the other end of the high mountain meadow.
Looking down into the Makaroro valley and the main Ruahine range up above. My destination lies down at the bottom of the valley on the Makaroro river.

Upper Makaroro hut

I was up long before sunrise and headed out just as it got light enough to see. I wanted to be in the forest early as it came to life for the day. I could barely stand upright in the gale outside the hut and was glad to retreat into the forest and starting heading down to the valley. The light of the new dawn cast an ethereal pallor upon the forest, and as I headed further down into the big trees I began to hear the tawhairanui moaning as they swayed and sighed in the wind. The forest had a raw wild ancient feel to it. Storms always heighten the character of the mountains. I walked very slowly, and just let myself go into the energy swirling about. Even walking very deliberately it seemed like I arrived here in mere moments. I guess I did.

It is still windy down here by the river and it is very cold, the sun comes out, then goes away, and the rain chases me back to the hut. I am content to just roam the river flats, and hope a whio will grace me with it's presence and say Kia ora! I can just watch the sunlight play upon the clear cold water, and slake my thirst from her sweet nectar. And at the hut I have my book awaiting, Naked in Eden, written by my friend Robin. A story of her move to the Australian rain forest and becoming Connected to the Earth, Becoming Wild. It is a brave and moving story as she unfolds into her real being. I feel connected to her as I roam amongst this wild place quietly and reflect upon her words. An amazing place to interact with the written word.

Climbing down the final spur to Upper Makaroro hut. I love the horoeka (lancewood) in front of the photo. It has been there since I first made it down here years ago, and continues to grow and cling to life on the eroding cliff face from which it has grown. Always good to see and hear the muttering river after the climb down, see the hut, and greet an old friend. Almost there.

The other direction, a bit lower. How cool to see the colours of the river emerge. Though this is no place to take ones eye of the ball. Ruahine drops to rivers are invariably steep, often becoming near vertical as the final 100 metres or so approach.

The forest sidling along side the tawhairauriki grove after a severe climb out of the valley. A sublime part of the forest.

Evening - Upper Makaroro

The rain still splatters on the tin roof, the wood fire quietly taking the edge off the damp cold. The sun, even in summer, does not take long to leave this narrow part of the valley behind. It adds to the remoteness.

I sat down by the river today when ever I could get out amongst the sun. I sat in front of the emerald pool where the river has bunched up beneath the cliffs, before releasing into a calm flat run where I can gaze through the clear water as if it is not even there and see the colour of each stone, each pebble, then she steadies herself for the long drop ahead where it gathers strength and is doing Her work gouging out the valley even deeper. Then she winds around a corner with the graceful presence of a ballerina, leaving me stunned and wondering what is around that wonderful bend. Mountain rivers will do that to you. I can content myself today knowing that I have been around that lovely bend many times now.

It is pretty cool to return to these wild rugged mountains and know I have history here, that I have climbed up and down both sides of this valley, up and down the river, seen the whio fly by this very spot. My heart bursts! Every moment here is new.

19/10/10 Parks Peak

I crossed the river, her song loud, clear and soothing, and then I put my boots on and just there Listening. Then I began the long, arduous, steep climb back up to here. About an hour in, the track meets a large long grove of old growth tawhairauriki, ambles along side for awhile before steeply heading back up the spur to the ridge. Moments to enjoy. I just waited for the living breathing forest to tap me upon my shoulder and tell me to stop and just be here. The symmetry and energy of the big trees, the glens of fern, and the mosses and lichens lighting the path ahead, connects me with my own Wildness, and though I am far and high above the mountain river, I still hear her in my heart.

My gear is dry on the line above the fire. My boots, upside down and drying out, have earned their keep over these four days in the mountains. I am warm. I have seen no one for days since I left my car and crossed the flooded river. I have roamed these stormy wonderful mountains. I am here!




Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

So glad to read that your hip has been fine as you explored. Strangely enough, I am largely 'confined to barracks' this weekend as I swot for an exam in a paper on NZ Flora next week. But learning about alpine plants and beech forest is part of what I have been doing. Seeing that photo of the alpine meadow plants was just magic!

Bob McKerrow said...

Beech is such a beautiful tree. I love scrunching on the leaves in the forset. Sounds you had a fine journey. Kia Kaha. Bob

Donald said...

Great trip Robb. It can be so inspiring to travel in bad weather as it puts us right in touch... in the zone.

Yes, that raw and ancient feel is special and I wonder why those trees on the ridge decided to grow into what is a constant battle with wind/rain. It could actually be quite stressful being a tree!

You've captured the essence well in the photos too.



Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Robb, what a beautiful and inspirational post! It brings tears to my eyes knowing you are once again experiencing the mountains after your hip replacement. What joy you experience is evident in your fantastic photos!!!

How blessed you are to live where you can hear nature's heartbeat.

I love the clear water of the Great Lakes. Rock watching along the bottom is one of my favorite thing to do in a canoe or kayak.

Cheers, JJ

Have a super weekend!

Dave said...

Hi Robb - Beautiful post. I'm wondering why orange for the hut -- so lost hikers could spot it more easily?

KB said...

I can feel your joy through your words. It is wonderful to have a part of the mountains that you know so well and love so much.

Reading this, I am remembering that, early in my marriage, my husband and I used to go to a backcountry hut called "Robb's Hut" in the Sierra Mountains. It was an old fire lookout tower that had been converted to a hut. We spent many wonderful days there, with our dogs, with several feet of snow surrounding the hut. We'd ski all day long, enjoying the solitude and quiet. I wonder if it was named after you? :)

I'm so thrilled to hear of your pain-free hip. Walking without pain must be a joy. Kia kaha!

Tim Koppenhaver said...

Great post Robb. Wonderful descriptions of the oneness with the mountains.

Take care.


Marja said...

What a beautiful pictures.I love the sun peeking through the trees and doing its magic.
Another wonderful trip. You must be a very strong man to walk for 6 hours up hill, wow. Good it cleared up again as it can be pretty nasty up there as well.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kiwi Nomad,
Best of luck on the exam. Glad the photo could be of some inspiration. I should really get better acquainted with the names of what I am seeing and amongst. It is truly a beautifully subtle natural garden.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
The tawhairarnui is certainly an integral part of the New Zealand mountains. Those dried leaves make good fire starting material as well.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
All along the northerly exposed side of the ridge the tawhairauriki are bent and gnarled and shaped as if by a gardner shears to lean with the wind. I photographed a couple large beech in the forest which had fallen over and give an example of the shallow but wide root systems, but the new editing mode on blogger makes it near impossible to move photos down anymore. I guess I will have to figure out the exact order I want photos to be in, which is a bit frustrating. My point being I wanted to show , as you wrote, the sometimes stressfull nature of their existence. I relate to that. I think I do learn the most in the mountains during stormy trips indeed. Hope you are well.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora JJ,
The clear water of the Great Lakes made a huge impact upon me as a child, and the memories of times there still moves me deeply.
Thank you for your thoughts and aroha, it means a great deal to me knowing you sometimes cast a thought my way as you and Jeff roam my lovely homeland. I do the same for you here. Kia kaha JJ, I am sure Jeff as the wood pile looking good by now!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Dave,
The old hut was the standard design deer cullers hut from the 1950's to the 1970's when government deer control operations were in full force throughout the New Zealand mountains. Most were simple 4 or 6 design, with bunks, an open fire or wood stove, and a small table and bench. The cullers would have a series of these huts on their "blocks" to live in and work from. They were orange for two reasons, one you mention, to make them easier for a tired culler to find in murky or darkening conditions, but also for supplies to be dropped by airplane, and later helicopter. Now that the culling days are past, we have left a series of tracks and huts as good as anywhere through fairly rugged terrain. So when the old huts come to the end of there lives they are either replaced or removed. The old ones had a lot of character, a lot voices echoing on the wind, and a lot of history from an interesting period of the NZ mountains.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
I think we look at the mountains through much the same eyes, and I know we do from the same heart.
I can't claim any naming rights to your Robb's hut, but I will write I certainly approve of the name, and moreso that is was a special and remote place that holds cool memories for you. It must be wonderful. I wonder if it still there?
It has been pretty cool to push a bit further and harder, I think 6 hours is as much as I want to do in one day, so as not to strain my other hip too much. But in the stormy conditions there was really no place to stop for a comfortable rest so I more or less just kept going. I was glad to finally see the hut! Kia kaha my friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tim,
Glad you enjoyed. It was a great experience in just that.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
I am happy you noticed that. The sun shining through the forest, and the different levels of the forest, is one of my favourite sights. Especially on days where moments later the wind is howling and it is raining or snowing again. The comfort of sunshine is somehow very reassuring. Kia kaha my friend.

Donald said...

Hi Robb

These products may help: is a MS Blog Editor for Windows and for MS is not what you'd expect! yet another for Win. Also very good apparently.

I'm a Mac affectionado and the key to my blogging is MarsEdit

I figure I can post about 4 times faster with MarsEdit, and shifting things about is a breeze.

I doubt any are free [not checked MS], but they make life very much easier, and more fun for typically $US45.

I suspect also that BlogJet will be well supported by email so if the setup gets tricky they'll be there. It's 30 day free trial. The MS one... I have the developer's blog address, and from what I've read from industry folk, I imagine he'll support his product as well as Mar's Daniel does his.

Hope this helps



Ruahines said...

Cheers Donald, I will check these places out on the weekend. Frustrating that Blogger has changed what was a very easy to use system into something very difficult. I was a bit disappointed in publishing this last post before I felt like it was through, but just got too tired of struggling with trying to manipulate the images. Appreciate the help.

Donald said...

Hi Robb

I did not know about the difficulties re shifting images so thanks for the heads up on this, but I have had to wrestle with other changes on behalf of clients that blogger imposed whereby folk uploaded to their domain name.

I'm on an earlier version of MarsEdit, and when you drop a pic in it, it inserts scary looking code into wherever the cursor is, but to shift an image you simply do a cut /paste to somewhere else. Perhaps all the apps. work this way - if so it's very elegant, and fast!

As far as I can tell the images actually get uploaded to Picasa and get drawn into the blog page from those servers.

This means our images seem to be more available and public on the web than we may imagine. In turn if we name our images to contain hyphens they may be found more easily, e.g. ruahine-traverse-ridge.jpg

When all said and done, it's turned out that now have a far superior blog platform. I've been building people's web sites in it, and it's pretty awesome. But of course migrating presents a bit of work and potentially a new address. I've not checked absolutely though, but I gather it's possible to import retro blogger posts.

Anyway, bye for now and keep up the good work.



Stella said...

I love that special spot on the trail that you recognize. The spot right after the long climb. The spot where you know you've made it, yet again, into the special place you were aiming for. That is a magic moment, that moment you've hit that favorite part of your path.

Thank you for who you are, Robb.

Lynda Lehmann said...

And you have taken us there with you, to your magic range and river, with all that beautiful alpine undergrowth and shrubbery, and the shelter of the beeches.

I love this line for to me, it says it all: "The forest had a raw wild ancient feel to it."

I'm happy to share your treks with you, happy that you have the knowledge and the prior experiences to help you on your way.

Thanks for sharing your passion with us, Robb. I rejoice for your ability to trek again, without pain.

pohanginapete said...

Robb, I think what I love most about this is how you remind us of the joy of being in these mountains for no other reason than simply being there; living there; being part of it. It reminds me, too, that it's time I revisited Parks Peak and Upper Makaroro; maybe even head further in, to the marvellous Ruahine Corner. Actually, I haven't walked to Parks Peak via your route; I've come in from Masters Shelter, preferring to get the shorter, steeper climb over and done with. But like you, I love that low, gnarly forest — a kind of reminder that persistence through adversity builds character.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
The very first Ruahine walk I ever did back in circa 1993 or so,was with my mates Nigel and John Nash, and through Masters Shelter and up onto Gold Crown ridge. A grunty introduction to the Ruahine indeed! I fell in love on that walk and that love still endures. It would be cool to connect that dot south along the ridge to Parks Peak. And Ruahine Corner has thwarted me more than a few times climbing up from Upper Makaroro to find gale force winds or cloud preventing open top travel to the connecting ridge. The mountains do teach patience.
Gustav is coming over for xmas and we have a tramp planned, and I am thinking to that area. You are more than welcome to join us Pete, it would be an honour.

pohanginapete said...

Robb, it would be a delight to share some time there with you and Gustav. :^)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
I shall be in touch in due course. Might be time to catch for a dinner soon as well :)

Amandazor said...

wow this is amazing. When I hvae a family someday I hope to have a trip at least half as awesome as this one.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Amandazor,
Welcome, and thanks. I am sure you will. Most of it just involves good planning, getting the boots on, putting the pack on the back and walking. The rest just sort of happens when we open ourselves up to Nature's Delights. Have a Peaceful Yuletidfe season.