Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mountain Dreams

30 July 2003, Maropea Forks - solo and my 43rd birthday.

I will settle upon this photo as my own personal favourite of myself in terms of the Ruahine. I was 43, certainly not a young man, but I was fit, there were no physical barriers holding me back.

A solo birthday celebration, a venture into solitude and a place I love in the middle of winter. No easy feat in the grasp of a long walk down an ice cold mountain river. Shit! It was cold. To arrive at this beautiful place, cold, wondering, exhilarated. To build a little fire in that wonderful stove just for me, but yet for everyone, was a distinct pleasure and honour, and very warming in all ways. The next day I just stayed put as the water I put in the billies inside the hut had a coat of ice upon them! Quite content I got the fire going just quietly and decided I would stay here another day. What I really love about this photo is not me, or the fully loaded already burning wood stove, but that kindling bucket in back of me , which states 28 Litres of Golden-Syrup. which is a lot of syrup, of any kind. It harkens us back to days long gone, days of yore. When people knew spots like this other than just once, other than just passing thru.

Snow fall at Maropea Forks. Such a magnificent moment!

Back yard at Maropea Forks.

John and Jeff, meeting for the first time at the beautiful waterfall about 30 minutes from Maropea Forks. A somewhat out of focus photo, but one I have come to love. Jeff, a great mate visiting from America, and I had walked in via Sunrise to Top Maropea the prior day, spent the night in that lovely spot, and then carried on late the next morning leisurely paced both due to my hip, but even more to the fact it was just such an incredible place to have such a fine reunion with one of my oldest friends. After all what's the hurry? John started early that morning from his car and caught up to us just a few moments before the photo above unfolded. We then spent the next three days in this amazing area, walking the rivers and ridges to the tops, Jeff doing a bit of trout hunting (successfully), and a lot of just lazing about doing not much at all. This area is my goal for returning to the mountains in July for my 50th birthday.

Maropea Forks in August. Another winter birthday celebration with a fine friend and brother, Gustav.

27 August 2007 Maropea Forks hut:

I shall always remember the exhilaration of standing outside the hut by the river under a full moon. After an afternoon when on a walk up river a huge snowstorm blew in, wild and furious, and I rushed back to the hut where Gustav had the fire stoked up and we stood out on the porch watching the trees sway and dance, the wind rushing and howling, building to loud crescendos, the snow swirling all around. Then it settled into a gentle snowfall, something like out of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life", where Jimmy Stewart runs about the town joyfully after discovering his own worth. I'm with ya Jimmy! And now the fresh snow covers all, the only man made footsteps to be seen for miles are ours! The entire scene is translucent, the snow has been lit into life by the light of this full moon. The water fall of the stream across the river unfurls in a cascade of glowing shimmering satin, the tall trees on the surrounding high ridges reveal their true character as the snow brings their souls to life in ways we have never before seen. The faces tell us their stories, each individual tree speaks to us. Some tell of laughter, many shed tears, and even seem to howl in despair of what will become of this scene. We are here for this brief second, but for just these few moments we have connected with the Timeless.

Moments like ones above are what I miss most right now, and thoughts of being amongst these mountains overwhelm me as I write these words. To know what roaming amongst them means to me, and to be unable to do so, cripples more within me than the physical pain of this hip will ever do. So roaming amongst them once again is my goal. To accomplish that I am having my hip replaced in a matter of days, then under taking my recovery, my rebuilding, and God Willing, my reunion with the Ruahine.
I am not sure when I will return here, how I will feel, the thoughts I will have. So I thank each and every one of you whom has made this under taking so special. I could write many words to so many people, but I will just write Kia ora for your time in coming here, for your time in your own special places, in your words and thoughts of encouragement, and support. For the aroha that I feel in my heart. Enjoy the Wild Places! Till I return with a tale of the mountains! Roam the wilderness and may the mountain breeze blow gently upon you. Don't Look Down. Kia kaha!


Monday, March 15, 2010

"Surgical Mining"

"Gold Mining"

"Coal Mining"

"Mountaintop Removal Mining"

There does not appear to my eyes anything "surgical" about any of these types of mining. Indeed a search of mining technique websites does not reveal any reference at all to anything called "surgical mining". Yet it is fast becoming a media buzz word. Say it enough times and it becomes so. A phrase which rolls off our prime minister's tongue very smoothly, soothing the masses of any worries beyond tax cuts and g.s.t. rises. Yes, John Key has made it his own little Alfred E. Nueman catch phrase (What? Me Worry?). Don't buy it folks, it does not exist. If Key, Brownlee and National consider placing entire towns in peril from landslides and erosion caused floods due to gold mining hills in the Coromandel as acceptable collateral damage, then it should be of no surprise they also refuse to rule out the use of "other" types of "modern method" mining techniques. Modern method mining techniques are pictured above. All extremely brutal, all irrevocable scars upon the earth, our National Parks, our Wild Places. Mountain top removal is possibly the worst demonstration of man's disdain for the earth. It involves simply cutting away all the forest surrounding the victim, then dynamiting as much as 500 down into the mountain to get at the coal, or whatever might be down there, and dumping the removed earth into the surrounding valleys, choking and killing any water ways. This is one of the "newer" mining techniques. There doesn't seem to be anything in there relating to "surgical".

Polluted and ruined stream from mining extraction

A mine drainage tailing pipe.

The Coromandel Peninsula is under heavy attack, one of the areas targeted being the Parakawai Geological Reserve, a mere 70 hectare area coveted by the gold diggers, but also a treasure trove of native species of frogs, kokopu, insects, and native bird species. Within this area the volcanic landscape encloses indigenous forest and one of the last remaining water catchments in the Coromandel running from forest to sea. In New Zealand gold mining commonly results in 3 grams of gold per 1400 kilograms of rock dug up. I hardly think that will involve any "surgical" precision mining techniques. They will destroy it all.

I have been to Parakawai twice. In 1994 I picked up my friend Gustav in Auckland and we drove to the Coromandel, exhilarated by the sea at Waihi Beach then driving to a place my mate Nigel had provided a map to outside Whangamata. We shouldered our packs and headed to a campsite Nigel had described to me as beyond compare. We walked through the lush green and steamy forest climbing to a river we heard, then saw come into view and my heart leaped with joy. It was a stream below us with water so pure and clear it took my breath away. Above us we could hear the symphony of many different layers of water, and suddenly emerged out of the bush onto the stream to find ourselves looking at the beautiful depths of blues and greens under the pool of perhaps a 15 metre waterfall, and directly below us it fell in a series of perhaps another 4-5 significant pools and falls. It was ethereal. Gustav and I were absolutely speechless, yet the huge smiles upon our faces, and the lightness within our souls shouted the silent words of joy we did not need to speak. We set up a small camp on the opposite side of the main fall and spent the afternoon swimming in the depths of this wonderful paradise, climbing up the falls and exploring upstream, and finally getting up the nerve to jump off the cliff into the embrace of that lovely nectar below. We lit a small fire that evening and sat in the glow of it, our day, our friendships, and the comforting lullaby of this river on its way to the sea.

A few years later carrying a large pack I returned with Tara, who in in smaller carrier toted along little Taylor, then 1 0r 2. Once again we camped in solitude at this slice of heaven. I am told it has become a very popular local tramping spot and area in addition to its value as a heritage area.

To see this place destroyed, to think of that beautiful river with its graceful falls and elegant pools as a swill pit like pictured above, destroyed for GOLD! I feel the bile rise up in my throat.

The Makaroro in the Ruahine. A reminder of what this is really all about.

If our system has depleted itself, and the "time" has come to rip into the few wild and relatively pristine areas still left, perhaps we are really asking the wrong questions. These people are up to no good and must be confronted and stopped. Once again I present the words of Edward Abbey:
"The Rules will be dictated by the extractive industries - the coal, oil, and power companies. Not only do our state politicians fail to resist these alien forces, they bid against one another to invite them in. Our good old boys would sell their mother's graves if they could make a quick buck out of the deal; crooked as a dog's hind leg, tricky as a car dealer, greedy as a hog at the trough, these men will sell out the West to big industry as fast as they can, without the faintest stirrings of conscience. Governors, U.S. Senators, congressman, and our chamber of commerce presidents don't give a hoot about future losses; they figure, rightly, that they personally will all be dead by the time the future extent of the disaster becomes clear. So much for the canyonlands of Utah and Arizona: nothing but a barren wasteland, anyway, as any local Jaycee will tell you, nothing but sand and dust and heat and emptiness, red rock baking under the sun and hungry vultures soaring on the air. Quite so men, quite so: nothing but canyon and desert, mountain and mesa, all too good for the likes of us."
If we change a few nouns to those like New Zealand, prime ministers, mp's, mayors, councils, and businesses, and the desert and rock, to bush, rivers and mountains, and the year from the 1970's to the present once again we find the future upon us.

Kia kaha!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


To John Key, Gerry (Lard Ass) Brownlee, all our current National rationalists, right wing talk back radio hosts and disconnected listeners, and each and every government, corporate technocratic organization in the world, and anyone in favour of invading Wild Places still there. Your fate awaits! Piss off the lot of you!