Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Day in the Life....

Sitting just below the highest point in the Ruahine, Mangaweka, looking down into the head waters of the Kawhatau valley and the main Ruahine range beyond.

25 Feb. 2010

I am not sure which hurts more right now. This ever troubling and degenerating hip, now reducing me to the gait of a very old man, the prospects in my current condition of sitting there above with John in such a place as remote as being on the moon, the pain like loose ends of electric wires running through my groin and down my knee which any wrong movement ignites. So I try to put myself back in places like above, where my soul burst free and waves of amazement and euphoria washed through me and cleansed me of the grime and guilt accrued out here, where I walked free and easy and roamed with a smile instead of an ever increasing grimace. Though even in good times in the Ruahine I often grimaced!
Or I wonder perhaps instead if I feel even more this pain deep inside me as a result of the unrelenting attack upon our wild places by our own government, and how in the eyes of so many it seems to make it right. These past few weeks when I have been really focused on trying to, from a grass roots approach, engage people I met through out my day, family, friends, in how they felt about the actions of our government attacking our wilderness. And to find most are either in favour of getting any economic benefit to be had from places they have never seen, or will see, or simply are not that concerned by something so far away from their lives. There are bigger fish to fry, our jobs, our mortgages, the economy, that we have all been sold the rubbish old Ed predicted. The pain of that cripples me as much as this hip.

The view from directly across the other side of the photo above, looking back at the Hikurangis and Mangaweka.
I have never claimed to be clever. I am not a highly achieved academic, I do not have a huge grasp of economic facts and figures, and I have little response to offer witty and self serving ripostes on media reporting and the ever growing world of the internet and political spectrum aligned blogs, particularly on the right. That is all beyond me, I have little knowledge of anyone even being here aside from comments left. Mostly what I do here is for me. To look upon these ranges I adore when I cannot physically be there, is pretty cool for me. And sad at the same time. My son Charlie the other night had me type Maropea Forks onto You Tube. What came up was a group of helicoptered in hunters in the roar of 2009. Most of the pictures were from inside the hut with the inhabitants in various stages of inebriation, the defining photo one of the hunters gathered on the porch when first dropped off with a person high stack of their trays of beer the focal point. It is not just from the government these places need protection. Helicopters!

A Ruahine water fall.

My point being I do not care about economics, about the political spectrum and clever posts and responses defending a political view, or even trying to convince those of disconnection to connection. What I care about are the Wild Places. And that is that.

Bugger the statistics about our economic future, and the shit about our human right to dominate the Earth. Even here I preach to the converted, convince myself more of what I already know. Out there with the aims of our own elected government, the absorbed words of the media, talk back radio, entrenched disconnection, and conversations in the tea room lie the real bastion of our demise.

A common quote that people refer to of Edward Abbey is "Wilderness needs no defense, only defenders", or there abouts, always rung somewhat to me as the first quote that came up on Wikipedia and sounded good. I always thought it a bit over done. Until now, when I feel it my gut and my trembling fingers.

John next to a Spaniard, a native plant with razor sharp needles and leaves and not to be trifled with. This was the first encounter we had with them at river level as normally we found them up high, mixed in with the leatherwood as another delightful treat on steep climbs.

A camp on the Waikamaka river after along day, a lot of rain and a flooded gorge. Eventually the rain stopped and the rivers and streams dropped as quickly as they rose, but a gorge just up from here stopped us. The water level was over our head and climbing over not a good option. We retreated to here, and it proved an excellent decision and a great spot.

John, the next morning in the crux of the gorge where the prior evening the water was at the top of the rock on the right. Hence the retreat to our river camp after a 10 hour plus day.

Above Rangi saddle on the way to Waterfall hut. We took a wrong route and did a seriously steep climb high above the saddle, only to discover it actually was far below us. The view across the valley made it a worthwhile mistake.

Waterfall hut

Aw shit, if you don't get it you don't get it. If these places and just the knowledge of them being there does not move you, then nothing here will. I can't come up with any clever arguments to change minds and sway people over from the Cement Jungle. It seems too entrenched, too set, and the disconnection from anything wild too complete. If we have already compromised 87% of our land and now need to attack the remaining 13% to get at it's "real" value it would seem to suggest that something is inherently wrong with the system. Yet the machine grinds on.

I believe in Nature in Wild Places, in the the Earth. If that does not suit so be it. Sides are being chosen and this is mine.

Dedicated to my Wild Sister Robin, "Naked in Eden".

Even in the midst of summer, a dive into the chilly embrace of the mountain river is a jolting experience. To have done it and then stand there tingling and refreshed as the mountain breeze evaporates the dripping pure water, is a reminder we are alive. Those of us whom have done it in winter are simply Polar Bears - hopefully with a hut nearby and the fire blazing!

Not many options here!

Shingle sliding is always an interesting way down. Very quick, but one wants to make sure the bottom terminates cleanly and not in large bluffs which would not be pleasant at speed.

"All very well, the reader thinks, for a few thousand farmers and ranchers who want to save their homes and livelihoods, to preserve a charming but no doubt outmoded way of life. And wouldn't it be nice if we could keep the air pure, the wide open spaces, the canyons, rivers, and mountains free from pollution from a rash of new power plants. But America needs the energy. Our political and industrial leaders assure us that the very survival of America as a great world power may be at stake. We cannot let our future be dictated by a cartel of Arab potentates. We have more coal than the Arabs have oil. Let's dig it! The assumption is that we must continue down the road of never ending economic expansion, toward an ever grosser gross national product, driven by the mania for Growth with a capital G that entails, among other things, a doubling of the nations energy production every ten years. "Expand or expire" is the essence of this attitude, exemplified in the words of President Ford in a statement to an Expo' 74 audience:

"Man is not built to vegetate or stagnate - we like to progress - zero growth environmental policies fly in the face of human nature." But a child can percieve that on our finite planet there must be, sooner or later, a limit to quantitative growth. Any high school math student can prove that if our production of electricity continued to grow at an expotential rate of 100 percent every 10 years the result would be, in less than a century, a United States of America in which every square foot of land surface was preempted by mines and power plants, leaving no room at all for homes, cities, farms, living space, or even grave yards. Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." - Edward Abbey , essay on The Second Rape of the West, cited from The Journey Home.

Shit Ed, we haven't come too far from 1974. In our modern age of sound byte living 1974 is like the stone age and few might give your words the modern credence they deserve, and yet are so fortelling. 35 years is not even a passing of gas in terms of Nature's time. Yet so many of us seem to grasp onto our brief time here as the be all and end all. Sometimes I think I am the more religious of all my God Fearing friends. Everytime I have been in the mountains, or even dream about them now, I am in Church.

The near end of a perfect day shared above. RTC Summer Tour day 3 from a camp on the Waikamaka river to Waterfall hut. A day of sun, cloud, rain, of rivers, streams, and high climbs with huge views of these mountains. Of friendship, route finding and a an empty hut in the mountains which we made our home for the next few days, as many other kindred spirits have. Days like this are why we need these places. Kia kaha!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Whata ngarongaro he tangata, toitu hewhenua : Man disappears but the land remains.

Most times in life the things we most worry and fear over do not come to pass. This is one of the greatest self lessons I have learned in the mountains. Yet sometimes that fear and worry does appear, does manifest itself in real and terrible ways. I have alluded to in a few prior posts about my concern for the welfare of the Wild Places of Aotearoa, that they were under the eye of individuals, corporations, share holders, and those whom would alter them eagerly for the benefit of man. That has come to pass. Our National elected government has now clearly stated their intention to open up our publicly held conservation estate to mining and mineral "extraction". The battle is truly upon us, sides will be taken, and the future of the Land, and our children is at stake.

The Conservation Estate of New Zealand compromises 13% of our land mass. Within it lies the beauty and immense treasure of such gems as Aoraki, Aspiring, Arthur's Pass, Fiordland, Taranaki, the mysterious Urewera, Tasman, Nelson Lakes, Westland, Tongariro, and the newest and perhaps most susceptible, Kahurangi. There are , of course, other jewels at risk, such as my beloved Ruahine amongst other lesser known places. The contempt our government shows for any wild place makes these even more at risk should anything of "value" turn up. I use words like treasure, gems, and jewels, in the sense of the wealth they contain in their wildness, in their ability to connect to parts deep within us we seem to be losing even faster than I ever imagined. The wealth they represent in their Wildness is too much to ever comprehend or put at risk. Too many others see treasure, gem and jewel, as simply representing potential wealth in terms of money. And so these places become mere grid lines on charts and maps representing dollar signs. 13%!!! Is it too much to ask to just leave that much alone? To just let it be and let it represent what it can be to those whom chose to seek it, or even just dream of seeking it? To leave our children, and their children, just 13% of Wilderness! How they will hate us!

Our smiling and very rich prime minister, John Key, uses buzz phrases even better than his jowly servant Gerry Brownlee. Soothing utterances such as "sensitive extraction", "all New Zealanders care about conservation", lie next to the dark possibilities of "economic growth", "job creation", and bringing "wealth" to all New Zealanders. A very quick check on companies mining or hoping to mine, within Aotearoa will tell one 4 primary movers in this travesty have little connection here aside from its interest in our "wealth". As soon as the "wealth" is extracted they will leave the mess behind for our future generations to contend with. "Clean and Green New Zealand", "100% Pure New Zealand". It is the Big Lie my friends. We have already desecrated the areas outside the 13% left pure, now the time has come to move in on that as well. It makes me weep.

Edward Abbey has always been an inspiration to me. Though later in his life Ed wrote what I considered some far out offerings about the governments NOT wanting people to HAVE access to wild places, real wild places. A paved road leading to a look out some where would suffice the urge for us once the connections are truly severed. I used to think Ed might have had a few too many drams by then, he was indeed a heavy booze hound by that stage, and that there was no great conspiracy, that deep down governments are here for US.
Ed, I apologize, you always were ahead of your time, and the future is upon us. They really do want us to just care about our mortgage, our job, fitting in like everyone else, and just being a good citizen and not asking too many questions. Total Disconnection. Holy Shit!

Earth First! Kia kaha! Please, Let us fight these Bastards where we stand. We stand on the Earth.