Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ruahine Huritau (Birthday)

26 July, 2010
Purity hut, Hikurangi range

I sit on the sun drenched porch of Purity hut, which sits high on the open tussock of the Hikurangi range, the highest of the five sub ranges which make up the Ruahine. Looking out to the west I watch puffy clouds drift over the volcano's, Ruapehu, Ngaruhoe, and Tongariro - The Rim of Fire. The snow glistens in the sun upon their flanks like shimmering satin. To my north the high tops of the Hikurangi loom above, majestic with the cloak of snow draped upon her shoulders. To the south lie the Whanhuia's and the Pourangaki valley, all places I know well.

Yet this is the first time I have placed my feet here at the southern end of the Hikurangi and Purity hut. So it is special to be here in a new portion of the Ruahine, on my own to celebrate with the mountains my 50th birthday.

The Rim of Fire.

On days like this there a few places more sublime to wander than a high Ruahine ridge.

26 July afternoon.
I was sitting in the sun up above the hut in the golden tussock when from behind me and out of nowhere, a kahu (hawk) just swooped directly past my head! It was so close I could feel the wind rush by me, and hear the rustle of the air upon it's feathers. Exhilarating. Now it soars just above me in graceful arch's and circles with the air currents. I can only think of the words I read at Pohangina Pete's place a few mere days ago when he wrote a post on the Kahu and one of his commenter's made reference to a book (This House of Sky, by Ivan Doig), in which he describes a hawk or eagle soaring exactly like that as "Correcting, Correcting". At the time I read it I did not think too much about it, but now I understand perfectly. I get it. Correcting, Correcting!

Emerging out of the forest to the open tops. The golden tussock can be seen just peeking up over the trees, and the hut lies amongst it.

Purity hut, looking north the Hikurangi. The hut lies on the southern tip of the same range.

26 July Early evening
The clouds have moved in, the wind picked up, and it has begun to sleet. I am indeed cloud hidden. The temperature has quickly dropped to 2 degrees celsius when the sun left. But I still sit outside on the porch, dressed warmly, and with map and compass I am enjoying looking around while I still can. I don't have to go anywhere, nor do anything, except just be here.

The Hikurangi tops just above and behind the hut.

The cloud moves in over the Rangitikei plains. My world is about to be truly cloud hidden.

27 July - morning
Looking out the snow flecked window contemplating what these places really mean to me, to us.
The simplicity of being in the mountains, or any wilderness we choose, on my own. The choices to do this or that, yet also making decisions that are crucial to my well being and having the skills and knowledge to get along in living simply. Perhaps it is only here that I have ever really experienced true and complete freedom. Maybe that is what Wild Places truly offer us. Why do we try so hard to destroy it?

A good place for a lie down after such heavy contemplation.

27 July evening,
The rain and snow finally eased in the afternoon, so I went for a climb in the mist and cloud up towards Mangaweka. The wind was still pretty fierce, and I could see nothing at all except directly around me, but it was good to stretch the legs and be out amongst it. After an hour or so as I started to get into the deep snow which I was not really equipped for I turned back. As soon as I got back to the hut it began to pour once again a mixed slurry of sleet, snow, and rain. Time for a cup of tea and throw another log on the fire.

The hut appearing out of the mist just in the centre. Not too hard to lose the way in conditions like this.

27 July late evening
My thoughts on turning 50.
As much as I would like to be one of those who might write 'I don't feel 50", as I sit here alone in a candle lit hut with only myself the honest and truthful answer to that is I guess I do. I don't have anything else to compare it to and it seems this is really the only moment that matters, this one right now.
I can't run up spurs and ridges like I used to, but then again I don't have to, or even want to. I would miss too much along the way. My journey is a different one than it was back then, or maybe it is the same one just that I am in a different place. In any matter what is the point of comparing what was to what is. As long as I never write "This is it, this is me", and I have stopped asking questions, seeking, learning, and growing into the man I will become. I am okay with that.

Purity hut at dawn.

A dawn walk down into the silent snow stilled forest awaits.

Listen! Snow covered Kaikawaka. The still dawn, the ice and snow seem to reveal the character and soul of the forest. It is why I love early morning walks the best.

In a days time my friend Gustav arrives from Tasmania, to celebrate my birthday with a few friends and family, and then he and I will retreat back to the Ruahine for a few more days. That is the best birthday present I can wish for myself.

Tihei mauri ora!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cloud Hidden

Over the last few months I have been spending most of my time in Taranaki with work, culminated by a busy last few weeks. At least I was under the shadow of the beautiful volcano, and when it did appear out of the cloud always brought a sense of calm to my soul.

Now another week or so to tidy up a few loose ends and my dreams of other mountains will come to fruition. I want to be cloud hidden. I want to drag my soon to be 50 year old body up into the Ruahine and get "lost" from so much out here. My goal when undergoing getting my hip replaced in April was to be in the mountains by my birthday in July. I have already been in the mountains but they call out for more after that successful test. I feel ready to disappear into the mist.

I have often felt alone out here. I suppose it is just part of my nature, part of who I have become in these last 50 years. Sometimes I am amazed at the wealth of love and friendship I have accrued around me and feel undeserving of accepting. It has really only been recently how much I know I am not alone, both in that wealth around me, but also my kinship with so many other misfits out there. Men who never fit in, or died trying, the ones hiding behind closed doors hating the world out here, or hiding in a haze of drugs and alcohol. God knows I have done all of that.

I am tired of the system that only allows us to be successful if we have a good job, a new car, a big house. I am tired of the system that places value on wilderness only in terms of how much wealth it will create if we destroy it. I am tired of the system that encourages foreign companies to explore off our shores for oil to keep that system running, while at this very moment the oil gushes unhindered into the sea of my homeland, just as it has for years in the seas of other nations whose citizens skins are not the same colour as mine. For some reason it seems to mean more in places where the people it most affects are white. I am tired of that too.

So I just really want to lie on the ground in the mountains and dig my hands into the Ruahine earth, to drink from the clear cold waters and cleanse myself, to become part of the mountains, of the land. Just for a few moments I want to leave all this behind. It will all be waiting when I return.